Wednesday, January 30, 2013


 I took this picture of Cliff on our walk yesterday.  No jacket.

I took this shot this morning in almost the same spot.  That's Missouri for you.  A lot of people think that when the temperature fluctuates so much, it makes people ill.  I don't agree.  Most anything I've read suggests that germs cause illness, not temperatures of any sort.  I love the occasional unseasonably warm day in January; it makes winter bearable and reminds me what spring is going to feel like.  We're supposed to warm back up in a few days.  
Frigid weather does make certain things difficult.  We got around an inch of rain yesterday, I think, which soaked the chicken's feed.  Then it got below freezing, so now there's a frozen hunk in their feeder that won't come out and that they can't eat, and I have nothing to give them their feed in.  Oh, they've had stuff to eat today:  I took them some nicely clabbered milk for breakfast.  For lunch, I had about a cupful of pinto beans and a piece of corn bread left after Cliff and I ate.  Meanwhile, I brought the feeder full of frozen glop in the house to thaw, so I can empty it tomorrow and start over with dry feed.  

  Looks miserable, doesn't it?  I went out a while ago and enticed the youngsters into the little lot, then put Gracie in the horse stall and closed the door.  George still insists on sucking on her ears, and as cold as it's supposed to be tomorrow, wet ears would probably freeze.  It's always something when you have animals.  They just won't play by the rules.  
We made a run to the city just because I wanted some good apples, and also because I wanted to get out and go somewhere.  We weren't gone even three hours, but it was a change of pace.  
Hang in there, folks.  Spring is just around the corner.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eating at the table

When our kids still lived at home, we always ate meals together at the kitchen table.  I think Cliff and I retained this behavior even after they left the nest.  I don't know when we gradually slipped into the habit of eating in the living room while watching television.  I suspect it was probably after we signed up for cable or satellite TV.  Or maybe after it became possible to record TV programs and watch them at will.  
Our television isn't usually on during the day except for a few minutes of news in the morning and about an hour while we eat midday dinner, when we watch something recorded (Good Wife is our favorite; we watch it during the noon meal every Monday).    
One of the things suggested in every diet plan or weight-loss book I've ever come across is that people should only eat at the table.  For instance, here's a quote from a free Kindle book I'm reading, "Skinny Thinking Daily Thoughts".  "Make it a point today to really be present when you are eating.  Ironically, those of us who love food and see it as central to our happiness are not very aware when we're eating.  We find ourselves eating quickly, or while doing something else such as driving, talking on the phone, watching television, or reading, so the experience of eating isn't as satisfying as it could be."  
So I told Cliff I thought maybe we should try this and, although I'm pretty sure he thought I was crazy (what's the difference where we eat?), he agreed.  We sat at the table eating our barley pilaf, sweet potatoes, and green beans.  I don't think either of us felt it was making any difference in our feelings, and we would have been lots more comfortable in our easy chairs.  By the time it was coffee-and-dessert time (a tiny piece of un-iced cake and 1/2 cup of ice cream), after only a couple of bites we practically ran to the living room, where we could watch our recorded episodes of "Pawn Stars" while finishing our dinner.


Checking in

I've shared this picture on my blog before:  In 1944, my dad and three of his brothers were each blessed with a baby daughter.  I'm the one in the bonnet; my mom said that because I was so bald, everybody thought I was a boy, so in most of my baby pictures, I'm wearing a bonnet.  I'm the oldest of the lot, born in July.  I don't think we would all have been sitting up so well in the autumn of '44, so maybe this is spring of '45.    

I took this picture of Cliff this morning on our walk.  We just made it back to the house before the rain set in; it's still raining gently and steadily.  We need it!  
Yesterday the temperature reached 74, breaking a record.  I mixed up dormant spray and sprayed all the fruit trees, although I don't know how much good it did, since it's raining today.  It was a nice outside activity, anyhow.  I also pruned my peach trees.  Did you know the peaches only grow on last year's wood?  If I ever knew that before, then I had forgotten it.  I know I don't prune properly, but any pruning is better than none.  
I also spent time yesterday leading Gracie and Jodie.  Jodie still leads well, but every once in awhile she tries to lead ME.  Gracie is a stubborn little heifer; I've worked with her for a long time, and she still balks.  It isn't necessary that they lead, but it sure does come in handy at times when they do.  
Today I grated the last of the cheese I made and put it in the freezer, then spent about an hour entering a recipe on Sparkpeople so I can add it when we have it for a meal.  Get this... barley pilaf.  I've never met a pilaf I'm crazy about, but I hope I like it well enough to cook it again, since I went to the trouble of adding it.  
Neither Cliff nor I lost any weight this week.  I expected that to happen, because I fixed enchiladas Saturday and we ate at Cliff's Aunt Gertrude's Sunday.  She cooks about twenty dishes with a meal, and even if you only take a tiny spoonful of everything, you end up with too much.  And then we both had a piece of cake because we didn't want to hurt her feelings.  As far as the enchiladas go, we only had one serving apiece, but it was a pretty big serving.  I put the rest in the freezer.  
Enough for the boring food talk!    

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gettin' Some Culture

For over a year I've been trying to get Cliff to take me to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  He had no desire to go and wasn't the slightest bit interested in art, but he agreed to take me.  I told him last spring it would be a good project for a rainy day.  I'm sure all my local friends remember how few rainy days we had last year.  
We were going to go yesterday since it was too cold to do anything outside, but then we decided to stay home and sell Babe and her calf.  Today, we took the plunge.  
I told Cliff I didn't want to get there until after noon because there's a free tour at 1:30.  We did some banking, paid off a bill at MFA, had a Subway sandwich and a McDonald's ice cream cone (they've stopped selling the chocolate dip cone, which is good for our lighter eating but bad for my mood).  Then we headed west on I-70 toward our destination.  
We arrived around 12:30 and spent time looking at statues and going through the Egyptian section; then we went to meet a tour guide.  Turns out Cliff and I were the whole tour group.  Our very sweet, classy tour guide looked askance at her two farmer-looking students, introduced herself, and asked what kind of art we liked best or were most familiar with.
"We know nothing about art," I told her.  "We are your blank canvas."  
I could tell she wasn't quite sure what to do with us, but she actually taught us a lot.  She'd say, "What do you see in this picture?"  
Now, we started with modern art, and we weren't seeing much of anything.  But with her guidance, by george there WERE some things to see, even in some of the crazy modern art!  I didn't do a lot of picture-taking, and the pictures I did take leave a lot to be desired.  I'll throw in some examples anyhow:

 Looks like someone just tossed a bag there, but it's a sculpture made of clay.

These are life-sized

The idea of this one is to let the tiny television and camera make the viewer part of the art

This represents how the artist felt about his home and portrays the man, his wife, and the child.  The whole thing is made out of junk.

It's a throne

We spent a lot of time at this one; it tells an amazing story.  Unfortunately, a photograph doesn't show all the nifty details.

By the time we were leaving, we felt like best friends with this lady; she told us more than once, "It's so nice to have some people who actually listen!"
She loves art and she loves her job.  I'm fairly sure she spent more time with us than she was scheduled to, bless her heart.  Cliff had to lean in close to a lot of the pieces, trying to figure out what they were made of.

I learned (more or less) what Baroque art is.  

Just a special note here for my St. Louis sister-in-law:  Next time you are here and we go to Nelson-Atkins, we MUST have the tour!  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thinning the herd

We decided just yesterday that it would be necessary to sell a cow or two.  Our hay was disappearing rapidly.  The only animal we had that would bring good money at a sale barn was Babe, the Hereford.  Babe is also the cow that ate the most.  I halfway wanted to keep her calf, but I asked Cliff what he'd do, and he said he'd sell her too.  Here's the thing:  Little Annie isn't eating a tremendous amount of hay yet, but next winter she will be.  Of course Gracie is coming along too.  Babies grow.  We only have so much pasture.  None of my dairy cows or heifers would bring much at auction; Craigslist is full of dairy cows that don't seem to be selling too well.  
At first we planned to do our usual drill when moving cattle:  Drive thirty miles, borrow Cliff's brother's pickup and livestock trailer, come back home, load Babe and Annie, haul them thirty-five miles to Kingsville, and return the pickup and trailer.  The auction folks would no doubt split them and sell them separately to bring the most money, then take out their share of the money.  
Cliff's brother was here yesterday and asked, "Why don't you put them on Craigslist?"  
"Because we don't have any idea what cattle are worth right now," I said.  
But this morning when we were on our walk, we decided to go ahead and try Craigslist.  I mentioned in the ad that if they weren't gone by Monday we were taking them to the sale.  I went out and took some nice pictures of the pair, to go with the ad.

A half-hour later a guy from Sedalia called and said he'd take them.  Normally I won't pull an ad until the person has actually shown up with money in hand, but this guy was going to come and get them right then, so I removed the ad.  We got one other call after the ad was taken down.  I'm guessing perhaps our price was low, but we saved ourselves all that time on the road borrowing a pickup and hauling cows.  We got half-again what we paid for Babe.  And honestly, although I know it's silly, I feel good that Babe gets to finish raising Annie.  The man who bought them is building a herd and likes Herefords.    

Goodbye, Babe and Annie.  It's been fun.

Stuff seen on Facebook

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Jody: the countdown

It's a month or less until Jody has her first calf, and I've been working with her.  Although she is a total pet and so tame I can put a halter on her and lead her around, she doesn't like her udder touched.  Even as a baby calf she wouldn't stand for it, but would wring her tail, kick, and move her body toward me, no matter how often I tried.  So I've been bringing her in the barn several times a week, putting her in the stanchion, and putting the anti-kicking device on her.  

All I do it hook the bottom in front of her leg, then hook the top over her backbone.  It isn't all that tight on her, but it prevents her kicking at me.  Eventually I may not need to use it, although at my age it never hurts to take precautions.  I use one all the time on Bonnie these days, simply because she gets restless when she runs out of feed (she's spoiled).  Using the "kicker", as we call it, I don't have to keep feeding her.  Believe me, at the rate Bonnie eats, it would take a bushel of expensive sweet feed to keep her standing still.  

Jody is beginning to make an udder.  She is a part Jersey, part Holstein, so her milk may not be as rich as Bonnie's.  She may also give more milk than a purebred Jersey would (I hope not).  I'm always anxious to see how well a cow produces, how easy she is to milk, and most of all...


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why I prefer electronic books

Since Waylon's book was too pricey as an e-book, I found an old copy of his real book online for twenty-five cents plus $3.99 shipping.  I was already reading a library book on my Ipad when this arrived, so Cliff decided it looked interesting and started reading.  Before he grabbed it, though, I opened it up and turned to the first chapter. 

Wow, the print is smaller than I'm used to.  If it were an e-book, I could make the print larger.
It's so heavy, and both hands are required to hold it.  
If I want to check out a real library book, I have to actually go to the library.  With the Ipad, I don't even have to leave my easy chair to browse the library offerings and check out books.  

With an e-book, if there's a word I can't understand, I rest my finger on the word and the definition is there instantly.  Although since this one is a book by Waylon Jennings, maybe there aren't many big words.  Not that he was stupid, but he was a down-home, hillbilly type.  I never had any trouble understanding his songs.  
It must be pretty good; at least it's holding Cliff's interest.  I guess I'll dig out my magnifying glass and read it after he's done with it.  Meanwhile, I'm reading a book on the Ipad, where I can make the print as big as I want.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

With a little help from my friends

Remember those milk filters I needed?  A longtime Internet friend found me a deal!

  I ordered four boxes; with the tax and shipping added, they cost me $5 per box.  That's cheap!

Previously, I was going to get them here:  
This was the best deal I had found on my own.  It's a different brand, but the same type filter.  Shipping on four boxes would have cost almost $10, for a total of $32, or $8 per box.  
Sometimes is isn't what you know, but rather WHO you know.  
We don't have the Farm-and-Fleet stores around here, but when Cliff's sister used to live in Wisconsin and we visited her, we saw them there.  
A couple of people suggested I use coffee filters to strain milk, so I put one in my milk strainer and poured water through it.  It was WAAAAY too slow, even with water.  Some folks said they use muslin or other cloth, then wash and reuse, but I did not want to mess with that.  I like the thick, multi-layered, sterile milk filters.  Unless for some reason I decide to start milking on a daily basis, the 400 filters I ordered a few minutes ago will last me a long, long time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Stumbling around in the dark

Each evening around 5 P.M. I run the cows out of the electric-fenced enclosure where their hay is and close a makeshift gate to keep them out overnight, fastening the gate shut by twisting some wires.  Somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning I go out with flashlight in hand, untwist the wires, and open the gate.  I don't know why I don't wait until daylight; probably because at that time of day I am so hungry myself that I feel sorry for the poor, starving cows.
This morning my flashlight battery ran out.  "I can do this in the dark," I thought.  
I crept along very slowly, since the cow-piles are frozen hard as boulders.  I'm always aware of my artificial knee, and I don't want to be in any situation where I might fall on it.  I made it to the gate, but found out it's impossible to untwist wires in the dark.  Anyone else would have either unlocked Cliff's shop and gotten one of his flashlights or waited another hour until dawn.  Not me.  By this time Bonnie-the-Jersey-cow had noticed me out there and was breathing down my neck, wanting her breakfast.  
I suddenly remembered that I once purchased a light that you wear on your forehead, leaving your hands free.  I have never used this light, but it was really cheap at the time and I thought it seemed like something that would be useful.  Actually I bought a pair of them and gave one to Cliff.  He keeps it in the shop and has used it at those times when he needs both hands free, and yet needs some illumination.    My little head-light is in a dresser drawer.  I never made it that far, though, because as I went past my purse I remembered a marvelous little Swiss-Army-knife-type invention in it that I bought from the same place as the head lamp; the knife has a tiny LED light that folds into it, along with the blades and scissors and other nifty things I never use.  With that in hand, I returned to the gate, where there were now two cows impatiently waiting, and got it opened up.  
I will be digging that head-lamp out of the drawer later, though.  From now on, that's what I'll use on my morning trip to untwist the wires and let the cows in to eat hay.  I'm glad I thought of it.  

    Cliff has once again advertised the 1855 Oliver on Yesterday's Tractors for a hefty price.  Last time he did this, he came so close to selling it that it scared him and he removed the ad.  This time he advertised it at a slightly higher price.  He's getting some serious inquiries, as well as the usual crop of lookie-loos who don't intend to buy it but enjoy talking about tractors.  He enjoys talking to all of them.  We'll see what happens this time; one man who lives near Iowa City, Iowa, says he's coming to look at it, but didn't say when.  That's a long way to drive to look at a tractor.    

Sunday, January 20, 2013


A couple of months ago, I decided I wanted some chickens.  Cliff spent a whole day building a dwelling-place for two or three hens.  It lacked a few things.  A door, for instance.  There was no way to get food and water into the structure.  A few days after he finished that little project, he saw a small chicken-house advertised on Craigslist and said, "Here's what you need!"  
So I purchased that.  It had a door in the house portion, but I still had no access to the pen, where food and water needed to be.  So, Cliff made me a door to the pen.  
We traveled quite a distance to buy a couple of pullets, and then the guys who delivered the little chicken-house we bought sold me another hen.  Three hens will lay more eggs than we can use, unless I plan to make deviled eggs for the holidays.  The two pullets should have started laying soon after I bought them, but evidently the move upset their systems.  The brown egg you see in the picture above is my first egg from my little flock; I found it in the nest yesterday.  
The thing about chickens is that hardly any food in the house goes to waste.  They will gladly eat any table scraps I take them.  In fact, they start singing and pacing in the pen when they see me coming.  They were all wild when I got them, but now they have no fear at all.  They are pets, and I enjoy them.  I've actually gotten rather attached to my hens.  
Trouble is, the way things are now, they have to be tended daily.  They often walk on the little feeder that holds their food, turning it over.  If I bought a regular chicken feeder, it would take up a lot of space in their tiny pen.  And every time it rained, the feed would be ruined.  If I bought them a chicken waterer, that would take up even more space in their little yard.  
Cliff has mentioned turning my old cabin into a chicken house, which would give them a lot more room.  Far more room than three chickens require.  However, I could buy a feeder and a waterer then, and would be able to leave them for a few days at a time if I so desired.  
But wait, chickens shouldn't be confined inside a building all the time.  They like to scratch and chase bugs.  Around here, you can't just turn them loose in the daytime like my grandma used to do every afternoon:  Red-tailed hawks are always on the lookout for something to eat, and out here dogs often run loose, presenting an ever-present danger.
A pen is required.  
Guess who would be doing all this cabin-remodeling and pen-building?  Yep, the same guy who built my original chicken-tractor that is now stored down by the ditch.  The man who hates carpenter-work worse than I hate housework.  
Don't even ask how much money we have already sunk into this chicken venture.  But hey, they're pets.  There's no limit to what we'll spend on our pets, right?  

Taken during an early-morning walk

Friday, January 18, 2013

Am I the last of a dying breed?

This is a milk filter.

It fits at the bottom of the milk strainer.  

If there are any dust particles or cow hairs in the milk, the paper filter strains it out.  

I can no longer buy milk filters locally.  I've inquired at Orscheln's, Feldman's, Tractor Supply, and MFA.  It isn't something I buy often, since I don't milk twice a day like I did in the old days.  A box of 100 lasts a year or more, although now that I'll be milking two cows occasionally, I'll probably use more.  However long it takes me to use them, they are necessary.  So I'll be buying them online.  
Some places want $10 for a box of a hundred, then want to charge almost as much for the shipping.  The best deal I've found online is at NASCO farm supply, $5.50 for a box of one hundred.  The shipping is over seven bucks.  However, I can order four boxes and the shipping is $12.61.  That ought to be a lifetime supply.  After all, I won't be milking cows forever!  
I know there are other people milking cows and using the milk, because I see raw milk advertised for sale on Craigslist sometimes.  I wonder if they have a local source for milk filters.  I'm going to have to start asking around.  Although, if I buy four boxes, I won't need any for awhile.  I'm not going to order immediately, since I still have about fifty filters.  Even if I used one a day, they'd last awhile.  Meanwhile, maybe I'll call some Craigslist folks and see what they use for filters.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Flavored milk and assorted ramblings

Forty years ago when we were living on our first little farmette, I sold quite a bit of my raw milk; the price was a dollar a gallon.  I don't know if that was cheap or not, because I don't know how much milk cost in the store.  These days you can get in trouble for selling raw milk unless you have a certified dairy, but in the sixties, although I'm pretty sure it was illegal, the long arm of the law didn't pursue the matter.  
Wild onions (or garlic, I'm not sure which) grew plentifully in our pasture there, and it seems my cows developed a taste for it.  The only problem was, the milk my cows produced smelled like onions.  OK, not exactly like raw onions.  More like onion breath smells on somebody who has recently eaten onions.  
Smell, of course, is linked to taste.  Ewww.  
I experimented and found out that if I locked the cows in the lot for a few hours where they couldn't graze, the milk then tasted like it should.  
I've never had the onion-breath-smelling milk on this property.  But there has been a problem with "grassy" tasting milk, due to the fact that we are feeding the cows alfalfa.  Alfalfa is a wonderful, protein-rich food for cows, but I like my milk to taste like MILK.  I don't sell milk, and it's just us.  We rarely drink a glass of milk:  I make cheese and butter and cottage cheese, and the grassy taste doesn't come through on those.  On days when we have cereal, I notice the off-taste, but it isn't that bad.  Nothing like onion-breath-milk, let me tell you.  I have no milk customers to worry about these days, so everything is fine.  
I have only been milking Bonnie when I notice her udder is full and tight, since her calf hasn't been able to drink all the milk she produces.  Just this week Crystal has started taking all her mom's milk, so I'm back to my old routine of putting the calf in the stall at night when I want milk, and milking Bonnie in the morning.  Then I let the calf have her share and turn them loose until next time I run out of milk.  There's no more alfalfa taste in the milk, since I don't let the cows have hay at night.  
So much for that subject.  

I'm so thankful for e-readers of all kinds.  Until I got my basic Nook, I venture to say I wasn't reading three books a year.  Once I got the hang of things and was able to check out library books from home and read them on the Nook, I rediscovered reading.  These days, the Nook is unused because I read on the Ipad, although every once in awhile Cliff uses my old device to read some book I've recommended.   
Somewhere in my web-surfing, I noticed Willie Nelson has written a book recently and went to to see if it would be worth spending my accumulated Swagbucks on (I won't pay over a buck or two for a book if I'm using actual money).    
I always read the reviews on whatever book I am considering purchasing, and the reviews on this book were terrible.  "Save your money," several people advised.  
I heeded the advice.  However, the website suggested I might like another book, one written by Waylon Jennings that had excellent feedback.  It cost $12.99, though.  I only have $10 worth of Swagbucks available.  I don't spend real money on books very often.  I checked the library; they didn't have it.  Hmmm. 
Two days later it hit me that since this book was written in 1985, there's a good chance of finding a used copy on  SCORE!  The price of the book was 75 cents, shipping was $3.99.  It is going to seem strange to read a real book again.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We met the new neighbor

We were finishing up with our walk in the pasture, and the new neighbor was burning lumber from the two dormers they've removed, one on the back side facing us, and one on the front of the house.  He made his way across the fence and came toward us.  Cliff stepped over our electric fence and met him halfway.  You won't see me stepping over any electric fence that's turned on, so I came back to the house.  
I saw enough of him to get the impression he was a cordial young fellow, probably no older than our oldest grandson.  He's a farmer.  He even rents farm ground from a retired fellow just up the road from us.  
He told Cliff he plans to fill in the basement where the old house that burned was located.  They're going to landscape the place and make it look nice.  
And now for the icing on the cake:  He's in Cliff's tractor club.  We didn't recognize him, but he knew us.  "You're the one," he said to Cliff, "with the 1855 Oliver."  

That isn't him, but it's one of his classic tractors.  I took this picture at the tractor cruise.
Go back to the entry I did a couple of days ago and you can read what I said about this situation:
" will be nice to have people there who will tend to their yard and fences.  I'm sure these folks will, because they have done so much  already.  Who knows, when the time comes for us to sell this place, they may be the ones to buy it.  Life's funny like that, and I have seen stranger things happen.  Throughout my life I have watched things fall naturally into place, as though Someone were orchestrating the whole thing to make it work out for my benefit."  

Sometimes I feel as though I am God's favorite child.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The babysitter

Jody is a heifer, which is what you call a cow that has never had a calf.  Almost any time you look outside, though, you will see her in the company of a calf or two.  I don't know if it's because she is still relatively young and feels like a kid, or whether she's the only one who doesn't run calves off when they get close.  Cliff and I call her the babysitter.  Look at the picture on my header right now and you'll see her in the vicinity of three calves, grazing.  

Today Jody is hanging out with Bonnie's calf, Crystal.  Remember her?  The one that was born when the temperature was seventeen degrees?  

Jody is due to calve in a little over a month.  When I raise dairy heifers, I start them at an early age getting used to having their udders handled.  For some reason, though, Jody has always been "kicky" when touched in that area.  Today Cliff and I got her in the stanchion and put the anti-kicking device on her so that I could handle her udder without the danger of getting kicked.  We'll do this almost daily from now on so that she'll be used to it by the time she has her calf.  
I have a special plan for Jody:  There's a large dairy at Higginsville where I can buy a Holstein bull calf for a fairly reasonable price.  When Jody calves, I think I'll try getting her to accept another calf with her own.  One dairy cow gives more than enough milk for two babies; I've heard of many people doing this successfully.
Her actual due date is February 17, but wouldn't it be lovely if she gave me a Valentine's Day calf?  Especially if it was a heifer!

Oatmeal, YUCK

Actually, Cliff and I like oatmeal just fine; I dress it up with raisins and fruit and walnuts, and it tastes good.  The problem is that we're both tired of it.  We will, however, continue to eat it at least three times a week.  It's good for our hearts, it's cheap, and since I don't add salt, there isn't much sodium in it.  I never buy the instant stuff:  The servings are too small, salt is added, it's expensive, and I can spare three minutes it takes to cook the regular stuff.  Of course it helps that Cliff and I eat at the same time, so one batch is all that's necessary.  On the days we're not forcing down oatmeal we have Cream of Wheat, which Cliff prefers, or cold cereal with some of the fruit I put in the freezer last summer.  
For years I thought I didn't like brown rice, although it's much better for us.  Turns out I wasn't cooking it long enough and it was crunchy; we're using more brown rice now.  
I've gotten rid of my T-fal pans except for one large skillet that I like to use for frying catfish.  I've always used non-stick pans for cooking rice, which sticks so easily to the pan.  But now I have a stainless steel double boiler, which totally prevents any sticking.  It takes a little longer to cook the rice, but I have plenty of time.   
One thing I love about is that it not only keeps track of your calories, but also any nutrients, sodium, cholesterol, and so forth that you choose to monitor.  With that tool, I have found out we never go over the recommended salt intake requirement as long as we eat at home.  I used to buy no-salt tomatoes and tomato sauce at the store, but unless Walmart is carrying those (which they sometimes do, in their house brand) the prices are prohibitive.  For now I am canning my own tomatoes without salt and buying tomato sauce that contains salt.  If we eat out, we go way over the recommended sodium level.  One six-inch Subway sandwich contains more salt than a person should have in a day.
Cliff loves ketchup, and if he's turned loose he can easily eat a half-cup or more of ketchup on a hamburger.  His mother once told me he used to tip up the bottle and drink the stuff.  He's back to limiting it somewhat.  You can buy no-salt ketchup, but Cliff doesn't like it.   
After our walk I toasted some sliced almonds to use in recipes.  I spilled about a cupful of them in the hot oven, and was fretting about how to get them out when Cliff came up with the obvious solution:  the vacuum cleaner.  Later I grated some more home-made cheese and cooked some brown rice to put in small batches in the freezer, for times when I'm in a hurry.  

I have a progress report on the monstrosity next door:  They spent the morning tearing off a dormer that wasn't serving any purpose except, I guess, to balance out the house.  

It's going to look a little unbalanced, but hey, there was no reason for it to be there!  The remaining dormer is part of a bathroom, so I don't think they'll remove it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Morning thoughts

Every day when I awake, all I can think about is coffee.  Then when I take that first rich sip, I wonder about the people who don't like coffee, and I pity them.  What would motivate someone to get out of bed in the morning if they didn't have that first cup of coffee to look forward to?  Oh, I know, most people have to get up and go to work and that's enough motivation, but without coffee it just seems like it would be very difficult.  
We had a sleet-snow mix Saturday, not enough to turn the ground solid white, but enough that we were afraid to get out and about yesterday in our rear-wheel-drive Mercury.  Cliff intends to put the snow tires on soon, and then we won't be so helpless.  We've put off doing it this year because last winter they were on the car the whole season for nothing.  
I used to dread January and February because those months seemed to drag on endlessly.  The weather can be so frigid this time of year that anything done outside seems difficult, and there's all that bundling I have to do every time I step out out the door.  The dread of winter is gone now:  life goes by so fast these days that winter whizzes by as rapidly as the rest of the year.  I find myself asking time to slow down, even in January.  
We take our daily walks, even if it's zero or below, unless there's a stiff wind blowing.  We do attempt to not breath through our mouths, or else we cover our mouths, when it's that cold.  Long ago I read somewhere that it isn't good to breathe super-cold air directly into the lungs, so whether it's true or not, we try to heed that advice.  Of course, theoretically Cliff isn't supposed to be outside when it's that cold, or when it's above 85 in summer.  I guess extreme cold or heat places a load on a compromised heart.  However, there are some things Cliff is going to do no matter what.  I'm sure it helps that walking is an everyday activity for him.  I have to say, our walk in winter does us more good than at any other time:  in summer we are both outside a lot, tending the yard and garden.  In winter, it's easy to stay inside and vegetate, surfing the 'Net or reading, or watching TV.  It's good to have something that forces us out the door; on days when we probably would skip our walk, Iris pesters us and insists we get moving.  Toward the end of our daily stroll as we're heading to the house, we always agree that we  feel better for the activity.  Of course we're also glad to have it behind us for the day.  Bundle up and get outside, folks!  It will brighten your day.  

I haven't mentioned the house next door lately.  The new owners are there every day, working like crazy.  They have done a lot of hauling off junk and tearing down sheds, and now they are working inside the house.  It's certain that they intend to live there, because they've hooked up electricity.  When I go outside with a flashlight at 5 A.M. to tend to the cattle (and cats), it is rather nice to look in that direction and see a light on, although they aren't living there yet.  
I haven't met them, and have decided not to force that issue; we'll let it happen naturally, for good or bad.  They are over there, we're here.  I'm fine with that.  I would rather have had someone tear the monstrosity down, but it will be nice to have people there who will tend to their yard and fences.  I'm sure these folks will, because they have done so much  already.  Who knows, when the time comes for us to sell this place, they may be the ones to buy it.  Life's funny like that, and I have seen stranger things happen.  Throughout my life I have watched things fall naturally into place, as though Someone were orchestrating the whole thing to make it work out for my benefit.  

On a final note, I am still getting my Sunday edition of the Kansas City Star, and it's been over a year.  Nobody else on our road gets the Star:  The paper guy throws my paper, then backs up, turns around, and heads to the highway.  I get to read Gusewelle's column in print, every week.  I enjoy looking at the ads, too, seeing what's on sale at various stores.  It's just one more of those little freebies life throws my way on a regular basis.  I'm grateful.      

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A little snippet of conversation around here

The grandson was here today with his Great Dane, Titan.  Son-in-law called and asked Arick to go someplace with him, so Arick asked if I would watch Titan.  
I love that dog, and for the most part I enjoy his company.  
However, Titan has an occasional problem with flatulence.  He's a BIG dog, so as you might imagine, his flatulence makes a BIG smell.  A couple of times today he graced me with a sample of his stink-bombs.  
Cliff came inside this afternoon and settled on the couch to read; Titan went over and laid down not far from him.  
I was reading my own book when I heard the sound of a fart.  I said, "Cliff, was that you, or Titan?"
"It was me," he answered.  
"Thank God," I replied with obvious relief.  
I thought Cliff was going to bust a gut laughing.  
"I never thought I'd hear anybody thanking God that I passed gas," he said, and by this time we were both laughing.  

Running around with Cliff

When I got up yesterday morning, I had no plans except to fix a couple of healthful meals, take a walk with Cliff, and read my book.  Next Wednesday is Cliff's payday, and I knew we would be running to the city then, on our big monthly shopping spree.  
Then Cliff broke the news to me that he wanted to go to Harbor Freight, and also to America's Best to get his glasses fixed.  I suggested we wait and do it next Wednesday when we'll be going to the city anyhow, but he reminded me how sick-and-tired of shopping I get just doing our usual stuff on that day.  
It's rare to hear Cliff saying he wants to get in the car and go anywhere, so I agreed.  After all, I had the best book ever to read, one that makes me laugh and cry, sometimes both in the span of five minutes.  Not to mention I can play on Facebook on the Ipad.  
We went by the bank, where he got $200 out of his tractor fund.   
Heading west on the freeway, he said, "I want to stop at Lowe's in Blue Springs."  
"That isn't Lowe's," I told him.  "That's a Home Depot." 
"You have to go to a Lowe's specifically?"  
"Yes, because they have a tool that, if it works, is going to be fantastic."  
And he proceeded to describe what this wonderful tool could do.  I hope you don't expect me to tell you what he told me, because I don't have the slightest idea.  
"Where did you hear about this thing?  
"I saw a commercial on television.  If it doesn't cost too much, I'm going to get one for Phil (his brother) too."  
OK, well I have a friend who put me on her Costco account.  All I had to do was walk in, give them her associate number, and claim my free card (whoopie!!).  So I told Cliff I was pretty sure there's a Lowe's next to Costco.
He went there first, and wasn't inside over five minutes; he came out with only one of the amazing tools.  
"You didn't get one for Phil?"  
"No, I'm afraid I wouldn't have enough money left for what I want to get at Harbor Freight."  
"How much did this thing cost?"  
When he told me the amount, I said, "Seriously?  You wouldn't spend that piddly amount of money on your brother who helps you all the time, the one whose company you enjoy so much?  The poor brother who has trouble breathing because of COPD and whose heart is probably is worse shape than yours?"  
"Well, if you put it that way... now I feel bad."  
"You get right back in there and use the credit card if you must, and get one for him!"    
And he did.  Then we went to Costco, got my card, and walked the aisles so I'd be familiar with the layout when we return next week.  We left without buying a single item, mainly because my grocery envelope is empty.  

Temptation, of course, came our way as it always does when we're in the great metropolis of Kansas City.  This time it called to us in the form of Olive Garden, which is right next door to where Cliff got his glasses fixed.  I suggested soup, salad, and breadsticks, but Cliff thought Subway would be a better choice, and of course he was right.  We've been doing so well, it would have been a shame to get sidetracked so soon.  We never stop at one bowl of soup or two breadsticks each.  On our way home, Cliff picked up some spark plugs for the Mercury.  When we arrived here, I realized we had been gone all day, and I had not bought a single item; in fact, I had returned some overalls to Walmart and gotten money back to put in the clothing envelope!  And the main items Cliff was looking for, something at Harbor Freight... some 3/4 drive sockets that go over two inches, he says.  They didn't have them.  
Actually, though, it was kind of a fun day anyway.         

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What, no new blog entry? (ramblings)

That's more or less what Cliff said this evening when he came in from the shop.  Yes, friends and neighbors, my husband has to read my blog to see what's going on in my life.  
OK, maybe not.  Maybe he just wants to see my unique perspective on life.  Whatever.  
So I said to him, "And what would I put in a blog entry?  That I didn't get out of my pajamas until 11 AM because it was rainy and we weren't able to go for our walk?  That I started reading a book that amused me, and I read all day?  Oh yeah, except for that little while when I warmed up leftovers for dinner at noon."  
Finally, at 4 PM, I decided to go for a walk in spite of the drizzle and fog.  Cliff was in the shop with the oldest grandson, who has become a rather proficient trader.  He had  a gun that he bought for $1,500 that he then traded for a motorcycle he didn't want.  So he traded the motorcycle for a Grasshopper zero-turn lawn mower (almost new) worth over $4,000 that he doesn't need for his tiny lawn, but can likely sell this spring for a tidy profit.  Anyhow, they were messing around with the mower, and since I had only burned perhaps 400 calories all day, I decided to walk.  
I made the mistake of letting Iris go along.  
Iris never actually walks WITH me.  Once we are through the gate going to the pasture, I don't see her again until after I get back to the house.  That's no problem, but when the whole world is wet after a long period without rain, Iris comes back with a dirty belly, dirty legs, and dirty tail.  
So when she came in I directed her to my bathtub and told her to get in.  She did, and stood stoically while I sprayed the filth off her.  
I did do a new little wheel of cheese this morning, but other than that... 
What can I say?  Retirement is wonderful.  
Oh, here's something.  Cliff loves the XM/Sirius radio in the shop.  It costs us around fifteen bucks a month, but honestly he does get that much pleasure out of it.  That $15 is charged to our credit card monthly.  Today we got a letter in the mail letting us know that the price is probably going to rise, but if we subscribe for a year, we save $15.  If we subscribe for two years, we save much more.  Three years would give us even more savings.  So I went to the shop and told Cliff the whole deal.  He had no idea we were paying $180 a year already ($15 monthly), but agreed it's worth it.  I told him how much we could save by paying a year, or two years, at a time.  Then I said, in the presence of our grandson, "But it's a gamble, because what if you don't live for two or three years?"  
Cliff answered, "Yeah, better make it for just a year."  
The grandson couldn't believe what he was hearing, and asked me to repeat what I said, which I did.  
Folks, we are all headed to the grave.  Since Cliff and I have reached retirement age, we are much smarter: we know we shouldn't put off anything we really want to do, because time is short.  We talk about this all the time, and it makes our lives richer.  
Unfortunately, others seem to have a problem with it and think it's morbid.  I read something today that expressed exactly how I feel about it.  You can read it HERE.  
By the way, I made the XM/Sirius subscription for two years, so Cliff had BETTER live long enough to take advantage of it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Cheese, made by me and Bonnie-the-Jersey-cow

A friend asked me on Facebook this morning if I had tried any of the cheese I've made lately, and that made me decide to get in gear.  It's been aging for a month, so it's time.  After I take the cheese out of my home-made cheese press, I let it dry out on the outside, which forms a rind.  Then I dip it in melted paraffin wax, put it in the back of the refrigerator, and leave it alone.  

It's a little messy getting the wax off, especially on the bumpy top, but I got it done.  

Looks like cheese to me, about a pound of it.

Cliff pronounced it tasty.  

I grated it all because we don't need to be pigging out on cheese.  Cliff usually has a salad for supper, and we'll sprinkle a little of this cheese atop that.  I'll be keeping it in the freezer like I do all grated cheese, because I don't want it molding.  

The cheese doesn't always turn out the same, probably because my cheese-making skills aren't the best.  However, it is still cheese, and that's what it tastes like every time.  Sometimes it's dryer than others.  If cheese prices rise the way they say milk prices are supposed to, I am proud to know I can make my own.

I've found my motivation

I'm actually doing this entry for Cliff and me; it will probably bore my readers, but we need a reminder of the real reason we need to get back to the right kind of eating.
When Cliff first came home from having open heart surgery, I was set on cooking the right kinds of foods and serving the proper amounts.  I had searched the Internet, gaining all the knowledge I could about heart disease.  I was determined to see that my husband got to live every year he had coming to him.  I was scared.  We would walk every day.  I would purge salty foods from the house.  We would only eat out once a month.  
That resolve lasted about two years.  I still don't use added salt in cooking, nor do I put salt in vegetables I can and freeze.  We still walk.  But little by little we went back to our old way of eating and slowly gained back the weight we had lost.  We've been eating out a couple of times a week.  We've been having fun, enjoying Cliff's retirement.  
Yesterday there was a nagging statistic in the back of my mind trying to get my attention, something I had learned back when Cliff had his surgery.  I seemed to recall that open heart surgery is only good for a limited time.  You know, like it had an expiration date.  I kept meaning to look up the information on the Internet all day, but I didn't get around to it.  
This morning I remembered, and did the Google search even before I had my first cup of coffee.  Of course, it's hard to weed out the genuine facts from all the junk you find online, but I found what I was looking for in an article on Medline Plus:

The results of CABG usually are excellent. The surgery improves or completely relieves angina symptoms in most patients. Although symptoms can recur, many people remain symptom-free for as long as 10 to 15 years. CABG also may lower your risk of having a heart attack and help you live longer.
You may need repeat surgery if blockages form in the grafted arteries or veins or in arteries that weren't blocked before. Taking medicines and making lifestyle changes as your doctor recommends can lower the risk of a graft becoming blocked.

Wow, what have I been thinking?  It's been almost seven years for Cliff, and ten to fifteen years is the best-case scenario.  We haven't been doing the things that make for best-case. 
CABG is not a cure; it is only a palliative surgery. It is not a permanent cure and therefore a lot of precautions have to be taken to avoid future problems and to keep the graft vessels patent. Therefore patients have to take their medications regularly and religiously. Ideally the patient should be seen 2-3 months after the surgery and thereafter every six months with all necessary investigations to ensure maintenance of optimal health condition.
Talk about a wake-up call!  Oh, I knew all this stuff.  I practically had it memorized six years ago, but little by little I let all these facts slip out of my consciousness because I like pizza and ice cream.

After you've returned to work and other normal activities, you'll need to make a total lifestyle change your top priority. Clean out your pantry and start from scratch. Pitch the salty, fatty and sugary snacks. If you have congestive heart failure, you'll want to pitch the alcohol, too. It can damage your heart muscle and increase the chances of an abnormal heartbeat

Fill your pantry and refrigerator with the following heart-healthy foods: unprocessed foods with no labels (fresh vegetables, fruit), low-fat protein products (soy protein, low-fat peanut butter, dry beans), salt-free seasonings and herbs, low-sodium canned goods, non-fat or low fat dairy products, healthy fats (olive oil, fatty fish like salmon, nuts) and water.

Cliff, back on his feet after having open heart surgery

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

It happens every January

I'm making up these statistics, but this is how it appears to me.  Every New Year's Day in America:
25% of the people resolve to lose weight.
25% of the people who have managed to keep their weight at a proper level all their lives ask themselves, "Why do these idiots let their weight get so out of control?"  And yet, many in this group wish the best for the dieters, cheering them on from the sidelines.  I always appreciate that.  
The other 50% of the (usually overweight) people say, "Why do they bother?  They're just going to fizzle out in a few weeks and gain the weight back again.  Not me!  I only live once, and I'm going to eat what I like!"  
We see them, one by one, succumb to diabetes and heart problems and strokes. 
I've been in that 50% group a few times.  This year, though, Cliff and I are in the bunch of fatties losing weight.  The memory of Cliff's open heart surgery in July of 2006 motivates me more than anything else.  I'm not ready to be a widow yet.  
I didn't make a New Year's resolution, just so you know; this simply happens to be a good time to start, what with all the holiday gluttony behind us.  
I think the longest we ever maintained our weights at an acceptable level was two years.  Wouldn't it make sense to step on the scales weekly and, if I see I've gained two pounds, take it off right then?  Of course it would.  I don't know why I don't do that.  
Why do we keep trying, when we always fail eventually?  
I used to smoke.  I took up the nasty habit when I was twenty-one, and finally quit for good somewhere in my thirties.  But before that, I quit at least two dozen times, only to start smoking again.  Each time I tried to quit was harder than the previous time, but I finally won the battle.  
Failure isn't final.    
Now, the trouble with losing weight is that you can't just quit eating, the way a person quits smoking.  Temptation is everywhere, even at home.  We are eating the food that's good for us, but it's very easy just to have another little helping because it's so GOOD.  
So yeah, I'm trying again, which means Cliff is too.  I may go to my grave fat, but I hope I never stop trying.  And I hope I keep my smart remarks to myself when those around me decide to take the weight off for the umpteenth time, because this pot has no excuse for calling the kettle black.      

Monday, January 07, 2013

People I admire

Tonight I've been on Youtube watching Vestal Goodman videos.
I don't know a thing about her personal life.  I only know what she sang.  Oh yes, and I do have one story that was told to me by a special friend.
One of the dear people I met in the old chat room was Virginia Farless.  I loved her dearly; Cliff and I were welcomed into her home.  She would call me and talk for an hour at a time, usually to tell me about her two surviving children she was so proud of.  She once shared a story about Vestal Goodman that involved her daughter, Chonda Pierce.
Virginia was having a particularly rough struggle with breast cancer.  During that time, her daughter, Chonda, happened to meet up with Vestal in an airport.  Chonda told Vestal that she would appreciate prayers for her mama, since she was fighting cancer.
Vestal didn't hesitate.  Right there in the airport, she began praying for my friend Jen, loudly, with no reservations, swinging that hanky above her head wildly as she was wont to do.
I always loved Vestal Goodman, but this story, told to me by a friend I miss SO much these days, is what made her real to me.

Later I read about another story about how Vestal brought George Jones out of a terrible depression that led to their singing this song together.  I loved Vestal.


Sunday, January 06, 2013

Stupid healthy eating

That attitude in the title of this entry is the problem.  You can't expect to change your eating lifestyle unless you really WANT to do it.  I am the spoiled little girl stomping her feet and saying, "I don't want to!  I don't CARE if I'm fat." 
Keep in mind that I'm the one who, when we are watching something on DVR, stops it and backs the thing up to watch the restaurant and fast-food commercials.   
Cliff and I are doing fine on this sixth day of eating right, but there have been temptations:  Yesterday was the local fundraiser breakfast to put a new roof on our town's post office and foreign legion (or VFW; I always get those mixed up).  It's a good thing I forgot about it, that's all I can say.  By the time somebody reminded us, we had already had our breakfast.  
Today we walked into church and smelled food.  Yep, it was their yearly holiday dinner.  We didn't stay, dang it.  We came home and ate our 500-calorie dinner.  
Rachel and Kevin came over this afternoon to visit.  They, too, are trying to get back on track.  We had a great visit, but would you believe every single conversation led to food?  
Example:  Me:  "Cliff, I think we'll go to the Nelson Art Gallery this week.  We'll either take a picnic or we'll get a Subway sandwich."  
Example:  Rachel:  "I had to opt out of email updates from Papa John's.  They asked the reason and I chose 'other'.  Then I typed in, 'We're on a diet'."  
I could give you at least twenty examples, but you get the picture.  
Wish us luck.  

Saturday, January 05, 2013



This entry is going to be all over the place, so have a seat.
Even though we're eating like we ought to now, I allow us the once-a-week pleasure of having a piece of toast, an egg, and three pieces of bacon for breakfast.  Today was the day.  

I was planning our dinner (at noon) when the oldest grandson showed up.  His visit was fortuitous, since the food I was going to cook needed to be split three ways, rather than two, in order for us to stay within our calorie limits.  

I didn't plan on doing anything but the necessary cooking and chores today.  I was going to read my book.  However, I had a churn half-full of cream, so I made butter.  Bonnie's calf is getting to the point of taking all Bonnie's milk, so I won't have such an excess of cream from now on.  Of course, we are not eating butter by the pound.  I've been putting it in the freezer.  Today I wrapped 1/4- and 1/2-cup amounts to use on popcorn and in recipes.

All I will have to do is open a freezer bag and get out as much as I need.    

When we butchered the little deer Heather shot for us, we ground all of it except for four steaks from the tenderest part of the deer.  I have never liked deer meat unless it's ground and mixed with a lot of ground beef, but Cliff said the steaks should really be good from such a young doe.  I finally got around to fixing those little steaks this week.  I wasn't looking forward to eating them, but I did want to give it a try.  I did a quick Internet search and found THIS.

  • "Season the venison steaks with dry meat tenderizer if desired, and melt one tablespoon of butter per steak in the skillet over high heat. Add onion slices to the skillet and fry until wilted. Move them to the side of the skillet and add the steaks.
    Sprinkle salt and pepper over the venison if desired, and fry for thirty seconds before flipping. Continue flipping every thirty seconds until the steaks are done. A meat thermometer can be used to determine the doneness. The steaks will be rare at 120 degrees F and medium at 130 degrees F. Remove the steaks at 125 degrees F because they will rest after cooking, and the temperature will rise by an additional 5 to 10 degrees."

I figured all that onion might cover the venison flavor, and I guess it did: you would not believe how good that meat was!  Cliff absolutely raved about it, and said if somebody gets us a deer next year, the loin will NOT be ground up.  I didn't check degrees or anything like that, just flipped them a few times.
Last summer I shared my extra tomatoes and sweet potatoes with someone on Facebook that I hardly knew.  Believe it or not, it's hard to find anybody who will actually go to the trouble of harvesting, canning, and freezing garden produce, but from things Christine said on Facebook, I was sure she would.  I hate for things to go to waste.
Well, recently she acquired a bushel of onions at a good price, and she shared twelve pounds (I think it was) with me.  I diced and froze enough to make more than a gallon when I first got them home, but the tears flowed so freely that I procrastinated about doing the rest.  Today I peeked into the bag of onions and saw that they are starting to sprout.  I knew it was crying time again because, as I said, I hate waste.

Cry I did.  As I went to the living room to get the Kleenex, a stale scrap of knowledge from long ago leaked out of the recesses of my brain.  Didn't I read in Ann Landers when I was in my twenties that if you do the onions next to your kitchen sink and keep a stream of cold water running while you're dicing them, it would help prevent the burning and tears?  
Thank the dear Lord and Ann Landers, it worked!  

I have become disillusioned with teflon in the past few years.  Since getting a dishwasher four years ago, those non-stick pans haven't been lasting long.  Finally I got smart enough to do some research and found out you aren't supposed to wash no-stick pans in a dishwasher.  I'm going back to stainless steel!  

      I have three wonderful, heavy pans my mom gave me:  the above gallon one, a three-quart one, and a skillet.  She paid a fortune for them, but obviously they were worth the money.  However, I wanted something cheaper.  By the way, there is a gallon of skim milk in that pan.  It's sour, and once it clabbers, it will become cottage cheese.  

I shopped Amazon and found some Farberware pans; I ordered a two-quart pan just to see if it was heavy enough to suit me.  I received it today, and indeed, it will do.  Oh, it's only about 1/4 the weight of my mom's pans, but it'll do me just fine.  I tossed a nasty old T-Fal pan in the trash as soon as I saw my new one.  Today I ordered a Farberware double boiler (two pans), and I'm pretty sure that's all I'm going to need around here.  I do intend to keep one T-Fal skillet, and I may buy a small T-Fal pan to use for our oatmeal and Cream of Wheat, simply because those tend to stick.  Other than that, I'm sticking to stainless steel and my cast iron skillets.  

How's this for random?