Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Busted, dusted, disgusted, and can't be trusted

I have the Woody Guthrie Library of Congress recordings, and at some point in the discussion between songs, he makes the above statement, talking about the Okie "dust bowl refugees".  He tells about the extreme drought and dust storms before he breaks into song with "I got that dust pnuemonee..." 

Woody is one of my favorite songwriters, along with Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson and Tom T. Hall.  And Fanny Crosby, of course.  All of those people make me want to sit down and write a song.  

With the extended drought we're having and the string of highs in the upper 90's, I'm starting to feel dusted and disgusted myself.  I'm still watering the tomatoes and peppers, but I'm letting everything else go.  Those seeds I optimistically planted for a fall garden never even came through the surface of the baked earth, except for turnips.
The weeds grow, though.  Boy, do they.  Mostly vine-y stuff like creeping jenny.  That's what my dad called it.  And some other little lacy-looking thing that is vining everywhere.  I'm ashamed of my flower bed.  
I don't recall ever having a problem with this little creeping thing, whatever it is.  

Five years ago when we moved back here behind the barn, we planted grass in the front yard.  It was beautiful the next spring, lush and green like a carpet.  Two straight years of drought have turned it into ugly weeds.  

Oh well, I'm thankful for air conditioning, which we never had at all until five years ago.  I'm loving the abundance we're getting from the garden.  There are so many things to eat at each meal, we can hardly eat it all.  And we're not tired of tomatoes yet.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Life's simple pleasures (and occasional aggravations)

A few days ago Cliff and I were talking about one thing and another, and somehow the subject of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches came up.  
"I miss peanut butter and jelly sandwiches," I said.  "Remember the old days when, if we wanted something like that, we'd just go right ahead and have it?" 
One of our rules these days is to not eat impulsively.  Oh, we'll eat a tomato or some fruit between meals any time we want, and if we are out and about we'll occasionally have a McDonald's ice cream cone.  But to have a sandwich when it isn't mealtime is out of the question.  A sandwich is a whole meal-full of calories.  
Then it came to me:  Make that peanut butter and jelly sandwich serve as a meal!  And that's exactly what we did this morning.  Cliff chose strawberry jam, I'm having home-made peach.  It all comes to 450 calories, which is more than we usually splurge on breakfast, but I'll even things out at lunchtime.  
The thing is, the PBJ sandwich isn't nearly as good as I thought it would be, much too sweet.  So I won't be worrying about that any more.  I've gotten it out of my system.  

Cliff had his annual blood work and checkup Friday, in order to get his prescriptions renewed.  Yesterday the nurse called from the doctor's office saying he is a little anemic, and they need more blood, so this morning we'll go do that.  (Cliff says no wonder he's anemic, they keep taking his blood.)  
As we sat at the picnic table in front of the shop talking about this, I said, "You know, Phil (his older brother) started all this mess of everything going wrong.  HE'S the first one who had heart surgery.  HE'S the one who had bad PSA results first (their younger brother has recently had a blood test that revealed high PSA's).  If Phil hadn't started this ball rolling, you and Donald would probably be in perfect health!  I ought to call him and tell him off."  
The words had hardly left my mouth when the phone rang.  It was Phil.  
Maybe you just had to be there, but we found it hilarious. 

Just before Phil called, one of those wonderful, amazing things happened.  As I said, we were eating watermelon in front of Cliff's shop.  Out of nowhere, I suddenly heard a loud, loud roaring noise very close by, coming out of the south.  I hardly had time to look for the source when a Warthog airplane appeared over the top of our garage.  It was breathtaking, flying so low overhead it felt like we could have reached up and touched it.  It was one of those little gifts that will sometimes drop unexpectedly into a day; it could have so easily been missed if we had been inside, if we hadn't decided to have some watermelon at that particular time.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

The fun of growing older

I've had trouble getting sufficient sleep for many years.  From what I gather, this is a problem for women more often than men, at least the women I've talked to, and usually women who are middle-aged and older.  Cliff certainly has no trouble getting his rest.  I tend to go right to sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, but sometime after midnight I'll wake up and have problems going back to sleep.  
I keep over-the-counter sleep aid pills around.  Sometimes those seem to help, other times not.  Whether they help me sleep on a particular night or not, I wake up groggy from them the next morning.  Plus, I don't like to take them more than a couple of times a week.  
Last week I was in the pharmacy section at Costco picking up some fish oil tablets (supposed to be good for the heart) and passed bottles of melatonin tablets on display.  I remember taking those pills years ago; but for the life of me I can't remember how well they worked.  If they worked, why did I stop taking them?  Maybe I started sleeping OK without them.  The stuff must have helped, because I remember telling others about it.  You can read about it HERE, on  That seems to be a fairly trustworthy medical site.  
I have taken a pill at bedtime on each of the last two nights, and have definitely slept better.  I still wake up two or three times, but I go right back to sleep.  Maybe it's just a coincidence.  If you are thinking about trying it, be sure and go to the link I shared above and click on the tabs for "side effects" and "interactions".  Or if you've had experience with melatonin, give me your feedback.  

It's been over two years since I got a knee replacement on my left knee, and I haven't said a lot about it, so here goes:  If I had it to do over again, I probably would not have the operation.  Why?  Because the left knee aches just as much as the right under most circumstances.  When riding for long periods in the car, for instance, or when I spend lots of time standing in one spot.  The surgical knee does not "catch" any more, and my other one does.  Other than that, I can't see a big difference in how my knees feel.  Don't get me wrong, I don't spend a lot of time regretting my decision.  I get by fine.  Cliff and I go for our walk every day.  As long as I am at home, barefoot, I seldom have pain in either knee.  When I do, Tylenol or aspirin work wonders.  For some reason, wearing shoes makes my knees hurt.  Both knees.  Equally.  Most people I've spoken with are quite happy with their knee replacements, saying the pain is totally gone.  And then there's my cousin, who had the surgery shortly before I had mine: He has more pain since the procedure than he had before.  His knee hurts all the time.  
I don't intend to have my other knee done, no matter what.  
Knee replacements aside, did you ever people-watch at Walmart (or anyplace, really) and watch older people get out of their cars?  They all walk funny until they've taken a few steps.  Both Cliff and I do this, and laugh at ourselves as we limp along.  


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Attending the Lexington Fair

The fair board wanted our tractor club to have the members there with their tractors at 8 o'clock in the morning.  We got there by nine, and some people made it later on.  They had hoped for thirty tractors, but I think they only got about twenty.

Cliff went over and gabbed with some of his fellow club members.  The guy on his left had the winning tractor after the votes were counted.

There is nothing cuter than a Farmall Cub.  We used to have one, but Cliff despises the Cub's lack of power.  Yeah, men like powerful tractors.  At least my man does.  Must be a testosterone thing.

Cliff is admiring an Oliver 1655 that belongs to a high school boy from Richmond.  We have a 1655, and if we should by chance sell the 1855, Cliff would restore it.  It looks pretty much like our big Ollie, just a little smaller.

It was about this time that I decided to walk around and see what this fair had to offer.  There was a fiddler's contest, and I heard some really talented people playing.  I looked for the corn dog stand, because there is one at every fair and I haven't had a corn dog all year.
It wasn't open.  Around 11:30 Cliff and I were hungry, the stand hadn't opened, and so we ate at the Mexican place.  I may not get to eat a corn dog this year.  Do my readers know if Sonic corn dogs are any good?

And then I discovered the stand where people were signing up for the frog races and turtle races.  I didn't want to point out to the poor kid toting this bucket that he had a toad, not a frog.  (It's a very small one.  It's up at the very top of the picture.)

  Oh yeah, the turtle race.  I'm sure this was the largest entry.

Oh yes, this should be exciting.  Actually, the fun part is watching the kids.
Little boys trying to figure out which frog to bet on.  Notice the boy with the bucket that contains his frog.  Notice at the lower left-hand side of the picture a covered bucket.  Obviously that kid has a frog that could possibly jump high enough to escape if his bucket wasn't covered.

Yes, when the frogs got lazy, sometimes the judges helped.

And then it was time to line up for the parade.

An old friend, RuthAnn, came to Lexington just to see me.  You can read an entry about her HERE that includes the words to a song I wrote about her.  I've recently updated the song and recorded it for her.  Cliff, remembering some of the song, said to me, "You're right.  I wouldn't want to mess with her."  

This is a member of our tractor club, Bob.  He is one of Cliff's older brother's best friends.  

 This is our new neighbor's very rare tractor.  His dad farmed with it.  By the way, we love our new neighbors.

This family had a float doing a takeoff of Duck Dynasty.  Notice the fake beards on a couple of guys on the float.  At first even the little boys had such beards, but it was a hot day and they removed them.  I'm sure they put them back on once the parade started.  

On a more solemn note, I took time to look at the Wall by the courthouse.  It has the names of all Lafayette County people who died in wars from WWI and upward.  I saw a lot of last names of people whose relatives still live around here.  Very sad. 

Riding along 224 on a tractor

The big Oliver 1855 goes amazingly fast for a tractor.  Cliff says it's because it has hydraul-shift.  It goes fast enough that our hair blows back when we're up to full speed, and if it weren't for cars behind us needing to pass, it almost feels like being on a motorcycle.  I thoroughly enjoyed our ride to Lexington and back.  
224 highway started life as the Santa Fe Trail.  After automobiles came on the scene, it was 24 highway, the main thoroughfare (at least in these parts) going east and west.  Later on a new 24 was put in, and this small stretch between Napoleon and Lexington became 224.  You will see lots of motorcycles traveling this historic stretch along the Missouri River.  

There are people living here and there along this route, but there are also abandoned houses like this one that remind me what the road was like in its heyday.  

I took this shot as we were leaving Lexington.  Local folks call this street "Irish-town Hill Road".  Those bricks are very slick in winter when coated with ice or packed snow. 

    We caught up with the owner of the local peach orchard, Larry, and he motioned us past him, knowing we had a faster tractor.  

Yesterday I thought someone was living in this house.  Looking at the picture, I'm not so sure.  

This is the outbuilding that goes with the house.  Now I realize why I knew the place was inhabited.  

What's left of an old service station.

Here's what it looks like in winter.  

This is the Peckerwood Club, somewhat infamous in its early days.  It was still open for business when we moved here in 1975.  I believe it closed for good in the 80's.  

Ah, civilization!  Just before you enter our little town, you come upon the Sni Mini-mart.  The only store or service station around.  

And here, also on the banks of the Sni, is Catfish Charlie's.  We don't eat there often, but the food is good.  Our tractor club group likes going there.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Just for Patsy: Here's what was wrong with our chicken tractors.

I tried to describe a chicken tractor to Cliff.  I even showed him some pictures on the Internet.  He worked with what he had, and here's what he came up with.
What you see him working on at this point is a door that I can reach into and get an egg out of the nest.  
Problem #1:  There is no other door anywhere for me to put a feeder and waterer in the pen or house, nor any way I can get in and catch a chicken if I need to.  After I explained this to him, although he still wasn't so sure I knew what I was talking about, he fixed the front end of the pen so it could be opened.  
Problem #2:  A chicken tractor needs to be moved at least every day to keep the chickens on fresh grass.  This thing is so heavy, it takes a tractor to move it.

  Here is a picture I found online to show Cliff.  As you can see, it has a handle on one end and wheels on the other, so it can be moved by one person.  I don't know if it has any opening through which you could put a waterer or feeder, though.  Cliff said if we put wheels on ours, varmints could get in and kill the chickens.  

Here's what the home-made chicken tractor looked like, with chickens.  

Then Cliff saw an ad on Craigslist.  Somebody was making and selling small chicken houses with attached pen, big enough for one or two hens.  "This is just what you need," he said.  
Well, the picture looked good.  The chicken house looked like it ought to work.  I have searched my blog, but can't find a picture of the chicken house with pen, only this picture of the back of the house where the nest area was.
However, on the one I bought, the roof of the next compartment didn't slant and was made of two boards.  If it rained or snowed, it dripped through the crack between the two boards and soaked the straw in the nest.  Also, while there was a door on the side of the house, there was no door to the pen.  There really wasn't enough room for feeders and waterers in the house, so Cliff managed to fix a door in the front of the pen.  
As time went by, the hens decided they didn't want to lay eggs in the nest or roost on the roost.  They took to roosting in the nest area, pooping in there all night long.  They laid their eggs on the floor.  

It was a mess.  So Patsy, if you can get around all these problems, more power to you.  

Friday, August 23, 2013


I've canned more tomatoes, tomato juice, and green beans than I had originally planned.  I put six quarts of corn in the freezer after intentionally planting just enough, I thought, for corn-on-the-cob, fresh, a few times.  Okra has finally started, and I'll be putting plenty of that in the freezer for our wintertime gumbo.  My single eggplant keeps producing more than we can use.  The sickly zucchini plant finally died, but if I can keep enough water going to the garden, I have a couple of young plants starting to bloom.  
I've concentrated on canning tomato juice lately.  When I have some left over that isn't enough to fill a jar, I put it in the refrigerator and drink it next morning.  Now I find myself getting out of bed wishing for a glass of cold tomato juice, but I don't want to open a jar that I just processed and sealed the day before.  So today I made about a gallon of juice, put a quart of that in a jar in the refrigerator, and after cooling the rest, will put it in quart freezer bags just for immediate use.  I add a little sugar to it, and a little salt:  I'd say 1/4 of a cup of sugar and less than two teaspoons of salt for a gallon.  
I am giving lots of tomatoes away.  Blight is always in evidence on the plants, and I don't want to waste a single tomato as long as we have them.  If somebody can use them, that's great.

Today Cliff had to see the doctor to get his prescriptions renewed for another year.  We are liking our young doctor better all the time.  He is pleasant and caring, and young enough to outlive us, the good Lord willing.  After reading a blog post on Dr. Kevin, MD, I'm glad we have a young one picked out.  Doctors are expecting an influx of new patients next year.    

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jody's doomsday approaches

Yesterday we went down the road to the local butcher shop to set an appointment for Jody's execution.  She had many chances with the bull when we had him, all for naught.  Makes no sense to keep a cow around if she can't have a calf, and as luck would have it, we're out of ground beef.  I bought one of those five-pound tubes of 80/20 ground beef at Walmart yesterday.  When I cut into the tube to portion it in one-pound packages for the freezer, a foul smell arose.  Yeah, the meat stank.  Oh, we'll eat it, but I'll try not to think about the smell.  I've been spoiled by four years of eating our own beef.  

Jenny, Jody's calf, will be forcibly weaned  when mom goes to the butcher.  She'll be six months old, so she is old enough.  I am thankful that she is the spitting image of her mother, even though she has a greater proportion of Jersey genes.  Because she has always run at her mother's side, she isn't as tame as my bottle calves are, but she isn't really wild, either.  

We'll have no homegrown milk for at least a month.  Bonnie-the-Jersey-cow is due October 10, and if she still has a decent quarter or two to milk, she'll provide our milk.  

I'm used to having cows butchered that have been pets, but this one is a little more difficult than usual.  

Jody as a baby
I will, however, have no problem eating the meat.  Especially after dealing with the smell of that Walmart meat, which may be from Mexico or Canada, according to the packaging.  My bet is on Mexico.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Breaking green beans brings tranquility

The late row of green beans is producing a better, more abundant crop than the early ones did.  I watered them some in the early stages, but haven't lately, and figured they would quit producing.  Today after dinner I went out with a bucket and got more than enough for a canner full (seven quarts) of beans from half a row.  This makes fourteen quarts of green beans I've put up this year.  I will probably put the rest in pints tomorrow.

I absolutely love to sit in the shade on a hot day and break green beans for canning.  Because it's such a routine task, my mind wanders here and there pleasantly, mostly back to my childhood and memories of seeing Mother or Grandma or Aunt Mary or Aunt Ruby picking, breaking, and canning green beans.  Anything that takes me back to childhood is an instant stress-reducer.  The whole gardening process is a way of touching base with the people who helped make me what I am today, people who loved me no matter what.  I can almost imagine them sitting beside me, helping with the task.

When I think of my childhood, it leads to memories of First Sunday singings and all-day meetings at church.  That, of course, starts the old hymns rolling through my head.  Today it was this one: 


Who needs a shrink?  Give me some beans to break and a good old Gospel hymn anytime.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Council Grove, Kansas, in the Flint Hills.

I did not intend to wait so long between entries, but I got caught up in canning tomatoes and tomato juice.  What a messy business.  Not difficult, just messy.  
Our first stop in the Flint Hills was at Council Grove.  If you visit, just go straight to the Kaw MIssion State Historic Site, because if you are lucky enough to meet the lady named Mary who was working there on the day of our visit, she will tell you about every place of interest in the entire town, and give you pamphlets and brochures to help you find them all.  The signs leading to the Kaw Mission are faded and hard to see at times, so keep an eye out.  

This house sits across the road from the Kaw Mission.  There are several buildings in this town that are on the National Register of Historic Places, most of them private dwellings.  Council Groves was built right on the Santa Fe Trail.  Cliff and I live on the Santa Fe Trail, and I like to imagine the settlers passing by after leaving Independence and, perhaps weeks later, going through Council Groves.  

  In 1850 the Missionary Society of the Methodist-Episcopal Church, under contract to the US government, began building a mission school for the education of the Kansa Indians.  Unfortunately, the Indians didn't want their kids learning the ways of the crazy white people and only sent a few orphan boy, none of whom cared for school, so they ran away.  Those Indians are a stubborn lot.  After a few years the white people realized it was hopeless to try and change the natives, and the building became a school for local white kids.  

bricks in front of the school
This is a horse-watering trough that was moved here from the main street.  Behind it is a reconstructed Kaw Reservation house like the ones white people built for the Indians... who did NOT like them and refused to use them.  

This is the type of housing the Kansa Indians preferred.  

By the way, the website of the Kaw Mission states that most people do the tour in a half-hour.  Good grief, our guide talked longer than that.  We excused ourselves to go eat, and then returned.  Cliff tries to read every interesting tidbit of information when he visits museums, and I'm glad to see him enjoying himself while indulging me in my hair-brained ideas.  

 I was really looking forward to this place, and would recommend it because of the history behind it.  

Our guide at the mission recommended their skillet-fried chicken, and the Hays House folks seem to think it's their specialty too; so that's what we had.  If I were doing it over I would order the club sandwich, or the Reuben.  There wasn't anything wrong with the chicken, but I've had better.  Still, the surroundings were fun.

After we returned to the mission and finished our tour, we went for a stroll on the riverwalk.

Seems like every town has a riverwalk these days.  This one took us to the statue of a Kansas warrior.  

I loved our time spent in Council Grove.  We should have spent the whole day there, then gone on to Cottonwood falls; but if we had, the courthouse wouldn't have been open because it's only open on weekdays.  Going inside the courthouse was a priority for me.  I've wanted to see the inside of it ever since my Russian friend Meesha did a blog entry about his visit to the Flint Hills.   

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I'm not a social person

There were times in my life when I WAS more gregarious, but I have receded into my shell to such an extent since my last job that I feel I'm doing well to connect with anybody other than Cliff, in real life.  I don't even know how to make conversation these days, unless I run across someone who loves cows or has a husband who almost died from gall bladder problems.  Or loves to go barefoot, or has a garden.  
Knowing I am so terrible at communicating, I seldom try any more.  What, me make conversation?  Who wants to hear what I have to say?  I hate shopping, I don't like shoes or purses.  But hey, have you met my pet chicken?  
Yeah, that would go over like a lead balloon.  
So a year or so ago, somebody at church ratted me out, telling somebody else that I used to sing.  
Well, back in the late 70's and early 80's when a few pretty good songs came floating down from somewhere, I was grateful for them and promised God that if anybody asked me to sing my songs, no matter whether I wanted to or not, I would do it, but that I would never promote myself, never ask to sing anywhere.  After thirty years of not having been bothered with anybody asking me to sing, here I am on the spot again.  
It helps that I attend a small church.  On the positive side, I have rediscovered the songs I wrote back when I used to be a songwriter and have fallen in love with them again.  

This morning I tried to explain to my husband and my adopted granddaughter Heather why it bothers me to sing in front of people, even when the audience is small.  I am never ashamed of the songs I've written, by the way.  I feel they are pretty darned good.  BUT...
1.  I am not good at playing the guitar.  Even though all I do is chord, which a ten-year-old could do, I hit a clunker sometimes.  This is why I always choose the thinnest flat picks I can find:  They make a softer, quieter strum, so if I mess up it isn't so loud and obvious.  
2.  I'm not particularly happy with my voice, which goes flat occasionally.  This isn't one of those cases where I put myself down in hopes somebody will protest, telling me I'm not that bad.  It's honestly how I feel.

But hey, I promised God if somebody asked me I would sing, so sing I do, when I have to.  Why He had me take a thirty-year pause before somebody asked me again, I haven't any idea.  I'm sixty-nine years old, for pete's sake.  Why now?  I'm tired.  It's like starting over.  I thought I was done with all that.  It's scary.
I am not comfortable in front of an audience.  Now, you set me down in a circle with a bunch of people strumming and singing together and I'll do fine, but I hate being the center of attention because I know I'm not that good.  I have trouble making eye contact with one individual; let's don't even talk about looking out at several pairs of eyes watching me as I "perform".  

This is what I tried to explain to Cliff and Heather, and for what it's worth, I'm telling my readers also.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills of Kansas

Before we went to Cottonwood Falls, we stopped at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.  This may have been Cliff's favorite stop on our road trip.
The following is taken from a brochure I picked up there:
"In 1878 Stephen and Louisa Jones went to Kansas to build a cattle feeding station for their family's Colorado cattle operation.  They bought land from individuals and the railroad, growing the Spring Hill Farm and Stock Ranch to 7,000 acres.  They owned the land only ten years, but left behind ranch buildings in the Second Empire architectural style.  They also left over thirty miles of stone fence that had been needed when the cattle range went from open to closed.  The Z Bar Ranch, with all the Joneses' grand structures intack, became Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in 1996.  The Nature Conservancy, which owns most of the land, manages the preserve with the National Park Service."

When this building caught my eye, I made Cliff pull over so I could take a picture.  I had no idea the school was on the preserve where we were heading until we topped the hill and saw the sign.  

As we entered the visitor center, Cliff had to do his usual inspection of the building materials and check out the quality of the concrete work.   

Check out the size of that stone barn!  

I think this would make a perfect haunted house.  

Notice that the architectural style of the house is the same as the Chase County Courthouse, only a few miles to the south.  

Cliff, studying the outhouse.  

This is some fancy outhouse.  Now, when I was a kid, if the toilet was a two-holer, two of us girls might go in together and chat as we answered nature's call.  Or my mom and I might share the facilities.  But Cliff, who read the information you see in the corner, tells me that one person at a time used this one.  They would use one hole until the stack got so high it was almost to the top, then use the next one while the doo-doo in the first one sort of composted and settled.  They couldn't move the toilet and empty the pit, obviously, because it's made of stone.   

 The smokehouse (or perhaps a summer kitchen) and the back of the house.

The chicken house, with sod growing on the roof to keep it cool.  The open shed next to it was a run for the chickens.  

Inside the chicken house.  By the way, it really was cool inside, although somewhat damp.  

Horses could walk up ramps to the top floor of the barn taking grain or hay.  

Cliff pointed out how the barn had been fortified with metal in many places, probably by the park service.  That barn will be standing for a long time yet.   

Looking out across the fields from the back of the barn.  

We would have taken more time here, but I wanted to get to the Chase County Courthouse before it closed.