Friday, May 30, 2014

CenturyLink won't get me connected

In case you thought I had discontinued my blog, perhaps I have.  I am doing this entry from my Ipad, which leaves a lot to be desired.  These days if you are signing up for CenturyLink DSL, nobody comes to your house.  You receive a modem and are expected to connect yourself to the Internet.  Instructions on how to do this were included with the modem, as well as a letter with the following orders:
Service activation date:  Connect your Broadband service after 8 P.M. on Tuesday, May 27, 2014.  

So my granddaughter came over to help me with that.  She followed instructions, but could not get connected.  Next day I called the CenturyLink techs, who said, "No wonder!  Your activation date is Thursday, May 29.

Obviously, the letter lied.  Well, here it is Friday and I still have no Internet.  When I call, they tell me it is "pending".  

Out here in the boonies, I really don't have options.  

Anyhow... this is why I'm not blogging, and at the rate I'm going, I may never blog again.  It's too difficult to do with the Ipad.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Why Cliff and I can't garden together

Many years ago Cliff and I learned that we are incapable of working in the garden together.  Sharing the garden work endangers our marriage.  Once in a blue moon I forget how little it takes for us to disagree on gardening matters, and ask him for a hand.  Now please don't think I'm trying to put Cliff in a bad light.  It's just that we are very different in our attitudes.  

For instance, his shop is neat and immaculate at all times.  Pliers are in a certain drawer.  Open-end and box-end wrenches are carefully placed on a pegboard in order of size.  Screws are sorted and sized.  You get the picture.  Meanwhile, in the house you will find clutter of various kinds, dust on the furniture, and dishes in the sink.  Because I'm in charge.  

For tomato cages, I drive steel T-posts in the ground by every plant and put a home-made cage made from six-foot-tall fencing.  Cliff makes them for me as needed, and that is something he can do that doesn't cause disagreement.  Usually I drive the fence posts myself, but this year, due to lack of rain, I asked Cliff to do it.  We got a little rain today, which probably helped the effort, and he drove the first post.  Instead of driving the next post, he started to wire the cage to the post.  

The only wire Cliff put in place before our falling-out
"Cliff," I said, "I'll do that.  You just drive the posts.  I don't use the wires." 

"But it's easier to take the cages off when you're done with them this way."  

"But I'm the one who does that, and I don't mind." 

"Well that's what I get for trying to help," he answered.  "I get beat up for helping."  

Here's how I do it.  Not as neat, but it works, and in the fall I don't need wire cutters to take it away.

"I prefer to just put the cage wires inside and outside the post, and I don't have to use wires to secure it."  

He went on with his post-pounding then, and by the time he finished, we seemed to be on speaking terms.  

The thing is, he worries about appearance.  He likes the corn plants marching like soldiers across the garden, exactly six inches apart.  A crooked row gives him nightmares.  If too many weeds get ahead of the vegetables, the whole garden gets plowed up.  This is why I try my best to keep him out of the garden, and it is why he sincerely tries to stay out of it.    

So, I once again make a note to myself not to ask Cliff for help.  For the last couple of years I've driven the posts in with a post-driver myself, and I think it would be good for my marriage if I do it in the future.    

Friday, May 23, 2014

Knee report

The orthopedist put a shot of cortizone in my replacement knee, and now that I've rested up from the gardening yesterday, my other knee doesn't hurt either!  The doctor was all for my taking glucosamine and said "Keep it up!" 

He scheduled me for an outpatient surgery in a couple of weeks on the other knee, but because it's been so much better the past few days, I am going to call and postpone that.  We have so many things going on in June, and I don't want to miss a thing!

I'm telling you, you should try out glucosamine/chondroitin.  You have to give it two or three weeks to start working, but if it doesn't help you, you aren't out anything but the price of the pills.  And why go on hurting if there's a possibility it might help?  Yes, even if it's all in your head.  

I got out of bed this morning without limping.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Achy knees

I mentioned in a previous entry that I bought some Joint Juice.  While it's supposed to take two or three weeks for it to start working, I felt miraculously better on the third day, and continued feeling less pain for a week.  And then things changed.  Last week I had the most incredible pain of my life, worse than anything after surgery or therapy.  I was on the verge of tears for two or three days.  Cliff would be the first to tell you that I have a high tolerance for pain.  But this was so horrific that I got scared, and I thought, "I can't live like this."

I've often mentioned how Cliff's partial deafness isolates him.  Well, last week I realized that severe pain isolates a person, too, because you can't really concentrate on much that is going on around you.  Honestly, I didn't care about anything anybody said or did.  

So I made an appointment with an orthopedist.  

You know how pain is... it's all you can think about when it's present, but once it's gone, you don't think much about it.  

Two days ago it occurred to me that I had very little pain.  Even now, after tilling and planting in the garden for two hours this morning, I don't hurt a fraction as badly as I did last week doing nothing at all, when I was ready to give up gardening.

Did the Joint Juice finally start working the way it's supposed to, now that two or three weeks have passed?  

I thought about canceling my appointment (it's this afternoon), but decided that would be silly.  Maybe this relief is only temporary.  And I do know from experience (mine and Cliff's) that with arthritis, you have good days and bad days.

So we'll see what the doctor says.  I probably won't buy any more Joint Juice:  I'll switch to the glucosamine/chondroitin tablets, which are cheaper and contain the same active ingredients.    

I'll keep you posted.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

The best children's books

That's what I put in a Google search.  I wanted to get some books that the little princess would like, and it's amazing that I hit the jackpot.  Not with some sort of modern children's books, but items from way back when.  

The baby's favorite book seems to be "Pat the Bunny".  It was written in 1940, and mentions clocks saying "tick-tock".  When is the last time you heard a clock saying anything?  Yeah, I thought not.  And yet.... 

Here's the thing:  Little Princess adores Cliff.  She complains when he leaves; she hangs around him when he's in the house, unless I hold up that book, "Pat the Bunny".  Then she will crawl across the room at the speed of light and try to climb up my leg to my lap, just so I will read that book to her.  According to the almighty Internet, children need to be at least a year old to appreciate this book, but this little girl was loving it at the age of eight months, which just goes to show you that people have no idea at what age a child should enjoy a book.  

It's an interactive book that tells her to feel daddy's beard, pat the fluffy bunny, and so forth.  I never heard of it until I found it in that Google search.  It was originally published four years before I was born, and I'm almost 70.  

Her second favorite is Goodnight Moon, first published in 1947.  Again, I never heard of this book until I Googled it.  So now I'm wondering... what did they know about kids in the 1940's that caused people to write such timeless books?  Why didn't my parents buy these books for me?  Never mind, they did well.  I have great memories of "The Little Engine That Could" and "Little Black Sambo" and my Mother Goose book.    

The old hymns

One side benefit to these past few months of babysitting is that I love to rock babies and sing them to sleep.  For some reason, the songs that come to mind when I'm singing to a baby are the old hymns.  I don't think about what I'm going to sing next, they just come to mind as quickly as I need them, flowing easily, one to the next, from the wellspring of my past.

"Tell it to Jesus" is one I sing almost every time:  
"Do you fear the gath'ring clouds of sorrow?  Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you anxious what will be tomorrow?  Tell it to Jesus alone."
The songs are so full of comfort and meaning, with roots deep in the past.  This one, for instance, was translated from German to English in 1880.  At least three generations of my family probably sang this song before I came along.  

And then there's this well-loved hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".  
"Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?  We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer."  It was written in 1855 by Joseph Scriven to comfort his mother, across the sea in Ireland.

Another song I sang today, "Does Jesus Care" (1901) helped put the baby to sleep.  "Oh yes, He cares.  I know He cares; His heart is touched with my grief.  When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares."     

I thought of one song that I didn't sing today because I don't remember a lot of the words (and I never cared for the tune):  "Did You Think to Pray" (1876).  Although the tune didn't pass my likability test as a child, the words certainly speak to me as an adult:  "Oh, how praying rests the weary.  Prayer will change the night to day.  So when life seems dark and dreary, Don't forget to pray."  

Every verse of every one of the old hymns preaches a sermon.  It took Cora a little while to get sleepy this morning, and by the time she was ready for bed, I had pretty much had my own personal revival.  If you aren't familiar with these old hymns, click on the links (the title of each song is also a link) to read the words.  They are a balm to the soul.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Changes coming?

It's all set except for signing the papers:  The oldest grandson is buying our place, we will move to the trailer house (yay!), and he and his fiance will move into the old house after doing some work on the inside.  The banker wants to go over the details with us before we sign, so I think that's all that's holding us up.  I do wish I would have had dealings with this banker over the years; he has been most helpful, counseling the kids at every step.  He wants to see them do well and has given them wonderful advice. 

Cliff and I will go on living exactly as we have since we retired, as long as we are able.  Nothing about our life-style should change, except we will have a little more spending money.  Our names remain on the title (but not on the loan), but in five years or so, we will probably have that changed.  

We have thought of every "what happens if?" question that you, my readers, are probably wondering about.  I'm sure that's what the banker wants to talk with us about when we meet up with him.  At my age, in my condition, there isn't much that would shake me up.  I'm too tired to be shaken.  

 Here are the two pigs we bought recently.  They were NOT cheap, due to a disease that is killing baby pigs this year, and also the fact that beef is so high, people will be buying more pork; it's a seller's market.  

The spotted one is the grandson's, and he will split it with his future father-in-law.  He will pay for the protein supplement for both pigs, we provide the corn, and we all have pork in three months or so, good Lord willing.  Cliff and I will be sharing our pork with his brother, who supplied the free corn, and our daughter's family.  

I love having pigs around.  They seem to enjoy life at every turn.  They eat, they play, they wallow in the mud.  They're fun!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Don't kiss your chickens

I heard this on the news this morning:  Don't kiss your chickens!

Cliff and I have a theory about this sort of thing.  We feel if you are in constant contact with salmonella germs, you build up an immunity.  We wonder if this isn't also true for tetanus.  

From the time I could walk, I hated shoes and seldom wore them.  At least once a week I would step on something that punctured, cut, and broke the skin of my calloused feet in various ways.  Rusty nails were often the culprit.  Seems as though I ought to have died of lockjaw, because I never had a tetanus shot.  Never got stitches for anything, either.  

At the switchboard house in Iowa, and also in north Missouri, Mother had a large flock of back yard chickens.  They were enclosed in a large pen.  I didn't have to ask permission to play with the hens; I just opened the door, closed it behind me, and sauntered around in the chicken poop in my bare feet.  I cornered hens and picked them up and held them.  I reached under them when they were on the nest to see if there were eggs.  They often pecked me, but I learned early on that a chicken peck doesn't hurt that much.  One time a hen was on the nest with her rear end toward me.  Imagine my amazement when I saw her pushing a wet egg out of her behind!  

I'm pretty sure I never washed my hands after playing with the chickens.  My parents were too busy with the switchboard and the gardens and canning to follow behind me telling me to wash my hands.  

Yeah, I think people worry too much about germs these days.  By the way, I still go in the chicken house barefoot.  I do rinse off my feet afterward if the grass isn't dewy enough to clean them, and these days I wash my hands after gathering eggs or handling anything related to the hens.  Especially on days I'm babysitting.  

Oh yes, and a final thing about the ill-fated Kansas day trip.
Sometimes you just have to have a souvenir.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day trip, the final entry

Since there was no trading done in Kansas, we all breathed a sigh and readied ourselves for the long trek home.  But there was that wonderful chicken to try at the Brookview Hotel when we passed through Abilene.  

"Maybe we'll get at least one good thing out of this lousy trip," Arick said.  

It looked like the timing would be perfect:  Dinner is served on Saturday from 4:30 to 7:30, and we were right on the mark to get there at 4:30.  Finally, something was going right.  We joked around about how it was probably a dump, and the food would be terrible, just because we were so looking forward to it.  We felt encouraged, though, when we saw dozens of cars already parked and more pulling in behind us.  

Alas.  Everybody there had reservations.  They would take walk-ins, but not until 7:30.  What a disappointment.  We weren't about to spend four hours in Abilene and end up getting home at midnight or so.  

You could have cut the gloom in that truck with a knife, it was so thick.  We were a glum bunch of travelers, I'll tell you that.  

"I'm for going on home," Arick said to us.  "Are you guys hungry?  Because if not, we're going home,"  

It hadn't been that long since our McDonald's meal, so we told him to drive on.  

But then I spied a sign advertising Puffy's Steak and Ice house, and I had to open my big mouth.  

"Oh, wow," I exclaimed.  "Cliff, remember when we were going home from Colorado and were really wanting a steak and we saw that sign and went to Puffy's and had the best steak ever?"  

"Do you guys want to go?"  Arick asked.  

"Fine with me."  "Sure."  

I won't go into detail, but the food was awful.  The steak was tough and tasteless.  What a way to end a miserable road trip.  Oh, and as we sat at the table, we were being alerted that a tornado was touching down about six miles from our house.  It was looking mighty cloudy in Maple Hill, too, so Arick went outside to figure out a way to keep water out of the carburetor of that high-class engine we were taking back home with us, in case it rained.  He used a floor mat out of the pickup for that, and then returned inside to suffer through the worst steak dinner in history.   

Here's the thing about having a blog:  If I document a day like this, I start to see the humor in the situation.  As I told the others on our way home, a year from now we will be laughing at this.  And I can get at least three blog entries out of it when I'm home.

Just think how helpful this entry is for my readers.  Next time you are passing through Kansas, you know one eatery to avoid at all cost, and one restaurant to visit... but make sure you have a reservation.  

I should figure out some way for you people to pay me for the things you learn from my mistakes.


Day trip, part 2

When Arick first started dickering with the guy in Kansas, there were six tractors from which to choose.  Later they decided there were only four they would part with, and by the time we headed off to see them, they were only willing to trade the two Minneapolis Molines.  The pictures looked great, but when purchasing or trading for a tractor, there are more things to consider than outward appearance.  Arick asked about the condition of the tires, and the guy said, "Oh, they're good for a long time yet."

I should stop and mention that there were actually two brothers and their dad involved in this trade, the tractor collection having been owned by Grandpa, who was deceased.  Dad and both brothers were supposed to be there, but for some reason, the one Arick had talked to and emailed with... didn't show.

The grandson had told them he was bringing his grandpa, because he knows a lot about old tractors.  

Before we even got out of the truck, we could see that the tires on the biggest tractor were dry-rotted and in horrible shape.  One tire would cost $1,500, and both the big ones were bad.  

They started them up, and test-drove them.
They look pretty good on that tractor, don't they?  From the picture you would never know the tires were shot.  

On the tractor in the above picture, here's a list of things that were wrong:
1.  Front and back tires were dry-rotted.
2.  It missed on start-up like it might have a cracked head
3.  No power takeoff shaft.
4.  No power steering
5.  None of the gauges worked
6.  Had brand new oil in them, which always worries Cliff

The other tractor, a Five Star.
1.  Jumped out of fourth gear
2.  Hydraulic oil was screaming out of it, and it was NEW hydraulic oil, meaning they had just filled it up.  
3.  Front end needed attention.
4.  The control quadrant wasn't right on the three-point hitch.  
5.  The power takeoff clutch was inoperative 

This man had misrepresented the tractors.  Both were fixable, but that would cost money.  They wouldn't consider letting the guys look at any of the other tractors.  
He did give Arick $200 for gasoline, as he had promised.  

Arick figures they took him for a dumb kid who wouldn't know what to look for in a tractor.  

The four of us pretty much wasted a whole day on the road.  Arick figured the one thing that might make him feel better would be a fabulous meal at that Brookville Hotel in Abilene.  One good thing might come out of the road trip.

(to be continued)

Day trip, part 1

The oldest grandson had some sort of hopped-up engine built, a few months back; his intentions were to put it in the body of a small pickup truck and amaze people with the speed and power under the hood of said truck.  He has a lot of money tied up in the engine, the truck turned out not to be as road-worthy as he thought it was, and his interests have recently turned in other directions.  He's been hoping to get most of the money back that he put in the thing, possibly by trading for something that would be easier to sell than a specialty engine, so in his Craigslist ad he mentioned he would consider a trade.  So far, one person offered a zero-turn mower in trade and another fellow has a crotch-rocket type motorcycle plus some cash to offer.  

And then, there was a man with his deceased dad's tractor collection.  

Arick thought he might be able to sell some restored tractors after a period of time and thus get most of his investment in the engine.  He is no tractor expert, so he asked Cliff to go along and be his adviser.  They would take our truck, the hot-shot engine, and a huge, borrowed trailer big enough for two tractors to fit on.  Cliff had told the grandson what questions to ask the guy.  There were lots of pictures sent by email and questions asked and answered.  Arick was concerned about spending so much money on fuel for our gas-guzzling truck and actually talked the guy into paying half the fuel cost (Hays, Kansas, is over three hundred miles from here), whether the trade happened or not.  

I had no intention of going along, but Cliff thinks we are joined at the hip, and I could tell he really wanted me to go.  For somebody with achy knees, long rides aren't pleasant.  However, I recently bought some Joint Juice at Sam's Club, and it seems to be working a miracle for my knees; so I agreed to tag along.  At this point, Arick's fiance, Heather, decided a Saturday alone sounded boring and signed up for the trip.  

The owner of the tractor suggested we might want to eat in Abilene at the Brookville Hotel (it isn't really a hotel) either on the way there or on our way home.  The food, he said, was out of this world.  

Except for a couple of small problems in the beginning that were easily corrected, the trip was uneventful.  We saw hundreds of wind turbines.  Heather slept through about half the trip.  The timing wasn't right for eating at the Brookville Hotel on the way, so we grabbed something at a McDonald's and hoped we could eat some tasty chicken on the way back.  

Arick was thinking of trading this...

for these:

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Throwback Thursday on Facebook

If you have a Facebook account, you know there are a lot of stupid things posted there.  Stuff like "Share this if your son/daughter if smart and beautiful".  

Yeah, I'm waiting for "Share this if your son/daughter is ugly and stupid".  Seriously?  

And then there are the games.  I will admit that I used to do some of the games.  I'm over that now.  

And then there all the "friends" I really don't know.  What's up with that?  

Well, I have gotten rather attached to some of those friends.  For instance, there is one lady with whom I only connected because she graduated from North Kansas City High School, my alma mater... several years after my own graduation.  She enjoys most of the same music I like.  I have never met her, but I really like her.  

Now, on the the subject, Throwback Thursday (TBT):  On Thursdays, many of my Facebook friends post old pictures, sometimes from their childhoods, sometimes from early years of their marriages.  I usually play along, because it's fun to go back through pictures I have scanned to my computer and be reminded that I'm no spring chicken any more.   

Mother's Day is coming up, so today there were many pictures posted of mothers.  I love every single one, and I love sharing some of my own.  In fact, let me show you the picture I shared today.
   That's me and my mom in 1961.  I would have been sixteen years old.  We were at a wrestling match.  We went to wrestling matches twice a week, sometimes even three times a week.  She once hit a wrestler over the head with the purse you see in this picture.  My oldest grandson told me tonight he had never seen a picture of me at this age.  

So that's what you can expect on "TBT" on Facebook.  Tonight that friend I've never met (but really like), the one who graduated from my alma mater, posted a picture of her mother that bowled me over.  I was so impressed with it that I showed it to my husband.  We agreed that she was a classic beauty.  Colleen gave me permission to share this picture of her mother, haunting in its innocence.  

A real American beauty.  I love this picture.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Good times

Cliff and I spent a lot of time outside with the baby yesterday.  Here you can see her enjoying the chickens as the chickens enjoy their pen.  It got pretty warm in the afternoon, and the hens spent a lot of time under their house where it was cooler.  If they start laying eggs under there, they are going to be confined inside the house until mid-afternoons.  So far, so good.  I average about five eggs a day from the six hens, now that the days are longer.  

We are not getting enough rain.  I sure hope that changes, because if it doesn't, this will be the third dry year in a row.  I really get tired of dragging soaker hoses from row to row.  

I set out my last two tomato plants yesterday; Burpee had a special three-plant price with no shipping charge, so I got two tomato plants and one sweet pepper plant.  Every year I tell myself I will only have eight plants, but I always end up with more.  This year it's a total of fourteen.  One of the tomatoes is a variety I had never heard of:  Steakhouse Hybrid.  It's supposed to bear the largest tomatoes of any plant.  

Now, I don't expect a tomato this huge.  In fact, I have learned not to expect anything when trying new varieties.  Last year I had a couple of "Mortgage-lifter" tomatoes, an old heirloom type that were supposed to be huge.  I only got puny little tomatoes from it, and not many, either.

Finally I saw a couple of green beans breaking through the crusty soil this morning.  Radishes are doing the same thing they always do for me... most of them are making tops, not roots, and then going to seed.  I'm having a problem with horses running through my garden again, which I thought was a thing of the past.  I'm not sure what the deal is, but at least once a month the new neighbors have horses get out.  Cliff thinks it's due to a faulty closure on one of their fancy gates.  In the winter it didn't matter much, but yesterday one of their horses got out and left great big craters in the garden everywhere he stepped.  Looks like we are going to have to electric fence the garden like we used to. 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

I'm a slacker

I just can't seem to get back into regular blogging lately.  I know part of it is that I'm baby-sitting four days a week.  I take pictures of the baby and put entries in her private blog, and then neglect this one.  When she is here, she has top priority.  We take her shopping with us sometimes, but I forget half the stuff I was supposed to buy.  Young mothers don't realize how much of their attention a small child demands, not by misbehaving, but just by being a defenseless child.  When Cliff and I talked about babysitting this baby, I told him, "This might be our last shot at spending this much time with a baby, and I intend to do it right.  When she is here, she will be my number one priority.  If I need to get rid of the cows or chickens, I will.  If I need to stop gardening, I will do it."  

So far, I haven't given up anything intentionally, although the truth is that I lost a beautiful heifer last fall due to bloat, and a newborn calf that was dead when I found it.  I'm sure at least one of these deaths would have been prevented had my attention not been on a tiny baby, because had either of them been found in time I imagine they would have survived.  That is my fault, not the baby's.  I'm the one who keeps track of the cows.  I should have asked Cliff to check them periodically.  He isn't the one who is used to bothering with the cows, so he wouldn't have thought of it, but would have gladly looked at them a couple of times a day.  Another factor in those deaths is that we had moved to the old house; both animals would have been in plain view from our living room window back at the trailer house.  

It's water under the bridge, and the child has been such a blessing to us.  We smile all the time she's here.  

We should be back at the trailer house by the end of this month.  

In the garden, my potatoes are up, onions are doing well, and I'm just waiting for the corn and beans to break through the ground.  I've planted all the tomatoes I intend to except for two that are supposed to arrive via UPS tomorrow.  

Cliff has put off building me a pen for the chickens for a long time.  He says he kept hoping I would get tired of them.  No such luck!  So one day last week his brother, Phil, came and helped him build the pen.  

  As you can see, it was a cool, dreary day.  

I let the chickens out to roam the place around 3:30 every afternoon, if I'm home.  They enjoy it so much!  I'm afraid to let them go free all the time because of foxes and hawks, but my grandma always let hers out in the evenings and didn't seem to have problems.  

The strawberries are the reason I needed a pen:  they are in full bloom.  Chickens like strawberries, and I needed a way to turn them out without their getting into my garden and eating my produce.  So during strawberry time, they will be confined to their yard.  It's nice to let them out in their yard each morning, too, so they aren't just confined to four walls.  Happy chickens are fun to watch.  

Warm weather is with us at last, and I caught myself thinking a while ago, "It's almost too hot!"  

Then I thought about the long, bitter-cold winter we've had and decided anything below 100 degrees is just right.