Thursday, May 25, 2017

How does my garden grow?

Well, I'm a pathetic gardener now.  I planted a short row of lettuce, and one of spinach, early in the season.  I went out to harvest a little of each one day, stopped and assessed my "want-to", and decided I didn't want to wash all those leaves of vegetables.  As soon as it was dry enough, I tilled both crops under.  Cliff enjoyed the radishes I planted, though.  

And then the strawberries started coming on.  My mother was very diligent in seeing that her strawberries were picked clean every two days.  Since her birthday was in the latter part of May, she used to get strawberry shortcake for her special day.  If they were late in a particular year and there weren't enough ripe for everybody, she got the first bowl.  This year I was so lazy, I stopped picking them for four days, so of course some were rotting.  I could hear my mom exclaiming, "Oh no!  Those pretty strawberries are going to waste!"

So I picked a few more.  Then after three days, figuring they'd rotted and stopped bearing, I checked them and realized I could salvage a lot of them.  That's how my strawberry picking has gone this year; I just don't care much about any of it.  

Today the kid helped me, and she's a great little picker.  Oh, she misses more than she picks, but she knows to throw away the bad ones (if they're too rotten she won't touch them, though).  

Because of those young Norway Spruce trees in the background, I'll probably relocate my garden next year lest the tree roots rob nutrients from the things growing in the garden.  

Here's what this years garden looks like:
Strawberry patch in the foreground.  I have two hills of corn; a short row of green beans, and I just planted more today; three young cabbage plants; and a dozen tomato plants.  I have no idea how I ended up with so many.  I only planned on half-a-dozen.  This happens to me every year with tomatoes.  I have six hills of potatoes planted, I believe.  I planted them mainly for the kid, since she loves to help dig potatoes.  I don't have plans to freeze or can anything except tomatoes this year... and a few of these strawberries, if I can force myself.  

I have gotten rid of a lot of canning jars, and I need to get rid of more.  But you can't even give them away most of the time.  The Amish folks at Jamesport will buy them, but I think you only get twenty-five cents per jar.  

I have more than I will ever use again.

Every time I look at my jar collection, I know I should get rid of at least half of them; but then I remember how I bought brand new jars when we could barely afford to buy them, and how happy I was to see my pretty jars sitting on shelves in the basement.  It's like selling my children!  So I'll just keep them and my kids can haul them to the ditch when I'm gone.  Can you say "hoarder"? 

I've been spending at least an hour outside every morning lately, watching and listening to the world wake up.  The hummingbirds seem to be the early risers of the bird world, so I sit on the porch and watch them fight over the nectar in the feeder before I come inside.

I love my mornings!  Honestly, that's the highlight of my day.  It just doesn't get any better than a morning in May in Missouri.

Let's not forget about my cats!
The whole gang at feeding time
the boys

The only "chores" I have these days?  Feeding the cats and the calves in the morning... okay, and keeping the hummingbirds fed.  I'm going to suspend giving the calves their sweet feed for awhile, though, since the pasture is so lush they really aren't interested in grain.

We won't have our little princess next week, so I'm going to be plotting something interesting to do.  Look out, Cliff!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Seeing Arlo Guthrie (part 2)

Once Cliff and I were in the Midland Theater, we were led to our seats in the orchestra section.  The seats were folding chairs, quite comfortable in themselves, but so close to one another.  The rows were spaced in such a way there wasn't a lot of foot room, either.  However, the chairs themselves weren't that uncomfortable.  When we first sat down, Cliff looked all around the place and said, with an I-told-you-so tone in his voice, "Not many people here."

I informed him that since the seats were reserved, most people weren't anxious to be seated until time for the show to start.  Sure enough, at 8:05 when the show began, most seats in the place were occupied.  The show started with no announcer, no fanfare.  Arlo and his musicians just walked onstage, greeted the audience, and began singing.  He sang some songs I'd never heard, and I really couldn't make out most of the words to those.  But it was OK, because I was seeing Arlo Guthrie, Woody Guthrie's son!

He's a decent guitar player, so I enjoyed the guitar melodies even when I wasn't familiar with the songs.  There was a talented man at the right of the stage playing backup guitar.  His wife was beside him dancing around and playing non-instruments, like a triangle and a tambourine.   Other than giving a sort of hippy feel to the show with her dancing, she didn't contribute much, but she didn't hurt anything, either.  Arlo's son played keyboard.

As I had expected, Arlo spent as much time talking as he did singing, and I loved that because I love stories... anybody's stories.  His talking voice is clear and easy to understand, so even Cliff, with his limited hearing, understood a lot of what he said.  He talked a lot about his dad in the second portion, and he sang "Alice's Restaurant", which he doesn't always sing on tour because it's twenty minutes long (and he's probably sick of it).  Great job, Arlo!

Here's a funny little story which probably took place in my imagination.  I haven't even told this to Cliff, but here it is:  When Arlo sang "City of New Orleans", many of us in the audience sang along on the chorus.  I love the song, but I don't even know the whole chorus.  I sang, "Good morning, America, how are you?  Don't you know that I'm your native son?"  I couldn't think what came next, so I stopped singing rather than mumble through, but my eyes were glued to Arlo's face and, by george, it seemed he was looking right at me.  He stopped and said, "You can't just sing part of the chorus.  You have to sing it all!  Let's try it again."

It still seemed as though he was looking directly at me, and he smiled when I sang the whole chorus this time.

Now, we were eight rows back and it was pretty dark in the theater, so I really think this was all imagined.  My daughter told me once that when she'd go to the Branson shows with my parents, there were times she thought one of those good-looking singers was looking right at her, singing especially for her.  This was probably the same sort of thing.  But it felt so magical at the time, I don't even care whether it was real or imagined.

I paid a lot for our two tickets, and for my part, it was worth every penny.  Don't ask Cliff, though.  He doesn't even know what the tickets cost.

I hadn't even thought about the weather during the show, so my little happy bubble burst when we got to the exit and saw there was a rainstorm going on outside.  By the time we got to the car, we were drenched.  Thunder crashed, lightning lit the sky.  Cliff and I rarely leave the house after dark, and here we were about to get on the freeway, already drenched, in a torrential downpour.  As I was getting in the car, the whole idea struck me as hilarious and I laughed and laughed.  (Cliff wasn't laughing.)

I don't know when we've been out driving in such a storm!  Cars had pulled over and parked under every single overpass.  We could hardly see the road.  I was still sitting there smiling like an idiot, but I restrained my laughter because I don't think Cliff would have wanted to hear it.

By the time we arrived home, around midnight, the rain had settled into a steady rhythm.  I told Cliff that the problems we had driving through the ghetto to the venue, and the scary ride home afterward, would just make the whole event more memorable.  I reminded him that now, when he tells stories about how bad the Arlo Guthrie concert was, he can add lots of details that will have people rolling with laughter.  Stay tuned, my dear family.  I'm sure you'll love it.  Feel free to ask him about it.

Toward the end of the show, Arlo talked about Woodstock.  He said all he really remembers about it is the helicopter ride getting there, and then leaving.  He sang the Bob Dylan song "Walking down the Line" at Woodstock, and he sang it Thursday night for the audience.  The next day I checked Youtube and, sure enough, there's the video of Arlo as a very young man, obviously drugged out of his mind, singing to a drenched and drugged crowd.

As for the whole experience Thursday, I don't know WHEN I've had so much fun.  I've gotta get out more!  

Peace and love to us all.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Seeing Arlo Guthrie live

Cliff has been wishing he could avoid the 18th of May for a long time, having no desire to see anybody who doesn't sing old, pure country: especially not some aging hippy.  But he loves me, and I refused to coerce a grandchild, who would have had no more interest in Arlo than my husband, into hauling me there.  

Half the reason I wanted to see Arlo was because he is Woody Guthrie's son.

In the early 60's a folk craze swept the country.  I embraced it and bought a cheap guitar and a chord book so I could sing the simple old handed-down songs that the Seeger family had collected years before.  Peter, Paul, and Mary had several hits at the time, of which my favorite was "Blowin' in the Wind".  That got me interested in Bob Dylan, so I bought his first album.  Somewhere in those years, when I was only making minimum wage (starting at $36 a week), buying a record album was a big deal.  I wandered into some record store downtown and saw there was a three-album set of the Library of Congress Woody Guthrie recordings on which Woody got drunk, told stories, and sang. I must have skimped on groceries for awhile, because it was a major purchase for me.  I listened to Woody on those vinyl discs almost non-stop after  my bus ride home from work each day to my little apartment on East 11th Street in Kansas City.  Now at this time, Woody was in a psychiatric hospital and had been for several years (Huntington's disease).  But he was a true hero in my book.  He inspired people to form unions, to stand up for themselves.  That's what folk music is all about!

I've never followed Arlo's career that closely.  The only three of his songs I'm really familiar with are "Motorcycle", "Alice's Restaurant", and "City of New Orleans".  But he's the son of a legend!  I paid a pretty penny for the two tickets, buying them months before the event.

You can get to the beautifully restored Uptown Theater (where I saw Ben Hur as a teenager) from our house in less than 40 minutes, but we both wanted to allow plenty of time.  We don't do so well with city driving, and get lost almost every time we try to navigate Kansas City.  But we do have the faithful GPS, so we were pretty confident we'd make it OK.

Unfortunately, the GPS decided we needed more adventure in our lives and told us to get off I-70 at exit 5-C:  Jackson Avenue.  Cliff said, "This can't be right."

"You know what happens when we don't listen to the GPS," I said.  So he forged ahead, and things got interesting.  We ended up in the ghetto, each block looking more scary than the last.  I asked Cliff to lock the doors.  Cliff, meanwhile, was gritting his teeth, probably thinking it was just one more fine mess I'd gotten him into.  As we watched a hooker getting picked up, we wondered what on earth we were doing in that part of town.  

This strange route we followed took us to Union Station, where we couldn't follow the GPS directions because there was a road closed.  At least when you take a different turn, the GPS navigates you on a different path, so we finally made it to the theater.  Free parking!  How can you beat that?  And right next to the theater, too.  Things were looking up.

There were a couple of guys playing music on the sidewalk for spare change, and a line to the door had formed near them.  The music was decent.  When we got to the entrance, there was a man with a metal detector searching purses and pockets.  He asked Cliff, "Do you have any knives or guns?"

"What???"  Cliff said.  You see, his hearing, which is never great, is nonexistent when there's a lot of background noise (like music six feet away from us).  The guy asked him the same question four times, and each time Cliff said, "What?" a little louder.  At this point the man cracked up, because I think he realized how ridiculous it was to be asking an old, white-haired man in overalls such questions.  Finally I got right in Cliff's good ear and repeated the guy's question, and he told him "No... only her (motioning toward me)."

Seriously, what violent person would even think of attending an Arlo Guthrie concert?  He's a peacenik!

It was 7:30 when we entered and were directed to our seats.

(I'm going to make this a two-parter, so this concludes part 1.  It just goes on too long.  At least you know we made it there safely.)      

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Anything is fun with a three-year-old along

Somehow Cliff got involved in helping a nice lady we'd never met get her tractor running.  She has someone who will mow her little five-or-so acres, but she needed to get her Oliver 550 running.  Cliff ought to know all about 550's, since he's had at least half-a-dozen of them.  

The Little Princess was here today, so this morning I said, "Cliff is going to go work on a lady's tractor.  You and I can stay here at the house, or we can go with him, but we will have to play outside."

She thought we should go along.  

When we arrived, the nice lady invited us in, but I told her the kid does better outside where she can run free, and thanked her.  She said we were welcome to play on her front porch then, so we took the baby doll and a blanket to throw on the concrete.  Little Princess immediately pronounced the porch "our house".  And the area where I spread the blanket out was "our bedroom".  

After playing house for awhile, I suggested we walk around and find an adventure.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me on the first leg of our walkabout, which took us into the lady's back yard.  There are many, many trees on her place, the back yard being no exception.  I spotted a couple of side-by-side stumps and said, "Oh, look!  Wishing stumps!"

While we were wishing, a very brave squirrel climbed right down the nearest tree as though he wanted to make a wish too.

We each chose a stump and sat down.  I closed my eyes and said, "I wish this little girl will always be happy."

Then it was her turn:  She scrunched her eyes closed and wished for a dog.  Really?  She just got a toy fox terrier for Christmas last year.  Oh well.  It's her wish. 

There is a long driveway going up to the lady's house, so I suggested we walk down the driveway to the road.  

It was a nice little stroll, and on the way we discovered a tiny brook.
Unfortunately, we didn't see any tadpoles or frogs.

We cautiously checked out a hollow tree to see if anything was living in there.  

We spent some time making necklaces out of white clover flowers, and chains from dandelion stems.  Look closely and you will see the white clover blossoms against her shirt.  When I started to take a picture she gave me a phony smile and I said, "You don't have to smile."

So she didn't.

We wandered back up the driveway to check on Cliff.
There he was, doing what he does best.

I told the child to go hug a tree... and she did.

It was a great morning.  Cliff finished up with the tractor, and my little nature-loving buddy and I kept ourselves occupied.  She was running most of the time we were there.

It's fun to see the world through the eyes of a child.

Monday, May 15, 2017

What a crazy Friday it was, but I'm still kicking

A few weeks ago I got a call from our health insurance company.  They wanted to schedule an in-home visit with a nurse-practitioner for both of us.  We'd been through this once before; it's really no big deal:  They take your vitals, ask questions ("Do you fall often?"  "Any trouble with dizziness", etc.)

I told Cliff I had a hunch they do in-home visits so that if someone is living in dangerous conditions (like a hoarder, for instance), they can call the authorities.  When the nurse was here, I asked her about this, and she laughed and said, "Yes, that's right."

I had scheduled this visit for a Friday because we don't often have Cora on Fridays.  However, this turned out to be one of the times she was here.  That isn't a big problem, because as long as she is told ahead of time someone is coming, and tell her she needs to try and be a very big girl and not interrupt us when we're talking, she is a champ.  As soon as the lady got here, Cora went for her pla-doh and stayed in the kitchen playing.

The nurse took me first.  She listened to my heart twice and informed me I seem to have an irregular heartbeat, but she'd move on to Cliff and check again when she was done with him because maybe it was a fluke.  I figured it wasn't a big deal.  After all, I've had that silly murmur for years with no ill effects.  I've actually become rather attached to it.

When she came back to me she listened to my heart again, picked up her cell phone, called our doctor, and made me an appointment for that very afternoon!  What a pushy woman!  I would have made myself an appointment (OK, maybe...), but not for that same day.  About this time, Cliff's sister Rena dropped in.  She takes her dogs to the veterinarian at Lexington because he charges about a third of what the vets in the city charge, for the exact same services.  While her dogs are getting their checkups and teeth cleaned, she always comes to visit us.  Cora enjoyed having Rena here; they even went pretend-shopping at my former chicken house.

Once the nurse left, it was practically time to eat; so we went to the Mexican place at Lexington.  Back home afterward, the clock creeped slowly toward 2:30, the time we had to be in Oak Grove at the doctor's office.  We told Rena she could stay here when we left, but she decided to step outside and call the vet to see what was going on.  When she came back inside, she was crying as though her heart would break.  Angel, her twelve-year-old dachshund, has cancer all through her body.  What a bummer.  This is the little dog that's been through everything with Rena:  Her divorce, moving to our old house after living in Wisconsin for years, then on to a house she bought in Blue Springs.  Angel has been the one constant in her life.

Rena went on to Lexington to get her dogs, and Cliff, Cora, and I went to Oak Grove.  I had messaged Cora's mom to warn her that Cora would not have a nap that day.  When we either one have a doctor appointment and Cora is with us, the other person stays in the car and plays with the kid; because who wants to take a healthy child into a germ-pit?

I was really concerned I'd have to take blood thinners.  Mother had atrial fibrillation, and in spite of medication she still had episodes sometimes.  I do NOT want blood thinners.  But then I don't want a stroke, either.  It isn't that I'm afraid of dying, but a stroke can leave a person disabled.

All is well.  I do have that irregularity with my heartbeat, which the nurse at the office explained to me when she showed me the results of the EKG.  However, as long as I'm not having chest pain or dizziness, I should be fine.  I told the nurse she was starting to look pretty good to me, since she had good news.

So now my heart has the murmur AND an irregularity (but not atrial fibrillation).  I'm feeling pretty special.

I looked up a video I took of Rena's Angel pestering a toad a few years back.  Here it is:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

An Hour at the Pond

Monday the little girl asked if we could go to the pond.  I wasn't doing anything of importance, and the time spent with her in the previous week hadn't been much.  Her dad was off work due to rain, so my babysitting services weren't needed.  Cliff and I always ask her dad to bring her for a visit on those rainy weeks because we miss her; so we did have her for four hours, on two different days.

The pond isn't a long walk, but she wanted to take a baby doll and a blanket and a carrier and... well, I tried talking her out of that because I knew who would end up carrying all that stuff:  me.  She then suggested I pull her, baby, and all the paraphernalia that goes with motherhood, in the little red wagon.  That makes the short walk a little more difficult for a senior citizen, but I agreed.

So there we were, at the pint-sized pond.

We got as close to the water's edge as my compromised knees allowed, and sat down right at the waters edge.  Cora got handfuls of damp soil, squeezed them into a solid hunk...

and threw them into the water.  We discussed how the smaller hunks of mud said "plink" (spoken in a high-pitched voice) and the larger hunks said "plunk" (in a deep, low voice).

She had to dump a little bit of dirt from both shoes.

We'd been there awhile when a frog began croaking across the small pond, and another to our left answered back.  After their chorus had gone on for awhile, a very small croaking began, almost at our feet!  I shushed the kid and pointed at a spot about four feet in front of us and said, "Listen".  The tiny frog croaked again.  We couldn't see him, but the grasses around him vibrated with each little noise he made.  It got to be too much suspense for a curious little girl, and she reached toward him.  He jumped into the water, a frog less than two inches long, stretched out.  Check out the frogs' croaking on this video.

Finally she was ready to go back to the house.  Her parents' horses decided to check things out as we made our way home.

That's the kid's pony, Dixie, in the background.  The family spent last weekend riding, and this child rode without her mom having a lead rope on Dixie.  For those who might be concerned, she was wearing a riding helmet.  

How can it be possible the infant we began babysitting is almost four years old?

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Saturday tractor show

Saturday we went to the Orscheln tractor show at Richmond.  This wasn't something we did with our usual group, since the club was doing a show at Warrensburg at the Veteran's Home.  But this was closer to home, and Cliff has had the good fortune to win first place at the two local Orscheln stores three times, with a different tractor winning each time.  These shows involve a lot of sitting around in a parking lot with your tractor, and getting a free hot dog for lunch.  Now, many people park their tractors and leave, but Cliff is always afraid unsupervised children will be allowed to climb all over his tractors and do some damage.  So we take our lawn chairs and sit.  

I have a pet peeve about both of the Orschlen shows we participate:  The winning tractor wins by popular vote, which is great (Cliff has won the $100 gift card three times).  Entrants can vote, and so can the general public.  However, there is no way the public knows this because nobody tells them.  There's no sign to tell them that there is even any voting to be done.  In fact, most of the entrants didn't know there was voting to be done last Saturday!  So what usually happens is this:  the entrants vote, and if they have relatives and friends at a show, they tell them to vote.  But all the strangers who look over the tractors, admire them, and ask questions have no idea they could vote for their favorite.  I guess the folks at Orscheln think people are mind-readers.  There were at least fifty people who came and looked the tractors over, but only 23 votes were cast Saturday.  And some of those only voted because I told them they could.   

But enough of that.  We did have an enjoyable day, and it turns out there was also a fair in town and Saturday was parade day.  Three guys were going to take their tractors in the parade, so we joined them.

This dog spent the whole day with his person (the fellow on the other side of the steering wheel).  
There was a huge crowd in town to watch the parade.  Kids were there to pick up the candy thrown from various floats, and some of them seemed to have made quite a haul.

While we were sitting in the parking lot, a couple came along with three grandchildren (one brand-new baby).  The kids were so excited about the tractors they kept wanting to get on them, or even just touch them, but the adults told them not to... how nice to see somebody actually have control of their children!  The little boy was especially fascinated with the big machines, so I told the folks I didn't think it would hurt if they let the kids sit in the seat.  I made the offer without asking Cliff's approval, but I could see he was OK with it:  His main fear is some kid climbing on and falling off.  He doesn't want to be responsible for someone getting hurt.  Watching those children on the tractor made it worth any risk on our parts!

Notice the little girl climbing on my "buddy seat".  This boy was beside himself with excitement, and would probably have been content to sit there for much longer, but his grandparents were ready to move along.  

Later another little boy was all excited about the larger Farmall sitting beside ours, and Cliff took it on himself to tell the parents they could let him sit on our tractor.

He fully enjoyed it, but when he was back on the ground he asked if he could get on the bigger tractor next to us.  Cliff told him, "I'm sorry, but that isn't my tractor, so I can't tell you it's OK."

From now on I'm going to keep my eyes open for well-behaved children who obviously love tractors and give them a chance to sit on ours.  Maybe I'll casually mention to their parents to be sure and vote for their favorite tractor.  Hmmm.  I wonder which one they'll vote for?


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Family happenings (this and that)

This entry will probably be all over the place.  

I've intended for a long time to tell you about the wonderful idea our daughter had.  She and her husband live less than two miles away, but since they both work long hours all week, we hardly ever saw them long enough to have conversations.  Last November, I believe it was, Rachel emailed or messaged me and asked how we would feel about them coming over one evening a week, after work, just so we'd have some connection again.  The first time I think they brought pizza along; I suggested I just fix something each time, something simple:  hamburgers, a casserole, soup.  Supper isn't our main meal here, dinner (noon meal) is.  They protested at first, but I promised them I'd keep it easy.  Sometimes they even get leftovers.  

It's been wonderful!  We hear about things that happen on their jobs.  This subject is always of interest because Kevin, the son-in-law, works at the place from which Cliff retired... and our daughter works in customer service.  Trust me, customer service workers have the most interesting stories to tell!  So we have reconnected with our daughter and son-in-law in a most delightful way.  They stay an hour, sometimes longer, and then head home.  It's quality time.  

As for the rest of the family, granddaughter Amber makes a point of visiting us regularly, and Natalie and Monica drop by.  Arick and Heather, of course, are right here on the property, so we see them often but really don't spend a lot of time just chatting.  Cliff and Arick do spend time in the shop together.  You know which times are the most fun?  When all the grandchildren are here.  We have some of the biggest laughs when we all start having discussions about politics, our beliefs, and the facts of life.  

All children and grandchildren should now move along and stop reading.  Or read at your own risk.

You see, our daughter and our grandchildren (I'm not sure about our son's feelings on the matter I'm getting ready to mention, or Kevin's) each live in their own little bubbles.  There are two subjects they don't want to hear about from their parents/grandparents:  Sex and death.

Now when a couple has been married fifty years, they have the right to discuss anything under the sun.  You can talk about things you'd never say to anybody else.  Cliff and I find the most humor in the two topics the kids don't want to hear.  Making light of death has gotten us used to the fact that we are, indeed, going to die, and we know it could be any time.  We've laughed at death so much, it creeps into our conversations with the extended family, which brings on comments like "Stop it!", and much groaning and rolling of eyes.

The other day Cliff and I were in the car, heading to Higginsville, when I remembered an article I had seen on Facebook and decided to tell Cliff about it.  The headline read, "Overly obese body sets crematorium on fire".  By the way, this wasn't the first time such a thing has happened, but it's the first I'd read of such a thing.  If you want to read it for yourself, click HERE.

Apparently fat burns hotter than plain old muscle, there was something flammable sitting to close to the furnace, and the incident occured.  We discussed it awhile, and Cliff says, "Well, I wonder how you'd stop that from happening."

"I can't imagine," I answered.

"I guess you could do it a piece at a time," he said.  "You know, chunk in an arm and wait, then a leg..."

We both exploded with laughter, and when I could talk, I said, "You realize this is a story we can't talk about to the grandkids."

More laughter ensued.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cows and their strange appetites

Spring is that lovely time of year when every flower that blooms seems like a miracle.  One of the early flowers to bloom in my yard is the Iris.  I have several colors of them.  Most of them are surrounded by grass and weeds and not properly cared for or divided yearly, and yet the beauty of those blooms overwhelms me at times. 

Cliff likes to see pretty flowers, but if it were up to him, he'd only be seeing them in the yards of somebody else.  They are just something for him to mow around.  But he patiently puts up with my casual flower-growing, maybe figuring if nothing else, he'll outlive me.  Then he can cut down every tree and mow every flower.

Walking around the back yard, I noticed something amiss with the Iris planted along the back fence.  

Those spots on the leaves are, I believe, a fungus.  They won't kill the plant.  Wouldn't you think the calves would have the decency to eat the spotted leaves?  Nope, they chose the good ones.
Seeing this, I recalled an incident from last year:  Whatever cow was in the calf pasture then had waited for my red iris to bloom for the first time, stuck her long tongue through the fence, and gobbled up the new blossom.  I was beside myself.  Apparently the Holstein calves growing out there have the same sort of cravings.  Indeed, they already devoured one flower-to-be:

Of course I went whining to Cliff with my problem and he went right to work on it, as any dutiful husband would.  I suggested chicken wire in that area, something no cow could graze through or stick her tongue through.  He went searching through odds and ends of junk he saves for such an occasion and found some used chicken wire.

Everything goes a little better when you have a good lead man (or girl) to oversee the work.  

Please notice the calves have lots of grass; Cliff has already mowed that pen twice, and the grass keeps growing.  And yet, those steers go to all the trouble to reach through the fence and eat my Iris.  

Cows, of course, will eat anything.  Even nails.  They really don't chew their food much, they just swallow it whole.  That's where their four stomachs come in:  When they've had enough, they go to a peaceful spot, lay down, and spit up the food a mouthful at a time, and THEN they chew it.  If there are nails or sharp, small pieces of metal on the ground and they happen to pick one up as they graze, they swallow it and are none the wiser.  If a sharp piece of wire or a nail penetrates the wall of the reticulum, they're in trouble.  Some farmers put a magnet down their cows' throats so any stray pieces of metal will cling to it and not cause damage.

We once bought a bred Jersey cow whose appetite came and went.  One time she'd come in the barn to be milked and eat the dairy feed I gave her.  Other times, she wouldn't.  She also had a tendency to bloat.  We knew something was wrong, and figured we'd just take her to the sale barn and give someone else an opportunity to find the problem.  But Cliff's boss at the butcher shop said he'd buy her for the price we'd paid, so away she went.  

Some weeks later, the cow died.  Richard, the boss, decided to do a autopsy on the cow.  What he found was a double handful of roofing nails in her.  She had hardware disease.  Now, I truly doubt the cow walked up to a bucket of nails and began eating them deliberately.  I'm thinking somehow, for some reason, somebody poured feed of some sort atop a bucket of nails and in eating the feed, she ate the nails.  Maybe an angry neighbor plotted to kill the cow?  Maybe some youngsters poured feed in the wrong place?  Who knows. 

Anyhow, if the calves eat any more Iris this year, they'll have to get out of the pen to do it.   

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my enthusiasm most.

I don't get excited about too many things these days.  Back when I had Blue, my wonderful horse, I was enthusiastic about every ride.  When I had the dog before last, Sadie, I looked forward to our morning walks in the pasture because she kept us entertained jumping in the air to catch the sticks we'd throw.  You'll find an example of that on THIS ENTRY of my blog.  Walking isn't a pleasure when you know it's going to hurt, so my walks these days are seldom and slow.  Oh, and Sadie choked on a pork bone and died.    

Then was our motorcycle phase.  

Not to mention my lifelong love of Jersey cows:  Nothing is more exciting than waiting nine months after a cow is bred, running out to check on her, and finding a healthy newborn heifer calf.  I have blogged about all these topics, and much more.  Those parts of my life are past.

I still anxiously await Cora's arrival, weekday mornings.  I never realize how enthusiastic I am about her company until she's been away for a week or two; then I can't wait to see her!

I sometimes worry about my lack of enthusiasm.  For one thing, it's an early possible sign of dementia.  The main thing, though, is that enthusiasm equals excitement, and it's fun to be excited about something.  You know, like a kid before Christmas.

However, this morning I came to a realization.  I'm an early riser, and no matter how many aches and pains I wake up with, I am always excited knowing daybreak is coming.  The guest bedroom window faces east, so I find myself walking to that end of the hallway to see if day is starting to dawn.  When there's barely enough light outside to see where I'm walking, I'm out there soaking it up.  Little by little the eastern sky starts glowing, the sun comes up, and another day begins.  There's usually a cool breeze blowing at that time, and it almost feels like the breeze is gently washing my face to awaken me.  

I just took a card out of the camera to see what pictures I've taken lately and found this one.

This morning was cloudy, so the sunrise was nothing to brag about.  However, that bright star that shines near the rising sun so often (Venus?) was shining like a beacon.  Although I'm not sure of the name of that star, it's my favorite because it reminds me of Jesus.  I'm not even sure it's always the same star there year around, but it's my favorite star.  Why does it remind me of Jesus?  Because when I was a child, a song we often sang at Church was "Lily of the Valley".

"He's the lily of the valley
The bright and morning star..."

When I see the bright star and think of those words, I pause and tell Jesus and the Father good morning.

Yes, I have a great enthusiasm for early mornings.  I guess I'm not dead yet.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

An impromptu hootnanny

The grandson had a cookout yesterday, with lots of smoked meats.  He had invited several people, but had no idea who was actually going to show up.  Some showed up early and went mushroom hunting.  

Let me just say, it's been a great morel season around here, even though we could have used a little more rain.  

There were five children among the guests, so I asked them if they'd like me to bring the Legos out.  They were all for it, and before you know it, I was also toting bunch of Little People stuff out in the little red wagon.  I also took some sidewalk chalk.  I told the kids the toys had to stay in the shop (not the chalk, of course), and except for a couple of brief moments of forgetfulness, they obliged.  

There aren't a generally lot of introductions made among Arick's friends, so when one lady who was obviously grandmother to three of the children came in, Cliff and I had no idea who she was.  Arick was pretty busy at the smoker (in his garage) and Heather was in the house preparing food; since the children had plenty to keep them busy, everybody went to visit with Arick and Heather.  At this point I looked around and the only ones in the shop were Cliff, the grandma, me, and the kids.  I found out where the lady lives and what town she works in, and I'm sure when we introduced ourselves, she gave her name.  But as is typical for me, I don't remember it.  As far as the children go, I know Kinsey well, but not the others, although they've all been here before.  I finally learned one name:  The boy spoke so softly I couldn't make out what he was saying, but finally Arick came through, noticed me struggling to understand the boy, and informed me his name was Roman.  

So there we were, three adults watching five children play contentedly.  At one point some of them said they were hungry, so I went to the house and brought back some string cheese and a few granola bars.  Later I made chocolate chip pan cookies, too, and the raging appetites were controlled.   I wondered if I could possibly get these kids to participate in a singalong.  I got the guitar, strummed a G-chord, and had their attention.  They all wanted to try it, so I let them do the strumming while I held the guitar and switched from one chord to another.  I sang a couple of kid songs (you might know one of them would request "Old McDonald", a favorite of Cora's and one I would be happy to never hear again.  But I sang a couple of verses).  Then the grandmother (again, I'm kicking myself for not knowing her name) asked if I knew any Loretta Lynn songs.  I'm more familiar with Kitty Wells, but I strummed as she sang "You Ain't Woman Enough".  When I lit into "Silver Threads and Golden Needles", she sang along and sounded great. 

My problem, I told her, is that I don't know all the words of many songs.  "I should have brought my songbook," she said.  I immediately invited her to Arick's big Fourth of July shindig (hey, she's grandmother of one of his friends, I don't think he would mind).  And I told her to bring her song book.

As for the kids singing along, that didn't happen, but as each one at various times came over asking to strum my guitar again, I remembered Cora's band instruments in a box at the house:  Tamborine, maracas, hand drum, triangle, harmonica, and frog.  I sent Cliff after them and before you know it, we had a band.  The harmonica seemed to be the favorite, so it had to be passed around a lot, but it all worked out.
This is the frog.  You take the stick from its mouth and rub it on his back.  

Roman and I became buddies before the day was out.  He followed me to the house at one point and noticed a wild turkey feather on the bookcase, one I'd found in the woods.  Since he was so fascinated with it, I gave it to him.  He walked into the bedroom at one point and said, "Is this where you sleep?

I went to the bed, patted it, and said, "Yes, I sleep on this side.  Cliff sleeps over there."

"That's where your dad sleeps?"

"Well, he's my husband, not my dad, but yes."

It was a good, relaxing day with some well-mannered children and good food.  And I found somebody to sing a couple of songs with.  

Seriously, one of my motivations for going to church is that it's the only place I know where I can find some people to sing with. 


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My favorite yearly miracle

I've been planting green beans and watching them pop through the ground and grow for some fifty years, but I never grow tired of it.  

By the way, faithful readers, I know that the way seeds sprout and grow is "science", but I've not found science to be incompatible with holy things.  I see it all the time on Facebook:  someone posting some meme that says, "It's science.. " (often followed by some foul name-calling) implying that religion and science can't be intertwined.  But I digress.  To each his own.    
Green beans are probably the easiest crop in the world to grow, and they don't mess around.  With plenty of moisture, they often muscle their way through the top crust of the soil in four days or so.  

One morning you walk to the garden and see a suspicious crack in the ground.

You lift it up like a lid...

Here's another srtong little fellow pushing through my sandy soil.

And this precocious little girl, who was the first one to pop up, couldn't wait to grow leaves.

So simple, and yet so miraculous!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Abilene, Kansas

I confess, my first and original reason for stopping in Abilene was fried chicken.  I heard, by word of mouth, that the Brookville Hotel (it isn't a hotel, just a restaurant) had the best food anywhere around.  A few years ago we stopped to check it out, but it was booked up.  They are only open Wednesday through Saturday, and then usually only in the evening.  The place is so popular, they suggest you make reservations.  When I first came up with this impromptu road trip, I tried calling them several times to get evening reservations, but nobody answered.  That's probably a good thing, because by the time we left Manhattan, Kansas, I'd had time to think it over:  It would end up costing $50 for the two of us, and we'd just had excellent chicken at R.C.'s in Martin City a couple of weeks before.  The only chicken that would top theirs would be my mother's, and she's no longer on this earth. 

There are several places of interest in Abilene, but by the time we got there it was after 1 PM.  It was obvious that we only had time to take in the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.  I didn't think we'd get through it in that length of time, but it turns out there aren't nearly as many exhibits as the Truman Library.  We had exactly the amount of time we needed to take in everything.  In the Presidential Library, there was a timeline of World War I; now, Cliff and I are familiar with this timeline, since we've visited the World War I museum in Kansas City several times.  However, this timeline included information on where Ike was at various points during the war.

We read several interesting stories:

The following story illustrates how badly Ike wanted to join the fighting in Europe.

There was even this story about Harry Truman

When we were done viewing the things in the library, we moved on to the museum, which had nothing to do with Ike.  Right now there's an exhibit telling about the Chisholm Trail.

Cliff did lots of reading.

We also went through the home where Eisenhower grew up.  The furnishings were a lot like houses I visited (and lived in) when I was a child.

We went in the chapel where Ike and Mamie were buried.

Of course I bought an expensive coffee mug, because that's what I do.  As I drink my morning coffee, I can reminisce about the places I've forced Cliff to take me.  I wonder if I'll be able to get an Arlo Guthrie coffee mug when we go to his concert.  Hmmm.  

I have fond childhood memories of Eisenhower:  My parents were non-voting Republicans, and always spoke positively of him.  Besides, we had a president who looked like somebody's grandpa, and what kid doesn't love a grandpa?    

Perhaps we'll see the interesting places in Abilene that we didn't have time for on our next trip to visit Maxine.  I'll leave you with a picture I've already shared on Facebook.  It's me, my nephew Larry (Maxine's son), and my lovely sister.  Larry's wife had gone to spend some time with one of their sons and his family in Oklahoma, but we had a wonderful visit with Maxine and Larry.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Just a little road trip

I used to think Kansas was boring until I took a closer look.  If you get off the beaten path, there's plenty to see and do.  We made our first trip to the Flint Hills in 2013.  Even my stay-at-home husband enjoyed it to some extent: It's his policy to never enjoy anything that takes him away from home... and if he does enjoy it, he will be the last one to let you know.  I can't wait until he spends time at the Arlo Guthrie concert we're going to attend in May.  It'll probably be a new all-time low for poor Cliff.  

While our little girl was in Iowa, I wanted to pay my sister in McPherson a visit and decided to roll a couple of "places of interest" into the journey. 

Thanks to the "Visit Kansas" website for this picture.
We had spent a night at Manhattan, Kansas, on the last day of our Flint Hills experience three years ago.  My intention was to get up the next morning and visit the Flint Hills Discovery Center there.  However, we were both awake by six AM and didn't want to kill time until 10 o'clock, when the center opened up; so we went on home.  

On our way to visit my sister this time, we stopped there.  We learned how the area was shaped and changed over countless centuries.  We saw a film that immersed us in "reality" as we watched:  The fires burning on the prairie filled the floor ahead of us with smoke, and flashes of lightning came from above.  When the wind picked up, we felt it.  It was quite an experience!    

We had home-made pita bread, tuna salad and other items I took from home for our lunch; how convenient it was to see a picnic area right across the street as we exited the building at straight-up noon.  
Perfect timing!

We don't picnic much these days, and haven't since we sold the motorcycle.  It was kind of nice to do that again, and it saved us money, too.  

After our first stop, it wasn't long before we left I-70 and headed south.  Next stop, Abilene!

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Assorted stuff

It's so hard for me to dust the cobwebs off my blog and come up with something to write about.  The older I get, the less things I do; the less I do, the harder it is to find something anybody would care to read.  So, you get springtime drivel.

Cliff and I can never understand why people go to such great lengths to rid their lawns of dandelions.  We love them.  I like to think of them as miniature suns decorating my yard and pasture.   

Cliff and I were with a friend the other day, and we mosied over to a church to see the lovely rows of tulips planted along the sidewalk.  As I admired them, I was thinking about the tulips in my weed patch flower bed at home, surrounded by hen-bit.  They are equally lovely, but of course the weeds do distract from them somewhat.  Doesn't matter; I don't judge a flower by its surroundings.  

Then the acquaintance we were with said, "Look at the weeds!"

The weeds were so few, and so minuscule, I hadn't seen them until she said that.  Of course my first thought was "What does she think of MY flower bed then?".  Later on, though, I felt a bit of pity for her, to think that she was looking at what I would consider a perfect bed of tulips and seeing only a few tiny weeds less than 1/4 inch tall.  After all is said and done, it just shows how different we all are.  You can imagine what a messy world it would be if everyone were a slob like I am.

Here's my lovely bed of tulips and henbit.  I planted those bulbs hastily last fall without working the soil:  I just dug a hole for each one with a shovel and covered them.  As soon as the petals fall off I'll pull them, since tulips usually get smaller and weaker each year when you leave them.  I might buy bulbs again this fall, or I might not.

The garden has shrunk greatly since last year, and what I do plant is sort of hit-and-miss.  I have little faith that I will keep up with a garden, even a small one.  I really don't have a lot of room for sweet corn, but I happened to remember you can plant corn in "hills"... six seeds to a circle.  Beyond the dampened hills in the picture, there are two tomato plants I put out early.  They haven't done a lot, because it was cool for so long.  Tomatoes like it warm!

I have some things already up in the garden:  radishes, beets, lettuce, and one of the three cabbage seeds I planted.  Strawberries are blooming, but they, too, are in competition with the henbit.  

I think our little girl is going to be in Iowa for the week, and I'm trying to figure out a cheap road trip we could go on for a night or two.  We'd have to be back by the weekend, since we are dog-sitting, but I wouldn't want to be on the road on Easter weekend anyway.  We shall see.  

In other not-so-good news:  I have a cold that is mostly in my throat, but has me feeling listless and short of breath.  I keep yawning, trying to get a deep breath.  I can't complain; I've only had one other very mild cold all winter.  The other sad news is that my favorite of the young tomcats we just had castrated two weeks ago has disappeared.  That kept me depressed yesterday all day.  When you keep barn cats, though, it's always a possibility.  Coyotes, foxes, and hawks consider cats and small dogs a food source.  Also, Grady had a habit of climbing into vehicles; he may have sneaked into a neighbor's car and ridden away.  I'm down to two-and-a-half cats now.  The one-half cat is Mama Kitty, who is probably on her way out:  She'll show up, stick around for several days, then disappear for several days.  That isn't normal behavior for her, but she's been doing this for the last six months or so.