Saturday, May 27, 2017

I had plans

Last night as I lay in bed waiting for sleep to envelop me, I decided today would be the day we'd clean the filthy carpet in the living room and hall.  Cliff has been wanting to call somebody to come and do the job, but I think the worst part of cleaning a carpet is the preparation:  moving furniture, vacuuming thoroughly... it seems to me as though the actual cleaning wouldn't be such a huge problem, once all the prep was done.  This morning I woke determined to get it done.

Noticing the eastern sky lighting up a bit, I took my coffee out on the back deck and soaked in the peace surrounding me.  A tiny wren perched on the fence and sang a lively tune for me.  I heard frogs croaking in the distance and various birds awakening, and by the time full daylight came, I heard the occasional hummingbird buzz past.  

I finished my coffee and walked around the yard awhile, strolling to the garden.  I surveyed the tiny (to me) plot and decided on a small vacant area to plant a couple more hills of corn.  I fashioned two hills in the lower right-hand area of the garden.  By the way, a "hill" of corn doesn't have to be an actual hill, just a grouping of seeds.  But since I'm in the process of spreading straw over the entire garden, I though it would be easier to see where my corn is if I made actual hills.  You can see the earlier two hills of corn I planted before, with corn plants about six inches high.  Since I now had the hills made and watered, I went inside to get the seeds I had wrapped in a wet paper towel and placed in an open baggie for germination.

I went back to the deck, sat down, and surveyed the pasture where the calves are; that's when I noticed how healthy the sour dock plants were looking.  Cliff has mowed that pasture twice this year, but within a week after mowing, those dock plants raise their ugly heads as though nothing had dampened their enthusiasm for taking over the place.  Early this spring I decided to wage a war on those hateful plants.  I knew the whole four-acre area was too much for me to tackle, but I decided to simply fight the ones within twenty feet or so of the yard, all the way from east to west, so I wouldn't have to look at them first thing in the morning.  I went out with a shovel at various times and dug the plants in that area up.  Of course I didn't get the entire root on any of these pesky plants.  Those longest roots must go down a yard or more.  But I figure at least it set the plant back more than simply mowing.  

Those broad-leaf weeds are my enemy!

Look at all those nasty seeds.  

Well, I decided I'd better go dig up a few of those while I felt so frisky.  When I got that done, I went in the house to prepare about two quarts of strawberries for eating, since I wanted some ready to put on cereal when Cliff got up.  Plenty for cereal and plenty for dessert at lunch, I thought to myself.  But wait, we don't have any shortcake.  

I love store-bought shortcake, but the other day we didn't have any, so I made the home-made kind, which over a period of two days we devoured (with a little cream poured over them... I wonder why we can't lose weight?).  Cliff remarked that he preferred the home-made variety to those little golden shortcakes in the store.  

Well, I'll just make some shortcake again, I decided.  (Recipe HERE.)

Cliff got up, we had our cereal, and I told him about my original plan to clean the carpet.  Then I put on some boiled eggs to use in the potato salad I intend to make at some point today and took the trash out.  

That's when I realized I had used up my initial energy doing so many other things, I wasn't going to mess with carpets today.  I was tired already!  And I still have strawberries to pick.

And now you know why I hardly ever do any housework.  It just isn't at the top of my list of priorities.    

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?

Peace!