Monday, June 29, 2009

Got milk?

No, not yet.

Do you wonder why Bonnie is looking at me like this?

It's because she's tired of me checking out her "business end" several times a day. Look at that udder; poor thing is lucky she's able to walk.

Seriously! And she hasn't even calved yet.

When the hollows next to her pin bones get really large, that's the signal to expect a calf in twenty-four to forty-eight hours. This is something that shows very well on bony dairy cows like Bonnie, but it's hard to notice on beef cattle.

I don't think she's down to the last two days yet, but it's been so long since I had Jerseys that I might have lost the knack for diagnosing impending calving.

Monday thoughts and gardening adventures

Thanks to my readers who identified the tall, scraggly plants in my flowerbed. They are Liatris, also knows as Blazing Star. It's actually a wildflower, so I guess that's why I thought it looked like a weed; many wildflowers are considered as weeds. I'll be glad when mine actually make some flowers like the ones in the picture, because right now they're pretty hideous.

The okra is looking fantastic; I should have plenty to put in the freezer for use in gumbo, soups, and stews. This is another plant that's easy to grow. It loves heat and drought, but will take the rain if it comes. It really doesn't have a lot of pests that bother it; I lightly dusted these plants with Sevin when I was out there yesterday because some small holes had been nibbled in the leaves, but it wouldn't have been necessary.
In spite of all the bug damage you can see on the leaves of my Savoy cabbage, so far the heads seem to be developing well.

This is todays harvest: Yes, the cucumbers are tiny; but we eat them like this, skin and all, knowing that within four days we'll have more cucumbers than we can even give away.

Cliff and I had a discussion this morning about the famous people who die too young from drugs abused and mis-used.
I told him about the application on Facebook called "Farm Town". You start out with a tiny patch of ground and a few coins. You can buy seeds and plant them and sell the harvest, and eventually make enough coins to buy more land, a house, barns, and so forth. The game was highly addictive and great fun for me, until I finally had the biggest house and the best barn that coins could buy. I kept planting more crops, but now there was nothing left I really wanted to buy.

The other day I accidentally deleted the application, and I realized I didn't care. The game had become boring because I had 300,000 coins, and nothing left that I wanted to buy; I had everything I could possibly accumulate.
I discussed this on Facebook with a longtime Internet friend, Kelly. She said, "Wouldn't it be great if real life was like that?" What she meant was, wouldn't it be nice to get everything you want and still have more money than you can spend?

That's when it hit me: real life is like that. That's why M. J. and Elvis and Janis Joplin and so many others have ended up dying meaningless deaths, far too soon. There was nowhere else for them to go, nothing else to do. They had done it all.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Atheists need not view this video

I do believe that day will come.

I first heard this song sung in a Baptist church by a sweet lady who still lives in, or near, my town. I've never forgotten the words.

Perhaps you think you aren't making an impact with anything you do or say; but this song that I heard about thirty years ago has never faded from my mind. You never know whose lives you may affect with the simplest words, songs, or deeds.

Thank you, Lisa.

garden report

By this time next week, I'll bet we have all the grape tomatoes we want. Hmmm, I see a really red one in back that I didn't notice as I was taking the picture.

I actually found a cucumber that was about three times this size, later. I ate it.

This is a baby butternut squash. So far I've been successful at keeping the squash bugs away from my viney crops.

The bush cantaloupe plants have an amazing number of blooms.

This is my accidental sweet potato vine that I happened to notice on the end of a sweet potato I kept around too long before baking it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Getting my husband up-to-date

I have several relatives on Facebook. Sometimes those brief sentences they type in are priceless: Cliff's nephews talking about their jobs, for instance. My son, uploading a video of his fast car at the drag race (is that what you call it, Jim?).

Sometimes things aren't so priceless: Cliff's brother's wife, for instance, tells us that her sister's cancer is back, and that she's in extreme pain (prayers would be appreciated on her behalf, by the way... her name is Carol).

Cliff gets on the computer quite a bit these days, and I decided he needs a facebook account. He won't be typing anything in, but he will be watching for those updates from family members. I fixed his profile for him, and he approved it.

Everything's up-to-date in Kansas City. And surrounding areas, as well.

Today's happenings

Random things around here.

First of all, the cows have a couple of lady visitors; Cliff's brother, Phil, needed to wean those whiteface heifers, and also get them away from his bull for a few months. We have plenty of pasture, so they'll be spending the summer with us.

Cliff is mowing hay even as I type this. There's a 40% chance of rain, but the weather-guessers don't think it will be a lot of rain. When it's first mowed, hay can stand a little rain and still be OK. And yes, we do realize how often the forecasters are wrong.

This past spring I went crazy ordering perennial flowers to plant in front of our house. These coneflowers are a delight.

You just have to love marigolds; these are the ones I started in the house in March, from tiny seeds. Free seeds, I believe, thrown in with one of my flower orders.

These are some sort of miniature zinnias. Over a year ago, I took part in a pay-it-forward thing a blogging buddy was doing, and she sent me a box containing several delightful little gifts. One was a seed tape. It was too late to plant flowers when I received it last year, so I waited till this year. I've really been using the gardening gloves she included in my package, too.

In my frenzy of ordering flowers, I didn't keep track of what was planted where. I didn't even write down what the flowers were. See those tall, spindly plants? Do any of you know what those things are? Right now they're downright ugly, and I've even had the thought that perhaps I have unwittingly been nurturing weeds, thinking they were flowers.

Patrick's Saturday Six

Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment at Patrick's Place, or put the answers in an entry on your journal…but either way, leave a link to your journal at Patrick's Place so that everyone else can visit! To be counted as “first to play,” you must be the first player to either answer the questions in a comment or to provide a complete link to the specific entry in your journal in which you answer the questions. A link to your journal in general cannot count. Enjoy!

1. If you know someone who is interested in you happens to be high maintenance, are you as likely to date them anyway? The chances of anyone who is "high maintenance" being interested in me are slim to none. The chances of me dating anybody besides Cliff, even if something happened to him, are even slimmer.

2. Do you get more frustrated by your home being in a state of disarray or your workplace being in a state of disarray? Disarray is my middle name. It's a way of life for me.

3. You decide to go to the grocery store where you don’t expect to run into anyone you know. How dressed up are you likely to get? I don't even get dressed up for church. And you think I'm going to dress up to shop for groceries? If I've been in the garden and gotten dirty, I will change clothes. That's about the extent of it.

4. Take the quiz: Are You High Maintenance?

Compared to most people, you are incredibly easy going.
To be honest, you are truly a breath of fresh air.

You are open minded about trying new things, and you're not upset when things don't work out.
You are willing to go along to get along. And your attitude helps you truly enjoy life!

5. How important is it to you that the person you would date would be roughly “in your league” lookswise? I'm a lot more interested in "nicewise" rather than "lookswise". Besides, "in my league" would make my standards pretty lenient.

6. Do you prefer spending more on a birthday gift for a close friend of having them spend more on a gift for you? I don't do birthday gifts. Of course, if you want to buy one for me, I'll take it; my birthday is coming up in a few days.

Friday, June 26, 2009

One thing and another

I'm sitting at my computer eating what's left of the expensive red sweet pepper I bought in order to make borscht yesterday. If I had it to do over again, good as this raw pepper tastes, I would simply put the whole thing in the soup... diced, of course.

Cliff's sister, Rena, is having windows put in our old house today. We had a few installed several years ago, and she wanted the rest done. I can see her point: the old ones are difficult to open and close, and they let in a lot of drafts. Because the men will be in and out of her house a lot today, her dog, Angel, is here with me.

Angel has a tendency to overeat, so Rena rations her Science Diet dog food. I put Sadie's dog food up when Angel visits, if there's very much in the dish. It's the strangest thing: the two dogs eat exactly the same kind of dog food; and yet, although Angel might have already had breakfast at home, she will try to eat her weight in Sadie's dog food. Why does she think Sadie's is so special? Does she think she'd getting away with something? What I'd give, sometimes, to read the mind of animals.

I told Rena we have borscht to eat for lunch, so we'll get her opinion of the Russian dish, along with Cliff's; Meesha says it's better the second and third days, but I've found that to be the case with all soups. I ate so much last night I could barely breath. I would be having it for breakfast, but I bought some strawberries yesterday; so I'm having Mini-Spooners with strawberries.

My other sister-in-law, Charlene, called last night to see if anything was wrong, because I skipped a day of posting on my blog. Sheesh. I told her to sign up for Facebook and she'll see brief snippets from me on days I don't post (those days are rare indeed).

It seems everyone is blogging less, and reading fewer blogs too. I know I'm not getting around to everybody: I do a speed-read thing on Google Reader, but the only time I go to the actual blog is when I wish to comment.

I still love Pioneer Woman, but I don't read all of Ree's posts. There's some connection missing when you know the person whose blog you're reading is never going to visit your own blog. And who wants to leave a comment that will get lost amongst the hundreds of comments she gets on each post? Still, if I were listing my favorite blogs, she and Sister Mary Martha would be at the top of the list. And by the way, Sister Mary Martha doesn't get that many comments, so you're sure to be noticed there, if you have something to say.

Lone Star Concerto would be in my top ten, too; although he doesn't post often enough to really be listed, and is always threatening to throw in the towel.

So there you have it: one of those entries in which I had nothing to say and took my sweet time saying it. But at least somebody in St. Louis will know I'm alive and well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I made borscht today!

I know, I've been talking about trying out Meesha's recipe for a long time. I waited in hopes that my cabbage would be ready and some of my sweet peppers would have turned red. Unfortunately, if I had done that, the beets would be long past their prime. So, I paid $2.50 for a red sweet pepper and I bought a head of cabbage. I also bought a big jug of V8 vegetable juice because I couldn't find a smaller amount. It's OK, I'll drink what's left.

I went to the garden for four beets, and took my shovel along so I could dig potatoes for the borscht. Potatoes are so rewarding to grow, because you get a huge yield from such a small planting.

I got all these from one single vine, and they're still growing, of course. I put the coffee cup there so you could see the size of them. I used the four largest ones in the borscht.

I didn't find the recipe to be hard to assemble, and I didn't worry too much about amounts. It's soup, after all; soup can be very forgiving.

This is the finished product. I have to tell you that, upon tasting it in the kettle, it was bland and rather disappointing.

In the bowl, however, with that dollop of sour cream stirred in?

It's to die for. The sour cream absolutely MAKES it!

Make that a big dollop. I'm going for my second bowl. And then I have quite a mess to clean up in the kitchen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I've turned into a total wimp

At least in regards to hot weather. Ten years ago you'd hear me say, "I don't want air conditioning; I like the doors and windows open."

Six years ago we began using A/C in our bedroom; last year we moved to this mobile home with central air, and I can barely pry myself away from it to go outside, on days like these.

My mom told me, years ago, that this would happen. "When you're older," she warned, "You'll have to have air conditioning."

What did old people do a hundred years ago when the temperatures rose to a hundred degrees?

I've done a little trim mowing and some weed pulling today, but I would work for fifteen minutes, then come inside and rest forty-five. I was careful to wear my straw hat, because these days I get sick when I'm overheated.

We had a vegetarian dinner today: Fried green tomatoes, peas and new potatoes (I'm really enjoying the Yukon Gold potatoes), and zucchini, onions, and sweet pepper stir-fried with plenty of soy sauce. Good stuff! All the veggies came from the garden.

My sweet peppers are going to be a variety of colors; obviously, the pale-green ones are the earliest. There are several of them ready to eat, while most of the others are just setting fruit.

I've been wanting to try my hand at making borscht, and the beets are ready. But it looks like I'm going to have to buy a head of cabbage; mine is just starting to make heads. Besides, dust as I might with Sevin, those white moths that lay the eggs that turn into cabbage worms are very persistent. We shall see whether I get to eat my own cabbage or not.

I went to Cliff and Rena's garden to get the zucchini. Then I decided to check their cucumbers, since mine aren't ready yet. Lo and behold, a big snake had shed his skin beneath the leaves of one of the cucumber vines! I'm glad all I found was the skin. Their cucumbers are no nearer ready to eat than mine are, by the way.

In case you're interested, here's how I prepare my fried green tomatoes: slice them about a half-inch thick. Salt and pepper the slices, and let them sit for fifteen minutes or so. Then, dip them in milk; then flour; then beaten egg; and finally corn meal.

I could eat my weight in them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A strange motorcycle, and a strange storm

After Charlene and Pat left us yesterday, we stopped to gas up and saw a different kind of bike.

"Is that a motorcycle?" I asked the couple. (Click on any of these pictures to make them larger.)

The lady answered in the affirmative, and I took some time to look the thing over. It's a trike disguised as a car! Legally, they have to wear helmets because Missouri demands that bikers wear helmets.

See? Handlebars. This is a motorcycle that three people could ride, though.

It has a Chevy engine with a Harley front end; the Harley people won't work on it, though.

It's called "Ecstasy"; all Google searches on that name lead nowhere, so I'm assuming it is no longer being built.

We're having the strangest rainstorm right now. An hour ago I was strolling outside looking at my flowers beneath blue skies. After I came in, I began hearing distant thunder. Turning on the TV, I saw that south-eastern Jackson Country has this tiny storm system going on. We soon lost our Dish signal, and next thing you know the skies opened up and we had a downpour, along with some strong winds. It's about over now.

This is the same kind of pop-up storm that caught us on the motorcycle both Saturday and Sunday. Weird, but part of living in Missouri.

Oh, and we got a half-inch of rain in about thirty minutes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Just what the doctor ordered

Cliff's sister and her husband moved to St. Louis a couple of years ago, and we've missed them a lot. They were our motorcycle riding buddies, and I'd venture to say they're our best friends. They are people with whom we can kick back and be comfortable; all of us accept one another, quirks and all.

At first, they came back to visit frequently; but lately we haven't seen them around.

So, in spite of the fact that Cliff has a dozen things he'd have liked to do around here, I was able to pry him away from his tractor so we could ride the motorcycle to St. Louis.

Charlene and Pat met us somewhere the other side of Jefferson City, and just like old times, we rode together. What an adventure we had; we even got soaked in a downpour that caught us in the middle of a bridge. As we started across the bridge, it was raining on the left but not on the right. An amazing thing to see, but of course I was so dumbfounded by the sight that I forgot to take pictures.

We hung out in their back yard until well after dark.

Pat barbecued hamburgers and Nathan's Hot Dogs, and told tall tales.

We had a great time of it, let me tell you.

Today they rode almost halfway back with us. You can take a look at some of our lovely Missouri scenery if you want to; I made a slide show of pictures I took with Charlene and Pat leading the way.

It was great. We've missed these faces.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Scenes from the Lathrop tractor show

Someone on Craigslist had a replacement engine that Cliff was pretty sure would work on our tiller; since his location was not so far from Lathrop, we decided to kill two birds with one stone: we secured an engine, and we visited a tractor show. The opening day of a tractor show is never the busiest, since lots of people are at work on Friday. Still, we enjoyed making the rounds.

This guy works where Cliff does, but on weekends he pursues his hobby at tractor shows, Fort Osage, Missouri Town, and other places that need an old-time blacksmith.

Talk about a blast from the past: I'm about 95% sure I worked with this lady in 1962, at the long-gone mail order firm by the name of National Bellas Hess.

At my urging, Cliff bought an Oliver cap to go with his Oliver tractor, and an Ertle toy tractor, an Allis Chalmers D-17, series IV, like the one he used for so many years.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Morning decisions

Yesterday I picked enough cherries to fill up one of those gallon-plus ice cream buckets. Those cherries yielded enough to make three quarts for the deep freeze. According to my estimates, there's an hour and fifteen minutes of labor in each quart.

I've barely made a dent in the cherries on the tree. Most of them will go to waste, because I've spent about all the time I want to, pitting sticky, sour cherries.

I would, however, like some cherry jam; it's my favorite. I have a box of pectin and plenty of sugar.

If memory serves me, I'm pretty sure I've had trouble getting cherry jam to "jell" sufficiently in the past. That's no big loss, though, because if it's too thin to be called jam, it makes an excellent ice cream syrup.

So I guess I'll change into some clothes that I don't mind getting stained and head to the tree, bucket in hand.

I would love to have a sweet cherry tree; Cliff, however, doesn't think I'd keep it sprayed. I told him that if it were up here by the house, I would remember to spray it. He's not so sure.

I saw some sweet cherries at Walmart yesterday and picked up a bag; then I realized that, at $3.99 a pound, that bag would probably cost me ten dollars, and I put it down.

I really love sweet cherries, though. I imagine I'll be paying the price soon enough and bringing some home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'll try it this way

Michelangelo’s David Is To Be Returned To Italy

After a two year loan to the United States ,
Michelangelo's David is being returned to Italy ...

His proud sponsers were McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, and Starbucks.

My friend Maria sent this to me in an email and I stupidly tried to copy and paste it directly to my blog. That made it show up on my computer, but I don't think it showed to anyone else. So I did an Internet search and found the image.

Thanks for the laugh, Maria!

My tiller problem may be solved

Cliff's St. Louis sister reads my blog, and she read about my problem of having no garden tiller. So yesterday her husband called and said he happens to have a rototiller at their farm (a few miles from here) that we are welcome to use. It hasn't been fired up in a few years, so it will probably take some effort on Cliff's part to get it running; but he has a talent for that sort of thing. I'd still like to get Rena's Troybilt tiller back in business, though.

We're having high temperatures in the 90's, so I'm off to pick cherries while Cliff is sleeping, before it gets too hot.

About my "herd-bound" horses: Yes, it makes sense that the horses hang around up here to be near Blue. But out in the pasture, the cows don't mingle with the horses; but they won't leave the lot either. Cliff has even fixed it so that they can come and go at all times, even when the horses are shut in. But do they leave? No. This morning I lured them out with some sweet feed, pouring it on the ground. Next time I looked outside, there they were, back in the little lot.

Somebody just shoot me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You can lead a horse to... whatever

Ever since my horse, Blue, had his little over-eating problem that led to a mild case of founder, I can't turn him out on the entire forty-two acres. Because with all the rain we've had, the lush grass would allow him to have another feast that could cripple him.

So there's this lot that's perhaps two or three acres, mostly weeds with some white clover mixed in. That's where I let him graze for twelve hours each day.

At night, I put him in his stall.

The other horses, and the heifers, have the opportunity to stroll around all of our property while Blue is in his stall for twelve hours. The woods, the lush pasture... anywhere their hearts desire.

But do they?

No. When I go out to put Blue in the big lot, I shut the gate to the rest of the property. And the other horses are shut in with him, because they've never left the lot overnight. And neither have the heifers.

The heifers have access to an even smaller area, right in front of our house, where the horses can't join them. There isn't much to eat there, but they prefer to spend most of their time lounging around in that particular spot. And yes, when I step out my front door, I do detect the smell of cow dung. Why do you ask?

At night when I put Blue in his stall, I open the pasture gate wide, which would allow the other animals the freedom of grazing on our entire property.

But they don't do that. They stand around in the over-grazed lot, eating weeds and waiting for Blue to join them in the morning.

I just don't get it.

I know the cows are getting something to eat, though. Because I see them chewing their cuds.

Crazy animals.

Are you tired of seeing my garden yet?

This is the cherry cobbler I made yesterday evening. Next time I'll use more cornstarch; the filling wasn't quite as thick as I would have liked.

I got the cherries from this cherry tree (yes, it's mine). I spent over two hours picking and seeding ten cups of cherries. The cobbler required six cups; I froze the other quart. I don't enjoy seeding tiny cherries one at a time, and Cliff has often suggested I buy a cherry pitter. That would be fine, except that I don't spray my trees; so about one out of every twenty-five cherries has a little white worm inside. I'd rather get my protein some other way, thank you very much. The up side of pitting cherries is that I can sit in a comfortable lawn chair in the shade of my Kentucky Coffee tree while doing it. The downside is that my hands get disgustingly sticky and red from the cherry juice, and whatever clothing I am wearing gets permanently stained with little red spots.

I haven't taken time to show you the garden Cliff and his sister tend. They've planted more beets (Rena wants to pickle lots of beets for her brother and sister when they visit), and several plantings of peaches-and-cream sweet corn. They also have zucchini that's giving us something to eat. There are two reasons for our having seperate gardens: First, I can't handle a huge garden with the arthritis in my knees. Second, as I've mentioned before, Cliff and I don't garden well together.

My old Ariens tiller bit the dust yesterday. Above you see a tiller Rena brought with her from Wisconsin that needs some minor repair. It appears it would cost over $300 to buy an engine for my Ariens, so we'll either fix Rena's little tiller or perhaps watch for a used one on Craigslist. There's one listed there now that isn't far from us, but the owner is in Georgia. visiting relatives.

Back to my own garden, that little bumpy, fuzzy thing there is an infant cucumber.

My pole beans look as though they could have used something taller to climb on!

Midlife Mom asked why I would want to trap sparrows: They are not only dirty and undesirable birds, but they take over martin houses and bluebird houses, even to the point of killing the baby birds to do so. The lady at the Wild Bird Center said sparrows are the main reason it's difficult to get bluebirds and martins to come to a yard.

For the "person" who asked if the pictures in this blog are of my garden... of course! Why would I show pictures of somebody else's garden?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Outside the house

In the garden...

There are blooms on the bush beans.

Peppers on the pepper plants.

Hundreds of tomatoes on the vines.

Yesterday we did indeed visit the Wild Bird Center in Independence, as planned. The people who work there are so helpful and knowledgeable. Cliff hadn't been in the store before, and he was pretty amazed at some of the items they sell there.

I looked at bluebird houses and martin houses, but after talking to the proprietor and finding out it's too late in the season for those to attract any inhabitants, I decided to hold off on buying them.

I did buy a hummingbird feeder to attach to the window beside my computer desk. The tiny birds have found it, but so far they notice my movement when I try to take a picture. I'll keep trying, of course. When they're feeding and fighting at this feeder, they're about three feet away from me.

Ever since I saw an oriole at my hummingbird feeder a few weeks ago, I've longed to see more of those beautiful birds. So I invested in an Oriole feeder.

There's a place to put half an orange; little cupped spots to hold grape jelly; and the bottom holds nectar. So far I've only see hummingbirds checking it out, but I'm hoping! It could be that this is another thing that needs to be put out early in the season, because I found this online: "It is important to have the oranges available just as the orioles arrive, which is around April 1st in the South and April 15th to May 1st in the northern half of the country." That information came from THIS WEBSITE.

As for the martins and bluebirds, the lady informed me that sparrows are the biggest problems with trying to make homes for them. Cliff and I checked out some sparrow traps online after we got home. I think I'll deal with one type of bird at a time here, learning as I go.

Boy, I sure would love to see some orioles!