Monday, December 31, 2012

Have a wonderful 2013

I want you all to know how I appreciate each one of my readers.  I love the comments and emails I get. Many of the comments on my blog are posted on Facebook these days, and those are great too.  I'm sharing an old song from the 50's that expresses my wish for all of you in the coming year. 




May you always walk in sunshine,
Slumber warm when night winds blow
May you always live with laughter
For a smile becomes you so

May good fortune find your doorway
May the bluebird sing your song
May no trouble travel your way
May no worry stay too long

May your heartaches be forgotten
( From: )

May no tears be spilled
May old acquaintance be remembered
And your cup of kindness filled

And may you always be a dreamer
May your wildest dream come true
May you find someone to love
As much as I love you

May you find someone to love
As much as I love you

Too many cows, not enough hay

There are more cows here than you think.  Look beyond Babe, the big fat Hereford on the left, and you will see the shoulders of Bonnie-the-Jersey-cow.  There are also two four-month-old calves, George and Gracie, on the other side of the hay ring, and Bonnie's calf, Crystal, is out of the picture on the right.  Eight head of cattle.  Of course the biggest animals eat the most.  
On a side note, notice how big Red-the-bull is, in the above picture.  

Red wasn't nearly as big in this picture
Now he is as tall as Bonnie and almost as tall as Jody.  We don't expect him to have any problem breeding them, since he somehow managed to score with big old Babe.
We feed the cows in an electric-fenced enclosure that the horses can't get into, since horses don't need all that rich alfalfa hay.  Their owner, Adam, comes to feed them every day.  We thought we had a plentiful supply of hay, but that was before we bought Red-the-bull and George and Gracie.  We have begun to wonder if our hay supply will last until spring.  Because of the drought last year, big hay bales that would normally sell for $50 now bring $100 and more.  People are selling four-year-old grass hay for ridiculous prices.  Some farmers have baled dry cornstalks and are selling those bales for thirty dollars and more.  
It's just too easy for our cows to stand right there waiting until they feel like eating some more.  Imagine yourself in a room with a table, covered by plates full of your favorite foods; as soon as you empty the plate, somebody fills it up again.  You know, kind of like that period from Thanksgiving to New Year's.  
Yeah, it's like that.  
We decided to put the cows on a diet.  
Cliff rigged a gate at the entrance to the hay-ring area.  Every evening around sunset I chase the cows out and shut the gate; at daylight next morning I call them up and let them in to eat.  Because George and Gracie are so young, and have no milk to supplement their diet, I bring them up to the barn overnight where they can continue to eat all the hay they want.
There's already a noticeable difference in how fast the hay disappears.  Here's hoping, not for an early spring with all the problems that would bring, but for a timely, wet, grass-growing spring!  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fried chicken

A reader asked me to share my newfound method of frying chicken, since I finally learned to fix it properly this year.  I started out with a recipe from Hillbilly Housewife:

Fried Chicken

Makes 5 servings
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds cut-up frying chicken
  • 1 cup oil or shortening
1. In resealable food storage plastic bag, combine flour, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time; shake to coat.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add chicken; cook until browned on all sides.* Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 30 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender and juices run clear. Remove cover during last 10 minutes of cooking to crisp chicken.
That is the basic recipe I decided to work with, since it sounded vaguely like how my mother fried chicken.  I acquired several packages containing two legs and two thighs; I figured at least I would only be ruining four pieces of chicken instead of a whole fryer with each new effort.  A friend, Ora, said to cook chicken very slowly.  
The first time I made an attempt, the chicken wasn't terrible, but it was somewhat overcooked and dry.  So on the next efforts I heeded Ora's advice and used a lower flame for the browning process.  This gave me better results.  I picked up other random tips online, such as "don't crowd the pieces".  
After the first effort, I had complete success.  Fried chicken isn't something Cliff and I should be eating, so I don't expect to be making it often.  But there is great satisfaction in finally "breaking the code" on something I gave up on when I was in my twenties.  

Things I learned in 2012

I learned how to properly fry chicken. 

One should not try to move a full kettle of canned tomatoes from point A to point B until it cools off. 

Sweet potato plants can look totally dead and dry upon arrival and still come back to life. 

I have yet to see a portion of the USA that is any more beautiful than Colorado. 

Cats get fat and lazy once they're neutered.

After a long period of not attending church, it's good to be back in the habit of gathering with like-minded people once a week.  Somehow it helps keep my mind on the right track.
If someone comes along who constantly "rubs me the wrong way", all I have to do is keep my mouth shut and figure out the lesson I am supposed to be learning from that person.  Oh yes, there is always a lesson there; if I'm wise, I will find it and put it to good use in my own life.   

Years ago, I read a book called "Lord, Change Me".  I've forgotten what the book was even about, but the title has stayed with me.  The older I get, the more I realize that I can't change anybody else; I can't always change my circumstances; but if I really try, I can work on my attitude, and that changes how I perceive difficult people... whether they are neighbors or relatives or politicians.  

You can't rollerskate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you've a mind to.

Travel east, travel west, after all, home is best.  My Grandma Stevens had a throw pillow with those words on it; I believe Uncle Paul got it for her during or after WWII.  I think about it every time we leave home for several days.    

Life is even shorter than I thought.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hello there

No, I haven't given up blogging.  As is usual this time of year, I don't have a lot of enthusiasm for anything.  
The house (the monstrosity, as I've called it) next door has no doubt been sold.  Evidently the people plan to live in the house, because we saw a plumber over there this week.  They have hauled trash to the back of the place for two weeks, and almost every day there is another huge bonfire.  I feel certain that these people will tidy the place up, plant grass in the yard, and give us a better view to the west.    
The weather-guessers can't make up their minds about a snowstorm that is headed this way.  First they said we might get three to five inches, then they said we probably wouldn't get anything, and now they are saying two and a half inches of snow.  My daughter and her family are going to Carthage for Christmas, so I hope the roads don't get bad until they get back home.  
As usual, we won't be doing anything special on New Year's Eve.  I don't do too well at staying up later than ten P.M.  A few days ago I was thinking about the new year and said to myself, "2013 is the year I'll turn 69."  
And then it hit me, I'll only be a year away from 70.  Whoa!!!!  That sounds REALLY old.  I know a lot of people who DIED in their 70's!  
Now you folks can go ahead and tell me I'm only as old as I feel, but that doesn't help much.  I'm pretty sure I feel about 75.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  I'm just glad to be alive, able to walk and see and hear.  I find I don't have a lot of enthusiasm for anything these days, but I feel very blessed to have made it this far in life.  
I plan to garden again, but there will probably be more weeds than ever.  I look forward to baby calves that will come along in the coming months.  I look forward to spring.  
Meanwhile, I deal with winter by reading one book after another, and I have read some great ones lately.  I am SO thankful for my Ipad, with the various apps that allow me to read books without spending any money.  
I realize this is a pathetic entry, but I felt I should check in.  The winter doldrums won't last forever.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Looking forward

We had a nice couple of days, visited by my daughter, her husband, and their daughters; ex-daughter-in-law Kat; granddaughter Amber; and grandson Arick and his sweetheart, Heather.  None of them received a present from us, but they showed up anyway.  We ate junk food all day yesterday and today:  Cheese ball and crackers, hamburger dip and chips, and various things I had dipped in almond bark.  My favorite Christmas cookie these days consists of peanut butter between two round crackers, dipped in chocolate-flavored almond bark.  If you haven't tried this, you MUST!  The daughter and her husband brought me a huge can of Topsy's popcorn we've all been munching on.  Oh yes, it's been an eating marathon around here.  
I got Cliff a DVD about his current favorite brand of tractor, "All About Olivers".  Since portions of it were filmed at a tractor show that we attended in Iowa, it was especially enjoyable.  
We like watching "Country's Family Reunion" on RFDTV.  I found an excellent buy on a four-DVD set, "Country's Family Reunion at the Ryman".  If you go to that link, pay no attention to the price they're asking; I found it, used, for $49.99.  I got this as a gift for my husband, but it was for me as much as for him.  The old-time country artists (those who are still alive) get together and talk about the old days and sing their hits from the 40's, 50's, and 60's.  You'd have to be as old as we are and love country music to appreciate it, but it's right up our alley.  I also got Cliff some shirts that feature his favorite tractors.  He got me some gloves and (YES!!!) some new Muck Boots!  The tall Muck boots I bought three years ago are still in fine shape, but my shorter ones were totally worn out.  If you live in the country, if you take walks in winter, if you wade through mud to do any sort of chores at any time of year... you need to part with a handful of money and get some Muck boots.  

Am I the only one who breathes a sigh of relief when Christmas is over, even if it's been a wonderful one?  I'm pretty sure this was true, even back when I was a child.  It's good to see life getting back to normal.
Now we can hunker down, get through winter (looks like it may be a bitter one this year) and look forward to spring.  

Christmas thoughts

Growing up in the Church of Christ, Christmas wasn't celebrated in a religious way.  Everybody but the most strict members had Christmas trees at home, and lots of presents, but it wasn't even mentioned at Church because Christmas isn't mentioned in the Bible.  Still, we had school Christmas programs, and sometimes Mother and I would attend the Christmas programs at other churches.  
Cliff and I have talked a lot about our childhoods and how different they were.  We both have good Christmas memories; Cliff remembers his dad pointing out Santa's sleigh flying through the sky, and yes, little Clifford saw it.  I recall the time my mom and I went to the Methodist Church's Christmas program in Guss, Iowa, and Daddy stayed home with the switchboard.  When we got home, Daddy was sound asleep on the couch and Santa had sneaked in and filled my stockings!  I couldn't believe my daddy slept right through Santa's visit.
Cliff's childhood didn't go as smoothly as mine, but he had good times.  As for me, I never had any worries.  I knew I was loved.  Life was fun.  I didn't have a lot of interaction with other kids, but because I had a good imagination, I always had plenty of cowboys and Indians to play with (in my mind, but still).  On the holidays my sister's family would come from Kansas City and my brother's family from Des Moines.  Mother would go into a baking frenzy.  Good times and lots of food, back when I didn't even know what a calorie was.      

Cliff and I don't normally do presents, but this year I kept finding things on the Internet that I knew he would love, and he said he would feel bad unwrapping gifts if I didn't have something.  So we both had packages to open last night.

me and my nephew Larry
I want to wish all my readers the best of the season.  I hope Santa brings joy to all of you.  If you don't have family around, then enjoy memories of Christmas's past.  I'm not having a particularly blue Christmas, but I love to listen to my favorite version of the song:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Some things don't change

A while back I mentioned here that I was reading a book written in 1905 about the meat industry: "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair.  I thought everything that was going on back then was a thing of the past.
Boy, was I wrong.
I just finished "Slaughterhouse:  The shocking story of greed, neglect, and inhumane treatment inside the US meat industry", a book was written in 2006.
Few things have changed.  Meat packers insist on running the lines so fast that some cattle are still alive when they are being skinned.  Some hogs are still squealing when they get to the scalding tub.  Over thirty per cent of the workers in the meat industry are injured at some point, and that doesn't include the carpel tunnel problems and other conditions caused by repetitive motions.  Ask my husband about the arthritis in his shoulder and both thumbs.  
I can pretty much guarantee you that there is fecal matter (and worse) on any beef, pork, or poultry you buy at the store; the few government inspectors that are still around close their eyes to what's going on.  I've always been so proud of the delicious broth I make from those leg quarters I buy at the store, and now I realize I've been adding some unwanted surprise ingredients to my noodles.  Of course, if I bought the canned stuff in the store, it would likely be ten times worse, and not have half the flavor.
That's the most discouraging thing about this situation:  There's nothing to be done about it.  You can become a vegetarian, I suppose, but those workers and animals are still going to be suffering for the rest of the carnivores in the country.  I'm telling you, if you read this book you will be seriously thinking about giving up meat.  A couple of people have posed the question, "Why would you read something like that?"
Well, I can't see just sticking my head in the sand and pretending it doesn't happen.
I am now considering raising a few chickens for our own use, I'll tell you that much.  
I'm going to include a video that most of you probably won't want to watch.  I don't agree with all the complaints:  while the narrater is against the castration of pigs, in my opinion it's necessary.  They talk about pigs not being allowed to live out their natural life span, but I shudder to think what would happen if all pigs were allowed to breed and live out their natural life spans; good grief, there wouldn't be room on the planet for any humans!  I really wish these people would focus on what's important, but then this video was made with the intent of turning us all into vegetarians.  I'm not ready to make the switch.  


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Overload of milk

Dairy cows have been bred down through the centuries to give more milk than a calf needs.  MUCH more.  I happen to have a weakness for Jersey cows, so in spite of the fact that we don't need more than a half-gallon of milk each week, there are times we have a huge excess of milk.  
Eventually that dairy cow's calf becomes big enough to be able to handle all the milk Mom can give, but it takes a couple of months to get them to that stage.  I cannot ignore Bonnie's swollen udder knowing she will get mastitis if I don't relieve her of the excess, so I milk her once a day.  Usually the calf has taken care of three of the quarters, but one hind quarter, so far,  is full of milk when I go to the barn with my bucket.  I get anywhere from a gallon to a gallon-and-a-half of milk.  Every day.
Now, I've played around with cheese-making and cottage-cheese making.  I churn butter and put it in the freezer.  (As if either of us needed any of that!)  I can make ice cream, but that's even worse for us, so I make it sparingly.  
The three cats get a little milk, still warm from the cow.  The chickens get clabbered milk, but there are only three chickens, so they can't consume much.  
And then I throw milk away.  Mostly I skim off the cream for butter and throw skim milk away, but it still hurts to toss it.  The other day I told Cliff, "If we had a pig, I wouldn't be throwing away all this milk."  
I was only talking to hear my head rattle, but he immediately started trying to figure out where we would put the pen, etc.  
"I wasn't serious," I said.  "We have beef that's been in the freezer for eighteen months that I'm trying to use.  We certainly don't need any pork."  
I'm sure he was relieved that he wouldn't be doing any pen-building any time soon.  Besides, it looks like we're in for a cold winter, and somebody would have to carry water to a pig every day.  
In the past we have raised pigs on excess milk mixed with wheat middlings or "shorts", a by-product of milling flour.  Oh, those were some fine, tasty pigs by the time they reached two hundred pounds apiece!  They would crowd, grunting and squealing, around the trough in such a manner that it was impossible not to pour the gravy-like mixture all over their heads.  Pigs are fun-loving creatures that will keep you laughing; they know how to enjoy life.  
I'm sure in another couple of weeks Crystal will be taking all her mother's milk, and I will then have to separate her from Bonnie overnight if I want some milk for household use.  Of course, it's only a few weeks until Jody will have her calf, and I'll go through the same routine all over again.  
Why?  Because I love Jersey cows.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Plumbers we're not

I hope all the following makes sense, since I don't know what the various parts of a faucet are called.
About three days ago, the plastic sprayer thing at my kitchen sink broke at the base.  Since that's what was holding the base with the faucets in place, the whole mess was moving around when I swiveled the faucet from the right sink to the left one.  It was a cheap faucet, as you might have figured out.  Cliff looked it over; I told him I could live with it like that for a few days if necessary.  Yesterday he bought a new sprayer thingie, planning to put it in the hole in the base where the old one was.  
When I got up this morning I decided to dip some pretzels in almond bark before Cliff got up.  I'm always up two or three hours ahead of him, and I planned to do quite a bit of Christmas cooking and baking today.  I was finishing dipping pretzels when he got up.  We ate breakfast and went on our walk.  Back at the house, Cliff decided to fix the faucet.
The sprayer he bought wasn't really made to be put on the base like the old one was, so Cliff rigged it.  He spend a couple of hours working on it and thought he had everything working, but later I checked and found out there was a leak under the sink.  Back to square one.  
I have learned that when Cliff is doing something like this, I mustn't hover.  He hates this sort of job anyway, and if I stay in the room with him I get on his nerves by suggesting things he might try (when I have no idea what I'm talking about), or worse yet, suggesting that maybe we should call a plumber.  I do, however, stay within earshot and let him know I am standing by in case he needs a hand.  
I realized around 1 P.M. that there would be no baking done today.  
He made a trip to the nearest town and bought got the whole rig this time:  New faucets, new handles.  Brought it home and found out the ends didn't connect properly to what was already here.  Another trip to buy fittings that would make it work.  Now the strayer thingie is not a part of the faucet base; it's in a separate hole.  I actually like that a lot better.  
I think everything may be working.  Cliff thought there was a slight leak at one place, but I have a container under it and so far haven't seen anything.  What we have decided is to make do for now; if it does have a leak, we will probably call a plumber after Christmas.  If it had been a weekday, I think Cliff would have called one today, but we're sure they charge more on weekends.  
Anyway.  Our marriage is intact, whether our plumbing is or not.  And as I told a friend on Facebook, I would say we had a terrible day except that nobody is sick and we have a warm place to live.  So in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't such a bad day.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Blizzard conditions

Not a lot of snow, but the wind is blowing like crazy, fifty miles an hour and more.  Since I was busy baking an apple pie, I sent Cliff out with the camera.  

Cliff's brother at Higginsville was going to come and spend the day with Cliff in the shop, which is why I was baking a pie; unfortunately he got stuck before he ever got out of his mile-long driveway.  Oh well, Cliff, his sister Rena, and I will do our best to eat the pie.

There are tracks leading into that calf hutch.

Hi, George and Gracie!  It's a little crowded in there, but at least you are out of the wind.  

It took my daughter three-and-a-half hours to get to work this morning.  Cliff's sister got halfway to work, gave up, and came back home.  It's a mess.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I cried for an hour yesterday morning

A friend got a good deal on fifty pounds of onions last week and shared the bounty with me.  I believe I brought home five three-pound bags.  I chopped a bag and a half to put in the freezer, then decided that was enough crying for one day.  
this is a gallon bag
A while back I saw what I considered a good buy online.  It was a Cuisinart ice cream freezer that makes one quart of ice cream.  It's on for $50, but I got it for $30 including free shipping.    
Do you see the ice cream inside?  I love home-made ice cream, but if I make a gallon of it, I eat most of said gallon:  NOT what the doctor ordered.  So this baby is just the right size, as long as I don't use it too often.  It works like a charm, giving me ice cream in twenty minutes.  Since I always have fresh milk and cream courtesy of Bonnie-the-Jersey-cow, there is no problem finding the ingredients needed.  I simply took my old tried-and-true recipe and divided it by 1/4.  Oh, it was SO good!  
Today is our big monthly shopping day.  I imagine it will be a mess, with Christmas so close at hand.  Wish me and the other one-fourth of senior citizens on Social Security who are shopping today good luck!  I get my piddly little Social Security money on the second Wednesday of the month; Cliff's is in the bank on the third Wednesday, and it burns a hole in my pocket until I get every bill paid and all the grocery shopping done.  
I notice our electric bill has gone down more than 30% since we sold the hot tub.  The savings is especially noticeable now that the weather is turning colder.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We all have a right to our opinions

First of all, if you are not on Facebook, you don't know the seasonal craziness that goes on there sometimes.  Each day I see about fifty different posts from people who insist NOBODY is going to stop them from saying Merry Christmas; these people seem to have chips on their shoulders, as though they want to fight about it.  I find this peculiar, since nobody has ever tried to stop me from saying Merry Christmas.  It must be happening in other parts of the country.  
Today I saw this posted:

Somehow I think there are a lot more important things Jesus misses, but I could be wrong.  You know, things like loving your neighbor instead of yelling at him because he says happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas?  After all, the word Christmas isn't even in the Bible.  Nowhere in scriptures are we told to celebrate Jesus' birth.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas as much as the next person.  I have my little nativity set right there under the tree as usual.  I even have the wise men worshipping Jesus in the manger, although the Bible seems to indicate they didn't find him until he was between one and two years old, and living in a house.   Matthew 2:11 "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him..."
Nobody knows how many wise men there were, either.  We only know three gifts were mentioned.  

Now, this next Facebook find is one I totally agree with.  I hate that it doesn't give the person's name who said it, as I don't like to use quotes without giving credit to the author (knowing how Facebook works, I am surprised somebody didn't credit Morgan Freeman with saying it).  However, it struck such a chord with me that I am going to use it anyhow.  If anyone can find out who said, or wrote, the following, please let me know.

I hope this doesn't offend any of my readers.  I don't expect everybody to agree with me, I just had to get it off my chest.

Dear CenturyLink

Well folks, I am still chugging along at three Mbps, the same speed I've had ever since we moved back here behind the barn.  The service guy (nice fellow) seemed relieved that I really never expected to get 10 Mbps.  He checked everything out, did his best, and then called in to change us back to our original plan:  DSL and a phone we can't call out on.  
I told him when he came to the door that I was pretty sure that kind of Internet speed was impossible here.  He agreed, saying there would have to be a lot of lines changed around for things to improve.  
A friend recently told me she was surprised we can get DSL out here at all, so I just thank my lucky stars for what I have.  
The sales people for CenturyLink need to stop selling a product that they cannot deliver.  A lot of people wouldn't be as easy to get along with as I was, and who are they going to yell at?  Not the person on the phone who dangled the impossible carrot in front of their noses, but the guy who comes to the house and has to break the news to them that somebody lied.  
And while I'm at it, CenturyLink, don't you think $65 a month is a pretty high price to pay for 3 meager Mbps?  How about a senior discount or something?  Anything?  
Never mind.  Just tell your sales representatives to stop selling something you can't deliver.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The sound of silence

After the tragedy in Connecticut last Friday, I found no reason to blog.  There was no motivation.  I did not, and still do not, intend to address the whole matter at all:  it has been paraded and discussed ad nauseam  by the media folks who refuse to get out of that town and leave the grieving families to mourn in peace.  Let's just say that my Internet silence was my way of honoring those children.  
That is the only mention of these horrific events that you will see on this blog, because honestly, I do not feel worthy or qualified to discuss the situation.  All I can do is pray for those people, and for the state of the world.

Last week I called CenturyLink to complain about my poor Internet speed.  After talking with the tech for a few minutes, I decided I should leave well enough alone and just be thankful for what I have.  But then he dangled a carrot in front of me:  "Did you know that we are offering a package that includes 10 Mbps (whatever that is) for only $5 more than you are now paying?  And this includes unlimited long distance on your phone."  
I explained to the guy that we are far back from the road, and when we moved back here, they were unable to give me any more than 3 Mbps.  
Oh, but now they supposedly can, and they were going to check the lines out this way and do it today, Monday.  I was going to have over three times the speed to which I am accustomed.  Wow, bring it on!  
This evening I noticed my Internet speed was about 50 more Mbps than usual.  Yeah, less than four Mbps.  My phone worked just fine, though, and I could call long distance numbers.  Big deal.  We have cell phones for that.   
I called customer service and after waiting on hold for about ten minutes, a very nice fellow came on to assist me.  
There's a line problem.  
Someone will be out tomorrow.  
I tried to tell them it wouldn't work out here in the boonies, but we'll see.   I'll let you know how it turns out.    

Friday, December 14, 2012

Around here: calves and tractors

Cliff's work on the 550 Oliver continues:

Of course Iris has to be in the picture

The baby calves I used to bottle feed are growing up.  I keep them in a pen by themselves all night, so they have all the alfalfa hay they want without having to fight the big guys for it.  
After all, they are still my babies.  I give them two large coffee cans full of sweet feed once a day, but on the 17th, when they are three months old, that will be cut back to one can.  As long as they have all the alfalfa hay they can eat, they should do just fine.

When I turn them out to run with the herd in the morning, they hurry to the in-ground waterer and get a huge drink.  Thankfully, they discovered this source of hydration three days ago, so I no longer have to carry water to them in freezing temperatures.  

The only reason I don't leave the babies out with the herd twenty-four hours a day is that when the hay in the hay-ring gets low, it's hard for small calves to reach it.  Since Annie still gets milk from her mother, I hope she gets enough nourishment.  I doubt she gets over a quart of milk a day, if that.  I'm pretty sure Babe doesn't give much, even for a beef cow, because when Annie was born she spent way more time at the teat than is normal; I think she was trying to get more milk than was there.  She's growing pretty well; she just doesn't have much extra meat on her bones.   
That hay-ring is badly beat up, so we are going to buy a new one today.  This old one is made for horses; we'll buy a cattle ring this time; it will stand up to the abuse better.  It will likely be a better-built, too, since we're getting it from M.F.A. instead of Orscheln's.  

The cats, having their breakfast this morning.  I should fill that empty water bowl, but they seem to prefer water from other sources anyhow.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Meat for the table

I've been reading "Slaughterhouse:  The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the Meat Industry".  I can see why some people turn vegetarian.  This book is about current conditions.  The USDA is useless.  The government is useless.  Everybody turns his head while people and animals suffer atrocities in these places.  Someone asked me, "Why would you read a book like that?"  
"Because I want to know what might end up on my table," I answered.  

This is the roast we are having for dinner.

This is Clyde, the animal the roast came from.  Clyde had a wonderful life, living on his mother's rich milk and our green pasture until the morning he died.  He was never given hormones or antibiotics.  He never had to live in a crowded feedlot.  

Clyde was butchered just a mile from home, and I'm pretty sure he didn't have to suffer the atrocities that most cattle and hogs do, in the huge facilities that process the meat for this country.  

Today I am very thankful for our forty-plus acres and for Bonnie-the-Jersey-cow, who provides us with both milk and meat.  

I don't understand cats

Dogs, you know, are such an easy study.  If they do that little stretch-bowing thing, they want out, or they want to go for a walk.  If they want to play, they bring you sticks and balls.  Pet them and they are ecstatic.  There is a reason for everything a dog does, right down to rolling in carrion.  
But cats?  There is no one-fits-all description.
When I was a little girl I had several cats at different times.  One even slept with me, and woke me up if she wanted to go out in the middle of the night.  I think she's the one that had kittens in a basket of clean laundry.  Anyhow, back then all cats seemed friendly and normal.  None of them rejected my affection.
Either I was missing something, or I have changed.  Or cats have.
I have three neutered (and spayed) barn cats.

There's Jake, the male.  He has gotten so huge he can barely get through the openings in the milking barn where the cats come and go.  He seems friendly enough until you reach down to pet him; then he rolls on his back and exposes his belly.  If you start to rub his belly, he attacks your hand with teeth and claws.  And do NOT stroke his back while he is eating his breakfast.  I have no idea why he has this attitude.

There's Suzy, who is so wily I can't even get a closeup picture of her, although I will admit things happened to her in the past that would make anybody suspicious.  Don't ask.  Anyway, if I have lots of time to spare, I can sit on a hay-bale in the barn and say "kitty kitty" over and over for twenty minutes, she might deign to come over and rub against my leg; if I move my hand toward her very slowly, she might allow me to stroke her.

My friendliest cat is the mother of the above-mentioned felines.  If I had immediately taken her in after she was abandoned by former neighbors, she would have been a cuddly, friendly cat.  However, I didn't want a mangy cat around climbing my screens and spraying my porch, so I ran her off.  She and her scrawny, stunted kittens lived on field mice and whatever she could scrounge out of our trash barrel.  Her life was not an easy one.
Once I realized what a huntress she was, I switched tactics and started feeding her.  The sickly kittens she had at the time didn't make it, but she did.  She had once been a little girl's pet, so she would let me pet her and pick her up at times, but she was wary.  She remembered the times I had hissed at her and run her off the porch or out of the barn.

Obviously it hasn't kept her off the porch, but now that I know she isn't going to climb on my window screens and tear them up, I don't mind.  Why do cats always want to sit in my chair?  And if I leave a coat outside, why do they assume it is their own personal bed?  Cats assume too much, in my opinion.  
Mama Kitty takes a walk with us every day, which I think is rather sweet.  She goes up and down every hill, turning around when we do; she goes the whole two miles or more.  Sometimes she runs ahead of us just so she can lay down and roll in front of us.  Why?  Does it feel good to stretch and contort her body along the ground?  For that matter, why would she want to go for a walk?

Why do they do what they do?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The people I saw in concert last night

Here's our group at the concert:  In front is Lacey, who secured our tickets.  Left to right in back:  Christine, Me, and Anne, who drove us there.  It was fun.

A night out on the town

Yesterday forenoon a Facebook friend messaged me and said her neighbor had four tickets to see "The Acoustic Christmas Show".  The neighbor and her daughter were going, but that left two tickets.  Christine was invited, and she invited me along.  "I'll come and pick you up," she said.  
My first impulse was to say No, thank you.  I enjoy my evening routine:  The sun sets, I shower and put on my jammies and watch whatever we have recorded to DVR with Cliff.  I turn in between 9 and 10.  In fact, when this routine is broken, I have been known to whine about it.
I'm a stick in the mud, but I enjoy the rut I'm in.  However, I asked myself how many chances I get to do something like that and took her up on the offer.  I told her Cliff would take me to her house, so that would save her one trip.  
The show was free for anybody; all you had to do was take a new, unwrapped toy for the Salvation Army to give to children as Christmas gifts.  Because one of the ladies we were going with had won tickets, we didn't have to take toys, but the lady with the tickets took lots of them anyhow.  
The most recent country singer I have really cared about was Travis Tritt, and he was a has-been by the year 2000.  However, I did know a little bit about some of the performers on the stage.  Big and Rich, for instance:  Who hasn't heard "Ride a Horse, Save a Cowboy"?  Never really cared for their style, but hey, we're talking about a free show.  

After seeing them?  They are SO funny!  The show last night was laid-back, and yes, pretty much acoustic.  There was much story-telling between all the performers and some good-natured ribbing.  Imagine a few country singers sitting around the fireplace in one of their own homes, swapping stories and singing songs.  That's what it felt like, except for a few inebriated people in the audience around me.  But then if it had been taking place in one of their homes, I imagine there would have been a few drinks passed around, too. 

 The only other of the performers I had heard of was Kix Brooks, formerly of Brooks and Dunn.  He was my favorite of the evening.  Not only is he talented, but he comes off as being a really nice guy.  Yeah, I liked him a lot. 

 Randy Houser was there.  Never heard of him in my life, but he is talented and cute.  Had this not been so spur-of-the-moment,  I would have contacted my daughter ahead of time.  She could have told me a little about these modern country singers; I'm still living back in the Johnny Cash/Merle Haggard era, myself.   

And then there was Tyler Farr, a young man from Garden City, Missouri, who was simply overwhelmed to be sitting on the same stage with the other performers.
You can see a few pictures from the show HERE.  

Yes, my hum-drum routine was interrupted   I'm sleepy this morning.  But it was a good time!
Thanks, Christine, for thinking of me.   

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Charity Navigator

Folks, if I sat down and made a list of the ways Meesha has influenced me, you would be amazed.  He's shared recipes that are now a regular part of our cousine.  He has told me several ways to save money.
The biggest contribution he has made to our lives out here in the boonies is mighty peculiar, because he is the reason (in a roundabout way) we opted for cremation rather than traditional burial, although he never mentioned the word "cremation".   He once did a blog entry entitled "Bury Me Like a Jew", which got me thinking about the needless expense of funerals.  My first thought, after reading his entry, was that Cliff and I should be buried like Jews, because there is no embalming and no fancy casket.  Money saved!  That set me on an Internet search that ended with mine and Cliff's decisions to be cremated.  But that isn't what this entry is about.  

I mentioned here on my blog that I wished there were a way to find out which charities can be trusted.  Meesha gave me the answer:  Charity Navigator.  This site will tell you how much money actually goes to the cause to which you are giving, how much goes to administrative expenses, and so forth.  If you set up an account there, you can group your favorite charities and actually donate to them through Charity Navigator; I just did this today with the tiny little sum of money we chose to give.  If you do it that way, Navigator gets a little contribution too.  
Charity Navigator rates the charities, giving them from one to four stars.  If an organization has less than four stars, I don't give to them; this means we don't donate to Salvation Army, which only has three; don't take that personally, it's just my choice.  
I always talk things over with Cliff before I donate because, after all, it's his money too.  This year we agreed to divide our donation between the following:
Breast (because my daughter had breast cancer this year)
Lung Cancer Alliance (for my bloggie friend Margaret, who lost her husband a few days ago)
City Union Mission (it's always been my favorite charity; I even wrote a song about them once.)

Those last two are local organizations; it's nice to keep one's donated money close to home.  If I had only had $10 to give, I would have divided it between these four charities this year.  If ten thousand people donated $2.50 to a worthy cause, it would be enough to make a big difference.  This year we can spare more than $10.  We are blessed.  But I think many people feel like their tiny little drop in the bucket isn't enough to help anybody.  
Don't let that stop you from giving to the charity of your choice.  Giving feels good, and every little bit helps.       

Monday, December 10, 2012


When I discovered the AOL Christian Senior chat room in 1998, I had no idea how much the people I met there would change my life.  Never in a million years would I have thought I would be flying to other parts of the country to meet these Internet people.  At that point I had never even been on a commercial airplane.  
Because it was a "senior" chat room, most of us are not spring chickens; some of us have died.  My Arkansas friend, Lona, and a Tennessee buddy, Virginia, are gone.  Cliff and I were guests in both their homes.  Those ladies were the cream of the crop, and I will never forget them.    
You know how it is when you move, or leave a job where you've worked for a long time:  You swear you will keep in touch with your longtime friends, but as time goes by you totally lose touch.  It's been that way with a lot of my chat room friends, although thanks to Facebook, some of us have resurrected our friendships and renewed our ties.  

   Dear Lord, I wish I was still that skinny!  But I digress.  The ladies on either side of me in this picture are from Buffalo, New York.  I think this picture was taken at the get-together in Dallas, Texas.  On the left is another Donna, whose chat name was Pepsi.  My AOL screen name was Mo2773, so my chat name was Mo.  On the right is Maria, AKA Gardone.  She is 100% Italian, and a spitfire of a lady.  She is one of the most giving people I have ever met.  
Maria was a rare bird in the Christian chat room, being Catholic.  There were a few folks who wanted to show her the error of her ways and "convert" her.  She never let them bother her.  
At our chat reunions, Maria and I were the first ones awake each day, so we'd drink coffee and keep one another company until others awoke.  
Maria tried Facebook for a brief time, but had a bad experience there when someone hacked her account and put some nasty stuff on her wall.  She left and never returned, and I lost touch with her.  At some time in the past few months, I got a Facebook friend request from some Donna person and I asked, "Do I know you?"  It was Pepsi!  So we renewed our friendship.  She asked if I knew that Maria had recently been in the hospital for a long time, practically at death's door.  There had been doubts whether she would survive, but she made it.  Hey, I'm not surprised.  She always was a scrappy little lady.  
I emailed her then, and she replied, saying, "Let's keep in touch."  
I'm awful at keeping in touch.  I sure wish she hadn't had that bad experience on Facebook.  
Yesterday I was searching the Internet for some way to use the ricotta cheese I made and found a recipe for gnocchi that listed it as one of the ingredients.  Having no idea what gnocchi was, I searched further and found that most of the recipes did not call for ricotta.  Many of them used potatoes.  One recipe warned that the dumpling-like things might fall apart when you put them in the boiling water.  (I'm probably losing my readers at this point, because who cares about the stupid gnocchi, right?)  I didn't want to waste my time on something that was going to be ruined before I tasted it.  
Then I thought of Maria!  She was always talking about the authentic Italian dishes she loved to make, so I emailed her.  She replied.  Of COURSE she has a family recipe, and can give me advice.  
That's about as far as this story goes, really.  I do still have a lot of my old chat friends on Facebook; they will enjoy this walk down memory lane with me.  The good thing is that I get to introduce my readers to Maria while she is still alive.  I will leave you with one more picture, placed here for the enjoyment of my chat room friends:

  Look!  That's Tex on the right.  Remember Tex?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Still making cheese

I have a good feeling about the cheddar cheese I made yesterday.  I think I will try it again today.  You are supposed to wait over a month to sample it, so I need to have plenty... that's IF it turns out right.  I have the special thermometers required for cheese-making now, and I feel more confident.  
Now I have ricotta draining; it's made from the whey that's a byproduct of making any cheese.  
All this cheese activity reminded me of something from my childhood.  
Every year the box-making plant where my dad worked would give us a little gift set at Christmas with all kinds of cheeses I had never heard of.  My parents turned up their noses at these strange little packets of cheese from foreign lands, some of it made from goat milk.  
Not me!  I loved sampling all the different flavors, and I had them all to myself. 
I think Cliff got some of these gift cheese assortments several years ago too, from his employer.  Those were fancier, though, with crackers and summer sausage included, and even a cute little jar of exotic mustard.  Cliff enjoyed them too, so we shared the goodies.  
That's your random Christmas memory for today.  
About the previous entry:  I know it is graphic, but because this is in my neck of the woods, I want to get the word out about what is going on.  One person left a comment saying she didn't find the woman credible, and she could be right.  The trouble is, these things are swept under the rug all the time.  I recently read the book "Damaged" (another freebie).  It's a true story that takes place in England.  That woman took in a child that nobody else could deal with.  In the end the truth was found out:  Not only her father, but her mother and various relatives and other pedophiles had molested her in the worst possible ways.  Nobody wanted to find out the truth, including the social worker.  It was just too much trouble and there weren't enough people who even cared to find out the truth.  
I would rather err on the side of caution.    

Saturday, December 08, 2012

This is rough stuff, not for children

This woman lives in my county.  I am sick after watching this.

The picture I missed

This is not the picture I intended to take.  I noticed all my cows, as well as Adam's two horses, were out on the point, some lying down and some up, grazing.  From a distance I noticed Gracie, the little heifer in the foreground, snuggled up against another cow.  That's what I thought, until I got closer and realized Adam's quarter horse, Tude, was laying with his head up, and that's who Gracie was snuggled up against.  That isn't even normal!  I hurried to get the camera out of my pocket; I wanted evidence of this.
And just as I turned on the camera, Tude decided to roll, as horses do.  He practically rolled over on Gracie!
Gracie jumped up and ran a short distance away, wondering what happened.  I was laughing so hard.
But I missed the picture I was going to take.  Not only that, I missed getting a picture of Tude almost rolling on Grace.  
All I can do is show you this pathetic shot I took after all the action was over and all I can do is tell you what happened twenty seconds before I took it.  But if you know cows and horses, and how they interact as well as I do, you probably don't believe me.  I'm not even sure I believe me.  
Maybe I dreamed it.

The mystery of the house next door and other meanderings

After several days with few visitors at the vacant house, suddenly it is a beehive of activity.  This leads me to believe that indeed, someone has purchased it.  This picture was taken today.      

For the past few days I have been working at teaching my two-and-a-half-month-old bottle calves what it means to be part of a herd, and how it feels to roam around on thirty-plus acres.  They are too young to toss out there full-time, but they can start learning.  Already they have learned that electric fence is liable to be found anywhere on the place, and after running through it twice, they now avoid it.  They have learned to give Babe, the big Hereford, a wide berth; she has a low tolerance for young whippersnappers not related to her.  I wanted them to learn to keep their distance from from Adam's horses, but Tude and Sassy have surprised me:  For some reason, they let the two babies hang out with them in peace.  Maybe they know Christmas is coming and figure Santa would want them to be nice to babies.  Speaking of Adam's two horses, notice my new header picture in which you can see Sassy showing off as she runs to greet Tude.   

George and Gracie, the two former bottle babies, are on the left.  I turn them out after daylight and keep my eye on them.  If the herd wanders off without them, I go out and encourage them to join the group.  In the early evening I call them to the house, feed them sweet feed, and shut them in where they have their own private supply of hay with nobody to push them around.  George's rear end looks tacky, but he isn't sick, he's just been eating grass all day every day.  As you can see, Bonnie and Crystal are doing just fine.  
I am trying my hand at making cheese again.  Things went better this time; I gave the rennet an hour longer to work than I did yesterday, and it set up nicely.  
If you have a Nook, or a Nook app, or if you read Nook books on your computer, I finally found out there are lots of free ebooks for it:  Just go to Barnes and Noble's website, go to the search feature for Nook books, and type in 0.00; you will find hundreds, maybe thousands, of free books.  You can find free books for Kindle at  You need to check often, because some of them are only free for a short time.  I just finished reading Francesca of Lost Nation, set in Iowa in the 1940's.  One of the best free books ever!  I did have a slight problem with the fact that the country folks in the book had indoor bathrooms, since everybody I knew in Iowa as a kid had outdoor toilets.  Even schools and churches had outhouses!  I overlooked that little shortcoming, though, because the author did a great job of making me love the main characters so much that I was sad when the book ended.  
I mentioned recently reading "The Jungle", a book that changed the way meat was handled just after the turn of the century.  Well, this morning in the process of reading a freebie book, "Accidental Farmers", I was lured into actually paying for an ebook called "Slaughterhouse:  The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry".  Guess what, folks?  There is still a lot of work to be done in the meat industry.  Maybe Cliff and I will just keep on eating meat we have raised ourselves.      
Well isn't this a meandering entry?  I had better quit before I go off on yet another tangent.  Besides, I have books to finish.   

Friday, December 07, 2012

My mother's hope chest, revisited

A few months ago I mentioned getting rid of stuff.  One of the items I was going to do something with was my mother's hope chest, which was made for her by her dad when she was a teenager.  It had been stored in the barn for years.  I had made a feeble, very unsuccessful attempt to remove the varnish, which only put the poor thing in worse shape.  In 2010 I did an entry about it, with pictures, HERE.  
My children are not sentimental about family mementoes passed down from people they never knew.  I have no skills or patience at working with furniture... I'm the person who doesn't even bother to decorate her home.  I sort of camp out wherever I live and I am perfectly happy that way.  I was going to pay someone to restore the chest to its former glory, but once Cliff retired, we didn't have extra funds for that.  
A cousin in Iowa read my entry last summer and emailed me, saying that if nobody else wanted the chest, she would take it.  I was so happy to know this piece of furniture, made by my grandfather's hands, would stay in the family.  Pauline has several children, so there is a good chance it will be in the family for more generations.  She sent me an email to let me know what she has done so far, and to tell me of the plans she has for this treasure.

Here's what she had to say about the project:  
"I am glad that I have the chest pretty well sanded.  I still have to work on a couple of the legs and a couple spots on the top.  I have decided to use wood pegs to attach the legs.  And won't put the wheels back on.  The lid is still a challenge.  I think we will have to shim around the edges of the top of the chest or possibly even turn the lid upside down.  I couldn't believe how many nails were in those legs.  Just taking them off was a challenge.  But it is starting to look good.  Our oldest son, Jeff made a cedar chest when he was in high school, about 32 years ago.  Since we save almost everything, I still had some pieces of cedar left.  Now the question becomes, Where did I put it?  It took me a couple days to find, as I had moved it from the store room to the basement and finally to an out building in a barrel.  After looking in the first two places my memory finally kicked in and I was able to find it.  So I got the boards cut and are ready to lay in the bottom of the chest.  I have enough that I could line the sides, but I don't think I will." 

 So the chest is saved for future generations.  I'm happy, and glad I have a cousin industrious and talented enough to tackle this project.  Cliff and I laughed at her comment about the nails, because we are pretty sure one of my parents was responsible for that.  I think the legs fell off and they just nailed them back on any which way.    

The perils of cheese-making

I have attempted to make hard cheese no more than a half-dozen times.  Once it actually looked and tasted like real cheese, similar to cheddar.  Except it wasn't yellow.  You have to add coloring if you want yellow cheese.  Another time it turned out to be a dry, crumbly cheese similar to Feta, and was very good used in salad even though it was supposed to be a hard cheese like Cheddar.  The other three or four times, it was a total flop.  
I have played around with this cheese-making process enough to halfway know what the curds should look like before you start heating them.  
Yesterday afternoon I relieved Bonnie of her excess milk, brought it in and strained it, and poured it into a large stainless steel pan.  I inoculated it with 1/4 cup of store-bought buttermilk, covered it with a towel, and let it set undisturbed until this morning.  First thing when I got up, I dissolved half a rennet tablet in 1/4 cup water, stirred it into the milk, and let it sit for another hour.  Then I cut the curd.  I was supposed to end up with 1/2 inch curds, but for some reason the curds broke up into smaller bits and I knew I had another flop on my hands.  Oh well, chickens love any sort of failed cheese product.  I decided to taste the mess, anyhow, just to see.  
It tasted like cottage cheese!  Well hey, even though I did not use the proper recipe for cottage cheese, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck...    

I don't know why there is a yellowish cast to this picture.  The colander and the curds are actually white.  So I washed the curds in cold water a few times.  They are draining right now, as you see in the picture.  All I have to do is add a little cream.  I may have cottage cheese with canned pears for breakfast.   
If I get a full gallon of milk from Bonnie again, I guess I will try for hard cheese again tomorrow.