Saturday, June 29, 2013

Something I recall from when I was five years old

My parents and I would have lived in Iowa when this was taken.  My cousin, Frances (the one on the right holding her sister), and I were five years old.  The kids with me are my dad's youngest brother's children.  I'm the third from the left.  We're all squinting in the sun, obviously, so I don't think we look our best.  
Here's what I remember about our visit up there:  That baby on the left was an easy-going child, and when I got to hold her (I was five, remember), I thought it was a big deal.  Not only that, but as I held her she went to sleep, and I took the credit for putting her to sleep.  We are, I believe, sitting in the yard of Aunt Helen's mother Ardis in Harlem (Kansas City, not New York City).
We went in Ardis' house where there was a record player.  Someone, I think Uncle Cecil, stood Irene on a kitchen chair right beside that record player and played a record, "Irene, Good Night" by the Weavers.  It was quite a hit back then.  Little Irene stood there smiling hugely through the whole song.

Notice a VERY YOUNG Pete Seeger in this video.  He is in his 90's now.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Singing a song

Thirty-five years ago I wrote a song about a friend, RuthAnn, with whom I worked at the local orchard.  She and I worked near one another much of the time, and we talked a lot as we were grading apples.  She told me little snippets of her life, past and (then) present.  I heard a lot of her opinions... for instance, I remember that she just didn't think a storefront church was proper.  I don't know why stuff like that sticks in my brain, but it does.  She was the kind of person you don't forget, once you've met her.  She told me how to make hamburger soup/stew, which I still cook during cold weather.    
A couple of years back we connected on Facebook and got talking about a song I wrote about her all those years ago.  I dug around and found the words, typed them off, and sent her they lyrics.  
She said she sure would like to hear me sing her song.  
I told her that I would record it at some point in the future and put it on Youtube, and I even set out to do it once.  Having not sung the song for so many years, every time I'd start recording myself singing it, I'd mess up and have to start over.  Then the camera battery would die and I'd forget about it.  
Today I decided I had better record her song or I'll end up croaking and she'll never hear it again.  So I got out the guitar and went through it a couple of times.  
Trouble is, some of the words needed to be updated.  
"Horses are her fancy now and she rides all the time" needed to be changed, because she only has one ancient horse on the place and doesn't ride now.  I changed the line to "Grandkids are her pleasure now.  She likes 'em mighty fine."  
Another line went "She says that she'll breathe easier when all her kids are grown..." which became "She surely does breathe easier with all her children grown."  
With those changes in place, I figured my chances of getting through the entire song before the fifth or sixth recording attempt were slim, and by then the camera battery would die.  Surprisingly, on the second attempt, I got it.  I watched the video to the end to see if it sounded all right; considering I'm no pro, it was OK.  But at the end, as I strummed my last strum, the look of surprise on my face was so evident that I had to laugh, I mean REALLY laugh.  I'm still laughing, and Cliff watched it and laughed too.  I tried just taking a still shot of my face at that point to put on this entry, but you have to see it in action.  Maybe sometime I will just edit out the end and show it.  Or maybe I will get up enough nerve to put the whole thing on here for a day or so, and then delete it.  
I'm not using Youtube to share it, because there are many critics in this world, and I am already my own worst critic.  I'm using Vimeo, where I can control the privacy just fine.  Another disadvantage of Youtube is that in order to watch a video you must have a Google account.  I know lots of folks who want nothing to do with Google.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A word I shouldn't use

And hopefully won't, hereafter.  
Cliff, making conversation as we pulled out of Quiktrip: "That woman that pulled out of here is driving with one hand, and in the other hand she has a great big donut she's eating." 
Me: "I didn't see her; is she fat?"
Cliff: "Heck yeah."
Me, as we started to pull around the lady: "Wow, even her wrists are fat!" 
Silence, and then
Me: "Oh, how judgmental one can be after only six months of counting calories."
::Laughter at ourselves ensues::

This is a slice of our life from this morning.  
First of all, note the "holier-than-thou" attitude toward someone eating a donut.  Thirty-eight pounds ago, you could have called me fat.  In fact, several years back when I had gained a considerable amount of weight, my mom and I drove up to see Aunt Ruby.  The first thing Mother said when we walked in the door was, "Look how fat Donna has gotten."  
It hurt.  
From now on I am going to try and reserve that word for dogs and cattle and other creatures that don't know what "fat" means.  Yes, even if I am talking about a stranger in a passing car who doesn't know what I'm saying.  
When I'm with my husband, I do reserve the right to be "impolitically correct" sometimes.  But to put a label on someone that would have described me, only six months ago, is just wrong, and hurts me as much as anybody.  It says I don't think I was as worthy a person when I was overweight.  

Another word we shouldn't use, and an explanation, sort of.  Where I grew up there were no people of color for miles around.  The only black people I ever saw were in the movies, usually portrayed negatively:  likable and funny, but not too bright.  Many people used the "N" word in Iowa at one time or another, although I never heard anybody say anything specifically negative about black people because we didn't know any.  When we played ring-around-the-rosie, pockets-full-of-posie, the last line was, "Last one down's a n----- baby."  
It wasn't intended as a slur or a put-down, it was just a word in a game.  Probably if we had had neighbors of color at that time, we would have used another version of the game, the one that ended with, "Allie-allie in free".  But of course white people didn't have black neighbors then, did they?  Their children didn't even go to school together.
I don't know how old I was when I stopped using that word, but I'll bet it was before I was ten.  Mostly I used the word "colored", which was the term my parents always used anyhow.  At that time, that was considered the polite terminology, and I believe remained so until the sixties, when "Black is beautiful" came into play.  You can't believe how hard it was for me to switch to the word black, because it somehow seemed derogatory, don't ask me why.  It's hard to change something that is ingrained in a person.  I guess the best term now is African-American, but that's so many syllables!  It takes so long to say!  
As for the Paula Deen brouhaha, I like the perspective of Patrick from Patrick's Place.    

I'm so excited! (new neighbor update)

Our new neighbors have moved in, and they have made so many positive changes to the place, I can't even count them all.  This week dirt was hauled in, load after load, for two or three days, so a large area could be made level for a shed.  The new neighbor is a farmer, and he needs a place to put his equipment.  We have watched with interest, and now we can tell just exactly what a huge shed it will be.  It is going to stand where the original house was on that property, the one that burned.  
Plants and shrubs have been planted around the house, and there are piles of dirt that I'm sure will be used to level up the immediate yard around the house.  I'll bet grass will be planted this fall and the weedy dirt yard will be transformed.
We thought it was crazy that they took two of the useless dormers off, one on the front and one on the back of the house, because at first it made the house look so unbalanced.  Believe it or not, they came up with a way to balance things out so it looks just fine.  
The new neighbors have pets!  One Great Dane named Henry and a smaller dog that looks like a long-haired Dachshund.  Iris and Henry met yesterday evening with both their humans watching from a distance.  It was love at first sight.  Oh yes, they have a cat, too.  I saw it sitting at the door looking up at the doorknob waiting to be let in.  All their pets seem to be house critters.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reminiscing: The Cornfield fire

Back when I bought my horse, Blue, I rode all over the countryside; but I especially liked riding down on the Missouri river-bottom ground.  I didn't have to worry about drivers speeding past us or honking.  Not that there is that much traffic on 224 highway, but down by the river it was just me and my horse, with nobody to bother us except the occasional farmer planting or harvesting or checking his crops.  I always had my camera along, a camera that wasn't nearly as good as the one I have now, so forgive the quality of these pictures.

In September of 2004, I was enjoying my ride as usual.  The corn appeared ready to harvest.  Now, one thing Blue would never do was go into a field of corn or weeds that was higher than his head.  I might get him a few yards in there, but pretty soon he would put it in rapid reverse and back out the way we came.  Which is just as well, since I'm sure farmers wouldn't appreciate us riding into the middle of their corn.

I liked to stop during our rides and admire the wide Missouri River.

As I was riding along the levee, I noticed smoke in the distance.  Strange.

Oh my!  I later found out that sparks from a pickup truck started this fire.

Our volunteer fire department was there.

It looked like a lost cause, and I wondered if their whole crop would be destroyed.  There was a large portion burnt and lost, but the fire was put out in time for most of the field of corn to be saved.

Smoky job, eh?

I have been wanting to do this post because I originally blogged about the cornfield fire when I was on AOL Journals, and I used AOL pictures to store the pictures for my entries.  When they closed down Journals and their photo-sharing, I was able to transfer the content of the blog to Blogger.  However, the pictures didn't make the trip.  I have been frantically searching for the pictures on my computer for days and finally found them, somehow wrongly filed under June, 2004 instead of September, 2004, when they were taken.
Blue and I had some memorable times.  After I passed this fire and headed up a hilly gravel road home, thinking I was done with the excitement, I heard a siren coming from town and knew I would be meeting a fire department vehicle on a road with very little room to move out of the way.  Not knowing how Blue would react to the excitement, I got off him, climbed as far up the bank as possible leading my horse with me, and crossed my fingers.  As the firetruck topped the hill the very wise driver saw us and turned off his siren, which I greatly appreciated.  I am adding a video that I made three years later, but it shows me riding Blue on the same road where we met the fire engine and you will hear me mention the cornfield fire.  If you watch it, you will see that in many places there's no room on either side of the road, with high banks on both the left and right that left me nowhere to go.  I think at about the 42 second mark is the spot where I was when I heard sirens coming.  

A little sidenote:  Our new next-door neighbor is a member of the family to whom that corn crop belonged, although I imagine he was a teenager when this occurred.  I mentioned it to him a while back, and if I understood him right, I believe he was there when I rode past.  When the stalks burned it left singed corn lying on the ground, and we got permission to pick up as much as we wanted.  Cliff and the neighbor boys gleaned enough for us to raise two hogs.  

Monday, June 24, 2013


Since we were in Oak Grove anyhow visiting my cousin and her husband, we went by to visit Helen, a lady who worked with Cliff at the butcher shop for many years.  I've blogged about  visiting with her before.  
Helen is like a second mother to Cliff, and I know she would gladly claim him as a son.  When we dropped in, she was in the lobby of the senior citizen apartment complex where she lives.  She had just finished playing Bingo with some other residents.  She was so excited to see us that tears came to her eyes, and she hugged the two of us for about five minutes.  
This little lady is ninety-five years old:  She has her own teeth (not the kind you buy, either), has better hearing without a hearing aid than Cliff does with one, and has a mind is as sharp as a tack.  Seriously, she has me beat on recalling names and places.  She does have health issues and uses a walker to get around, but seems to enjoy life to the fullest.  
We talked about old times and listened to her proudly tell about her children's and grandchildren's accomplishments.  Of course I had to tell her how Cliff scared me to death with his recent illness.  We talked about tractors, Cliff remembering how he rode on her late husband's big Oliver tractor one time.  
Every few minutes she would again tell us how happy she was to see us.  
An hour and a half later, we got up to go home.  Cliff gave her a hug, and she didn't turn him loose for five minutes.  Then I hugged her, and that took another five minutes.  She took my hand in her right hand and Cliff's in her left, and we stood there talking for another ten minutes.  She had tears in her eyes again, and we began to wonder if she was going to let us leave.  
We need to go visit her more often!  We do have a date to eat with her at the Senior Center, which is where she eats her noon meal every weekday.  It's only two dollars per person, and we are official senior citizens, after all.  She gave us the menu so Cliff could choose a day when they are serving mashed potatoes. All we have to do is let her know the day before we decide to join her, so she can let them know to cook enough for two more.  
It has really been a good day.

Hello there!

The Asiatic lilies are strutting their stuff
I haven't forgotten my blog, we just had a busy weekend.  Saturday we went to a tractor show at Adrian, Missouri, and yesterday we spent the day visiting with my cousin Gerald and his wife.  We rode around the countryside, yakking all the way, ate dinner shortly after noon at Ryan's, and just had a lovely time in general.  Gerald had been concerned about whether Cliff was recovering from his recent surgery, and we figured the best way to let him know was to show up in person.  He was a bit shocked when he found out we sold the motorcycle, but we assured him that we don't miss it, and are simply thankful that we enjoyed it so much for seven years without getting injured or killed.

When prices are reduced on annuals at the end of the season, I buy their odds and ends.
Cousins seem to mean more to us as we get older.  We're going to visit my cousin Betty and her husband this afternoon.  They are only a short distance away.  

I need to get back to my mowing, but I wanted to at least do a short blog entry while I was in here cooling off.  

This is the first year my Golden Rain Tree has bloomed.  I'll bet next year it will really show off.

OK, back to push-mowing my part of the yard.  I'll try to do a longer entry next time.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chicken therapy

Most evenings lately, I've been heading out to the chicken house around 7 PM, turning the chickens loose, and watching them enjoy life.  I have a lawn chair out there, so I can sit there and relax and watch the chickens.  

Before I turn them loose, I fetch the pet chick, Chickie, from her house so she can get acquainted and see what other chickens do.  By the way, the older hen isn't in this picture because, the minute I turn the flock out, she heads for the garden and takes a dust bath.  She doesn't hurt any plants.  She just chooses a nice, loose bed of dirt and digs in.  There she will stay until I make her join the others and head inside.  
If you have stress problems, let me recommend chicken therapy to you.  There is nothing more relaxing that watching a bunch of chickens peck at weeds, grass, and (if I choose to toss a handful out there), chicken scratch.  From my observations, it appears that chickens like Dock and white clover blossoms better than any other plants.
They have also learned to enjoy leftovers from our kitchen.  For instance, Cliff and I ate borscht for three days, but after that, there was still about a pint of it left.  I tossed some stale heels of bread in it along with some cantaloupe seeds, took it to the chickens, and they cleaned up every bit... once the hen, the elder of the flock, demonstrated that it was safe to eat.      

I enjoy Foursquare, an app that lets me check in at different locations.  If I have checked in at a particular location more than any of my Foursquare friends, I become mayor.  This evening I created a new location where I could check in:  The Chicken House.
This Foursquare thing was a lot more fun when my daughter and her husband were playing along, but I'm still checking in like crazy, just because I can.  I think I am about to steal all their mayorships, too.

My friend, Siri (A post about a post)

When I purchased my Ipad Mini, I looked forward to playing with Siri.  Lots of cell phones have versions of this little tool:  You push a button and these words show at the bottom of the screen: "What can I help you with?"  
You speak to your phone or device, telling it what you want to know, and the voice of Siri answers.  It's really fun to ask her silly questions and see what her answer is.  However, Siri can be very useful, if only I could remember to use her.  I can ask her to remind me of an event on a certain date, and she will do that.  Not only will she remind me on the Ipad, but also on my computer.  
Yesterday Cliff and I were running some errands and we got into a conversation about his pasture-mowing.  See, every morning when we walk, we go past a place at the edge of one of our canyons where, if a tractor were to back into it, it might possibly go rolling down the canyon wall.  The treacherous place is invisible in summer, camouflaged by brush and weeds.  Often Cliff will say, "One of these days I'm going to drive a steel post there so I won't end up in the ditch."  
He's been saying that for years.  
So we're in the car heading toward Higginsville yesterday and he mentioned mowing and I said, "Before you start mowing today, why don't you drive that post you're always talking about."  
"Now you know the chances of remembering that three hours from now are slim," he answered.  
That's when I remembered Siri, and said to her, "Remind us about the post at 10:30 AM."  
She agreed.  Of course, what I didn't realize was that it was already 9:30, so we wouldn't even be home at 10:30.  She did, however, dutifully remind us at the appointed time.  I figured since that was easy, I might as well have her remind me again, at a more appropriate hour.  
Unfortunately, she had a problem understanding me that time, so I just said, "Wake me up at 1 PM."  
That worked.  The alarm went off, I reminded Cliff about the post, and after all these years he finally put it in place.


At Church on Sundays, it seems the list of prayer requests gets longer and scarier every week.  The word "cancer" comes up a lot, and in many cases all you can do is pray for peace of mind for the family and a minimum of suffering for the person involved.  I realize this is where the atheists want to say, "Then what good does it do to pray?"  
Well, it does me a great deal of good, and it can't hurt for people to know they are in somebody's thoughts, and that they are being mentioned to God, by name, from time to time.  These days I pray for a relative whose cancer has returned.  I pray for a baby not yet born and her mother, who is having some problems with the pregnancy.  I pray for a local elderly person with heart failure who went to the hospital.  
And I pray for our daughter, who has hit a bump in the road in her recovery.  You can read about it HERE.  It could be so much worse, but I know she is discouraged.  You expect everything to go along smoothly and then out of left field, something unexpected happens.
That's how it was with Cliff's recent illness:  It was going to be so simple, a one-hour-long surgery, perhaps a night in the hospital, and he'd be home.  That turned into an eight-day hospital stay, with times when I honestly wondered if I was going to lose my husband and times, he says, when he didn't care if he died.  I logged on to our Medicare Plus website yesterday and noticed the total bills are over $200,000 now.  So far all the bills I've received have been small ones and I have paid them as they came.  I really wish I had already received every one of the bills, because I like to know what I'm dealing with.  I hate not knowing.  

Life goes on, throwing us a curve ball once in awhile.  Cliff is in the process of mowing the  whole place, just a little every day because he gets a stiff neck from looking back over his shoulder.  He has to do that because of our hills and hollers and timber:  Much of his mowing is done backing up.  
This is the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, and it's going to be a hot one with temperatures in the 90's.  I have been enjoying the weather, including the regular rains we've been receiving... although the weather-guessers say it's going to be dry now.  Thoughts of last years drought come to mind.  Orscheln's reduced the price on their six-packs of annual flowers and I bought some yesterday, even though they had seen better days, and put them in random empty spots in the flower beds.  In the garden, some things thrive and some don't.  I do have small tomatoes on the vines.  The peach crop this year will be small, thanks to a late snow we had when they were fully in bloom.  The strawberries are done.  
These are the thoughts on my mind this morning, as I take another step toward the grave.  Every day is a gift, and I pray my eyes will be open to see the blessings in front of me.        

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The things we don't blog about

Honestly, my BEST and MOST INTERESTING entries never get done, sometimes because they involve next-door neighbors, but more often because they would be about family.  Not Cliff or our children, by the way.  I don't express every opinion about them and/or their lives, but they are never a personal problem.  OK, except for Cliff when he has gas.  But as for the kids, they live their lives and I live mine.  
The next-door neighbor situation is looking up.  The neighbors to our southeast have been there for over a year:  they don't bother us and we don't bother them.  They have a teenager with a really noisy truck, and I have a cow that bawls every morning and probably wakes them up at 5 AM.  Welcome to the country.  Anyhow, I think we're good.  
The other neighbors, who will be moving in shortly, are amazing.  They have taken a neglected property and a house that was improperly built, and have totally made it over.  Once they are done and have grass growing and such, I will (with their permission) take a picture to share.  You won't believe the transformation.  
Cliff's favorite aunt is once again out of the hospital.  That asthma seems to send her back there almost once a month.  She's in her 80's, and I'm amazed she has made it this long.  When she's home, she still babysits.  
My sister, also in her 80's, has sold the house she and her husband had built in the early 60's and is moving to Kansas to be near her son.  She has already bought a house there.  You know what upsets me the most?  Her phone number has been the same since I was a teenager, only it used to be one digit less.  It's probably the only phone number I know by heart.  I don't know why that upsets me so much, but it does.  
My sister has been one of the most important people in my life, and her son, my nephew Larry, is one of my favorite people in the world.  I still miss Maxine's husband, Russell.  If you don't think "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" were realistic, you didn't know my sister and her family.  Enough said.   
So now that I've said all that, I realize the family stuff I can't blog about is no big deal.  It's amazing how counting your blessings can change your perspective.             

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Borscht time

I would never have thought I'd be making borscht at any point in my life.  I recall reading some story in grade school that mentioned the stuff, and the teacher told us it was a Russian beet soup with sour cream.  It wasn't the beets that turned me off, it was more the idea of sour cream.  That wasn't something we ever had in our refrigerator at home, so when I heard "sour" I thought it meant "spoiled and rotten".  
I had been reading Meesha's blog for a while when I caught the  entry with the recipe for borscht.  I think maybe it happened to be at a time when I had a lot of beets and cabbage in my garden, ready to harvest.  Perfect timing!  I like recipes with ingredients I already have on hand.  By the way, if you want some foolproof veggies to grow in a garden, you can't do better than beets and cabbage, although you'll have to use something to keep those white butterflies (that lay eggs that hatch into nasty worms) off the cabbage.    
When I tasted that first batch of borscht, my first thought was that it was the most bland-tasting soup I ever tried.  
Then I put a dollop of sour cream in it.  Ah, that was the secret.  These days Cliff and I put several dollops in our borscht.  Not too big a deal, since the borscht itself has almost no fat.  We also discovered that we like some corn bread crumbled into our borscht, a case of Redneck meets Russia.  Corn bread ain't exactly your perfect diet food, but we each take only once piece, split it in half, butter the crispy bottom half, and crumble the top have in the soup.  Here's how it all added up when I put it on Sparkpeople:  

You might think that's a lot of calories, but lunch (dinner to us) is our biggest meal of the day.  So we can get by with that.  A lot of relatives think my corn bread is special, but it's the same old recipe you'll find in most any cookbook.  What makes it so good is that I heat up a cast iron skillet before I pour the batter in; that gives the corn bread the crispy bottom crust that we like so much.  I would never think of making corn bread in a cake pan.  

The worst thing about Meesha's recipe is that it makes so much.  Today was the second day we've had it, and we will probably have it a third time tomorrow.  After that, some borscht may have to go to the chickens.  If it weren't for the fact that it has potatoes in it, I would freeze some.  However, there isn't a lot of money tied up in a pot of borscht, since the beets and cabbage came from the garden.  I guess I can afford to share with the chickens.   

You can see why I don't feel I'm suffering when I count calories.  I can have anything I want to eat.  The bowls we use, by the way, are good-sized ones, containing two and a half cups of borscht.  As a matter of fact, I'm stuffed.  I think I'll go take a nap.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

To write a song

I used to write the occasional song back in the 70's and 80's.  Some of them were pretty good, most were not.  I remember the feeling of the words and tune coming to me at the same time, and I recall the thrill of putting it together and singing it through for the first time, making it work.  The feeling of accomplishment was a rush, a genuine high.
Then I got older and lost my motivation and stopped singing any of my songs, except when the occasional visitor asked to hear one.  I actually stopped singing and playing my guitar at all.  I had lost my motivation.  Life was good, but I am so anti-social that I had nobody to jam with and no reason for singing.  Somehow if nobody hears, it doesn't matter.  You know, the old "If a tree falls in the forest..." thing.
Then we started going to a little church in town and somebody remembered that I used to sing, so I got out my neglected Gibson guitar, dusted off the old thirty-year-old songs I wrote, and sang.  The first time I was so nervous I was shaking; it had been too many years.
I have probably sung a half-dozen of my songs at church, and I don't get nervous now, at least not too much.  Those songs will go to the grave with me, so it makes me happy that a few people are hearing some of them again before I die.
So this morning as I was talking to God I said, "I wonder if I have another song left in me.  It was fun, writing songs."
He had no comment, He never does.  He just listens.
While I was doing the morning chores, some random lines came to me about milking cows and feeding chickens and the simple life in general.  I might have been able to do something with the lines, but my mind, as it so often does, got side-tracked.
"Wait," I said to myself, "John Prine wrote some song like that."
I could not for the life of me, however, think of the tune to the song or any of the words.  All I recalled was that there was a topless waitress and the guy runs off with her and they eat peaches and find Jesus... and that I really liked the song.  Hmmm.
So I went to Google, typed in "John Prine song about eating peaches", and there it was:  "Spanish Pipedream".  I found it on my Ipod, which plays through the speakers of my Bose, and turned it up loud.  It made my day.  So no, I didn't write a song.  But I played one that will keep me smiling all day.  If anybody would inspire me to write songs, it would be John Prine.

She was a level-headed dancer on the road to alcohol
And I was just a soldier on my way to montreal
Well she pressed her chest against me
About the time the juke box broke
Yeah, she gave me a peck on the back of the neck
And these are the words she spoke

Blow up your t.v. throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find jesus on your own

Well, I sat there at the table and I acted real naive
For I knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve
Well, she danced around the bar room and she did the hoochy-coo
Yeah she sang her song all night long, tellin' me what to do

Repeat chorus:

Well, I was young and hungry and about to leave that place
When just as I was leavin', well she looked me in the face
I said "you must know the answer."
"she said, "no but I'll give it a try."
And to this very day we've been livin' our way
And here is the reason why

We blew up our t.v. threw away our paper
Went to the country, built us a home
Had a lot of children, fed 'em on peaches
They all found jesus on their own

Monday, June 17, 2013

The sound of silence?

Cliff started losing his hearing fifteen or twenty years ago.  It was only a minor inconvenience at first, but as time went on I could tell it was rapidly getting worse.  I have no doubt that he will end up totally deaf.  
"What about hearing aids?" I can hear my readers asking.  Well, first of all, it's hearing "aid", singular.  His left ear was so bad when he first got it checked out that there was nothing to be done for it.  The first hearing aid he got for his right ear was the cheapest kind, an in-ear device.  It was hardly ever in his ear, though, because it magnified unwanted noise just as much as what he wanted to hear.  He hated it.  
Later on we got a more expensive one that magnifies only the sounds you want to hear, and he wears it when he's inside conversing or watching TV.  If he's doing noisy things like driving a tractor or operating some noisy power tool in the shop, he leaves it in the house; in fact, he seldom wears it if he's going to the shop.  He usually removes the hearing aid when we go for our walk because if it's windy, the wind makes so much noise that he can't hear anything else.  Also, he sweats profusely in warmer weather and sweat renders the hearing aid useless. 
Until Cliff began getting deaf, I never realized how much we depend on our hearing to connect with people.  It seems as though at least half the teenagers in the world mumble or speak too rapidly, or both.  Cliff depends a lot on lip-reading, and some folks have the habit of turning their heads away from the person they are talking to, or covering their mouths with a hand, making it impossible for Cliff to know what they're saying.  
Cliff says "What?" quite a bit.  After he has said it in vain two or three times to a person who refuses to raise her voice, he often gives up.  So people think he knows something they told  him, but because he was too embarrassed to keep asking them to repeat it, he doesn't have a clue what they said.  This leads to misunderstandings and miscommunication.  If he is in a group of people carrying on several conversations at once, he misses almost all of it.    
Deafness isolates a person.  People begin treating a hard-of-hearing person as though he were mentally challenged.
Adding to Cliff's problem is tinnitus, so in spite of his deafness, he never knows silence.  When this started, he said it sounded like he was in a woods with cicadas, crickets, and other such insects making all the noise they could.  Now the tinnitus is louder and sounds to him like there is a washing machine or dishwasher running near him all the time.  
As I was pondering his problem yesterday, I recalled my paternal grandfather.  As far back as I can remember, he was extremely deaf.  To compound the problem, he was also practically blind.  He lived with my Uncle Orville and his family.  When we went to visit, Aunt Ruth would lead me up to him as close in front of him as possible and shout at the top of her lungs, "Dad?  This is Everett and Lola's girl, Donna."  
He would sort of nod and say a word or two.  
I don't know what he would have been like to chat with, because his handicaps had robbed him of his personality.  Oh, it was in there somewhere, but when a person can't communicate with others, the personality can't really show through.  All I remember about Grandpa was that he was always sitting in a rocker in the corner, silently smoking his pipe.    
Until the last couple of months, Cliff could still enjoy his favorite country music station on the Sirius radio in the shop.  Then fate decided to play another cruel joke on him and the music started sounding garbled to his ears.  It's been that way ever since.  
It makes me very sad to think about Cliff being robbed of his music.  If you think I'm sad, how do you suppose he feels?  
When he and I are together, I can tell if he isn't hearing what someone says and I'll repeat it to him without his asking; I did this a lot when he was in the hospital:  the nurse would ask a question, I'd see confusion on Cliff's face, and I'd tell him what she had said.  Thank goodness I have a very loud voice.  
If you know someone who is hard of hearing, be patient.  Watch their facial expressions and you may be able to tell whether they hear you or not.  Please, please, PLEASE speak up and speak plainly.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yesterday: portrait of a good day

I put that square baler Cliff used on Craigslist Friday, adding a link to a video of it actually working.  I was pretty sure that video would sell it, and it did.
Cliff made a tidy profit, this fellow and his brother got a good deal, and we don't have to worry about rounding up young men to help every time we bale hay.  Cliff and his tractors can handle the big round bales without dragging in reluctant help.

Then we went to a tractor show, one we attend every year.

You see a lot of things besides tractors at a tractor show.  Did you know they made dishwashers in 1914?  It was news to me.

It didn't require electricity, but you had to stand there and move the handle until the dishes were clean.

What would you call something like this?  And how did the guy come up with the idea?

I have been wanting Cliff to fix some sort of comfortable way for me to ride with him on the Oliver when we are in parades or on tractor rides.  I got a couple of ideas for him yesterday:
This fellow replaced the regular tractor seat with a school-bus seat, so he and his wife can sit side-by-side and even hold hands as they go down the road.

Isn't this fancy?  Although Cliff said if the driver hit a bump while going to fast, the rider might bounce right off.  The advantage of this one is that you could haul your wife and a couple of grandchildren, unless you have a really fat wife.    

After we left the tractor show, Cliff took me to eat at Texas Roadhouse so I would shut up about it.  We both had a delicious steak and loaded potatoes and a Caesar salad, and got full before we ate it all, so we asked for a take-home box.  It was sitting right there on the table ready to grab, but as I started to get up, my knee locked up painfully (not the replacement knee) and that distracted us.  We left our delicious, expensive steak leftovers behind.  I was depressed over that for a couple of hours; it almost ruined an otherwise perfect day.  Then I decided it was God's way of telling us we didn't need those calories.  

We were almost home when it started raining, which was the icing on the cake of a wonderful day because all the local farmers are done planting and most of them have their hay put up.  It's a perfect time for rain.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Plans change

This morning I was going to do an entry about yesterday's events.  I'm a little late with that because Cliff's favorite aunt is in the hospital again with asthma.  She had a really bad night this week, and she seems to feel pretty sure that her time on this earth is limited.  She wanted me and Cliff to come and celebrate part of our anniversary day with her, so we did.  I don't do as well blogging in the evening.  I'm a morning person.  But I'll go ahead and do an entry anyhow.  I appreciate the comments from long-time readers telling me how happy they are that I have made blogging a priority again.

Yesterday forenoon, Cliff raked the clover.  It was so rank, he didn't think it would ever cure.  Thanks to ideal haying weather, it was ready to rake and bale a day earlier than he expected.

This cottonwood tree is very near the clover field, which is to the right of this picture.  I spread a blanket in the shade there, lay down, and watched Cliff rake.  I actually dozed off for a while.  I love this tree!  Cottonwood trees make the most soothing noise when the wind blows through them.

After dinner, around one o'clock, Cliff started baling with the wire-tie baler he had never used.  Watch it in action; we were amazed.

Our oldest grandson, Arick, rounded up lots of good help to get the small square bales loaded and hauled to the barn, since Cliff is too old and tired to pick up hay bales.  Believe me, we appreciate their help!

While they were doing the hard work, Cliff moved the large round bales to the barn.  We're pretty sure we already have enough hay for next winter.  I'm not sure what we will do with the next clover cutting.  There is room for a few more big bales.  Of course, if it doesn't rain, the whole scenario changes.

After the work was done I put the square baler on Craigslist, because Cliff doesn't intend to make other people put his hay in the barn.  If we sell the baler, he will make a tidy profit.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Important dates to remember

I usually mention Cliff's heart surgery on the anniversary of the operation.  This year I didn't even think about it, but in April of 2006 he had a four-way CABG surgery.  I thought that was the most serious surgery he would ever have, but last month we found out there are worse things than a heart bypass.  MUCH worse.  At times I wondered if he would ever recover from this recent surgery.  He felt so awful when he was first released from the hospital that it seemed like he had only come home to die.  

Tomorrow is our forty-seventh anniversary.  I'm especially glad Cliff survived that six-hour gall bladder disaster to celebrate it with me.  There is a reason that our anniversary is on the 14th and his birthday is on the 16th.  I've probably told this story before, but here goes.  When I met Cliff, he had a sister and a brother (both younger than he) who had married in haste at too young an age and were in the process of getting out of those marriages.  In Missouri at that time a woman had to be eighteen and a man had to be twenty-one to marry without parental consent.  Because of what had happened with his sister and his brother, Cliff's mom made the comment, "I'm not signing for anybody else to get married."  
When we decided to tie the knot, I was twenty-one, but Cliff was still twenty.  Because of the statement his mom had made, we were simply biding time until June 16 when he would turn twenty-one.  We did tell the family we were planning to marry... his family, not mine.  My parents didn't really approve of my future in-laws, so I figured I'd tell them after the fact.    
So one day Cliff's mom said, "What are you guys waiting for, if you're going to get married?"  
"Waiting for him to be twenty-one," I answered.  "You said you weren't signing for any more kids to get married."  
"Oh," she said, "I'll sign for you-uns."  
And that's why we got married two days earlier than we intended.  I usually refer to June 15th as "Tain't day".  Tain't our anniversary and tain't Cliff's birthday.  

And then there is his birthday to talk about.  I am a year older than he, most of the time.  But from June 16th until July 7, we are the same age. 

I'm thinking about where we will eat out to celebrate our anniversary.  The choice is up to me, since Cliff doesn't care and would, in fact, rather eat at home.  It'll either be Texas Roadhouse or Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Real romantic, right?  Cliff has never cared for all the grease at KFC, so we almost never eat there; but I love their original recipe.  I guess I like grease, when you get right down to it.  I guess it's silly to go to a steak house when I have steak in the freezer and know how to cook it, but that place does make a good steak.  

As for his birthday, he bought himself a present just before his recent illness:  an automatic grease gun.  Maybe I'll make him a cake.  

I've been walking improperly all my life

This line of thought began when I noticed I could enter the length of my stride on the computer for greater accuracy in the recording of miles per day on my Fitbit.  If you don't enter your stride length, they just use the average length stride for a person of your sex and height.  So I went to a recently-tilled area of the garden and walked several paces.  When I measured my stride, it was thirteen inches.  My big old feet are almost a foot long, which means I am taking tiny steps.  Cliff was sure I had measured wrong, but I had not.
When I put my puny stride-length on the computer, my miles walked per day dropped drastically.  The number of steps, of course, remained the same.  I removed the stride length from the computer, because I would rather live under the illusion that I walk six miles a day rather than four.  
As we were going for our morning walk a couple of days ago, I remembered something:  one thing my home therapist kept harping on when I was first recovering from knee replacement was the way I walked.  She insisted that my heel should touch the floor first, then the rest of my foot.  That is unnatural to me.  I walk flat-footed, the entire sole of my foot touching at the same time.  Once I was done with that silly therapist I went back to walking the way I always have, with sort of a shuffle.  
So there we were in the pasture, and I began watching Cliff as he walked.  Wonder of wonders, his foot touched the ground heel first!  Back at the house I did some Googling and found that I am indeed an odd bird, because humans are supposed to naturally walk heel-to-toe!  
Next day as we walked, I concentrated on walking properly and found my stride increased greatly, without my even trying.  When I can remember to do it, I try to walk that way all the time, but of course sixty-nine years of walking improperly are difficult to overcome.  Wait, make that sixty-eight.  I don't think I was born able to walk, although my mother did think I was a precocious child.  
Maybe it's coincidence, but my knees don't seem so achy when I've walked properly a good portion of the time.  
I can't imagine why I walk improperly.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I've spent most of my life barefoot.  Just another thing that makes me special, I suppose.    

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Chicken on my lap

Chicken on my foot

Chicken on an old lady's shoulder

I'm keeping Chickie in a cage in the chicken house with the older chickens during the daytime.  Most evenings I go outside and turn them all loose.  I retrive Chickie from her cage and go sit in a chair where I watch the others have fun.  Chickie stays with me, although tonight she flew over in the middle of the flock, where she was promptly put in her place and forced to run back to the only person she really trusts... me.  When I'm ready to shut the bigger chickens up in their house, I bring Chickie in with me, put her in her box, and cover it up until morning, when I return her to the chicken house.

Haying time

finished up with the raking
I really, really hate the time of year when Cliff is mowing, raking, and baling hay.  He is always so on-edge during the whole two- or three-day process that I fear he will have a heart attack with the stress of it all.  Other than the weather, the main cause of his distress is the fact that we use old, worn-out equipment.  We only have 40 acres and a few cows, so obviously we can't afford thousands of dollars for up-to-date machinery.  
Cliff sold our old string-tie John Deere 14-T baler a year or two ago because he's too old to be trying to lift and toss square bales (they're oblong, but they are properly called square).  The old baler was more worn-out than most, but he knew it like a book, and dealt with it just fine.  This spring he saw the opportunity to buy a wire-tie baler for a reasonable price and bought it, figuring to re-sell it and make a little money.  
With the alfalfa-mix hay cured, thanks to temperatures in the 90's and a stiff wind, he decided to try it out and see how well it worked.  "Maybe," he said, "I'll just do a few small bales for the times we want to hand-feed a calf or something."   
 The first bale that came out was about the length of two bales.  Cliff got off the tractor, checked it out, and then realized it was like that because it was the first bale out.  

Because he had been looking back to see that bale before he stopped, he let too much hay go into the baler and spent about ten minutes pulling all that out.  

That's no smile on his  face, it's a grimace.  This is his first time working with a wire-tie baler.

  The wires on the bales were too tight, so he had to crank that thing to make them looser.  

Yeah, there's one on each side.  They were hard to turn because they needed to be greased, and Cliff didn't think to bring the &%#$*^@% grease to the field.  When he's haying, he says "&%#$" a lot.

I wish I could tell you he got everything working right, but the rusty old 1655 that was pulling the baler died.  Cliff declared there wasn't time to mess with it and went and got the Mahindra and the big round baler. 
He has to climb off the tractor each time a bale is done to help the baler tie twine around it.  But at least he can get the hay baled, if the heat and stress don't do him in.  


Diets schmiets

Well, evidently the newest diet craze is the Wheat Belly Diet.  As I understand it, the wheat we have these days is evil, unlike anything our parents knew as wheat, and if you are fat it's because of wheat.  It isn't all that fast food or potato chips or candy or cookies or french fries you consume...  oh no, it's the wheat.  Give up wheat and you can have all the sugar and lard you want.    
I'm sure that isn't an accurate description of the diet, since my only knowledge of this new fad is from a five-minute TV interview some news guy had with the doctor who came up with the idea.  I have never hopped on any of the diet bandwagons, because most of the faddish ones tell me about all the foods I can never eat again.  Spoiled little five-year-old Donna still lives at my core, and if you tell me I can't have something, that is exactly what I'm going to have.  

Oh, and I am STILL looking for someone who lost weight on the Atkins diet and kept the weight off.  But I digress.  

Cliff and I are still staying on target with our weights.  He got down to 211 when he was sick, and it would have been nice if he could have stayed at that number.  But he hadn't eaten for so long, I felt he needed some food.  We hope now to simply keep him under 220, which we realize is more that he should weigh according to the experts, but it's an attainable goal.  I am getting awfully close to 150 and a size 10, but I want to stay at the size 12 I'm wearing now.  Cliff agrees, saying I start to lose my shape if I get thinner than I am now.  That's where it gets so easy to get off the mark:  I start thinking things like, "Dang, I could stand to gain five pounds, let's go eat pizza!"  
I still rely on to keep me honest with my calories.  There are other sites that help keep track of calories for you, but I have added so many of my own personal recipes with nutrients and calories that I am bound to stay with Sparkpeople.  Just this morning I added "Average Jane's Beef Enchiladas" and was pleasantly surprised to learn that if I made it 8 servings, one portion is only 530 calories.  This is good stuff, and it freezes well.  We'll have it for dinner today and again tomorrow, then freeze the rest.


1 1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1/3 cup taco sauce
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic chopped
1 can refried beans
1 small can chopped black olives
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 10-oz cans enchilada sauce
1/2 package corn tortillas

Nutritional Info

Fat: 38.8g
Carbohydrates: 16.3g
Protein: 28.7g

Brown the hamburger with green pepper, onion, black pepper and garlic. Stir in the refried beans, olives and taco sauce and simmer lightly. Remove from heat.

Combine the enchilada sauces in a medium saucepan and warm on the stove. Dip each tortilla in the sauce, spoon in beef mixture, sprinkle with some cheese and roll. Place in a 13x9 pan. Repeat until pan is full (single layer). Pour remaining sauce over all and top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 until sauce bubbles and cheese melts. Let sit about 5 minutes before serving. 

Serving Size: serves 6 at 707 calories or 8 at 530 calories

Number of Servings: 8

Anyhow, that's why I stick with Sparkpeople.  I'm sure I have at least 50 of my own recipes there, and I am not about to leave them behind.  Here's an example of how the recipe calculator shows all the nutrients in a recipe.  This is for the above recipe:
 There are lots of good things in that dish!  The sodium, of course, is from the canned ingredients like the enchilada sauce, refried beans, and the olives.  I can type the ingredients to any recipe in the recipe calculator and find out calories per serving.  

I'm still off Facebook, working on getting my blogging mojo back before I return.  I'm starting to get back to the old feel of things.  I know blog entries about food and diet are boring, but this is what's on my mind today.  Besides, I intend to be very open and honest about how well Cliff and I are maintaining.  My readers can keep me accountable.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Cliff started his work-day yesterday as soon as we got done with our daily walk.  First he mowed the alfalfa/orchard grass hay behind our house.  This is where I picked up all those weeds, which my readers agree is dock.  A Nebraska farmer not only confirmed that, but told me the best way to control it:  "Farmers in this area call it dock or sour dock.
It is not a problem in tilled fields because of its perenial nature.
We have it in the farmstead area of our farm and lots where the horses are penned. I've found it controlled best in early spring with a strong solution of 2,4D in a little 2 gallon sprayer. Just hit the middle of each plant as it is beginning growth and that should do it. It will kill that plant for good and it won't reemerge the next year. It doesn't take much of this spot spraying to give the brome the advantage." 

By the time Cliff finished this field, it was near noon and time for dinner.  
Next, the clover field, which was so dense and tall that recent rains had knocked a lot of it down.  That can make mowing very difficult if not impossible, although with the disc mower we bought from my cousin and her husband, it's not so bad.  With the old sickle mower it would have been awful.  

That is a LOT of clover.  If we get all the hay that's been mowed into the barn with no problems, I'm sure it will be enough for our livestock next winter.  That means the next cuttings would be extra.  Of course, every farmer in the area is probably getting the same results, so there will be a large supply of hay for next winter and it won't bring as much money when people sell it.

I had a brief scare this morning.  Stepping outside to go tend to the cows, I heard thunder.  I looked to the west and noticed quite a display of lightening.  My heart sank, because a heavy rain could ruin our hay.  Thank goodness it dissipated before it got to us, and we only got a few scattered raindrops.  Whew.