Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Around the garden

Can you tell Chickie is growing?  If she's on the roost she will step right onto my hand and sing and chat with me.  However, if she is running around on the ground, she won't let me approach.  

My three original zucchini plants are still producing.  Notice the missing leaves:  When I find a leaf with lots of squash bug eggs on the underneath side, I remove it and toss it in the trash barrel.  Sometimes if the bugs only occupy a small portion of the leaf I will do a partial leafectomy. 

 Won't be long till we have corn-on-the-cob, or roastin' ears, as we called it when I was growing up in Iowa.

I only have one eggplant, but it is LOADED.  I used two of the eggplants this morning, making ratatouille and eggplant parmesan.  There are a couple more that are ready to use.  See the little cantaloupe in front of it?  

   Beyond the eggplant are pepper plants.  They have started producing, too.  Tomato plants are also in the picture.

This is the start of some okra blooms.  It seems to be taking forever for these buds to turn into flowers.

And this, my friends, is why my chickens will now be grounded from leaving the coop.  They ruined two ripening tomatoes.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When rain seems like a miracle

The lack of rain this year has been nothing compared to 2012, but even so, it has been disheartening.  Eight miles to the south, people got an inch of rain when we only got 2/10 of an inch.  South and east in Higginsville, Cliff's brother received a generous two inches while we got barely 1/10 of an inch.  Using soaker hoses, I have managed to keep green beans coming and tomatoes growing bigger and finally starting to turn.  Despite squash bugs, I've been able to harvest zucchini, even though it isn't within reach of soaker hoses, by carrying cans of water every other day.  We are eating a tomato or two a day, but there are still no extras to use in the making of ratatouille.  That's a tricky dish to make from garden goodies, since the bugs have often killed the squash plants before the tomatoes ripen.  I think I will get it done this time, because even if the zucchini plants die before there are enough tomatoes, I have quite a few zucchini in the refrigerator.  They keep quite a while.  
The seeds I planted last week came up.  It looks like I am FINALLY going to have a decent carrot crop.  My third planting of beets for the year came up, and the second planting is about ready to start using.  I did make the mistake of planting my late zucchini and cucumber crops on the end of the garden near the chicken house, and when I turned them out, the chickens couldn't resist pecking and scratching until the cucumber seedlings were no more.  I replanted this morning.  I have some screening to lay over that area next time the chickens are released.   

Yesterday the rain came, mostly in the form of sprinkles and drizzle, but it was over a half-inch.  There's a chance of more this morning, although I won't count on it until it shows up.  One thing about it, when rain comes as slow as it did yesterday, you get the utmost good from every drop.  It was especially timely for the seedlings that had just emerged.  That's the miraculous thing about this rain, the timing.          

We spent a large part of our day with our ninety-five-year-old friend, Helen.  She lives in senior housing where my mom spent a couple of years.  Every weekday a bus comes by around 10 A.M., picks her up, and takes her to the senior center in Oak Grove.  Last time we visited her, she told us she wanted us to come and eat lunch there with her, so yesterday we joined her there.  She and some other ladies were at a table doing crosswords and word games.  Their exercise time was over already, but one lady was on the treadmill.
I was informed that she is ninety-four years old.  

So we met some of Helen's friends, chit-chatted about one thing and another, and ate lunch.  Helen usually stays to play Bingo, but she left with us and we took her to Walmart to spend a couple of ten-dollar gift cards she won from previous Bingo games.  We went in and visited with her awhile, then went on to visit other people.  It was a good way to spend a rainy day.  

I have to say, this senior center thing is great for older adults, especially for those living alone. They might not bother cooking for themselves, but at the center they get a square meal prepared for them, they enjoy one another's company, and they can take advantage of an exercise program.  For those unable to ride the bus to the center, Meals on Wheels delivers lunch to their door, thanks to volunteers from various churches.       

Cliff and I laughed at how we had to fill out an information sheet complete with social security numbers, listing any health problems we might have and answering questions that would let the people in charge know just how poor we are:  I told the ladies we will officially be poor when Cliff can't afford to buy another tractor.  We had to stand and be introduced, amid polite applause.  We only intended to eat with Helen that one time, but we are signed up now and can eat there for $2 any time.  If we didn't have $2, we could give them a buck, since the $2 is a "suggested donation".  All we have to do is let them know the day before we plan to be there.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

I hate cancer

I'm sure my readers agree.  It's so easy to say "I hate cancer."  
Most of us have relatives we've lost to cancer.  None of mine really deserved it, and yours probably didn't either.  OK, maybe they smoked too much or drank too much at some point in their lives.  That didn't make them bad people, and most of them did nothing to make them deserve such an end.  

Every once in awhile, something happens that reminds me just how much I hate cancer, and I hate it all over again, even more.  I take all the hatred I have for the people who bombed the World Trade Center and later flew airplanes into it, and the hatred I have for Hitler, and I focus all of that on cancer. 

We visited a couple of relatives today and listened to a man tell us, "From what the doctors tell me, I'm going to die.  It's in my bones." 

Then he went on to say he wasn't sure just how long he should go on fighting, considering that the cancer seems to be progressing and the fight is costly and maybe futile.  He doesn't want his struggle to leave his wife penniless if there's no chance he will survive.  

Dear Lord, nobody should have to make decisions like that.  But of course, it's part of life.

Since my daddy died as a result of cancer, I know about the other questions that nobody wants to put into words:  "Will I suffer?"  "How long will I have to suffer?"  

I don't know how else to say it.

I hate cancer.  

Visiting St. Louis

First of all, let me say that perhaps going on a road trip the day after Cliff had been under the effects of anesthetic might not have been the wisest thing we ever did.  He wasn't quite himself at times.  His calves ached, he said, like they would if he had done some new exercise workout, and he had quite a limp all day Friday and Saturday.  At one point he got downright pale, although he didn't like me asking questions like "Do you feel all right?" 
He would answer by grumbling, "I'm FINE!"   
We have no idea why a procedure that was done through the esophagus would make him have sore legs. 

The main reason we went to St. Louis was to visit his sister and her husband.  We had not seen them for quite a while, and we missed them.  
Pat wanted BLT's for supper Friday evening, so we all went to the Des Peres Schnooks store, my favorite grocery store ever, to buy some bacon.  Brother-in-law Pat is a salesman, outgoing and friendly, so most of the employees at Schnooks wave to him and Charlene, often calling them by name.  The two of them often meet there after work to eat supper.  
There was a lady giving out free samples of some delicious, albeit expensive, cheese.  I really wanted to buy some, but cheese isn't the healthiest thing a person can eat, so I kept my mouth shut and overcame my desire.  On the way home, I mentioned that I had been lusting after that cheese, only to find out that Cliff and Charlene had been having the same thoughts.  Once we confessed to one another, Pat said, "I just happened to pick up a $2-off coupon for that cheese."  So when we went back to the store Saturday to eat pancakes for breakfast, we bought some.
The cost of living must be a lot higher in St. Louis, because all the grocery stores have higher prices.  Taxes are steeper, too.   

Back when we rode motorcycles with Charlene and Pat in the St. Louis area, I noticed a state park just off the freeway that had something to do with Route 66.  Nobody else saw it, and I believe they thought it might be a figment of my imagination.  So I looked it up on the Internet when I got home from that trip.  When Charlene emailed me the other day with suggestions of things to do and see on our visit, I told her I really wanted to visit the Route 66 State Park.       

Funny thing is, it wasn't that easy to find.  As I said, Pat is a salesman; he travels that freeway often on his route, but he had never noticed the signs about the park, so he was as clueless as the rest of us on how to find it.  There are two different exits to take to the park, but you can only get to the visitor center from one of them.   

The visitor center is housed in a building that used to be a roadhouse in the 30's and 40's.  

Wow!  Steak dinner, $2.50.

Among the mementoes was this old postcard.  Pat recognized the hill, saying there was a flag at the top these days, with a fenced area around it.  He always wondered, he said, what was up there.  So after buying a couple of souvenir coffee cups (have I mentioned I'm a sucker for coffee mugs with stuff written on them?), we set out to see the hill.

This is what we found:  a nifty little place with markers commemorating a Civil War battle that took place near Pacific.  

I accused Cliff of peeking into the bedrooms of the residents of Pacific, Missouri.  There is something about this picture that I really like, by the way.  

So in spite of the fact that Cliff wasn't at his best, we had a good time.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Conversation with a Nosy Nurse

Dr. Vardakis was running an hour behind by the time it was Cliff's turn to have his procedure done.  A very talkative nurse who was helping prepare him for surgery kept up a running stream of talk, mostly questions.  Something that was said led to the question, "How long have you two been married?"  
"Since 1966," I said.  "You do the math."  
The years go so fast, I never know right off the top of my head.  It's the same with the ages of my children.  
She seemed astonished, and told us what a great accomplishment that was.  Another nurse came in and they were being all light-hearted about something and she burst into song, making up words as she went along.  The poor thing couldn't carry a tune, but she was enjoying herself.  When she paused, I said, "Don't quit your day job."  
She and the other nurse laughed and laughed.  I decided perhaps I might have hurt her feelings, so I said, "It's OK.  The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best."  
"Oh, that's good," she replied.  
"I read that on Facebook," I told her.  "You can learn a lot on Facebook."  
"So you're on Facebook?  How many friends do you have?"  
I thought a moment, then said, "Four hundred-something, I think."  
"Really?  How did you get so many Facebook friends?  Do you just go around asking people to friend you?"  
"Oh no," I answered.  "I rarely ask to friend anybody.  See, I used to go to this Christian chat room that no longer exists; I'm Facebook friends with a lot of those people.  And then there are people I interacted with in online forums for years, I'm friends with them.  Like Tractor Tales, which is mostly a bunch of older guys that like tractors.  Oh, and my blog!  When I get a friend request, I always ask if I know them from somewhere, and a lot of times they say they read my blog."  
"So you have a blog..." she said skeptically.  "What do you call it?"  
"Just Me."  
"Just me?  What is it about?"  
Since the Ipad was in my hand, I summoned up my blog and showed her what it looked like. 
"Is that your farm?" she said, seeing the header picture.
"Well, it's only forty acres.  It isn't a real farm, more of a play farm."  
"So," the nosy nurse said, "you have a blog.  Did you always want to be a writer?"  
She wasn't going to stop with the questions.  
"I am a writer," I answered.  "I just don't get paid for it."  
"Yeah, that's what I mean.  Did you want to be a writer for a living?  Shoulda coulda woulda?  That kind of thing?"  
"I love to write," I said, "but I wouldn't go back and change anything about my life.  I love my life."
Now Cliff was laughing, and told her, "See how she is?  We live in a trailer house!"  

Finally the two of us had stumped her, and there were no more questions.  

And to said nurse, in case she googles "just me" and arrives here:  You should probably be a shrink.  Do you see how all your questions led to my realizing how blessed I am and distracted me from the concerns I had about the procedure Cliff was waiting to have done?    

Thursday, July 25, 2013

All's well that ends well

Cliff's procedure went just as it was supposed to today:  The doctor went down through his throat, found the stent, and removed it.  Dye was injected to see that no ducts were clogged.  Everything was working just fine.  Cliff has a little sore throat, but otherwise feels dandy.  He ate when he got home, ate some more, and then I said, "Cliff, you can't just eat for the rest of the day."  
"I can't?"  

Right before surgery, he said to the doctor, "I feel fine right now.  Why can't you just leave the stent in place?"  
"Because," the doctor answered, "a stent would eventually clog and you would end up as sick as you were before.  It would be life-threatening."  

It has been exactly three months since the surgery.  Recovery was a long haul.  I am so thankful for the doctors and nurses that were involved in getting him through this mess.  And of course I am thankful to God, who guided everyone through the process of getting Cliff well.  

I've had people tell me that after having the gall bladder removed, they can't eat certain foods any more.  They are plagued with frequent diarrhea.  While Cliff was warned by the doctors about eating fatty foods, he hasn't been in any way bothered by indigestion or diarrhea.   We had fried green tomatoes yesterday and he did justice to his share.  It took about six weeks after his operation for him to get his old appetite back, but now he is as good as new.  I am adding this paragraph so that if any of you, my readers, need gall bladder surgery and some doomsayer tells you that you will never be normal again, don't accept that and don't let it keep you from doing what needs to be done.  I'm sure some people have problems, but I'll bet it's a minority.  Besides, if you ignore a gall bladder problem, you could end up with a seven-hour surgery followed by an eight-day hospital stay.  And you could even die.  

And now, back to normal life.   

The end, we hope, of the gall bladder saga

Cliff is back to being his normal self.  You wouldn't even know he went through hell back in April and May.  It took him a long time to get his appetite back, and even longer to regain his strength, but he is certainly well now.  
Today the gastroenterology doctor is scheduled to remove the stents that were placed in a leaky bile duct in order to let it heal.  
I was going to google up the reason why biliary stents have to be removed, while those placed in arteries stay put, so my readers would perhaps understand more about what's going on.  However, this is one of those things that become a slippery Google slope when you go looking for answers, and you find things you really don't want to read on the day your husband is having a procedure done.  
You know how it is:  You stumble across possible complications and percentages, and it all goes downhill from there.  So I will remember the gastroenterologist's calm demeanor as he explained the simple procedure that will be done today.  
I recall my skepticism when that doctor explained why a stent had to be placed in a bile duct in the first place, and there was even more skepticism when we were told that another stent had to be placed because the first one wasn't doing its job of preventing bile fluid from leaking into Cliff's abdominal cavity.  At the time, it felt like they were experimenting with my husband.  Cliff felt as though he would never be well again, and I was beginning to wonder, too.  Good grief, people, get it right the first time!  
If a doctor managed to place not one, but two, stents inside my husband with good results, I am sure he will be able to remove them just fine.  I think a lot of my problem today is that our going back to the hospital brings up all kinds of bad memories.  Let's face it, Cliff originally went in for a gall bladder surgery that was to last one hour, and it ended up being seven hours followed by eight days in the hospital.  
So when I hear "simple procedure", my first thought is "Yeah, right."   
Anyhow.  All should go well, and if I never hear the words "gall bladder" again, that will be just fine with me.

I finally found a link to a site that explains the putting in and removal of stents.  Click HERE.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It has begun

The invasion of the squash bugs, that is.

I have been expecting them, but like everything else this year, they are about three weeks behind schedule.  Yesterday I found some eggs and a couple of adults.  I sprayed beneath the plants with Malathion and pulled the leaves, or parts of the leaves, with eggs on them.  This morning I found even more, and again, pulled the leaves and sprayed the underside of many of the leaves that are left.  I went back, made a closer inspection, and found a group of eggs that were just hatching.  I learned that baby squash bugs are green.  
I do fight those infernal creatures, but it's with a sense of resignation.  They've always won, with one exception.  I practically denuded a squash plant getting rid of eggs, and most of it died.  However, one portion hung on and regenerated, giving me squash for another month or so.  That spark of hope, the memory of the only time I lost a battle but won the war, keeps me forging on in my battle with the bugs.  
Other bugs come into my garden, but they are all easily handled.  A little Sevin drives most of the pests away.  Squash bugs, though, bathe in that stuff and it doesn't even faze them.  I sometimes think it must act as an aphrodisiac to them.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Today in the garden

Before I went to work in the garden, I stopped to admire my apple crop, which consists of two apples:  

One Gala...

And one little Fuji.  Thank you very much, Miss Snowstorm-in-May.  I would have had at least a half-dozen of each if you hadn't come along.  

Once again I am experimenting with fall gardening.  I planted cauliflower, broccoli, beets, carrots, and green beans.  We shall see what happens.  I had to rake a lot of dirt clods out of the way to make the rows.  

You will just have to bend your head to the right to look at this picture.  I straightened it on Iphoto, but it goes back to the original on here.  In the foreground, a later planting of beets that is almost ready.  Look how tall the corn is getting!  

I dug the rest of my potatoes.  I probably have 3/4 of a bushel, all told.  It's surprising I got any, considering that I never gave them any water and it didn't rain much.  

That particular tomato is about the size of a softball.  It's on the end of a row closest to the house, and you can bet I am out there giving that thing the eye many times a day.  I am bringing in a tomato almost every day now, so I imagine in a week we'll have all we can eat.  

All the vines are loaded.  

The one eggplant is loaded with goodies also.  In no time we'll be eating ratatouille and eggplant parmesan.  (I have to relearn how to spell ratatouille every year.)  

I intend to plant some late zucchini and cucumbers, too.  It's all experimentation, but it's good exercise and, if something happens to come up and give me a harvest, we'll be eating well.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I love my yard

Being totally honest, the only thing I like about our trailer house is that it made it possible for us to be able to afford to move to the spot where we now live.  Seriously, the mobile home is nothing I am proud of, although I am content living in it.  It was cheap to buy, and I feel rich living where I do now.  

 Outside of the house are the things I love.

My trees make me happy.  Cliff would rather have a yard without trees.  Easier to mow, you know.  But when we moved back here behind the barn, he said, "We're doing this for you, so if you want trees, have at it."  
I push-mow the immediate front and back yards so Cliff doesn't have to deal with mowing around trees.  

Look how big the trees have grown in five years!

Oh, and my flowers!!!!!  Cliff likes to look at flowers, but he'd rather not have to deal with them, for the same reason he doesn't want trees.  I also have to tell you how much I like the sidewalk.  We've always lived in the country, but this is the first time we've had sidewalk on which to walk from the house to the car and visa versa.  No mud.  SWEET.  

It's hard to pick a favorite flower, but I really do enjoy this red hibiscus.  My cousin Betty gave me the seeds that started this lovely plant growing in my flower bed.

In the back yard, I always stop to give thanks for.... not the birdbath... but the air conditioner.  We never had A/C until we moved back here in the pasture.  

In the back yard I have iris' and day lilies.  They make me smile.

Also in the back yard, my little orchard of dwarf fruit trees:  Sweet cherry, apricot, peach, plum, and apple.  I love fruit, and I pray I live long enough to taste the fruit from these trees.  I've also ordered three dwarf pear trees that I will plant this fall.  Obviously I think I am going to live forever.  

Baby trees.  I love babies.  

When I stand in my back yard in the early morning or late evening, or any time, really, I don't see houses or people or smog or buildings.  I see a field of alfalfa mixed with grass, and trees in the distance.    

Sometimes I think I am the most blessed person alive.  

Iris is home

Long after Cliff and I had gone to bed, the oldest grandson in Odessa happened to see a post on a Facebook group:  it was a picture of Iris, shared by someone who hoped to find her owner.  
Iris had made her way three or four miles almost due south of here as the crow flies, had seen a house she liked the looks of, and proceeded to scratch on the door just like she does here at home.  After a couple of hours, the guy let her in.  
He told the grandson he had tried his best to find her owner's whereabouts by the plastic tag on her collar that has the information about the chip implanted beneath her skin, but he ended up talking to Iris' original owner, many miles from here who said, "That isn't my dog any more."  
The people who took her in kept saying what a nice dog she was.   
This morning when Arick brought Iris home, she was acting very peculiar, as though she expected to be punished.  Arick said she acted strange when he picked her up, too, and also at his house once he got home.  She really didn't get back to herself until mid-afternoon today.  You can bet I will be extra vigilant from now on when the skies start looking stormy.  
A nice little surprise, finding my lost dog by way of Facebook. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dog Gone

Let me start this post by saying I am not trying to worry anybody.  This happens every so often, and so far it has ended well each time.  
Iris is afraid of thunder.  OK, let's be honest here:  if a tiny isolated raindrop chances to fall on Iris' nose, she is a wreck.  But thunder, even in the distance, pushes her fight-or-flight button.
Usually we call her, grab her, and take her in the house at the slightest sound of thunder or rain.  Once inside, she runs to Cliff's tub and jumps in, there to stay until hours after the storm has ended. Even then we have to persuade her to come out sometimes.  
Today we were on our walk when, unexpectedly, a fairly loud boom sounded.  Iris broke and ran toward home, where we hoped to find her on our return.  Unfortunately, she was nowhere to be found.  I try not to panic when this happens, because in the past she has ended up in some hidey-hole in someone's shed or garage.  One time our family was gathered in Cliff's shop, Iris with us, when it thundered around 3 P.M. and she took off for places unknown.  That was her first such absence, and I will admit I was scared for her safety.  I may have even shed some tears.  The next day around 10 A.M. she came running home.  She had been in a nearby neighbor's garage; they had shut the door to keep the rain out, so she was pretty much trapped inside until the next day when he opened the door.  Another neighbor across the highway once brought her home.  
So you would think I'd be calling her name, if she's that close to home.  
As long as she is in the storm mode, she will not respond, not even to Cliff's shrill whistle, which under normal circumstances is sure to bring her running.  
For the most part, I am not too bothered by her absence, although there is always that niggling little thought in the back of my mind telling me anything could happen:  She could get struck by a car on the highway, or maybe she ran so far she won't know how to get home... you know how those thoughts can occur.  
I even joke with Cliff about it.  "Well, one good thing about it, I can get my non-shedding dog now and I will be done with all the hair.  I even have a Facebook friend who has some standard poodle puppies that are about ready to sell."  
"Yeah," Cliff will agree.  "And our next dog won't bark at every animal she sees on television.  Maybe we can watch Dog Whisperer in peace."  
"And we won't have to worry about our next dog trying to kill small dogs.  And she won't have all these mental issues, because we will raise her ourselves."  

You know, sorta like whistling in the dark.  So anyhow, I am hopeful that Iris will return home, or someone will return her, before too long.  The longer she is absent, the less funny it becomes.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mighty peculiar

A few years back, I had the misfortune of getting the same cell phone number that some weird person had owned previously.  I kept getting calls asking for Darryl, sometimes accompanied
by some colorful messages.  Eventually I even found out Darryl's last name was Wallicker.  Some of his callers had fun joking around with his last name, particularly the "licker" portion of it.   
You can read about the Darryl saga HERE.  Eventually I learned to just have fun with the calls and roll with the flow; they finally dwindled down to nothing, and these days I have a different number.  

Cliff has had the same phone number for about ten years and never had a problem until the past month or so.  That's the part that confuses us, because if nobody else has had that number in ten years, how could he suddenly be getting calls about drug deals?  
Yes, that's right.  One text message told him to bring home a bowl of ganja; I had to go to Google to see what they meant.  The guy texted asking Cliff to bring some for Taz, too.   
We don't do texts, so after receiving several messages along this line, I called and had ATT fix it so we don't get text messages or photos.  That's when our "friends" started calling about the same time, right after midnight, every single night, sometimes hanging up, sometimes leaving a voice mail.  We never hear the phone ringing, because Cliff leaves his phone in the living room when he goes to bed.  Still, who wants to have to check on all those missed calls every morning?  

People calling from two different motel rooms rang Cliff this morning, one of them demanding her phone back.  I know they came from a motel because I called the numbers, and a desk clerk or cleaning lady or somebody like that answered saying the name of the motel.  I couldn't understand what the name was, though, even after asking her twice to repeat it.  

So I called AT&T to see if it would be possible to block a single number, figuring we'd get rid of the midnight caller, at least.  I explained our nuisance calls to her.  
Yes indeed, I was told, for $4.99 a month I could block up to thirty numbers.  But the first ninety days are free.  
"Could I just use the ninety days and then stop the plan before any charge is incurred?"  
"Most definitely, and I can have it cancel automatically so you won't have to call to cancel it."  

Well, that was easy.  So I blocked the midnight caller and the two motel rooms from which we received calls.  I told Cliff to be sure and make note of any other strange calls he gets, because I can block a lot more numbers still.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

This is why I don't get around to recording my songs

Actually, I was successful with the recording of one of my songs this morning, "I'm A Chrysanthemum".  I got it down the first time.  Oh, I can't say I was happy with it, I never am:  I could still hear myself flub up on a chord now and then, and my voice went flat more than once, but there's nothing much I can do to fix those things; I never said I was perfect.  The best I can hope for when I'm recording myself is that I get the words right and strum the proper chords until the song is finished.   
So after dinner (the noon meal) I decided to try and do another song, one I haven't had occasion to sing for a long time.  It's about my little town, written in 1986 and '87.  The only people who would be interested in it are people who grew up here, or who lived here during the time described in the song.  
Because I added some verses in 1987, it became the longest song I've ever written, over five minutes long.  I flubbed it the first three times I tried to record it.  By that time, I was getting pretty sick of the song, but hey, I don't have a train to catch.  I gave it another go.  
I was 75% of the way through the song, and I thought, "This time I'm going to get it!"  
And then the phone rang.  Drat!
It was a recorded message that started out with "Please don't hang up the phone."  
I hung up the phone and started over.  Finally I got through it, although I think by this time I showed a lack of enthusiasm.  Whew.  
I'm done recording for this day; I've never been more sick of my own voice.

Preserving some things I created

When we started attending a church in our little town, somebody remembered that I used to sing at various functions.  With some persuasion, they finally got me to sing at church, after more than twenty years of silence.  I was nervous the first couple of times, but then I got over it.  It helps that it's a small group of people there, and things are very informal.  
This led to my digging out songs I wrote that I hadn't thought about in years.  In some cases, I had to work at remembering the tunes.  I don't write down music notes when I write a song.  I used to put new songs on a cassette recorder so that if I forgot the tune, I could listen to it, but the recorder and the cassettes have gone the way of the dinosaur.  Anyhow, some of the songs I wrote in the 90's weren't so bad, and some were downright good.  I am finding that if I polish up the not-so-bad ones and update some of the words, they are fairly decent.  Somewhere in this process of rediscovering my old songs from back when I used to be a songwriter, I realized these songs are all going to die with me.
The songs are like children to me, my creations.  I can't let them die.
I have put three of them on Youtube and another three on Vimeo.  There are a lot of people who don't want to be owned by Google, the owner of Youtube, and don't want to have to make a Google account to watch videos.  That's why I switched to Vimeo.  I believe all the Youtube ones have been made private, so nobody can hunt them down and make fun of me.  The Vimeo ones are all private but one, which I left accessible because a local friend wanted it.  
It occurred to me yesterday that if I put the best of my songs on Vimeo and made them private, only allowing a few people to access them (people that think I'm a lot more talented than I really am, or my daughter, since one of the songs is about her), the songs might live on for a while after I'm gone.    

The trouble is that I HATE recording myself.  I'm too lazy to re-record until I get it right, so the recordings are always flawed.  I am ashamed of how bad I am at playing the guitar, which is one of the reasons I'm self-conscious singing in front of an audience.  So every one of the songs I record for posterity is going to be imperfect, to say the least.  That's why I keep putting it off.
Someone on Facebook mentioned chrysanthemums yesterday and it reminded me of one of my songs entitled "I'm A Chrysanthemum".  Back when I sang publicly sometimes, it was my most requested song.  I guess that's the next one I will record next.  If I wrote a song comparing myself to a flower these days, it would be something about the last rose of summer.  Trust me on that.  

Yeah, I have to get those songs recorded, whether I feel like it or not.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gardening in the Sahara

I have several late cabbage plants I water often.  On the right is a later planting of beets.  Cliff's sister has pickled and canned the two rows of beets I grew especially for her, and there are only a couple of beets left in the row I've been using from.  We have lots of pickled beets in the refrigerator.  I don't think Cliff would ever tire of eating them.  

  In the foreground are the two cucumber vines I planted.  I finally got the ten pounds of cukes needed to make the dill pickle recipe in my Ball Blue Book.  I started them today, and they have to sit in the brine for two to three weeks.  Behind the cucumbers, in the same row, are sweet potatoes. 

On the left is a row of green beans.  I've canned a few quarts off that and we've eaten a couple of messes.  In the next row, nearest to us, is a cantaloupe vine that came up volunteer.  Behind it is my one lonely eggplant, then peppers and tomatoes.  I'm sure you can tell that the next row is tomatoes also.  Now, I had a time with tomatoes this year.  I raised some plants in the house, and they did well.  However, whatever pesky bird it is that likes to eat leaves off tiny tomato plants pretty much wiped me out, although I did end up putting milk cartons around a few and they grew new leaves.  Then I bought various kinds of tomato plants to replace the ones that didn't make it.  At the beginning, I grouped each variety of tomato together so I would know which kind was which.  But with all the struggles and replacements, I have no idea what kind any individual plant is.  I can tell which ones are heirloom variety because they already have blight.  The newer hybrids are the only ones that work for me, since they are more blight-resistant
The few puny tomatoes I've harvested so far.

There are three zucchini plants, and they are already producing far more than I can use.  I only know one nutritious way to fix zucchini (except for ratatouille, which would require eggplant that isn't ready yet):  I stir-fry it, either alone or with onion.  I love zucchini bread and cake, but we don't need that.  I have been trying to find a healthful recipe I used to have for zucchini boats.  So far no luck.  Because these plants are at the far side of the garden and the onions near them are done growing, I don't run a soaker hose to them.  I simply carry water to them daily.  I keep expecting the squash bugs to show up, but so far, so good.  

Tomatoes in back, then what's left of the blighted potatoes, and on the right is my strawberry patch.  

It's been a rough year for me, garden-wise.  Even when it was still raining, only half the sets in one row of onions came up, and some that did come up were no bigger than a hen's egg.  Yesterday I diced them for the freezer and got a gallon freezer bag full.  I planted carrots three times and finally had perhaps a dozen seeds sprout and grow, in the last planting.  My corn came up spotty as usual.  Radishes did nothing.  Peas didn't make it.     

Oh well, hope springs eternal.  I'm still going to try for a fall garden.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

About my last entry (killing Suzie)

When Cliff read that entry he said, "You are going to get some hate mail."
Part of the reason he said that is that I've told him about the negativity some people have toward Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman
She has been criticized because, on their huge ranch, calves are castrated and branded.  Some people, folks who know nothing about cattle, think that's cruel because it is painful to the animal.  Those folks just don't know what it takes to run a huge cattle operation.  I won't take time to tell you what a mess things would be if all the bull calves weren't castrated.  Of course, many of the same people think it's terrible that the Drummonds get paid by the government for keep wild horses on their ranch, not even considering the fact that SOMEBODY is going to be paid for keeping them.  I figure it may as well be Ladd Drummond.    
So, Cliff was afraid I would come under the same kind of scrutiny for having him shoot a cat that was suffering.  I told him that I truly didn't think that would be a problem, but I would deal with it if it happened; it helps that I don't have two hundred thousand readers.  It usually depends on the spirit in which the criticism is given whether I take offense of not.  For instance:  A couple of years ago I showed a picture of our mobile home in the snow and entitled the entry, "My Home, in the Snow".  Someone from Kansas City who was too cowardly to leave his name said, "Home?  It's a F***ing double-wide"!  
Well, it's even more humble than that, because it's a single-wide.  I did delete the comment because it made me feel bad.  I also thought, "What a pitiful person, who thinks home can't be a mobile home or a cave or a shack or wherever someone lives, as long as they love being there."  
I've always had a feeling I know which blogger made that comment, but I will never know for sure.   
But for the most part, I have had very few negative comments.  One reader let me know she was disappointed that I use pesticides in my garden, but went on to say the reason for her concern was my well-being.  I did not delete her comments.  
What I am so proud of is the fact that I have only received friendly and sympathetic comments about Suzie's death.  My readers are the best.  

I liked having three cats, and I would love a replacement for Suzie.  However, God sent me the ones I have, and I will wait until He personally sends me another.  I wasn't looking for a cat when she showed up, but Mamma Kitty adopted me and stole my heart.  She and her kids were absolutely perfect for me:  They didn't climb on window screens and tear them up.  They only hang around the front door in the morning when it's time for me to feed them.  If some other stray shows up and acts in just the right manner, I will know that's my cat.  Otherwise, two perfect cats will do.  

It was a sad morning

This morning after I was done milking, I filled baby calf Penny's bottle and went outside the barn to feed her.  That's when I saw Suzie, the young female cat, lying there in the pasture crying piteously.  Another calf, Jenny, was trying to sniff her.  Suzie batted a paw at her, still crying.  
Cats don't willingly let cows get close enough to sniff at them; she should have run off.  

Something was wrong. 

When Penny finally emptied her bottle, I went to check.  I was almost afraid to reach out toward Suzie, because an animal in pain is liable to lash out at anything.  She attempted to get up, but couldn't.  I did finally reach down and stroke her head a couple of times, but she was in so much pain that I don't think she cared one way or the other.  
What to do:  She had, at the least, a broken leg.  If we took her to the vet there would be X-rays and a cast and lots of money spent.  We haven't even received the largest of Cliff's hospital bills yet.  I said a prayer and knew what had to happen.  
I came in the house and woke Cliff up.  He doesn't like to get up fast.  He would rather not do anything besides drink coffee for an hour or two after he's awake, but I said, "I have a favor to ask.  I need you to get a gun and go shoot a cat as soon as you can possibly get around.  She is suffering, and I can't stand it.  You won't have any trouble doing it, because she can't even walk."  
He threw off the covers, and was out the door in perhaps ten minutes, which is fast for a guy who can't wake up easily and has arthritis slowing him down first thing in the morning.  
The deed is done.  I cried.  Me, the person who doesn't even care that much about cats.  I'm tearing up as I type this.  
Cliff said her back was broken, so the prognosis wouldn't have been good anyhow.  We figure a horse or cow stepped on her.
Life, and death, on the farm.

Suzie, playing with her brother Jake

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Let me tell you about our tractor cruise

Cliff and I left home on our Oliver 1855 tractor around 8 AM Saturday.  We were supposed to be at Mayview by 9:30, and by george, we barely made it on time.  There were about 40 tractors waiting for us.  

After a long ride sitting on an upside-down bucket on the 1855, I opted to take the trolley for the next leg of our journey.  Here we are at Mayview, just starting the cruise.  

We have plenty of help on the tractor drives.  There were four "county mounties" and a couple of city cops making sure nobody got hurt.  

Our first potty break was in front of the Odessa, Missouri, high school.  We do have a porta-potty with us at all times, since about 75% of the participants are over sixty years of age and need to pee often. 

porta-potty in front

This is pretty much where the speedometer stayed during the cruise.  

This lady was taking a picture of her husband and son, who were right behind us.

Her husband and son were right behind us on this leg of the journey.  

I love looking ahead and seeing so many tractors.  

We arrived in Bates City at almost straight-up noon, and we ate on the premises of KAT Excavation.  Our meal was waiting for us:  Brisket, pulled pork, cheesy potatoes, slaw, and baked beans.  Not to mention several kinds of home-made pies.  

After our bellies were full, we headed toward Luffland Industries, where we got a tour of a local company that seems to be growing and thriving.  They manufacture many farm-related items.  

After this, Cliff and I left the rest of the cruisers and turned our faces toward home.  Everyone else was going back to Mayview, but they hadn't ridden a tractor all the way from Wellington to Mayview to begin with.  Most of them had hauled their tractors there on trailers.  Cliff and I had about all the tractor riding we wanted.  

Here's a funny side note:  I wear my Fitbit most every day to count my steps.  Yesterday we didn't even go on our usual daily walk, but because the tractor is a little bumpy, the Fitbit told me I had walked six and one-half miles.  I sincerely doubt that I even walked two.    

The first tractor cruise I went on seemed to last forever.  I had no idea you could spend that much time traveling on the back roads on a tractor.  Honestly, I thought it would never end.  However, once I realized that's how things worked, I learned to take my Ipad, post pictures on Facebook as we went, and enjoy traveling through the countryside at the same speed my horse Blue and I used to travel.  Good times.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Today Cliff and I will spend lots of quality time together on his big tractor.  We'll be riding it to a tiny little town that's having its annual picnic.  It's fifteen miles to get there, and after we arrive there we'll be joining up with other tractor club members to go on a drive that will take us even further from home.  
Most of the club members haul their tractors to the site where a tractor drive starts, then unload them and go on the ride.  We don't have a trailer big enough for the 1855  Oliver.  Cliff is working on restoring a little 550 Oliver that we will be able to haul, but it isn't nearly finished; and there's an old John Deere waiting in the wings.  Probably if he hadn't had that sick spell in the spring, at least one of those would be done, but he was really out of commission there for awhile.  So we ride for long distances at speeds of perhaps twenty miles per hour to get in line with other tractors and ride some more.  
Speaking of his illness, at this point it's easy to forget how scared we both were at the time, and how terribly sick he was.  He is back to normal, enjoying his meals and life in general, with only the aches and pains of arthritis to slow him down.  Every once in awhile I remember things the surgeon said that shook me up:  "I looked at the other surgeon and said, 'How are we going to fix this?'"  
And, in answer to my complaints that Cliff wasn't eating anything, "He won't have an appetite for a long time.  He could be dead right now."  
And remembering that, I'm thankful that I can still accompany my husband on tractor rides.  
My garden this year is pathetic, and we are now in a state of drought again.  We had such a cold, late spring that everything is delayed.  Last year by this time I had all the tomatoes canned that I needed, had scalded my belly while canning them, and was giving the rest of my crop away.  This year I have only green tomatoes so far, the biggest ones no bigger than a tennis ball.  

Remember my pet chicken, Chickie?  She's now residing in the chicken house with the others.  They are mean to her, as chickens can be, but she can fly almost as well as a pigeon, and has discovered a spot in the window where she can perch but they can't.  I turn the chickens out each evening and am able to leave them unguarded.  The cats and dog have gotten used to them and don't bother the big ones.  Chickie, however, is still pretty small.  I don't let her wander around unless I'm there to watch.  I'm pretty sure Mama Kitty would consider her just the right size for a tasty meal.  When the chickens are all turned loose in the yard, if any of the big ones get too close to Chickie she comes running to me, knowing I'll save her.  Sometimes she will actually fly up onto my lap.

She pecks at the flowers on my shirt. 
Remember when Cliff and I butchered chickens this spring?  Unless we are starving and have nothing else to eat, we won't be doing that again.  It's nasty business, and we both hated it.  My mom killed and dressed chickens on a regular basis when I was a kid, and it didn't seem like a big deal.  I guess I would never have made a good pioneer woman.  I've lived a charmed life, in that most of the time, I haven't had to do anything I didn't want to do.  I definitely don't want to butcher any more chickens!  

We are both looking forward to having a baby around after Cora is born.  I won't be buying any bottle calves this fall, and my garden may shrink in size next year, because Cliff and I both intend to make the baby a priority.  She may be our last chance to bond with an infant, so we are going to take advantage of the opportunity.  Her mom works a four-day week, so that gives us three-day weekends.  In case we want to take off and go to Branson or St. Louis, we can do so.  

And finally I'll leave you with a picture of our new neighbors' huge barn.  They have horses, and apparently there will be an indoor riding arena.