Friday, February 28, 2014

This long winter

It's discouraging when I look at the ten-day forecast and still see single-digit lows almost every day.  I've been fighting off cabin fever for at least a month, just like everybody else I know.  I read.  I surf and listen to music on the Internet, discovering old gems that are new to me.  Thank God for all these diversions.  

But the time comes a person just wants to get out the house.  Oh, we went to tractor club meeting last night, but that's mostly a bunch of old guys talking about where we'll go on tractor drives and such this summer, and it takes place in a dusty, cluttered auction barn.  Whoopee.  We were back home in less than an hour and a half.  

Yesterday I asked Cliff what his plans were for today.  He reminded me that, since Fridays are the oldest grandson's day off, he would probably be here to help restrain the calves while we dehorn them.  Alrighty then, I had better think of what I'm fixing for dinner (noon meal), something Arick will like.  That's what I thought. 

I found out this morning the grandson is working overtime and thus won't be here.  When I began plotting, I realized we have seen about everything Kansas City has to offer, at least things we would enjoy.  I wouldn't mind going to Nelson-Atkins again if I thought there was a chance of getting a guide like we had a year ago, so we could learn something, but I'm not sure what our chances would be on that score.  We've been to Truman Library many times and the World War I museum twice, at least.  Steamship Arabia was interesting; we've only been there once.  We've seen most of the museums, the old jail on the Independence square, Harry Truman's house:  In spite of the fact we have no culture, we've been around Kansas City.  

Movies are never a possibility, because with Cliff's extreme hearing loss, he isn't able to enjoy movies without captions.  Someone told me there are theaters that show movies with captions on certain days, but the truth is, I don't care that much about movies anyhow.  We're living on Social Security.  Movies are overpriced, and it's usually our luck to end up sitting there bored to death because the one we choose usually sucks.  I'd rather be home reading a book from the library.

What I really want to do is get out and till the garden, but we know that isn't going to happen, thanks to the Polar Vortex; leave it to the weather-guessers to slap a name on a cold front that will make it sound deadly.  

Now that I have considered all my options, I think I'll stay home, read, listen to music and surf the Internet.  Cliff will be very happy.  

Time to go give the baby calves their bottles.  Past time, in fact.  Have a great day, everybody!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why I'm so crazy about folk music

Cliff and I were discussing this yesterday.  It's become mostly a game, these days, the way he groans if he hears Iris Dememt or Greg Brown or Ramblin' Jack Elliot on the CD player or Pandora.  Don't even get him started on John Prine.
"I just don't get it," he said.  "But you know, you can listen to that stuff if you want to."
Kinda hard to do when I know he's gritting his teeth in the background.

I like the kinds of folk music I listen to because it's real.  It's bare-bones.  My favorite folk singers accompany themselves on a guitar (or piano, in the case of Iris), with no backup music.  They could be singing in my living room.  I shut my eyes and pretend they're here.

During our discussion I mentioned Bob Dylan,and Cliff said, "He's a folk singer?"
"Well, 'Blowin' in the Wind' is definitely folk," I said.  "That one song on the same album with the line 'her eyes were watery and wet' isn't the best example of writing, but it's probably folk too."
"I just don't get it."

I think what Cliff doesn't get is that some of my favorite artists are really not very good singers.  But songs have always been about the words for me, at least with the modern-day writer/singers.

For a long time Iris Dement was my favorite, but she doesn't come up with a lot of new stuff, and nowadays I just listen to her occasionally.  I still resent her being a no-show that time Cliff took me clear to Iowa City to see her in person, and I guess I need to let that go.

I love obscure artists nobody ever heard of, like Ola Belle Reed and Utah Phillips and Kieran Kane.

I treasure the old-timers like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and Leadbelly.

My current favorite modern folk singer is Chuck Brodsky.  He actually has a good voice, so I can listen to him when Cliff is around.  Chuck is in the Baseball Hall of Fame because of some songs he's written.  I'm not a baseball fan, although when I can find a Youtube video where he actually explains the story behind the song, I enjoy those.  I included a video of him in an entry the other day.  

Here's my very favorite of his songs.  I love his guitar-playing.

Here's what makes Chuck extra-cool:  You can actually book the guy to play IN YOUR HOME.  You can read the details HERE.   Now that, ladies and gentlemen, puts the "folk" back in folk music.  I won't be having a house concert, since I don't even have 25 friends, let alone friends who are folk music fans.  But I love the concept.  So far, the closest he gets to Missouri is some folk festival in southern Arkansas, but if he ever comes to the Kansas City area, I am THERE, even if I have to hitchhike.  

I do have the opportunity to watch him live on the computer sometimes, though, because get this...  

Every once in awhile there is a live web broadcast, and... get this... I can pay however much I want and watch the show!  Unless we get some really bad weather, we have plans for Saturday night, but the next time one of these web concerts is available, I'm there.  

Check back next year and I'll probably have a different favorite, but if I do, I'm sure they won't be as cool as Chuck Brodsky.  Yes, I realize I have over-used the word cool, a word someone my age shouldn't even be using.  But I can't think of another word that works as well.

One of Cliff's current projects (as told by Cliff)

This entry is for tractor aficionados.  I realize most of my blog readers are ladies who won't know what in sam hill this entry is about, but we'll get back to normal programming after this.  Take it away, Cliff!
After years of using the Old D-17 I used to have, I couldn't make myself quit grabbing the wrong remote lever (old age crap).  So I had to invest in two Pioneer couplings in order to use the left side (closest to my leg on the levers when I'm on the tractor).  I could have moved the right-side ones over, but I wanted the couplers on both sides.  

My wife forced me to buy this tractor, and I absolutely love it.  I picked up a cord of wood yesterday with the three-point hitch.  The front-end was loaded with weights, but the front end still raised in the air.  I drove it with the brakes.

Those are heavy-duty Ford industrial lift arms that came with the tractor when I bought it.  Sweet deal.  They are adjustable, so you can hook everything up.

OK, Donna here:  Cliff sold our original D-17 in 2006 to buy a Gold Wing motorcycle.  Last spring after a serious illness, he decided to sell the bike.  I wheedled him to ask around and see if the guy who ended up with our D-17 years ago still had it so we could buy it back.  That man wasn't about to part with it.  

Then I saw this ad on Craigslist.  The guy threw in a bunch of extras for the money:  Weights, tool box, hydraulic top link, and more.  Cliff feels he got a good buy; he says he wouldn't take less than $5,500 for it, but he is only going to sell that tractor over my cold, dead body.  While I'm making rules, here's another one:  He's going to paint it.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chickens: (Those with weak stomachs might want to skip this entry; you have been warned.)

I turned the chickens out just now.  It's cold, and of course there are no bugs for them to scratch for, or grass to eat.  But for some reason, they still seem to enjoy some freedom.  As soon as they come out of the henhouse, I toss them a handful of scratch or a slice or two of stale bread.  They've come to expect some sort of treat.

I checked for eggs, and... hallelujah!... three hens are laying now.  That's half the flock.  Not counting the rooster, of course, who thinks his job is to strut around bragging about his prowess.  One of the eggs was blue-green, so Chickie, my pet, has started laying again.  

After putting the eggs away, I went back out to make sure the calves had plenty of sweet feed.

The chickens saw me and came running, looking for another handout.  I had nothing for them, but it was their lucky day:  Iris upchucked some chili I gave her because I was too full, and they did not let it go to waste.  Hey, I warned you!  That's Chickie in the foreground.

  This bunch is SO spoiled!

And then I saw the dead horse.
  I hurried to the fence hollering, "Tude?  Tude!"


Nobody will let a guy rest around here.


When we first began our relationship with the Little Princess, we expected to have her here four days a week, most weeks.  Her dad works construction, so we knew we probably wouldn't see her as much in the winter.  Turns out this is the Year of the Polar Vortex.  The only way we see the baby is to beg for her, one day a week.  We don't make any money, but we get paid in smiles and cuteness.  
When we first started watching her (in September, I think it was), I started a private blog so we could keep our happy memories, because babies grow so fast.  There are pictures and videos of some of her milestones.  Because we don't have her here often now, you will find us frequently going to her blog and watching all the videos, clear back to when she was two months old.  If you walk in on either of us while looking at pictures and videos of her, you will see us grinning like fools and even laughing out loud.  That baby is the best thing that's happened to us in a long, long time.  

My four-legged babies, Homer and Jethro, are thriving.  Both of them are already eating sweet feed; I always want them to eat hay and sweet feed as early as possible, because I want to wean them at five to six weeks of age, and they need to be eating a certain amount of grain before they are weaned.  That will be no problem with these boys.  The grandson was going to come over and help restrain them while Cliff dehorned them and castrated Jethro, but we were under the weather.  We need to get that done this weekend, because if they get too old, the dehorning paste won't work.  When I'm raising heifers, I always handle them to keep them gentle and friendly.  I'm not doing that with these boys.  The bull will be much safer if he isn't too much of a pet, and they both will be easier to move around and eventually load onto the trailer if they have a little healthy fear of us.  In warmer weather I put water out for the babies, even though they really don't need it at such a young age.  Since all water turns quickly to ice during this winter-that-won't-end, I'm putting warm water in their bottles and taking it to them around mid-day.  They think they're getting extra milk, so they're fine with it, and I know they are staying hydrated.  I paid $220 for the two boys, $110 each (yes, that IS a steep price for Jersey bull calves, but I have no other reliable place to get them) and I spent $225 on five bags of milk replacer to get them up to weaning age (six weeks).  So I have quite an investment in them already, and they are only two weeks old.  Upkeep gets much cheaper once they're weaned, though.  

In many past years, I have had my peas, lettuce, and other cool-weather crops planted by this time of year.  I'll be surprised if I get anything planted before the end of March, this year.  Oh well, spring WILL come eventually.  You know, with global warming and all, it's bound to show up.  

I have seen both sides of the global warming issue.  I'm sure there's some truth to it, because I saw with my own eyes how few glaciers are left in Glacier National Park.  However, the weather has always changed.  There were huge changes in weather patterns before there was ever a human walking the earth to take the blame for it.  So I'm just not so sure our selfishness is the only reason for global warming.  But I'm no scientist.    

Nothing will last forever.  Not even this globe on which we dwell.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A resurrection

In 2004, the son-in-law was working for a lumberyard that was going broke.  When they finally decided to close that particular store, they began selling off things at freakishly low prices.  They might as well have given stuff away.  The item above is a paint shaker, the professional kind you will find at lumber yards and probably big-box stores like Home Depot.  Cliff paid $50 for it.  

Here is a used, reconditioned one for sale right now on Ebay:

So you can imagine Cliff's delight at the chance to have this gem.  We don't do much home-remodeling or painting (can I get an amen?), but Cliff paints a lot of tractors and equipment.  He used this on paint for more projects than you can imagine.  He found out it will make old body putty like new, too.  

And after a couple of years, it stopped working.  He tried his best to fix it, but he knows nothing about electricity.  The thing sat out there, useless, for at least seven years.  

The other day he said, "Take a picture of this paint shaker and put it on Craigslist.  See what the best offer is that we can get."  It weighs a lot, Cliff figures at least 500 pounds, so the worst case scenario was that we could scrap it.    

Funny thing is, although I saved the picture he asked me to take (that's it at the top), we just didn't get around to putting it on Craigslist.  I couldn't do it without Cliff here to tell me how to word the ad, and whenever he was inside, I couldn't seem to think of it.  

The other day I stuck my head in the shop and saw Cliff fiddling with the paint shaker.  "Are you seriously trying to fix that?"  I asked him.  

The next day he was still working on it, with no luck.  It's been a long winter, and there aren't that many shop projects he can work on this time of year.  I guess he was just killing time.  

Yesterday he said smugly, "I got that paint shaker working."  



I told him I was going to do a blog entry about this, and he said, "Be sure and tell them I'll take $1,000 for it."  

I think Chuck Brodsky has been here

Most local folks who travel 224 highway from Napoleon to where I live probably laugh just like Cliff and I do as we pass the "scenic byway" signs.  I guess you could call it scenic, but not in the ways one would think.  This song could have been written about that stretch of road.  I confess, there's a little of me and Cliff in the song, too.  It's just that some of the folks down the road make us feel a little better about ourselves.  

Take it Out Back
Chuck Brodsky

Ashes from the wood stove filling up the bucket
Spilling out the top, so where am I gonna chuck it?
Take it out the back door to where I never mow
Find a little spot that no one'll ever go to

Take it out back and dump it in the river
Take it out back and throw it in the woods
Take it out back and chuck it down the hillside
Keep the front yard looking good

That old tv - it quit on me brother
Ten years ago - I got me another
First one's sitting out by the porch swing
With the fridge and the stove and a bunch of other things

Take it out back and dump it in the river
Take it out back and throw it in the woods
Take it out back and chuck it down the hillside
Keep the front yard looking good

That rusty old car - it's got no motor
If it had any gas I'd try to explode her
Hubcaps, hoods, and old transmissions
Take 'em to the river - gonna make for good fishing

Take it out back and dump it in the river
Take it out back and throw it in the woods
Take it out back and chuck it down the hillside
Keep the front yard looking good

The food in the fridge - it's all turned green
And the chicken bones that have been picked clean
Some on the counter - some on the floor
Let's take 'em out the back door

Take it out back and dump it in the river
Take it out back and throw it in the woods
Take it out back and chuck it down the hillside
Keep the front yard looking good

Monday, February 24, 2014

When my morning comes around

The first time I ever heard Iris Dement sing this song, I thought, "Oh yes.  This is me."  

When my mornin' comes around, no one else will be there
so I won't have to worry about what I'm supposed to say
and I alone will know that I climbed that great big mountain
and that's all that will matter when my mornin' comes around

When my mornin' comes around, I will look back on this valley
at these sidewalks and alleys where I lingered for so long
and this place where I now live will burn to ash and cinder
like some ghost I won't remember
When my mornin' comes around

When my mornin' comes around, from a new cup I'll be drinking
and for once I won't be thinking that there's something wrong with me
and I'll wake up and find that my faults have been forgiven
and that's when I'll start living
When my mornin' comes around

Earliest memories

I don't know what got me started on this, but for some reason this morning I began trying to figure out which of my memories is the earliest.

I think it's this:  My parents and my sister's family went to Des Moines to visit my brother's family.  Jack and Wilma had a tiny house, with no room for overnight guests.  So we spent the night at Wilma's mother's house.  I was small enough that they put me in a baby crib, but old enough to know I was too big for a baby bed.  They put the side up, which seems strange to me considering I didn't sleep in a baby bed at home any more.  Lights were turned out and the house got quiet.  I had trouble going to sleep, and realized I needed to go to the outhouse... but everybody was asleep and I didn't know how to get out of the bed and didn't even know where the outhouse was.  I finally went to sleep and had a dream that I walked to the toilet and relieved myself, at which time I woke up in a wet bed.  I was SO embarrassed.    

At the switchboard at Guss, Iowa, I could stand on the mound that was the cellar, look in the proper direction, and in the distance see Ted Davies' farm, where my dad sometimes worked as a hired hand.  One day when I knew Daddy was there, I decided to yell for him at the top of my lungs and find out if he could hear me.  Then, as now, "the top of my lungs" was plenty loud, but I imagine Ted's place was a mile away, at least, so my shouting was in vain.

I remember my first day of school:  I was five years old, and when my mom and I arrived, nobody was there except Mrs. Eighmy, the teacher.  While I was being introduced to her, another mom arrived with her five-year-old son and it was suggested we go teeter-totter together.  We obliged the adults, but I don't think we were either one that enthusiastic about it.  That same year, during noon recess, I decided to use the teeter-totter as a slide and picked up a backside-full of splinters.  I was miserable for the rest of the day, but too embarrassed to say anything, so I just sat at my desk holding back tears.  What a relief to get home to Mama, who removed the splinters one by one.    

I remember sitting on Daddy's lap on Sunday mornings waiting for time to go to Church, while he read the comics to me from the Des Moines Register.  My favorites were "Blondie" and "The Katzenjammer Kids".

That year I wanted a sled for Christmas, because at recess on snowy days, all the kids had their sleds with them and we spent recess sliding down a hill next to Skinner School.  I had to share someone else's sled and take turns; I wanted my own.  Santa brought me my sled, but it wasn't a white Christmas.  I was outside playing a day or two later, looking at the sky and wishing for snow, and I decided to pray for snow.  This is the first memory I have of saying a prayer.  We went to church three times a week, but we didn't do table grace (unless we had company), and nobody ever told me to say bedtime prayers, although at some point I began to say the "now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep" prayer on my own every night.  You can imagine my amazement when I got up the next morning to a winter wonderland.  My first ever prayer-all-by-myself worked!  I have to say, though, that none of my prayers for a pony got any further than the ceiling, until after I was married.  

In the middle of all this reminiscing, I got a flashback of myself lying on my back in the grass, looking up at the sky and watching clouds floating overhead, moving across the sky.  This is something I did often as a child, at various ages and places.  I remember feeling as though I was floating with the clouds.

I asked myself, "When is the last time you lay in the grass and watched clouds go by?"  

This coming spring, I intend to do just that.  With bad knees, getting up and down is difficult, but I AM going to lay in the grass.    

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Baby Cora came down with a stomach virus Sunday.  She had all the symptoms you would expect from such a malady.  Monday night her daddy woke up with the same symptoms, and by Tuesday morning, her mom was also in distress.  Wednesday morning her mom called and asked if we could watch her; we generally ask for her once a week anyway, so it was fine with us.  

Cora was a little below par, but done with the vomiting and diarrhea.  In fact, she was downright playful, glad to see us as always.  Her Iowa grandma came to pick her up that afternoon.  She was taking her back to Iowa while the parents recuperated.  
Thursday evening Cliff and I went to a basketball game at the local school to see a granddaughter receive recognition for her participation in band.  We were feeling on top of the world.  

Sometime around midnight, Cliff woke me up saying, "Get me something to puke in."  

I did that and crawled back in bed, listening to the retching.  After about five minutes of that, I thought, "I don't feel so good either!"  

We spent the rest of the night taking turns in the bathroom.  

We were both sick all day Friday.  I will have to tell you that Cliff was much, much sicker than I:  He lost seven pounds in two days, while I lost one pound.  That should tell you something.  Actually, I envy him that, since we have been struggling to get back down to our goal weight since January 1st.  He made his goal, I didn't. 

I woke up this morning feeling much better, although I did make the mistake of drinking two cups of coffee to get rid of my caffeine withdrawal headache.
I traded a headache for an upset stomach
This morning I found out that little Cora also infected her Iowa grandmother and her local grandma.  Lord only knows who else!  As I told Adam, her dad, "One day with Cora is worth two days of puking any time."  

Because we didn't get to the store as planned, we ran out of bread (Cliff eats toast when he has tummy problems).  I asked my daughter to please bring bread, but instructed her to tell whoever brought it NOT to come in, just leave the bread by the back door.  I disinfected the doorknobs for them.  Here's what my daughter posted on Facebook:  Natalie just made the stomach flu equivalent of a drug drop. She took a loaf of bread to Donna and Clifford's house, held her breath as she opened the sanitized door knob, sat the bread inside the door, and left in a hurry.

We'll skip Church tomorrow, because Cora gave us this bug when she seemed to be over the virus.  I am not taking chances of giving this plague to someone else, no matter how well I might feel tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

a funeral today

My cousin Betty is burying her husband today.  Cancer strikes again, but I think Russ struck a few blows to that fiend while he had the chance.  He had many ups and downs in his journey, but during his good times, he made sure he had some fun.  

We visited them periodically over the past few months.  More than once we would find Russell in bed with no appetite and no energy and we'd think perhaps it was the last time we would see him on this side of the grave.  Next time around, he would be back to normal, it seemed, joking and talking and being his old self.  

Toward the end of June, we stopped by their house and found Russ in bed, not feeling well at all.  We both went home depressed, feeling bad for Betty as well as for Russ.  "It won't be long now," I thought to myself.  

Nephew Scotty called a couple of days later to tell us he was coming over for the Fourth of July.  I told daughter Rachel and her family to join us.  

Cliff said, "You ought to call Russ and Betty and invite them."  
"Oh my," I answered, "I don't see any way Russ would feel like going anyplace."  

"OK," Cliff said.  

But I kept getting the nagging feeling that maybe I should  invite them over, whether they were able come or not.  To my surprise, Betty asked what she should bring and said they'd be here.  I couldn't believe it. 

They came bearing a gooseberry pie.  Russell ate everything he could get his hands on, and had a perfectly wonderful time.  He and my daughter shared their thoughts on cancer, cursed the villain a few times, and had a couple of laughs in the process.  There is an invisible connection between people who have struggled with cancer, an intimate bond that we outsiders can't comprehend or penetrate.  The two of them said more "between the lines" that day than the rest of us said in all our conversations.  

And that's how I will always remember Russ, the way he was that day.  He may have been down, but he wasn't out.  We would have missed an incredible time if we had not invited them.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Life goes on

First of all, we have purchased a couple of Jersey bull calves.  

Jethro on the left, Homer on the right.  We are going to let Homer remain a bull, with intentions of him breeding our herd next winter and spring.  Once he has accomplished that task, he'll be butchered.  Jersey bulls have a reputation for often being mean and dangerous, so we wouldn't want to keep him around long.  He is a tiny thing; I'm sure he weighs no more than 40 pounds.  Since I prefer small Jerseys, that's good.  Jethro will be castrated in a day or two, and they will both be de-horned.  We made the mistake of letting George keep his horns, and were reminded why that wasn't a good idea.  He used his horns to keep the others away from the feed so he could hog it all.    Notice that Jethro is much larger, and has an interesting black spot on his side.  It looks as though he was scorched a little before he came out of the oven.  The calves are named after Homer and Jethro, a couple of  corny old country-music comedians.     

The snow is melting.  Cliff and I went for a very sloppy walk a while ago.
 This is a path Cliff bladed when the snow was so deep.  It's nice to see grass showing up in so many spots now.  

Some areas were mostly slush, which is pretty much like walking through snot.  

The areas of the road that don't have vegetation on them were muddy, and eroding.  This is how huge ditches begin.  

Except for the mud and slush, though, it's a lovely day.  I turned the chickens out earlier than usual so they could enjoy themselves.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Coping with the cold weather (and the high cost of propane)

Cliff's sister, the one who lived here for five years on our place, loaned us a quartz infrared portable heater.  She used it sometimes when she was living in this old house, but doesn't need it now that she lives in town in a nice, draft-free, modern house that is heated with natural gas rather than propane.  

 How on earth this thing can put out heat without ever becoming hot to the touch is beyond me, but it does.  You can put a hand against it anywhere.  Now, we've been keeping our bedroom door shut during the day, with the vents closed, for a couple of weeks.  That helped a lot.  We will probably only use this heater in the evenings, mostly, although the baby is here for a visit today, so we have it running.  

In order for it to do a really good job of heating the living room, we have done a couple of things.

We've hung sheets in the doorways!  The door on the left leads to the kitchen.  The one on the right, to the front entryway (which nobody ever uses).  This might never be approved by Better Homes and Gardens, but it will help us stretch the propane in the tank long enough, hopefully, for the prices to get back to normal.  The tank is 40% full right now.  When we're up and moving all around the house, we pull the sheets back and let the air circulate.  When we're both in the living room watching TV or reading, we close off the room and stay toasty warm, turning the thermostat in the kitchen down to 60 or less.  

  The view from the kitchen, with the sheet back.  

Iris isn't thrilled with the idea of us cutting ourselves out of her view, since she isn't allowed in the living room.  She'll get over it, and spring will be here before we know it.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

The circle of life

Eighteen months ago, I bought two small calves to raise on bottles:  
George, who became a steer as soon as we got him home... and Gracie.  

Both of them were smaller-than-average bottle calves, being in large part Jersey.  They enjoyed life fully, and never had to worry about anything.  

They were eating calf starter to supplement their milk replacer by the time they were two weeks old.  

We put out word that George was for sale, and this lady and her husband came and purchased him.

Here you see George on the scales at the butcher shop.  He weighed right at 900 pounds.  Considering what a small baby he was, I'd say he grew well.  

  Today we went to the butcher shop to see how he looked hanging on the rail.  Pretty good, if I do say so myself.  

We have been paid, and the buyers will pick their meat up at the butcher shop when they get a call that he is ready.  

I'm hoping to buy a couple of little boy calves this week and start the process over.  I may let one of them remain a bull so he can breed the cows next year before we butcher him.    

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Oklahoma Joe's

Cliff was less than enthusiastic Friday as we set out for Oklahoma Joe's.  The back roads were still a little "iffy" for a car that isn't front-wheel drive.  The temperatures were single-digit.  However, he knows that when I get one of my hare-brained ideas, he may as well go along with it.
Kansas City is famous for barbecue.  Arthur Bryant's and Gates, I believe, first established the reputation.  Gates used to be my barbecue joint of choice.  I've eaten at Jack Stack's a couple of times.  Bates City Barbecue is close to home, but their quality isn't consistent.  Once the meat even tasted a little "off" to both of us, as though perhaps it was yesterday's offerings, warmed over.  In recent years, we have often accompanied some of Cliff's relatives to Smokehouse Barbecue in Independence, because it seems to be their favorite.  Just don't ask for baby back ribs there, because what you get is regular ribs.  I guess we should speak up about this, because it happens every time.  But when it's just the two of us, we don't go there anyway.  

If you think we eat too much barbecue, we really don't.  All these experiences are spread out over the past forty years.  The thing is, if I'm only going to have barbecued ribs a couple of times a year, I want them to be perfect.  

I connected on Facebook with Jessica, a former co-worker, and noticed her frequent mentions of Oklahoma Joe's.  At first I ignored her ravings, because all of their locations are in Kansas and Cliff hates to drive to Kansas for any reason.  Finally, though, on one of those cold winter days that make a person long for comfort foods, I wheedled Cliff into making the trip.

It was great.  If you're after beans, I'd say a few other places have them beat, but I don't to to a barbecue joint for the beans or slaw.  I can eat beans at home, for pete's sake.  I go for the ribs.  Or the Z-man sandwich.  OK, let's just say I go for the meat and barbecue sauce.  Yeah.  That's it!  

At no other barbecue joint will you see this sort of thing every single time you're there.  (I swiped these pictures off the Internet, BTW.)

It's ALWAYS crowded like this, at all the locations, on any day of the week.  The lines move faster than you might think; those employees know how to move.  

We arrived five minutes after they opened Friday, so there wasn't as long a line as usual when we arrived.  By the time we were done eating, though, the line stretched back to the door.  

We had the full slab of ribs and a huge order of fries, and the tab came in just under $25.  Not bad for two people.  Cliff would have had a Diet Coke, but they serve Pepsi there, so we both had water.  That saved us a couple of bucks.  And there's nobody to tip, another five bucks saved!

We prefer the original location, the one that used to be a gas station.  It really isn't that far from us, I think about a forty-five-minute drive.  It's well worth it:  We're still talking about it, three days later.  It's probably just as well that it isn't closer.             

Friday, February 07, 2014

Of books and barbecue

Every book I check out lately is a winner, so I pass them on to Cliff before returning them.  Sometimes this means giving up my Ipad while Cliff reads a book on it, but that's OK; I'm willing to sacrifice for the sake of my husband.  
The one I just finished yesterday is This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper.  It's a little bawdy in places, so if that sort of thing bothers you, I wouldn't recommend it.  But I don't know when I've laughed out loud as much as I did at this book.  Cliff was reading a Rex Stout book at the time, and I told him, "I have your next book right here.  This leading character thinks just like a typical man."  
He's been laughing his way through it, just like I did, and at one point said, "This guy must have lived through all this.  You couldn't make this stuff up, it's too real!"  
Well, it isn't an autobiography, it's a novel.  But I'm sure the guy did use his life experiences as he wrote the book.  I found this novel on a list of sixteen books you should read before they hit the theaters, and the book I'm beginning today was on the same list:  Dark Places.  It's been awhile since I've read a mystery-thriller.  
Any time I see a book suggested, by a friend or an online column, the first thing I do is check out how people rate it on  Of course, fantasy, romance and sci-fi are eliminated right out of the gate.  Those are not my cup of tea.  
So this morning I open my latest read and find out it's set in Kansas City.  *perk*  This should be interesting.  Just a few pages in, the main character is meeting up with a banker at a steak house ("the restaurant--- a great, old-school KC steakhouse--- is surrounded by hollowed-out buildings").  Now, I was reading this before breakfast, which means I was starving.  We already had plans to get some pizza today, since the danged old two-or-three pounds we're packing around won't come off anyway.  But when I read "KC steakhouse", my mind totally turned those words into "KC barbecue" and I said, "Cliff, I think I want Oklahoma Joe's instead of pizza today."

a barbecue joint in an old gas station
Because that's how I roll.  

Cliff wasn't thrilled about this turn of events, but we haven't eaten out in a long, long time unless you count Subway followed by ice cream cones and senior coffees at McDonald's, so he would indulge me.  

However, now that I've had my oatmeal (that's what we always have on mornings when I plan evil foods for dinner, like it all balances out, even though it really doesn't), I'm thinking I should just go back to the pizza idea.  We can travel ten miles to Pizza Hut and only spend $15 at the buffet, or travel 50 miles to Kansas and spend $25 getting the slab dinner and splitting it.  Sure, we could get the Z-man sandwich, but since we don't do Kansas City barbecue often, we like to do it right.  

Then there's the fact that if we leave the house, I'll actually have to wear something besides sweats and comb my hair.  Maybe I'll just stay home and read my book.            

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Snow and cold

I'm not sure how much snow we got here.  It's hard to guess, because of the drifting.

I walk behind the shop to get to the chicken house.  

The drifts are knee-deep in places.

It's pretty, but I could do without the single-digit temperatures.  

The cats were in the barn waiting for me this morning.  Usually Jake is waiting at the back door, and Mama Kitty comes out of the hay on cold days.  Today she was holed up under the stanchion where I milk cows.    

I intended to sled down a hill a couple of times today, but at 4 degrees, with wind chill of ten below, I believe I'll wait until the weekend when the temperatures will at least reach double digits.  
I have two blogger friends who say they can't post pictures to their blogs any more.  I'm not sure what I would do if I couldn't share pictures.  I'm still using my point-and-shoot outside for the simple reason that taking my cameras out in the cold has been the death of two of them.  I think taking them outside and then bringing them in the warm house causes condensation inside the camera; something certainly caused a smudge on all the pictures that wouldn't go away.  I am taking no chance of ruining my good camera, so I guess it will be an inside-the-house or fair-weather camera.  

Monday, February 03, 2014

George goes to the butcher shop

I never got attached to George at all, knowing his fate was either our freezer or a trip to the auction sale where some big buyer would buy him as a cutter/canner for a cheap price.  Dairy animals just aren't worth a lot of money.  I did an entry a few days ago telling about how we got hooked up with our buyer.  She scheduled an appointment at the butcher shop down the road, and we agreed to deliver him there.  We had the choice of taking him today, or very early tomorrow, because they will butcher tomorrow morning.  
Well, with the weather forecast we're hearing, we figured we'd better go today, because there's supposed to be snow tomorrow.  The Weather Channel says 3-5 inches.  Channel 5 says 6-10 inches.  Channel 9 says 8 inches.  
You get the picture.  
Cliff worried and stewed about how difficult it might be to deliver the steer to the butcher:  "How will we get him in the barn?"  How will we get him to step up in the trailer?"  "I wonder if my pickup will even get out of the driveway?"  
I more or less told him to let me take care of the first two questions, and suggested that if the pickup couldn't handle the job, he could hitch the trailer to a tractor.  After all, it's less than a mile there.  

Because George is not a pet, I knew I couldn't just call him and expect him to walk into the barn; but we've been feeding the cows a little corn every day, so he knows what you're doing when you pour some corn into a rubber pan.  I opened the back door to the milking section of my barn, latched it open, put a pan about three feet inside the door, and with George watching, put corn in it.  Then I went to tend my chickens.  A few times he would start in and then back up out of there, but within ten minutes he disappeared inside the barn to eat.  I didn't attempt to shut him in at that time.  I knew, now that he had been inside the barn and let back out, that he would be happy to re-enter at the first chance.  I shooed him out, shut the door, and we left on some errands.  

After we got home and ate dinner, Cliff backed the trailer up to the barn, put a panel inside so George would be funneled right into the trailer once I prodded him, and I followed my plan, placing the pan much farther inside the barn this time.  It was flawless, and when he saw me behind him with the prod, he jumped right into the trailer, which by the way was now hitched to the tractor because Cliff couldn't even get the truck ten feet away from the garage.  
This is why I am known around here as the cow whisperer. 

It's been nice, Georgie boy
approaching the butcher shop

"Where am I?  Where are my friends?"
The guy said the outside scales don't work when it's cold, but that they will give us his live weight tomorrow.


Remember back when I was so happy to have seven head of cattle?  Yeah, now I only have three heifers:  Penny, Crystal, and Gracie, who doesn't even seem to miss the brother she was raised with.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Various things, including FASHION REVIEWS

Have I mentioned the price of propane?  There's a shortage, if you haven't heard it on the news; I don't know what our people are charging right now, but some people are paying as high as $5 a gallon.  At night I turn the thermostat down to 60.  Daytime, I try to keep it at 62, but sometimes wimp out and turn it up to 63 or 64, never higher.  Next time I'm at Walmart I intend to find some insulated underwear to wear under my sweats around home.  

Speaking of underwear (ha!):  I once blogged about Cliff's underwear, which some of his lady cousins found great fodder for discussion when we gathered at the next reunion.  He never, ever, wore any brand of T-shirts and whitie-tighties except Penny's Stafford brand, because that's how him mom raised him.  However, in the past three or four years the quality of Penny's clothing has deteriorated badly.  So we began searching for something else.  We went through all the brands you see advertised, but they were very thin:  Around home, Cliff's uniform is white t-shirt and overalls or jeans, and he likes a heavier shirt.  

We have been buying his socks at Sam's Club for ages, so I suggested we check out T-shirts there.  I would much rather be telling you about Costco, but they didn't have anything of the quality that Sam's Club has in the way of socks and shirts.  Ten pairs of wonderful, thick socks with tops that never give out for under $10, and six T-shirts as thick as the ones we paid a small fortune for at Penny's for under $18:  I'd say those are bargain prices.  The T-shirts are a little longer than Cliff likes, but otherwise they are perfect.  Guess where we'll be looking for men's briefs next time he needs them?  

And then there's the problem with bib overalls.  Cliff prefers Big Smith brand, but the quality of those has been sliding downhill for a long time while the prices climbed higher ($35).  The stitching is uneven, ravels hang here and there... but no other brands had a fit that appealed to him.  I searched the Internet, but found nothing that seemed to fill the bill until a Google search led me to Carhartt.  We are both familiar with their tan, lined coveralls, but I had not realized that Carhartt made blue, unlined overalls.  The price is higher, a little over $50.  But we know Carhartt quality and believe this is a case of "you get what you pay for".  I gritted my teeth and ordered a pair from Sears, and hallelujah, we scored again!  He likes them.

The old weight still refuses to leave our bodies:
  That's how the whole month of January went, and it appears February will follow suit.  Up and down. *sigh* 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

No surprises in my DNA

As one of many Christmas gifts to myself, I got a DNA kit from, spit in a little tube, and sent it off.  The results were in today, and the only real surprise was that I did not get my curly hair from any African-American ancestor, something I often wondered about.  
  All of the research my cousin, Pauline, has done on my maternal family tree leads straight back to England, so this seems to bear that out.  "Europe West" includes Germany, and Daddy was always talking about Uncle somebody-or-other who was mostly German; nobody has taken his family tree back very far.  

I watched a video explaining that Scandinavian, for instance, could show up in the DNA of those who came through Great Britain, due to patterns of migration.  

Of course, it could all be a big rip-off, but I choose to think it's legitimate.  

Changing the subject:  The way I keep water in the chicken house in freezing weather like we're having now is to switch buckets as often as necessary.  I bring the frozen one in to thaw and take out a bucket of water with a rock in it.  The rock is necessary because chickens will try to roost on the edge of the ice-cream bucket.  If there isn't something heavy in there, they tip it over and have no water to drink.  I never said chickens were smart.  You can buy an electric heater-pad to put a chicken waterer on so it won't freeze, but I prefer to do a little walking a few times a day rather than run my electric bill any higher than it already is.