Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A song my daddy taught me

Not that Daddy deliberately tried to teach me songs, but he was likely at any time to break into spontaneous song as I was growing up, and some of them couldn't help but settle into my head.  Oftentimes, especially if we were going someplace in the car, my mom would join in and sing along.  In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that if he lost his temper, Daddy could break into a round of cussing just as spontaneously, although my mom didn't join in at those times.

I often sing to the baby, especially if I'm rocking her to sleep.  It's amazing the old songs that come to mind when it's just me and her (and sometimes Cliff, in the background).  Mostly old hymns nobody sings any more, but a little while ago "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" came to mind, and I sang what little I remember of it.  

I told Cliff, "That's a song my dad sang when I was a little kid.  I'll bet it was popular then."

I did a Google search and learned at THIS LINK that it was a top-ten hit in 1949; I would have been five years old.  Merv Griffin was the vocalist, which surprised me.  I only know him as a daytime talk show host.  My dad is the one I remember singing it.  


I learned in my searching that the song has been in several movies since then, but I only know it from Daddy singing it.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I never read directions

I did an entry the other day about fruit trees from Stark Brothers.  I stated that one thing I appreciate about Stark brothers is the way I can log into their website and see information about trees I've ordered in the past, along with the care of those trees.  After blogging that entry, I went to their website to go over my past orders and discovered that I had not paid enough attention to directions when I planted my trees in November of 2012.  I've already mentioned that I pruned the plum tree improperly, but there is another thing about that tree I somehow failed to notice:  It isn't a dwarf variety, it's a semi-dwarf.  I spaced it with the other trees as though it were a dwarf, which means it's more closely spaced than it should be.  I'm hoping all the trees can stand a little overcrowding, and they probably can.  

I was looking at some of my past orders while on my Stark Brothers account and saw this, a fairly safe fruit tree spray that I've been using for over a year.  I even spray my baby trees, just in case.  After reading the specifics about this stuff, I learned that it can harm pear trees, especially dwarf varieties.  Guess what?  Every time  I've gone past the three baby (dwarf) pear trees with the sprayer, I've given them a good dose of this.  They are just now starting to leaf out, and I am hoping no harm was done.  I'm just glad I happened to read the directions, finally!  Of course, when I bought the stuff, I didn't have any pear trees, so maybe I did read directions but it wouldn't have mattered at that time.

Here's a mystery:  I have three dwarf apple trees:  a Golden Delicious, a Fuji, and a Gala, all planted in 2010.  Last year the Gala and the Fuji bloomed at the same time.  I know this because that freak snow came in May and killed most of the blossoms on both.  I ended up with one lovely Fuji apple.  This year, the Gala is taking longer to leaf out and has not a single bloom.   Things that make you go "hmmm".  And what's up with the Golden Delicious?  Why is it so slow?  Apples take anywhere from two to five years to bear, and obviously the Golden is pushing the limits and waiting until 2015.  Or maybe even 2016, since they were planted in November and were dormant until the next spring.      

Can you imagine how many apples this tiny tree would provide if every single bloom became an apple?  Although, since it's pollinators are slowpokes, who knows if I will get any fruit.

The Crimson King maple is awake.  

The Golden Rain tree will soon be in the typical umbrella shape.  After I planted this, I found out it's considered to be an invasive species.

The garden is actually starting to look like a garden.  

Strawberries are blooming!  My mother always hoped to have strawberries on her birthday, May 21.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cliff's GED

I shared this picture on Facebook for "throw-back Thursday".  Cliff was building a pen for my hogs (notice the hedge post on the ground beside him, and other posts in the background).  This must have been one of those times when we were losing weight, because those overalls look really baggy on him.  

For my Facebook-challenged readers, every week a lot of us hunt up an old picture to share for TBT.  It's fun for me to search the archives of my computer and find something that might be of interest to others, especially relatives and real-life friends.  

The framed certificate holds a place of honor in Cliff's shop, in a case that holds his model tractors and other memorabilia.  (Notice that I had the forethought to cover up his social security number with a piece of paper.)  

In the late 80's and early 90's, Cliff sort of floated from one job to another after losing his excellent, good-paying job at R.B. Rice when they moved their facilities to Tennessee.  He worked some construction, which you probably know is feast-or-famine.  Hard winters and rainy weather mean low (or no) paychecks.  

Our next-door neighbor had a great job in Riverside, north of Kansas City.  He had a friend working there who had a little "pull", and asked her to recommend Cliff.  The only glitch was that the place required a high school diploma or GED.  Cliff had neither.  

I happened to see a notice in the local shopper about GED classes in nearby Lexington, pointed it out to Cliff, and we signed him up.  At the first session he had to take a test to find out where he needed help the most, and just how much help he would need.  The teacher looked at Cliff's results and said, "You won't be with us long."  

Cliff's biggest problem was math.  He could barely do simple addition and subtraction.  Early in our marriage I tried to explain "carrying" or "borrowing" numbers to him, but I might as well have been speaking a foreign language.  The problem wasn't with him, it was with my lack of teaching skills.  After a few attempts, we both gave up in frustration.  

When he was growing up, his family was always on the move.  Cliff said they moved every time the rent came due, which of course is an exaggeration, but not by much.  The constant relocating and changing schools affected the education of all the kids.  

So with the assurance of the instructor that it wouldn't take long to get him ready for his test, Cliff went to school two or three evenings a week.  He loved it, and was excited to finally understand multiplying and dividing and, amazingly, fractions!  He hated to see the classes end, he loved them that much.  I reminded him of this a few minutes ago and he said, "I'd take the classes again right now if I could!"  

His math skills are now better than mine ever were (Fractions?  Really?)  He got that job he was after, the same one he retired from not so long ago.  But I always felt like the greatest benefit of his getting the GED was the effect it had on his self confidence.  He found out he was smarter than he had ever imagined.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One step closer to the grave

Hardly a morning goes by that I don't stop and realize that each day is, indeed, one step closer to the grave.  I try to remember, first thing out of bed, to thank God for another day, because I don't have that many days left, although sometimes it takes two cups of coffee before I get around to thanking Him.    

I will be seventy in July.  Wow, that sounds so old!  It seems even older when someone in his early-to-mid-seventies dies.  A local man died yesterday, one who was a member of the church I attend.  He was seventy-five.  Maybe because he has children the age of mine, or maybe because I saw him and his wife at church on Sundays, but today I am truly reminded of my own mortality.  

When Cliff and I make plans to do things, we often talk about the possibility that we might not be around to fulfill those plans.  These days when I'm re-subscribing to one of Cliff's antique tractor magazines, I seldom do it for more than two years ahead.  It's a roll of the dice whether we'll be around.  

Some family members don't like to hear me and my husband talking like this.  Well, they can stick their heads in the sand if they want to, but I like facing reality.  Cliff and I have no problem at all with these discussions.  

Yesterday we were discussing a topic that concerned what might happen to this property in ten years, and I said, "Cliff, do you realize how slim the chances are that we will both still be alive in ten years?"  

"You're right," he said.  "We're on our way out."  

And you, dear readers, may not know it, but so are you.  You just don't realize it until the end looms ahead and friends and relatives are dying around you with increasing frequency.  When that happens, there is no way of denying it.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Here's how you know a real cowgirl when you see one

The little princess' mom was here tonight after work, feeding the horses.  After awhile, she came to the house to get some warm water.

"I'm going to clean Huck's sheath," she said.

I know what is involved in that process.  Blue needed it done one time.  I called a vet, who sedated him for the process.  The whole thing scares me, just thinking about it, and Amber is only about five feet tall.  But she said she's done it before, and wasn't about to pay a vet $100 to do it.

"Have you ever been kicked while you were doing that?"

"Not yet."

She didn't object to my taking pictures, so I took two.

Would YOU put your hand up there?  Yuck!

Click HERE for an article explaining what Amber is feeling around for.

After pulling all kinds of gunk out of that gelding's junk, she finally found what she was looking for.  The bean.  "Got it," she said.

Here is a video explaining why and how.

Pioneer woman, I challenge you to top this!  Here we have a real cowgirl.  And I get to spend time with her baby girl three or four days a week.


That's how you will generally find me:  barefoot.  Although in winter, I usually wear Cliff's cast-off socks to keep my feet warm in the house.  As long as I can remember, I have only worn shoes when it's absolutely necessary.  I have short Muck boots and tall Muck boots, and in inclement weather I slip my bare or stockinged feet into those when I'm going outside.  

I look at my baby pictures and see that I always had shoes on, but that's most likely because I wasn't big enough to remove them from my feet myself.

I stepped on so many nails and so much broken glass as a kid that it has to be only the grace of God that kept me from dying of lockjaw, because I sure never went to the doctor for a tetanus shot.  In fact, I never once had stitches as a kid.  My mom would just bind a wound together with adhesive tape (which she actually thought had healing powers), saying, "It'll be OK, it bled good."

Keep in mind that until I was twelve years old, we didn't have running water.  There was always a bucket of water in the kitchen, though, and a wash pan to put some of that water  in when a person needed to wash her hands or face.

But as far as I recall, my mother never made me wash my feet before I went to bed.  And believe me, my feet got plenty dirty.  It was only when I spent a night with Grandma that I washed my feet at bedtime: she made a point of taking her shoes off, putting the wash pan with water in it on the floor of the back porch, and washing her feet.  Then she would tell me it was my turn.  It's only in the last few years I've realized that Grandma's feet weren't dirty.  She wore shoes all the time.  But my feet had been everywhere:  out in the cow pasture, in the hen house, up and down the gravel road.  Even these days, by the time we are a month into summer, the soles of my feet are stained black.  The only time they look clean is when I walk through wet grass, which cleans feet better than any kind of soap and water.  So looking back, Grandma was, in her subtle way, getting me to wash my feet without actually ordering me to do it.    

There was a time before I ever dated Cliff that I stayed at his parents' house from time to time.  I worked with the older of his two sisters and often spent the night with her.  His younger sister, Charlene, was seven years old at the time; she and I got along very well.  Cliff's mom was a fanatic about her clothes being clean and bright, but she didn't know how it would go over if she told me to wash my feet.  So she had Charlene tell me I should wash my feet before I went to bed.  Folks, I was twenty years old at the time, living on my own, and it still had never occurred to me to wash my dirty feet before I went to bed!  Although by this time, of course, it was a simple matter to take a bath or shower, so my feet would usually get clean in the process of bathing.  But if I waited until morning to shower, or if I showered early in the evening and went back outside, of course the feet were dirty at bedtime.  

When I think about all the relatives whose sheets were probably stained by my dirty feet, I wonder if I was the talk of the family.  They probably had to use extra bleach on the whites after I went home.    

On a side note, Cliff and I had been married a year when we went to one of my mom's family gatherings at Uncle Carl's.  As soon as we arrived, I slipped my shoes off and put them by the doorway and Aunt Bernice, perplexed, asked, "Why don't you wear your shoes?"  

It seemed a ridiculous question to me, but I realize now that most adults don't remove their shoes at a family gathering.  

Oh well.  I never said I was normal.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fruit trees from Stark Brothers

There WILL be peaches this year, good Lord willing.  The blossoms made it through the latest frost and freeze.  I have two peach trees out by the road:  This one is standard size, and the one nearer the road is a semi-dwarf.  

There's also a dwarf peach tree back by the mobile home.  When I'm ordering fruit trees, I make sure to order trees that don't bloom too early in the year, because I don't want the late freezes to steal my fruit.  I also try for varieties that produce at different times, so we have fresh fruit for a longer period.  

This is a two-in-one plum tree.  When I received it, along with four other dwarf trees, I didn't realize there were directions on that tag at the bottom.  So I noticed it wasn't trimmed right down to a single stick like the others and lopped off some little branches.  THEN I found the directions and saw that I was not to prune above the white line painted on it.  Thank goodness I did leave little stumps there where the two varieties of plums had been grafted on.  

This is the sweet cherry tree that died... mostly.  I thought it was a total loss and emailed Stark brothers for a replacement.  When I went out to cut it off at ground level, I saw there was life at the bottom.  Of course, it wouldn't be any good unless the new growth was coming from above the graft:  Imagine my surprise when I cautiously felt below the shoot and found that it was, indeed, above the graft.  It's about six inches tall now, and obviously very much alive.  I also have the replacement Stark sent me, up here near the old house.  

I can't begin to tell you how happy I am with Stark Brothers.  In all my years of dealing with them, this was the first replacement I've had to request.  Their trees are reasonably-priced, around $21 for most of them, I think.  Oh, and here's a nice perk:  If you sign up for an account on their site, they keep a record of all the trees you've bought from them:
I can log on to my account and see what varieties I have.  I can click on "view plant manual" and find out exactly the sort of care each tree needs.  My two older peach trees aren't listed because I had not set up an account at that time.  In fact, I don't think I had a computer back then.  

Peach and apricot trees can bear fruit in two years.  Apple and pear trees take longer, as do plums.  

The trees arrive bare-root, either spring or fall.  I really like the fall planting best.

Pictures before dawn

The weather has finally taken a turn toward spring.  That means I'm watching for daylight every morning and heading out the door as soon as it's light enough for me to see buds and blossoms and new leaves growing.  This morning I just couldn't wait that long, so I took my best camera outside to see what it would do in the semi-darkness.  

Titan is still with us (until Monday sometime), and the first thing he did was chase the boy cat, Jake, up a tree.  

As I walked away from the old house a bit, I happened to look back and see the moon, directly over it.  Seemed like that would be a good picture.
I love this shot.

My three apple trees in the back yard of the mobile home.  

Gracie at dawn, standing behind the house.

By the time I was heading back to the old house, it was almost daylight.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday gardening (and slobbery dogs)

First of all, the slobbery dog, Titan.  He's doing fine, although not eating nearly as much as he does when his people are with him.  The dog drinks gallons of water daily, especially when he is out and about as much as he has been today.  When he's with us, he goes on a walk with Cliff; and on days when I'm in the garden, he is outside with me a lot.  Here's the thing about him and his water:  He does slobber.  If he gets a drink and heads toward nearby people, they run, because they know they are going to get drenched.  No big problem there.  But you can't give him a gallon of water ahead of time and expect him to drink it, because after he has drunk out of that batch of water once, you have to pour it out, rinse out his bowl, and give him fresh.  He won't drink his own slobbery water.  Peculiar indeed.  I wonder if this is a Great Dane trait, or if it's unique with him.

Now, for the garden.  I've had my potatoes cut up and ready for over a month.  I usually like to plant some on St. Patrick's Day and some on Good Friday, but it was so cold this year, I saved them all for today.  They are in the ground.

There is a flower bed on the north side of the trailer house where I like to plant impatiens, but after three years of putting them in the same spot, they got some sort of fungus.  So we went to a nursery this afternoon where I bought some pansies for that semi-shaded spot.

I bravely purchased four Jet Star tomato plants.  Yes, it's early, but I can easily cover four plants if a freeze is predicted.  And the worst thing that can happen is I lose the two bucks I spent on the plants.   The anticipation is worth far more than two dollars.  The reason I have a fort around them is that robins will strip them of their leaves early in the year.  For some reason, they don't bother them if I have walls around the plants, even though they could reach down inside the walls and take the leaves.  The milk carton forts also prevent the chickens from scratching too close to the plants and destroying them.

 Back to the pansies.  I turn my chickens out around 4 P.M., and they range all over the place eating bugs and scratching in the dirt and taking dust baths.  This particular spot seemed to be one of their favorites for taking dust baths.  Once the pansies cover the ground in that spot, I think it will be safe from their claws.  But until then, Cliff rigged up a fence around it to keep them out.  He doesn't like chickens, so anything like this he is forced to do is for me, not the chickens.

I raise most of my cabbage directly from seed, right in the garden.  But I spent another two dollars today for four cabbage plants that would be ready much sooner than mine from seeds; I don't have to worry about a late freeze hurting the cabbage.  I did not intend to put walls around these plants, but when I let the chickens out, one hen went straight to a cabbage plant and took two big bites of a leaf.  Chickens:  You can't live with them, you can't live without them.

I do enjoy watching them when I turn them loose.  They seem so happy and free!

My favorite, Chickie, who was raised in my house for the first part of her life, was enjoying a nice dust bath until I started recording her.  She called it quits and left, but not before the rooster crowed in the background.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Our little trip with the baby

Even though she is eight months old and we've been baby-sitting her off and on for about six months, we haven't really taken to the roads with her except for a couple of really quick trips to Walmart.  And she was asleep during those, so Cliff stayed in the car while I shopped.  

Today was the day our Social Security showed up in the checking account, so I told Cliff last night that we were going to do some shopping today.  

"With the baby here?" he asked.  

You know how that whole thing went, from the previous entry.  I had several stops we needed to make, but they were quick stops:  A stop by the bank for cash, two or three things from Sam's Club, a couple of items at Costco, and a few groceries at Walmart.  

Little Princess slept through the banking, but was awake at the next stop, Sam's Club.  Cliff said he'd stay in the car with her.  

"No," I told him.  "She will love looking around at the people and things in there, and people will admire her and it will be great."  

"But the germs..." he said.  To which I answered, "Germs are everywhere.  She'll be fine."  

Cliff was amazed at how content and happy the baby was, sitting in the cart and watching the world go by.  She's a good little shopper.  

By the time we were done with Sam's and Costco, it was almost 11 o'clock, time for Burger King to start serving lunch.  And I just happened to have a ticket for a free Whopper.  So I suggested we stop there.  Cliff asked if we were going in, or picking it up at the drive-up window.  

"Going in," I said.  "They have high chairs and the baby can do more people-watching while we eat."  

"The high chairs are nasty," he grumbled.  "Germs!!!"  

Funny to me he never worried about our own kids dying from germs everyplace we went.  Anyway, she did just fine once again, with old ladies smiling at her and asking her age.  She was happy and smiling while we ate.  When we do it again, though, I will make sure to have some of those baby snacks her mom buys her, so she can eat something while we're eating.  

Last stop was Walmart, where the little shopper's spirits never wavered.  The only time she got a little grumpy was on our way home, and that's because she was getting hungry.  

This isn't going to be a weekly thing.  More like monthly, I'd say.  We do have three days each week when she isn't here; that's when we will usually do our shopping.  But at least Cliff found out shopping with an eight-month-old beauty queen can be fun.  And you meet so many nice people!  

Cliff had to hold her crown on; it was way too big.
She didn't get any French fries (except that Cliff let her suck the salt off the ends of a couple of his) or a Whopper.  But she did enjoy Burger King.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A discussion we had this evening

I mentioned to Cliff that, since tomorrow is the day his social security comes in, we might go do a little shopping.  

"But what about the baby?" he asked.  

"We have a car seat.  She'll probably sleep most of the time."

"But what if we were to have a wreck?"  

Here's the thing:  Over the weekend, there was a wreck in nearby Lexington.  A ten-year-old fifth-grader from our local school died as a result.  Cliff and I discussed at the time how awful it would be to be the driver in a wreck that killed somebody's child.  It makes a person think about the responsibility involved when you have someone else's child in your care.  

But as I told my husband, we can't just stop living our lives.  We will likely have this child in our lives at least until she is two years old, maybe longer.  Are we going to suspend our lives for four days a week while she is here?  Of course we could do our shopping on the three days that we aren't babysitting, but I think we might miss out on some valuable experiences with the Little Princess if we just stay home.  Think of the places that we could take a little girl, places she would enjoy!  There are merry-go-rounds to ride!  

He agreed.  So yes, we will both put on our big girl panties (don't tell Cliff I said that) and venture out into the big world.

We have a dog visiting us for a few days.

One thing I have learned while living such a public Internet life is that people will judge you.  I expect it, and it's actually good for me, because it only reminds me not to judge others unless I have walked in their shoes.  

That's enough about that.

The oldest grandson and his fiance are off to Georgia for a few days, and I'm in charge of their Great Dane, Titan.  I'm glad to watch him for the simple reason that they have been willing, many times, to take care of my dog, Iris, when we were on a road trip.  Don't get me wrong, I love Titan.  But he is the messiest eater I've ever met.  Water all over in the area where he drinks, and food scattered all over where he eats.  He can't help it.  It's the jowls.  I should have the Little Princess for two more days this week, and I will be sure and keep Titan away from her unless I'm holding her.  Not that he would deliberately hurt anybody, but he is so big that he could accidentally knock a child down.  Actually, a couple of times he's been playing with Iris and run into my legs, causing me a lot of knee pain.

What does Iris think about him being here?  Titan is the only dog I know of that she loves.  She plays with him constantly when he's here.  I've decided it's because she met him when he was still a puppy.  Anyhow, she usually hates other dogs and has, in the past, tried to kill them... literally.  She's always happy to have Titan around.

Titan and Iris today, playing with a stick

This video is from a couple of years ago, but you can see how much they enjoy one another.

Here's Titan, in bed for the night.  

Here's Iris at the same time, in her own bed.  You can see how jealous she is that Titan has a blanket covering him (because that's what he's used to at home) and she doesn't.  I hope she is able to sleep tonight.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Now THAT'S country

Cliff loves Gene Watson.  We see him all the time on Country's Family Reunion.  We loved him in the late 70's and early 80's.
 I found out Gene Watson was going to be performing in Chillicothe, Missouri, April 13th.  When I told Cliff, he said, "Now THAT'S one guy I would go see in person."  

You know what comes next.  I ordered the tickets.  Today was the show, and it was not disappointing.  Gene Watson is a few months older than I am, but he sounds the same as he did when he had all those hits.  He put on a great show, telling stories about his songs and clowning around with his band.  I had the best time ever. 

Before that, though, we went to church this morning, since the show didn't start until 3 PM.  Not everybody in our little town is doing great.  One very special fellow who attends church with us had a valve replacement that didn't go as well as it should have, and his condition is serious.  In nearby Lexington, there was a wreck yesterday in which a ten-year-old fifth-grader from our local school was killed.  

I really loved  watching Gene Watson sing his hits with my husband beside me, but I promise you that in the back of mind I was thinking, "A child died yesterday.  "Wayne is in serious condition."  

So while I was having a good time, there was a part of me that was sad and worried, and I prayed.

Oh yes, and on the way to Chillicothe, thanks to my Ipad, I found out some nutcase decided to try and shoot some Jews, across the state line in Kansas.  He killed three people.  Only one of them, as it turns out, was actually a Jew. 

So there was that, and I prayed about that situation too.  

Folks, life isn't all a bed of roses.  We can't just shut out the bad things and pretend they don't exist.  Enjoy every minute, but never forget that people are suffering.  

(Got up this morning and saw on the news that NONE of the people killed were Jewish).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

To everything there is a season

We bought the blue Gold Wing back in 2006, I think.  I know it was before Cliff had the four-way bypass.  It was my favorite.  All the road trips and picnics and riding together on a motorcycle... it was new to me, and I always said it was the most "together" thing we did.  Wow, so many memories.

At some point he got to worrying about wrecking and killing me.  Yes, that's right, ME.  He wasn't worried about himself.  Anyhow, he talked me into the idea of putting it up for sale, and we sold it.  

However, the first three-day weekend that came along, we heard motorcycles thundering past our house all day and we both got depressed.  We realized we had been too hasty.  We missed riding.  

I suggested that we buy an older Gold Wing and just ride it occasionally, close to home.  That sounded like a safe enough option.  Unfortunately, it wasn't as comfortable a ride as the blue one we had sold.  Still, we had something to ride, and it hadn't been that big an investment.  

Then Cliff's cousin bought a newer Honda Gold Wing, a white one (Cliff's favorite color for ANY vehicle) and decided it didn't suit him.  We sold the old wine-colored bike that I called "Yesterday's Wine" and bought the cousin's Gold Wing.     

About a year ago, we decided we were truly ready to get out of riding.  We're both getting older, my knees hurt, and Cliff knew his reflexes weren't what they used to be.  We put the white motorcycle on Craigslist.  Shortly thereafter, Cliff had a serious illness that put him in the hospital for over a week and kept him seriously disabled for a month or so afterwards.  During the time when he was at his sickest, a buyer came for the Gold Wing.  
That was definitely the right time, because neither of us have had any regrets about selling that motorcycle.  Today, as motorcycles roared past on 224 Highway (a "scenic" byway for more reasons than one), I never felt any regret.   I was happy for the bikers going past, knowing how much fun they were having.  I said prayers for their safety and prayers of thanks for all the fun Cliff and I had together on our three motorcycles.  

It was a wonderfully perfect time of our lives, a time I will never forget or regret.  

My memory plays tricks on me

One time back in the mid-to-late seventies or early-to-mid 80's, I remember a hard freeze in the month of May.  Our friends, Boyde and Dona, came out on a Sunday the day before my son's birthday (May 10)... I think.  My green beans and tomato plants were up and growing.  The temperature was in the 80's, but there was a frost or freeze predicted to arrive that night.  Boyde and Dona were gardeners too, and they simply shook their heads at my lovely tomato and bean plants, knowing I was sure to lose them.  

I refused to believe that we would have a hard freeze so late in the year, although I think I may have covered the green beans with straw, saving them.

Next morning, sure enough, frost had hit my tomatoes.  The plants don't turn black until the sun hits them.  I had heard somewhere that if you got out and hosed off the plants to wash off the frost before the sun came up, you could save your crop, so I got out the hose.  When I began to spray the plants with water, icicles froze instantly on the poor plants and when the sun came up, they were dead as door-nails.  

Cliff says he remembers the hosing-off trick working for me at some point, but it didn't work that year.  I remember no other time I hosed off the plants, but he is probably right.  That's a problem as you grow older:  There are so many things to remember than you have to discard some memories to make room for others.    

I was determined to find out in what year this famous hard freeze occurred, and found THIS SITE which tells record highs and lows for each month in the Kansas City area.

The lowest low ever recorded in May is 34 degrees, which might have allowed for frost (we are often cooler than Kansas City by a couple of degrees), but would not have made for a hard freeze.  

But what about my son's birthday?  I remember it all so clearly!  As a matter of fact, there are no record lows in the month of May in any of the years the event could have happened.

This is the sort of thing a person would argue about forever, fully believing that her memory could not be wrong.  In the future I hope I realize that memory can never be counted on.  I need to stay out of disagreements in which the sole proof of my side of the argument depends on my increasingly-faulty memory.    

Since the World Wide Web came into existence, lies and faulty memories are all too easily exposed.  Until today, I thought that was a wonderful thing!   

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring has (finally) arrived

Seems as though my daffodils are always several days behind those of most local folks.

The peach tree is getting ready to bloom.

The dwarf plum tree I planted autumn before last is doing well.  It will have two varieties of plums.  

Old-fashioned lilac bush.

Here are the three dwarf apple trees I pruned last weekend.  I never feel as though I am doing it right, but pruning wrong is better than no pruning.  Two of these trees would have had a few apples on them if it hadn't snowed on the blooms when they were fully opened up.  I did get one HUGE Gala apple, which I shared with Cliff.  

Monday, April 07, 2014

"First Things"

I've noticed something about the child I've been babysitting, something I never noticed with my own babies, or any of my grandbabies... although now that I think back, maybe I do recall something about the oldest grandchild.  

I started reading "Say Moo" to the Little Princess before she was three months old.  It was one of several books her mom brought over.  

I hesitated to read it to the baby, because that is the stupidest-looking cow I ever saw; oh, and I had to make animal sounds all through the book.  But she would sit there and watch as I turned pages, never once getting distracted while I read.  As she grew older, she would pound on each page as I turned (it's one of those baby books with thick, stiff pages).  Sometimes she would lift the book to her mouth and taste a page, and I let her do that.  Now when I read it, she makes comments.  I don't know what she is saying, but they sound like positive comments.

I later picked another book from her collection, just because I wanted to expand her world:  It took awhile, but she warmed up to that one, too.

Now, I really enjoy this one because it REQUIRES me to hug and kiss the baby as I read it.  These days she seems to like it almost as much as "Say Moo", although if you hold them both in front of her and let her choose, she will always choose "Say Moo".  

She has a couple of favorite songs, too.  And they are the first ones I sang to her:  "Amazing Grace" and "Shortnin' Bread".  The latter, however, is her top favorite.  I used to lay her on my lap and clap her hands together as I sang it, bouncing her on my knees.  

Is there perhaps something about first songs, and first books, that comforts a child?  Maybe so, because I still remember how I loved my Little Golden Book of Mother Goose rhymes.  

And I remember how my oldest grandson loved Amazing Grace.  His mother got frustrated when he was small because he would beg her to sing it:  she is no singer and she didn't know the words anyway, so Arick wasn't a happy camper.  

Maybe even children like to reminisce about the "good old days".

Saturday, April 05, 2014

A picture, and the story behind it

A couple of weeks ago, our oldest grandson contacted my daughter:  He told her he intended to propose to Heather, his girl friend of five years, and wanted pictures of the event.  It was to be a surprise.  How could they pull this off?  

My daughter works at a lab that processes pictures for professional photographers.  One of her co-workers does a great job of taking pictures.  So Rachel told the grandson that she would contact Heather and tell her that her co-worker was doing a project that involved taking pictures of couples out-of-doors. 

"But when I tell Heather about this," my daughter told him, "you have to absolutely refuse to have your picture taken until the last minute.  That way she won't suspect."   

Arick and Heather were here last night, and Heather asked if Cliff and I were also helping with the couples project, since it was to be held on our place.  I was at a loss for words (because I knew what was really going to happen), but I said, "I'll message Rachel on Facebook and ask her if we are supposed to do it."  

Rachel and I decided that Cliff and I would play along.

So this morning, everybody was here.  As you can see, Cliff and I weren't dressed up:  He's wearing his John Deere shirt, I'm wearing my Old Settler's Reunion shirt.  

We all headed back to the pasture, and Rachel said, "OK, who's going to be first?"  

Somebody said it should be Cliff and me.  So the big smiles on our faces tells you that it was all a farce, a trick to fool Heather so she would be surprised.  We knew what was coming, and we didn't really care what we looked like.  I think it's one of my favorite pictures of the two of us.  

Cliff and I think she might have had an inkling of what was going on, but maybe not.  Either way, it was a fun day.      

A conversation with Direct TV.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  Hi, my name is Piluchi C. (ID 100254708). How are you today?

DONNA WOOD:  confused

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  Hi there Donna! I am sorry to learn that but I will be glad to help you with your bill.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  Thanks! It shows here that you've rightsized from CHOICE to SELECT package on 02/19/2014.

DONNA WOOD:  Shouldn't that be cheaper?

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  Please know that with CHOICE, you're getting a $20 discount for 12 months on your account. However, since you've changed to SELECT, you also lost the $20 discount.

DONNA WOOD:We are retired on a fixed income, we cannot afford this.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  Yes, SELECT package is supposed to be cheaper by $17 per month

.Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I understand. I'll check available offers for you, just a moment please.

DONNA WOOD:  I feel I have been ripped off

DONNA WOOD:  OK, thanks

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  You're most welcome, my pleasure!

DONNA WOOD:  Even if I could just go back to my $65 plan, that would be better than having to pay more money for less service

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  Thanks for waiting. Don't worry, I have a great news for you. I see that I can apply a $5 discount on your base package for 12 months. With this, you can save a $60 without changing anything from your package. Will you accept this offer?

DONNA WOOD:  So what would my bill be?

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I understand your concern. If you'll accept this offer, your bill would be $64.99/month, net of taxes.

DONNA WOOD:  So I'll be paying $65 a month again, but getting less service.  
Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I understand that the cost is of great importance as well as your service with us. I can make it $10 discount for 12 months, starting your next month's bill.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  How does that sound?

DONNA WOOD:  That takes it down to $60.99, but taxes will be added on,

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  Yes, it shows that the tax is only $0.35

.DONNA WOOD:  OK, I'll settle for that now if that will also change my present bill

.Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I'm sorry, any changes incurred after your bill was printed on 04/05 will be reflected on next month's bill.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  You can see it later by signing into your DIRECTV account online at After signing into your account, select "Billing Center and Transactions" and scroll to the left page to see the recent activity.

DONNA WOOD:  I am being taken advantage of, in my opinion.  I am not happy with this, and will be considering my options.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I'm really sorry about this. Please know that when you accepted the $20 discount for 12 months offer with agreement, you're required to maintain a certain level of programming (CHOICE)

DONNA WOOD:  Old people sometimes don't understand what they are getting into.  We live month to month on social security, and things like this make it hard for us

.Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I understand.

DONNA WOOD:No, you don't.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  Since our best programming offers are usually online, I suggest registering to email alerts. Just log in to your online account at and change your preferences under the "My Email Preferences" section of your My Profile page. You will be able to subscribe to our monthly DIRECTV newsletter, as well as select other interests so that we can send you timely information for other programming, products, and services.

DONNA WOOD:  That isn't going to help us at all

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  This feature will let you check available discounts on your account.
Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  In the future

.DONNA WOOD:  information about products is no good if it's going to cost us more money to switch to a cheaper plan.  It would only trick me again into trying to get a cheaper bill

.Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  DIRECTV takes great pride in being ranked number one in customer service. However, it sounds like your recent experience did not meet our expectations. I have forwarded your concerns onto management for review.
DONNA WOOD:  Well I hope I can get some sort of satisfaction.  

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I can give you SHOWTIME UNLIMITED® 1 Month Free starting today

DONNA WOOD:  NO!!!!!  we hardly watch movies!
DONNA WOOD:  Movies don't help with our budget.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I understand. Please know that I just added a $10 discount for 12 months on your account, that is a total savings of $120.

DONNA WOOD:  Yeah.  Whatever.
DONNA WOOD:  It's no savings.  It's more than I was paying before I switched, so I am saving NOTHING.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I'm really sorry if you feel that way. This is not the type of experience we want you to have. Our Customer Service agents are highly trained to meticulously examine the details of each account that they handle and explain these details to our customers in order to prevent issues such as this one.
Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  You was advised of the package requirement when you accepted the $20 discount for 12 months offer on your account

.DONNA WOOD:  Oh right, and I am supposed to remember that at the age of 70.  I do well to remember where I put my shoes.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I hear your sentiments Donna. Rest assured that I've forwarded your concern to our Management.

Piluchi C. (ID 100254708) DIRECTV:  I encourage you to please call us at 1-800-531-5000 everyday between 8:00 AM to 1:00 AM ET to check on any special deals for your account if you're still not satisfied with the offer given.

DONNA WOOD:  I'm sure a phone call would get the same results I'm getting from this chat.