Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shopping with a one-year-old

Until Cora was five or six months old, we never left home with her.  OK, sometimes Cliff would go someplace, but not me.  We were afraid to take a baby anywhere:  What if she cried?  What if she had a dirty diaper?  What if she got hungry?  

Remember, our children were born in 1967 and 1969.  We were bulletproof back then, willing to tackle any challenge.  These days, not so much.  

Finally, the time came when I wanted to go to Sam's Club and Walmart in the middle of the week.  Cliff said, "But what about all the germs?"  

Geesh.  "She'll be fine," I told him.   "The baby will love seeing people and being in a strange place.  Just you wait and see."  

He wasn't thrilled about the prospect, but we fastened her in the car seat and headed toward the big city.  

It was great!  People fawned over our pretty little girl.  Some guy even told Cliff, "Your granddaughter looks just like you."  

He was hooked, and ready to take Cora anywhere.  

But things have taken a turn.  Last week we took the Little Princess to do some shopping with us and it wasn't so easy.  I placed her in the seat of the shopping cart and she immediately started twisting around, trying to get out of there.  Cliff and I secured her with the safety belt.  As I looked at my grocery list, she had hands and feet outstretched, trying to knock things off the shelves.  She hollered at the top of her lungs... not crying, just happily shouting.  People gave us some very strange looks, especially when I was pushing my cart in an erratic manner.  Keep in mind we were at Blue Springs Walmart, which is an experience in itself.  

"The kid distracts me," I told them.  

It took an hour to do what would normally have been twenty minutes of shopping.
Later on that evening when Cora had gone home, I told Cliff, "You realize, don't you, that when our kids were that age, if they had behaved that way she did, we would have slapped their hands.  And if they had cried, we would have taken them outside and spanked them.  Yes, at the age of one year."  

"I ain't spankin' her," Cliff said.  

"Me neither.  Next time we go shopping, it will be without her."  

And that's the way it will be.

Never give up

You've seen me bemoaning the condition of my garden and complaining about my lack of tomatoes to can.  Once the garden got out of control and the tomatoes all got ugly black spots on them, I gave up.  Every time I glanced toward the garden, all I saw was ugly tomatoes and weeds, so I avoided even looking at it.  The weeds, of course, only get worse with time.  I have a lovely crop of morning glory climbing over, around, and through everything.  

So depressing.  This is what happens when you look only at the bad, whether in the garden or in life.  

I was taking scraps to the chickens after dinner, and looked at the garden, ashamed.  I saw all the things wrong with it.  And then I realized there were quite a few red tomatoes on those neglected plants, and decided to give them a closer look.  

Most of the fruits on the upper parts of the plants are free of the ugly spots.  Four of the plants are bearing puny little tomatoes, but if I canned them, they would go in the jars easily.  The closer I got to the garden, the more red tomatoes I saw.  I went out with a milk bucket and came back with it full.  I took another bucket out and got quite a few in that one, too.

I guess I had better get in there and start canning.  

There is a lesson here:  As long as you are expecting to see bad things, whether it's in a weedy garden, a situation, or a person, that's what you will see.  Look a little closer, look for the good, and you might find something of value.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Here's the thing about being a loner... you eventually figure out you are not like other people.  You realize you say the wrong things, embarrass your loved ones, and sometimes even make them a little mad.  

You notice that nobody wants to take you anywhere with them because you say inappropriate things, and that's OK, since you would just as soon be at home anyhow.  You avoid people even more, because obviously you must be some sort of village idiot.  

Even when you resolve to shut your mouth and not say the wrong things, somehow those wrong things pop out and people roll their eyes and excuse themselves.  

And you withdraw even more.  

There are those who accept me as I am, my husband being at the top of the list.  He probably comes closer to understanding me than anyone else ever has.  I don't expect anyone to make allowances for me, I only ask that you let me be myself, and I will try not to embarrass you.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The herd

Starting about a year ago, we began having cattle problems.  I can truthfully say that, for the most part, the problems have all been cause by the fact that I don't pay as much attention to them as I should.  And honestly, after the deaths and mishaps that have happened, I care less about them.  When Crystal (the whiteface you see on the current header) recently lost her first calf because he was too big and she was too small, I made the remark, "I need to just sell them all."  

Crystal came around after calving and seemed to feel just fine.  Then another aggravation came up:  We discovered that Jethro, the five-month-old steer who we thought was weaned, was nursing Gracie, a heifer who has never had a calf or produced milk.  This could do damage to her udder.  In fact, it may already have done so, because who knows how long he had been doing this.  

We put a thing in his nose that has sharp, protruding metal pieces that will poke a cow when a calf nurses her, so she won't allow him access.  A month went by, and then the other day I went out to feed the cats and guess what?  He had learned to approach her so gently that she was still allowing him to nurse.  

We discussed what to do, and decided to take him to Cliff's brother's farm so he could become weaned.  Cliff tried to call his brother for three days, and for some reason he never answered or returned the calls.  On the third day, I said, "You know what?  I think we should haul him to the Kingsville sale, just get rid of him.  All we were going to do with him was butcher him, and Homer (the bull we bought at the same time as Jethro) can be butchered after he breeds our two cows."  

Sunday I saw my opportunity to shut him in the small lot, and hooked the chain onto a nail so the gate would stay closed.  We'd haul him off Monday.  

Every time I stepped out the front door and saw him, the thought would cross my mind that we really should sell Crystal, since we'd be making a trip anyway.  I even mentioned this to Cliff, then thought no more about it.  

Monday morning I got up and glanced out the window to see Crystal in the small lot with Jethro.  Somehow I guess she, or maybe one of the horses, had gotten the chain off the nail and pushed her way through the gate, which then closed behind her.

You don't have to hit me over the head.  We sold them both, and considering one is all dairy and one is half, the money wasn't bad.  So our herd is much smaller now.

Left to right, you have:  Homer, Penny, and Gracie.  

The million-dollar question is this:  Will Homer have the maturity and size five months from now to breed Gracie?  She is due October 19, and we would like her to be re-bred by the time her calf is three months old in January.  Homer will be eleven months old.  Penny is due May 2, so he should be ready for her.  I will be watching closely to see if the bull shows any signs of aggression, since Jersey bulls have a bad reputation.  If he can manage to breed both cows, we'll probably be ready for some hamburger at that time and will butcher him.

We do have a sweet deal with a local guy I contacted through Craigslist:  A cow comes in heat, we load her and go ten miles with her, leaving her to spend a night of passion with either a Red Angus or a Black Angus bull.  We hand the owner fifty bucks and we have a pregnant cow.  When I think about this I ask myself, what are we doing with a bull, anyhow?  

Priorities happen

Cliff and his brother are going to visit their Kansas brother today, so this is one of those extremely rare times when I’m on the place alone.  It’s hard to find time to blog when the baby is here on Monday through Thursday, since she is of the opinion that no adult should be handling a computer unless she is helping them.  So on days when she’s here, I use the IPad to communicate. By the way, I am writing this entry via Windows Live Writer, just to see how I like it. 

My garden has totally gone to weeds.


There are two reasons for this:  The obvious one, of course, is the baby, although if I had the energy of my youth, there are three days every week without her around, so that’s a pitiful excuse.  But it was much easier when I could just go out several times a day and pull weeds when I was in the mood.  I wouldn’t trade the joy that little girl brings us for all the fresh veggies in the county.  The other thing that happened was when, early on, some varmints were taking my tomatoes from the plants before they could even ripen, Cliff put a couple strands of barbed wire close to the ground.  This worked great to keep varmints out, but it also made it difficult for me to use my tiller.  The tiller is normally my main weapon against weeds.  Ironically, the tomato crop this year was doomed from the start.  The tomatoes developed some sort of disease that put black spots all over the fruits.  The hogs, may they rest in peace, got many buckets full of bad tomatoes, so at least it wasn’t a total waste.  I set out twelve plants and canned about seven quarts, I think.  They have, thank goodness, provided us with enough tomatoes for our table. 
The chicks have all survived.  I sold all but two of the older hens on Craigslist, knowing that the seven young pullets will be laying eggs this winter.  I’m seriously wishing there was someone close by who butchers chickens for a fee, because I really want to eat our young roosters when they’re big enough, but Cliff and I don’t have the best history of chicken-butchering. 


The father of the brood of thirteen chicks was a Buff Orpington, but the hens were a variety of breeds:  Aracauna, Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, and Rhode Island Red.  The Barred Rock/Orpington mix evidently has a sex-link sort of coloring:  That’s what those brown pullets on the left are, and so is the rooster on the right.  All the boys of that cross ended up looking a lot like pure Barred Rocks, but the coloring of the pullets really doesn’t resemble any breed!  I love their looks, by the way.  I think I have three of those pullets. 
OK, this entry is long enough.  Who knows, I may try to do another before the day I done.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Our twenty acres, our first farm, is for sale

When we bought twenty acres with a house on it in 1967, our son was five months old.  Of course you know the sort of memories you have about the first place you owned (with the bank) where your babies were small and you and your spouse were still getting used to one another.  

The old house had two bedrooms and a small basement.  It was heated by a propane heating stove in the living room, so the rest of the house was really cold in winter.  The stove that was in the house didn't even have a blower that worked, so once the weather got chilly, we moved our son's crib into the living room.  

Although the house was sturdy and straight except for the kids' room, which left a lot to be desired, it was pretty primitive.  The first night we slept there, rats scurrying in the attic kept me awake.  No one had lived there for awhile.  Friends came to visit and asked, "Was this place abandoned when you bought it?"

I think we took this picture on moving day, or shortly thereafter.  We lived there seven years and then moved on to what we thought were greener pastures.  I think the people who bought it from us have been there all these years, since 1975.  We have driven by occasionally, and never saw a for sale sign.  From the road, the house looks about the same, although the front porch (where those steps lead) was turned into a bathroom, we were told by former neighbors some time after we left the place.  

My cousin mentioned that the place is for sale, so of course I had to go snooping and see what the asking price was:  We paid $13,500 and sold it for double that and thought we were getting a lot of money.  Yes, we were young and stupid.  

You can tell it's the same house, but the part on the right that used to be our kids' room has been totally rebuilt.  What amazed us was the description of the house as it is now, because somehow there are four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths.  I can only wonder where all those rooms are!  The basement was small, just the size of our kitchen and bedroom together.  

Here is the link to the listing:  Read it and be amazed, especially if you are a friend or relative who once visited us at that poor little house.  Click HERE.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thought I was dead, didn't you?

Actually, one morning last week I came to the computer and nothing worked.  I turned it off and back on, and a continuous beeping started.  I repeated these actions a few times with no results.  The only thing on my monitor was a little blinking dash in the upper left-hand corner.

I first thought my monitor was bad, and mentioned this on Facebook.  A local tech let me know that it was not the monitor, it was my computer.  Then, thank goodness, he reminded me that Dell gives a one-year warranty with all their computers, and they send someone to your home to fix it.  I bought this computer last December, so it definitely was under warranty.  

I can't say things went altogether smoothly:  The first guy who came out fiddled with it and finally said my hard drive was damaged, and that probably by the next day he, or someone else, should be here to install it.  The second guy, the one who installed the hard drive, checked to see that I was connected to the Internet and left.  After I got the baby down for her afternoon nap, I came to my computer (you really don't want to try being on a computer with her around... she likes to "help") and found out I couldn't access most of the sites I usually go to, mainly Facebook!  Thankfully, I mentioned this on Facebook (I have few secrets) and my son said that usually means the computer has the wrong date on it.  Sure enough, the silly new hard drive thought we were still in January of 2009.    

As it happens, I had a three-day wait.  There was a time this would have driven me nuts, but now that I have the Ipad, I am always connected.  However, there are certain things I need a computer for.  Blogging, for example:  I tried to make an entry with my Ipad, but I was going to put a picture on, couldn't get it done, and somehow deleted the entry in its entirety.  I decided I would do better to wait.  

If you are going to buy a PC, I'd say you are better off buying a Dell, just for that free, one-year warranty, and the fact that THEY COME TO YOUR HOME, rather than you having to send something back to them.  

I lost a few things, but most of my treasured videos and pictures are on an external hard drive, and I have already put them back on my computer.  I like having them both places, because, you know, the external drive could fail, too.  

So that's why I haven't been blogging.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cooking with Cora

I baked a butternut squash in the microwave this morning, with the intention of making a crustless pumpkin pie (yes, squash pie tastes the same as pumpkin).  I use my favorite pumpkin-pie-filling recipe and add 1/2 cup of self-rising flour, skip the fat-heavy, calorie-laden crust, and feel a little better for trying to keep it light.  

Lately when I'm doing stuff in the kitchen, Little Princess comes in and stretches her arms up for me to take her.  Of course, it's hard to wash dishes or chop vegetables while holding a one-year-old child.  And if I'm at the stove cooking, it's downright dangerous to hold her.  Ah, the good old days when I simply slipped my shoulders into the Baby Bjorn carrier and packed her on the front of me like a kangaroo, leaving both of my hands free.  Although that wasn't as problem-free as it might sound:  Many's the time her constantly-kicking feet dealt a lucky blow to a dish, glass, or cup on the kitchen counter that then landed on the floor.  

I mentioned to my daughter a while back that I was nervous about cooking with a baby in the kitchen at my feet, and I was at the point of having to make Cliff come in and keep her occupied while I fixed our noon meal.  She told me that if I would put her in the high chair where she could actually watch what I was doing and perhaps gave her something to keep her hands busy, I would be able to get something done and the child would be contented.

Amazingly, it worked the first time I tried it.  So today I put her in the high chair, handed her a spoon, put a few Cheerios on her tray, and started cooking at the counter in front of her.  I kept up a constant dialogue, explaining each step as I did it:  "Now I'm scraping the squash out of the skin...", "This is the mixer...", "I'm getting the sugar out...".  

I got the sugar in a measuring cup, took the bowl of squash over to her, and let her watch me pour in the sugar.  She raised herself up off her seat a little to see in the bowl, and then I took it back to the counter to use the mixer.  I let her smell the cinnamon and ginger.  I put a little flour on the high-chair tray so she could swirl it all over the place with her fingers.  I took the eggs and a cup to the high chair, where she watched me crack the eggs and, later, add them to the mix.  

As you can imagine, it took a lot longer than normal to make the pie, but I had so much fun showing her all this stuff, and didn't have to worry about what she was doing in another room, or listen to her fussing at my feet wanting me to pick her up.  

I wish I had known this trick when my own two kids were small, but back then I didn't have nearly as much spare time to devote to making a pie, so who knows if I would have done it.  

As I was doing this entry, Cora's grandma came to pick her up, so she left me earlier than usual today.  She was still down for her nap, but she had been asleep for two hours, and I knew she would be charged up for playing with Grandma this evening; in fact, when I went to get her out of bed, her eyes were open.  

She came here this morning with a smile on her face, and she left with Grandma, still smiling.  It's no wonder Cliff and I smile so much more when she's around.  Smiles, they say, are contagious. 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Are you getting tired of the chicken talk yet?

Last night when it was almost dark, I went out to the house the young chicks were raised in and started grabbing them and tossing them in the hen house with the adults.  I finally got them all in there, but I knew when daylight came, some of them would be able to escape the pen:  The wire isn't chicken wire, but has openings that measure 2 inches by 4 inches.  The smaller of the youngsters can still squeeze through an opening that size, especially when chased by an older hen.  Chickens are mean to one another; they coined the term "pecking order".  

This morning there was one escapee.  We went to Versailles to buy a rusty old cheap livestock trailer, and when we returned, there were five chicks out roaming around, and seven still in with the big girls.  

I turned all the chickens, big and small, out to roam, and pondered my options.  I decided to let the youngsters return to the home where they were raised, wait a week, and put them in the "big house" again.  By that time, maybe none of them would be small enough to escape.  

A while ago I went out to shut all the birds in, and was amazed to find five of the "babies" on the roost in the big house.  That was their choice.  The other eight were in their old home.  

I love watching animals make choices, and just like my own children and grandchildren, sometimes they surprise me.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

No adolescent chicks have died yet

After their mother abandoned them, I was hesitant to let the adolescent chicks roam freely about the yard.  I have seen a hawk swoop down and try to pick up a five-pound rooster.  He didn't have the strength to pull it off, but you know if he would attempt such a feat as that, he would easily snatch a young chicken.  

Every evening when I take a head count, I am amazed that all the chicks have survived thus far.  Knock on wood, because that could change at any time.  Never assume everything is going to be OK:  That's a lesson I've learned many times.

There was a time I wouldn't have been able to allow chickens to roam around my yard, because there were always several dogs running freely about the neighborhood.  That has changed in the last couple of years.  But I do think about the fox who sneaks past the house sometimes in broad daylight, and yes, the hawks soaring high above.  

I believe the chief reason the brood has survived is that they spend at least 3/4 of their time beneath the shelter of the pine trees behind Cliff's shop, so they aren't visible from the air.  I just went out a while ago to take this picture, and until I called to them, there wasn't a chicken in sight.  

I wonder how they know there is safety in hiding?  Did their mother teach them, or do they simply know it because of a code in their genetic makeup?  

By the way, when I turn the adult chickens out in the afternoon, the chicks still recognize their mother and run to her.  They are greeted with a firm peck on the head, but every day they will approach her again.  Perhaps the hen is practicing the chicken version of tough love.  

Monday, August 04, 2014

"Oh we'll kill the old red rooster when she comes..."

A couple of weeks ago, I told Cliff, "We don't need that rooster any more.  I don't want any more baby chicks this year, and that guy is taking up space and eating feed.  We could kill him and have a pot of noodles."

Cliff has heard about things that "we" are going to do more than once, and since the baby was here that day, he was pretty sure "we" meant "Cliff".  But he is a dutiful husband, and agreed to butcher the rooster.  He remembers nothing about the process we went through with the eight-week-old chickens in May of 2013, since he was sick as a dog, had tubes coming out of him, and seriously thought he was going to die.  

I told him, "You will have to chop his head off, because it won't come off easy like those young chickens.  But just skin him, so "we" won't have to pluck feathers, and it shouldn't be too difficult.  

The baby and I went out to check on him a couple of times.  He didn't look too happy.  Later, he brought the carcass in, soaking in a bucket of clean water, informing me that it wasn't easy to skin the old bird.  So evidently, that's something that only works with young poultry.  

I heated up a big pot of water, and while it was getting to the boiling point, I Googled "how to cook an old rooster".  The first site I clicked on said to boil him for six hours and he would be fine.  Wow, seriously?  Six hours?  Oh well, I can do that.  

The water boiled, I put the rooster in, and then went back to the computer to see what other people suggested for cooking an old rooster.  Oh boy.  Everybody says I should have let him age in the refrigerator for two days, because if you cook a chicken immediately after the kill, rigor mortis has set in and he will be tough.  And then they all said to cook him for a couple of hours.  

"Well," I told Cliff, "maybe cooking him for six hours will make up for us not putting him in the refrigerator for two days."

Cliff didn't look too happy.  I said, "I remember Mother always killed chickens on Saturday that she was going to fry on Sunday.  That's only one day."  

Cliff said nothing.  

So I checked the rooster after three hours.  He was tough.  My spirits soared, though, when after five hours I poked a fork in the bird and the meat literally came off the bone.  

"Ah-HA!  We'll have noodles tomorrow."  

Unfortunately, when I tried to eat a bite of the meat that fell off the bone, it was stringy, and I couldn't chew it.  

I saved the broth, which was very tasty, and froze it.  The pigs got the bird and were grateful.  When it's time to get rid of my old laying hens this fall, I will offer them for sale on Craigslist for $5 each, and if I get no response, I will offer them free.  If I get no takers at that point, they will be sacrificed, but not butchered and eaten.  There will be no more old birds dressed for eating at Woodhaven Acres.  

Thank You, God, that I wasn't born in the olden days when my life depended on killing chickens for meat.  I have a new admiration for my mother, my aunts, and my grandma, none of whom sent their clueless husbands out to kill a chicken while they watched a baby.  They did the deed themselves, and did it well.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

OK, here's the bad news

Bad news from a cattle standpoint.  But then, there are so many things more important than cattle dying, I hesitate to even share the information.  

As I explained before, Crystal got out with a neighbor's bull when she was only eleven months old, which is younger than a heifer should be bred.  When the grandson went looking, and finally found her in his second day of searching, she was on a bluff at our fence wanting to come home.  He and his buddy tried their best to get her down off that bluff to a place where it would have been easy to get her through the fence, but she would not leave that spot.  She was nowhere near the neighbor's herd, and the grandson said there was no way she would go down to where they were.  I should have known better, but I assumed she had not made contact with the bull.  

At least three months went by before we realized that she had no doubt been bred, because she wasn't coming in heat at three-week intervals as she should have.  By this time I wasn't sure of the exact date when she had been with the bull, so I wrote down two dates.  

We put her in the lot July 19.  We watched and watched.  If she had been bred on the first date I wrote down, she would have been due the 24th.  I had earlier ordered tickets for the Sidney Rodeo in Iowa, for August 1.  We were going to leave Friday morning and return Saturday by noon.  The cow seemed to be showing no signs of calving, but hey, even if she had the calf while we were gone, she'd probably be fine, right?  

Our motel was in Shenandoah, just fourteen miles from where the rodeo was.  In this whole general area, we had no cell phone signal.  Just before 11 P.M. we got back to the motel, where the wi-fi allowed me to get on Facebook.  There was a message from the grandson from earlier in the afternoon:  "Your cow is having her baby."  

I'm not going into details, but the grandson, who was already sleep-deprived from spending hours after work every day working on the old house, ended up trying to help a heifer have a bull calf that, it turns out, was about 1/10 her weight.  This is a fellow who has never had anything to do with cows, although he says he remembers watching me help a cow have her calf when he was just a little boy.  I gave him the motel phone number, so we were able to actually talk instead of message on Facebook.  

It was futile.  They got the calf out as far as its hips and it would come no further.  Cliff gave them some tips, and they finally got it out, but of course after all of that, it was dead.  The grandson called me to tell me the calf was a goner, and he said, "I think the cow isn't far behind him."  

As it happened, the cow, Crystal, was just worn out.  The next day she was walking around, eating, chewing her cud, and laying beside her dead baby a lot.  

There is a dairy at Higginsville, and I called a number in the phone book and left a message telling them I had a cow that lost her calf and wondered if they had any bull calves.  Bobby calves are a ridiculous price now, but at least the cow would have a baby to raise, and her milk wouldn't go to waste.  They never returned my call.  

Crystal is only half Jersey, so she isn't going to give a ridiculous amount of milk.  I could probably just dry her up and she'd be OK.  Yesterday I had Cliff go to the barn with me, because I wasn't sure how she would act when I put the kicker on her.  We got her in the stanchion with some feed, Cliff adjusted the anti-kick device to her size, and put it on her.  He got probably a quart of milk from her, although she certainly didn't enjoy his efforts.  This morning I got about twice that much, and she behaved a little better.  She was never a pet like most of my cows are, because I never intended to milk her.  We'll see how she comes along.  The pigs would love to have some milk, I'm sure.  I wouldn't mind having some raw milk around the house myself.       

She went through a lot, Friday night, and I would be surprised if she's able to ever have a calf again due to the trauma that occurred.  I think we will have a vet assess the situation tomorrow.  If worse comes to worse, we can always butcher her.  We could just wait and see what happens, but if she were to get an infection she could go downhill rapidly, and we wouldn't want to butcher a sick cow.  

So there you have it.