Sunday, November 30, 2014

So how was your Thanksgiving?

Our Thanksgiving was a little different from the norm:  A week or so before the big day, my sister in Kansas called and invited Cliff and me to spend Thanksgiving with her, her son, her grandsons, and their families.  As soon as she gave me the invite, I was pretty sure we would go.  For many years, Maxine has spent her winters in Texas, so there haven't been a lot of opportunities to spend the winter holidays together.  Also, I had not seen my nephew's family for years.  Add to this the fact that my sister is almost 87 years old, and the fact we had not seen the house she bought in Kansas... well, we just had to go, that's all. 

 It's a big house for one person.  Maxine keeps it shining and spotless, as is her custom.  It was difficult for her to sell the home in Kansas City that she and her husband built back in the 60's, but she felt at her age it would be better for everyone if she lived nearer her son and his wife.

I had not met my youngest great-nephew's wife and two children.  All I can say is, my nephew has beautiful grandchildren!  Here you see two cousins enjoying one another.  My great-nephews live near one another in Oklahoma, so their children are as close to their cousins as if they were siblings.  

This is the youngest

Both my great-nephews have beautiful, well-behaved children.  It was a pleasure to just soak up the family time, watching the kids play.

My nephew carved the turkey while his wife and his mother bustled around in the background.  Dinner was great.  Desserts were in such abundance that I was able to secure two pieces of Maxine's perfect lemon pie, probably my favorite item on the menu.  

Maxine always makes sure that everyone present sits at the same table, rather than spreading out all over the house like we do here.  It's a nice custom.  On the left is the wife of the youngest great-nephew, the mother of the beautiful baby you see in the picture above.  This was our first time to meet her.  We liked her just fine.  

My sister and me, with one of her great-grandchildren playing games on his Ipod.  We noticed that several of us were wearing red that day.

So there you have it, a little peek into our Thanksgiving day.  It really was worth the almost five-hundred-mile round trip; gasoline was comparatively cheap, too!  The oldest grandson took care of the cow and calves for us and made it possible for us to do this.    

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Watching the baby grow up

A child can be quite a distraction when you are trying to cook, but Cora is growing up and actually enjoys taking part in my kitchen activities.  We had not seen her in almost two weeks, so when she arrived this morning with the usual voluntary kisses and hugs, we were ecstatic.  She is 15 months old. 

I've been craving apple pie for a long time, but that's something we shouldn't have often.  Also, I really don't enjoy peeling enough apples to make seven cups of slices.  But the craving overcame my laziness today.  

I went to my chair in the living room with a couple of big bowls and a knife and proceeded to peel, core, and then slice apples.  Baby immediately became interested and wanted on my lap.  It was quite a feat to find a place for her, what with two bowls on my lap and a paring knife in hand, but I managed.  She was a lot of help, picking up peelings and dropping them in with my sliced apples.  When I cut the stems from the apples, I handed them to her and told her it was a stem.  She looked at it closely, felt it, and even tasted it.  Any time I'm doing this sort of thing with her, I keep up a constant dialogue.  

With sufficient apples sliced, we moved on to the kitchen, where I put Cora in her high chair.  I set the bowl of sliced apples on the tray of her high chair and measured in the sugar, then the cinnamon and nutmeg.  I let her smell each of the spices, and gave her a taste of granulated sugar.  Once the apples were prepared, I mixed up the flour, salt, and Crisco for a pie crust.  I got Cora's home-made play-dough out of the refrigerator, handed her a butter knife, and let her cut while I worked the Crisco into the flour.  Then I scooted the high chair over to the table, which I had wiped off and dried in preparation for the pie dough.  

I set the bowl of Crisco-flour mix on the tray of her high chair and let her watch me add seven tablespoons of water, still talking all the time, telling her what I was doing.  She watched closely as I rolled out the pie crust, and I called her attention to what I was doing when I put the bottom crust in the pie pan.  Then I made sure she was watching when I poured in the apple slices.  "This is how we make pie," I told her.  I probably mentioned pie twenty times while I was working at it, and before long she was repeating "pie" when I said it.  

I asked her several times if she wanted out of the high chair, but she always shook her head no.  After I had scooted her over near the oven so she could watch me put the pie in the oven ("hot-hot", she said), I started a hamburger-rice casserole, and she watched and listened all the way through that, too.  I measured a cup of rice on her high-chair tray.  She poked a finger into the cup of rice, and I sprinkled a few grains on the tray.  She picked a few of them up and dropped them on top of the full cup.  

She sat in that high chair for at least an hour and fifteen minutes.  Every time I asked her if she wanted down, she shook her head no.  

I believe the kid has a future as a chef.  

She also insists on feeding herself.  If she is really hungry, she will let me give her some bites, but once she starts feeling full, she wants to do it herself.  

On another note, she can pee at will now, so if I take her to the potty, she will put something in it.  Her mom and grandma have been working on that, and today I decided to join in the training.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Little suckers

I am sure I have raised over three hundred bottle calves in my time.  There were a couple of years when over fifty of them passed through here.  I had two or three milk cows and, at that time, a bucket milker.  The cows would produce enough milk for half-a-dozen babies, so raising bobby calves gave me something to do with all that milk; I would milk the cows with the milking machine, pour the milk into a bucket, and pour it into half-gallon calf bottles.  If you wonder why I would have so many milk cows, my only answer is that I love Jersey cows, and honestly, back then, I loved milking them.  I especially loved keeping the calves healthy, which is tricky during the first couple of weeks after you acquire them.  They come to a new place with different germs than the ones on the farm where they were born, so their immune system gets a shock.  Scours is the number one problem, but if you get them through that first couple of weeks and do things right, there is no more problem.  

I enjoyed every part of raising calves:  feeding them, watching them learn to eat hay and calf starter (grain), watching them cavort and play, and seeing them grow like crazy.  I went for years with no bottle calves, but in the last few years, I've started raising one or two annually.  

And now for my newest observation about calves, just one of those things that shows you are never too old to learn.

This is the first time I've ever let bobby calves get their milk straight from the cow.  They only get about fifteen minutes with Grace, twice a day, so they don't really get to do a lot of sucking.  Probably not much more than they would get if they were on the bottle.  If you raise calves on a bottle and they are in a pen together, three out of four of them will suck on one another:  They'll suck on ears; navel; immature, almost non-existent, udders; and scrotums.  As soon as that bottle is empty, they look for something to use as a pacifier.  This is a real problem, because some of them will keep doing it when they are put with the herd and are liable to start nursing on a heifer that has never calved.  In the case of my cow Grace, she has one quarter that gives very little milk because a steer, unbeknownst to us, was nursing her while she was pregnant.  When I raised a lot of bobby calves, I housed them in calf hutches with separate pens, which prevented them from acquiring the sucking habit.  

I'm sure this is very boring to city folks, but I'm leading up to something.  Even though my current three calves get no more sucking time than my bottle calves did, they have not shown a desire to suck on anything but Grace's teat.  There is some sort of satisfaction calves get from actually nursing a cow that they don't get from a bottle.  

Things that make me go hmmmm.    

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Some things are worth paying for

Eight or ten years ago, my son, who had an AOL blog at the time, was talking about his XM subscription radio.  This was along about the time that Cliff's hearing really started to go downhill fast, and tinnitus interfered with his hearing even further.  I searched the Internet for cures for the ringing in his ears but found there were no remedies.  I saw it suggested that it might help a sufferer's state of mind to have background noise going, to overcome the noises in his head.  My son found a reasonably priced XM radio on Ebay and I surprised Cliff with it.  

At first Cliff thought I had done a very foolish thing (what's so special about a radio?), spending all that money on a radio that you have to pay a monthly, or yearly, fee to listen to.  But then he discovered Willie's Roadhouse, a station that played all the old 60's, 70's, and 80's country music he loved, and from then on, he agreed that radio was the best decision I ever made, ranked right up there with my insisting that he build his shop.  

I got notice today that our two-year subscription would automatically renew in January, and our credit card would be charged well over $300.  I'm pretty sure the price wasn't that high two years ago.  I went to the Sirus website (Sirius bought out XM a long time ago) and I saw their claim that costs have risen due to royalty costs.  I went to the shop and told Cliff it was over $150 a year, and he said, "Don't pay it.  That's too much."  

Then I remembered why we got the radio in the first place, and realized if you broke it down to the monthly cost, it worked out to $13 or $14 a month.  I asked him, "Is it worth $14 a month to you?"  

Yes, he answered.  So I came back inside and studied the website again.  There are three different plans that include music stations, and we had the middle package.  Cliff never listens to anything but Willie's Roadhouse, so I checked to see if the cheaper package included that station:  Indeed it did!  That got it down to $10 monthly.  

Cliff is much more hard of hearing than he was when we first got the radio, but he says the reason he so enjoys that station so much these days is that over the years of listening to it, he knows every word of every song they play.  So he doesn't have to hear each word or sound clearly to know what they are singing, and his mind just fills in the blanks.

I went back outside and informed him that I had renewed our subscription.  "As long as you can still hear at all," I told him, "we are going to keep that radio going."  

Perhaps you are thinking he could listen to Pandora, but remember, this is his shop.  There is no Internet in the shop.  Besides, some people are worth spending a little extra money on.

A hot dog by any other name is not the same.

Cliff and his sister took off for Tulsa the other day; they had heard their brother would have surgery the next day, so they planned to visit him that afternoon, then see him before surgery next morning.  Their sister from St. Louis was also going to be there with her husband.  As it turns out, the surgery was cancelled, but that's irrelevant to this story.  

Cliff doesn't leave me at home alone often, but when he does, I start planning what I'll eat while he's gone:  Oyster stew, buttered popcorn, and Nathan's hot dogs are high on the list... stuff he doesn't really care for.  

Unfortunately, Cliff didn't have a lot of time to run me around getting my junk food since this was a last-minute trip.  We had to go to the bank at Lexington, eight miles away, for our monthly cash; I thought there might be a slim chance of finding Nathan's hot dogs at Dave's, the main grocery store in town, but there was no such luck.  I looked over all their various brands of hot dogs and noticed some Ball Park franks, all-beef, for $5.50.  That's about what Nathan's hot dogs cost, so I assumed these would be a decent substitute.  

I first tasted Nathan's hot dogs at my friend Joanna's place when I went to visit her in Virginia.  She lives on the outskirts of Washington, DC, and kindly showed me around the nation's capital while I was there.  Anyhow, Joanna has a George Foreman grill, and that's what she used to cook the hot dogs.  It was love at first bite.  Cliff doesn't like hot dogs, and he particularly doesn't like Nathan's.  

At least I had a can of oysters in the cupboard, and I had my oyster soup made before Cliff left the house.  Which, as usual, made him bellyache about the awful smell of oysters.  

That night I had buttered popcorn for supper, about a half-gallon of it, and the next day I skipped breakfast; I wasn't hungry anyhow, since I had my popcorn so late the previous evening.  About ten o'clock in the morning I finally got hungry and pulled the Foreman grill out of storage, heated it up, and put three Ball Park (all-beef) franks in.

Those things were the cheapest-tasting hot dogs I've ever had.  You know, the kind that keeps you burping cheap hot-dog taste for hours afterward.  I ate all three, thinking maybe I'd get past the taste.  And then, of course, burped for hours.  

I left the rest of the package of hot dogs on the counter, because I had no intention of eating them.  Yesterday the grandson and Cliff were hanging out in the living room chatting and I told them I was going to put a hot dog on the front porch and see if Mama Kitty, who was hanging out there at the time, would be interested.  I laid the hot dog down and called her.  She cautiously approached the strange object, sniffed it delicately, and batted it around with a paw for a while to see if there was any life in it.  And then she indignantly slunk off into the night.  When I woke up this morning, I looked out to see if perhaps a passing raccoon or possum might have taken it away, but no.  There it lay, in all it's glory.  An hour later when I went out to chore, Jake, Mama Kitty's son, had eaten half of it.  

I hate to waste food.  I paid a fortune for these nasty hot dogs, and even the cats won't eat them.  Just as I was ready to toss them in the trash, I remembered my chickens.  Chickens eat anything, even poop.  Surely they would eat hot dogs, and that way somebody would get some good out of them; I don't think chickens burp, so that wouldn't be a factor.  I got a paper plate and carefully cut the hot dogs up into chicken-sized bites.  As I stepped out the front door, I bent down and picked up the half-dog on the porch and put it on top of the pile of wiener bits.  At the chicken pen, I poured the contents of the plate into a container that I leave there for table scraps, spoiled milk, moldy bread, or whatever else turns up in the kitchen that humans don't consume but chickens do.  I opened the chicken-house door.

It was an orgy of eating!  I needn't have chopped the hot dogs at all, because one rooster grabbed the half-dog, took it off to a corner, and had it devoured in thirty seconds.  

So the hot dogs weren't a total waste after all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


It's quiet around here this week, since we don't have the baby at present.  We will only have her a couple of days next week, maybe not even that if weather prevents her daddy from working; although, of course, he is always willing to share her for a few hours if we get to missing her too much.  

We are so attached to Cora that it's going to be a heart-breaker when we are no longer part of her life, which, honestly, could happen at any time, since her parents are looking for an acreage to buy.  On days like today when we haven't seen her for quite a while, I remind poor downcast Cliff that we will have to let her go at some point, that she was only loaned to us; but he doesn't want to discuss it.  Believe me, when the time comes, it is going to break his heart, because he doesn't prepare himself for unpleasant times ahead.  I can deal with it.  I'll be sad, but I am mentally prepared, and have been since we first began watching her.  

The calves are growing and doing well.  All of them are eating calf starter and hay.  Gypsy, the brown one (daughter of my cow Grace), was a month old the 17th.  Whitey, standing, is a month old today, and Moose, the one in the middle, is five days younger.  It hasn't been a lot of fun going out in the cold twice a day to put Grace with them so they can nurse, but it doesn't take long.  I also go out three times a day with hot water so I can pour it over the ice in the chicken's water bucket and thaw them a little something to drink.  

If a gal's going to feed three growing children, she needs to get her head deep in the hay bale!

Cliff is spending lots of time in the shop working on his Allis Chalmers D-17, Series IV tractor.  Those of you who have me as a Facebook friend can look at the progress in an album I set up just for the project.  

The sweet baby we watch gave me a cold with sore throat and coughing week before last.  Then, while I was still coughing from the cold, she gave her parents, me, and Cliff an abdominal curse that laid us low for awhile.  I hope this means all our winter illnesses are done for this winter.  We have certainly had our quota.  

Yesterday we went to our favorite Oklahoma Joe's (now known as "Joe's Kansas City Barbecue).  It was bitter cold, and as usual the waiting line extended outside onto the sidewalk.  I'll share this little story that I already posted for my Facebook friends.
Cliff and I arrived at Oklahoma Joe's around 11:15 A.M. There was a line that reached outside to the sidewalk, and it was a cold day. We happened to be waiting behind a couple of guys with Seahawks Stocking caps on. They seemed to be in fairly good humor, considering their team lost yesterday. At one point, Cliff said, “We should have called in our order and eaten in the car.”
We tried that once,” I said. “Barbecue is too messy to eat in the car.”
It would have been better than wasting all this time waiting in line,” he responded.
But waiting in line is part of the charm,” I answered.
The Seahawks fans turned toward me, smiling, and the one nearest me said, “You are a lady with a positive attitude.”
No,” Cliff told him. “She's just crazy.”

Keep warm, everybody!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Deerslayer

Saturday, the opening day of deer season, found my grandson and his future wife here before dawn.  The temperature was, I believe, in the low 20's.  I noticed their arrival outside, but they didn't come to the house.  They went straight to their separate deer stands.

Around 8 o'clock, I wondered in a status on Facebook whether the hunters might like sausage and pancakes for breakfast.  Heather had her phone with her, saw my offer, and "liked" my status.  Then granddaughter Monica  saw it and mentioned it was her birthday, and wouldn't I, as a wonderful grandmother (ha!), like to make pancakes for her?  So that I wouldn't be cooking pancakes for too many at once, I told Monica and her sister to come on over and I'd do two breakfasts:  the first for them, another for Cliff and the hunters.  In my old age, I have become unable to judge how much food is needed for a larger group of people, and usually someone gets shorted.  I knew I cold handle two average-sized pancake breakfasts.  

Heather and Arick came to the house around nine and took a break for an hour or two.  They returned to their stands for three or four hours, came back mid-afternoon for a tenderloin sandwich, and returned to the hunt until dark.  Heather saw a deer, but didn't have a clear shot, so she didn't act.  Day one, no luck, but some disappointment. 

Yesterday, day two, they were once again out before dawn; it was even colder and there was a wind blowing.  They used every trick in the book to stay warm, but came back around 8 o'clock, frozen.  This time the morning fare was biscuits and gravy.  They hung around quite a while, then finally Arick decided to go back, although he didn't seem very optimistic.  Heather "didn't feel good" and decided to make use of our guest bed.  Arick went out, then came in later and went to check on Heather, who enticed him to get under the covers with her to warm up.  I've been sick the past few days, and I went to my own bed for a couple of hours.  Cliff, who had been sicker than I, decided to leave all the pansies inside and do something useful in the shop while his Sunday football games recorded on DVR.

Around 4 P.M., everyone began stirring, and after eating some chili, the hunters headed out with the intention of staying in their blinds until dark.

Heather, as usual, was passing time with her phone, cruising Facebook (of course the phone was on "silent") and keeping one eye on the valley ahead.  Some does wandered by, and she only took pictures of them because she was after a buck.  In the process of taking pictures, she looked up and saw... an eight-point buck!  In trying to put down her phone so she could pick up the gun, she accidentally took this selfie:
She didn't even know she had taken the picture until later.  Can't you imagine what was going through her mind?  Don't you wish you could hear what she was thinking?  

She had success in the hunt.  The message of the story is this:  Always take a nap if you need one.  You are sure to be successful!

Just one more short story.  A former neighbor posted a picture of the deer he shot on Facebook, and I said, "Cliff, look at the picture Ryan posted!"

"Wow," said my husband, "look at that!  A nice, new, four-wheel-drive Case tractor!"

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Strangely scheduled meals

Cliff and I usually eat a small breakfast around 7 A.M.  By small, I mean cereal (the one-serving size specified on the box); oatmeal or cream of wheat; or sometimes, an egg, a couple pieces of bacon, and toast.  Then we eat "dinner" at noon, because I grew up calling the noon meal dinner;and a light supper.  

This morning I told Cliff I was going to make pancakes and sausage for the grandson and his sweetie when they came back in from morning deer-hunting.  "Go ahead and have a small bowl of raisin bran," I said, "That will tide you over until they come in from hunting, and then you can eat pancakes with them."  

Granddaughter Monica saw me mention on Facebook that I was making pancakes and reminded me it's her birthday.  Rather than have five people standing in line waiting for pancakes all at once, I suggested she and her sister come earlier and I'd make pancakes just for them; then when the hunters came in, I would cook another round for them and Cliff.  

This all worked out well, but I wasn't hungry and chose not to eat pancakes.  I'm not as pancake-crazy as the rest of the family seems to be.  

Cliff went out to the shop.  Along about noon, I realized I was very hungry.  You know, when you're hungry, you think of all your favorite foods, and I thought of Oklahoma Joe's (now known as Joe's Kansas City).  And yet, how very foolish to go on a weekend to a place so popular, there is always a waiting line.  Also foolish because we are just recovering from Montezuma's revenge, given to us by the sweetest little toddler in the world, and Cliff is a little nervous about getting too far from home today.  

Then I started thinking about PT's Family Restaurant, just fifteen miles away.  They make a wonderful pork tenderloin!  But no, it just wouldn't be right to make Cliff take me for a tenderloin when he wouldn't even be hungry for another two or three hours.  Keep in mind he was safely in the shop working on an old Allis Chalmers tractor, so he had no idea what was going through my mind.  

By this time my stomach was growling, and my more practical side took over.  "Dummy," I said to myself, "there are pork tenderloins in the freezer from that hog we butchered.  Fix yourself a tenderloin.  You know how to bread them and do them right."  

Yes, I do talk to myself like that.  A lot.  

I half-thawed a package of four small tenderloins, pried them apart, put two in the refrigerator for later, and breaded the other two, then fried them.  My tenderloin sandwich was delicious, with Miracle Whip, onions, and hamburger dills dressing it up.  I fried two because I know my husband:  He will come in the house in a couple of hours, say, "What's that I smell?" and I will say, "Oh, I had a tenderloin for dinner."  

His answer will probably be, "And you didn't fix one for me?"  

Of course I did.  

I do believe this is the first time in my life I ever made myself a tenderloin sandwich just because I wanted one.    

Update:  The two hunters just came in looking for lunch.  The other two tenderloins are being cooked now.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I guess we've figured out the calf's escape route.

In my previous post, I was trying to figure out how a calf escaped from confinement.  By the process of elimination, we have decided she jumped out.  Remember the cow that jumped over the moon?  Perhaps she got her reputation doing something like Gypsy did.

There are no spots in either of the two pens occupied by the calves where Gypsy could have squeezed through, or under, the fence.  The permanent pen behind the barn is very tall woven wire fencing rather than barbed wire, which would be easy for a calf to crawl through.  The other is woven wire on three sides and cattle and hog panels on the other, and therein, we are sure, lies the problem. 

 You can see where Cliff ran out of cattle panels (the tall panel you see in the foreground) and started using hog panels.  This wouldn't be the first time we've seen a frolicking calf jump over a hog panel, although it doesn't usually happen.  Gypsy is especially agile, and when she is bucking and running and playing, which happens several times daily, it could easily happen.  I'm thinking maybe we should stretch some woven-wire fence along there to add height.  This is only a temporary pen, so it doesn't have to be fancy.  

Weather here in Missouri has taken a turn toward "frigid", so as you can see, we have had to put a stock tank heater in the tub the calves drink from.  You would be surprised how much water three calves under the age of one month can drink, even in winter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Into thin air

Now that the days are so short, I can see it will soon be dark both morning and evening when I tend to the calves.  It really isn't difficult now that the calves and the Grace-the-cow understand the routine:  I let the cow in the side door, run her through the barn to the back door, and turn her out with the calves, who are patiently waiting, having learned that their meal comes through that magical door.  The calves have even come to an agreement on who gets which teat, so once I let Grace out with them, they position themselves and go to it.

When I went out to get this routine started this morning, I heard the two Holstein steers bellowing in the dark, as always.  But one voice was absent, that of Gypsy, Grace's heifer calf.  Yes, I do know her voice:  It's higher pitched than the vocals of the steers.  Bad things started running through my brain... she was fine last night... did she get the scours, which would account for her not bawling from hunger... 

You see, I'm punchy since all our cattle losses a year ago, and tend to expect the worse when it comes to the cows.  I shone the flashlight in every corner of the pen.  I peeked in the stall where the calves usually spend the night, and into the calf hutch Cliff put in the pen for added protection if they wanted it.  Cliff has rigged up a temporary pen made of cattle panels our the side yard so the calves have grass, and more room to roam.  I walked the borders of that pen.  No Gypsy, and no feminine bawling.  

"Well," I said to myself, "it's no use trying to do anything in the dark.  I'll come out at daylight and look for her."  So I brought Grace through the barn and let her out with the boys, figuring that it wouldn't hurt her calf to miss one meal, if she were alive, that is.  Just then I heard Gypsy bawling nearby.  I shone the flashlight around and caught a glimpse of her... in the yard!  Running loose in our front yard!  

She knew it was time for breakfast, so it was easy to get her through the gate and in with her mom and foster-brothers.  But I'm still puzzling over how on earth she got out.  Gates were secured, and the fences (and panels) are sturdy and tight.  

There are a couple of spots where the bottom of the fence is perhaps a foot to eighteen inches off the ground, and it's possible that she might have laid down next to the fence and ended up getting up on the other side; I've actually had that happen before.  Cliff and I will see if we can find any escape route today.

Gypsy has turned out to be an appropriate name for the heifer, because she is a Traveler, every chance she gets.  This is the fourth time since her birth that she has escaped confinement.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Retraining myself to live in the moment

Reading this songwriting book has made me aware of how much I miss on a daily basis.  Whether it ever helps me get back to writing, it is certainly waking me up to the fact that I haven't been paying attention to real life.  I blog about things, I share things on Facebook, I take pictures, but all the while I have been failing to live in the present and notice what's going on around me.  I would do better to just stand and gaze at beauty rather than be looking through a camera lens at everything.  I've read articles about this very thing, but today it really hit home as I read over the list of things I am supposed to be aware of when I do my daily writing exercise:  Sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, body, motion.

Usually I go out, let the cow in with the calves, then come to the house and grab the Ipad to check Facebook or play Sudoku for twenty minutes or so.  Then I go out, separate the cow from the calves, and come back inside.  

This morning, after putting mom with the babies, I lingered outside, reminding myself to look around and be aware, be alive.  What did I see?  A moon in the east, growing smaller now, but still lighting up the night sky well enough that no flashlight was needed.  To the west, a faint rosy-red glow where the sun would soon be coming up.  As the glow got brighter, I appreciated the skeletons of trees making designs in front of it.  "I should go get my camera," I thought, and then resisted the impulse, because I knew that would take away my "living in the moment".

Then I concentrated on  the sounds around me.  At first I only heard the breeze rushing past my ears, but when I walked around the house and got out of the wind, I could hear my feet swishing through the grass as I walked. Standing still, I heard the apple tree leaves rustling, and in the far distance, the sound of traffic on 24 highway.  

That's about as far as I got, experimenting with my senses, but it was an amazing experience.  For several minutes, I was actually living life, not just existing or trying to find something to say or show on the Internet.  I did finally get the camera, by the way, just because I was ready to come inside anyhow.  

The thing is, though, that no picture can match reality.  I need to take a lot more time looking at the real thing rather than taking pictures I will look at one time and never again.

With bellies full of milk, Moose watches Mama Kitty in the distance and Whitey practices his new-found skill, grazing.  

Gypsy hangs out near her mom as long as possible, even when there is a fence between them.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Tending cattle in the dark in November

I woke up at four A.M., a common time for me to get up, even though there is no need for me to get out of bed so early.  I could hear the wind blowing hard against the house.  Of course I made coffee, because what is morning without good, freshly-ground coffee?  I breathed in the smell and sighed.  I inventoried my body parts and realized that so far, my knees didn't ache.  That's always a good thing.

My morning routine changed today, thanks to a book I'm reading called "Songwriting Without Boundaries".  The author has a fourteen-day challenge of timed word-association exercises, and he wants this done first thing in the morning.  I'm trying this because I'm curious to know if I'd be able to get back to writing an occasional song, the way I used to do without even trying.  

"Two beings inhabit your body," the author says.  "You, who stumbles groggily to the coffeepot to start another day, and the writer in you, who could remain blissfully asleep and unaware for days, months, even years as you go about your business.  If your writer is anything like mine, lazy, or even slug, is too kind a word.  Always wake up your writer early so you can spend the day together.  It's amazing the fun the two of you can have."

So as soon as I had my first cup of coffee poured (with a half-teaspoon of thick, rich Jersey cream stirred in), I set the timer and began the first of three exercises.  

That done, I went through the rest of my normal routines, spending some time with the Creator and, of course, checking Facebook.  Above the sound of the persistent wind beating against the windows, the calves outside were bawling for their breakfast.  Coat, gloves, and chore-boots on, I stepped out into the crisp pre-dawn morning with flashlight in hand.  The moon was round and bright, with clouds racing past it like smoke, not dense enough to block it out its light, just enough to let me know it's as windy up there as it is on the ground. 

Once the calves saw me coming, their bawling became louder and more urgent.  When I walked through their pen to the barn, they came running, knowing that I am somehow responsible for getting them to the source of their milk.  It's difficult to get inside the barn without at least one calf accompanying me, but I get it done.  The smell of aging cow manure permeates the barn, even though there is none visible, from all the cows over the years who have done their business inside.  It's a smell I have actually come to enjoy.  The cats are waiting for their breakfast, the orange tomcat yowling with every breath.  I open the bin that holds their food and put a cup of Walmart-brand dry cat food in an old, rusty pan that serves as their food dish, to shut him up.  

Usually the cow is waiting, but on this day I had to grab the flashlight and go fetch her where she was lying down near the current hay bale the herd is working on.  Again, I noticed the beauty of those thin clouds racing past the moon.  Why does my nose always run when it's chilly weather?  I reached in a pocket for a Kleenex and found there was none.  Back at the barn with the cow, I realized I now had only one glove on.  Where did I lose the other?  Probably when I was digging for a non-existent tissue.  

I let Grace, the cow, through a side door and then out though the back door where a starving mob of calves awaited breakfast and attached themselves to teats instantly.  

I came to the house to give them fifteen minutes with the cow, then went back outside to separate them.  This was very difficult at the beginning of this three-calves-on-one-cow enterprise, but they are learning that by the time I return, the milk is gone anyhow; so they have quit trying to follow their savior as she exits.   

And this, my friends, is what happens when my inner writer wakes up and goes out to do chores with me.  I took a thing I could have easily summed up in a paragraph or two and turned it into a ridiculous essay.  I'll try to put my inner writer back to sleep before I blog, from now on.


Friday, November 07, 2014

Lincoln Park Inn

Cliff and I were watching a rerun of Country's Family Reunion tonight when somebody announced that Bobby Bare was going to sing "Lincoln Park Inn".  We were both ecstatic, because we think it's one of the best songs ever written.

"It's like a whole novel in a nutshell," I said.  Cliff agreed, and then asked, "Who wrote that song?"

I grabbed my Ipad, did a search and came up with an answer that should have been obvious.  Because, you know, every Tom T. Hall song I ever heard was like a novel in a nutshell.

"Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine"

"The Day Clayton Delaney Died"

The list goes on.  But these lyrics are among the best:

My name's in the paper where I took the Boy Scouts to hike,
My hands are all dirty from working on my little boys bike.
The preacher came by and I talked for a minute with him
My wife's in the kitchen and Margie is at the Lincoln Park Inn...

And I know why she's there; I've been there before,
But I made a promise that I wouldn't cheat anymore.
I try to ignore it, but I know shes in there, my friend.
My minds on a number and Margie is at the Lincoln Park Inn.

Next Sunday it's my turn to speak to the young peoples' class
And they expect answers to all the questions they ask.
What would they say if I spoke on a modern day sin
And all of the Margies at all of the Lincoln Park Inns.
The bike is all fixed and my little boy's in bed asleep.
His little warm puppy is curled in a ball at my feet.
My wife's baking cookies to feed to the bridge club again.
I'm almost out of cigarettes and Margie is at the Lincoln Park Inn...

And I know why she's there

I knew it!

Cliff and I have recently discovered another venue for our old favorite has-been country singers:  The Truman Lake Opry.  It's almost a two-hour drive, but it's a lot closer than Branson, which is where we usually go to see our country singers.  We're trying to see all our old stars before they die... or before we die.  Our generation is dying like flies.  

A couple of weeks ago, our first time to visit the Opry, we went to see Gene Watson.  We just saw him in Chillicothe last winter, but he's good enough to see a second time.  

Last night I called and reserved front-row seats to see Moe Bandy in May.  It's been several years since we last saw him in Branson, so I figured we ought to catch his show.  I don't often reserve anything that far in advance, but I like front-row seats, and reserving early is how you get them.  

We've known for months that Connie Smith was going to have a show at Truman Lake Opry.  Cliff loves Connie Smith; When he watches the Marty Stuart Show on RFDTV, he usually fast-forwards through everything but Connie's songs, which turns a thirty-minute show into five minutes.  I like her OK, but I really didn't care whether we went to see her or not.  However, knowing how muc Cliff likes her, I kept asking him, "Are you SURE you don't want to go see your girl friend?"

"No, I'm not worried about it."  

So I shrugged it off.  Last night, exactly eight days before her appearance at Truman, he said, "Next Saturday Connie Smith is going to be down at that place on the lake."  

I had a feeling he was having second thoughts about going, so I checked the seating chart on the website.  There were some decent seats to be had. 

"So, have you decided here at the last minute you want to go?"

"Well, I wouldn't mind."  

So I guess we're going.  It's very seldom that Cliff will even grudgingly admit there is a country singer he would pay to see, especially if he has to drive two hours to see her.    

When I went to her website to get the link for this entry, I noticed she had a November 8 show cancelled due to illness.  Here's hoping she recovers from whatever is wrong with her.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Lovely moon tonight

It wasn't entirely dark when I went out to try and get a picture of the full moon.  I realize that the best pictures of the moon are taken with some sort of filters.  I don't even know what that means.  I just put the zoom as far out as it would go and took the picture.  

A professional picture shows the mountains and valleys that make the "face" on the moon.  What you get from me is a big, round globe.  

While I was trying to get a good picture of the moon, Gypsy kept on following me around.  I wanted to get a full shot of her, but she was so close I couldn't.  Here's what I came up with.  Her face is all wet because she just got done nursing her mom, alongside her foster brothers.  

The flash scared her when I took the closeup picture, and she backed off.

So then I got a picture of her whole lovely self.
I think the Red Angus genetics from her daddy are going to make her a great cow.  

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Trying to add a little refinement to our lives with a baby

We got a high chair when Cora was perhaps eight months old.  She never seemed real happy with it, and somehow it became easy to just let her crawl or toddle around the house and beg for bites of our food... you know, sort of like a puppy would do.  But she's fifteen months old now, and I told Cliff, "I think we need to start eating meals at the table when the baby's here, and putting her in her high chair.  After all, some day she will be dating, and she is going to look awfully silly walking around from one customer to another at a fancy diner, begging for bites, or sitting on her boy friend's lap eating morsels of his food."  
I mentioned to her mom what we were doing, and she said, "She cries if we put her in her high chair."  

Yesterday, our first attempt, actually went fairly well.  I put some food on her tray and let her make a mess, which made Cliff shudder, but then she took bites of what we were eating and drank some milk, and I thought things might proceed nicely.  

Today was a little different.  She loves the corn I froze from my garden, and we had some of that left from yesterday.  As much as I hate changing the diaper of a child who has had corn the previous day, I forged ahead.  Cliff and I had chili, not one of Cora's favorites; but I heated up a little of yesterday's corn for her.  She ate five or six bites and asked for a cracker when she saw us eating crackers with our chili.  I handed her one and she broke it up into the tiniest bits you ever saw, but not one molecule entered her mouth.  

I remembered how she loves American cheese, and asked if she wanted some.  She did!  I got a slice out and gave her a tiny bit, which she mashed between finger and thumb and played with.  So I took a little cheese in my finger and thumb and held it up close to her mouth.  Nothing doing.  Eventually she did end up eating most of a slice of cheese, but it was tough going.  

What do you do with a kid who is fifteen months old but acts like she is two years old?  We will continue this experiment and see what happens.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

So far, so good

My original plan, in getting one Holstein calf, was to eventually turn Mama Grace out with both calves: her daughter and the new addition, whose name is Whitey.  I know, not too original, but it isn't like I'll get attached to him; and he'll be gone in a year anyhow.  I intended to supervise them twice a day at feeding time and, once I thought they were old enough to stick together, turn them loose.  Whitey was a week younger than Gypsy, but is an aggressive eater.  Each calf had its own side of the cow, giving them each two teats.  Simple.  

  I never thought I would give $325 for a dairy bull calf, ever.  But I didn't want to have to milk Grace every day until her calf got big enough to take four gallons of milk a day without getting sick.  

The grandson has used all the beef he got from his half of Jody, the Jersey cow that wouldn't breed back after her first calf.  (Don't you like it that our meat in the freezer actually has a name?)  Anyhow, Arick wants more meat in the freezer, and as soon as he saw Whitey, he gave me $325.  I said, "Well, by the time he's a year old, we might need some meat, so I will sell you half of him for that price."

This seemed fine to Arick.  Keep in mind he is paying me what I gave for the calf, but he is buying half of a yearling.  So I'm just raising it for him for half the beef.  

Whitey was doing so well, and Grace had so much milk, that I wondered if I should add another calf to the mix, especially since I now had my $325 back.  It's a decision that had to be made quickly, because I didn't want too much age spread between the calves.  After all, they would be three calves fighting over four teats, and the stronger, most aggressive calf might end up with lots of milk, depriving a weaker animal of his nutrients.  

So we bought Moose.  He was going to be "Newby" (the name I originally gave Whitey), but he is SO huge and clumsy, Moose just felt right.  There is a two-week spread in age between the youngest calf and the oldest one, but Moose is holding his own.  I still have to steer him to the proper end of the cow, but once he connects, he's good.  

However, I don't think I will be turning the cow out with these three.  Cliff and I have discussed it, and for various reasons, it would seem to be better to simply let her in with the babies twice a day.  They can get on calf starter (a grain mix for baby calves) and I can even wean them early and perhaps put a new baby on the cow in three or four months (something tells me the price will be a little lower in January or February).  Or, I can let her run with her daughter, who by that time will have no problem taking all the milk.  

My original purpose in buying a calf, remember, was so I wouldn't have to milk twice a day.  But guess what?  If I proceed with my new plan, I will be going out to the barn twice a day to turn the cow in with the calves so THEY can do the milking.  I might as well be milking!

I'm enjoying it, though.  It's so much fun to watch the three calves frolic after they have full bellies.  And since Cliff has decided to quit haying, perhaps when we sell Moose, he will bring in enough money to pay for some hay.  

I'm trying not to think about Murphy's Law here.