Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy new year!

Thinking of Cora, of course.

I bought a pressure cooker

Cliff and I discovered this year that the meat from old roosters can be tough and stringy.  When my cousin, Betty, visited one day, I mentioned this to her.  "I'm SURE that when I was a kid, Mother and Grandma butchered old hens and roosters, and they were delicious," I whined to my cousin.

"Use a pressure cooker," Betty said.  

I knew I could trust her advice because she was raised on the farm, and helped her mom butcher chickens throughout her childhood.  

Unfortunately, the only pressure cooker I owned was my pressure canner, which is huge.  I guess technically I could use it for that purpose, but good grief!  It would hold half a dozen chickens or more.  Who wants to clean up something big enough to take a bath in, just for one chicken?  

I used to have a regular pressure cooker.  In fact, when I first got married, the only way I could make a tender roast was with the pressure cooker.  As time went by, I learned to cook meats without it and it was abandoned on a shelf for years.  Finally I threw it away.  And now I found myself wanting one again, so the old roosters and hens will be edible.  

I found one on for $25, which seemed cheap enough to me, and ordered it.  It arrived yesterday.
  Trouble is, I didn't stop to think about the size.  My new four-quart canner seems really small!  However, I looked at the book that came with it, and according to what it says, I can cook a three-pound chicken in it, with only one cup of water added.  Those roosters seem bigger than that, but maybe not by the time the feet, legs, head, and guts are removed.  If worse comes to worse, I could split a rooster and do half at a time.  It only takes fifteen minutes to cook a whole chicken.  

Anxious to try out my new possession, I decided to cook some black-eyed peas so we can eat them tomorrow for good luck in the coming year (no, I'm not superstitious, it's just fun to play along).  Although the book says to pre-soak most beans, I saw that I wasn't supposed to soak black-eyed peas.  Oh, and they cook in four minutes, once the pressure is built up.  Really?  That didn't seem right, but as it turns out, they were done in that length of time.

Cliff hates black-eyed peas, says they smell like dirt.  But a few years ago, Ree Drummond shared a recipe for a dip made with black-eyed peas that we both liked, so I might make that again.  We're back on track with our eating, but we do have half a bag of tortilla chips left from our adventures in overeating last week.  The recipe doesn't make much, so that's in our favor, too.   


  • 1 can (14-ounce) Can Black-eyed Peas
  • 1/4 whole Onion, Chopped Fine
  • 1/4 cup Sour Cream
  • 8 slices Jarred Jalapenos
  • 1 cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons Salsa
  •  Hot Sauce, to taste
  •  Salt And Black Pepper To Taste

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain black-eyed peas and partially mash, leaving some whole.
Add all other ingredients, stirring to combine.
Spread into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.
Serve with tortilla chips!
*Note: if you have them available, you can use the canned black-eyed peas and jalapenos (they're canned together.) If you do this, you can omit the extra jalapenos.

Now I'm thinking of all the wonderful quickie meals I can prepare with my pressure cooker.  Potatoes take three minutes to cook.  A three-pound pot roast, 45 minutes.  Pinto beans (after soaking) cook in three to six minutes.  Why, oh why, did I throw my old pressure cooker away?  

morning chores on a frigid day

I'm usually awake by 4 AM.  I drink some coffee, perhaps play Suduku on the IPad or check Facebook, and in general, get myself awake.  I don't really choose to wake up so early, but that's what my body insists on doing, and I decided long ago not to fight it.  My routine for the past month or so has been to go out and do chores around 6 AM, but last night I noticed it was still daylight at 5 PM, so I tweaked the schedule a bit.  For now, 5 AM and 5 PM will let me chore without a flashlight once a day, at least on clear evenings.

I wear my warm pajamas and housecoat outside in the early mornings, simply putting on a sock hat, donning a knee-length winter coat, and putting on gloves... unless it's a day when I'll be milking the cow, in which case I dress for the day.  

It will be some time before it's daylight for morning chores, so I grabbed the flashlight today and went out back of the house to turn the horses in to their hay bale; they are always standing at the gate waiting.  I keep the flashlight beam aimed at the ground so I can locate the frozen cow-piles.  I don't like tripping and falling in the dark.    

Often, Gracie is near the barn waiting for me to reunite her with the three calves.  On this coldest morning of the year, though, she was behind the house laying down near the cows' hay bale, chewing her cud.  So after taking care of the horses, I headed her way  She had a spot warmed up and really did not want to leave it.  I didn't have my cattle prod (a long, fiberglass stick I tap cows with to get them to move), so I had to use the toe of my boot to convince her to get up.  Don't pity her, my Muck boots are rubber.  I didn't hurt her.  

Assuming that once Gracie was up she would go to the barn lot with no encouragement, I went to the barn, which is in front of the house, and turned on the light.  Once I'm in the barn, my two fat barn cats are insistent that I feed them before I do anything else, yowling at my feet as though they hadn't eaten in days.  With them taken care of, I picked up my flashlight again, stepped outside, and peeked into the stall where the three calves spend their nights.  As usual, they've consumed all the feed in their little troughs, and I fill those up.  I've switched them from calf starter to sweet feed now, so they get the same thing I give Gracie.  They get rid of three large coffee-cans-full a day, in addition to the milk they get from the cow.  

I shooed the calves out of the stall and slid the door to the stall shut because if I don't, Gracie will come out the barn door and head straight into the stall to eat the calves' feed.  She has her own little bit of sweet feed in her own trough, but she seems to want the calves' share instead.  Maybe she has figured out they get a lot more than I give her?  

Normally, by the time I do all this, Gracie is waiting at the side door of the barn, but not so this morning.  I grabbed the flashlight, walked through the yard and back around the house, and discovered that the silly cow had decided she was more interested in eating hay this morning than she was in letting babies suck the life-blood out of her.  Once I got behind her (once again watching for frozen cow-piles) and headed her in the right direction, she cooperated, and was waiting at the barn door by the time I got there.  I let her in one door, she walks through the barn, and I let her out the other door, outside which the calves are waiting to have their breakfast.

At this point I leave them and spend fifteen minutes inside the warm house.  I set the timer, and when goes off, I go out and open the barn door for Gracie, who willingly turns and leaves the calves.  I keep my prod in hand to discourage the calves from following her into the barn, and shut the door in their faces.  I let Gracie out the other door and my early-morning chores are done.  Normally the first part that I do before I come inside and set the timer, only takes about ten minutes, tops.  This morning, thanks to a reluctant cow, it took twenty minutes.

Around 7 o'clock this morning I'll go run the horses out of the pen where their hay is, lock them out, and then see to the chickens.  I'll take warm water to them, and take any kitchen scraps I've accumulated for them to eat.  As cold as it is today, I'll need to go out three or four times today with warm water.  I'll check for eggs on each visit, too, because it doesn't take long for eggs to freeze and burst when it's seven degrees.  

I don't have to do any of this:  I could buy my milk, eggs, and beef; but honestly, I love the routine of tending to livestock, even in winter.  I've done it for so many years it just feels right.  My knees may not allow me to go for long walks, but I do just fine puttering around with the animals, and this keeps me active.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I am so addicted to over-sharing that I started to take a picture of the three new sweatshirts I got for Cliff so I could share it on Facebook.  

And then I remembered I'm not sharing anything but blog posts... and one daily picture of Cora (when she's here).  

So I didn't take the picture.  But I can tell you about the sweatshirts on my blog, right?  

First, the reason I bought the sweatshirts:  If you go searching through pictures of Cliff I've shared, you will notice that in wintertime, he is always wearing the same red shirt that says "Target".  We bought a couple of them several years ago for $2 each.  He wore one of them until it was completely worn out, and he's in the process of wearing out the other one.  Last week, I asked myself, "Why doesn't this man have other sweatshirts?  We aren't THAT poor." 

So I found three shirts at, of all places, Target.  
One says Superman.  

One has the image of Batman.  

And one says "Flash".

And I couldn't even share pictures of them on Facebook... unless I put them in a blog entry, in which case it didn't count as a share (my game, my rules).  

The other thing I wanted to share this evening happened when we were watching "The Godfather" (the first one).  You know how I do it, right?
::watching "The Godfather"::  

But I made a vow and had to keep it.  Later on, I wondered why on earth I would assume that anybody cares what movie I'm watching.  Because, honestly?  I probably don't care what you are watching.  

I told you this experiment would be good for me.

We're in the deep freeze!

I milked the cow last night, before the temperatures started really dropping hard.  I usually try to get a fresh milk supply from Gracie every five days; raw milk doesn't stay fresh as long as pasteurized milk, and after five days, it starts to taste just a little "off".  We are expecting single digit temps for the next couple days.  

Notice my new header?  That's the baby chicks from last summer, and those pullets are giving me four or five eggs a day.  I have a couple of extra roosters I keep threatening to kill, but so far they live on, eating their weight in expensive chicken feed and pestering the hens with more romance than they would prefer.  I intend to keep the big black-and-white one.  The two reddish guys on the right are doomed, eventually.  In case you didn't know, a rooster isn't needed for the hens to lay eggs, but I like to have one around in case one of the hens wants to hatch out some babies; you can't get babies without a daddy.  The two older hens, Mama Hen and Chickie, were lounging in the chicken house when I took this picture.  Neither of them are laying eggs, but come February, they'll start up again.  

I boiled a turkey today:  Everybody thinks that's the craziest thing they ever heard of, but I got the idea from the Frugal Gourmet, back when he was on Public Television, before he was found to be a child molester and got kicked off TV.  I loved his show.  Anyhow.  By boiling the turkey I end up with lots of broth I can use in recipes.  We'll have turkey for dinner for a couple of days, then I will dice the rest and freeze it in two-cup portions for the various casseroles I have that require cooked chicken or turkey.  

Cliff and I are both reading books like crazy.  I read "Leaving Time" by Jody Picoult, and couldn't put it down,  Then Cliff read it in less than twenty-four hours.  It isn't the type book I normally read, but because it kept my attention so well, I checked out another one of hers that I've already started, "Keeping Faith".  With the baby gone until next Monday and with me not sharing two-dozen things a day on Facebook, it's time to read!  

In case you're wondering, the non-sharing on Facebook is going fine.  It isn't like I quit Facebook, so I'm keeping up with all my friends, sometimes leaving some of them a comment on a status.  I don't see any problem with this resolve lasting throughout the next month.    

Monday, December 29, 2014

The over-sharing has come to an end, at least for now

OK, forget the post where I said I was going to stop sharing stuff on Facebook during Lent.  I've decided that since this little change has nothing to do with my religious beliefs, I'll change the time.  My no-sharing has begun, with the exception of links to new blog entries, which I will still share on my status because in the past, several friends told me they prefer that I share those links on Facebook.

I've tried it today (with one exception) and did just fine.  It wasn't even difficult.  I still allow myself to comment on, or "like" stuff, that others post.  But I won't bother to "check in" at church, or tell you how many eggs my hens laid today (five) or how much milk I brought in from the cow (two gallons).  See, I can tell you that on my blog, but not directly on Facebook.  

Cliff often laughs out loud at some of the silly things I pass along, like this, for instance:

So when I see something like this I think he would laugh at, I will message him.  He never notices his private messages, so I will have to teach him to watch for them.  He's a quick learner.  

Yeah, stuff like this.  

Oh, and I will allow myself to share one Cora picture a day when she is here.  I think that's all.  

I am planning on doing this through the month of January.  We'll see what happens after that.  


As part of the process of getting back to our normal diet, I looked up the book "Skinny Thinking" on the IPad.  All the Skinny Thinking books can be downloaded HERE, at no cost.  I don't follow it to the letter, but it's a good guide to get me back on track.  The single most valuable thing I've gained from it is to remember that there is a spoiled child within who wants to eat anything she wants, and have as much of it as she wants.  When I start thinking about, oh, I don't know, Joe's Kansas City Barbecue, I tell the child, "You can have that another time.  Maybe later."  

I know it sounds simplistic, but it helps.  Another thing the author recommends is meditation.

Now, I'm not sure that meditation actually helps me to eat right, but it the most amazing relaxation tool ever thought up by the mind of man.  I go for months or years not bothering with it, and then when something (like this book) reminds me about it, I am once again surprised at how I feel at the end of ten minutes of meditation.  

The point of the exercise is to "not think" which is, of course, impossible.  However, I can direct my attention back to a focal point when I find thoughts popping up in my head.  I often imagine myself on a beach:  I picture those random thoughts as writing in the sand, and when I catch myself straying from my goal of "not thinking", I watch gentle waves wash those thoughts away, leaving the sand smooth and untarnished again.  Sometimes I imagine myself lying on the sand and watching clouds float by above me.  

Back in the "hippy" days, there was a lot of talk about meditation, and "om" was the mantra suggested to use as an aid to meditation.  I find a word like "peace" works much better for me.  "Eternity" is another mantra that I sometimes use.    

So this morning, for the first time in at least a year, I set the timer on the IPad for ten minutes, sat in my chair with my eyes closed and my feet flat on the floor with my hands laying in my lap, and began.  At first all I thought about was the ticking of the clock in the living room, and before I could let the waves wash the thought away, I thought, "Ten minutes is going to be a long time, if I'm going to hear every second tick by."  

But it wasn't.  I was amazed that the time was up so quickly, and I felt refreshed!

For many years, my daily walk was my meditation.  I've always been prone to wintertime depression, and when I forced myself outside and felt the sun and wind on my face, it was better than any prescription.  These days my knees won't allow me to walk extensively, and I sometimes catch myself in the throes of self-pity, house-bound as I am.  When that happens, I remind myself of all the things I can do, rather than the things I can't.  

I hope to get in the habit of meditating in the mornings before Cliff gets up.  Because honestly, those ten minutes today restored me in a way that was almost magical.   

I'm sorry if it seems I've gone flaky, but it's what's on my mind.  So take it or leave it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

For Lent? Really?

I've never given up anything for Lent.  It isn't a concept I was raised with, and frankly, I'm not very good at giving up things.  

But while watching CBS Sunday Morning this evening (yes, we record shows and watch them later, commercial-free), I learned that the word "overshare" made it into the dictionary.  And I realized I was probably part of the reason this happened.  

Should I make a New Year's resolution to stay away from Facebook, as penance?  No, I think that's too extreme, and besides, I can only handle one resolution each New Year's Day.  It's always the same one, and yes, I do keep it:  I vow to lose the Christmas pounds.  That's actually easy, because by the time New Year's Day rolls around, I am so miserable from the too-tight jeans and the acid indigestion that comes from eating all the wrong things, I am thrilled to get off that roller coaster.   

So, maybe I could do something for Lent for the first time in my life.  I looked it up and I see it starts on February 18 this year, and ends on April 2.  Don't get your hopes up, Facebook friends, I am NOT leaving Facebook.  And if I do this, I'm really not considering it a religious act.  I simply need a starting time and an ending time, and this seems like a reasonable boundary for me.  

I'm thinking of not posting status updates during Lent.  I can be contacted through messages; I will be reading what my friends post and "liking" some of their updates.  I may comment on the updates of others.  

I'll be thinking about this for a while.  I'll let you know if I decide to take the challenge.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Remember the thirteen chicks that mama hen hatched for me the last week of June?  

Every single one survived, except for three roosters we killed for the table.  I still have two extra roosters that need butchering.  Since the baby won't be here for several days, perhaps we will get that done soon.  

The pullets are laying now.  It's funny how the mixed-breed chicks turned out:  All of them are from dual-purpose breeds... Barred Rock and Buff Orpington, but they look more like meat birds than their mothers did, and the mixed ones are different colors that the parents.  Their mothers gave me medium-sized eggs, and it looks like that's what I'll be getting from them, too.  A couple of them began laying in early December, but most of them have just begun.  I hope I can remember, if I ever buy chicks, to get them by June 1st, because if these had hatched a month earlier, they would have begun laying before the old hens went into their winter molt and I would have had eggs all year long.  It's been my experience that hens will only lay through their first winter.  I think I remember my mother telling me that, too.  Of course, commercial egg-laying facilities cull their stock once they quit laying.  I'm only messing with chickens for the fun of it.  It's a money-losing proposition for me, but I enjoy them.

And now, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, from my hen house to yours.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Donald's memorial service

Oh, the stories that were told today.  I find it a very unique thing that the stories told by the preacher jived perfectly with the stories told by family and friends.  The preacher knew the same guy we did, and didn't try to "gild the lily".

He told this story:  When Don and Mary first started attending his church a couple of years ago, he learned that Don was a mechanic and mentioned to him that he had a motorcycle that hadn't run right in years.  

"Bring it over," Don told him.  "I'll get it fixed."

Some time went by, but finally the preacher got a call from Don.  The bike was fixed.  Sure enough, the preacher started it up and rode it home.  It ran great!  A few days later, however, he noticed that where a beautiful Yamaha bolt used to be, there was a common square bolt like one you would find on an old tractor.  He called Don and mentioned the bolt.
"Does your motorcycle run?"  Don asked.  

"Yes," answered the preacher.  

"Well then?"  

One lady stood up to tell about the time she told Don her lawn mower wasn't running properly.  He fixed it, but once fixed, it was quite a process to get it started, and he went through all the steps with her.  She was somewhat confused, and asked him why she had to go through all this stuff just to start a lawn mower.  
"Do you want it running," Don asked her, "or you want to pay the price for fixing it right?"  

Don's middle son had a story to tell from a time when he was fifteen years old helping his dad get a car to his shop in Pahrump, Nevada.  He was in the middle of the story, emotional, of course, and said, "we were hauling ass..." and then turned to the preacher and said, "I'm sorry..."

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  

The common thread in all the shared thoughts was this:  "Don would stop anything he was doing to come and help."

Here's what Cliff and I learned:  You don't need to be looking at a dead body in a coffin in the front of a room to celebrate the life of a loved one.  If we ever had any doubts about our decisions to be cremated, they vanished today.

Cliff and Don

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cliff lost his brother (and best friend)

Donald spent a miserable couple of months before he finally passed on.  We're glad his suffering has ended, but there is a huge vacancy in the family with him gone.  Who will tell the corny jokes we've all heard before?  Who, when we go out to eat together, will embarrass the waitress (and sometimes us, as well)?  

The guy was a force of nature.  Cliff called him "the Wild Man".  I once wrote a song about him entitled "The Black Sheep of the Family".  
"He's the black sheep of the family, don't try to understand him,
Cause nothin' he has ever done makes any sense at all.
He's living for the moment, taking anything life hands him,
But the black sheep of the family will have himself a ball."

He disappeared from the face of the earth for a couple of years around 1980.  Nobody, not even his parents or kids, knew where he was.  Don followed his impulses and made no plans for the future, for most of his life.  

I'm not sure how many times he was married, but only two of his marriages stand out in my mind.  There's Beverly, who presented us with three wonderful nephews back in the '60's and '70's.  Their children were about the same age as ours, so you can imagine the memories I have of the kids playing together at different ages.  

And then there is Mary, the one who has stayed at his side faithfully for the past weeks in the hospital.  

Don was a "loose cannon", and throughout our lives, we never saw him concerned with taking care of his responsibilities until he met Mary.  With her help, he built a successful business where he was mechanic for most of the local farmers in his part of Kansas, doing all the repairs on their tractors and trucks.  He usually had a backlog of projects waiting on him. 

 Here's a blast from the past:  Cliff's parents at the top, Cliff and Don next, then Rena, Charlene, and Warren, who died years ago; Phil wasn't there that day.  It's amazing how close these siblings are, but Cliff and Don, only eighteen months apart, really had a special bond.  Cliff has said several times in the last couple of days, "I've lost my best friend."  

One time we moved up to Coffey, Missouri, thinking we could be farmers.  You can imagine how that turned out.  We never even got started farming, but after nine months, we tucked our tails and headed back "home", and that's when we landed in Wellington.  When we sold our twenty acres at Oak Grove and moved to Coffey, Don had a job driving a Bunny Bread truck.  He came out with the company truck and we loaded everything we owned on that truck.  Don filled out some kind of fake log, just in case someone stopped him.  So the move up there was done in one trip, except for the cows... I don't remember how we moved the cows.  Anyhow, nine months later Don was out of work (it had nothing to do with his using that truck to move us), and when he found out we were moving again, he showed up in the driveway to help us... in an old, junkie car that was barely running.  But by george, he was there to help.  Cliff says that's one thing of which he was always certain:  He could be anywhere in the country and give Don a call, and Don would show up.  

A few years back we had a motorcycle problem while we were in Branson.  Cliff was worrying and stewing when suddenly it occurred to me that Don and Mary were camping at Table Rock Lake.  Mechanic Don came to our rescue with a temporary repair, but told Cliff to be sure and get that problem fixed after we got back home.

I know this is getting too long, but I have to mention this:  Don was impulsive, restless, always on the move and in a hurry.  So if he was doing a family member the favor of working on their car, he might have trouble with something connecting or fitting and he would just do a shortcut.  These improvisations sometimes came back to haunt the owner of said car.  So while we loved his eagerness to help us out for no charge, we also crossed our fingers and said a little prayer.  I coined a phrase, "the Donald factor", which will remain forever in the family lore.

Just before Don took sick, he came for a visit and, while he was here, replaced a rear axle bearing on our Mercury.  Cliff paid him $60 for the part, and the problem was solved.  A couple of weeks ago the axle bearing on the other side needed replacement.  Cliff paid a local mechanic to fix it, at a cost of $500.

Rest in peace, Don.  

He was trying to build a hot-rod.  It didn't pan out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The calves, again

The calves seem to have figured out a way to avoid having to fight one another for a teat.  At least 75% of the time, there will be a Holstein on the right, a Holstein on the left, and Gypsy nursing from the back.  Once in a while there will be two Holsteins on one side, and they manage to work things out; but the older they all get, the more they seem to like this arrangement.

Gypsy ALWAYS chooses to nurse from the back.  One of these days the cow will poop on her, but she won't mind, as long as she gets her milk.

This morning, Moose chose to feast on Grace's right side...

and Whitey, who will eventually fill the grandson's freezer, chose the left. 

Here they are 17 days ago

And here they are as infants.  

I can almost see them growing daily!  It's remarkable to me that Gypsy is as big as she is, since her daddy is a Red Angus and her mom is at least half Jersey.  She is somewhat smaller than the big, raw-boned Holsteins, but she's keeping up and growing just as fast as they are.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The land of milk...

I milk every five to seven days, leaving the calves to eat grain for that meal.  And believe me, when they are hungry, they can eat large quantities of calf starter!  If I wanted to, I could just milk out a gallon or so and let the calves finish for me, but I like seeing how much cream the cow puts on a gallon of milk, and a lot of the cream is in the "strippin's" as my dad used to say.  What that means is that the milk you squeeze out at the end of the milking procedure has a higher content of cream that the rest.  

Do I need the cream?  Nope.  Do I need two gallons of milk every week?  Nope.  It's just that years of having milk cows makes me want to know how much a dairy cow is giving.  Here's what I brought in this morning:

Two gallons and a little over a pint.  If I needed more milk today, she would give me the same amount this evening.  That is a lot of milk in one day for a family milk cow to give, and Gracie has one light quarter (it doesn't produce much milk) because a steer was nursing on her before she ever had a calf.  We sold him when we caught him in the act, but he had already done the damage.  Actually, it's all I can do to lift the bucket high enough to get the milk in the strainer as it is, so maybe it's a good thing she has a light quarter.  In fact, I don't think the bucket could hold all the milk if all four quarters were normal.  

a champion Holstein cow

The amazing thing is that there are Holsteins on dairy farms that easily give twice this much milk.  "Holstein cows give more milk than any other dairy breed in the U.S. The average Holstein cow produces around 23,000 pounds of milk, or 2,674 gallons, of milk each lactation. With a standard lactation lasting 305 days, that comes out to 75 pounds, or almost 9 gallons of milk per cow per day."

If I had the inclination, this would be a good time to try some cheese-making.  I even have the cultures on hand to do so, from experimentation a couple of years ago.  Somehow, with a baby around the house and pesky knees, it just seems like too much trouble.  

There is no way we will even consume one gallon of milk this week, let alone two, unless I make potato soup or something like that.  The rest of the milk will be set out on the counter in a few days to clabber (sour and thicken) for the chickens.  

Here's what it boils down to:  Having milked cows for most of my married life, it just seems like I need a dairy cow around.  I enjoy the interaction with a cow.  I'm happier with a Jersey cow around.  Gracie is only part Jersey, but she will do.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter has returned

I know winter doesn't begin for another week or so, but it sure does feel like winter today.  We've had some unseasonably warm days, and I sure did enjoy that.  Now, back to the 20's at night.  

It rained last night and this morning, so the baby's daddy didn't work, which means no toddler running around making us laugh today.  This winter is much better than last, though:  There were some weeks when he didn't work at all, and Cliff and I would beg him to bring her over, we missed her so much.  

I haven't been faithful at doing blog entries for the simple reason that nothing is going on around here.  Every day is pretty much the same.  I wake up at three o'clock, try to stay in bed until four, get up and drink coffee for an hour, and then go outside and let the cow in with the three calves for fifteen minutes.  I fix the meals, do the laundry... see, this is why I haven't been blogging.  This sort of stuff is boring.  

We put out a bale of hay for the horses, but they were such gluttons they wouldn't leave the hay for a minute.  They just stood there and ate, nonstop.  It's pretty good hay with quite a bit of alfalfa in it, and we sure didn't want Adam's horses foundering.  So Cliff fixed up a small pen at one end of the pen the calves have been using, and we open the gate and let them in twice a day for a couple of hours.  It looks like that is going to work just fine.  

The baby is really growing up.  Sometimes she will use the potty if I put her on it.  She is trying to say more words.  She minds really well for a toddler, and doesn't throw tantrums.  

Cliff is getting to the point where he can't walk every day, thank to arthritis in his knees and hip.  I told him he may as well just start using the exercise bike at this point.  He's working on restoring the Allis Chalmers tractor, so that's his winter project.  He doesn't spend nearly as many hours in the shop as he used to, though.  Both of us are pretty sedentary these days, not by choice, but because we don't like to hurt.  And moving around hurts to some degree.

Still, life is good.  The highlight of our days is Cora.  On days when she's here, it's impossible to be anything but happy.  We have a roof over our heads and plenty to eat.  On a somber note, Cliff's brother, who is eighteen months younger than he, was put on hospice care last week.  He's been in and out of hospitals for two months, not able to keep food down.  He finally said, "No more".  

This puts a cloud over the house, and may be another reason I don't care whether I do blog entries or not.  Cliff and his siblings are very close, and it's hard for them to even talk about these awful circumstances.  All of us feel the doctors mishandled things, but a person is pretty much helpless in the hands of the medical profession.

I will leave you with a link that SHOULD allow you to watch my three calves chewing their cuds.  I put it on Facebook, but according to their information, if I share the link, anybody, even those who aren't Facebook friends, can see it.  We shall see.  Click HERE.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Christmas magic

I often wonder if today's children really experience the magic of Christmas like I did as a child.  Kids are exposed to so much stuff on TV, I can't imagine that they feel the same wonder on Christmas morning, the way we used to.  

Things are so confusing these days.  When I was a kid going to a one-room country school, we had Christmas programs that included songs and plays about the birth of Jesus.  Nowadays there are so many various religions in the country, you can't have that sort of program because, if you did, you would have to have programs about holidays of the other religions, as well.  And truthfully, I believe that if one religion is going to be represented, all the rest should have their day.  I know that isn't going to make me popular, but hey... when the pilgrims came to this country, the Indians had their own religion, and it was taken away from them.  We have never been a people who could live and let live.  But I sure do miss the old days when it wasn't so complicated.  

Meanwhile, I love Christmas.  It's a holiday that was never mentioned in the Bible.  Nowhere in scripture are we told to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I was raised in the Church of Christ, and we didn't have Christmas programs at church, but most all of us had Christmas trees and presents and holiday goodies at home.  Some of my best memories are of Christmas.
Those were good times.  Kids today will never know the thrill of waking up Christmas morning and seeing that bulge in the toe of the stocking they hung on Christmas Eve, knowing it's an orange!  We didn't have many oranges back then, so it was a treat.  I'm pretty sure that if a kid found an orange in his stocking today, it would be ignored.

I'm glad I was born in a simple time.  

By the way, the new header on my blog is a Christmas card from my father's childhood, so it's probably a hundred years old.  

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

My manger scene

There's a story behind my nativity set:  it tells me what my mother was like, at her best.  The camels, and the Holy Family, were gifts to Mother on two different Christmases, given by one of her Avon customers.  A lady who made ceramics as a hobby wrapped them and presented them to her.  The rest of the cast portrayed here, I was fortunate to find at a Wal Mart; they were cheap, and made to the same scale as my Holy Family.  But back to my mother.

She started selling Avon in 1963, I believe.  She was more than a saleslady:  she became bosom buddies with most of the housewives in her "territory".  If she happened in at lunchtime, she was invited to share a meal.  She often heard their most private thoughts and confessions.  If someone needed a friend, Mother was there.   

These are the parts of my manger scene made for my mom and gifted to her years ago:  Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and the two camels.
That's what my nativity set reminds me:  that my mom was there for the people who needed her, and they loved her enough to give her very special Christmas gifts.  Before she went into the nursing home, I asked Mother who made these ceramics for her.  "Brenda Tuttle," she said.  I didn't know the lady, but I wrote her name on the bottom of one of the camels with a marker so her gift wouldn't be forgotten.  I know she lived in Blue Springs, because that's where Mother's Avon territory was.

Every granddaughter I've had, beginning with Amber, has played with Baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary, and moved the camels around to change the scene a bit.  So of course, the whole Nativity set has become more precious each year because of the little hands that have touched it.

I'm not a "people person".  But my mom was.  And in the past few years, any time I've caught myself being too critical of her, I remind myself that anyone who had that many friends, couldn't have been anything short of wonderful.

Here you have the whole scene, including the Walmart additions

Most of this entry is copied and pasted from my old AOL journal.  I had to add the pictures, since when I transferred my journal to Blogger, most pictures didn't come through because they were stored on AOL.  That particular little blog lasted from 2004 to 2008, when AOL decided to dispense with blogs.  

Wow, I've been blogging for ten years!

Tis the season

We went and bought a real Christmas tree yesterday, after only using a three-foot-tall pre-decorated one for the past three or four years.  I wanted a freshly cut tree, so we had to travel twenty-five miles.  Since both Cliff and I are somewhat "gimpy", we had one of the crew cut down our tree after we'd found it.  It seemed like they didn't have as nice a selection as in past years, but maybe that's just me. Cliff has done the cutting in times past, but he has been having problems with a gimpy hip lately.  I told him we seem to be limping in sync.  The grandson showed up to help us get it inside the house and set up.  He then left, and Cliff and I hauled ornaments and decorations from the garage, stuff that had not been used in a few years.  

I was having a bad knee day, so I opened up all the containers, fiddled with some stuff, and sat down, clueless about how to begin.  God must have noticed I needed help, because he sent the oldest granddaughter just in time, and she did most of the tree-trimming.  She is all about Christmas!

Gaudy, isn't it?  I love it!  I found lights and ornaments I didn't even know I had.  As you might imagine, the fact that we babysit a toddler had a lot to do with our decision to have a real tree this year.  

Christmas is rough for an introvert.  Not painful, mind you.  Just uncomfortable.  Here's an example:  The grandson's future in-laws are having a cookie- and candy-making day, and they mentioned to him that I should join in the festivities.  "Leave her alone," Arick told them.  "She hates people."  

I don't hate people.  I just hate trying to conform and say the right things and make small talk with people I have little in common with.  I'm the person who, if you have friends who haven't met me and you know I'm about to show up, you prepare them first by telling them, as my grandson does, that "I have no filters."  I'm the one who insults somebody at a gathering without ever knowing I did it.  

I'm that one who, after partaking of a meal anywhere in public, ends up looking as though she carried her own beet juice along to sprinkle on the tablecloth.  Cliff tries to watch and clean me up as I dribble food on my shirt and in my lap, but it's a rough job.  And the funny thing is, he's the one who is embarrassed by my sloppiness.  I'm not bothered by a little mess.    

If you take me somewhere, I will embarrass you.  Besides, my knees hurt, and I would just as soon be home playing Sudoku or reading a book.

But I don't hate you.  I probably really LIKE you.  

Friday, December 05, 2014

I milked the cow this evening

Considering I usually have a milk cow or two on the place, that should come as no surprise.  But a month ago when the weather turned cold and I had three calves willing and able to take the milk directly from Grace, I stopped milking.  I've been buying milk and cream from the store.

I could have opted, as I did when Grace first calved, to steal a little milk to bring in the house and let the calves fight over what's left.  One teat gives a half-gallon, which is plenty of milk for a couple of old folks.  But I decided, instead, to take all her milk this evening.  All the calves are over four weeks old, and eating lots of hay and grain.  They will think they are starving tonight, but their hunger will actually cause them to eat more calf starter, which is a good thing because it gets them on the road to eating more grain and growing fast.    

Because it had been so long since I milked, I was somewhat apprehensive.  How would Grace take to it?  She really enjoys nursing the babies.  Would she perhaps try to kick, and fidget around?  Maybe she wouldn't "let down" her milk for me, since she's used to giving her milk to the calves.  Another factor was the mud.  It's rained all day, and cows lie down to chew their cud, whether it's muddy or not.  I took a bath towel out with me to wipe the moisture off the side I milk from, because who wants water dripping off a cow into their milk? 

As it turns out, everything went perfectly well and I came in with two gallons of milk.  Of course we won't be able to use that much milk before some of it spoils, but the chickens love clabbered milk.  

So if any local relatives want to put in an order for some food item I make that needs a lot of cream (potato soup or rice-and-raisins), this weekend would be the time to do it.  I'm just sayin'.    

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


The Internet is a wonderful place where you can get to know people all over the country and feel as though you know them.  I've had it happen in chat rooms and with blogs, and I love when that special bond grows between me and someone I will likely never meet face to face.  The down side is that you have that many more people to lose to death eventually.  

I have no idea how I found Patsy's blog, but once I found it I never missed an entry.  Sometimes she could be opinionated and cranky, but given her circumstances, she had every right.  I grew to love her straight-forward ways.  When I first started following her blog, she often mentioned having a wound that wouldn't heal.  I believe home health people visited her regularly to tend to that wound.  I never did learn what the cause was, or why it wouldn't heal.  And I  didn't ask.  

I found out she worked at Tyson Foods for years, and that gave me a great deal of respect for her, because that is a hard place to work.  Anyone I've ever known who worked at Tyson, or any other meat packing plant (including my husband, who is one of the hardest workers you would ever meet) tells me how awful it was.  If you want to make me really angry, just tell me it isn't that bad in a meat-packing plant.  My husband is not a liar, and if he says it's hard, then it is.  You can probably read between the lines and figure out someone actually did tell me those places aren't that bad.      

Patsy once told me her husband hadn't been the kindest person to live with, and told a story to illustrate that fact.  She was honest like that.  Her daughter died a couple of years ago, and she said that she wished it could have been her that died.

I have also gotten attached to her sisters, one in particular who kept me up with Patsy's condition during her last days.  She gave me Patsy's address after she was moved to hospice care, and I wrote her a letter the day before Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, she didn't live long enough to read it.    

I'm just sharing all this so you will know that I grew to love this staunch Democrat who never voted.  Rest in peace, Patsy.

  PATSY ANN POOR, a resident of Green Forest, Arkansas, was born May 03, 1938 in Denver, Arkansas, a daughter of Gilbert Willis and Hazel C. (Gaddy) Powell. She departed this life Friday, November 28, 2014 in Springdale, at the age of 76 years. 

Patsy was of the Baptist faith. She loved to raise chickens and give them and the eggs away. She loved being on the computer writing on her blog and connecting with friends and family. Patsy worked at Tyson Foods in Green Forest for about 25 years and held several different positions with them. 

Patsy is survived by three sons, Gilbert Tony Poor and wife Janet, Dillard Kelly Poor and wife Janie, and Sammy Allen Poor all of Green Forest, Arkansas; one brother, Gilbert Powell and wife Sandra of Omaha, Arkansas; three sisters, Fleta and husband George Aday of Green Forest, Arkansas, Betty and husband Larry Renfroe of Pottsville, Arkansas, and Helen See of Green Forest, Arkansas; five grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and several other relatives and friends. 

In 1959, Patsy was united in marriage with Dillard Poor who preceded her in death. She was also preceded by her parents, Gilbert and Hazel Powell; one daughter, Barbara Janet Poor; one sister, Debbie Lee Powell; and two brothers, Clayton Powell and Richard Powell.

There will be no visitation. Graveside service will be 10:00 A.M. Wednesday, December 03, 2014 at the Alpena Cemetery with Reverend Benny Clark officiating. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

The calves are growing fast!

Gypsy was born October 13th.  The Holsteins were purchased on October 20th and 30th.  So the youngest (the one with the most black on his body) is a month old.  Gypsy is six weeks old, and Whitey (the one my grandson bought from me) is five weeks.    

Here they are a month ago, the day we purchased Moose.

I just took this shot this morning.  Can you see the difference?  The man at the dairy was able to pick up each of the Holstein calves, walk them to our trailer, and load them when we bought them.  I would hate to see him trying to pick them up now!

The three of them together are now consuming about two large coffee-cans of calf starter daily and eating quite a bit of hay.  In an emergency, I could wean any of them and they would survive on starter and hay, but there's no need to do that.