Thursday, January 29, 2015

A shared computer

Cliff's computer has been giving him problems lately.  It has been freezing occasionally, and starting up with error messages.  He's been having problems watching videos. Then yesterday and this morning, every time he tried to go to Facebook, the computer froze.  I keep telling him it's about time for a new one, and he argues with me.  

It's four years old, and I've been trying to decide whether we should have it checked over by an expert, or maybe just buy a new laptop.  

Today I said, "Well, I guess you could use my computer to look at Facebook, since that's the thing that is giving you the biggest problem."  

The words were no more out of my mouth than I remembered that I could easily set up a user account for him on my laptop, and we could share one computer!  I now have it ready to go.  

Now, this wouldn't have worked so well a few years ago.  But because I have the IPad, I don't spend nearly as much time on the regular computer.  I think our marriage could survive a shared computer at this point in our lives.  Cliff stays up later than I do at night, and that's one of the times when he does a lot of web-surfing.  He often uses a computer while I have Cora down for a nap, too (yes, I lie down on my bed near her for my own quiet time).  

And there will only be one laptop littering up the living room.  I think this will work out just fine.    

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The day two roosters died

I hate to see food wasted, so when Cliff kept offering to shoot the two surplus roosters and haul their bodies to the ditch, I kept putting him off until a convenient time came to butcher them... even though every day they lived was a waste in itself, because they seemed to be eating their weight in costly chicken feed.  Not only that, but the hens were getting assaulted about four times per hour, much against their will.  There were also daily, sometimes bloody, battles between the roosters as each of them attempted to become the reigning master of the harem.  See, there are nine hens out there.  One rooster can easily handle twenty or so hens.  Too many roosters, not enough hens means open warfare.  

The last rooster we butchered turned out to be very tough, stringy, and chewy, even after boiling his carcass for hours.  A friend told me she had the same experience with older roosters.  These birds weren't really "old", having hatched out in late June, but if you are after a tender bird, one you might use for frying, it needs to be butchered by the age of twelve weeks.  When I told my cousin, who was raised on the farm, about our experience with the tough meat, she informed me that a pressure cooker would solve the problem.  So I invested in the cheapest aluminum pressure cooker I could find.  It's a four-quart model, which is really tiny.  Looking back, I wish I had spent twice the money and gotten a larger, stainless steel cooker.  That's the story of my life: spend in haste, regret at leisure.  

Sunday we butchered the roosters.  I left one carcass submerged under water for twenty-four hours, but the other I brought straight into the kitchen, cut him up enough for his whole body to fit in my tiny pressure cooker, and followed instructions in the book that came with my cooker.  The longest time suggested for a whole chicken was fifteen minutes, so once the jiggler started jiggling, that's what I punched into the timer on my microwave.  

He came out tough and stringy.  Unwilling to toss him out, I cut the meat up in tiny pieces against the grain, put the pieces in the broth, and made noodles, which were delicious.  The meat had a wonderful flavor, but we had to do quite a bit of chewing.

"Maybe leave it in the pressure pan longer?"  Cliff suggested.  

So next day, I cooked the second rooster for twenty-five minutes.  

Success!  We each had a bite of the meat, and it was tender, not chewy at all.  

No, I didn't make chicken and noodles two days in a row.  I deboned the chicken and put the meat and broth in a gallon freezer bag for FUTURE noodles.  But now I know that sometimes you have to play around with the timing when you're using a pressure cooker.  

I sure do wish I had gotten a bigger, stainless steel cooker, though.   

Here is the pan I bought for $25:

HERE is the one I wish I had purchased.  The cost is $45.99.  Half again the size, and it's stainless steel.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Could it be?

The first time I heard the word "Asperger's" I was in the old AOL Christian chat room many years ago.  A young mother, Lori, used the word; she thought perhaps one of her children might have the syndrome, I believe.  Of course I googled it at the time and and learned that it is a mild form of autism.  I really didn't give it any more thought.  

Three years ago my daughter mentioned her favorite television show, "Parenthood", and I began watching the series.  One of the main characters is Max, a boy diagnosed with autism, and I learned more about Asperger's syndrome by watching the show.  By the way, everything I've read says that Max does a perfect portrayal of a child with autism. 

Later on, an adult character, Hank, read a book about Asperger's and decided he might have it.  I'm not sure if it was ever definitely settled on the show, but with Hank's portrayal, I began to wonder if perhaps I am afflicted to some small extent with this condition.  

I realize online tests are never to be taken seriously.  But this morning I took an online test to see what it would tell me about my chances of having Asperger's, and I fell into the "maybe" column.  

Here are things that make me think I might be affected.
1.  I have never made friends easily.  As a child, I actually preferred playing alone with my imaginary friends to playing with a crowd of real children, most of whom didn't like my peculiar ways anyhow.
2.  My husband is my only friend, and I'm fine with that, although I'm sure it's a burden on him.
3.  I hate social situations.
4.  I have to force myself to look people in the eye.
5.  When I'm shopping, or in any public place, I avoid eye contact with everyone.  That's why people often think I'm snooty... they see me, but I don't see them.  They think I am ignoring them.
6.  I often say inappropriate things to people, not intending to.  I sometimes insult people without realizing it until Cliff brings it to my attention later.  

The oldest grandson says I have no filters, and that my give-a-damn's busted.  

Maybe I just have Asperger's.  

OK, I'm seventy years old.  I'm not going to go hunting for a diagnosis; I've made it this long without anybody telling me why I am like this.  I've just assumed I was an introvert.  

What do you think?

By the way, the test results said there is a 30% chance I have Asperger's, but that it's not likely.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Our little girl is growing and changing

Although Cora won't be two years old until August, her mindset is now that of a two-year-old; it's as if some internal switch was turned on:  She has discovered that she has opinions that don't always mesh with the opinions of people who are in charge of her.  She has learned how to express those opinions in no uncertain terms.  Yes, our sweet little perfect baby now throws tantrums.  If she is doing something that could harm her, sometimes just saying "no" doesn't stop her.  She will test our limits.  If we pick her up to remove her from harm, she stiffens up her body and yells at the top of her lungs.  

I ignore the tantrums and she soon stops.  Cliff makes fun of her, which doesn't always stop her tantrum, but Cliff is amused... so somebody is happy, at least.  

The potty training is going well.  She won't poop in the potty, but if we take her to the bathroom every hour or so, she pees.  The potty plays music when that happens, and I give her a Teddy Graham as a reward.  I only put her in a diaper if we are going somewhere, or sometimes for her nap.  

I bought a toddler set of Legos for her this week, and she and I both enjoy playing with them.  She mostly just tears apart whatever creation I come up with, but she enjoys doing it.  She also loves to pick up the Legos when we're done playing.  

Actually, Cora likes to "help" do most anything.  She helps me load and unload the dryer and the dishwasher.  

She would rather run than walk.

She still loves her baby dolls.  Yesterday after her nap I suggested we go outside, and she insisted on taking a doll with us.

She's learning so many things, and I enjoy teaching her stuff.  She has "up" and "down" figured out.  She loves to hold her finger up when we sing "This Little Light of Mine", and she likes to blow on her little light when we get to the verse that says "Don't let Satan blow it out".  I've been working on teaching her "big" and "little".  I thought she had learned the color blue the other day, but that didn't stick.  By the next day she seemed to have forgotten it.  

She will bring a book to me to read many times a day, but often I don't get past the second page before she gets down and goes for a different book.

She is saying lots of words, sometimes even two words at a time, but for some reason she refuses to call a cow anything but a "moo".  Her mom got her to say cow one time, but she's never done it for me, it's always moo.  And if I tell her to say cow, not moo, she grins and says "moo" again.  Obviously she is messing with us.  

She's a rather picky eater, but she drinks lots of milk, and I always know her parents will see that she gets plenty of nutrition when they get her home if she doesn't eat enough here, so I don't worry about it.

I have always had a problem with wintertime depression, but on the days Cora is here, it might as well be spring.  She is our sunshine, the best medicine for almost anything that might ail us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A mother's love

When I went out to separate the cow from the calves tonight, I found Grace cuddling with her adopted son Moose, licking him.  The other two calves were still latched on to the milk supply, even though the milk was all gone.

Grace is licking Moose's ear in this shot.  I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but most cows would not accept step-children as easily as Grace has.  

Moose puts his head against mom's brisket and says, "I love you, Mom."

And when Mom leaves, they all get dessert... sweet feed.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The calves

My cow, Grace, gets milked twice a day by three calves... one she gave birth to and a couple of Holstein steers.  On our recent road trip, we let the Holsteins go without milk and let Gypsy, Grace's daughter, spend two days at her mother's side keeping her milked.  It worked just fine.  
At two or three feedings a week, the biggest, fastest-growing Holstein, Moose, shows no interest in milk.  He will perhaps nose around at a teat, then back off.  This is another first for me.  I've never seen a three-month-old calf refuse a teat unless it was sick.  The first couple times it happened I watched him closely the rest of the day to see if something was wrong, but he ate hay and chewed his cud and seemed normal in all aspects.  Now I just shrug and go about my business.  The other two calves are only too happy to take Moose's share of the milk, and he is always ready for his milk at the next feeding; meanwhile he continues to be the biggest and fastest-growing of the group.  

The calves are three months old now, and if I could come up with a couple of three-day-old bull calves, I would wean these.  They are eating plenty of grain and hay, and  on our small acreage I think they would be more easily weaned now than later.  My problem is that I really don't want to spend $700 on two Holsteins.  I would be perfectly happy with a couple of Jersey bull calves, and they are half the price.  The people at Holden, the ones from whom I often buy calves, usually start coming up with Jerseys (or Jersey-cross) in February, so I may wait until then and see.  Right now, everyone selling Jersey bull calves on Craigslist will only sell in groups of fifteen or more.  I just want a couple!  

A friend knows someone with a Jersey herd right across the Iowa line.  I need to find out how much they get for their bull calves:  With the price of gas so low right now, it might be worth a trip to buy a couple of calves.  I imagine they would be cheaper than the ones on Craigslist, since we would be cutting out the middleman. 

I realize I'm not doing many updates lately.  I'm in my usual winter funk.  We haven't had Cora here lately, and she is our dose of winter sunshine.  I think we will have her this week, and maybe I will cheer up.  

With the seed catalogs coming thick and fast, I've been thinking about this coming summer's garden.  I know it's going to be smaller than gardens I've had in the past five years.  I do still want sweet corn.  I love our Bodacious variety and mentioned that on Facebook.  A friend who has been a Bodacious fan tells me she has found a sweet corn that is even better; I don't even know how that's possible, but I will perhaps plant a few Honey Select seeds and see if I agree.  If it weren't for the sweet corn, I could REALLY shrink my garden.  We'll see how I feel when it's planting time.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Road Trip!

During one of the coldest spells of the winter so far, we climbed aboard a bus with thirty-some members of the Mid-Mo tractor club and, as if it wasn't cold enough here, went north to Iowa and Illinois.  

We left the meeting-place yesterday at 6 A.M., bound for Waterloo, Iowa, a town with several John Deere manufacturing plants, most of which give free tours.  We only had two days and one night on this trip, so we couldn't do everything.    I really appreciate that these tours don't involve walking!  I know some people might think that John Deere tours are something only a man could enjoy, but I found it fascinating.  My favorite thing at the tractor assembly operation yesterday was watching the robots painting.  They are robots indeed, but their movements are human-like.   Creepy, kinda.  I could have watched them all day.  

The tour lasts an hour-and-a-half, and Cliff left complaining that it was too short.  There aren't pictures because cameras aren't allowed inside the factories.    
The tractors are only built as they get the orders.  Every tractor we saw go through the line was built to the specifications of the farmer who ordered it.  If you should happen to order a John Deere tractor, they will allow you to go to the factory and follow it along the line from start to finish.  You get to be the first person to put a key in the ignition, start it, and drive it off the line.  

After we finished the tour, we went to the John Deere museum, also in Waterloo.  This wasn't originally on the schedule, but most of us wanted to see it.  Unfortunately, some of the men couldn't tear themselves away, so by the time we got to our next destination... Moline, Illinois... it was 7:30 and we were all starving.  The museum was worth it, though.  

Today we toured the plant in Moline where combines are manufactured.  I promise you, it isn't boring.  Even if you never saw a combine in your life, seeing them assembled and painted is interesting.  The tour guides are retired, long-time John Deere employees and are very knowledgeable and friendly.   

We spent last night a the Radisson Hotel on the John Deere Plaza.  It was hands-down the best hotel I've ever stayed in, and it cost only $110 including tax.  

The worst thing about traveling with a group like this is that the food always seems to be too pricey and not that good.  I hate throwing money away on food I don't like, but that's how it goes.  Dinner today at the Machine Shed at Davenport, Iowa, didn't impress me; the corned beef on my Reuben sandwich was more gristle than meat.  Our late supper last night at TGI Fridays was pretty pathetic, too, but the restaurant is connected to the hotel; with temperatures way below zero, that was a plus.  

The people we traveled with are great.  Our tractor club folks are congenial and fun to visit with.  Some of them are neighbors, and it's nice getting to know them a little better.  I will admit that bus trip is grueling, and it makes my knees hurt, but I don't think this will be the last road trip we take with the tractor club.

Monday, January 12, 2015

I will never change my Medicare insurance again

I've had the most frustrating morning you can imagine.  I'm in need of a dentist, and all I wanted was to find out whether my current dentist was on the list of providers with my new Humana HMO/Medicare policy.  I logged onto the website.  I clicked to do a provider search for dentists, but the click took me to a new page that didn't recognize my member number, although I was logged onto the main page just fine.  

So I called the customer service number, where I got the option of pressing 2 for spanish and heard some privacy stuff and how all calls are monitored.  Then, after a list of recorded options and warnings, I pressed 2 for benefits.  I told the person what I needed... to find out whether my current dentist is a preferred provider... and she informed me that the software she uses to find out that information wasn't working and suggested I call later.  By this time I was on the verge of tears.  Why do things have to be so complicated?  I waited awhile and called back and got a different lady, but she got the same results:  The software wasn't working; and in fact, she told me, for some reason that particular software never does work.  But she wanted to put me through to the dental people, who, she was sure, could help me.

No dice.  They didn't have my member number in their system.  Never heard of me.

By now I really WAS crying.  Not screaming, though, because my granddaughter Amber does the kind of work these folks were doing, and she has told me about being screamed at for something she has no control over.  So I just cried and tried to make myself understood.

I think it was on the fourth call that I finally got some help.  No, my regular dentist is not one of their providers, but I got the name of someone who is.  

If this insurance works out for me, next year no matter WHAT increases they make in the cost of insurance, I am sticking with them.  This first-of-year insurance change is driving me crazy.  It always does, but this year has been particularly traumatic.

Actually, though, the Humana people are pretty hard to deal with.  Maybe I'll go back to Coventry next year.  I never had this much trouble with them.  

Of course, the way my memory is these days, maybe I did have trouble with them and just forgot about it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My friend Carol

Anyone who knows me knows I don't cultivate close friendships.  I sort of have the idea that if you really got to know me, you wouldn't like me, so why bother.  However, ever since the mid-seventies I have had one steadfast friend who never faltered.  

It started, I believe, in 1977.  My kids were eight and ten years old, and I felt like it was a good time for me to go back to work, having been a stay-at-home mom for all my married life.  Back then there were many places to find work just ten miles away in Lexington.  My main problem was that I didn't drive, so before I could get a job, I had to find myself a ride to one of those places.  I mentioned this to a neighbor on my road, Rosie.  She knew someone who worked at Whitaker Cable, a widowed lady who had just bought a car and would be glad to have a little extra money to help her make the payments.  She gave me Carol's number, I called, and my ride was secured.  Then I applied at Whitaker and got a job on the assembly line.

When you spend five days a week going to and from work with someone, you get to know one another pretty well.  We had some adventures on slick roads in the winter, and had fun sharing stories of our co-workers on our way home.  We talked about our kids and our bills.  When I had too much garden produce, Carol would take any of my excess tomatoes and green beans and stay up until midnight after a hard days work on her feet at the factory, canning that stuff.  Sometimes a local church would have a revival, and the two of us loved revivals.  Carol would pick me up and away we'd go.  

Whitaker was bought by Murphy, which didn't last all that long, and then they closed the plant down.  Carol and I went to various places together to apply for jobs, but had no luck.  When apple season began, we worked at the local orchards, grading and packing apples.

By this time, Carol was going to a different church, fifteen miles away.  She kept telling me how great it was, how wonderful the preacher was, and how I should go there and try it out.  Finally, I think maybe I made Cliff go with me one time... his mom went to the same church.  It seemed like a nice bunch of people and all, but who wants to go fifteen miles to church?  However, when announcements were made, I heard something about a ladies' Bible study and told Carol, "Now that's something I would be interested in."  

So, just for me, she started going to that weekly Bible study.  I became acquainted with a lot of nice ladies, and before you know it, Carol was picking me up for Sunday morning services.  She didn't go for Sunday School, just church.  One day I said, "We ought to try Sunday School and see if we like it.  Sometimes Sunday school is better than the main service." 

Seems like I was always talking her into something new. 

So we did.  But Sunday School classes were short-lived for us, because an announcement was made that nursery workers were needed during the Sunday School hour.  "Carol," I said, "we should volunteer for that.  We would have fun playing with the babies."  

And we did, for a period of about eight years, I believe.  In fact, long after I moved on to other places of worship, Carol was the faithful Sunday School nursery worker there until her health declined to the point she wasn't able to do it any more.  

When I had my book of poems published, I dedicated it to Carol.  See, her route to the church in Oak Grove did NOT lead her past my house.  Carol was never prosperous, but she cheerfully picked me up three or four times a week (because yes, we went Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and don't forget Ladies' Bible study), going an extra six miles out of her way each time, if you count the round trip.  

I will never, ever forget what a wonderful and faithful friend she was.  A confidante, someone who absolutely overlooked my faults and thought I was the greatest.  

She's been in the hospital, very ill, for several days, and things took a turn for the worse.  They were going to take her off life support yesterday morning and then decided to try something else, but her son just called me and said the kids have been called to her bedside.  The extra measures the doctors had hoped would help did not work, and they are going to let her go.    

My world is darker, knowing I won't be getting those occasional phone calls from Carol.  She never had it easy during her time on this earth, but her faith never wavered.  She deserves a rest from her trials.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Animal behavior

I find it interesting to watch the domestic animals around me and try to figure out what makes them tick.  It amazes me how much they know, things nobody teaches them... they just know.  

I haven't had a house cat for years, and don't want one.  I do get a kick out of watching the two fat barn cats, though.  Even though they have never been in our house, both of them like to station themselves either at the front porch or the back, watching us through a window, if possible.  If Mama Kitty is on the back porch looking through a window and I lower the blinds and close them, she will move to the front porch.  Cats just feel so entitled, don't they?  Mama Kitty seems rather unique to me because of the way she follows us around the place.  She even went on our walks with us most days.  She was a wonderful mother, back before we had her spayed.  I did THIS ENTRY about her teaching her children to hunt.  I was amazed!  She caught the young rabbit and brought it to them, still alive, then turned her back on them so they would have to deal with it themselves.  But when the rabbit got away from them and ran for cover, Mama Kitty chased after it, caught it, and brought it back.  

Dogs are interesting, but for the most part they become people.  They're like children:  all lovable, all somewhat spoiled, all of them having different skills.  They are four-legged people, only they aren't judgmental and they forgive a lot better than we do.  This is why so many people have dogs that they treat as if they were their children.  Because dogs serve that purpose, but they never turn into juvenile delinquents or run away from home.

Chickens are stupid, but still interesting.  It seems to be built into their genetic code to lay eggs in a nest.  You can put young chickens in a hen house and wait for them to grow up and lay eggs.  Put a couple of nests in the hen house and when they are ready to lay eggs, they somehow know they are supposed to get in the nest... that's where they lay eggs.  Unless they have the misfortune to be in one of those huge egg factories, in which case five or six of them are shoved into a small cage and they have no choice but to lay their eggs right there.  

I enjoy watching Grace-the-cow raising three babies, two of which are adopted.  I allow them 15 minutes together twice a day.  When I go back outside to separate them after their time is up, the two Holsteins have stopped nursing because the milk is all gone.  Grace's natural-born daughter, Gypsy, though, is still attached to a teat, even though she isn't getting anything from it.  When I call Grace into the barn, I have to fend her calf off or it would follow her out into the pasture.  

After the Holsteins have stopped nursing because the milk is gone, they go up near Grace's head; you could almost say they are cuddling with her.  Sometimes she licks them, just like she would her own baby.  And you would think she really believes they are hers.  

But she is smarter than that.  I learned this last week when I turned her out with all three calves.  Once she had full access to her daughter, she couldn't have cared less about those other two.  It's amazing, I tell you!  

Another thing that I've mentioned before is this:  Calves fed with a bottle will almost always try to suck on one another, on any body part they can get hold of.  But these calves, after spending only 30 minutes a day with the cow, sucking on an actual teat, have never shown the slightest inclination to suck on one another.  

I'm glad I have some animals to observe.

Back to using a computer

The new laptop arrived yesterday.  Windows 8 was really throwing me for a loop until the grandson showed me a couple of things.  Then a Facebook friend gave me a link where I could download something called "Classic Shell", and I am now in business for sure!  With that download, everything works pretty much like Windows 7.  I would really like to learn to get around on Windows 8 without the download, but I want to do that in my own time, gradually.    

I will be using the IPad a lot less now, I can tell that already.  With the laptop right next to me in the living room, I prefer it for most tasks.  I'll still read on the Ipad, and play Sudoku.  And I'll use it a lot when I'm on the go.  But for shopping online or doing searches, I like a bigger screen and a keyboard.  
Speaking of the keyboard, this computer has a touch screen, which comes in handy once in awhile.  

I've never used a laptop much.  I don't even know how to take a "selfie" with the camera on it.  

The grandson finally has the old house almost ready to live in.  This weekend will see the plumbing in, and there isn't all that much to do after that.  They already have a lot of their furniture in, ready and waiting.  I would go take some pictures, but with these single-digit temperatures, I am not going outside for much of anything except to tend to the animals.


I have to tend to my old pet, Chickie, in a different way.  She is mistreated by the rest of the chickens when she gets down on their level, so she spends most of her days on this shelf.  Now, if I left her alone to care for herself, she would risk life and limb to get down and eat and drink, I'm sure.  But since I'm out there three or four times a day when the temperatures are so frigid, I take the time to put some water and food up there for her.  Water freezes faster than you can believe in single-digit temperatures!  If I'm still in the chicken business next year, I may have Cliff fix me up something to keep their water thawed. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Computers are a most expensive habit.

We had a power outage the other day.  The electricity didn't just go off; before it totally went bye-bye, it blinked about ten times, which, as we all know, is hard on certain electrical things.  The electric smoke alarm beeped like crazy, and something else was beeping each time the power flashed on, something from the room where my computer used to live.  I say "used to live" because it no longer lives.  It might make a good doorstop at this point.  That particular beeping was my computer gasping its last breath.

This is the second time in three months that the hard drive in that computer has failed.  The first time, Dell replaced it.  This time, it was two weeks past the warranty.  So my one-year-old computer is a total loss.  

I've already ordered another computer, a laptop this time.  I also ordered a three-year service plan that covers it no matter what happens to it.  The thing is, right now we have the finances to purchase a new computer every year, but this won't always be true.  So I'm trying to prepare for the worst.  

I wasn't going to do any blogging until the new computer shows up.  It's just so awkward to one-finger type on the IPad.  However, I happened to recall the bluetooth keyboard that was tucked away in a drawer.  So here I am, checking in, with a keyboard connected to the IPad.  

It's bitter cold here with single digit temperatures.  Today the wind isn't blowing, so it isn't that bad, as long as I'm bundled up.  But yesterday it was six degrees and the wind was fierce!  It was so bad that the three calves didn't even come out of their stall until the cow was actually right there in front of them.  If it hadn't been so cold, I would have taken a picture of their three faces looking out their door, bawling piteously.  

Baby's daddy doesn't work this week, so we will beg him to bring her over for a visit one day.  We haven't seen her for two weeks, and we are having withdrawal symptoms.  

Friday, January 02, 2015

Little Jimmy Dickens

When I was a little kid in Iowa, my mom bought a wind-up record player from some one-room school house that was closing its doors.  Later on, she bought some record albums.  Back then, record albums really were albums, with six 78 rpm records in six sleeves, twelve songs total.  One album contained songs by George Morgan.  The other, my favorite, was by Little Jimmy Dickens.  And on that album, my favorite song was "Country Boy".  Even as a little girl, those lyrics made me laugh.  Seriously, "the north end of a chicken flying south"?  I thought that was the funniest line ever.

Later on, I learned to (sort of) play the guitar and sing.  One of the songs I especially liked to sing was "Out Behind the Barn".

Just ask me, I'll sing it for you any time, except that I change a few words so it works for a woman.  

He sang at the Grand Ole Opry shortly before Christmas.  He died today at the age of 94.  What a great run!  Who could ask any more?  

Traveling when you have livestock at home

Cliff and I have a road trip planned for this month, just a couple of days and an overnight (unless weather interferes).  This means, of course, that I need to make plans for the cow's udder to be emptied on a regular basis and for all three baby calves' bellies to remain full.  

My first thought was this:  Early in the morning on the day of our departure, I would turn the cow into the little lot, as always, and let the three calves nurse.  Then I would turn the cow and calves out into the larger lot, shut them in there, and they could all nurse at will while we're gone.  It's just a couple of days, so they can live without their grain for that length of time.  

Livestock being the interesting creatures that they are, I figured I should give this a trial run, because it seems cattle will always do something unexpected if given the chance.  This morning after the three calves had taken all of Gracie's milk, I opened the gate to the bigger lot.  Normally the cows have access to this lot all the time but the horses can't get through the opening.  However, I shut the gate leading out to the big pasture because I didn't want the three calves running through barbed wire or electric fence, and I didn't want the other two cows in with Grace and the calves.  The calves have always been in a small area, and when turned into a new and bigger area, they have joyful running-and-bucking fits.  This can sometimes lead to disaster.  

Last time we went on an overnight trip, the grandson simply turned the cow in with the calves twice a day for me, but he was off work then.  This time he'll be working; he gets up by three AM to go to work, and I don't intend to make him get up earlier than that to do chores.  

So here I was with the cow and three calves in the big lot.  There's an in-ground waterer there, so that's taken care of.  The calves, as expected, ran and kicked up their heels until they were exhausted.  The cow complained at being shut up in the lot, but that's OK, she'll get over it.  

It is a good thing I did a test run, because here's what happened:  Her heifer calf, Gypsy, would lie down and chew her cud for an hour or so, then go to Mama and take all the milk she could get.  Every time either of the Holsteins went to get some milk, there was none, because Gypsy had taken it all.  She's a hog.  It may have worked out in the long run, since it's such a short time, but I don't want to have hungry babies on my mind while we're gone.  

So I'll go to plan B:  I will still let all the calves nurse early in the morning on the day we leave.  But then I will let Gypsy and Gracie out into the big lot, locking Moose and Whitey in the smaller lot they always inhabit.  I'll leave the boys plenty of grain, having the grandson give them more if they need it in the evening.  They have a tub of water with a heater in it to keep it from freezing.  Gypsy will get all her mama's milk and hay, but no grain, and her foster brothers will get hay and grain, but no milk.  They are all old enough to be weaned at this point, as much grain as they're eating, but the cow has all that milk, and they may as well have it.

I could actually wean the Holsteins and turn Gypsy out with her mom permanently.  She is quite capable of handling all the milk without getting sick at this point.  However, I learned from Bonnie, may she rest in peace, that a dairy cow's udder can be ruined by an aggressively-sucking calf.  So I'll continue as I've been doing. 

Which reminds me, we were at the MFA elevator buying feed today and I inquired about the price of milk replacer.  It's $45 a bag, and it takes, at the very least, two bags to get a calf to the point of weaning... and that is sooner than I like to wean them.  So Gracie has really saved us some money letting the Holsteins nurse along with her daughter.  Now that I think about it, though, if it weren't for Gracie I wouldn't be raising the calves.  By the time you pay $325 for the babies and then buy $90 worth of milk replacer for each one, then feed them a fifty pounds of grain every couple of weeks until they're five months old, you have a lot invested in them.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Welcome, 2015

The older I get, the less time I spend longing for the old days or making resolutions for the new year.  At some point, old age settled in and made its home here, and for the most part, I live in the now.  My new favorite mantra, when I'm meditating, is "I am".  Which, coincidentally, sounds a lot like "om", the chant most commonly used.  I don't say the words out loud, I simply think them, to keep thoughts from entering my mind.  I wouldn't want Cliff to wake up, walk into the living room, and find me with my eyes shut, chanting a word over and over.  He already tells me I'm strange.  I wouldn't want to push him toward a decision to have me committed.    

I sadly watch Cliff get up and walk across the room limping, which is an every day occurrence now.  I've been limping for quite a while, especially if I've been sitting for a long time.  I'm not sure when it started with him.  I look at my hands and see the age spots and transparent skin and realize my hands look older at the age of 70 than my mother's hands looked when she was 90.  I know age spots are caused by sun exposure, and I will admit I have spent lots of time in the sun... and I don't regret a single minute of it!  It's the same with walking:  I've walked for years as an exercise, and that may have had something to do with my arthritic knees.  But I wouldn't trade the pleasure and solitude I got from those walks for anything.

With the recent death of Cliff's brother Don, we've been reminded that every step we take is toward the grave, so we live one day at a time and are thankful for each one.  

We spent some time last night watching old Barney Miller shows from its first season, which wasn't the best season, but it was good stuff.  We remarked on the plaid pants and wide ties of 1975, and commented on how "cutting-edge" Barney Miller was at the time, right up there with All in the Family.  

At some point between 9 and 10 PM, I went to bed.  Cliff said he turned in shortly after 11.  According to him, I was doing an outstanding job of snoring, but he managed to go right to sleep anyway.  

Before I went to bed, I posted one video on Facebook (against my rules, but I knew I was breaking the rule at the time) and my daughter commented "ah-HA!" 

Today I made black-eyed-pea dip and enjoyed it with chips for dinner, while Cliff had a bowl of turkey soup I warmed up for him.  He spent the morning cutting wood and is back at it again now.  He's been so sedentary lately, he said it was hard to get his body moving.  He took a couple of Tylenol tablets before he went back out there.  

There are thoughts that often occurs to me when I'm scrolling down my Facebook wall, mischievous thoughts for which I am deeply ashamed.  For instance, someone posts a picture that says, "Share this if you have a daughter who is beautiful and smart."  And I want to make a sign that says, "Share this if your daughter is stupid and ugly."  (Mine isn't, by the way.)  
Sometimes it's "Share this if you love your grandchildren" and I want to post "Share this if your grandchildren are brats and you can't stand to be around them."       

It's just the twisted way my mind works, or maybe it's the idea that, of COURSE everybody considers their kids and grandkids good-looking and smart, so is it really necessary to put a sign on Facebook stating the fact?

Then I remember some pretty stupid stuff I've posted myself, and decide to let sleeping dogs lie.

Here's the video I posted against my rules last night: