Saturday, October 31, 2015

Let's see where this entry goes

I first began blogging on AOL's journals, I think it was in 2003 or 2004.  Compared to the huge number of people you find blogging on the Google blogging platform, it was a pretty small, tight community.  I saw AOL gradually shutting down one program after another and knew that the Journals were probably going to go the way of the dinosaur; so before that happened, I started blogging on Google Blogger, usually doing different entries than I put on my Journal.  When AOL journals ended, I transferred that several years' worth of entries to Blogger so I wouldn't lose all the memories.  I lost most of the pictures contained therein, but the words and even reader's comments transferred smoothly.

We AOL bloggers had a certain bond, and yesterday I learned that even those I didn't interact with much have stayed in my thoughts.  Facebook is probably the main thing that kept us all together, because most of them just stopped blogging after Journals closed, but they showed up on Facebook.

Here's where this is leading:  Cliff has been reading the Willie Nelson autobiography that I read a couple of months back... stay with me here... and yesterday as he laid the Kindle aside, he remarked, "Willie has a house in Hawaii."  

"Yeah," I said.  "It's probably worth millions.  No average person could ever afford to live there."

About that time a Facebook friend came to mind, a used-to-be AOL Journals blogger.  

"But wait," I told him, "I do know of one Internet friend who is about as "normal" as anybody."  (I'm talking lifestyle, income, things like that... because really, who is normal?) 

So I found myself compelled to fill in the blanks about my friend who lives in Hawaii with her parents, helping with her mother who, I believe, has Alzheimer's.  Here's the short story I gave him about her whole life.

"She lived in Colorado when I first discovered her blog and most entries were about her kids and her husband.  They seemed to be a reasonably happy family, and probably were.  Then at some point the marriage grew troubled.  She and her husband agreed to disagree but continued living in the same house for awhile.  After several years, she returned to Hawaii and that's where she is now.  I'm pretty sure they aren't wealthy, but I'll bet the property she and her parents live on is worth a bunch.  Oh, and her kids and grandkids are still in Colorado."  

There was so much more I remembered, details about this lady's life, but it would have gotten boring to Cliff had I continued, so that's pretty much where I left things.

Here's what amazes me.  I never met this lady.  I didn't even read every single one of her blog entries, and although I remember leaving comments, I don't think I did so very often.  

But in the words she wrote as time went on, I saw her heart break, not just once, but many times.  I saw confusion, perhaps a touch of desperation, and finally acceptance,  I saw all this without her ever going into complete details about some things.  I guess you could call it "reading between the lines".

She isn't the happy-go-lucky lady I used to see portrayed in her blog.   But she still has her sense of humor.  

So.  At six o'clock this morning I decided to private message Jody on Facebook, knowing it was much earlier in Hawaii.  To my surprise, she immediately answered back.  She probably hadn't gone to bed yet... I didn't realize there was THAT much time difference between here and there!  We had a decent conversation, although I was all bouncing all over the place with the subject matter so that by the time she responded to one comment, I had already changed directions.

Yes, AOL Journals may be long gone, but the connection lingers on.

I do intend to do a little research and possibly come up with an entry about what Hawaii is like for the regular people, people who were born and raised there.  Wish me luck.

Friday, October 30, 2015

I miss Stanley the pig already

Last week Cliff fixed it so that Stanley would get used to the trailer that would be taking him to the butcher shop, and he certainly did get accustomed to it; he followed me into the trailer when it was time to go and began eating the sweet feed I poured in front of him.  

Not that anything ever worried him much.  

I have never in my life laughed any harder at a pig.  I guess it was because he didn't have another pig to buddy up with, but he sure did some shenanigans.  We had a round concrete container to put his water in, and in spite of how heavy it was, he rooted it around all over his pen.  About ten days before it was time to haul him away to his destiny, he scooted the water dish over to his mud wallow and into it.  He then rooted until he got it upside down, but he wasn't done yet:  He proceeded to bury it, rooting mud over it until it was totally out of sight.  Since his time here was short, I just gave him water a couple times a day in his feed trough.  He really didn't need any drinking water before I sold Penny-the-cow, since he was getting four gallons of milk a day.  However, once Penny left, he needed water.  

If Stanley saw me coming with the milk bucket in hand, or with any container that might contain table scraps or refuse from the house, he would run joyfully around in a circle, grunting his pleasure as I approached.  

I miss that pig.  I don't miss the smell, but he was a day-brightener, in spite of his faults.  All the time he was here, he did his best to root his way out of the pen, and I was sure we'd have to put a ring in his nose; but Cliff didn't want to do that unless it was necessary, because he feels pigs need to root.  He would fortify Stanley's pen if it appeared he might make an escape, rather than ring his nose.  

It was hot when we bought him as a cute little pig, so I bought a cheap wading pool and filled it with water for him to cool off in.  He finally outgrew it, smashing the sides down when his head and feet hung out of it, but he still enjoyed it.  He moved it here and there around the pen, even placing it in his house at times and sleeping with the wadded up piece of plastic.  He finally discarded it in his wallowing hole, and there it stayed until he was taken away.

A pig will usually choose one spot in his pen to use as a bathroom, so all the mess is in one section of the pen and you know where to walk to avoid the mess.  Unfortunately, Stanley failed to read the pig manual and had not learned about this custom.  Not one spot in his pen was safe, including, when he was small, the trough he had to eat out of.  He wasn't the brightest candle on the cake, but he was happy.  

Stanley loved rotten peaches, seeds and all, but I stopped giving him the seeds after reading that peach pits contain cyanide.  It doesn't hurt the pig to eat them, but the cyanide is stored in the pig's fat and doesn't leave his body.  

Stanley weighed 273 pounds, a very good weight for butchering.  The grandson will pay the processing and get half the meat.  Never have we had a pig that cost us so little to raise, thanks to the extra milk we had, and gave me such enjoyment.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My new baby, Luna

I had Grace's due date written on the calendar as October 26.  She gave birth just at dawn, October 25..  Because it was almost time for the full moon, I named the baby heifer Luna.  As it turns out, this is the only calf we got from that ornery Jersey bull I raised, since we butchered him before he managed to serve Penny.  He was such a runt, it's amazing he was able to climb Mount Gracie and do the deed.  We butchered him and let the grandson have half the meat for paying the processing fee.  I am ecstatic at getting a heifer, because a Jersey bull isn't worth much to anybody.  Both the mom and the sire have some Holstein in their bloodlines, and it shows up somewhat in Luna:  She doesn't have the lovely "dished face" pure Jerseys have, and she is a little longer-legged and larger in general that most Jersey heifer calves.  Here she is trying to get her first meal:
I fully intended to buy a couple of Holstein bull calves by this time, but the dairy didn't have any available when I called.  They have calves being born all the time, so I hope to get some within the next week.  

We babysat our prize little girl three days this week, but now her mom is off work until Monday.  I took the opportunity to take some straw to the barn, and then I picked tomatoes.   The weather-guessers are forecasting near-freezing temperatures for tonight, so I decided to get in gear.

I've been eating four or five tomatoes every day, just because I know it won't be long till we'll have to resort to plastic, tasteless, store-bought tomatoes.  We've had BLT's quite a bit lately, too.  

That's a three-gallon bucket almost full of green tomatoes.  I hope they ripen a few at a time so we'll have some for the table after the present ripe ones are gone.  I used to wrap the green tomatoes in newspaper to ripen, so that if any of them started to go bad it wouldn't spread to the others.  This time I intend just to go through them every couple of days and check them.  

I sent the poem in the previous entry to the secretary of our tractor club, and she asked if I'd read it at our club Christmas dinner; of course I agreed to that.  Where would I get a more receptive audience for that poem than with a group of tractor-loving people?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

I wrote this poem

Donna Wood
October 25, 2015
dedicated to my husband, Clifford Wood

When I first met my husband he was quite the city guy.
He liked curvy women and fast cars and apple pie.
He told me we should marry, that I'd never come to harm.
But once our vows were spoken, he moved me to the farm.
We had to find a tractor, for a pasture must be mowed.
So we bought a rusty old Moline a little down the road.
And once we got a tractor, Cliff was bitten by the bug,
A slave to an obsession that's as bad as any drug.

     Now a young man with a tractor doesn't have a lot of time
     He has a job and family and can't spare an extra dime
     But if God grants him time enough, when he is old and gray
     He'll have a lot of tractors, and be smiling every day.

Cliff wakes up each morning with tractors on his mind.
Each day he searches Craigslist to see what he can find.
There's old John Deeres and Farmalls and Cockshutts and Molines
All he ever thinks about is rusty old machines.
His overalls are greasy, and his fingernails are, too.
As he beats on some old relic fifty years this side of new.
Don't think a tractor's hopeless when he's taking it apart,
Cause give him just a day or two, you'll hear that engine start.

     An old man with his tractor is a wonder to behold.
     He'll touch a rusty fender like it's something made of gold.
     I really can't explain it and I cannot tell you why,
     But an old man with a tractor is a special kind of guy.

Some men disappear and make you wonder where they've been,
But when Cliff disappears, I know he's in the shop again.
Old men that love tractors are the kind that stick around
They won't give up on marriage and they'll never let you down.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I've found it's not so bad
We've joined up with a tractor club. There's good times to be had.
I've surely learned the secret how to keep my husband mellow
Cause an old man with a tractor is a mighty happy fellow.

     An old man with his tractor is a wonder to behold.
     He'll touch a leaky fuel tank like it's something made of gold.
     I really can't explain it and I cannot tell you why,
     But an old man with a tractor is a special kind of guy.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Mothers and babies

When I was single, I thought I wanted a dozen babies some day, and even had names picked out for all of them.  I wasn't an only child, but I was the youngest, and since my sister and brother were both gone by the time I was two, I was pretty much raised like an only child.  I always wished for a sibling near my age, but looking back, I don't imagine it would have worked out well.  Ah, but I was going to make up for it if/when I ever had a husband.  Twelve kids, count 'em.

I did find me a man (yee-haw!) and before our first anniversary I gave birth to a baby boy named after both our fathers.  I convinced my husband that no kid ought to be raised without a sibling (because look at me... see how self-centered I am?) and before our beautiful baby boy was two years old, we had a daughter.  

"Let's have another one," I said.  

"No way," my husband, the second-oldest of six kids raised in a poor family, answered.

I pouted, because hey, our babies were so cute.  Who doesn't love babies?

About the time my daughter was three, I started babysitting.  I babysat my nephew Chad, the easiest kid anybody ever took charge of.  Then I added Walt and Richard Earl, quite excellent kids.  So I had my kids and three others.  I was doing pretty good with that.  Then two more came.  

You've heard about the straw that broke the camel's back?  That did it.   It wasn't the kids, it was me.  After a few weeks I realized I had no business tending all these kids, and before long, I was done with babysitting and back to taking care of my own two, exclusively.  

Here's something interesting:  As much of a failure as I felt I was as a babysitter, both then and now, I have been amazed at the memories of the oldest of the two "straws that broke the camel's back", who is now a friend of mine on Facebook.  She remembers how I made home-made play-dough... she recalls that I made chocolate Malt-o-meal... bless her heart, she has good memories of the time she spent under my care.  

But I digress.  One day I woke up and realized I wasn't equipped to deal with a whole bunch of kids.  In fact, had I babysat that many kids before I ever had a baby of my own, I might not have had kids at all.  I am not patient enough or selfless enough.  I should never have had kids... and yet, I'm glad I did.  

But I stopped babysitting and got "fixed".  I knew I wasn't going to have any more babies.

This is not the entry I intended to do, but I got lost along the way and this is what you get.  

I think of every well-meaning mother who has babies and realizes too late that she really wasn't equipped for the tremendous responsibility that comes with having kids, but she went ahead and did the best she could because that was the path she chose; or maybe she didn't choose it, because there was a time a woman had no choice.

Most mothers do the best they know how to do.  Knowing that, I thank God for my mother and I thank God for the children He gave me in spite of my weaknesses.  I also thank Him for my husband, who put his foot down when I thought we needed a third baby.  

Here you go, Cliff.  You don't get to hear it often, but you were right.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My muse surprised me this morning

Back when I wrote songs and poems regularly, I learned one important thing:  I can write a fairly decent poem any time I want, but the good poems and the great songs just drop out of the sky when they are least expected.  I assumed my Muse had left me, because nothing has dropped out of the sky for a long, long time.  Until this morning.

As usual, my bladder woke me up for the third time around three A.M.  I crawled back in bed, really sleepy, feeling pretty sure I'd be asleep again in no time, when two lines dropped out of the sky.  "An old man with his tractor is something to behold; he'll touch that rusty carcass like it's something made of gold."

It wasn't quite that polished, but the idea and the rhyme were there.  I shoved it aside and tried to sleep, but other ideas and words came in a flood.  I finally grabbed the IPad that's always beside my bed and began typing some of the lines into "notes" on the Icloud.  

At four A.M. I got up, opened up the laptop (because it's faster and easier to type on as opposed to the one-finger pecking I have to do on the IPad), went to "notes", and started adding to the skeleton of a poem I had, which of course showed up there because these things sync, you know.  
I polished what was there, added more lines and rhymes, and got that familiar thrill I always used to get when I realized "this thing's gonna work!"

I clicked out of the browser that held my golden words.  But when I went back to it, all that remained was the skeleton,  the original thoughts I had put on the IPad in bed.  Back to the IPad, I saw nothing was left but those first jottings. 

My first thought was to give up and forget about it.  I didn't remember half the stuff I had added to the song/poem.  But then I thought, "The Muse hasn't come around for a long, long time.  I guess I'd better work with her.  

So I'm working.  This time I'm using "Open Office" as my notebook.  I know there are some golden thoughts that are gone forever, but maybe the whole thing will be worth saving in the end.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cows, cream, and pretzels

In other words, another random entry.  First of all, I believe I last mentioned we were going to pick up two "new" old tractors.  After more inspection, Cliff decided the Farmall M wasn't worth what the seller was asking, so we came home with only the Super C Farmall.  He's already got it running, and Cliff's project for tomorrow is to take the gas tank off and clean the rust out of it.
We would still like to find a Minneapolis Moline R like our very first tractor, but so far no luck.  

Perhaps you can tell by this picture that Grace is heavily pregnant.  She is looking more ready all the time.  She's my baby-raiser; last year she ended up starting six calves besides her own heifer calf, supplying them with milk until they could be weaned.  I think this may be the earliest we have ever started feeding hay.  The pasture is simply dried up.  
I'm hoping she is willing to repeat her foster-mothering business this winter.

Unfortunately, Grace's milk is like that of a purebred Holstein, very little cream, with the consistency of half-and-half you buy in the store.  I had gotten spoiled to the thick, rich cream that rose to the top of the milk I got from Penny (one teaspoon would do for a cup of coffee), and after selling her, I hardly knew what to do.  I bought some half-and-half, but it resembled whole milk more than cream.  Then I purchased powdered Coffeemate, which used to be my choice additive to coffee.  I will say it's an improvement.  I'll just have to get used to it again.  At one point I preferred it to cream because cream left a fatty coating in my mouth.  

This morning we actually made a trip to Dave's, our nearest store, so I could get the CoffeeMate.  I'm not one to make impulsive purchases while grocery-shopping (we won't talk about, though).  But I happened past a display of Amish-made candy and noticed some white-chocolate-covered pretzels, a favorite of Cliff's, and decided to surprise him.  I actually picked it up and headed off with it, then looked at the price:  $4.49 for ten pretzels.  They were big, fat pretzels, but still... that's highway robbery.  I knew Cliff would be happy to have them though.  After a little more pondering, I came to my senses:  For that kind of money I could buy some almond bark and a bag of pretzels and Cliff could have at least ten times as many pretzels!  It isn't as though that stuff is difficult to make.  I put the Amish candy back in it's place.  

I only made a few today, using two of the little blocks of almond bark.  I'll make more every few days and Cliff will have treats regularly.

Friday, October 16, 2015


First of all, the sale of Penny-the-cow went off without a hitch.  As it turns out, I don't miss her as badly as I thought I would, and it's rather nice to know I don't have to milk twice a day.  Stanley-the-pig no doubt misses his four gallons of milk a day, but he's getting all the corn he can eat; he's scheduled to be butchered in ten days.  I know Penny went to a good, albeit inexperienced, home.  I couldn't help but wonder how that man and his many children got along with milking a cow the first few times, but when Cliff suggested I call or email to check, I answered with a firm "no".  Many years ago I purchased a horse from a local guy.  At least every other day for a month, he would come out and check on the horse, as though I couldn't be trusted to take proper care of the animal after paying a pretty healthy price for him.  I reminded Cliff of this and he immediately agreed that I should leave Penny's new owners alone.

Autumn has arrived, with a chance of frost predicted for tonight.  All that's left of my garden is the row of strawberries I transplanted this summer and the two rows of tomato plants, which are still providing me lots of tomatoes.  They are ugly tomatoes with split tops, but oh, so tasty.  I actually force myself to eat three or four tomatoes a day, knowing that there won't be any more homegrown tomatoes until next July at the earliest.  Cliff has tilled all the idle parts of the garden and would have planted grass seed on the part I won't be using next year if it weren't for the fact that we're in a drought, so the grass wouldn't sprout and grow if he planted it.  

Each morning when I limp out of bed, I assess my aches and pains.  First of all I thank God I can walk, and that I even HAVE legs and feet that can still carry me about my little domain, and I thank Him that I live in a time when pain relievers are available.  Then I try to decide if I have enough pain to take something for it, and if so, what I should take.  My back has decided to join my knees in reminding me that I'm alive.  When I was milking, if my back was really bothering me in the morning I chose to take one or two acetaminophen, knowing that it wouldn't cause me trouble on an empty stomach.  If I'm having a bad knee day here at home, I usually choose Ibuprofen, which must be taken with plenty of food or water so as not to upset my stomach, but works remarkably well unless I'm doing more walking than usual.  Most days I get by without taking anything, not because I don't hurt somewhere, but because I can deal with some pain.  I don't like taking pills.  Besides, if I take pain relievers too many days in succession, I begin to get rebound headaches.  That lets me know I'd better take a couple days off.   Mayo Clinic says taking pain-killers for arthritis doesn't cause rebound headaches, so I guess I'm just crazy thinking they do.  I have hydrocodone with me always, but usually only take it if we are visiting a place of interest where I'll be walking a lot (tractor shows, museums) or riding in the car for long periods.  One prescription lasts me for months.

Cliff hasn't had a project for awhile, and has been in the house most of every day.  It isn't that I mind him being in the house, but he was SO inactive that I worried for his well-being.  He is in the same boat as I am regarding pain:  He can no longer go for walks for exercise.  I guess his knees got jealous of all the attention mine get and decided to join in.  So, I started looking for a project, ANY project, to get him moving and interested in going to the shop.  I placed an ad saying we were looking for a Minneapolis Moline "R" to restore, a tractor like the first one we owned.  How much we would pay would depend on the condition of the tractor.  In the process of perusing Craigslist, one of us mentioned a Farmall "M" for sale and for some reason, I emailed the seller Cliff's number.  When the guy called, Cliff wasn't in the least interested.  A Farmall "M" is at the bottom of his list of desirable tractors:  They are plentiful and can be found on Craigslist by the dozen at any time.  If you spend money restoring and painting one, you'll have at least four times as much invested as you could ever sell it for.  

Cliff politely asked him some questions and was getting ready to bid him goodbye when the man mentioned that his dad, for whom he was selling the "M", also had a Farmall "C" with a sickle mower for sale.

At that, he had Cliff's attention.

To make a long story short, after a little dickering and getting the seller to agree to a two-for-one price, Cliff agreed to purchase both tractors.  We'll get them tomorrow.  My husband will have not just one winter project, but two, to work on at his leisure.  

Both tractors have mostly decent tires (that adds about $1,000 to the worth of the two combined); the M may have power steering and the C turned out to be a newer and slightly more valuable Super C, which comes with a sickle mower; there are fenders for it (many of the old Farmalls lack fenders because they were an extra for which the farmer paid separately).   Neither tractor has any noticeable dents, an unusual thing for any item of well-used farm equipment that first saw the light of day in 1949 or 1951.

It's fun tractor-shopping with Cliff.  I only regret that we didn't get our Minneapolis Moline "R".  Maybe next year.  

Friday, October 09, 2015

It's all a learning experience

We hauled five steers to the livestock auction Tuesday morning, knowing they wouldn't bring as much as we had hoped when we bought them because the bottom fell out of the cattle market.  When we came home I watched a lot of the auction on the computer.  It started at 10:45 and went on all day.  They sell the cattle in the order they are brought in, and our calves were some of the last to arrive; I didn't happen to be watching when they sold, but I saw enough of the sale to realize that we wouldn't make enough money to cover my labor:  I just hoped we'd clear enough to return what we paid for the calves and the feed I bought for them.

The check came today.  It was exactly as I had expected.  The calf that barely made more than we originally paid for him was Henry, the calf I weaned at six weeks of age.  We didn't dehorn him, which always hurts the price, and he never did outgrow the pot belly that early-weaned calves so often have.  I won't be early-weaning any more calves, and as long as the grandson is here to help Cliff, every calf is going to have dehorning paste used on him.

Here's the biggest surprise of all:  Two Jersey steers, the ones I always called "the Brownies", made the most money, simply because I paid so much less for them than I did for the two Holsteins.  They made a LOT more!  So I have learned that any time I have the choice between paying $225 for Jersey bull calves or $425 for Holsteins, the Jerseys are the ones to buy.  I only have access to Jersey bulls in the spring, though, while I can buy Holsteins the year around.

Even though the check was disappointing, it's enough to cover money I borrowed from Cliff's tractor fund to help pay for an air conditioner coil and new furnace we recently had installed.  He'll be able to start window-shopping for bigger old tractors again.  I say window-shopping because he really isn't in the market for any more tractors unless he finds one that's the buy of the century, but somehow he enjoys perusing Craigslist a lot more when he knows he has enough money to buy some of the things he sees.  

The man who bought Penny is coming tomorrow to pick her up and pay the rest of the money he owes for her.  He sent me an email with a couple of dozen questions about milking, feeding, and tending a cow.  He's starting from scratch and knows absolutely nothing about this enterprise, but guess what?  That's where I was when we got our first milk cow, and she and I both survived.  My parents got to answer all my stupid questions, and I kept that in mind as I answered his.  He has the added bonus of the Internet, where there is an answer for all questions... you just have to learn to sift the chaff from the wheat.  Also, I told him to call any time he has questions.  

That's where we stand today, and by tomorrow afternoon my cattle herd will consist of two cows:
Grace, I'm fairly certain, is due to calve around the end of this month, so there will soon be additions... her calf plus any Holstein calves I buy to help take her milk.  Hope is only seven-and-a-half months old, and I will have to watch the calendar so I can put her up at the first sign of being in heat so a bull doesn't get to her too young.  She shouldn't be bred until she's fifteen months old, so that is a lot of calendar watching when you consider she comes in heat every three weeks.  But what else am I doing, right?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Day trips

I'm still thinking up day trips we can take until our little girl is back.  I told Cliff today, "I am going to scour the Internet for places of interest in every little town in a 100-mile radius, and we will see them all!"

His response was less than enthusiastic.

One Sunday not long ago we went down to Sedalia and revisited Bothwell Lodge.  In the process of looking for other things to do in that area, I found out there is an ammunition factory at Sedalia that gives tours to anybody who drops in: Sierra Bullets Factory.  We couldn't wrap it into our visit that day because the place isn't open on weekends, but I tucked it into the recesses of my brain and saved it.  

This morning after spending a couple of hours at Grain Valley Muffler (we highly recommend that place) with our old truck, I suggested we go to Sedalia and see the factory.  Cliff didn't argue, and off we went.  Unfortunately, it was almost noon when we arrived and there aren't any tours from noon to one.  We went to the Katy Depot, ate a picnic lunch, left for a Baskin/Robbins ice cream cone and a McDonald's senior coffee, and returned to Katy Depot, wandering around looking at all the items of interest.  It's another place we had visited before, but you always see things you've missed.  

Then we headed to the bullet factory.

I told Siri to locate "Sierra Bullet Factory" and she took us right to the sign announcing their business.  I was a little confused when I noticed the sign on the building said "Starline", but we walked inside, I asked if they gave tours, and the lady at the desk answered that they did.  We had a little bit of a wait, but eventually a lady came in looking a little flustered and said she'd show us around.  

I find all factory tours interesting, even if they make a product I don't use, and this one was no different.  The lady who took us through obviously knew her product; she told us she had come with the company when it moved to Sedalia from California.  She visited with some of the employees as we passed by, and even gave some of them some instructions while she was nearby.  I asked her, at one point, if there was a best time of day to come for a tour, and she said ideally people would call and give them a heads-up before coming so they could plan for it.  I thought this strange, since the Sierra website said as long as your group is fewer than ten, you could just come in and get the tour.  

When we were finished the lady gave us free gifts:  A cap for Cliff and a T-shirt for me.  Then she said, "Did you tour Sierra, next door?"

Ah.  We were in the wrong place!  When we told her we hadn't, she said, "By all means go on over there and have them show you around."

Turns out this was only the second time the lady had led a tour.  We figure she must be a boss of some kind.

I was all ready to go to Sierra, but Cliff said he's rather save that for another time.  "I'd like to have somebody with me when I tour that," he told me.  

What am I, chopped liver?   I think perhaps he meant somebody who might appreciate bullets and guns and such... you know, a guy.  I have news for him.  He can take all the guys he wants, but I am going to be one of the guys!  I don't miss out on road trips!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Timing is everything... and ours is lousy

There are two things happening around here that have really messed-up timing.  One would have been under our control, the other, not so much.

We acquired Stanley the pig June 28 to help us use up the excess milk we were getting from Penny.  I had a couple of calves nursing her at milking time and later got a third one, but there was still plenty left over for a little bitty baby pig.  When I weaned the calves and put them on pasture, I was left with a surplus of four gallons of milk a day.  Stanley wasn't big enough to take that much milk, so I had to pour some down the drain for awhile, but he gradually grew enough that he could take it all; I supplemented it with a little chopped corn.  We planned to take our cheaply-raised pig to the butcher shop down the road when he got to three hundred pounds:  Grandson Arick would pay for the processing, since we took care of the pig's feed, and we would each take half the pig.  It's a great plan, one we've used before.  

We forgot to take deer season into account.  When it's time for deer to be processed, the butcher shops around here stop taking cows and pigs, which is a good thing in the long run, because deer season is such a rushed, busy time for them, even if they continued to take in domestic livestock, it probably wouldn't be taken care of in a timely manner.  So when Stanley is ready for butchering, no butcher will process him.

Thank goodness Cliff worked at the now defunct Country Butcher shop at Oak Grove for many years.  He still has his knives, and knows how to use them.  It isn't easy these days, with arthritis plaguing him in his shoulders and hands, but he can do it.  We have a grinder, and I know where to get seasoning for sausage.  We don't have a way to cure the hams and bacon, but Cliff and I weren't going to have that done anyhow; the grandson planned on some ham and bacon, so he's out of luck unless the butcher shop would agree to do the curing if the cuts are brought to them, ready.  We just didn't think ahead when we bought Stanley.  It's our fault.  

The other thing that is really bad timing for us is the current drought.  While there was lots of rain a hundred miles to the north, all of it has passed us by, leaving us with dust clouds and dried-up, depleted pasture.  The timing is great for the farmers busy with harvest right now, but it's terrible here; cattle prices have taken a nose-dive, and we are forced to sell our weaned calves.  We'll haul them to the sale barn today.  As always, we thank God we don't depend on cattle-raising for a living.  

I'm not as bummed by this as you might think.  We have never been great at socking money away and building up savings accounts.  So if the calves bring exactly what we paid for them six months ago, we ask ourselves, "If we hadn't spent that money on calves, would we still have it today?"  

Probably not.  So we just tell one another, "Well, at least we kept our money together for awhile."

Yeah, we'll take what we get and be happy.

Monday, October 05, 2015

A difficult choice

Regular readers realize how I have worried and stewed over whether to sell Penny, one of my two Jersey cows.  One would think it shouldn't be a problem, considering I have sold dozens of cows I loved over the years.  And yet I struggled.  Penny's milk was perfect, the cream content outstanding.  She never gave me a problem in the barn, being milked.
I usually like to buy at least two baby calves at a time, so they can be buddies; but Penny was the only one I bought that spring.  I took suggestions for names from my blog readers, then let them vote for their favorite of the names that had been suggested.  That's how she got her name.  

When we put dehorning paste on her, some of it got on the tip of an ear, leaving her right ear shorter than the left one.

I had hoped that when she had her first calf, I might be able to get a couple of "bobby" calves to put alongside it so I wouldn't have to milk all the time.  This worked perfectly with Grace, my other cow; unfortunately, since Penny's firstborn was dead by the time it was delivered, she never got any experience with having a calf suckle her.  She refused the calves I put on her, although I did force her to take calves for about three months by putting an anti-kick device on her right side and letting all three calves nurse from that side.  Calves are hard on a cow's delicate udder, she developed some sore spots, and I weaned the calves and started milking twice a day.  That isn't as unpleasant a task as you might think, not for me.  I saved the morning milking (over two gallons), skimmed off the cream for coffee cream, potato soup, rice-and-raisins,, butter-making, etc., and poured most of the skim milk to Stanley the Pig, who got ALL the milk I obtained in the evening, cream and all, warm from the cow.  I'm guessing he weighs around two hundred pounds now, although Cliff and I aren't very good at estimating the weight of a pig (therein lies another story).

The trouble is, you have to be home every twelve hours to milk a cow.  Later on I could have switched to once-a-day milking, but not now, with her giving so much milk.  Finally this week, that still, small voice of reason kept telling me to sell the cow.  Friday evening I placed an ad on Craigslist, offering Penny for a more-than-reasonable price.  I would have asked more had she been bred, but it's been almost six months since she calved:  When I see a cow advertised that hasn't been bred in a timely manner, that raises red flags for me, and I wanted to allow for that.  See, she had metritis after her difficult calving.  The vet treated that, got her coming in heat again, and assured us that she would breed if we got her to a bull.  Here's one of the pictures I took to put on Craigslist:
She looks as thought she's accusing me
I immediately got a phone call from someone far away in central Kansas wanting to come and see her; he was going to be working Saturday but wanted to come the next day.  I told him to check back and see if she sold before then.  There was an email half an hour after I placed the ad asking if I would take $150 less than my stated price for the cow.  Good grief, I had her at a bargain price already!

Saturday I got calls from two different people who probably would have bought her, but we were going to be gone on a tractor drive until evening.  One man, another Kansan, said he would be here at 4:30 after I told him we would be home by four o'clock.

He and his son watched me milk Penny and asked lots of questions; "Four gallons... that's a lot of milk!" he exclaimed.

The guy said he has a lot of kids, and although they have never had experience with a cow, they want to try milking.  I liked the fellow, even though he has no experience.  Cliff and I both got good vibes from him.  He paid us half our asking price to hold the cow until next weekend and went on his way.  We will probably tell him that if she doesn't work out, we would take her back, as long as she is in the same shape as when we sold her.  But then he could probably sell her to someone else for more than he's paying.

So, Penny is going to Edwardsville, Kansas, next weekend.  I'm churning butter every day, putting it in the freezer.  I hope this all works well for everyone involved.  

Grace is due to calve in three weeks, I believe.  Her milk and cream are nothing to brag about, but her temperament is sweet.  If she accepts other calves as well as she did last year, we should be able to travel a little bit and I will still have a pet cow.

Random travels

Because I was in my autumn doldrums last week, and already missing the little girl we watch who was due to be gone for almost two weeks, I started planning some activities Cliff and I could do to get our minds focused on the outside world.  Thursday we went to Olathe, Kansas, and visited an automotive museum that's only been open for a year.  Now I'll be the first to tell you that Cliff has a lot more interest in classic cars than I do, but I found the place very much worth the time we spent there.  The antique and classic cars were pristine.  With the exception of one vehicle, everything in the place is on loan, and the cars are rotated through the place often.  So we could probably return in a few months and see a whole different group.  I enjoyed the history of car sales and manufacturing in Kansas City most of all.  There are plans in the works to move the place and expand it to quadruple its present size, but even now it's worth the trip.  

I had planned this whole visit around the fact that there is a Joe's Kansas City Barbecue in Olathe, and imagine my surprise when we found it only two or three blocks west of the Automotive Museum!  By chance there was a Baskin/Robbins in the same little shopping mall as Joe's, so we had dessert too. 

With our bellies full, we went to the Mehaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm.  We both like museums, and even though there weren't a lot of activities going on that day, we enjoyed it and learned a lot.  It was a day when we hardly missed the Little Princess at all, so the travel did us good.

The next day, Friday, we went to visit the Amish community at Jamesport.  I love visiting the little Amish stores, finding things you never see in Walmart.  I guess I must have thought of the toddler at least once, because I purchased a book for her at one store.  

I always buy some orange slice candy at Jamesport, not only because I like it, but because it reminds me of the fact that my dad liked it when I was a kid... at that time I really wasn't so crazy about it.  Then I saw the lemon drops, which took me back to childhood visits to my mom's sister's house:  Her husband, my Uncle Lloyd, had a sweet tooth; Aunt Ruby always had lemon drop candy in a jar for him.  When I was there, the candy was depleted quite a bit, because I kept after it all day long.  By the time I left Aunt Ruby's, the roof of my mouth was sore from the coarse sugar coating on the outside of the candies.

I'm sure I had seen a heat diffuser before at some time in my life; it looked very familiar to me when I picked it up in a tiny Amish market.  But I had never personally used one.  Supposedly if you set it on a burner under a pan, it will keep puddings and such from sticking to the bottom of the pan, and also prevent boilovers.  It was cheap, so I bought one.  I'm using it this morning for the first time, and I will tell you that it doesn't entirely prevent boilovers, because I put it under a pan of kidney beans I'm cooking to use in chili and had to cock the lid to prevent them boiling over.  Maybe it will do better with the pan-sticking problem.  
*Added later:  Yes, the beans did boil over at first, then stopped.  I left the diffuser beneath the pan for an hour or so, then removed it, and the beans immediately started boiling over again, even though the burner was on low.  So I take it back!  The diffuser works for MOST boilovers.

We hadn't had any sorghum in the house for ages, so we bought a pint of that, which led to this story I shared on Facebook:     

"Here's a funny little incident: when Cliff and I were shopping in one of the Amish stores yesterday, I told him to grab a pint jar of sorghum. A young lady nearby asked, "Is that the same as molasses?"
"Not really," I answered, "if you are talking about Brer Rabbit and that sort of stuff, that's bitter, more for cooking. Sorghum is thicker and sweeter, you use it like syrup."
"Oh good," she said as she put a jar of it in her basket.

"Now here's what you do," I told her. "You make some biscuits. You put equal amounts of butter and sorghum on your plate, and you mix it all together with your fork..."
Three gray-haired shoppers nearby smiled and enthusiastically nodded, saying. "That's right!" And "Yes!"
I had my own little amen corner of sorghum-loving old folks.
Guess what we"re having for breakfast? Biscuits, home-churned butter, and sorghum."
So we had run around for the better part of two days straight.  On the way home I told Cliff, "OK, I'm ready to stay home for a couple of days now.  I've had my dose of travel."
At the house, when I checked my email, there was a reminder of a tractor cruise our club was having the next day, Saturday.  It had totally slipped our minds, but we like the club activities, so Cliff got the big Oliver out of storage where he had prepped it for winter (this drive was close to home, and we only take the big tractor to activities close to home).
Yep.  Three straight days of fun!  And in the middle of all that, I sold Penny-the-Jersey-cow.  But that's another blog entry.

Friday, October 02, 2015


One thing my readers need to know about me is that I tend to get depressed when signs of autumn arrive; and then I often withdraw into my shell, where I have been known to stay until Spring shows her lovely face.  That doesn't bode well for the life of my blog, at a time in my life when I've almost stopped blogging anyhow.

Facebook has taken its toll on many of the blogs I used to read as well as mine.  It's so easy to just spill one's guts and share pictures instantly on Facebook, while a decent blog entry is liable to consume an hour of time.  I'm pretty sure if it weren't for Facebook, I'd still be making several entries a week on my blog.  However, I refuse to call it quits here.

The child we babysit keeps us occupied and happy, and I suppose has also been a distraction from blogging.  She turned two in August; every day she is more fun than the day before.  She's talking; she's potty-trained; she is still as loving as ever, giving "I-love-you's" and big hugs often.  She has been the light of our lives for the time we've had her.  She's in currently in Iowa with her grandparents, and for some reason, knowing we are without her for two weeks, we have both been rather downhearted.  As I told Cliff, this is probably good for us, because we need a reminder that the child is only loaned to us; the time will come, whether next month, next year, or later, that she won't need us as babysitters.  She isn't ours to keep.

Last weekend there was a wedding here on the property, which was a fun time for all.  The oldest grandson, now the owner of this property on which we live, got married.  I have always hated weddings, but this one was all right in my book.  It was casual, for one thing; I hate dressing up.  And the wedding came to me, so I didn't have to leave home to attend!  I am sharing three pictures to illustrate just how unique the ceremony was:

I've seen lots of comments from people who loved this idea

Instead of a "flower girl", the grandson's best friend's daughter carried a sign:  "Uncle Woody, here comes your girl!"  
The bride was delivered on the back of Cliff's largest tractor.
The kids are in Ireland on their honeymoon, and their absence next door has helped make our world seem emptier this week.

So yesterday we shook off the doldrums and went on a road trip that was just what the doctor ordered.  It included ice cream, barbecue, and a couple of museums.

We are alive and well, and I hope not to wait so long before my next entry.