Friday, September 30, 2016

A nice morning walk

Last spring when I found out an occasional walk in the woods didn't hurt my knees too badly as long as I took my time, I intended to continue walking once or twice a week as long as I'm able.  
I forgot to factor in heat, humidity, and mosquitoes.  

This morning, though, was crisp and bright.  The grass glistened with dew, and there was a light breeze blowing that would likely keep mosquitoes from being a bother, so I went out.  I grabbed the walking stick I bought at a tractor show this summer, a jacket, and my camera and sauntered away from all connections with Internet and electronic gadgets.  

Cora's mom's two mares followed me closely at first.

They were really staying close, but got bored with the game before long.

I ventured out a few days ago, but the mosquitoes were so bad and the weeds were tall, so I didn't get far.  As you can see here, Cliff mowed the path for me since then.

Isn't it strange how some of the ugliest weeds have the prettiest blooms?

What's this in the middle of my walking path?  I'll never tell.

Did you ever feel as though you're being watched?

Looks like somebody has a plan for deer season.

When Cliff and I used to walk daily, Mama Kitty went with us.  Never underfoot, but she'd trail along at a distance in all seasons.  I was very pleased this morning to see that she hadn't forgotten.  She didn't go all the way with me, but I had her company for half the trip. 

I encountered no mosquitoes, but plenty of spiders had spun their webs all the way across the walking path.  I used my trusty walking stick to tear down the webs ahead of me.

Back at the house I had to pull a lot of stick-tights off my jeans below the knee due to one section of the trail not being mowed.

Which got me thinking about how some old folks used to call stick-tights "beggar lice", a most peculiar thing to call part of a plant.  


Thursday, September 29, 2016

This blogging slowdown (and kitten cuteness)

I've thought about it a lot lately:  there are reasons why I don't blog as much these days.  

First of all, there's Facebook, which I've mentioned before.  It's so easy to make a picture album and share events there without spending a lot of time or thought. 

But a big factor in my blogging slowdown is this:  I don't do as many things as I used to.  When I first began, I had a horse and rode often.  Later we had the motorcycle, and that gave me stories.  There have always been the topics of gardening and canning, but I'm pretty sure my garden will only consist of a few tomatoes and peppers from now on, with maybe some experimental, novelty crop alongside them just for variety and adventure.

Remember when Cliff and I went for walks every day?  Not possible nowadays.  It's too painful for both of us.  Now that the hot days are over, I intend to mosey back to the woods at least once a week when the weather permits, just so I can stay in touch with nature.

I have lost a great deal of the enthusiasm (for anything) I used to have, and I really don't know what a person would need to do to recapture that.  

Am I unhappy?  No.  I still rejoice to see the sunrise.  I enjoy the changing seasons as much or more than in the past; it's easier to get through winter now, just because time goes so fast that it really doesn't matter how cold it is... it's spring almost before we can turn around.  

Probably our biggest joy, mine and Cliff's, is the little girl we babysit.  She's gone to Iowa for ten days or so, but I can guarantee you Cliff will daily be found looking through the pictures and videos we have taken of her since she was six weeks old.  We will discuss the cute, funny things she's said lately and talk about her intelligence.  By the time she is back with us a week from next Monday, we will hardly be able to contain our enthusiasm, knowing she is returning.  We might see her a day or two earlier than Monday, though.  Her Majesty often insists that her parents take her to see Donna and Cliff after she gets home from an extended absence.  They tell us that she chatters about us all the way home from Iowa.  Yes, we are still enthusiastic about that child.  I honestly don't know what we'd be doing with ourselves if she hadn't come into our lives.

I adopted two new barn kittens a couple of weeks ago, and I am enjoying them.  Cliff wasn't eager to bring more cats on the place, but Cora loves cats and kittens and he'll do almost anything for her.  Our two old cats aren't child-friendly.  Besides, Mama Kitty and Jake won't live forever, so I thought we needed to get replacements now.  I first shut the newcomers in the part of the barn where I used to milk cows, because I didn't want them running away.  Of course, that means they had to potty somewhere IN the barn, so you can imagine the smell they are causing.  After a couple of days I unblocked the entry hole where cats come and go.  They venture out at times, but that part of the barn is home to them.  It's where I feed them, after all.

Mama Kitty is just now starting to speak to me again.  She wasn't happy with the interlopers, and went on a hunger strike of sorts for awhile, just so she wouldn't have to share any space with them when she ate.  Big Jake, her son, at first refused to enter to the barn unless I was there with the kittens.  If one of them approached him, he laid back his ears, growled, hissed, and left.  
Here is Cora holding the kittens the first time she met them.

This was one of Titan's first meetings with Grady.  Now, Titan loves chasing the old cats because they run, so it is a game to him.  However, these kittens stand up to him and he isn't sure how to handle that, so he just stands on the alert, hoping they will run.  

I first gave this kitten the name "Pink", but Cora wanted it to be called Buttons, so that's his name.  He is a purring machine and would happily sit on a lap and be petted all day long.  Believe it or not, he is also the most ferocious of the two when it comes to a showdown.

These are low-resolution pictures taken with the iPad and downloaded from Facebook, but you get the idea.  At least I don't have to wait five minutes for each picture to load with low-res.  

  This was just taken a few minutes ago.  Both boys are eager eaters.  I give them some canned food once a day, but they're happy eating dry food.

The gray tom, Grady, (a name chosen by a good friend) has never purred as far as I know.  He's very tame but prefers not to be held and petted.  If I restrain him in my lap for long he will protest by meowing until I let him hop down.  He is the most playful of the two boys.  I took an old lawn chair to the barn to make it easier for me to enjoy my "kitten therapy".  It's great fun just to sit and watch these two chow hounds chasing and playing.

I will have them neutered when they are four months old.  I could do it earlier, but because of the pitfalls of being barn kittens (they could be stepped on by horses, run over by a car, or eaten by a coyote) I'll wait as long as possible so my money isn't wasted.  If something should happen to one or both of them, there are more where they came from.  I know this probably seems cold to my cat-loving friends, but things are different on the farm.  I don't want to say they are disposable, but I guess in a way they are.  


Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Butterfly Fields Pumpkin Patch

I've been wanting to take Cora to visit the Butterfly Fields Pumpkin Patch, south of Odessa, for some time.  Cliff wasn't enthusiastic about it, especially since the three-year-old wasn't really in an agreeable mood today.  

"Shall we go to the pumpkin patch?" I asked her.

"No, I don't want to," answered "the baby" (as Cliff still calls her).  "I want to stay here and play with my kitties."

I showed her pictures of the place on Facebook; she enjoyed looking at them, but still was not convinced she wanted to go there.  Part of the problem, of course, is her age:  Three-year-olds are notoriously stubborn.  Added to that was the fact that her mom had to be at work extra-early this morning, so she didn't get as much sleep as she's used to.  

I wish I could tell you how I finally got her in the car, but I don't recall which tactic of the several I tried actually worked.  Cliff was fairly certain the trip was a mistake, what with the kid's negative attitude.  I assured him it would be fine.  I knew that on a weekday morning when kids are in school, we'd likely be the only customers there.  That may have been for the best, because I doubt the kid was in the mood for sharing.  

We got out of the car, met the couple who own the place, and paid them ($5 for kids, $2 for adults).  Cora seemed to especially like Terrie:  During our visit she kept slipping away to talk to her. 

What kid wouldn't love to play in a big ole bin full of corn?  I got in with her and we buried our feet, as well as most of the toys in sight.

Right after I joined her, the neighbor's dog decided it looked like fun and hopped right in.

Later on, Terrie, Cora's new best friend, joined her in the corn.

Cora enjoyed climbing up on this huge stack of straw to slide down the tunnel.

My knees didn't much like the climb, but I managed.

Even before we started, our stubborn little girl insisted she did NOT want to go on a hay ride.  After enjoying all the other stuff, she still had no use for a hay ride.  So I told her that in that case, we'd go home.

"I want to go on the hay ride," she said.  (I know a little child psychology.  Ha!)

Of course, she rides on tractors and four-wheelers all the time, so this isn't as much a novelty as it would be to city kids.  She did, however, enjoy this adventure in spite of her original refusal.  Jeff, our driver, told stories of dragons and fairies and dwarfs and queens as he drove.  It was all a little over Cora's head, but she was content, and Cliff and I enjoyed it.  

She especially enjoyed choosing just the right pumpkin!  She would pick one up, change her mind, get another.  Finally she found the perfect one... good times!

After our ride, she and I went through the hay maze.  There was a lot more to it that you'd think, just looking from the outside.  

Cliff and Jeff spent some time talking.  Cora checked in on them.

She sat on the cornstalk horse.

Window shopping in Terrie's little shop

We went home, had some lunch, and then...

This bunch wears out fast.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Changed cellular providers. Again.

Our first ever cell phone experience was with T-mobile.  Cliff got a phone, but I didn't... because if anybody really needs me for something, they can call Cliff and he will relay the message, and if they have Facebook, they can message me there.  I do not enjoy talking on the phone.  

Eventually I decided it would be nice to have a cell phone, if for no other reason than to find Cliff when we are separated inside a huge Walmart store.  So we added a phone to our T-mobile plan.  I don't recall how much it cost.  I was working at the time and we could afford it, so who was counting?

For some reason we became dissatisfied with T-mobile and switched to ATT.  I would check the minutes we used and see that I hardly used my phone at all.  I studied up on some pay-as-you-go cellular companies and decided to use Tracfone.  It seemed perfect for me, and we'd leave Cliff with ATT.

Don't ever use Tracfone.  When I signed up the deal was "however many minutes you buy, we double them".  I should have known it wasn't going to be as great as it sounded.  After all, fireworks are the same way:  Buy one, get five free.  Right.  Sounds better than simply pricing each item separately.  More than once I had to call and tell them my minutes did not get doubled.  They would fix it after I sat on hold for thirty minutes, but what a hassle.  I had to watch them all the time to make sure they got it right.  

By this time Cliff's ATT bill was over $50 for him alone.  All we need to do with our phones is talk and retrieve voice mail.  We don't use them for Internet, we don't text.  I was hating Tracfone more and more, so don't ask me why I got the brilliant idea of getting my husband to use Tracfone too,   which meant he had to pay attention to his usage constantly, lest he run out of minutes.  

I searched the Internet for alternatives and recently discovered Consumer Cellular, which allows 1,000 minutes monthly for $20.  Add another person, it's another $10.  We will NEVER go over 1,000 minutes, but if we happened to get close to that point, they will alert me.  

I love our new phones.  They're flip-phones, simple to use and cheap to buy.  So far I like the customer service they've given.  There's usually a wait time, but I was given the option of hanging up and letting them call me back when my turn came.  

I could clearly understand each of the people I spoke with.

There were a couple of bumps in the road getting switched over, all due to the fact that I had given them one digit wrong in my husband's phone serial number.  It took a lot of effort on the part of Consumer Cellular customer service folks to get everything fixed, but they did it, and they were polite and friendly; I suppose if I had it to do again, I'd have simply gone to a Target or Sears store and bought my phone in person, but it's so difficult to get Cliff to do any shopping.  We still haven't gone looking for a proper rocking chair for his back, even though the one he brought in from the back porch isn't going to last much longer.      

I certainly hope I never feel the need to switch cell phone providers again.

Friday, September 16, 2016

One night in Scott City, Kansas

As we rode east toward home, we decided to find a motel at Scott City, Kansas.  I started looking on the iPad for motels with reviews so we'd get a decent place, and settled on a certain one.  When we arrived in town, I looked on the GPS for the motel that sounded like a bargain for the price, Oak Tree Inn, but it wasn't there.  Maybe too new?  At that point, the only thing we knew to do was drive up and down the streets, but hey... it wasn't that big a town, right?  While both of us looking left and right for this motel, my husband glanced at his rear-view mirror and said, "A cop is pulling me over."

Cliff, already road-weary and not in the best of moods, pulled over with a sigh.  A young, smiling officer walked up; he bent down to address Cliff:  "Did you know you were speeding back there?" he asked.  

"Speeding?  How fast was I going?"

"Well, a few blocks back the speed limit changes to twenty miles per hour for a little way.  You were going thirty-five."  He was still smiling, and I was thinking, we're old people and he will let us off with a warning.

Cliff exploded.  "Twenty miles an hour on a four-lane street?  What we have here is a speed trap."

"What did you say?" the officer, still smiling, responded.  Then, not waiting for Cliff to say anything, he said, "Did you say a speed trap?"

"Yes I did," Cliff said.   "We were looking for a motel, but now I don't think I want to spend a night in this town."

I sunk deep into my seat and kept my mouth shut.

The officer went back, got in his car, and sat there doing who knows what.  I think we both assumed he was writing a ticket.

After at least five minutes he came back and told Cliff, "Well, I'm going to let you off with a warning.  Just watch the speed through town.  You'll find a Best Western motel straight up ahead."

I told him we were looking for the Oak Tree Inn, but he had never heard of it.  

What?  A cop in this town wasn't familiar with it?  At this point, I knew I must have made a mistake.  
The cop let us go, and I kid you not, Cliff never got above twenty miles per hour for the rest of our time in Scott City... even in the thirty-five-miles-per-hour zones, which includes most of the town.  I told him to pull over while I checked my motel information.  That's when I realized the one we were looking for was in Fort Scott, Kansas, not Scott City, Kansas.  We then selected a motel without the help of the Internet, using the method we'd used before the WWW came into existence:  Find a motel that looks cheap, check the price, and ask to see the room before you take it.  We settled in for the night.

My regular readers may remember that when we're traveling and staying in motels, we have a little electric skillet and a decent coffeepot with us.  I had told Cliff that morning that we were having chili hot dogs for supper when we got to a motel.  He isn't a big fan of hot dogs, but he does like chili dogs, so he was really looking forward to the meal.

I dug out the can of chili, but the hot dogs were nowhere to be found.  Obviously, I had left them in the little refrigerator in our last hotel room.  

Cliff pouted.  I assured him that canned Hormel chili was delicious, and we had crackers to go with it.  He didn't answer.  

However, after I heated up the chili in the electric skillet, it only took a couple of bites for him to cheer up somewhat.  I don't even recall what I ate, but I do know Cliff got the whole can of chili and said it really was good, except it would have been better with beans.  Hey, had I known we weren't going to have hot dogs, I would have bought the kind with beans! 

I think I may have had a peanut butter sandwich.   

So there you have it, a rather unpleasant experience in a small town, probably caused by our futile searching for a non-existent motel.  Everybody keeps telling me, "Looks like you were having fun."  Well, I was, to the utmost of my ability, but knowing Cliff had back pain and wasn't particularly enjoying himself kept me down-to-earth (he didn't grumble, but I knew).  

I will leave you with this, garnered from a Google search:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Back to my Colorado road trip story

Friday evening of our road trip found us in Gunnison, where a motel room had been reserved.  I didn't see any "no vacancy" signs lit up in town.  We had seen lots of mountain scenery on the way there.  We asked a local about reasonably-priced places to eat in town and got this reply:  "I don't know much about that, I'm too cheap to eat out."  Then she suggested the Old Miner Steakhouse because it had a salad bar.  Which, by the way, is what I had.

We ate one meal at a restaurant each day of our trip, but none the meals were brag-worthy.  I think I'm getting picky in my old age.

It was in Gunnison that I realized we were getting further from home with ever mile traveled, and we really needed to be heading back.  There was a highly-rated museum down the road from our motel that I suggested we see next morning.  I was sure it opened at 8 AM, and we'd get on the road toward home after we did that.  However, the next morning we loaded up by 8 AM and headed out, pulled up at the museum, and found I had mis-read the sign:  It opened at 9.  We didn't wait.

We spent some time at Monarch Pass.

Cliff told me to go right ahead and ride to the top and he would gladly wait for me.

As I was carried up by a tram, I noticed a hardy soul was walking all the way up.  Later at the top, he came up the steps panting from exertion.  

I couldn't even see our car from the top, thanks to the curve of the mountain.

Wow, I could see forever!

On the way back down, I turned and took a picture of the tram going up.  

In the car once again, we were following the same road east that we had traveled coming west.  However, because of the scenery, I didn't find it tedious.  Cliff couldn't believe my next planned stop was at the Colorado State Fair, but he kept most of his thoughts to himself.  I assured him it would be a brief stop.  We didn't attend our own State Fair this year, and I haven't had a nice, greasy corn dog in ages, so this was my chance to get one.  I was also curious to see what their fair was like.  I've only been to three other state fairs:  Missouri, Iowa, and Virginia.  Yes, Virginia.  I have friends who live there, thanks to the Internet.  

 It was fun, watching the kids cool off on a very hot day.

I saw some lovely Jersey cows, and even got to milk one (sort of, since she'd had kids trying to milk her all day and wouldn't "let down" her milk).

I had never seen this setup before!  Looks like fun.

The Iowa State Fair is my favorite of the ones I've visited, but of course my childhood memories would influence that opinion.  My parents and I camped out there on three or four occasions.  I loved it!

That was how we spent that day of making our way toward home.  It looked like we'd be able to route our trip through McPherson, Kansas, and pay my sister a visit.  But first, we needed to find a motel somewhere, because McPherson was too far for Cliff to drive after the day we'd had.  

I'll tell you about Scott City, Kansas in my next entry.  Here's a hint:  Speed trap!

Monday, September 12, 2016

In search of a wooden rocking chair

Cliff was having a lot of back pain when we set out for Colorado recently.  I noticed that a couple of the motels we chose had chrome chairs with padded, but solid, arms.  Both of us sometimes need something solid we can put our hands on to push up out of a chair, and I made a mental note to perhaps purchase a chair for Cliff that might be more back-friendly and easier to get out of.  Our couch has sort of a recliner on each end, and Cliff has put plenty of time sitting on his end of the couch; I bought a separate recliner for myself, but he was happy with his spot on the couch.  

I know from his past back-episodes that recliners haven't always been good for Cliff; he tried mine when I first bought it and only stayed in it a few minutes because it hurt his back.  Also, as is typical for many of us, he spends more time sitting than he used to, and that's where he sits... on his recliner end of the couch.

While vacationing, and with Cliff's glass back constantly in mind, a picture-memory came to me from the fifties:

When Kennedy was President, pictures of him in a rocking chair were all over the news.  He had a lot of physical problems, not the least of which was his back.  His doctor prescribed the use of a rocking chair to ease his pain.  It must have worked well, because he eventually bought rockers for Air Force One and all the Kennedy estates.  While I was googling for information, I discovered there is a company that makes Kennedy rockers.  Their website is  

"Cliff," I said, "We need to buy you a wooden rocking chair."

I'll leave it at that.  You don't want to hear his answer.

I kept insisting we'd buy a rocking chair when we arrived home, and at some point he said, "We have a rocking chair sitting on the back porch.  Bring that one inside."

Well, I had to start somewhere with this plan, so I brought my morning-coffee-on-the-deck chair inside.  It used to have a back cushion, but that disappeared along the way.  We replaced it with an ordinary bed pillow.  Cliff mentioned, about the third day into our experiment, that he sure would like to be able to recline and relax; so I said, "I'll have Alexa set a one-hour timer; go to the couch and be comfortable for awhile."

He took my suggestion, but soon, before half-an-hour had passed, he went back to the rocker.

I eventually want to get a regular indoor rocking chair, but I can't order one online as I'm accustomed to doing with everything, because he needs to sit on chairs and try them out before we buy one.  We both hate to shop, especially for furniture.  We went to a furniture store in Richmond yesterday that doesn't even carry wooden rockers.  Maybe Nebraska Furniture Mart has some, but Cliff hates going over there.  

I hope my wicker, outdoor-type rocking chair is up to the task it's been given.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Remembering the individuals

A fellow set up a website, Project 2,996, in 2006 where he listed all the people who died as a result of acts committed by terrorists in 2001.  Bloggers who wanted to participate were given the name of a victim, with the assignment to search online for everything you could find about the person and then do a blog entry in tribute to him/her.  The object was to concentrate on the person's life, not on how he died.  I took part in this four times on the anniversary of 9/11.  

I checked the site yesterday to see whether any people remained who had not had a blog entry done about them, but in doing so, I discovered that has set up a website that seems to have covered every single person, some stories having much more detail than any of the entries I did for these folks.  So I don't see that the project is necessary any more.  However, I will share links to the tributes I did for four people.

Derek James Statkevicus

Thelma Cuccinello

Christopher Sullivan

Veronique Bowers

Linda C. Lee

I really enjoyed this project, and feel especially good about participating when someone who actually knew the person, or was related, left a comment thanking me for the tribute.  I see no reason to do more tributes now that Legacy has done such a thorough job, but I do like to occasionally provide links to the entries I did over the years.  

The Legacy website:  click HERE.

Friday, September 09, 2016

heading west

I really would have loved to try finding Cheyenne Mountain before we left the Colorado Springs area, but I felt like if we wasted another two hours looking for it, we'd both be in a foul mood and the day would be ruined.  Looking on the Internet, I found there were plenty of motel rooms available out in the wilds of Colorado, even on Labor Day weekend, away from the glitter of tourist traps.  We enjoy looking at the scenery.  So I reserved a room in Gunnison and we were on our way.

Speaking of tourist traps, there was one more thing I wanted to do before we got too far from Colorado Springs.  Back in the 90's we paid the price and went in to see the Royal Gorge.  Cliff, who doesn't like heights, remember, watched me walk across the suspended bridge and back, and then ride across in the aerial gondolas.  It would have cost $40 for the two of us, which is well worth it if you've never seen it.  But we had.  What I wanted to do was ride the train that travels alongside the Arkansas River at the bottom of the Gorge:  We've done the Durango & Silverton train twice.  The second time was actually rather boring.  The same is true of the Jeep tours we've taken in Colorado:  First time was amazing, second time was nice, but there's just something about the first time you see or do something that can never again be matched, no matter how hard you try.

The Royal Gorge train was only a two-hour ride, and I loved it.  I think Cliff enjoyed it too, although that was one of his bad back days.  I wanted to be there for the 9 AM trip, but I couldn't hurry Cliff out of the motel too quickly.  His back needed time to wake up.  When we pulled up at the station to buy our tickets, the train was just getting ready to leave, but they waited for us, thank goodness.  Otherwise we'd have ended up spending the whole day there, or else we would have gone on without a train ride.

We were assigned seats on the train, but there are also open cars that allow you to get a good view of things.  We stood out there during most of the return trip.

I found it relaxing, watching the water flow by as our train went onward.

This wooden pipe carried water to Canon City for over 70 years, until 1974.

Cliff always enjoys seeing people on a float trip.

There's the bridge I walked across in 1994.  Looks tiny from the bottom of the canyon.  

Once off the train, Cliff took time to inspect this old relic.

With a final look over my shoulder at the train we had ridden on, we headed toward the car.

It was almost noon when we got in the car, and then we were off to Gunnison.