Saturday, April 29, 2017

Family happenings (this and that)

This entry will probably be all over the place.  

I've intended for a long time to tell you about the wonderful idea our daughter had.  She and her husband live less than two miles away, but since they both work long hours all week, we hardly ever saw them long enough to have conversations.  Last November, I believe it was, Rachel emailed or messaged me and asked how we would feel about them coming over one evening a week, after work, just so we'd have some connection again.  The first time I think they brought pizza along; I suggested I just fix something each time, something simple:  hamburgers, a casserole, soup.  Supper isn't our main meal here, dinner (noon meal) is.  They protested at first, but I promised them I'd keep it easy.  Sometimes they even get leftovers.  

It's been wonderful!  We hear about things that happen on their jobs.  This subject is always of interest because Kevin, the son-in-law, works at the place from which Cliff retired... and our daughter works in customer service.  Trust me, customer service workers have the most interesting stories to tell!  So we have reconnected with our daughter and son-in-law in a most delightful way.  They stay an hour, sometimes longer, and then head home.  It's quality time.  

As for the rest of the family, granddaughter Amber makes a point of visiting us regularly, and Natalie and Monica drop by.  Arick and Heather, of course, are right here on the property, so we see them often but really don't spend a lot of time just chatting.  Cliff and Arick do spend time in the shop together.  You know which times are the most fun?  When all the grandchildren are here.  We have some of the biggest laughs when we all start having discussions about politics, our beliefs, and the facts of life.  

All children and grandchildren should now move along and stop reading.  Or read at your own risk.

You see, our daughter and our grandchildren (I'm not sure about our son's feelings on the matter I'm getting ready to mention, or Kevin's) each live in their own little bubbles.  There are two subjects they don't want to hear about from their parents/grandparents:  Sex and death.

Now when a couple has been married fifty years, they have the right to discuss anything under the sun.  You can talk about things you'd never say to anybody else.  Cliff and I find the most humor in the two topics the kids don't want to hear.  Making light of death has gotten us used to the fact that we are, indeed, going to die, and we know it could be any time.  We've laughed at death so much, it creeps into our conversations with the extended family, which brings on comments like "Stop it!", and much groaning and rolling of eyes.

The other day Cliff and I were in the car, heading to Higginsville, when I remembered an article I had seen on Facebook and decided to tell Cliff about it.  The headline read, "Overly obese body sets crematorium on fire".  By the way, this wasn't the first time such a thing has happened, but it's the first I'd read of such a thing.  If you want to read it for yourself, click HERE.

Apparently fat burns hotter than plain old muscle, there was something flammable sitting to close to the furnace, and the incident occured.  We discussed it awhile, and Cliff says, "Well, I wonder how you'd stop that from happening."

"I can't imagine," I answered.

"I guess you could do it a piece at a time," he said.  "You know, chunk in an arm and wait, then a leg..."

We both exploded with laughter, and when I could talk, I said, "You realize this is a story we can't talk about to the grandkids."

More laughter ensued.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cows and their strange appetites

Spring is that lovely time of year when every flower that blooms seems like a miracle.  One of the early flowers to bloom in my yard is the Iris.  I have several colors of them.  Most of them are surrounded by grass and weeds and not properly cared for or divided yearly, and yet the beauty of those blooms overwhelms me at times. 

Cliff likes to see pretty flowers, but if it were up to him, he'd only be seeing them in the yards of somebody else.  They are just something for him to mow around.  But he patiently puts up with my casual flower-growing, maybe figuring if nothing else, he'll outlive me.  Then he can cut down every tree and mow every flower.

Walking around the back yard, I noticed something amiss with the Iris planted along the back fence.  

Those spots on the leaves are, I believe, a fungus.  They won't kill the plant.  Wouldn't you think the calves would have the decency to eat the spotted leaves?  Nope, they chose the good ones.
Seeing this, I recalled an incident from last year:  Whatever cow was in the calf pasture then had waited for my red iris to bloom for the first time, stuck her long tongue through the fence, and gobbled up the new blossom.  I was beside myself.  Apparently the Holstein calves growing out there have the same sort of cravings.  Indeed, they already devoured one flower-to-be:

Of course I went whining to Cliff with my problem and he went right to work on it, as any dutiful husband would.  I suggested chicken wire in that area, something no cow could graze through or stick her tongue through.  He went searching through odds and ends of junk he saves for such an occasion and found some used chicken wire.

Everything goes a little better when you have a good lead man (or girl) to oversee the work.  

Please notice the calves have lots of grass; Cliff has already mowed that pen twice, and the grass keeps growing.  And yet, those steers go to all the trouble to reach through the fence and eat my Iris.  

Cows, of course, will eat anything.  Even nails.  They really don't chew their food much, they just swallow it whole.  That's where their four stomachs come in:  When they've had enough, they go to a peaceful spot, lay down, and spit up the food a mouthful at a time, and THEN they chew it.  If there are nails or sharp, small pieces of metal on the ground and they happen to pick one up as they graze, they swallow it and are none the wiser.  If a sharp piece of wire or a nail penetrates the wall of the reticulum, they're in trouble.  Some farmers put a magnet down their cows' throats so any stray pieces of metal will cling to it and not cause damage.

We once bought a bred Jersey cow whose appetite came and went.  One time she'd come in the barn to be milked and eat the dairy feed I gave her.  Other times, she wouldn't.  She also had a tendency to bloat.  We knew something was wrong, and figured we'd just take her to the sale barn and give someone else an opportunity to find the problem.  But Cliff's boss at the butcher shop said he'd buy her for the price we'd paid, so away she went.  

Some weeks later, the cow died.  Richard, the boss, decided to do a autopsy on the cow.  What he found was a double handful of roofing nails in her.  She had hardware disease.  Now, I truly doubt the cow walked up to a bucket of nails and began eating them deliberately.  I'm thinking somehow, for some reason, somebody poured feed of some sort atop a bucket of nails and in eating the feed, she ate the nails.  Maybe an angry neighbor plotted to kill the cow?  Maybe some youngsters poured feed in the wrong place?  Who knows. 

Anyhow, if the calves eat any more Iris this year, they'll have to get out of the pen to do it.   

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my enthusiasm most.

I don't get excited about too many things these days.  Back when I had Blue, my wonderful horse, I was enthusiastic about every ride.  When I had the dog before last, Sadie, I looked forward to our morning walks in the pasture because she kept us entertained jumping in the air to catch the sticks we'd throw.  You'll find an example of that on THIS ENTRY of my blog.  Walking isn't a pleasure when you know it's going to hurt, so my walks these days are seldom and slow.  Oh, and Sadie choked on a pork bone and died.    

Then was our motorcycle phase.  

Not to mention my lifelong love of Jersey cows:  Nothing is more exciting than waiting nine months after a cow is bred, running out to check on her, and finding a healthy newborn heifer calf.  I have blogged about all these topics, and much more.  Those parts of my life are past.

I still anxiously await Cora's arrival, weekday mornings.  I never realize how enthusiastic I am about her company until she's been away for a week or two; then I can't wait to see her!

I sometimes worry about my lack of enthusiasm.  For one thing, it's an early possible sign of dementia.  The main thing, though, is that enthusiasm equals excitement, and it's fun to be excited about something.  You know, like a kid before Christmas.

However, this morning I came to a realization.  I'm an early riser, and no matter how many aches and pains I wake up with, I am always excited knowing daybreak is coming.  The guest bedroom window faces east, so I find myself walking to that end of the hallway to see if day is starting to dawn.  When there's barely enough light outside to see where I'm walking, I'm out there soaking it up.  Little by little the eastern sky starts glowing, the sun comes up, and another day begins.  There's usually a cool breeze blowing at that time, and it almost feels like the breeze is gently washing my face to awaken me.  

I just took a card out of the camera to see what pictures I've taken lately and found this one.

This morning was cloudy, so the sunrise was nothing to brag about.  However, that bright star that shines near the rising sun so often (Venus?) was shining like a beacon.  Although I'm not sure of the name of that star, it's my favorite because it reminds me of Jesus.  I'm not even sure it's always the same star there year around, but it's my favorite star.  Why does it remind me of Jesus?  Because when I was a child, a song we often sang at Church was "Lily of the Valley".

"He's the lily of the valley
The bright and morning star..."

When I see the bright star and think of those words, I pause and tell Jesus and the Father good morning.

Yes, I have a great enthusiasm for early mornings.  I guess I'm not dead yet.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

An impromptu hootnanny

The grandson had a cookout yesterday, with lots of smoked meats.  He had invited several people, but had no idea who was actually going to show up.  Some showed up early and went mushroom hunting.  

Let me just say, it's been a great morel season around here, even though we could have used a little more rain.  

There were five children among the guests, so I asked them if they'd like me to bring the Legos out.  They were all for it, and before you know it, I was also toting bunch of Little People stuff out in the little red wagon.  I also took some sidewalk chalk.  I told the kids the toys had to stay in the shop (not the chalk, of course), and except for a couple of brief moments of forgetfulness, they obliged.  

There aren't a generally lot of introductions made among Arick's friends, so when one lady who was obviously grandmother to three of the children came in, Cliff and I had no idea who she was.  Arick was pretty busy at the smoker (in his garage) and Heather was in the house preparing food; since the children had plenty to keep them busy, everybody went to visit with Arick and Heather.  At this point I looked around and the only ones in the shop were Cliff, the grandma, me, and the kids.  I found out where the lady lives and what town she works in, and I'm sure when we introduced ourselves, she gave her name.  But as is typical for me, I don't remember it.  As far as the children go, I know Kinsey well, but not the others, although they've all been here before.  I finally learned one name:  The boy spoke so softly I couldn't make out what he was saying, but finally Arick came through, noticed me struggling to understand the boy, and informed me his name was Roman.  

So there we were, three adults watching five children play contentedly.  At one point some of them said they were hungry, so I went to the house and brought back some string cheese and a few granola bars.  Later I made chocolate chip pan cookies, too, and the raging appetites were controlled.   I wondered if I could possibly get these kids to participate in a singalong.  I got the guitar, strummed a G-chord, and had their attention.  They all wanted to try it, so I let them do the strumming while I held the guitar and switched from one chord to another.  I sang a couple of kid songs (you might know one of them would request "Old McDonald", a favorite of Cora's and one I would be happy to never hear again.  But I sang a couple of verses).  Then the grandmother (again, I'm kicking myself for not knowing her name) asked if I knew any Loretta Lynn songs.  I'm more familiar with Kitty Wells, but I strummed as she sang "You Ain't Woman Enough".  When I lit into "Silver Threads and Golden Needles", she sang along and sounded great. 

My problem, I told her, is that I don't know all the words of many songs.  "I should have brought my songbook," she said.  I immediately invited her to Arick's big Fourth of July shindig (hey, she's grandmother of one of his friends, I don't think he would mind).  And I told her to bring her song book.

As for the kids singing along, that didn't happen, but as each one at various times came over asking to strum my guitar again, I remembered Cora's band instruments in a box at the house:  Tamborine, maracas, hand drum, triangle, harmonica, and frog.  I sent Cliff after them and before you know it, we had a band.  The harmonica seemed to be the favorite, so it had to be passed around a lot, but it all worked out.
This is the frog.  You take the stick from its mouth and rub it on his back.  

Roman and I became buddies before the day was out.  He followed me to the house at one point and noticed a wild turkey feather on the bookcase, one I'd found in the woods.  Since he was so fascinated with it, I gave it to him.  He walked into the bedroom at one point and said, "Is this where you sleep?

I went to the bed, patted it, and said, "Yes, I sleep on this side.  Cliff sleeps over there."

"That's where your dad sleeps?"

"Well, he's my husband, not my dad, but yes."

It was a good, relaxing day with some well-mannered children and good food.  And I found somebody to sing a couple of songs with.  

Seriously, one of my motivations for going to church is that it's the only place I know where I can find some people to sing with. 


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My favorite yearly miracle

I've been planting green beans and watching them pop through the ground and grow for some fifty years, but I never grow tired of it.  

By the way, faithful readers, I know that the way seeds sprout and grow is "science", but I've not found science to be incompatible with holy things.  I see it all the time on Facebook:  someone posting some meme that says, "It's science.. " (often followed by some foul name-calling) implying that religion and science can't be intertwined.  But I digress.  To each his own.    
Green beans are probably the easiest crop in the world to grow, and they don't mess around.  With plenty of moisture, they often muscle their way through the top crust of the soil in four days or so.  

One morning you walk to the garden and see a suspicious crack in the ground.

You lift it up like a lid...

Here's another srtong little fellow pushing through my sandy soil.

And this precocious little girl, who was the first one to pop up, couldn't wait to grow leaves.

So simple, and yet so miraculous!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Abilene, Kansas

I confess, my first and original reason for stopping in Abilene was fried chicken.  I heard, by word of mouth, that the Brookville Hotel (it isn't a hotel, just a restaurant) had the best food anywhere around.  A few years ago we stopped to check it out, but it was booked up.  They are only open Wednesday through Saturday, and then usually only in the evening.  The place is so popular, they suggest you make reservations.  When I first came up with this impromptu road trip, I tried calling them several times to get evening reservations, but nobody answered.  That's probably a good thing, because by the time we left Manhattan, Kansas, I'd had time to think it over:  It would end up costing $50 for the two of us, and we'd just had excellent chicken at R.C.'s in Martin City a couple of weeks before.  The only chicken that would top theirs would be my mother's, and she's no longer on this earth. 

There are several places of interest in Abilene, but by the time we got there it was after 1 PM.  It was obvious that we only had time to take in the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.  I didn't think we'd get through it in that length of time, but it turns out there aren't nearly as many exhibits as the Truman Library.  We had exactly the amount of time we needed to take in everything.  In the Presidential Library, there was a timeline of World War I; now, Cliff and I are familiar with this timeline, since we've visited the World War I museum in Kansas City several times.  However, this timeline included information on where Ike was at various points during the war.

We read several interesting stories:

The following story illustrates how badly Ike wanted to join the fighting in Europe.

There was even this story about Harry Truman

When we were done viewing the things in the library, we moved on to the museum, which had nothing to do with Ike.  Right now there's an exhibit telling about the Chisholm Trail.

Cliff did lots of reading.

We also went through the home where Eisenhower grew up.  The furnishings were a lot like houses I visited (and lived in) when I was a child.

We went in the chapel where Ike and Mamie were buried.

Of course I bought an expensive coffee mug, because that's what I do.  As I drink my morning coffee, I can reminisce about the places I've forced Cliff to take me.  I wonder if I'll be able to get an Arlo Guthrie coffee mug when we go to his concert.  Hmmm.  

I have fond childhood memories of Eisenhower:  My parents were non-voting Republicans, and always spoke positively of him.  Besides, we had a president who looked like somebody's grandpa, and what kid doesn't love a grandpa?    

Perhaps we'll see the interesting places in Abilene that we didn't have time for on our next trip to visit Maxine.  I'll leave you with a picture I've already shared on Facebook.  It's me, my nephew Larry (Maxine's son), and my lovely sister.  Larry's wife had gone to spend some time with one of their sons and his family in Oklahoma, but we had a wonderful visit with Maxine and Larry.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Just a little road trip

I used to think Kansas was boring until I took a closer look.  If you get off the beaten path, there's plenty to see and do.  We made our first trip to the Flint Hills in 2013.  Even my stay-at-home husband enjoyed it to some extent: It's his policy to never enjoy anything that takes him away from home... and if he does enjoy it, he will be the last one to let you know.  I can't wait until he spends time at the Arlo Guthrie concert we're going to attend in May.  It'll probably be a new all-time low for poor Cliff.  

While our little girl was in Iowa, I wanted to pay my sister in McPherson a visit and decided to roll a couple of "places of interest" into the journey. 

Thanks to the "Visit Kansas" website for this picture.
We had spent a night at Manhattan, Kansas, on the last day of our Flint Hills experience three years ago.  My intention was to get up the next morning and visit the Flint Hills Discovery Center there.  However, we were both awake by six AM and didn't want to kill time until 10 o'clock, when the center opened up; so we went on home.  

On our way to visit my sister this time, we stopped there.  We learned how the area was shaped and changed over countless centuries.  We saw a film that immersed us in "reality" as we watched:  The fires burning on the prairie filled the floor ahead of us with smoke, and flashes of lightning came from above.  When the wind picked up, we felt it.  It was quite an experience!    

We had home-made pita bread, tuna salad and other items I took from home for our lunch; how convenient it was to see a picnic area right across the street as we exited the building at straight-up noon.  
Perfect timing!

We don't picnic much these days, and haven't since we sold the motorcycle.  It was kind of nice to do that again, and it saved us money, too.  

After our first stop, it wasn't long before we left I-70 and headed south.  Next stop, Abilene!

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Assorted stuff

It's so hard for me to dust the cobwebs off my blog and come up with something to write about.  The older I get, the less things I do; the less I do, the harder it is to find something anybody would care to read.  So, you get springtime drivel.

Cliff and I can never understand why people go to such great lengths to rid their lawns of dandelions.  We love them.  I like to think of them as miniature suns decorating my yard and pasture.   

Cliff and I were with a friend the other day, and we mosied over to a church to see the lovely rows of tulips planted along the sidewalk.  As I admired them, I was thinking about the tulips in my weed patch flower bed at home, surrounded by hen-bit.  They are equally lovely, but of course the weeds do distract from them somewhat.  Doesn't matter; I don't judge a flower by its surroundings.  

Then the acquaintance we were with said, "Look at the weeds!"

The weeds were so few, and so minuscule, I hadn't seen them until she said that.  Of course my first thought was "What does she think of MY flower bed then?".  Later on, though, I felt a bit of pity for her, to think that she was looking at what I would consider a perfect bed of tulips and seeing only a few tiny weeds less than 1/4 inch tall.  After all is said and done, it just shows how different we all are.  You can imagine what a messy world it would be if everyone were a slob like I am.

Here's my lovely bed of tulips and henbit.  I planted those bulbs hastily last fall without working the soil:  I just dug a hole for each one with a shovel and covered them.  As soon as the petals fall off I'll pull them, since tulips usually get smaller and weaker each year when you leave them.  I might buy bulbs again this fall, or I might not.

The garden has shrunk greatly since last year, and what I do plant is sort of hit-and-miss.  I have little faith that I will keep up with a garden, even a small one.  I really don't have a lot of room for sweet corn, but I happened to remember you can plant corn in "hills"... six seeds to a circle.  Beyond the dampened hills in the picture, there are two tomato plants I put out early.  They haven't done a lot, because it was cool for so long.  Tomatoes like it warm!

I have some things already up in the garden:  radishes, beets, lettuce, and one of the three cabbage seeds I planted.  Strawberries are blooming, but they, too, are in competition with the henbit.  

I think our little girl is going to be in Iowa for the week, and I'm trying to figure out a cheap road trip we could go on for a night or two.  We'd have to be back by the weekend, since we are dog-sitting, but I wouldn't want to be on the road on Easter weekend anyway.  We shall see.  

In other not-so-good news:  I have a cold that is mostly in my throat, but has me feeling listless and short of breath.  I keep yawning, trying to get a deep breath.  I can't complain; I've only had one other very mild cold all winter.  The other sad news is that my favorite of the young tomcats we just had castrated two weeks ago has disappeared.  That kept me depressed yesterday all day.  When you keep barn cats, though, it's always a possibility.  Coyotes, foxes, and hawks consider cats and small dogs a food source.  Also, Grady had a habit of climbing into vehicles; he may have sneaked into a neighbor's car and ridden away.  I'm down to two-and-a-half cats now.  The one-half cat is Mama Kitty, who is probably on her way out:  She'll show up, stick around for several days, then disappear for several days.  That isn't normal behavior for her, but she's been doing this for the last six months or so.


Monday, April 03, 2017

Remove the label

I'm not sure what sparked the conept, but for some reason I've been thinking a lot lately about the labels we put on people.  I would really love to write a song with a title like "Remove the label".  But I lost my song-writing mojo long ago.  I'm so obsessed with this idea that most everything reminds me of it, almost like it's a confirmation of my thoughts.  It's only 6 AM, and I've already seen two things on Facebook that fueled the idea once again.

Two people took this in a negative way, and commented accordingly; obviously they've had a bad experience or two.  The strange thing is that when I first saw those words and then shared them, I was thinking of the good in people we never see, sometimes because we really don't try looking past the label.  But this line of thought may be caused by the label topic that's going around in my brain.

Think about the way you hear something about a person, let's say someone you've never met.  An acquaintance tells you a little tidbit about them, and you immediately accept the label and file it in your mind.  It could be anything:  "fat",  "lazy", "druggie"... or it might be something positive:  "sweet", "smart", "generous".  So when you think of this person from that time forward, if and when you meet them, you see the label first.  You had an opinion of her, bad or good, before you ever met her.  

Sometimes it's my own first impression that puts a label on someone, although I really don't socialize often enough to meet people and get to know them well.

Several years ago when I was attending a church a lot bigger than the one I attend now, my oldest grandson was given the lead in the Christmas play.  I was sitting on the sidelines during a rehearsal and struck up a conversation with the mother of one of the other kids, just she and I.  In the course of the conversation she said, "I didn't think you liked me."

I was flabbergasted, wondering what on earth would have given her that idea.  We barely knew one another.  Looking back, I imagine she took my standoffishness as dislike.  Strange thing is, she was someone I actually admired a lot!   Wrong label, lady!

If I would look past the negative labels we have given others, I would probably see so many positive attributes in their characters, it would more than make up for that critical label the world gave them.  I'm thinking of a local person, now dead, about whom I heard several disparaging comments over the years.  I accepted all that without even realizing it until one day I told Cliff, "You know, that man has never been anything but nice to us.  And if he has been that good to us, how can I talk negatively about him?"

As much as I'd like to, I just can't make a song come out of ideas like this any more.  So I'm sharing them here, as is.  I'm making a real effort to "remove the label", if it's a negative one, and look at the contents of the person's soul.  Appearances are deceiving.  For every fault most of us have, there is at least one virtue.  I want to concentrate on the virtues.

How about an appropriate corny old poem written by Louis C. Shimon:

Wouldn't this old world be better
If the folks we meet would say -
"I know something good about you!"
And treat us just that way?

Wouldn't it be fine and dandy
If each handclasp, fond and true,
Carried with it this assurance -
"I know something good about you!"

Wouldn't life be lots more happy
If the good that's in us all
Were the only thing about us
That folks bothered to recall?

Wouldn't life be lots more happy
If we praised the good we see?
For there's such a lot of goodness
In the worst of you and me!
Wouldn't it be nice to practice
That fine way of thinking, too?
You know something good about me;
I know something good about you.

Here's a thing I shared on Facebook today, simply because it made me laugh.  I hesitated sharing it because it's the kind of thing overly-sensitive people take to heart and then make the assumption you are talking about them, but hey!  I post my business all over the Internet just like I'm doing now, so if you WERE in my business, I wouldn't have grounds to complain.  I truly doubt that my insignificant life interests people enough to make them gossip much about me. 

By the way, if any of you has the idea I don't like you, you're probably way off base.  I'm just a little weird, and often give the wrong impression.  I like most folks.