Saturday, June 27, 2020

Remembering the past

This time we're living in has gotten me down:  Covid-19 has cast a shadow on the present, and nobody knows when it will end.  It's pretty obvious it'll still be infecting people through the end of this year.  There is a debate going on in the general population:  Should we take the precautions doctors want us to put in place, or is this an evil plot to take control of us?  Folks, I have let this drive me to distraction to such an extent that I don't want to be on Facebook.  That has never happened before.  In fact, in my "normal" state, I'd be forcing myself to sign off Facebook for a few days because I'm addicted.  

Maybe this is a good solution to my Facebook addiction.  If so, I hope it lasts.  I'd never get off Facebook entirely, because it's how I stay in touch with relatives, some of whom I wouldn't even know well if not for Facebook.  Not to mention friends I will never see again in person, but we can keep in touch because Facebook exists.

It finally occurred to me this morning that Facebook may not be the problem here.  There are issues in the current "real world" that have me off-kilter; I think maybe I've transferred my feelings about those issues onto Facebook.  In fact, I'm sure of it.  The same thing happened last fall... a happening in my real world had me upset, and suddenly I could not stand social media.  I began deleting friends, most of them for no good reason.  

I learned in my ninth grade psychology class about transference: the redirection to a substitute, usually a therapist, of emotions that were originally felt in childhood (in a phase of analysis called transference neurosis ).  I don't have a shrink, although I could probably use one, so I've been transferring my feelings to a silly website instead.  (You could take the words "in childhood" out of that, because my childhood was great.) 

What I wish I could do in these perilous times is go to Grandma's house.  Unfortunately, she died in the 1960's and her house was torn down long ago.  But in my mind I do go back to that part of my life, closing my eyes and imagining myself walking through that little house.  I see the african violets on the closed-in porch.  Then as I step up into the kitchen, the refrigerator is straight ahead of me, the porcelain kitchen table to the left of it against the wall.  Straight to the left of me as I stand in the doorway is the Hoosier cupboard, looking very similar to this:

There's the surface where Grandma rolled out noodles and sugar cookies and cinnamon rolls.  She sat on a tall stool when she did that, either because she wore out easily or perhaps because her knees or legs ached; kids never think  old people they love might be hurting, unless they complain.  Grandma didn't.  But I digress.  For many years Grandma had a kerosene range, so when you entered the house there was sometimes the faint smell of coal oil in the air.

In my musings, I leave the kitchen and walk on into the living room, knowing exactly where everything is.  Things in Grandma's house didn't change much.  With parents who moved often, I loved having three locations on God's green earth where things were constant:  Grandma's house, Uncle Leo's house down the road from her, and my sister's house.  Those were the most stable places I knew, where change was slow to come.

Sometimes I remininisce about the years my parents and I lived in Iowa.  What a wonderful world it was.  Hot summer nights sitting on the front porch listening on the radio to Joe Lewis becoming the heavyweight champion of the world while daddy threw punches and dodged blows as if it would help Joe win.  Winters when I longed for snowfall.  Summers when the world was my oyster because I could play outside as long as I wanted.  Fourth of July everyone in the Guss, Iowa, community who bought fireworks pooled their resources, coming together so we children had a great show to watch when we gathered in front of Hampel's store.

It wasn't a perfect world, but I thought it was then.  Guss, Iowa and Eagleville, Missouri are my favorite places to think about when times are difficult for whatever reason.  And don't forget Grandma's house for the holidays.  

The act of putting these words on a page makes me feel safe and serene.  Everyone should have such good childhood memories as I do, with parents who sang often around the house and in the car; recently a lady from Eagleville named Velda (now a Facebook friend) told me about a time when she was riding somewhere with my parents and me in our car.  I would have been no older than twelve; Velda said we were singing together as we rode, and she thought it the neatest thing at the time, that people would cut loose singing like that in the car.  We did it all the time, it's how I learned to sing alto.  I never thought it was unusual.  But you know, having someone else recall it 65 years later is pretty special. 

I began this blog entry feeling frustrated and angry and didn't know what I'd be writing about.  Now I'm at peace, and God is near.

Be well, my readers.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Cat litter, blog mysteries, and whatever else I think of

I've not dealt with cat litter except for one spell when I was single and tried to bring an outdoor cat into my apartment.  She'd had a taste of freedom before I got her, so she let me know how bored she was by knocking over my two scrawny house plants repeatedly while I was at work.  I took her back to my parents in the country.  Then almost four years ago when I brought two kittens onto the property, I had a litter box in Cliff's shop for awhile when the kittens kept using the oil-dry in the pans under his tractor.

Because Blue was so young and tiny, I have been shutting him in our back porch at night to prevent foxes or coyotes getting him.  During the day, I block the outside door of the porch open and he spends most of his time outside, but he can still come in to eat if he gets hungry.  When he thinks he really wants to be inside, he goes around to the front door and starts trying to climb up the metal screen door, which has no screen (because other cats ruined the screen) but only glass.  He makes such a racket doing this, we can't help but hear it, and let him in.  We will not be letting him in when he's grown, unless I can get by with it in bitter cold weather; a cousin of mine in Iowa told me cats don't shed in winter if they are normally outside cats.  Of course, then there's the problem of fleas:  If I'm going to let him in, am I willing to buy the expensive stuff that repels fleas?

Back to the cat litter:  First of all, I winced at the price of the stuff.  Good grief, the prices are so high!  I finally just gritted my teeth and picked up a large box, as well as a tub for a little box.  Blue had no problem using it from the first, and by the third day, when he was inside with us, he'd even go to the inside door of the porch and meow for me to let him out if he needed to go; I go open the door for him, he runs to the box.  This amazes me.

It surprised us that the scented litter in the box made the back porch smell good, even after days of the cat's deposits therein.  I still don't know for sure how long you are supposed to wait to toss all the little deposits over the fence, and I have even less idea of when I should throw out the whole mess and start over.  It's so costly, I want to get as much use out of it as possible.

Yesterday I fixed Blue up with new litter and a cleaned-up box.  When he came in, he had a genuine litter-box party all by himself.  He must have danced around and played in it for half an hour before he finally deposited the biggest poop I ever saw him make.  Even after that, he'd come in from outside, and party again.  At this point, the new batch has been used enough that the partying has ceased.  If any of you, my readers, have cats in the house... is it normal for them to celebrate fresh litter?

Here's a thing that drives me crazy about my blog:  When I go to other folk's Google blogs, there is a way in the comments for me to reply to anybody else's comment directly.  For years, I've looked for a setting that would allow me to do this, because sometimes people ask me questions about an entry and I can't answer back to their comment.  The other day, while Cliff was inside the John Deere dealer's getting a tractor part, I stayed in the car and played on my phone.  I'd done a blog entry that morning and wanted to see if I had comments; there were a couple; I was amazed to see that on my phone, each comment had a place to reply to it!  I don't see this on my MacBook or the iPad, only on my Samsung phone.  I've tried using other browsers, but nothing lets me see that "reply" option.

So I guess I'll keep my phone handy.  As long as someone's comment only needs a brief reply, I'll answer them with my cell phone.  I hate trying to type on that phone, so there will be no lengthy replies.

Enjoy your day.  Yesterday was great here, not awfully hot, with a nice breeze going that managed to dry four loads of laundry.  Take that, Evergy!  (It used to be Kansas City Power and Light, but they sold to Evergy.)

I'm going to add one of my Sunday Singing videos to this entry, for the person who asked me to share another one on my blog.  Many of my blog readers are not facebook friends, so they don't see my videos unless I place one here.  I usually make these videos around 5 AM on Sunday morning, so I'm in my nightgown and house coat and probably didn't comb my hair.  

I'm just keeping it real, folks.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Recipes from story books don't always work well

Some of you may remember that I read "The Best Cook in the World" and was fascinated some of the old-timey recipes therein.  I did an entry about my adventures with cheese grits, but the one recipe I really wanted to try was Butter Rolls.

It's important to know the author's mom did not use recipes, nor did she measure ingredients.  She would use "a handful of lard" or "a pinch of salt", never bothering with measuring spoons or cups.  In the writing of the book, her son watched her cook the dishes from his childhood, then tried to translate it into a real recipe that others could use.  I found out when making my first batch of grits that the amounts given in the book aren't necessarily going to work.  Old Fashioned grits, according to directions on the box, need four cups of water to one cup of grits.  I started out using the recipe in the book, but had to add water several times.  Finally I used the recipe on the box, which worked just fine.  

In the recipe for butter rolls, there were difficulties because some of the things were so obviously not right; I don't know whether to blame this on the author or his mom. 
Remember, though, that the book was never meant to be an ordinary recipe book.  It was all about the stories surrounding the food that author Rick Bragg remembered so fondly.  And yet, he did attempt to give recipes.   

When they did the the butter rolls, his mother gave her biscuit recipe that required 3 to 4 cups of flour.  When I read farther, she was saying to use an 8 X 8 inch pan that would hold one quart:  That's ridiculous.  That much flour makes a lot of biscuits, and then you're going to be pouring liquid in the pan before the biscuits "go swimming", as Mrs. Bragg said.  So I pulled out an 8 X 8 glass pan that holds two quarts,  twice the size mentioned, wondering if even that was large enough.  (Spoiler:  it wasn't.)

I used my own biscuit recipe using two cups of flour, then formed them into small biscuits as big around as silver dollars, just like the lady said, sprinkled cinnamon on them and then covered them up with wax paper (I question whether that step was really necessary).  Then it was time to mix the liquids:  Sweetened condensed milk, sugar, some whole milk, vanilla, and a stick of butter, diced.

I poured that into the glass dish, floated the little biscuits in there, and flipped them over to coat them.  There was only room in the pan for about half the biscuits I'd made, so I had some to throw out, which didn't make me too happy... but the three chickens enjoyed it.  I baptized each biscuit into the liquid as instructed and placed the pan in the preheated oven.  After fifteen minutes in the oven, I pulled the pan out and turned over each and every little biscuit, then put them in the oven again.

It was probably less that five minutes later I smelled something burning:  the liquid in the too-small pan was bubbling out all over the oven.  What a mess!  If I ever make this again, I will use a nine by thirteen pan, and I won't have to throw good biscuit dough away OR clean up a mess.  We aimed a fan at the smoke alarm in the kitchen to keep it quiet and opened some windows to clear the smoke; I'm doing this entry 24 hours later and the house STILL smells like burnt sugar when you come in from outside.

The end result was very tasty, although a little too sweet for my taste, and very rich.  We both liked it, but it isn't something I can eat a lot of.  

I will make it again sometime in a larger pan, and then I imagine my experimenting with this recipe will be done.  If you're a person who can eat candy for breakfast, you might like this, because this biscuits are that sweet and rich. 

The first time I played around with this dish, it didn't even make it to the oven:  That's because there are conflicts in the various ways the book presents.  Here's an example:  In this chapter, he relates how his mother told him to make this, telling it like this:  "Now it is time to make the bath.  Into a clean bowl, pour the sweetened condensed milk; then fill the empty can with whole milk and add that to the bowl."  That's what I did the first time, and learned too late that you do NOT fill the can with whole milk, because in the actual recipe given before Rick tells the story, it says 1/2 cup of milk.  I'd already mixed it when I saw this discrepancy, and everything went to waste.  

I blame it on Rick, who admits he is not a cook.  That's probably why he didn't notice his mistake.  I really doubt whether many people tried to make the dishes anyway because really, it's all about the stories.  

I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the finished product.  Maybe next time.  

That's it for today's cooking show.  Happy Father's day to all the dads!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

We both forgot our anniversary

Yes, today is our anniversary.  There was a time when I would remind Cliff about our anniversary long before it happened just so he'd take me out to eat.  He never cared whether he ate out or not, but we'd go to Olive Garden or a steak house.  

This morning I got up, recorded my Sunday song around five AM (I'm usually in my housecoat when I do my Sunday singing so early, but I like to get it out of the way).  My recording studio at that time of day is a bedroom at the opposite end of the house from our bedroom because I don't want to bother Cliff.  Chances are he wouldn't hear me if he did wake up, without his hearing aids; but I'm pretty loud, so I don't take chances.  He works pretty hard on weekends since he began helping the grandson build fence, and he ends up going to sleep on the couch while "watching TV", then getting up a little earlier than usual.  Today he woke up at 6:30.  We ate breakfast and talked some; by 9 AM he was outside with Arick working on fences, and I was getting ready to go to church (which takes me about five minutes).  I sat down with the MacBook, noticed the date, and realized for the first time it's our 54th anniversary!  I walked down to the fence to wish him a happy anniversary, thanked him for allowing me to live exactly the way I wanted to all these years, and went back to the house.  

This afternoon, I've been thinking about how he and I met.  I've probably told this story on my blog before, but I'll tell it again.  I worked with his sister at National Bellas Hess, and we became casual friends.  I had an apartment a couple of blocks from where we worked in North Kansas City; she came to visit sometimes, and spent a night or two, as I recall.  I played my guitar and sang a couple of songs for her, I guess, and she invited me to go home with her (she was living with her parents).  She wanted me to take my guitar along and sing some songs for her mom, who she said loved country music.  Melva did enjoy it; she thought I was a great singer.  I imagine I sang Honky Tonk Angel and Pick Me up on Your Way Down, because I sang those two often, and knew them well.  

When I got up early the next morning, Melva wanted Clifford to hear me sing.  He worked 3:30 to midnight, so he had missed my concert the night before.  Knowing him as I do now, I can't imagine how she managed to get him up at 6 AM after his working till midnight, but she did.  I sang a few songs, then Rena and I went to work.  I thought nothing about this encounter.  I was never one to flirt, never learned how.  It wasn't long, though, before he asked me out.  Two or three months later we got married.  We called Cliff's brother, got the name and phone number of his preacher, called him, and asked if he'd marry us.  We took Melva and Cliff's brother's wife, Faye, for witnesses.  The preacher asked, "What sort of ceremony do you want?" and Cliff said, "The shortest one you have."

I know it sounds like we were in a big hurry, but really we weren't.  I wasn't pregnant.  We just decided to tie the knot.  We had been talking about getting married anyhow, but at that time a man had to have his parents sign for him if he was under the age 21.  Cliff already had two siblings who had been in marriages that didn't last long, and I had heard his mom say that she was not signing for another of her children to get married.  So we told them we would be getting married June 16th.  Melva said, "Why are you waiting until then?"

"Because you said you didn't want to sign for another of your kids," I said.

"Oh well, I"ll sign for you-uns."

When I asked Cliff's dad if he'd heard we were getting married, he shook his head and said, "That boy's gone sex-crazy!" You would have to have known him; he'd had a rough life, and was a quite the pessimist.  He'd sit on the front porch of their house on Blue Ridge Cutoff watching traffic go by, and say, "I hate people.  People make me sick."  

So that's how Cliff ended up getting married two days before he turned 21.  Apparently the stars were aligned properly, because we've made it 54 years.  He was a city boy, but loved country things.  I liked farm animals and had some farm background, and he liked doing things with tractors.  

When I look back over the years, I realize I wouldn't change a thing about the way our lives have gone.  I would like to have changed some things I could have done better, I hope... maybe have tried to be a nicer person... but never would I have changed the life we've lived together.  We neither one care about fancy houses or cars, so we've been in agreement on that.  Most people would consider us poor, at any time of our lives, but we don't feel poor.  We got to live our dream of being in the country together.

It's been great!  Happy anniversary, Cliff.  Things are pretty tame these days, but we've had some exciting times.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

A road trip

The Covid-19 bug is spiking again.  However, there are counties in Missouri that have a pretty small number of cases, some as few as two, I believe.  I just looked at the Missouri Covid-19 dashboard and I see that Iron, Knox and other counties have each had two cases total.  I've never heard of those counties, but I'm fairly certain they are further away from big cities than my Lafayette County is:  Most people in this county work in the city, and I imagine that's how we got the majority of our 80 total cases; but if you look at the metropolitan areas, there have been hundreds of cases and too many deaths.  Missouri is one of the states that is paying for the big Memorial Day celebrations now.

Remember how we had planned to go to Nashville at the time all this mess began?  I've gone through this whole pandemic holding onto the idea that maybe we can do that trip later this year.  At this point, I have my doubts, since Tennessee is one of the states whose covid numbers are going up again.  

So I asked Cliff to take me on a day trip to Amish country, only 80 miles away.  In the past, we'd have gone to Versailles:  There aren't any Amish there as far as I know, but there are varying degrees of Mennonites and other buggy-driving groups of people of German descent, many of them with the Amish-type stores to shop in.  These days, when I think about a drive to Versailles, it depresses me, because Cliff's aunt and his cousin Darrell have died.  Aunt Gertrude was always the main reason we went to Versailles:  She was so happy to see all visitors, and made us (and everyone) feel special.  Then she moved in with Darrell in her later years; I got to know him better during that time, and I found him fascinating to talk to.

So we went instead to the largest Amish community in Missouri, which is located in and around Jamesport, only 75 miles away.

It's fun driving past the farms, seeing clothes on the lines and meeting horse-and-buggies on the roads.  I packed a quick lunch before we went, tuna salad sandwiches... not my favorite, but that's what I had to work with.  Including the time to drive there and back, we were only away from home for seven hours.  I went to the Jamesport City Hall to ask about the Amish farm-and-countryside tours that feature an Amish tour guide.  Those have to be scheduled in advance, and I want to do that at some point.  However, they won't take less than four people, so we'll need to get together with someone for that trip, and all this time I thought I didn't need any friends!  Anyhow, I got my information before we left town.

About ten miles before we arrived at Jamesport, however, Cliff got to look at tractors in Gallatin.  You all know by now that anything involving tractors and farm equipment thrills my husband greatly.  First he went to Terry Implement:  That's where my cousin Gerald bought all his brand new Allis Chalmers tractors; Allis Chalmers went out of business many years ago, so the place is now selling Kubota tractors.  What Cliff was interested in, however, were the used tractors sitting on the lot for sale.  He drives slowly past each tractor, stopping to talk about his favorite old rust-buckets as he comes to them.  He doesn't expect me to pay much attention to these soliloquies, and I don't; really, he's just talking to himself.  He just rattles on, as he comes to each precious brand and model, criticizing the farmer who let some poor old tractor get in the kind of shape it's in, and questioning how in the world somebody put that dent in the grill of a tractor; you get the picture, right? 

Then, after leaving Terry Implement, what should we find just outside of Gallatin but a tractor consignment sale with row after row of rusty junk tired old tractors, plows, discs, and balers!  Cliff was in heaven for sure, and that's when I realized why it had been so easy for me to talk him into the trip to Jamesport.  What I didn't know was this:  He'd seen an advertisement for the sale a few days ago and knew about it!  I thought it was just a wonderful surprise to him.

There were many rows like this at the consignment sale

This sign was near the exit at the sale; I took the picture for my gun-nut, mostly Trump-loving, relatives (not the relatives I gave birth to, though), because I didn't know Bethany had a big gun store... but then, I wouldn't.

What we did in Jamesport was shop at the Amish places of business.  Even Cliff found some bargains, although he didn't buy them because they were tools he already has.  Here's what I bought:

I always get some of the Orange slice candy.  My dad loved those, and although I can't eat as much sweet stuff as I used to, I still get some and eat one a day until they are gone.  He also liked circus peanuts candy, but yuck!  I'm not eating those.  In the picture you see the candy; a scraper to get the last of the mayo out of the jar; my favorite kind of paring knife, called a "granny knife" because in the old days, everybody's grandma had a knife so old and worn that it looked like this one; a heat diffuser... everybody needs one of these for grits or rice, or anything that seems to stick to the bottom of the pan when you cook it.  Oh, and I left out two things because I took them out of the pile earlier and didn't put them back:  a strawberry and tomato stem-remover, and a bag of rice.  Carbs bother me not at all, and I bought the rice because our son will be here on July 4th weekend and I think I have plenty, but you never know how many others will be here eating the rice with him.  When there is leftover rice and raisins, our son will heat some up in the microwave for a snack, or for breakfast on another day.

A couple of folks commented on my last entry that they don't eat grits because of the carbs.  Folks, in my old age I can't eat like I used to, and without ever counting a calorie or pushing back from the table, my weight stays between 148 and 152.  I eat anything I want.  I count this among my blessings, because it wasn't always easy like it is now.  

My favorite Amish store is in a house, although nobody lives in it; they live in the other house on the property.  This is where I got all my "stuff".

outside the store

We got a little lost on back roads, but I dug out the cell phone, and Google maps took us home.  

It was a good day for both of us, and there were no crowds to contend with.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Addicted to grits

Nobody in Missouri I know eats grits.  I'm sure there are people in the state who like grits, but I don't know them.  My son, born and raised in Missouri and now living in Georgia, sometimes eats grits with sugar, I think.  But that's what Cream of Wheat is for, right?  

I never had any desire to try hominy grits until I read "The Best Cook in the World".  It's in the local library, and I read the book some time back.  When I remember some recipe in the book I want to try it, I just check out the e-book on my iPad for as long as it takes to make the recipe, then return it.  The author's mother said anybody who eats instant grits is a Philistine, so I made sure to get the old-fashioned kind.  I ended up following the recipe on the box of grits instead of hers, because she used 2 1/2 cups of water and 1 1/2 cup of grits.  The box says 1/4 cup grits to 1 cup of water, and believe me, that makes it plenty thick.  She added a tiny amount of milk to it, but it would still have been too dry and thick.  Here's the recipe as she gives it:

2 1/2 cups water, more or less
1 1/2 cups yellow grits
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup American cheese shredded or torn into small pieces  

The lady and her author son thought grits were really tasty, but the first successful grits I made were exactly what I expected... not all that great, tasteless; I had just used the directions on the box; I should add that I didn't add cheese.  I wanted to tasted grits plain first.  Going back to the book, I noticed she put cayenne pepper in the grits when they were done.  I use cayenne pepper in a lot of things, so that sounded good to me.  I added that to my tasteless bowl of grits, and some garlic powder.  That was better, and a teaspoon or so of butter really helped, along with added salt.  I sort of liked it.  Now, I did all this early in the morning, while Cliff was still in bed.  When he was up, I fixed him something for breakfast and asked if he'd like to try my grits.  He wasn't impressed, but said with the garlic and cayenne pepper added, it seemed like it should be eaten with some other meal besides breakfast; he thought he might like them then, with a meal.  

This cook mentioned in a later chapter of the book that Velveeta cheese worked better in grits than American Cheese, and after cooking grits two or three times, I tried that, and that's how I've made them ever since.  It's a shame, really, because as good as Velveeta tastes, it's not real cheese, but a "cheese product".  I used to buy it only around Thanksgiving and Christmas when I make hot hamburger dip to take to gatherings.  Now Velveeta seems to have become a staple in my house.  Oh, and Cliff has some with a meal occasionally and likes it fine.  As for me, I mostly just eat it for breakfast.  When I woke Cliff up this morning crawling in bed with him, he informed me he smelled my garlic breath.  I make four servings at once and heat some up in the microwave when I want a bowl; I always put a pat of butter on top when it comes out.  

There is one recipe in the book I truly want to try, but haven't gotten around to it:  Butter Rolls.  First you mix up some biscuits.  You roll the dough into balls "no bigger than half-dollars" and flatten them slightly with your hands.  Lay them on waxed paper and sprinkle with cinnamon, and cover with another sheet of paper (to keep them from drying out).  Then you pour sweetened condensed milk into a bowl, stir milk in with it, and add sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon to that.  Cube a whole stick of butter and "let it go swimming in the milk mixture".  Pour the liquid into a 1-quart baking dish or pan, about 8 X 8 inches, and gently drop the biscuits one by one into the liquid.  Press each one down in the liquid, then let it bob back up.  Don't crowd them... leave an inch or so of space between them.  10 minutes before it's done you flip them over and continue cooking.  

This doesn't give you the exact recipe, I'm not trying to do that:  But there is something in her describing this dish that just makes me think it would be a taste of heaven.  But wait, there's more!  She also makes this dish with canned biscuits divided into quarters, although she says this is the only thing canned biscuits are good for.  And, believe it or not, she says this is better than the original recipe.  I'll be making this eventually.  I just HAVE to.  

I'm sharing a page from the book, so you will perhaps get a feel of the lady's old-timey, southern way of talking.  I've read the book and I've listened to the audio book and enjoyed both.

I don't know that this entry will be of interest to any of you, but it's what I wanted to write about today.  Feel free to give me your opinion of grits, good or bad.  If I remember to do it, I'll let you know how those gooey biscuits turn out.  I like making biscuits, so I may use home-made ones for my first effort, but I have no idea when that will be.

Stay safe, stay happy, and eat well.

Monday, June 08, 2020

I'm a walking, talking tick farm

I've scraped so many ticks off my arms, belly, and various unmentionable places that I finally resorted to using insect repellent, as much as I hate the smell of it.  But I only spray my legs as far up as my knees.  I figure most ticks probably hitchhike on me by crawling up my bare feet and legs.  Cliff keeps my walking path through the woods nicely mowed; with the rains we've had lately, the grass and white clover grow fast, but he usually stays ahead of the tall growth.  I've only found a couple of ticks on me since I started using insect repellent.  When I was younger, I didn't think twice about ticks latching onto me; these days, though, we know there are several diseases caused by the little blood-suckers.  Sometimes one of those ticks finds a spot I can't reach, or can't see, and I enlist Cliff's help.  He seems to enjoy this husbandly duty WAY too much.

This is a year when I'm glad we have no cows:  Cattle like to eat white clover, but if that's all they have to eat, they tend to get frothy bloat from it, and bloat can kill a cow.  Horses aren't bothered by bloat as far as I know; but white clover makes them slobber, which doesn't hurt anything but does make them look like they are coming down with rabies, foaming at the mouth.  We've had to call a vet before to pour oil down a tube to the cow's rumen in order to get rid of the foamy froth in the cow's stomach.  Jody was the last of our cows that bloated; she was a black, half Brown Swiss and half Holstein.  I raised her from a three-day-old calf, and she was so tame we didn't call a vet:  I put a halter on her and held the rope loosely while Cliff inserted a tube down her throat and poured vegetable oil down it.  She didn't struggle, just took her medicine and went about her business.

I took an early walk this morning, knowing we were headed for a high in the nineties today.  Gabe and I were out there shortly after six, and were back at the house by 6:40.  After tomorrow, the temps will be lower all week and maybe I can move my walking time back to 9 AM or thereabouts.  The three or four hours until 7 AM are my favorite "me time", although honestly, I have huge hunks of time all day, any day, to do what I want.  I simply love the mornings, with no interruptions.  

I took a few pictures as I walked.  First, some from yesterday, when I went out after Cliff was out of bed.

This looks out into the woods, with sunlight playing on some of the trees.  The woods, in spring and summer, always reminds me of a jungle.   

This is as close as I get to going into the woods.  You can see what a nice, broad path Cliff keeps mowed for Gabe and me.  I think we're going to be seeing more wildlife when we go early in the day:  Yesterday we saw two hen turkeys fly up into the treetops when we surprised them, and today there was a wild duck on the tiny pond; of course he flew away when he saw us.  

The next shots were taken today.

I took this as Gabe and I left the house around 6 this morning.

Yes, that dark object in the pond is a duck.  I had to crop the picture in order to even see him at all.

 That bright, far-off fog in the distance is actually on the other side of the Missouri River.  This is looking north.

And here's our youngest great-granddaughter with Cliff.  We finally got to hold her and make her laugh.  Look at those kissable cheeks!  I was wondering if she would be afraid of us by the time she met us, because she's been sheltering at home with her mom ever since she was born.  I guess she isn't old enough to be scared of people.  I guess that starts somewhere between four to six months.    

In two weeks we have another grandchild coming... a boy.

The grandson has been keeping Cliff busy as they build new fences, but I think it' good for Cliff to have something to do.  Sometimes in winter, it seems like he never gets off the couch, but he really hasn't felt the best for three or four years... not to mention there isn't that much to do outside in winter.  He's feeling somewhat better since starting the asthma meds, although the pulmonologist told him to be patient, because it takes some time before the meds are working well.   

I believe that's all I have.  I've been trying to plot a day trip, but I'm coming up empty handed.  Can't do a day trip to Kansas City because of possible rioting, although KC hasn't been as bad as a lot of the cities.  If nothing else, we may plan a trip to one of the Mennonite/Amish communities.  There wouldn't be a lot of people around on a week day; I am not ready to go into crowds yet.

And now, I'm off to do something useful.  I'll leave you with the video I shared as my "Sunday singing" yesterday.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Teenagers do crazy things

There was a period of almost a year that our oldest grandson, needing a place to stay, lived at our house.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say he slept at our house, because I saw very little of the boy.  I think he was still a teenager in 2007... I'm the lousy grandmother who doesn't know when each child's birthday is, or how old they are.  But I digress.

Even back then I was usually awake by four in the morning, and when I walked in the living room, there was the kid, stretched out on the couch, but wide awake.  I know this because he said, "Hi, Grandma."  His next question was this:  "What time does Grandpa wake up?"

"What's happened now?" I asked.

He proceeded to explain how he and some friends had been down at the river bottom, checking to see how deep the mud was, and he'd gotten his truck stuck.  I should tell you, "stuck" wasn't the word for it; buried would have been the more appropriate word.  But it's been worth it, because I have pictures.  I love tormenting the grandson by showing pictures of this experience to everybody on the Internet.  Because Cliff worked second shift, I let him sleep for a couple more hours, then broke the news to him.  

One picture says a thousand words, so I'll shut up and let the pictures tell the story.  We can thank my husband for these pictures, by the way.  Back then I hardly ever missed a day of posting an entry to my blog, and I knew this would make a great entry, but I had a cow to milk.  So I handed him my camera and bade him and the kid a hearty "Good luck!"

Cliff climbed on this big old beast he'd been working on.  I thought it was the ugliest tractor he'd ever owned, so I named it "Big Ugly".  It was a David Brown tractor, made in England.

Does this look stuck?

This is Big Ugly heading home with the grandson's pickup towed behind.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

I'm learning to think like a cat

As a child, I would sneak a cat into the house when my parents were both at work, but my parents were not the kind of people who wanted a cat inside.  Mother often knew when I'd been bringing cats in:  One cat had been sneaking in a closet to poop for weeks when my mom found the dirty deed (guess who had to clean it up?); another had kittens in a basket of clean, folded clothes; and one, being loaded with fleas, was the cause of my mom's allergy to fleas to flare up terribly, her lower legs covered with hives-like bumps and sores.

As a nineteen-year-old living in an apartment, I once brought in an outside cat from my parents' barn on their place near Blue Springs, but that particular cat had learned the joys of living free and tore things up while I was at work.  So I returned her to the country.  When I was twenty-one, I married Cliff:  He hated cats, especially in the house.  He was always telling the story about his little sister's cat, Smarsh, pooping in his bed one time, then covering it up with his blankets.  Cliff even thought a cat purring was creepy; he called it "growling".  Truth be told, after I'd lived with my husband awhile, I didn't want house cats either.

However, Cliff has no problem with the Blue, the kitten, coming out of his room (the back porch) and playing for awhile.  Sometimes the silly cat runs from chair to chair, climbing up them like they are mountains, then jumping down and running across the room to attack Gabe.  Cliff admits to enjoying the energetic little feline, and Gabe is obviously happy to have a playmate... and sometimes bedmate.  So far, so good.

Don't they look comfy?

Pretty soon I'll go out to the hammock-swing with a book; the cat will probably play on and around the front porch, as usual.  He isn't that interested in walking in the grass yet, although he did follow me and Gabe to the chicken-house the other day.

When the two outlaws aren't sleeping together, they do quite a bit of wrestling.  Blue holds his own, but I do stop Gabe if he seems to be hurting him, even if the cat did ask for it.  The video shows them scuffling.

I finally got a chance to go in Walmart and pick up some cat litter, a box to contain the litter, and a cat bed.  At first I thought I had wasted my time and money, because after putting the new litter box filled with nice-smelling litter in the same spot his temporary litter-box filled with oil-dry had been, I checked on him and found him stretched out sound asleep on top of the fragrant litter.  It didn't take me long to figure out  a way to stop that behavior:  I simply used my new pooper-scooper, pulled a hunk of poop out of the oil-dry he'd been using, and placed it in the middle of the cat's new litter box.  Problem solved.  Then I had to figure out how to get him to sleep in his new bed.  He'd been sleeping on a folded flannel sheet before, and apparently he liked it.  But since I had taken it away, he decided to sleep on a skimpy hand-towel I'd been using to wipe Gabe's dirty feet off.  I'd put him in the bed, he'd sniff at it, stick his nose in the air, and run to the dirty hand towel.  I fixed that by spreading the towel across the cat bed.  I imagine I could remove the towel now, but what's the hurry?

Just call me the cat whisperer. 

Cliff finally got to see the pulmonologist yesterday about his shortness of breath.  The doctor told him he has late-onset asthma and gave him a couple kinds of pills, plus Albuterol to use use up to four times a day if he needs it.  He's afraid to use it because he thinks it might make him "feel funny".  The man has had more than one bad experience with pain pills and such, so he's scared of everything unfamiliar given to him by a physician.  Men!  You can't tell them anything.

My bluebirds are back in their house; there are five eggs so far.  This morning when Gabe and I returned from our walk, I noticed a sparrow sitting atop the birdhouse; it scared me, because sparrows will destroy a bluebird's nest... breaking eggs, killing the babies... but when the sparrow flew away at my approach, I peeked inside and saw the eggs.  So far, so good.

And that's the way it is at Woodhaven Acres.