Thursday, March 31, 2022

Why I still garden

I imagine my readers grow weary of seeing one picture after another of my vegetable garden in all its stages, but let me tell you why I go on about it so often:  At this time of my life, at the age of 77, it's the most exciting thing I do.

If you go far enough back in my blog, you will see entries about me riding my horse, Blue (yes, same name as the cat I have now, but for different reasons).  Blue and I had adventures riding down by the river and all along the country roads for miles around.  What a wonderful time that was.  Later on, Cliff and I had a motorcycle and had adventures together, just the two of us... sometimes accompanied by his sister and her husband.  Some rides were a little more adventurous than I would have wanted, but oh, what memories!

These days, adventures are few.  I find my enthusiasm for most activities has worn down, little by little.  Oh, I still have a good and pleasant life.  There are things I like to do:  read, cook meals (most days), bake cookies, go to church on Sundays, walk in the woods.  But even doing things I love, my enthusiasm for most pursuits has waned with time, with one exception:  my yearly garden.

My knees hurt more and more as time passes.  My strength is not half what it used to be, and I'm weary all the time.  But when I limp slowly out to the garden, I have enthusiasm!  I plant the seeds, and have hope they will all germinate and eventually pop up above the ground.  If that planting doesn't make a good showing, I plant more seeds in that same spot, knowing failure isn't always final.

When there's a solid line of tiny plants in each row, I have faith they will live to make a crop, and that excites me.  Later on when tiny blooms appear, I know it won't be long before I see a crop developing on the vines and plants.  And when I notice the first pea-sized green tomato, believe me when I tell you I can almost taste it already... not small and green any more, but sun-warmed, apple-red, ripe, and sweet!

Each spring when I'm ready to start tilling the sweet earth after it thaws, I tell my husband, "This could be my last garden."  

I'll be 78 in July, and I never know when my weariness and leg pain will be enough to make me give up gardening.  For that matter, who knows; my time to leave this earth could come any day.

As I think about it, maybe it's like this:  When I can't play in the dirt any more, that might be the best time to let this old body become one with the dirt.  But for this moment, I still have something to be enthusiastic about, so I look to the future each day.

At least for today, I still have a future on this earth. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

In admiration of a cat

I've been thinking about my cat, Blue, this morning, about what a wonder he is.  He's the first semi-inside cat I've ever had, unless you count the times in my early teens when I sneaked cats and kittens in the house while my parents were away at work.

Baby Blue

All cats are a delight to me in the way they sometimes strut, sometimes glide,  and in the case of Blue, sometimes pounce on a dog as they go about their day.  I always think of leopards as I watch my cat strutting, so confident, silent, and graceful.  He was very tiny when he came to us as a gift from the grandmother of the little girl we babysat.  For perhaps a week, I shut him in the back porch and supplied a litter box, because I wanted him to know where his home was so he wouldn't get lost.  Once I trusted him to stick around outside, he never needed a litter box again.  He'll go to either door and look up at the doorknob until we let him out.  If he gets shut in Cliff's shop at night and needs to relieve himself, he will actually poop in the coffee can of sand that Cliff asks people to put their cigarette butts in; don't ask us how a cat gets in that position!

He came to us in May of 2020; I should have named him Corona, in honor of the virus!  Once he got well acquainted with Gabe, my dog, they were steadfast buddies and played tag outside and inside, taking turns at being the "chaser".   These two have been a wonderful distraction through the last couple of years of shut-downs, masks, and being stuck at home.

We have spent at least $300 on Blue, not counting cat food.  There was his neutering, of course.  But because he spends so much time outside, he has twice been pretty seriously hurt because of the old devil-cat that attacks him from time to time.  The first time he had so much infection in his back leg he had to spend a night with the Vet.  The last time he had to have have several stitches on the same leg.

Even my husband likes Blue, and he's never been an admirer of cats before.

The thing about my cat that amazes me most is his patience, and the way he trusts us.  When we had to push pills down Blue's throat, he didn't fight it.  Cliff would hold him, and I'd shove the pill in, pushing it back with my finger.  Cliff thought I'd get bitten, but that cat only laid back his ears and let me do what I had to do.  When he had some sort of mites in his ear I got something from the vet, and this time I held him while Cliff inserted the dropper in his left ear.  Blue would shake his head and lay the ear back, but never offered to fight in any way except for a little squirming as we did it.  Every evening he knew what was coming, but allowed us to doctor him instead of running and hiding.

Blue in his cat tree

Blue in the winter sunshine

Friday, March 25, 2022

Let the Sunshine in

Finally we have a sunshiny day!  I'm really thankful for rain, but I grow weary of seeing nothing but clouds and rain with no break in it.  I am very glad, though, that we received a lot of rain for the garden.  Upon seeing the sun shining through the window, I just couldn't keep from singing an old song from 1954, written by Stuart Hamblen and sung by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans:  Let the Sunshine In.  I remember this playing on the radio (WHB) while I washed dishes on our final year living on the Glen Wyant farm, before we moved to the city.  Daddy was doing farm work for Glen, and Mother worked in town at the VanZant grocery and dry goods store.  I had the house to myself all day, but spent most of my summer hours outside roaming the woods and pastures.

We haven't done much that's interesting during these rainy days.  Wednesday we visited a ninety-year-old man who owned the butcher shop where Cliff worked in his twenties.  It was nice to catch up with him and his wife, who is in the early stages of dementia... not that we could tell.  They were both very gracious and happy to see us.  That put us in Blue Springs near Aldi, so we did our shopping.  Aldi showed signs of either hoarding, not enough employees to stock the shelves, or shortages.  Possibly all three.  

When the rain let up yesterday morning I checked on the garden, since it's been around freezing several nights.  All the radishes are up and growing.  There are tiny cabbages and head lettuce germinated.  A few peas are showing the tips of their heads, and two onion sets are showing up, green and proud.  Everything I've planted can take some abuse from the low temperatures; tonight it's supposed to get down to 29, and they should handle that too.

I grow the radishes for my husband.

It's strange the way spinach germinates.  The first two seedling leaves, called Cotyledons, look nothing like spinach leaves.  

I love how the beets come up red

So all I've been able to do with my garden lately is look at it, hoping all my little crops will be fine.  I'm afraid the 70° temperatures have spoiled our chances for peaches, because the blooms are starting to open on my tree; frost and cold stole my crop last year, and it's about to do the same this year.

I've been reading "All the Forgivenesses", and before that it was "The Girls in the Stilt House".  Both of them are pretty sad, but I loved the characters and the stories.  I could hardly put them down!  Now I'm starting on "The Maid", and I have high hopes for this one, too.

It's time to warm over our leftovers and have dinner, so I'll stop here. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Sunday Stealing

1. Do you like sushi?  I've never tasted it and don't want to; my daughter said I'd like it, but there are too many other good things to eat.  Why would I eat raw fish unless a wrecked ship is in the picture?

2. What color is your car?  The Honda we're leasing is some shade of white.  My husband has always preferred white vehicles.  He says they don't show dirt as much.

3. What is your favorite thing about the place where you live?  How shall I count the ways?  There are over forty acres to walk on and there's a place for a garden.  Before I got so old, I had, at various times, horses, pigs, cows, goats, and chickens.  Living here is what has kept me happy and somewhat sane.

4. Are there brands of certain items that you will ONLY buy that brand? Ie paper towels, ketchup etc.  Cliff is more particular about name brands than I am.  He insists on Hunts Ketchup, not Hunts.  He favors Pace Picante Sauce.  And we do buy Charmin unless we go to Costco, then we buy their brand.  Actually, Cliff is more particular about toilet paper, too.

5. Are you allergic to any food? Animals? Plants? Medicines?  Not that I know of.  My husband is allergic to chickens and other birds.  He cleaned out a birdhouse for me the other day and came back itching. And he had a terrible reaction to penicillin years ago.  

6. Have you ever been stung or bitten by an animal?  Yes to both.  Anyone who has wondered around barefoot all summer is bound to step on a bee from time to time.  I've been bitten by a cat and a dog.  Also by a horse one time.

7. Do you have a favorite bird? Do you feed the bird at your house or the park?  I like hummingbirds and bluebirds best.  I can't feed the hummingbirds because the ants always spoil the nectar, and I can't have houses for Bluebirds because sparrows take over.  

8. What would you recommend binging on Netflix or similar?  We don't have Netflix at present, we have Hulu.  Neither of us like most of the new shows.  We watch M.A.S.H., Frasier, and NYPD Blue.  We both like a lot of documentaries.  I don't know when we've binged anything. 

9. What is your proudest achievement?  I'm really not proud of any achievements I can think of.  I am not a person who "tries hard" and "does her best".  I just wander around in a fog and what happens, happens, hoping nobody notices.  I'm not an achiever.

10. Do you have or are you from a big family?  I am the only living child my mother gave birth to, but when she married my father she gained a son and a daughter from my dad's first wife, who died in childbirth.  It's a long story, but my half-brother didn't live with them until he was twelve.  By the time I was a toddler, they had both left home.

11. What do you do for exercise?  I walk in the pasture and woods behind our house when the weather is right.  When it isn't, I ride half an hour on our recumbent bike.  I get pretty good exercise from gardening sometimes, too.

12. What would be your favorite breakfast? (You didn’t have to cook it yourself.)  Waffles or scrambled eggs with hot sauce, wrapped in a tortilla.  But most mornings I have half a cup of Grape Nuts with milk, no sugar, and some kind of fruit.

13. Is there an item that you really want but can not afford?  I haven't wanted a lot of expensive things.  We are living in a twenty-year-old trailer house we bought used, and I'm fine with that.  My guitar was expensive, and some of the animals I've had in the past; but for the most part, I've gotten everything I wanted, thanks to my loving husband:  I live in the country where I can garden and go for walks.  I've had the animals I wanted and loved.  There were some of those things that we could barely afford, but I have to say I got most of the things I wanted, and everything I've needed.  I wish I could afford to let a dentist do all the things they want to for my teeth, but we don't have enough money in the bank to do half of what they want to do.  I figure it's what I deserve for not taking care of my teeth the way I should have.  I would love to see more of the United States, but we can't afford much travel; that's the only thing I can think of that I really want, but can't afford.  At the age I am now, I don't grieve about such things; I simply count my blessings, trust God, and move on.

14.  What was the farthest distance you made for your holidays?  We have driven to Oklahoma a few times for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but that was some time ago.  We didn't travel for the holidays this year.  

15. Are you afraid of speaking in public?       Yes.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Celebrating St. Patrick

Here I am between the almost two rows of Irish potatoes I planted this morning .  I'm not proud of my big ole feet, but Cliff insisted on putting all of me in the picture.  I bought that cheap shirt at Walmart in March of 2020 to wear in Lexington's St. Patrick's Day parade, a parade that never happened, thanks to the the Virus.  This is the first time I've worn it.  I no longer garden barefoot, but I was too lazy to put shoes on.  You may have noticed my left leg is straighter than my right; that's because the knee replacement straightened that leg quite a bit.  I had to sit down and rest a few times as I was raking, and kept reminding myself to drink water when I went in the house. 

Blue and Gabe entertain me while I garden, playing tag and doing silly things.    

The cat thinks he's helping by laying on top of the potato pieces.  I guess he's holding them down for me.

"Well, hello Mr. Toad."

Blue tried to get acquainted with Mr. Toad, but got bored and went back to his gardening.

OK, I put the picture of me in the garden and joker/photographer David did some photoshopping.  Here it is:

Gabe must have dug up the skull while I was planting.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Back in the garden

I tilled more of the garden and set out onions, so I sit here tired but happy.  I also hoed a deep row for the potatoes so I can plant them on St. Patrick's Day, and raked quite a bit.

Back when we got our first computer, I met a lot of people in a Christian chat room on AOL.  You couldn't get to the chat room directly, the way you would most of them; it was on a Christianity Today site:  We'd go to the site, then go to the chat room.  I met so many fun and wonderful people there, several of them in person.  One of them had the screen name "Qwkwit"; she and her husband lived in California.  

I once had a chat "reunion" here in Missouri, and she was one of the folks who flew in to attend.  I am not a great hostess, and I think I did a poor job of hosting, but I surely did love meeting Nance and Bill, and kept in touch with her on Facebook.  Her husband was paralyzed from the chest down, which pretty much tied her down at home, and she taught herself to photoshop after he was disabled.  When Cliff was done restoring our big 1855 Oliver tractor, she worked up a picture with various shots of the tractor and sent it to us.  Our daughter works at a photo lab that takes school pictures, among other things; so she made a metal sign from the picture and Cliff attached it to the front of the tractor.

 When he sold that tractor he found a frame to put the picture in and hung it on the bedroom wall, he was so fond of it; I'm glad, because we'll always have a wonderful memory of our special friend.

Yesterday I wanted to tell her about that, so I messaged the photo of it so she'd know how much Cliff loved that gift.

She didn't answer.  I looked at the message and she hadn't seen it yet.  I went to her Facebook and noticed she had not made a post since February 14; I knew that wasn't like her, so I made a post on her page so maybe someone would tell me what was wrong.  Her sister messaged me and said the doctors had done all they could and sent her to hospice.  

She and her husband are around the same age as we are, so obviously it wouldn't be unusual if she's dying.  But some people are so special, you don't want them to ever go away.  She had a wonderful sense of humor and an unshakeable faith in God.  I loved that lady, as well as her dear husband.  I'm praying for a miracle, but I surely wouldn't want her to have to suffer.  God's will be done.

One time I asked her to do a guest post on my blog.  If you'd like to read it, it's HERE.

I just needed to talk about her today.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 14, 2022

I think I'll live to see another spring.

No, I haven't been sick.  But after working the garden and planting some early seeds a while back, watching robins returning and taking walks with Gabe... BOOM!  Winter came back.  Of course I knew it would, but the reality of it caused me to go into several days of pouting.  Yes, pouting!  It wouldn't have been so bad except for the three or four inches of snow and that one night (50 hours ago) with a low of 8ยบ.  

Yesterday spring-like weather returned and I commenced rejoicing.  After church, I planted a few seeds in three peat-pots and put them in the window, then cut up the seed potatoes, getting ready to plant them on St. Patrick's Day, like my father did... although his favorite day to plant potatoes was Good Friday, because the moon was in the right sign then.  I'll plant a few more at that time.  I don't plant by the signs, and I don't necessarily plant the same varieties of seeds as he did, because a lot of things have improved since that time.  I usually will plant a handful of Top Crop green beans because I remember my mother saying, "I should have planted Mom's good old Top Crop green beans," but now there are varieties that yield more and better beans.  It's the same with Iochief sweet corn, which was introduced in the early fifties; I like the new "supersweet" corn, my favorite being Bodacious.  It grows to be as tall as field corn and is so sweet, you'd think someone put sugar in it when it was cooking.

What did I do while I pouted?  We got rid of Directv forever and discovered Hulu for streaming; it's $12 monthly with no commercials, as opposed to Directv's almost $100 monthly.  And with streaming channels, you have no contract.  If there are programs we'd like to see that Hulu doesn't have, we can get rid of it for awhile and get another streaming app instead that has different shows.  Hulu has so many of the older shows we love:  M.A.S.H., Frazier, NYPD Blue, Golden Girls.  And lots of great documentaries; therein lies a story.

We started watching a series called "The Food that Built America".  The first episode, I think, was about cereals, starting with Grape Nuts, which I have for breakfast almost every morning.  It was interesting, seeing how breakfast cereals began.  Then there was an episode about chocolate, beginning with Hershey.  The next day I went into a Dollar General for some tea they didn't have, and came out with a Valentine Day chocolate rabbit, the first candy I've bought for years.  

Yesterday evening we watched one about the hamburger wars between McDonalds and Burger King, where you'd find our favorite fast-food sandwich, the Whopper.  Until the big shot who owned Burger King invented the Whopper, he was fighting a losing battle with McDonald's.  The Whopper saved his company.  I'm telling you this because the Whopper is our favorite fast-food sandwich; by the time that show was over we were salivating, and I even woke up this morning thinking about a Whopper (the sandwich, just to make things clear).  I'm dying here!

We also watched a show that not everybody would want to watch, I'm sure, about a cafe/bar called the Red Dog; a young man wanted to know more about his past, and found out his mom had been a go-go dancer when he was small (he had always assumed she was a bartender there.)  He interviews her and some of the women who worked with her, way back then.  It's pretty sad, really, and the language is very rough, just so you know.  The women talked about all the drugs they took in the past, and the men who came and went in their lives.  But we were riveted to the TV, the whole time.  It's one of those shows I will never forget.  It really did happen, it's not a made-up story.  I'm sure thankful my parents raised me the way they did.

OK, that's it!  Gardening and go-go dancers and Whoppers.  I'm all over the place today.  Enjoy your day.  Spring is on the way!

Monday, March 07, 2022

Winter's back for a visit

I woke up to find an inch of snow on the ground outside.  Any time it's bitter cold or snowy, I make it a do-nothing day, except for riding the recumbent bicycle for half an hour.  Oh, I cooked breakfast and washed the few dirty dishes, but that's about it.  

We finally got rid of Directv permanently, I hope.  We have all the stuff ready to send back to them.  We actually are watching TV more, now that we have so many streaming options, although I'm not so sure that's a good thing.  I am finally watching Dexter, after all these years.  I've watched people rave about the show since it was first available, but I couldn't imagine watching a series starring a hero who killed people every week.  Now I am rather enjoying it!

Cliff went to Odessa on this snowy day for a dentist appointment, and found out the appointment is next Monday, so he came home bring a pizza for dinner.  I'm the one who wrote the appointment on the wrong date.  Tomorrow he's supposed to go to one of his specialists, and I'm seriously wondering whether we got that date right.  

Right now we're both sitting on our recliner couch, me on the left and Cliff on the right.  We each have a soft throw cover over us and a computer in our laps, but Cliff is sound asleep, one finger still resting on his keyboard.  I'm sitting here with Gabe, the dog, snuggled up to my left leg and covered up with part of my throw, typing this drivel.

We have some super-cold weather coming, the next few nights:  One night it's supposed to get down to 10°, after I had predicted there would be no more single-digit temperatures until next winter.  Some weather-person I am!  I'd be willing to bet it will go down to 9° just to prove me wrong.

Last week, tilling the garden and planting seeds, I was so much more energetic and positive!  The garden gives me something to do, something to look forward to... even today, with a blanket of snow covering it.  One never knows what sort of season it will be.  I usually expect limited rain.  It seems global warming is in the process of turning Missouri into a desert.  We just don't ever seem to get enough moisture on our crops, gardens, and meadows any more.

On the early spring-like days such as we had last week, I do find myself missing my chickens, cows, and pigs.  Once there's some real gardening to be done, that sort of takes the place of my farm animals in some small measure.  I always hold onto the hope that I will at least someday have two or three hens again; it never hurts to dream, right?

I guess that's all of my little message from the couch.  I think I'll let my recliner put my feet on the floor and go check the mail.


Thursday, March 03, 2022

Thursday Thirteen

 Thursday Thirteen:  Things that make my dog happy.

1.  His two meal-times each day.  It's supposed to be 4:30 morning and evening.  Lately I've been sleeping until after 5 A.M., though.  Thank goodness he doesn't wake me up when I oversleep.

2.  Barking to alert us there's a dog coming to kill us, or to tell me my Amazon order has arrived.  He also goes crazy when he sees Cliff coming to the house from the shop; apparently he thinks my husband can't always be trusted.

3.  Jumping on all the laps of visitors who would rather not have a dog on their lap.

4.  Going bye-bye in the car.

5.  Eating the cat food when I forget to put it up.

6.  Walking with me in the pasture and woods.

7.  Peeing on mole-hills.

8.  Nosing around the rotten trash that falls out of the burn barrel.

9.  Attacking Klouse, the Doodle dog next door, when he comes to visit, snarling and growling like he's going to kill him.  Klouse is not bothered at all by this behavior.  

10.  Children.  He loves children.  Unfortunately, some of them don't care for him jumping up on them.  His favorite kid is Cora, the eight-year-old we used to babysit.  Even if we haven't see her for three months, when I know she is coming and say, "Cora's coming," he'll stay at the window and watch until she shows up.  When she arrives, he sticks to her like glue.

11.  Smelling other dogs' poop.  I'm pretty sure all dogs do that.

12.  Playing with Blue, the cat.  They chase one another and have a great time.  In fact, sometimes Blue taunts him from another room to get him to attack, or surprises him by sneaking up behind him and jumping on his back.  

13.  Food.  Unfortunately, he swallows everything whole.  I pay a fortune for his dog food and treats, but he never really tastes it because he doesn't chew it.

13.  Me.

Today I planted carrots, peas, radishes, beets, lettuce, and cabbage seeds.  It's very dry and windy, so I watered the rows with watering cans after I planted them.  I've done a lot of tilling, too.  Cliff took some pictures.

Turning at the end of a row is the hardest part of tilling, but it isn't all that hard.

This is Mama Kitty's favorite resting place.  This tractor is housed in the garage at the end of our trailer house.  Cliff sometimes leaves the garage doors open just for her.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

I love the smell of plowed dirt

Yesterday Cliff hooked our 1930's plow up to the tractor and plowed my garden.  First, though, we responded to a Craigslist ad that read, "Gardeners, landscapers!  Horse manure compost FREE!  Very aged.  Will load."

So we took the red pickup and got what I thought was a lot of compost, although it turned out to be about half as much as I needed.  That's OK, next year we'll put some on the other half of the garden... if I'm still gardening then.  Cliff offered to go back and get more, but honestly, shoveling that stuff out of the pickup wore me out!

I didn't have to shovel all the compost out; Cliff had it on a board, and pulled the board out onto the ground with the tractor where he could scoop it up with the bucket on the tractor.

This morning I asked Cliff to get the tiller ready for me, and next thing I knew, he was testing it in the garden, so I went out and took over that job.  I love running the tiller.  I just hold on and keep it going the right direction, and it slowly pulls itself from one side of the garden to the other.  That's Klouse's tale you see in the corner.

You can tell where I tilled.  There are a few big hunks, mostly because some of the compost was still frozen in big pieces.  It'll smooth out before you know it.  I should have cut my shadow out of this picture, but I'm lazy.  That tiller on the other side of the garden stays outside all summer, with that tub over its "innards" when it isn't in use.

The old plow is likely 90 years old.  Cliff had a decent plow, but decided he was too old to plant any crops and sold it.  Then I started whining that I really like my garden plowed before I till it, so he got a reasonably cheap, very old one.  It isn't ideal, but it works well enough to shut up my whining every year.  By the way, genuine farmers striving to make money from their crops don't even use plows any more because they contribute to soil erosion.  

There's the old plow.  It doesn't work right, but it does the job.  Gabe is such a showoff, isn't he?

I hope to get the seeds I'm lacking tomorrow and perhaps get some of them into the soil.  There are lots of seeds that can be put out as soon as the soil can be worked.  One year I had peas up to about five inches tall when we got some snow; it didn't hurt those plants one bit.  Carrots, radishes, cabbage seeds, lettuce:  Cold weather just doesn't seem to hurt them.  

I think Gabe and I will go for a walk next.  I'm loving this weather!