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Monday, December 27, 2010

Ruby and Aunt Dorothy

Last week I stopped by to see Aunt Dorothy. I knew that Delana was going to stop by the same day but I thought I would miss her by quite some time. When I got to Aunt Dorothy’s room I was greeted by Delana, Caelum, Ruby and Olivia. They seemed to be having a good time visiting. I got my hugs and kisses and settled down for a visit. I sat in Aunt Dorothy’s wheelchair. It wasn’t long before Ruby snuggled up in my lap and Olivia was close by.

Olivia is learning to read, so tries to sound out every word she sees. There was a sign on Aunt Dorothy’s wall that read “Family will do laundry”. Olivia worked and worked at it and finally read it. I praised her for her great reading skills. A few seconds later I looked at Ruby who had a thoughtful look on her face. She said ”Grandma, we are her family. Are we supposed to do her laundry?” That led to a discussion of what that did mean. Aunt Dorothy said she didn’t want to have the facility do her laundry because they put it all in a big pile with everyone else’s and that is nasty. She said she had no one to do her laundry and didn’t know what she was going to do. Ruby made us think. She was thoughtful enough to want to know what was happening and how we should help.  (I voluntered to take her laundry home, then pawned it off on Delana since she was coming back the next day)

When Aunt Dorothy began to cry, Ruby went around to the other side of the bed and grabbed a tissue to give to her. This is not to say Caelum and Olivia were not thoughtful, or concerned about Aunt Dorothy. On this particular day Ruby was on high alert and quite concerned and thoughtful about everything for her beloved great great aunt.

I need to try harder to be like Ruby and stay concerned about our loved ones feelings and needs.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Eve, Eve

Today is the day before Christmas Eve. As old as I am I still get excited to see Christmas come. Today is an especially exciting day because this evening I am going to tag along while Santa makes a very special visit to some young children. We are first going to visit the grandchildren of a very good friend of mine who I have known all of my life. Next, we will visit the son of one of my co-workers. I am excited to see the wonder and excitement in their eyes. How wonderful to be a small innocent child who believes in the magic and excitement of this season. I am sad that as grownups we loose that magic. We don’t believe in miracles like Christmas anymore.

Snow falls regularly in the Midwest during the winter months. As adults we groan because we have to scoop, dig, and move that snow. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could, at least for a few minutes look at that snow and see how beautiful it is? We are so blessed to see 4 seasons in this area.

Spring is exciting as our earth wakes up and plants begin to come back to life. Trees are dressed in their bright green garb and start to work on bringing fruits of one kind or another to us. My garden is cleaned up from the winter mulch and the soil is prepared to accept seeds and plants. This coming spring will also see baby chicks at Pooh Acres. I am hoping to also bring a baby pig into the equation this year.

Summer will bring lots of growth in the garden as well as the baby animals. We will nurture the gardens and the animals. In late summer or early fall we will begin the process of storing, or laying by food for the winter months. The gardens will produce many bushels of fruits and vegetables. These will be canned, frozen or dried. The chickens and the pig will be slaughtered for the freezer. Some of the chickens will of course be saved for eggs.

Fall brings the closing of the seasons, and putting everything to bed. After the gardens are harvested thick mulch will be laid over the soil to be used as a warm blanket to protect it from the harsh snow and ice. The leaves will turn brilliant colors then fall and turn brown. We use the leaves to cover the soil and let it rot into the fertile nutrients for use the following year.

As winter begins, everything is cold, bland, and dreary. It is time for everything and everyone to rest. After a time of no color and cold we will see the first snow of the season. Our pasture will be covered with a blanket of pure white. If you take the time to stand outside while it is snowing you can catch a snowflake on your glove. If you take the time to actually look at it, you will see something more beautiful than any piece of art created by mankind. No two are alike. You will only be able to see that beauty briefly because it will melt on your hand, or if it falls into the mass of other flakes it will loose its identity. If you catch a snowflake on your tongue you will taste something slightly sweet and very cold. It will last only a split second then melt.

It is a pain to scoop snow and keep the roads open. It is a pain to tromp through the snow and ice to bring water and food to the animals. But, how can you look at an egg, knowing it came out of one of the chickens, and not be filled with wonder and awe? How can you hear the chickens cooing softly when they are happy and not smile? How can you see the love and excitement of an adolescent (and an elderly) dog when you come home and not feel totally loved? We live in a world filled with miracles, and tend to look over them because we are so used to seeing them. Step back. Pretend you have never seen a snow flake. Pretend you have never felt the kiss of a dog who loves you with all of his or her heart. Pretend you have never tasted a tomato still warm from the summer sun. How boring our lives would be without these small miracles.

Today as we head into the Christmas weekend, I am thankful for the fun side of Christmas as well as the real reason we celebrate. December 25 is not Jesus birthday, but it is the day we should celebrate the sacrifice he made for us all. I hope as we celebrate we have fun, but also give thanks for all we have been blessed with.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Aunt Dorothy

Aunt Dorothy had another heart attack. She has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, just like dad. She was put into a rehab center for a few weeks. Delana and I went to visit her yesterday. I took ½ day off work and drove over to pick Delana up. When we walked into the building we were both amazed. It is beautiful. There is a grand piano in the lobby area. The dining area had small tables as if a nice restaurant set with pretty dishes, crystal drinking glasses and linen napkins. (I wanna live here) When we finally got to her room there were 2 names on the door. The roommates were separated by a wall and door. It was almost like private rooms.

Aunt Dorothy was in a better mood than I have seen her in such a long time. She was bright and chipper. If I hadn’t known she was very ill, I would never have known there was a problem.

After our visit (she was taken away for lunch) Delana and I went shopping. I have never been a shopper …… I just don’t like stores. We had a wonderful afternoon. The time flew by and we had to get her home before the kids got home. We even went to the Goodwill by her house to look for a salt shaker I have been trying to find! I could not have asked for a better afternoon.

I have another day off tomorrow. I have been talking about going to a couple of museums to see the Christmas displays. I think (hope) we will be able to go to at least one of them this weekend to check out their Christmas displays. We need to finish our Christmas shopping for the kids …. But we are almost finished.

I love and hate this time of year. I love it because it is fun and amazing. I hate it because we are encouraged to go crazy and spend too much money. I wish it would be fun and amazing as it was in the past. I wish all kids would believe in Santa and the magic of the season. I am 54 years old and I still believe in the magic of Santa. I still sit on Santa’s lap and ask him for the magic of the season.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lazy Saturday

When I was single I used to have “veg out” days. Today was cold and icky outside so Phil and I decided to have a veg out day. We didn’t get out of our jammies all day. I went outside this morning to feed and water the chickens and let them out. This evening we both went out to put them to bed. For the rest of the day we played on the computer and did what we wanted. I did manage to clean my office, something I had put off far to long!

Now that winter is here (burrrr, I hate to even say that word) our lives have slowed way down. My garden has long ago been put to bed. There is not much I can do outside. I have started watching TV in the evenings. I need to STOP that. It is much to easy to come home and plop myself in a chair. I need to get into the habit of going downstairs and work out or just work down there. When I cleaned the office today I found the tools I purchased to “fold” fabric to make braided rugs. I have a tote full of fabric I got several years ago to make the rugs, now I just need to do it. I also have several totes full of denim for quilts or rugs. I am excited to get started on these projects …. I’ve wanted to for such a long time!

I need to burn almost 40 hours of PTO before the end of the year or I lose it. It is difficult for a sales person to be away from work and still make any money. I have discovered taking ½ day off is great. I can still go to the gym before work. I get done what I need to get done at work and I still have ½ day at home. Yesterday I didn’t tell Phil I was taking off and just came home early. Poor guy was napping and didn’t even hear me drive up Ineither did the "guard" dogs)! Chuck (one of my co-workers) and I have decided that is a great way to do what we need, and still take advantage of the PTO. I will need to do the ½ day thing through March to burn off another 40 hours before the 80 hour max goes into full rule! I never thought I would have a problem using all my vacation time.

As a salesperson I am always trying to find ways of making my customers think of me as a friend, or at least someone they would want to refer others to. For the last 18 months or so I have been sending all of my new customers a jar of homemade jelly. Yesterday I needed to replenish my supply so made two batches of jelly. Last summer I was at Fairway and found this big bag of plums for 99 cents. I was able to eat all the plums I wanted (my favorite fruit) for several days, share some with my boss and still had enough left over to make several quarts of juice to use for jelly this winter. The plum jelly was the best jelly I have ever made. Phil and I have been tasting it all day!

Our chickens have gone on strike since the cold hit. I knew they would slow down, but I never thought it would get this bad. We have 36 laying hens. One day we got only one egg. Several days it was 3 or 2. It seems they are getting a bit better. The last few days we have gotten 5 or 6 each day. I have enough customers wanting eggs I could sell everything they could lay. It’s great when people at work stop me as ask if they can get some eggs. I am so excited to do the meat chickens this spring. (Can you tell I really love living out here?)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Winter is here

Winter has reared its ugly head again. I am not sure why we are always taken by surprise, thinking that fall will last all the way into spring. We have been warned by the weather people that there was a chance of snow this weekend. Tonight Phil went outside to have his goodnight smoke and said there were wet snowflakes falling. I decided not to listen to him and went to bed. It is now 11:30 and I am awake because I went to bed to early. We have at least 2” of snow on the ground, and the wind is blowing like crazy. I hope that this won’t last long. I don’t like being cold. I don’t like when I can’t grow anything. I don’t like it when there is so little daylight I can’t see it except on the weekends. I love the summer when I come home from work and stay outside for another 4 or more hours. Now I come home and it is almost dark.

When I first started talking about keeping chickens Phil put his defenses up, and pushed away from that for a very long time. This spring he gave in and built a coop for me. I found 2 chickens on Craigslist to bring home. Soon after that Phil’s friend gave us another chicken then a few more. I found another 10, bringing our flock up to a level that we needed to sell the eggs. We enjoy the chickens so much … naming the chickens and watching them play in the yard. They are a pain in the back side sometimes. Picking and scratching at things we don’t want them to, but for the most part they are just cool to hang out with. Early in October I found 3 baby chicks for free and brought them home. Phil decided they needed to live in the garage (just like every other baby animal we have brought home). They are now almost 2 months old and just moved out of the garage into the barn pen. He is very worried about them … and misses an animal in the garage. I think I need to find a new baby or two to bring home for him.

Last week I found an ad on Craig’s List for layers … and I had to bring them home. I went to see them after work this week. Phil was tired and decided not to go with me. I drove out to a beautiful area of Iowa to find the chickens. When I got out of the car and walked to the area the chickens were in I saw a carcass hanging from some chains. (Thankfully it was a deer waiting to be butchered). I was actually a little nervous when a big guy who could barely walk started yelling about the rent being late and how the money I paid would go to him. I got through it and found layers for $3 each. I went out there to bring 10 home, but ended up with 18!  I was happy to get them into my car and get out of there!!!!  We have this great "chicken box" I found at an auction a few months ago.  It is an antique but works great! 
We are starting to be in demand for eggs …. And honey .. and garden produce. We haven’t made a lot of money yet, but I can see where this can go if we play it right. One person said today he will pay twice the cost of store honey to buy what we produce, because it is real and honest. The eggs … the following I have is at work and one other regular customer. I hope someday we will have a real “following”.  The chickens have been paying for themselves with the eggs we sell. 
I wasn’t able to post this last night because we had no internet service. That is one of the pains of living in the middle of nowhere. We have satellite TV and internet service. We loose it during storms or just when it feels like going away. We pay as much or more as we did in the city, and have very spotty service.

I am excited that we are having a cold gloomy day because the day is mine. I am going to be able to stay inside and get some chores done that I have been putting off, and make some jerky. One of the things I have been wanting to do is make soap (Yep from lye). I haven’t done that in years. I have been working on cleaning the beeswax and want to use some of that in the soap. I also want to work on making some lip balm with the beeswax. Some of the things I NEED to do are clean the basement and my office. Both need to be organized!!!!

I hope we get heat soon (we got the furnace “fixed” last month and have NO heat now). The heater works well in the living room, but the office is FREEZING!!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chickens and Olivia

I wish I could share the sound and the sights of my chickens as they come to visit. Caelum and I were putting in some fence to keep the chickens out of the garden today. He pooped out on me I was left alone to put the fence up. The chickens came to visit me one by one. They would walk close to me and talk for a minute then walk away. It seemed they were trying to tell me something …. If only I could understand chicken.

All the kids came out last night and we had a pretend birthday for Olivia. Her birthday is Thursday but she will be with her family, so this was our time with her. We made little pizzas. I love doing this with the kids. I put all the “fixings” in bowls and let the kids make what they want. Last night we used some mini bagels as the base with homemade pizza sauce. They were very creative. Olivia made a face with her pizza. Ruby really liked the Canadian bacon, and Caelum and Grandpa loved it all. After the pizzas we opened her present and enjoyed the cake and ice cream. She had a wonderful birthday.

Ruby and Olivia marched in the Veterans Day parade today in Bellevue. They were so excited. Delana bought lots of candy to throw out to the crowds. We didn’t go to the parade but I wish we would have.

So ……. Today was a working day. We got a lot of stuff done. Caelum and I got the gardens put to bed. He got to drive the tractor …. AND chase the chickens. We worked well together and had lots of time to talk. It is so nice to hang with Caelum and just talk. He opened up to me about lots of things in his life, and what he is feeling ….. it was a wonderful day,

I am off to bed. Such a long day

Friday, October 29, 2010

October updates

I think we finally have things under control and fall is here to stay. The temperature was at 24 degrees when I left the house at 5 this morning. BURRRR, I think everything is frozen now. I haven’t dug the carrots yet but I think I need to get that done before the ground freezes. I have been working at getting the mulch layer down, but by the time I get home, change my clothes and talk to Phil for a few minutes it is almost dark. We have one more week before daylight savings time changes, so I will have NO daylight after that. The weather is supposed to be nice this weekend so I plan to get the mower out and start chopping the leaves and hay. It will be ready to rock in the spring.

I started planting garlic last weekend. Hummm, I don’t think I realized how much I was purchasing. I have about ½ of it planted ….. We are going to have a ton of garlic next year. If it produces well, I will have another product we can grown and sell locally. My plans to make Pooh acres self-sufficient are far from realized but I can see how it can be done with a lot of hard work.

We are refinancing to get the interest rate down well below 4%. I would never have imagined it would get that low. We are also refinancing to a 10-year mortgage. We started out with a 30-year mortgage 3.5 years ago. I think we are doing pretty well on that. I hate being in debt. It totally stresses me out. It is good to see that I will be able to pay this place off before I retire. I seriously thought I would have to work until I was 80 to make the payments. If we sell either one of the rental houses the proceeds will go directly toward the principal of this house.

Our chickens are self-sufficient already. They are laying about a dozen eggs a day. I have a customer who buys every egg I can bring her. We have set that money aside and opened a “chicken account”. Everything we buy for them will come from that account and all the egg money will go in. My egg lady is also interested in buying butchered chickens next summer. I have another one or two people who also want to buy meat chickens. I think if we can figure out how to house and raise 100 babies next spring we can start making a profit! We will need a bigger coop for them…. The work never stops. We can even do two batches of meat chickens if we start early enough in the spring.

We had some scary visitors last night. Caelum, Ruby and Olivia came out to trick or treat us. They were all dressed up in very frightening costumes. It was so nice to see them all. I think they get bigger every time I see them. Caelum is so excited to be as tall as I am, and I believe he is going to achieve that pretty soon. We took them to the garage to see the baby chicks. They were so excited that the chicks would eat out of their hands. They are all a little frightened when the chicks flap their wings and make loud noises!!! We are going to have them next Friday night. I am so excited. Olivias birthday is the following week so we will likely celebrate her birthday at the same time.

This is week 3 of going to the gym in the morning before work.  The trainer we are working with has worked us hard.  I thought I was doing a good job of working out on my own .... but I am doing much better with her.  Today my arms and shoulders hurt a lot!  I am seeing some results that you can only see with my clothing off ... that is a very good feeling.  I wish I could afford to continue working with the trainer .... but I afraid after my 6 week commitment that will be the end, unless I can make a HUGE sale and justify the expense. 

Phil came into the garden with me tonight and used the riding mower to chop straw and leaves for me.  It is amazing how quickly he can do it compared to when I chop it with the push mower. It is going to be great tomorrow to spread out the chopped mulch .... and spread more hay for the winter.   We need to haul in some manure to feed the soil too!  Ugh, we have way to many things to get done in 2 days!!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


One of the things I take pride in, is the way I choose to gather/forage/glean and save finances as well as the earth. I need tons of mulch/compost for the garden. Last fall I discovered drive by leaf stealing. It is not actually stealing, because it has been put out for the trash. Over my lunch break I drive around the neighborhoods close to work and put the huge recycle bags in my SUV. I haven’t had a problem with them falling over, so I don’t really have a problem with putting these dry bags in my car. Last year I made a game of trying to fit in “just one more”. I believe the most I was able to fit in were 16. Yesterday I saw my first bags and gathered 12 of them. Today I filled up the car again. Hopefully tomorrow I can start chopping them and start the fall mulching process.
 I had planned to spend tomorrow working like a crazy person and getting some things done. Phil had planned on going to go to an auction with Rudy and I had the day to myself. I planned to paint the deck, replace the rotten board on the deck, get the gardens stripped and ready for winter (I still have potatoes to get out of the ground!!!!), and maybe have time to start getting the berry bushes transplanted. I love Phil, but I get so much more done when he is not at home.  

I am happy to report that the final tally on honey is 51 pounds. I am hoping these hives make it through the winter. I feel I am doing better with my management of the hives, but I am still not a pro.

This will be our first winter with the chickens. I am sure they will be OK. Chickens have been farm animals for 100’s of years. We have a nice tight little coop. They will be able to get out and play in the snow. I don’t remember much about the chickens when I was little, but I am told they love to play in the snow. We lost a chicken last weekend. I have no idea what happened to her. She was running around the day before and didn’t seem to be having any problems. That night (Saturday?) Phil was shining his flashlight as he went out for a smoke and said he thought there was a dead chicken. Sunday morning he found her laying in the chicken run. I was sad to see her dead. I had planned to butcher her pretty soon, but it was a waste to just have her die.
(This is from the next morning since I didn't post last night)  I slept in so late today.  4 hours past my normal wake time of 4 AM.  It felt wonderful.  I must admit my everything hurts like crazy today.  I started some new exercises yesterday and my arms (shoulders) feel like they are going to fall off.  Today I am going to work in the garden and throw a lot of straw and leaves.  I will most likely hurt even worse tomorrow!!  The pains of getting old. 

Monday, October 11, 2010


Yesterday we needed to drop the truck off at the mechanics plus get gas in my car.  I told Mable and Molly they could ride with us.  I put them in the back of the SUV and got in.  The stench in the car was horrible.  I thought it must be the garbage I was planning to drop off today so I took it out of the car.  On the way to town the odor didn’t get any better, in fact seemed worse.  We stopped at the gas station first and Phil got out to pump my gas (he is very sweet to do that) and stuck his head in the window and almost threw up.  He said Maggie has a big spot on her back and she must be the source of the smell!  I believe she must have been rolling in chicken manure ... but the chickens don't smell THAT bad!   He got some soap and water and tried to clean her up a bit.  It really didn’t help at all.  She spent the night outside because it was to late for her to have a bath and not be cold all night.  I hope that by the time I get home from work today Phil will have given her a bath. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another post I forgot to "publish"

Chickens running around …. Compost “brewing” ………… fresh vegetables and fruits maturing. These are the things I have become accustomed to. Autumn is in the air, the nights are much cooler. The garden is dying back, and I can feel winter creeping ever closer day by day. As always I am not ready to loose my hold on the summer, and growing lots of wonderful foods.

I wrote that a few days ago before our first frost. Saturday evening the temperature got down below freezing and killed off most of the garden. This morning when I left for work the windows of my car were covered in frost. Yes, fall is in the air. I hope winter is not totally unkind again this winter.

Yesterday was somewhat of a day of passage for me, I butchered our first chicken. I talked to our neighbor about coming over to help me. I just needed a little confidence to do it. We made an appointment for Sunday afternoon. I came in and got everything ready for Ralph. The water was boiled. I had sharp knives, cutting board, a bucket for the innards, and a machetti. Ralph didn’t show up. I was determined to do it anyway. I was nervous but I did it. I got it finished pretty quickly (I think) and put that rooster in the freezer. I know now that I can do it again.

Today I brought home 3 little chicks that I found on Craigs list. Some kids got them at the fair a few weeks ago thinking they would be fun, not realizing how much work they are. I didn’t realize how little they were when I said I would take them. Phil said he wanted to let them stay in the house where it is warmer. They are very loud … and cute. I am not sure what Molly and Mable think of them … they just sit and watch them. Hopefully they are big enough to go in with the other chickens soon.

I am feeling the panic of not getting things done in a timely manner. I needed to transplant berry bushes this fall and get the fence up for them to climb on. I haven’t gotten even one of them moved. The honey should have been harvested several weeks ago but it is still out there. I am afraid it is going to get to cold, plus I still need to treat the bees for parasites (again before it is to cold) and feed them to bring them back to strength. I have been picking up the potatoes as the chickens uncover them but they still need to be dug. The sweet potatoes also need to be dug. I don’t have any manure to feed the soil and we didn’t even shop for a tiller so I will again be doing it all by hand. (Our neighbor offered to do it, but I can’t let him). Phil tells me I am slowing down, and I guess I am but not that much!
(On to the present time the following weekend)  With that being said .......... and my neglecting to post this, I must be slowing down!
Tomorrow morning I start a new adventure.  I have been going to the gym faithfully for several months now.  I have also been following the weight watchers plan and have dropped about 30 pounds.  For the last month nothing has changed .... and I know it is all me, I am falling back into bad eating habits, and skip days going to the gym.  I can't blame anyone but me.  Tomorrow morning at 5:30 am I am going to be in Omaha at the gym with 3 other women and a personal trainer.  We are going to meet twice a week for 6 weeks.  I have never done anything like this before, I am nervous.  I am friends with one of the women but don't know the other 2.  I am at another leg of my journey to become healthier and smaller.  I truly don't want to die from something I could have prevented like high blood pressure or a heart attack.  I truly want to live a long healthy life and enjoy everything I have worked so hard for.  I am looking forward to retirement.  I wish I had been able to save more when I was younger, but there was nothing extra to save.  I want to be able to live out my retirement years without wondering if I will be able to pay my bills.  OK, enough of this.  I need to go finish digging potatoes! 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Honey harvest

I have put off harvesting honey long enough!  I knew that I had to get it taken care of this weekend, so when I came home from work yesterday I dressed in my stylish bee clothing complete with hat and veil as well as my elbow length gloves.  The bees really don't like it much when I take their honey away from them. In fact they were pretty darn upset with me.  I am thankful I have protective equipment, if I didn't I would probably be in a lot of trouble. 
We left all the frames outside until dark .... letting the bees go back to their home.  Thankfully we had to deal with very few bees.  We shooed some of them home a few we caught in a jar until morning then sent them home. 
We actually harvested this afternoon.  I was excited to use the new electric extractor.  I thought it would make the harvest a lot faster ..... I am not convinced that it did.  I think that Phil was  able to harvest about as fast (with the hand crank) as we were with the electric.
We were sticky but happy to have the honey in a bucket. 
I don't know how much honey we have yet ..... but it is wonderful

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Flea Markets

I can’t remember my first trip to Brownville for their flea market, most likely 15 years or more ago. I took Mom; she loved to go to garage sales and flea markets. Even if she didn’t buy a thing she loved to look and talk to people. Phil and I have made it an annual outing for us and our friends Marsha and Randy. We caravan down, eat breakfast then go to the flea market.

Today we met up in Rockport MO for breakfast. I got a table and Phil waited excitedly for them. Marsha and he used to work together and he loves her like a big sister. We waited and talked drinking our coffee. It seemed like the food was taking a very long time. We asked for more coffee and talked more. After another 15 minutes I again asked the waitress for more coffee, and waited for another 15 minutes or so. People were stacking up; waiting to be seated and another person came in to seat them. We heard the two of them talking, our waitress told the second person she had no idea when any food would be ready to be served so we decided we would go across the street to McDonalds. It wasn’t the nice breakfast we had envisioned, but it was just fine.

The forecast for today said we would have spotty showers. It started raining around 6 AM, and didn’t stop during the entire drive down to Brownville. We talked to some people at the restaurant who said they had just come from Brownville and all the vendors were shut down, and the streets were vacant. Great, we drove 60 miles to have breakfast at McDonald’s? The rain was stopping by the time we finished breakfast and potty breaks so we drove into Brownville. The town was hopping already. We saw familiar faces, did some people watching. Phil met another woman named Joann … he was calling out to me and she answered. We saw her later in the day and as she was walking by she said “Oh there are Phil and Joann”. We had to stop and chat for a bit again and she had to show us what she bought for her son. We ran into an old friend of mine from Weeping Water. He had his own booth there this year. There was a man there that looked so much like Phil it was amazing. He was older, so I got a glimpse of what he will look like in 10 or 15 years. Every time I glanced over and saw him, for a millisecond I would think it was Phil. (We lost each other for a really long time this morning).

We had made it to almost every area when the wind kicked up and started to look like another downpour and Phils legs were giving omoney, or come home with many treasures. Spending time with people you care for is worth so much more than anything tangible you bring home to dust off! I offered to go get the car and had a wonderful fast walk up hill …. Since I skipped the gym it was good for me. We said our good byes to Marsha and Randy and started on our journey home. Phil does not like to drive on the interstate. He likes to drive country roads and see things he has not experienced. Today we drove back into Missouri and over to Tarkio then north. We drove for miles without seeing another person. It was a scenic drive home. I think if we did that same drive in about 4 weeks it would be much more colorful with the autumn leaves.

It was a nice day. We didn’t spend much money but came home with great memories.

NOTE*** This was written last weekend after our trip to Brownville.  Apparently I forgot to his the Publish button.

Homecoming 2001 Glenwood, IA

I took off work yesterday to take part in the homecoming activities in Glenwood. We had read in the paper over the last few years what a big deal it is in this area, and wanted to experience it for ourselves.

The morning started by sleeping in until 7 AM (I LOVE IT). Then we were off to the Firehouse for a pancake breakfast. Phil carefully looked around to see where he wanted to sit. He looks for someone who may have good stories to tell, maybe someone one a little older that may need to talk. We sat next to Debbie. She told us she was 60 (something, I can’t remember) and has lived in Glenwood all of her life. She has one child and one grandchild. She didn’t say, but I think she was a widow. We learned so much local history from her. The courthouse we think is so beautiful is considered the “new” courthouse build in the 1950’s. They tore down the old courthouse which according to her was much better than this new one. The new one got termites in it and had to have them eradicated which left the floors leaning. I enjoyed our breakfast, but must admit my ears were kind on tired.

The parade was at 1:30. We got there around noon to scope out a good place to sit and found a lovely corner under the shade and sat next to a couple about our age both in motor chairs. They both had MS. I didn’t talk to them much because we were all in a line and it is difficult to hear from that distance. Phil and Mike chatted for quite a while. A few minutes before the parade was scheduled to start I saw the street filled with big boys all in black football shirts walking up the middle of the street. They stopped in front of us and set up their chairs right in the middle of the street. DRATS, they are all so big I could not see a thing. We finally pulled our chairs up next to them, and Phil told the guys standing to move over because we can’t see through them. The parade was fun. All the lower classes (starting with kindergarten) made floats and competed for the best float. The kids were all so excited!

In the evening we went to the Methodist church for a soup supper. Phil had chili and I had white chili (Yummm, it was fantastic). We sat next to two ladies in their 80’s. The woman next to me told me she has been living on her farm for 50 years. He husband passed away 20 years ago but she loves her home and wants to stay there. The only problem is she started getting dizzy spells three years ago and they took her drivers license away. She has two children who help her out a lot. Her daughter just retired this year. The other woman was much quieter (or perhaps could not hear the conversation well enough to say much) but she has been living in her house 55 years. She still drives but neither of them was getting around to well. I was mesmerized with both of them. I loved hearing their stories, and once I put my hand over the precious woman next to me, and I was taken back to the summer Mom died. This woman’s hand felt like Mom’s. It looked like Mom’s. I wanted to touch her again, but didn’t want to appear weird! We had a very nice hour with two lovely ladies that blessed my life just meeting them.

On to the football game. Glenwood has a much larger population than Weeping Water and Louisville. The athletic field is huge and much nicer than I am used to. The bleachers are huge and set very high. We chose to sit on the front row so it would be easier for Phil to get out if he needed to. MISTAKE. For the first ½ of the game I could not see one play because people would stand in front of us, or stop to talk and block the view. During the ½ time performance we decided to see if we could find someplace better to sit. We found on each side of the bleachers were more bleachers about the size of the ones in WW and Louisville. Those were packed too! We found a place to stand in front of the bleachers (they are about 4 ½ feet high on the first round so we were not blocking anyone’s view) and behind the fence. This was a much better place to see. The score at ½ time 31 – 6 Glenwood. I was amazed because I had heard they were not a good team this year. The second half of the game went downhill and then score was 31 -22 but they still won. The memorable moment of the game was when two people painted black streaked across the field. I could not honestly tell you if they were guys or girls, you could not see anything except black. They ran across the visitors’ side of the field. I haven’t heard of streakers in years! One other thing I noticed was the size of the team and the cheerleaders. I think there were more football players then we had in my entire graduating class. There were not only about 20 cheerleaders, but a dance team. The marching band had three students on ladders conducting the band. They were all dressed in beautiful uniforms and looked fantastic.

We left a few minutes before the game was over and drove across the road to the city park to watch the fireworks. I was amazed to see what a wonderful fireworks performance they had. This was a good as any display at the Rosenblatt! One thing I did note was the air quality. In July the air is light and the smoke dissipates quickly. In October the air is heavy and full of moisture. The smoke really hung in the air for a very long time.

It was a very fun day. I feel blessed to live in such a beautiful mid American place.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

more stuff in my head

When I was a little girl I remember having chickens run around the farm, and then in “town” around the acreage. We had a milk cow, even when we moved to the acerage. I honestly can’t remember when all of this went away. I remember as a kid driving out to another farmers house weekly to get milk. I think the chickens stayed longer then the cow.

Now, I live on a parcel of land that will support chickens. I know that Phil was a little (OK a LOT) leery of getting chickens but he understands now how great they are to have around. I would love to have a milk cow, but we just don’t have enough land for that. I want to raise a pig next year. I know Phil is not happy about that …. But he will be happy with the end product. I don’t think that he fully understood what he was getting into moving out here. He is still shell shocked at times. I did and do understand. I am sometimes overwhelmed. It is difficult to do everything I do and still work a full time job. I wish I could take a break from work for 6 months or so to catch up. That is not going to happen!

We have come so far. We are growing so much of our own food … it is amazing. My co-workers are the happy recipients of free fruits and veggies. I will be happy when we get to the point we sell the extras to support the farm. Today I saw things that I make on a regular basis sell for so much more than I would think people would pay …. Things that I give away now. Who would think that 4 ounces (yep I said ounces) of pear butter would sell for $4? I think I need to reconsider what I am doing, and come up with a plan to make some money!!! Our honey crop is coming in soon. I am amazed at the prices people pay for honey. I think I need to be more aggressive.

Fall flea market

I can’t remember my first trip to Brownville for their flea market, most likely 15 years or more ago. I took Mom; she loved to go to garage sales and flea markets. Even if she didn’t buy a thing she loved to look and talk to people. Phil and I have made it an annual outing for us and our friends Marsha and Randy. We caravan down, eat breakfast then go to the flea market.

Today we met up in Rockport MO for breakfast. I got a table and Phil waited excitedly for them. Marsha and he used to work together and he loves her like a big sister. We waited and talked drinking our coffee. It seemed like the food was taking a very long time. We asked for more coffee and talked more. After another 15 minutes I again asked the waitress for more coffee, and waited for another 15 minutes or so. People were stacking up; waiting to be seated and another person came in to seat them. We heard the two of them talking, our waitress told the second person she had no idea when any food would be ready to be served.  We had been waiting for about 45 minutes at that time so we decided we would go across the street to McDonalds. It wasn’t the nice breakfast we had envisioned, but it was just fine.

The forecast for today said we would have spotty showers. It started raining around 6 AM, and didn’t stop during the entire drive down to Brownville. We talked to some people at the restaurant who said they had just come from Brownville and all the vendors were shut down, and the streets were vacant. Great! We drove 60 miles to have breakfast at McDonald’s? The rain was stopping by the time we finished breakfast and potty breaks so we drove into Brownville. The town was hopping with tons of people already. We saw familiar faces and did some people watching. Phil met another woman named Joann … he was calling out to me and she answered. We saw her later in the day and as she was walking by she said “Oh there are Phil and Joann”. We had to stop and chat for a bit again and she had to show us what she bought for her son. We ran into an old friend of mine from Weeping Water. He had his own booth there this year. There was a man there that looked so much like Phil it was amazing. He was older, so I got a glimpse of what he will look like in 10 or 15 years. Every time I glanced over and saw him, for a millisecond I would think it was Phil. (We lost each other for a really long time this morning).  We stopped at the winery for a potty break and did the wind testing.  For only $1 I was able to test 2 sips of wine to see what I like best.  Turns out, neither!

We had made it to almost every area when the wind kicked up and started to look like another downpour and Phils legs were giving out. I offered to go get the car and had a wonderful fast walk up hill …. Since I skipped the gym it was good for me. We said our good byes to Marsha and Randy and started on our journey home. Phil does not like to drive on the interstate. He likes to drive country roads and see things he has not experienced. Today we drove back into Missouri and over to Tarkio then north. We drove for miles without seeing another person. It was a scenic drive home. I think if we did that same drive in about 4 weeks it would be much more colorful with the autumn leaves.

It was a nice day. We didn’t spend much money, or come home with many treasures. Spending time with people you care for is worth so much more than anything tangible you bring home to dust off!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rockin' with the rooster

Last weekend I found 10 more chickens to add to our flock. My reason is, we can still get a few months of eggs from them, and then butcher them for meat in the early winter. We had a lovely drive out to pick them up. Their old owners told me they are great layers, but they were getting rid of them because a new group was old enough now to lay eggs. I didn’t understand why they didn’t combine them, but I am no expert. The guy was catching them and I was putting them into the chicken box. (I am amazed at how many chickens you can get in one of those boxes!) Then the farmer asked me if I wanted a rooster for free. I knew Phil doesn’t like roosters, but I decided I would take him home for Sunday dinner.

We decided to just set them all loose with our hens and see what happened, it was kind of late to butcher anyway. I was out in the garden working when I heard some commotion and realized the rooster was after our hens. They didn’t want anything to do with him… and he didn’t like it. He made me mad so I went to the garage and got the hatchet. I put 2 nails in a stump (to hold his head) and caught him. He was full of fire until I held him upside down (I forgot how that calms them right down) and walked to the chopping block with him. I put his neck between the nails (they held his head perfectly still) and raised the hatchet. WAIT, is this thing sharp enough? OK, it looks fine so up it goes again .. WAIT what if I miss. Well that is a chance I will have to take. Once again I raise the hatchet high above my head and start to swing. WAIT … what now? What if I don’t cut clean through the neck and he is in pain and jumps up and starts to run around?

We had peanut butter sandwiches for dinner ……. I told Phil I need the neighbor to come over the first time and help me. I can do everything with confidence except chop off the head. I will get over that, but I need a little help.

The rooster got a reprieve, for now. I must say that little experience has made him respect me more. He gives me a wide berth, and hides behind the hens every time I walk out to the coop. Maybe he just needed a little education on how to act while living at Pooh Acres.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

telling on myself

I have so many stories in my head, things I want to share and so little time to actually sit and share them. I love living on Pooh Acres, there are adventures every single day. Last week I was working in the garden at dusk. I had already put the chickens to bed. Phil was in the house; it was just Molly and I outside picking green beans. The “noise” we hear is normally birds, crickets, locusts, the cows across the creek etc. (and the occasional car out on the road). That evening I heard lots of “rustling” sounds. I really could not identify the noise. A few minutes later I heard it again, it sounded like the chickens were running in their coop. I stopped picking and listened … nothing. A few minutes after I started picking again the rustling seemed even louder! I decided I had to check it out. It could be a raccoon, a skunk, a weasel, who knows! I didn’t have a weapon to protect myself so I grabbed the old rusty corn knife the Phil had left hanging on the garden gate and walked toward the coop. I must have been “a sight” sneaking toward the door. I decided I needed to put the door between the enemy and me so I slowly cracked the door, trying not to make a noise. I held the corn knife up in my right hand ready to strike down whatever flew out the door at me. By this time my pulse was racing, and I was sure my heart was beating fast enough to bring Phil out of the house. I continued to slowly open the door but nothing happened. Finally the door was wide open and not a peep. I decided it was time to look in (fearing all of my hens would be dead). I peeked my head in and all of the hens were sitting on their roosts clucking softly to themselves.

I am so glad no one saw me stalking my invisible monster!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Auction

Farm auctions ROCK! Both Phil and I love to go to auctions and we normally get into trouble by spending way to much money! Today was no exception! We were both excited to go because of some of the things on the block. Phil wanted another shed, and I wanted the electric honey extractor. Phil actually bought 2 sheds for less than he was willing to spend on one! I am so excited because I bought the extractor for less than ½ of what I paid for the old hand crank one we got last year. I will be able to sell the old one, so this will be essentially free!  The one guy who wanted it bragged to me that he was going to get it for $300 and even opened his wallet to show Phil all of the money he had for it.  By the time the bidding for the extractor started he was so out of it he didn't realize the bidding had started, and it was already sold. 

The other day when we were in the basement I told Phil I believe I have enough canning jars, so unless we happen to find some for free I don’t think I should get any more. Today ………. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of jars from ½ pint up to gallon jugs. I tried really hard to keep that vow ……….. but I could not resist when a BARREL full of jars sold (to me)  for $1. They were selling for $2 to $4 a BOX … and some of the boxes had several dozen in then. I actually thought about reselling them and making some money, but knew I could not part with them once they were in my possession so I did not buy them.

I have been looking for a chair or bench to put close to the berry garden but could not afford, or could not haul what I was looking for. Today I bought a chair I can put up there. It is not exactly what I was looking for, but it will do. I wanted a two seater with a swing so both of us could sit on the hill and look out over Pooh Acres. Maybe someday I will find what I am looking for when we have the truck to haul it.

We did really well staying away from the small junkie kind of stuff but I did buy some things that made me go “WHAT”???? later in the day. The guy who was selling out had to have been in his 80’s so he had the depression era in his memory plus he was somewhat of a survivalist, so prepared for the worst. He obviously canned and dehydrated food. He saved his seeds and took really good care of everything. I, being intrigued by people who grow most of their own food wanted to share some of his seeds. I spent $3 and came home with so many seeds many I have no idea of what they are. I wanted them because I want to know what they are. He obviously grew a lot of his own grain, soup beans etc. (This year I grew a few soup beans, kidney, lima and pinto.) I bought jars of watermelon seed, Squash seed, who knows what all. I am excited to go through it all.

Phil bought a new saw. He has been talking about how he wants a larger saw with “wings” to hold the boards. This man took a $200 craftsman saw and build a dust catcher underneath, put wheels and handles on it so he could easily move it. He got it for $45. What a buy! It is SO very heavy!!!!

It was a good day. We had Rudy with us, and all of us were tired. Our feet hurt and we were so ready to come home. Our neighbor was there and we spent time with him as well. I feel so blessed to live here. When we lived in the city I was just another person on the block. Living out here I feel as if I am cared for. Our neighbors care for us, and we care for them. What a wonderful place we are in. I can’t remember ever feeling so content with my life

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Misc. photos and chat

I was taking photos of  "stuff" to sell on craigslist this afternoon and caught some great photos of the chickens. They are pretty cool as they eat bugs all over the property.  I love watching all of the animals interact with each other

I am so happy that the dogs, cats and chickens all see to get along well.  I wonder sometimes what the cats are thinking!!!!
Molly is getting so big ...........  and you never have to wonder what she is thinking.  She just wants to play!!!!

Vacation Time

I have taken some days off work.  I normally try to combine holidays with my PTO to take advantage of slow time at work and still get to take some time off.  I have a 5 day weekend thanks to Labor Day on Monday.  Sales are so slow around any holiday, so it is always a good time for me to take off. 
I had pages of chores planned to take advantage of the time off.  If today is any indication of the rest of my time off ...... I am not going to get anything done!  I slept in today, didn't wake up until about 7:30 or so.  It was chilly and windy out .... and rained off and on all day.  We got some inside work done, but not much. 
We did go out for a very nice dinner tonight.  Months ago I won a gift certificate to the Pink Poodle restaurant in Cresent, IA.  We took advantage of it tonight.  It is definitely a nice place, kind of old fashioned but very good food.  One of the wait staff said she has worked there since 1955.  She was wearing a black uniform that looked like something from the 1960's or 70's.  Our waiter was a young very cute woman with a very nice personality.  She served the vegetable beef soup from a crock she carried to the table.  The loaf of bread was still quite hot from the oven.  After that a salad with about 1/2 dozen containers of dressing to choose from (Tim would have loved that he could have a pint of blue cheese dressing at his disposal) and fresh made croutons.  Phil and I chose to share a Prime Rib dinner.  It was HUGE!  I took about 1/6 of the steak and didn't eat all of it.  When we paid the bill and asked for a box our waiter brought us another loaf of bread (on the house) to take home as well as a bag for the bread we had left.  The to go box she brought for the steak had a container of Ah Jus sauce for the steak.  I must say the customer service (something I am VERY aware of) was wonderful. 
The reason we went out this afternoon was to go to one of my co-workers house for a refrigerator.   I told him one day that the garage refrigerator had died and we were looking for another one.  He said he had one he wanted to get rid of, for free!  I didn't even think to ask anything about it just said yes.  Max is a very nice guy.  We have worked together for about 4 years.  I have seen so many pictures and heard so many stories about his 2 year old, it was nice to finally meet him.  Paxton enjoyed playing with me, but he really liked Phil.  When we left, it was Phil he wanted to kiss and hug good bye!  The refrigerator ..... is a small apartment size one.  Perfect for the garage.  Phil is happy with my find.  We dusted it off tonight and will plug it in tomorrow, hopefully it works!  Phil will paint it to "fit in" with his garage probably tomorrow!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chicken Update

I really don't have a lot of time to play on line.  I leave for work at 6:20 in the morning.  I get home sometimes 4:45 ... or if I need to stop for something later than that.  We normally work outside until dark.  That time is coming earlier and earlier now, but it has been as late as 9:30.  I am canning, gardening, harvesting, planting as needed, so needless to say I am busy.  I hope as winter approaches I will be wiser with my time and get some of the inside activities I have wanted to do .... done. 
The chickens are great.  I am so glad we have them.  I love listening to them as they wander around our property.  I love taking scraps to them and watching them devour whatever I take out.  They love melons.  Today I cut open one of our little mini melons and ate 1/2 of it.  I took the rind outside and within minutes everything but the hard outside shell was gone.  Marci wants me to make watermelon pickles for the kids ... I don't know how I can save the rinds to do it!!  Phil has them following him around.  Every time he calls them they run, and follow like the pied piper.  I am not around as much as he is, so they don't follow me as well.  They are starting to lay better and better.  Today I got 6 eggs.  Yesterday 5.  I am so happy to see them laying more, so they can start paying for their own food.  So far I have 2 customers.  I found someone very close to my work by advertising on Craigs list.  I also have someone at work who wants to buy my eggs.  I guess if they keep this up, I will need to find more customers. 
I would like to have more chickens.  I am still a little insecure about the butchering ...... but I will be able to get it done.  I like the growing process better!

My frugal lifestyle

I think I am frugal.  My brother in law says I am a cheap skate!  I am proud to be able to stretch a dollar into $1.50!  I got a great deal I just have to share.  I stopped at Fairway because of an advertized good deal I wanted to take advantage of.  I always check out the discounted produce because I have gotten a few good deals there.  On this day I found a really good sized bag of plums for 99 cents.  They looked OK, and I decided even if I got only a few and needed to juice the rest it would still be a good deal. 
I got them home and took a look at them, they were perfect for eating.  I shared some with my boss, and Phil and I ate as many as we wanted.  Today I realized they were on the verge of going bad so I juiced them.  I was able to can 5 quarts of juice and use the pulp to make fruit leather.  I ended up with a very small bowl of  "waste".  Then Phil reminded me the chickens love fruit, so he will give it to them in the morning. 
I think I got a great deal for less than a dollar. 
Cheapskate or Frugal.?  It doesn't really matter.  I'm the one with juice to make jelly and a good batch of fruit leather.

Great finds!

Phil likes to tell me he is well trained.  Hummm, in some things I guess he is.  He went out to garage sales yesterday and found a dozen, brand new still in the box, wide mouth jars plus a few used jars.  That was good.  I washed them all up last night, and even filled some of them up with the vegetable soup I had been working on.  This morning we headed out of the house to go to an auction he has been talking about for weeks. On the way he spotted a yard sale and stopped for a "quick look".  He had been there for about 20 seconds when he found 3 boxes of canning jars for FREE!  He was excited and instantly started carrying them to the truck.  I haven't unpacked them to see exactly what we got, but what a great deal.
The auction turned out to be quite a disappointment.  The farmer was 84 years old and just about everything was junk.  It was amazing to see how much money people are willing to pay for the OLD nonworking tractors.  I saw quite a few things that made me smile, and think of Mom and Dad.  I remember Dad's old corn shovels, his drill press, tools and tools and more tools.  Many of the things this old farmer had were like Dad's things.  We came away from that auction spending only $2 for an old feed trough that we are going to use as a flower pot.  We found a yard sale on the way home and Phil bought a trailer for me to use to haul garden stuff, hay etc behind my tractor.  I don't know if I will actually get to keep it ... the axle is from a 1937 chevy, and we can probably get a lot more money for that than we paid for the trailer. 
This weekend is keg creek days here in Glenwood.  It is a very nice small town festival.  There are lots of antique tractors farm implements and fun.  The first year we lived here we brought Mom with us.  We took her to the cowboy church and old fashioned gospel singing.  There was a flea market and one of the vendors was selling wooden musical instruments.  She bought Courtney a beautiful wooden flute for Christmas.  She died before Christmas.  I hope Courtney cherishes the flute. 
We didn't get to the festivities today, but did go to the concert this evening.  It was fun.  They played rock from the 50's and 60's.  The band was unique in that there were a grandfather and grandson playing together.  They ranged from men in their 60's to young men in their 20's.  It was a fun show.  One of the things that made is special were the people dancing in front of the stage.  Glenwood has a very large facility called "the state school" where people with mental handicaps live.  Many of the people have downs syndrome.  Several of these young people dance through the entire show and make everyone smile.  I didn't see one person looking cross at these wonderful people.  What a wonderful small town this is.  Sometimes I wish we were a little closer to town, so I could get to know more of the locals.
Speaking of rock and roll, I stopped by Delana's house the other day to pick elderberries.  She has a wonderful bush in her back yard.  These are big berries and so clean!  I have always picked the fruit from road ditches so it was always covered in nasty dust.  These were clean and so easy to juice out.  Anyway Olivia came outside while I was there and I asked her to sing the song they were learning in music class.  I have to tell you there is nothing cuter that listening to a kindergartner singing "I love rock and roll, put another dime in the jukebox baby".  I would love to hear the entire class singing that!
Olivia loves school.  I knew she would.  I can't wait to see how she changes and matures being around other kids her age.  Ruby didn't like her first day at school because some other girl didn't like her.  I haven't talked to her since, so I am not sure how that is all going.  Caelum sounded like he was doing fine, but I haven't talked to him since his first day either.  I believe Emilia and Shelby start school right after Labor day.  Poor Joe will be home all alone with Mom. 
It is getting late.  I think it is time for me to scoot off to bed.  Tomorrow we will go to keg creek days again and see the tractors this time.  Phil would like to see the museum and spend time oogling the antique equipment.  You'd think he lived on a farm all of his life wouldn't you?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Finding old friends again

Sometimes it is difficult to stay in touch with friends. I often find myself so busy I see no one but Phil (and the people I work with of course). Responsibilities keep us so involved that people we love don’t receive a phone call, don’t get an invitation to dinner, and just don’t get the time they deserve.
My very good friend Cindy and I have “talked” about getting together for ages. Finally last week she said Tuesday at Applebee’s and we both agreed it would work for us. It was so much fun. We met at 4:30 and at 6:30 we realized we had been talking for 2 hours, with so much more to say. The wait staff was beginning to look at us …. Customers were waiting to be seated! Reluctantly at 6:45 we left the restaurant and went home with a promise we would not go so long before we see each other again. Email is a wonderful tool but is nothing compared to sitting face to face with a loved friend and talking. And the hug is even better.

Phil was on his own for dinner last night and he decided to BBQ some chicken. He is a great cook so I don’t worry about him finding something for dinner. My cooking is down home and filling. His is pretty! This morning we were talking about his chicken and he said it didn’t turn out very well. He said he used the really long thermometer out in the mudroom with all the gardening stuff to stick into the chicken. Shocked I asked him WHAT he used???? I didn’t ask him if he washed/sterilized it but I doubt it. He used the COMPOST thermometer. I laughed so hard I could hardly talk.

It rained all day yesterday. This was the good rain, slow and steady. No damaging hail. The garden is coming in so nicely now …. It will probably be crazy in a few days. I can’t believe the amount of watermelon and muskmelons … none are ripe yet. I planted the small watermelon so we hopefully won’t have a lot of wasted fruit. The muskmelons are pretty good size … we are going to have them coming out of our ears!!!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's county fair time

We went to the Cass County fair today. I look forward to this day from year to year. I don’t know why I have to go “home” every year, but I do feel the need to see friends from the past, to revisit my youth and connect with people I will always love. Delana apparently feels much the same feelings because she took the kids to the carnival even though they had been to Adventureland in Des Moines one a few days earlier. Phil doesn’t normally get to go to the fair because of his work schedule. This year he is unemployed so he was able to join us.

I really wanted to visit with one of Mom’s good friends while we were in the area, but we didn’t manage to make it to her house. We did get to Grandpa and Grandma’s farm. The new owner has plowed over even the driveway so we could not even get to anything except the driveway. He certainly wants to get his money’s worth out of the land. There are few trees left standing out there. The “bottom land” looks like it always has ... creek and rock. The rest is sad. The trees are gone and the land has been abused for such a long time that it is only soil because it is dirt. The nutrients are all gone. He has done nothing to replenish what he has taken. He continues to add fertilizer every year so the plants grow and provide him with a crop. But he has done nothing to feed the soil and make it healthy so it will provide a nutritious product back to him. I am always amazed that farmers forget where they came from. How can they forget to feed the land?

OK, I will get off of my high horse and get back to today! We did drive through town, amazed at the changes. The carnival was fun. The kids were having a great time. Olivia was afraid of most of the rides but Ruby was a trooper. Now that she is 7 she is ready to take on the world! She was not happy while she was on the Ferris wheel with Caelum because Olivia and I got cotton candy … we did save her some! Ruby insisted on going on a ride that I thought would scare her so much …… she said she was scared but didn’t make a sound.

Phil said he wanted to ride only one ride …. The Tilt O Whirl. He purchased a ticket for each of us … then asked Caelum and Ruby to join us. We squeezed all 4 of us into one “car” and told the kids to hold on for a great ride. We leaned to the left and then to the right … we twirled and twisted. Caelums eyes were not focused. Ruby and I screamed as loud as we could. We had the best ride you can even think about having. I don’t think the little ones think Grandpa and Grandma can enjoy things like that ….. but we sure did!!!

The parade was great as always … the kids enjoyed all of the candy. I got to see people I haven’t seen in a long time. After the parade we visited the 4H barns. The kids loved the animals. They got to see sheep, goats, cows etc. Phil and I went to the chicken barn alone and ran into Jeannie Thomason … well truthfully she was holding “court” there. After looking at all the chickens, rabbits and pigeons we sat down and talked to her about chickens. She was able to give some great advice and help us make some decisions about how we want to proceed with the chickens. It is so nice to be one of the “Zaloudek girls” when I go home. A lot of people can’t remember which one I am …. But they always know I am “one of them”

I ran into several people who know me only as a “Zaloudek” but that is OK too. I still think of them with the same name we had while we were in high school.

I know I can’t go home again, but it sure is nice to visit!

Friday, August 6, 2010

If you throw a cat out a car window.............

………….. would it be considered Kitty litter? That was one of the jokes the rodeo clown told tonight, and for some reason it struck me so funny and I could not stop laughing. Mom and Phil talked about the Sidney Iowa rodeo three or four years ago, and he has wanted to go since. I just never remembered to buy the tickets. A few weeks ago I heard an ad on the radio on my way to work, so called from work that day and bought 4 tickets on the front row. We went with our friends Marsha and Randy. I was at this rodeo years and years ago, I don’t know if I was even a teenager yet. I didn’t even recognize the place. Marsha said she went when she was a very small girl too.

We were all looking forward to carnival food. I decided I could have ONE THING and enjoy it like crazy. We walked up and down the midway looking at the food vendors and I honestly didn’t see anything I really wanted. The smells were good, but I kept remembering how hard I would have to work to loose all of those extra calories. Phil is always worried that I am not eating enough (believe me, I am eating more than enough) so I decided on some curly French fries. The woman promised me that they would be crunchy and not greasy. She lied. They were not at all crunchy and they were terribly greasy. I didn’t want to eat it ……. But Phil said he would eat it rather than throw it away. He had the fries and the biggest corn dog I have ever seen. Marsha and Randy had steak sandwiches. I love the greasy smell of carnival food.

The rodeo was fun. I was surprised to see how high tech they have become. There was a really big screen for the instant replay and laser lights to time the barrel racing. The announcer was on horseback with a wireless microphone all night. Even the clown had a wireless microphone.

One thing amazed me this evening. One of the cowboys was 75 years old. He didn’t do the calf rustling, or the bull ride, but he did a very impressive job of roping a cow. He was riding very high in the saddle and moved very quickly.

We had a very nice “date night”. I think we will have another date night next week when we go to the Cass County fair. Delana and Rick are taking the kids for “kid day” we will meet them before the rides are over and hopefully they will stay for the parade. I love going home. It is so much fun to see my old friends … and Mom’s friends. I love the hugs I get from people who have known me all of my life.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pennies from heaven

Phil and I went to the grocery store the other day. We came out about the same time as a guy carrying a case of beer. I am not sure why I even noticed him, but I saw as he walked out the door of the store he raised his hand and threw money on the ground. I thought surely he must have thrown some pennies down, but when I took the shopping cart back to the store I found 2 quarters and 3 pennies. I wonder if this person had so much money he could just throw it away? Why in the world would you simply throw money away like that?

I have always lived rather frugally, and I am comfortable with that. I have always lived below my means. I don’t enjoy shopping for expensive new clothing. I really would like to live in a home that had new working modern appliances and a large kitchen. But I am OK with what I have. I enjoy canning and preserving much of the food we consume. I totally love the chickens. I am not excited about butchering them, but it will be wonderful to have fresh chicken in the freezer.

I don’t really enjoy eating out in a fancy restaurant. I enjoy going out sometimes, but expensive restaurants put me on edge, always afraid I will do the wrong thing. I was raised in a very common family. We seldom went out to eat when I was a kid. I would rather grill out at home and eat at the picnic table (if I had one that didn’t wobble like crazy).

I wish I didn’t have to work full time, and could enjoy our home more. In another 15 years more or less that will be fulfilled. If I had been wiser with my investments I could probably retire earlier than 65 – 70. I was so busy raising the kids I didn’t put any money away until I actually started making money at my current job. I am thankful that I have every penny Mom left to us girls when she died, plus what I have been able to add to that every month. I don’t obsess about money, but I do want to be able to live above the poverty level when I retire. Mom and Dad taught the three older girls to save and work hard. (The youngest missed those lessons.)  I pray that I have passed along some of those lessons to my children.

Pennies from heaven picked up and invested can bring big dreams for the future, figuratively or otherwise.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Molly is a working girl now

Last week I went to the “upper garden” to check things out. This is a spot I planted berry plants and the leftover starter plants in. I started “clearing” the area a couple of years ago by covering the grass/weeds with a layer of cardboard and straw/hay/leaves etc. I love this way of clearing a new area, not so much work!

The berry plants are finally starting to take off. We got a few golden raspberries this year and some really huge blackberries. I don’t know if the blueberries are ever going to take off. The soil is not exactly what they like.

I planted lots of tomatoes and peppers in March as starters to share with our neighbor and Delana. Unfortunately neither of them wanted any, so I had quite a few left overs and nothing to do with them. Rather than throw them away I planted them in the area that had little time to prepare to be a growing field. I was quite proud of they way they popped up; some had fruits on the plants already. Not bad for a left over useless piece of land.

When I went up the other day I was filled with horror. Most of the tomato tops were gone, some of the pepper plants were munched, lots of berries were eaten, and the pumpkin and gourd plants had been decimated. We don’t have that area fenced in, I am not sure if it ever will be. I decided that Molly needs to start doing her job, and be a farm dog. I told Phil I was moving her doghouse and she was going to start sleeping outside from now on. He is not happy with me. He wants the animals to all sleep in beds, with pillows and comforters. She is doing a wonderful job protecting “her” property. I am happy to report that the deer have stopped eating that garden. Unfortunately since she is tied up she can’t protect everything and they are still munching what they can in the front area. SIGH, it just never ends. Molly is a hard working girl. I am thankful she is part of our family.

Molly got the emply peanut butter jar to clean it out ... then got it stuck on her head!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Totally Joann

I am feeling so good about myself. This is the very first time in ........... I don't remember when.

In December I went to see my doctor and was diagnosed with high blood pressure. It was high enough she was concerned enough she wanted to make sure I got immediate attention. She put me on some medication and I took it as I was supposed to, but I still didn't "get it". I went in for my follow up visit and my blood pressure didn't improve much ... all I was doing was taking the pills (most of the time). She scolded me and sent me home with more medications. I went back a few months later and she laid it on the line for me. She said something like, if you want to stay alive to watch your grandchildren mature, you have to make some changes in your life.

It was a wake up call. I joined a gym and I joined weight watchers. I go to the gym 4 times a week over my lunch and WW on the other day. I have lost 22 1/2 pounds and I have lowered my blood pressure. Yesterday and today it was lower than "normal" 104/53. I am feeling quite good about myself. I am getting so addicted to feeling good that I would like to spend more time at the gym... I honestly don't know how. The only option is to go in the early morning .... I just don't think I can get up any earlier than I already am. Going after work is not an option. I always have a ton of work at home to do in the evenings. I'll have to work on that!!!! My goal is to get my blood pressure under control so that I no longer need to take the medication. Also to loose enough weight that Phil will find me more interesting than the Royals cheerleaders. (Just a joke, but he DID end up following one of the cheerleaders and helping her tote a huge dice) I am finding more energy to climb steps and find myself less out of breath after doing something strenuous.

If I keep this up I will live a very long life.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday .......... another auction

What a killer day this has been! It was an auction day, and we have been looking forward to it for quite some time. We both love auctions but sometimes spend to much money … and but some crazy things. Today was no exception. The first cool thing that happened is that I met some “old home” people. Phil is always talking to people, and met one of the Hammons family from Weeping Water. The guy never did tell me his first name, but he is related to the funeral home Hammonds …. So I am sure I would probably know him from my youth days. The auctioneer is a cousin of the Mason family … Dad and Bill Mason used to be good friends. What a small world it is.

So, we got there around 8:30 this morning (we needed time to check everything out). There was so much STUFF it was amazing. I was excited to find a chicken plucker (got it for $30) and a few canning jars (about 3 doz for $1). Phil found a new lawn mower for $300 … and excited to see them listed on line for well over $1,000. I was heartbroken that I didn’t get the Ford tractor … Phil said the bad tires made it a liability. We also got a chicken feeder for $2 plus a shade screen (that we have been looking everywhere for) for the coop. I think the most amazing price was for a really big trailer (hay rack size) for $4. The silliest was a mobile burn barrel. But the wheels are steel and look really cool. Maybe we can put something else on the wheels.

There was a cute little lawn tractor that didn’t work and sold for $10. The guy who bought it said if we want it, he is probably not going to take it home. Another project for Phil. It was a good day; we met nice people and really enjoyed the time with them. It was so hot that I thought I was going to melt a few times. My skin is getting to dark I don’t think I can burn anymore … but I don’t know after standing outside for 8 hours straight! We went through 6 bottles of tea and water that I brought from home, plus 5 bottles we bought at the auction! I don’t know what the high was today …. But I am sure it was well over 90. I think we are getting tougher!

Tomorrow morning we have to go to Springfield and pick up Hay for the gardens. I am so thankful for all of the free hay we have gotten this year. The gardens are well mulched and happy. We have had to work hard to bring the hay home …. But no complaints it was free. We have a new source of manure …. haven’t had the time/ability to take advantage of it yet but I certainly plan on finding the time. He is close and will even load it for me.

Life on Pooh acres is good. We love it here. What a wonderful gift we have been given, the ability to live out here and enjoy life they way God intended us to life.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The beat goes on ..... and the beat goes on

Have you ever heard a chicken coo? I forgot over the years what a peaceful sound chickens make. For the most part they walk around scratching and picking at the oats we throw out for them. Phil says they have an egg laying cluck … I am not convinced of that but he has been around them more than I have. Tonight one of them (we don’t have names for them yet) started cackling/clucking like crazy(the laying an egg sound according to Phil) ….. she didn’t lay an egg. They are so peaceful and easy. I want more … at least 10. The plan is to grow the flock in the spring then in the fall winter over only 10 or 12. Next fall our freezer will be full of yummy Sunday dinners. We are enjoying the fresh eggs every day. I am so excited to have fresh eggs because I see how much prettier they are than store eggs. I read about the Omega 3 that they produce and how healthy that is for you.

Last night we had a wonderful “garden” dinner. We had fried potatoes with onion and garlic from the garden (it was SOOOOO good) and broccoli and beets (neither one of us thought we liked them until we tried them again) fresh salad, tomatoes and cucumber slices. We didn’t grow the T-bone steaks, but they were farm raised. It was a wonderful dinner. I am so excited to have more fresh food throughout the summer.

We are trying some new “stuff” this year. I planted lima beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans. I have never grown eggplant until this year. I am still not entirely sure what to do with the eggplant that is ready to pick. Every year I want to try at least one thing I have never tried. Phil is expanding the lower garden for next year …. I am SO excited, I can’t wait!!!!!!!

He said he is going to expand the “original” garden from the fence to the retaining wall. He wants to make that an herb garden. I am currently planting herbs by the garage but they are going crazy and growing over one another. It will be so cool to have a specific area for each herb.

I am so excited to see the changes over the last three years. Phil reminded me this evening when we moved here there were no outbuildings (except the garage and barn). Much of the property was covered in trash. There was just nothing going on. We have worked very hard. Pooh Acres is looking very good. We look more and more like a farm every day.

On a personal note. I am SO excited. At my weigh in this week I have lost 20 pounds. I am working so hard at getting healthy. I am still going to the gym 4 days a week (unless I have to get my oil changed or ????) and weight watchers one day a week. I think I am doing a good job. I am thankful that Shanna is going to WW with me, and giving me encouragement. I know I have done this before, but the high blood pressure diagnosis has given me a reason to want to get healthy. I am thankful to the two older sisters being my cheerleaders. I will get more healthy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry ..... wait only chicks.

Things are happening now! Phil finished the chicken coop (95%) last weekend. We still need electricity and water but we have a great enclosure and coop (it is built better than a prison! I don’t think anything will get in or out of it). Wednesday I picked up 2 chickens. It was so cool to put them in the pen and watch them scratch and pick and get to know their new home. Thursday Phil’s friend (and the hired hand at Pooh acres) gave us 4 more chickens. I was very surprised when we got home last night at dark and I saw so many chickens in the coop.

Tonight when I got home I went to the coop to check out the “chicks” and I found 3 eggs! One was white, one brown and the last pink. I believe I know what we will have for breakfast tomorrow!!

We went to an auction last night. It started at 5 PM ……. We left around dark. It was fun. I got a pressure canner (the last one I got for $12 and sold for $25) that I plan to put on Craig’s list, and some canning jars. Phil got a couple of toys, some extension cords, and the mother load of wood. We spent $250, but we probably got more than $1000-$1500 worth of wood. We have everything from a simple 6’ 1 X 8 to a 24’ 6 X 6. We started bringing it home today ….. It is amazing how much wood we got. Phil and Rudy (the hired hand) brought home two loads today and I helped with the third when I got home from work. I think there is one more load tomorrow. I wanted to help but they will be getting the wood during Ruby’s game. This is her last game I will be able to see so I will be there. I didn’t realize how much wood there was until we started bringing it home. I have no idea what we are going to do with all of it. I guess there are some projects in the making. One thing I am SURE I will get out of this is my hammock.

Last year I bought a wonderful hammock dreaming of a lazy nap in the shade after working in the gardens. The problem is we don’t have any trees the right distance apart to put the silly thing up. Phil said he would put two 4 X 6’s in, but they really have to go down a ways to make sure it will hold us. (We got some of those in the misc. wood). I can see me napping in the afternoon enjoying the fruits of my labors …… OK, maybe not in the middle of the afternoon. Well me taking a nap is unheard of, but perhaps I will try to change that.

The garden is beginning to “come in”. I was so late in getting things planted … we had so much rain this spring. I am sad the peas are already gone. We have had a ton of “greens”. Beans are getting close and corn will be soon. I am excited for tomatoes and peppers! Potatoes look like they will be bountiful this year. We planted the “leftovers” from last year plus our neighbor brought some seed potatoes over that she didn’t have room for. I planted sweet potatoes this year. I am excited to see what kind of yield they will bring. The watermelon plants have softball size melons on them. The kidney beans are big, and the squash seems to be growing like crazy. Yummm, what a fest we have waiting for us. We are so blessed to have this property and the opportunity to take advantage of the blessings.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Three years?

It has been 3 years since we signed on the dotted line ……….. and our lives changed. I sometimes think back to my “before” life when I had time to volunteer and go to theater productions on a regular basis. Mowing the grass took 20 minutes. Tending the garden just a few minutes.

Yes, it was much easier “back then”. Yes, I did have more time for “fun stuff”. Was I more fulfilled? Was I happier? Nope. I know that I am frustrated sometimes …. And I wish that I could do more in less time. How can I fit 48 hours into a 24 hour day? It seems I am always trying to fit more and more into my days. I still have to work at a “real” job to pay the mortgage and bills. And then come home to work at my hearts passion.

When we signed the papers I had so many fears …. How will we ever pay the mortgage (the mortgage is four times the monthly mortgage payment on the Omaha house). What if one of us looses our jobs? How will we EVER keep up with the outside work? Will I keep the life I have lived for so long, volunteering at the theater and opera? What if the Omaha house doesn’t sell? Oh My Goodness ………….so much to worry about.

The Omaha house didn’t sell. We decided to become landlords. Phil found a renter when he was out buying a tractor to scoop the snow …. We interviewed several families and decided on the Wades. They have 4 children, and have become one of the “kids”. I am so thankful we found them. They are not prefect …. But they are good.

What if one of us looses our jobs? Phil was laid off of his job in March. Things were never good with the contract. In February things came to a head and on March 31 he was unemployed. He has been home since and we are doing just fine. He is working his fanny off and wondering how he did everything while he was working!

How will I pay the mortgage? Yes, it is 4 times the mortgage in Omaha ……… we did just fine with the payments and in March last year refinanced to bring the rate down a LOT. Our mortgage broker was amazed at how much we had paid in such a short time. We have managed to pay forward 6 or 7 months “just in case” so we still have a cushion.

How will we keep up with the outside work? We don’t. We try hard but some things just don’t need to be done!

Somehow things work themselves out. I have been blessed with a wonderful job. Amazing as it is I am paid to talk to people and pretend to be a sales professional. (I have a fantastic boss who loves the fresh food we grow.) Our life is totally different from a few years ago. We don’t go to the theater very often. We don’t go to movies very often. Shoot, we don’t even have time to watch TV! Recently we have not come in the house until dark … then it’s time to shower and go to bed.

Moving to the country has been good for us. We raise most of the vegetables and potatoes that we eat. We have learned to can everything from simple vegetables to soups and meats. The meat we eat comes from a farmer, not the grocery store. Our fruit trees and bushes are in and maturing. Phil has been working on a chicken coop … it should be finished soon, and then we will be raising our own poultry. I wanted to raise a pig, but I don’t think that will happen until next year.

Three years ago changed our lives, in a very good way!