Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sorry we haven't posted in a while.. we were busy working on this....

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I realize that it is risky to confess on an international stage--(yikes, someone from Turkey has read this blog). However, I have to come a manner of speaking.

My children are pigs. Completely, without hesitation, porcine in nature and behavior. When I look at buying a car, I consider the ability to power-wash the interior as a big plus. I have seen pens at the State Fair that look more hospitable than my living room on a Friday night. My car has greasy footprints on the windshield. Honestly, I think I would have a better chance being a housekeeper for a group of Vikings.

As I make my continuous rounds through the house, I regularly pick up about 20 hair rubber bands per day, most with hair wrapped around them. Then there are the socks. Handyman and I are constantly finding socks, EVERYWHERE. In the yard, on the tramp, on the driveway, on the porch, in the car, in the hall, in the treehouse, in the barn (not kidding) under the table, on the couch. And why don't I throw them away, you might ask...because then Handyman would have to cough up some of his hard-earned cash to buy more. That whole Arnold Schwarzneggar method of, "if it's not put away, I throw it away", works fine if your bank account is in Switzerland. Mine is a little less self-sustaining.

Plus the efforts keep my back limber, the bending and stooping to pick up the 57 paper napkins under the dining room table each day. I have never seen napkins reproduce like this. I know that no one uses them. I hand them out, they put them in their laps and they brush them onto the floor and we start over...and I've seen that floor up close and personal. There is no re-use going on after that. (I had to train the firefighter's kids not to eat anything that hits the floor here. No 5-second rule, kids. These boots have been in the chicken yard.)

When my jeans hit the floor at night, the left pocket is grossly swollen with teeny pink legos (yes, they make them), Polly Pocket attire to outfit a small city, several Puffs Plus (they don't come apart in the wash!), crochet hooks, safety pins, marbles (no one ever plays with them), dog kibble (to reward those who come--dogs not kids!), apple cores, old band-aids, drill bits (found in the washer) and the occasional odd change.

Fortunately, I am gifted with the indomitable spirit of the insane--optimism. Each day I tell myself, "Today, the bathroom sinktop will stay clean until Handyman gets home." or, "Today I will look for the bathroom sinktop." or "Today, I will go into their bathroom and use a lightsaber on the dried toothpaste foam coating the sink top." or my favorite, "Today, #1 will want to clean/shovel her room out to make herself feel better.

But expect them to A)close the bandaid box or pick up the band aid wrappers; B)rinse their spit from the sink; C)pick up the open shampoo bottle lying on the floor or C)get more toilet paper for the next person...??? That is indeed to set oneself up for disappointment.

#2 and #3 are still small enough that I can make them clean their room. And I am so thankful to have hardwood floor, so we can sweep all the bits into a pile and sort through the dog hair and dirty socks to pick out the princess jewels and (more) Polly clothes.

Christmas is coming, so I sense more toys in the future. I've asked Mimi to take the youngers so I can rummage through their current posessions and clear out. I know we have too much stuff, and that's most of the problem. But these kids would step over me if I was spurting blood on the dining room floor, just to avoid having to help with the mess.

The rule is, if you find the cat barf, you clean the cat barf. So, the inverse is, if you do not "notice" the cat barf, Mom will eventually find it when it is dehydrated and shriveled and we've stepped over it for a week. Also, if we stuff bowls of popcorn at the back of our loft beds, Mom won't venture in this far and we can hoard it. When I do climb the bed ladders to retrieve all my kitchen ware, there are cups with home-grown yogurt going full-steam ahead and candy wrappers by the bushel.

I know they will eventually have their own domiciles and I cannot wait. Just last week, my BFF related how her oldest was complaining about his new roommates leaving the milk sitting out and all the lights on when they were gone. She was ecstatic. Then he bought some whole wheat bread, because one of his roommates said it was better for you. She jerked the cart to a halt in the store aisle and retorted, "Oh, just because I told you that for 18 years, doesn't matter?!"

Amazing how parents get smarter as kids get older...

Saturday, November 7, 2009



The "tipped" ear is actually a purposeful mark from the Feral Cat Group in our area. They catch 'em, neuter 'em and release 'em. They "tip" their left ear to mark who's been "done". Then when the Humane Society takes them in throughout whatever manner, they also know from the ear tip that that cat is already neutered. Thus, they don't have to spend a lot of time on them...which is how our barn cat "JOE" ended up being a girl! ;) Now she is Jo, as in Jo March, not Joe Hardy.

Here's Bob renamed Tony, who continues to amaze us with his fabulous personality. He has met three nutty, loud, pushy dogs and two other cats and hasn't hissed one time. He has been chased and nibbled and carried around and has yet to stop smiling. He leaps up on the bed and trots around the house looking for company. How he ever ended up in the slammer is beyond me (although he is missing the tip of one ear, which says frostbite).

Crazy...that song by Patsy Cline...that aptly describes our weather, our remodeling, our furniture arranging, the laundry and our recent trip to the Humane Society.

Uh oh, you should be saying. I know someone is going to get me that shirt that says, "one cat away from being the crazy cat lady". And I probably deserve it. I have already told Handyman that once the kids are gone, I will probably be an animal hoarder--who CLEANS the litterboxes.

Anyway, our county shelter, right next to the 4H fairgrounds where we live all summer, is a no-kill shelter. One of the few in our entire state. It was in the news all week due to being maxed out: 18 dogs in crates in the lobby, one day of 15 dogs coming in, one person bringing in 21 kittens in one day...yada yada. What is the matter with people?

Attached to our Humane Society is a LOW-COST SPAY/NEUTER CLINIC! How easy is this people? You can spay your cat for less than $30, in one day and never worry about this again, OR you can pretend you owe this little creature nothing and push your responsibilities off on the rest of us (READ TAXPAYERS), to the tune of at least $150 per animal, according to the staffer yesterday.

So, we were there to get feral cats for our barn. They would be neutered, vaccinated and microchipped and they would be free. My favorite price. I told them I wanted boys and that I knew my kids wouldn't rest until the feral cats were non-feral anymore. But, no boy cats in the feral room--would I be interested in less-social tame cats for my barn, for free?? Uh, yeah.

Then, as we waited to see the wall flowers, we gazed at the big glass-enclosed room with the sign overhead saying, "These 6 cats URGENTLY need a home", and I asked what was the story with these 6 particular cats? Well, they are the ones that are just done with the whole cage-living situation and really, really need to get out. So they get to socialize in there and jump on shelves and hang out listening to the never-ending barking going on in the lobby.

So I start reading the little personality profiles hanging there and then I get choked up thinking of Mr. Bingley, who was here when we came and how much we miss him and I say, trying not to cry, "I could probably be talked into another cat..."

And they smile and beckon me in to the little room.

Where I meet "Bob", who butts the brim of my hat with his head so hard that it almost falls off. And I say, "I'll take him too." And they gave me the free shirt that says "SOFTY".

Okay, not really. But I did bring Bob home, along with two quiet guys originally named Reebok and Thomas, now named Joe and Frank for the Hardy Boys. Joe and Frank are friendly and adjusting to life in the hayloft. They look nothing alike and I pray to heaven they like to catch mice...

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Remodeling--it's fun, exciting, expensive, and educational! We tell people all the time about the cartoon, that I carry in my daytimer AND have taped to our refrigerator--but mostly just burned into our brains--that shows Satan standing at the "doors" to the underworld. There are two choices for the poor bum waiting on the brink. One portal reads, "Burn for all eternity" and the other says, "Live in your home while you're remodeling". Satan quips, "Pretty much a toss-up, isn't it?!"

Yep. Well, I think so. As Handyman tore into the dining room wall after church, the rest of us shielded our plates from debris and I threw newspaper at #1 to tape over the heat vents in the floor--(which lead directly to our $10 million geothermal heat pump!)

#1, being a seasoned remodeling baby, went right at it, taping protection down. When it comes to heat, we women are pretty possessive and protective. We'll take every micro jule (or BTU or whatever) we can get.

I was proud of my little women. Nobody batted an eye as Daddy started yanking off planks of drywall while we ate. In fact, #1 got into it. It was a stress-reliever for her. What did surprise me (silly me), was that #3 didn't know much about how much we've done to the house that she lives in. She thought it had looked like this since we moved in!! Yikes!

Obviously, babies do not pay close attention to fiber-cement siding, custom window trim and the quality of interior doors. She did not realize that the nook used to be an outdoor deck and that the big spot of particle-board subfloor in her bedroom is where #1's closet was. She didn't know that her bedroom originally had one ridiculously small window AND a set of patio doors!

Fortunately, Handyman did insist that I make a remodeling scrapbook of this monstrosity we call home. During #3's short life, Daddy has been busy building the barn, the fence and now the treehouse, and she's seen very little work on our actual abode--a fact not lost on Handyman. I whipped out the scrapbook and showed her how the house looked when we first looked at it. In a word--ick.

I told her how we didn't move in for a month, while Daddy ripped up the original 1971 shag carpet, with the original 1971 cat pee stains. How he even ripped up the subflooring in our bedroom and we moved in with no carpet on the replacement subfloor.

I told her how that first winter, we only had the shower in the bathroom off the kitchen-the one with NO heat vent--to use. And how we took her sisters to Grandma's once a week for a bath. I showed her the pictures of the front doors, with the hideous blue siding and solid metal doors, that were the first thing to feel the crowbar when we came.

I think she was a little impressed. She quickly grew accustomed to the big orange extension cord trailing through the rooms and adapted well to the sawzall running while she played downstairs.

As I have seen time and time again, Handyman is much more organized in his processes (THANK GOD!), than I would be. I woulda cut the hole in the wall at 1pm, just to experience the thrill of light coming in, (and heat being sucked out!) But not my guy--he spent most of the day measuring and marking. Then he had to move some wiring around. Then he moved the insulation and built the header and framework, AND installed it, without touching the siding on the outside.

Then, I just happened to find a text from Hayfield Owner, from 3 days previous, asking if Handyman had gotten the window put in? And I just happened to text back that window installation was actually in progress at that very moment, if he was bored. Fortunately, Hayfield Owner was bored and he and his kids rode their bikes over, and stayed for dinner, PTL.

I'm sure if Handyman had continued on with me as the assistant, there would be a lop-sided hole in the wall, with garbage bags taped over it, while he had to go to "paying work" for four days. The window would be leaning up against the wall, with doodling on it and laundry stacked on top of it.

Handyman was able to move forward more quickly with knowledgeable, capable help and they ended up even saving the siding, to make a quick restoration of the outside. The new window went into place at about 8pm, rather than the predicted midnight. And boy was I glad there was someone besides me to stand on the scaffolding and heave it into place!

It was a little less than exciting since it was dark outside when it went in, but I think it got the remodeling bug going again in Handyman. Not that the treehouse is actually finished. There's that whole railing for the bouncy bridge, and railing for the porch side with the 14' drop. But, hey! They're kids! It's exciting for them, right?!

I would post pictures of the window, the sent-from-above helper and the Handyman in his bathrobe cutting insulation, BUT, #1 fell with my digital camera and it hasn't been happy since. So all those pictures are on this archaic device called a film camera and I'll have to drive somewhere to get them "developed".

I will leave you with a picture of the upcoming, massive project, which requires the assistance of knowledgeable people called, structural engineers! But, you can also see from this shot, what the entire house looked like, aesthetically, in the beginning. Unfortunately, you cannot see that the window trim is rotted and falling off, and the windows have lost their seals, etc. And you cannot smell the smell that sent the realtor back to her car--(it wasn't that bad.)

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We interrupt this dry saga... announce there's remodeling goin' on! But then, I guess you could say that remodeling has never stopped going on here. Why, just last month, Handyman invited the Hayfield Owner over with his tractor--that has a backhoe on it. Handyman has tractor envy. Fortunately, Hayfield Owner is a generous soul, who lives nearby, and has a bucket on the front end. Even more fortunately, Hayfield Owner is a firefighter, which means when he's not saving folks from tall buildings (in our town that would be 3 stories), he's H-O-M-E-, just itching to do something fun!

And you know, to guys fun means dirt; So last month, they dug out the old oil tank next to our front door...Handyman says that Hayfield Owner is a "surgeon" with that bucket. And for that I am thankful, since he was up-close-and-personal with the foundation of our house! Those two men were like boys in a sandpile and of course, if you're gonna dig out an old oil tank, you'll have to hoist it somewhere--so one of them hoisted the durn thing and the other one backed his dump trailer UNDER the tank, and hauled it away and stimulated our economy.

The fun just never ends here...and then WHILE YOU'RE AT IT (the most expensive words in remodeling), you might as well rip out the front sidewalk that people have been complaining about for SEVEN years...

So, we don't have a sidewalk anymore. And before we put in a new sidewalk, that pine tree might as well come down. It was planted way too close to the house and has outlived its place. But we'll need another evergreen in that spot, and soon! And we certainly should bring down that unidentified, overgrown celery near the front door. And once that is gone, those solar panels from the 70's will be way in our face, so that'll have to be dealt with. And once we don't have those things to stare at anymore, it'll become very obvious that the chimney cap is in disrepair. And once we're up on that peak, we'll really want to replace that skylight on the backside...

But for now, let's just stop here and go put a window in the dining room. Nothing like tearing out drywall after church...

more pics to come!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hay Day!

The day came, bright and sunny. The tractor was already working its way around the field when I got the call from Field Owner. My excitement at finally seeing bales was "dampened" by the color of bales. It was a little sad to see what had been a glorious green field, packaged up into brown bales. The brown-ness was only on the top layer; as the hay was lifted into the baler, you could see green underneath. And I began to be more confident that the Hay Guy had done the right thing, letting it lay in place to dry.

Although Neighbor Rob was worried that it was still dampish...but his worries were for naught. Hay Guy's plan saved what could have been a complete debacle and earned my everlasting loyalty. (He later told the field owner that had I not called him all the time, he might have blown off the job altogether! Score one for tenacity.)

Neighbor Rob owns a couple of older hay wagons and we asked if we could hitch one onto the tractor/baler combo. Hay Guy didn't want to wait for us to get back with the wagon, but we assured him he could keep going.

At this point, Handyman was about 15 miles away putting in a window with my dad. I was feeling overly conscientious about having men putting up my hay, who had no vested interest in it, i.e. the gracious Field Owner who owns not one horse. He had already given me the field, for free. It was hay he could have made money on, but gave it to me as a thanks for driving his "punkins" to Awana last year. No big deal to me, at all.

And now there he was, putting up hay for the first time ever, while I'm burning up the cel phone to Handyman saying, "Are you comin?! Are you done yet?!" Now Handyman is not one to be budged, especially when a job is coming to its rightful completion. So we continued on.

I had offered some of the hay to another neighbor across the street from me, since they had graciously hauled Reno home two summers ago, for free. Reno, the free 24 year-old horse, had refused to get into the first trailer I "borrowed" and I had called them, on the verge of desperation, since they had a stock-type trailer, thinking he might consider that bigger. I was right. And I wanted to pay them back in some way.

So they came with their old tractor and wagon and kids on the back. It made for quite a little traveling party as we all circled the field. Field Owner was meeting new neighbors and experiencing what he'd missed in his cushy-suburban youth. Handyman did show up in time to pitch-in, and #1 got to drive our SUV pulling a trailer around the field. The highlight of her summer. She took her responsibility very seriously. And I was too busy to shoot even one picture! So bummed. It was such a pleasant afternoon.

At the end, there was 297 bales. Not bad for a 2+ acre field. We are so fortunate to have another neighbor with an elevator, free for the borrowing. But first Handyman headed over to Neighbor Rob's to help throw 95 bales up into his loft. The elevator doesn't fit there, as he has a lower slope and lower loft floor, so it was hand tossing, just to keep the old pecs in shape.

Then we loaded the elevator out of the neighbor's loft, hauled it home, set it up and Neighbor Rob's wife, Chris, my dad and I were on the receiving end of 75 more bales. It's always rewarding to labor, and it's so much more fun with friends.

My mom had made a big pot of spaghetti for everyone, but we were all in and separated by the end of the evening. Field Owner ate with us, at 9pm, but it wasn't quite the party I had envisioned.

Second cutting, here we come. In the Hay Maven's world, it ain't over yet!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hay There!

And the rain came pouring down...on my freshly cut field of overgrown, stemmy, hay. The best laid plans of mavens came crashing down. The feed store owner, who I had clung to for reassurance through the rains of June, told me to just stop worrying about. There was nothing to be done.

And he didn't say this, but having been through the year that I've been through, I was able to keep in mind: 1) Worry is sin--it truly is. It is saying that your plans are better than God's and He'd better get things straightened out to please Me; and 2)There are way bigger fish to fry than a little field of hay. We paid $6/bale a couple winters ago and we made it, so all things considered, this was a hemorrhoid, not a crisis.

Being the complete hay ignoramus that I am/was, I called Hay Guy to ask about whether he was going to flip it over to dry it. (There are all kinds of pieces of mystery equipment with wheels going every which way that can flip the furrow of hay over 180 degrees and put it back down in place.) That seemed like what we should do, but Hay Guy said no, he wasn't going to touch it for a couple of days, that raking or flipping or spreading it back out or whatever would simply knock all the leaves off of it and he wanted to "leave" it sit and dry.

(Another lesson I learned this past year: It's okay to just accept your circumstance and do the best with what you are actually in control of--and not try to manipulate.) So, I watched and waited and drove by the field, watching the lovely hay turn a glorious shade of drab brown with whisks of gold--great for straw, painful for hay.

And then, there he was, a tractor out of the mist...since the field is around the corner from me, I never even see what direction the Guy rolls in from or how he gets there. He's there, he waves and has hay crumbs stuck all over him.

In the interim, I am trying to arrange how we are going to pick up all this stuff and what we're going to carry it on and where we are going to put it. You can leave the bales lay in the field overnight if you have to, but there is definitely a theft possibility (especially two years ago when hay was going for $25/bale in CA and FL). Also there's the dew factor, so the best plan is to get it picked up immediately.

I talked on the phone so much that week, my cel phone battery would get hot. It was ridiculous and all my calls were to men. The Hay Guy, Handyman, the Field Owner, Neighbor Rob. Bunch of men on speed dial--who wouldn't love it?!

I remembered when I was in 8th grade and we had moved to the boonies, so I could have a horse. I begged my mom to let me join the boys 4H club. Because girls were snotty and prissy and I didn't fit in. But boys, boys just want to goof around and they'll take ya. What you see is what you get. If they don't like you, you'll know it and you can move on.

But girls, girls are awash in false impressions and facades. You're never quite sure if you're standing on solid ground or about to have the rug yanked out from under you...all this to say, it was a little fun, I love to arrange things. I especially love to arrange things when things work out. All the convolutions are worth it, when the pieces come together.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Here we go again...

Summer has wound down, against my will. I even became a morning person this summer, hoping to get some extra credit, but no--the evenings are creeping in earlier and earlier. I think I wore socks to bed last night--that's a sure sign.

We had several weeks of dry, beautiful weather, that provided a glorious ending to my first summer as a hay maven. What is a hay maven, you may wonder? It is an extremely stressful position wherein you have access to a wonderful field of hay, thus providing winter fodder for your large lawn ornaments.

The trick is, you own no hay equipment. So, you have to find someone who will bale a small field--which is a detriment, the smallness. So you have to find someone who is willing to come to your little field to cut the hay, rake the hay and bale the hay, while the sun shines. And it will never be a set-in-stone appointed date because the ultimate decider of hay cutting, is Mother Nature! (Cue lightning.)

I began my summer as a hay maven with high hopes and my eternally willing-to-learn attitude. When I requested the option on said field, I was planning on splitting the spoils with my neighbor/friends Rob and Chris, who had hay equipment. When I got the option on the field, I found out that Rob and Chris had sold their hay equipment. Oops.

So, the learning process began. The first hay guy (not really sure of the correct title here), wanted $3.25/bale, laying in the field (this means I have to do the labor of picking up the bales and loading them on a trailer), OR he wanted 2/3 of the hay and no charge per bale. That seemed kinda high for me, so I approached my local feed store owner, (not the chain store). The local store owner also happened to have two ladies selling horse feed standing there when I came in. They all gave their opinions, agreeing with me that that was too high of a price and encouraging me to ask for a better deal. They said surely he would be willing to work with me on this...

I made Handyman make the call to the Hay Guy and request a deal change. I am such a weenie. The call lasts all of twenty seconds and Handyman reports that the guy said he wasn't interested in either splitting it 60/40 or 50/50 and there was no offer to change the price. Deal's off. Back to square one...

So, my stomach produces large quantities of acid and I start looking up weather predicting websites. I called a local farm co-op, in the smallest town nearby and asked for a referral for a "hay guy". The first name they gave me, I called. He seemed nice enough and seemed knowledgeable, and told me that at some point, I'd be mad at him. That's just how hay goes. I told him we were hardworking, honest people who just didn't want to be taken advantage of. He told me to watch for the bloom on my alfalfa and call him when I wanted him to cut it.

Then the roller coaster left the building. That was in early June. About the second week of June the alfalfa started blooming and I became a weather aficionado. I stayed up late to watch the weather every night and it rained, regularly. There was a name for this particular type of weather. I think it is "monsoon".

June started tapering off, the hay was as tall as an elephant's eye and still the rain would not stop. There was a four-day window of sunshine coming and the Hay Guy asked if I wanted him to cut it. I checked all twelve weather websites and they said it was going to rain on Thursday night. So on a very sunny Monday, I told him no, don't cut. It's going to rain on Thursday night.

On Tuesday, it was beautiful. But the weather man, woman and websites said it was going to rain on Thursday night. On Wednesday, it was warm and sunny, but the weather divas all warned of the rain on Thursday night.

Teachable moment: Once the hay is cut, it lays in the field for several days to dry, depending on the weather. It cannot be baled when wet or it will mold and all your money will end up on the burn pile, literally. We were having really cool nights in June, so our mornings had really heavy dew, which means more days to dry. More moisture means nutrition is leached out of the hay each time it is damp and then dries.

On Thursday night, I watched the late news and they said it was going to rain, THAT night. It did not.

My stomach began this little motion not unlike my washer on the spin cycle. It was now Friday and the weatherman said it was going to rain on Sunday. So I told the Hay Guy, don't cut it today either, because it's going to rain on Sunday.

Saturday was picture-perfect, but I knew it was going to rain on Sunday night.
I watched the news on Sunday, and they said it was going to rain that night. It did not.

By now, I was hyperventilating. The hay was almost taller than me. Everyone who lived nearby commented on "how tall the hay is". I demonstrated for my children, how you can keep yourself from smacking people when you really, really want to.

On Monday, I told the Hay Guy to cut it--I can't take it anymore. But, he can't. Seems he was cutting someone else's field, next to an area of home building and someone had thrown a 6x6 post into the hay field early in the year. He hit it with his mower and it would take two days to repair. He'd try to get to my on Wednesday.

On Wednesday his son had a motorcycle accident and broke his collarbone. (Dumb kid! What's he thinking?? Doesn't he know what I've got on the line?!) So his biggest helper is out of the picture. He'll try to get to me on Friday.

On Friday, he cuts the hay! It is an amazing, wonderful feeling. I want to run through the field, in slow motion of course, leaping and smiling. The day is July 3. The hay coulda/shoulda been cut weeks before, but we were 8 inches over in precip for the month of June!! On Saturday, the fourth of July, it rains for the entire day.

My hay, stemmy and long, is lying in the field for about 8 straight hours of steady downpour. I am lying facedown on my bed, muttering. There is nothing I can do...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Foodies, Take Note

My friend Needa has FINALLY started a food blog. Needa's prowess as a cook is in a stratosphere all its own. Let's just say that when we did 30 Day Gourmet, I was the head dishwasher, okay.

After begging and pleading for months and months, she has finally agreed to put some of her best stuff on the RUN to her new blog, The Four Sales Eat, and partake. You won't be sorry!

And ask her about her chicken pot pie recipe, or her chicken sausage recipe, or her enchilada recipe, or her peanut sesame noodles, or her son's boy scout cake, or her State Fair winning chicken fingers, or

Friday, July 17, 2009


Pencil drawing: red ribbon--glad to get something, actually.
Water color: Blue honor group!
Charcoal portrait: Blue honor group, reserve champion!

Dog Obedience: big beginner dog, blue ribbon
Little, experienced dog, blue honor group, champion in his division

Dog Agility: big beginner dog, red ribbon and red ribbon (after slipping free of the collar and gamboling around the ring until Mom had to enter the ring to tempt dog to stop humiliation of #2.)
Little, experienced dog, blue honor group, reserve champion in standard agility and GRAND CHAMPION overall of his agility division, AGAIN. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah-oh yeah-oh yeah!

:) Off to sell snow cones and cotton candy!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

'Tis the Season

...for the 4H Fair! Wooo hooo! We entered fine art this year, which is really, really appropriate for us, since our entire house is papered with home-grown, fine art. Really. I finally convinced them that some of this needed to be displayed elsewhere. Last summer I walked them through the display hall saying, "See, you can do this. Yours is this good--you need to enter." I'm such a non-competitive, easy-going mom.

So when #1 exited her school building this spring with a spectacular 20x20 charcoal portrait, as soon as I could lift my jaw out of my lap I said, "There's your 4H fair exhibit!" It is a great, great picture.

Well, #2 is no slacker in the art department. She has a big fat notebook full of fashion drawings, no joke. This girl is Vera Wang in saddle shoes. So she draws a really sweet pencil drawing--on copy paper. Wouldn't have been my first choice, but she did it without my input and it's done. So, I head off to Michael's to find a frame for it. Fortunately she left a lot of blank space at the bottom, so I could trim it to fit an 8x10 frame. (Didn't know there was an aisle with 8.5x11" document frames--that comes later.)

So I trim the picture and we get it into Frame #1 (this will be important). The 4H handbook says all frames must have wire to hang them. But since I just give the book the cursory one-sweeping glance, I fail to note that the wire has to be screwed into the frame itself. This becomes critical...

My 85 year old grandma is here to visit and watch the dog shows. I don't talk to her much because she is always bent over sweeping up dog hair or loading the dishwasher...poor woman. She babysits, cleans up, teaches embroidery and expresses great interest in trampolining, garden beetles, chicken activity and evening foot scrubbing.

So, I load up 5 children (babysitting for the fireman down the street who lost his wife last year to BC). So I have them for 24 hrs. every third day. Sweet little boy and girl, between #2 and #3. We're all in the car, except Grandma, who is sweeping up dog hair. (I'm thinking she's looking forward to 1 hour of silence as we go to fairgrounds to drop off art.) #1 is in front seat putting wire on brackets of #2's picture frame.

#1 pulls just the wrong way on the wire of the frame and breaks glass as I am climbing into car with five children and two large framed artworks. (#1 did a watercolor at a class at the library as well as the charcoal.)

No problem! We can just hit Michael's on our way to 4H fairgrounds. We must be there by 7 pm to drop off and it's only 5 pm. So off we go. #1 stays in car with #3 and NB (neighbor boy), while I go in with #2 and NG (neighbor girl). I now find the aisle with the document frames (wouldn't have had to cut picture!!), which I now buy. #2 and NG convince me to buy $1 calendars for them all to color while we are driving...

Back into the car, #1 goes at the framing thing with vigor (a little less vigor perhaps, to protect glass in frame #2). Frame #2 is a document frame, MADE FOR 8.5x11, so now the picture has been trimmed a little too much. TOO BAD! It's going in. White space be darned!

Off we go. We arrive at the fairgrounds with the approximately 200,000 other county residents who are hauling in artwork, furniture, and any other non-living project you can imagine. I bring my five little chicks in with me and we proceed to fill out our little cards (Mom, how do you spell charcoal?)

4H Fine Art Steward approachs us almost immediately to let us know that our wire hangars are not correct on two of the three projects. Thankfully, they have provided a table with screw-eyes, wire and tools to correct such malformaties as must be pretty prevalent, since there is a waiting line for the work table.

#1 gets her watercolor frame re-rigged quickly. That girl is handy. Then we go to work on Frame #2 while the other chicks hit the water fountain. (Stay together little chicks. Don't hang on the ropes that divide the lines little chicks. Stand still you little cretins!)

We realize that Frame #2 is not made of wood. It's not even made of a natural material, unless compressed cardboard counts as a natural material. Our fingers begin to show the strain of twisting little bitty screw-eyes...we give up and whine for special treatment.

We are taken to the Matron of Fine Art, who shows a teensy bit of leniency in allowing us some extra time TO GO TO WAL-MART AND GET ANOTHER FRAME! She said it--GO TO WAL-MART AND GET A WOOD FRAME.

Little chicks, get your little hineys back in the car, no you cannot go through the tents, no you cannot have a snack, put your eyes on those calendars!!! True, Wal-mart is just around the corner, but it's Super Walmart, so that means the parking lot is akin to Disney World and I'll need a map to find picture frames.

This time I take #3 (the loose cannon with a piercing whine) with me and everyone else stays with #1 in the car. What would I do without #1??? We find the picture frames and I pick one that says in bold letters "Solid Wood". But we're in Wal-mart for cryin' out loud. What are the odds that I will leave with one, singular item in my hand???

We pass the back-to-school displays and there are crayons for 20 cents--now can anyone pass that up?! And they go with the $1 calendars I bought at Michaels, right? And we're trapped in the car for another drive--I wonder if Dave Ramsey sees it this way?? So four boxes of crayons go into the bag, forgive me #1, and we're off.

Back to the fairgrounds. The entire tribe piles out and I hand them off to #1 to take through all the empty fairground tents, while I head back to the dungeon, I mean fine art area to begin my labor for Rumplestiltskin...did I mention how helpful #1 is?

Back to the table, it is now 6:30. There are a paltry few little screw eyes left and still the parents surround the table, twisting and hammering. I begin on frame #3 in earnest and believing that since I am lawfully joined to the handiest man on the planet, this should be a breeze. After all, my proximity to him for almost two decades should have rubbed off a little.

Sure enough, the first screw eye is seated in a reasonable amount of time, what with having to share the one little hammer with three other sets of parents, on a plastic banquet table. I did take the precaution of removing the glass and the picture from the frame while I droned away.

Screw-eye #2 was not to be done. Indeed, I did not see one shred of evidence that frame #3 was made of anything different from frame #2 once we delved beneath the still looked like powdered something or other. I fussed. I spun the frame around the eye. I tapped the eye with the hammer. I pressed and turned and spat. Well, not really.

Finally, some kind soul at the other end of the table took pity on me--it must've been my hair--and came to my rescue. And she did use a teeny, weeny nail to make a starter hole for the stupid screw eye. (Handyman would have thought of this.) Let me say that the nail was so teeny that I had to hold it with needle-nose pliers while the other lady whacked at it. I kept expecting the glass to somehow slide off the table to the floor, but it held. And suddenly, she was finished. She did it.

Then I realized there was no wire left on the table, so I dispatched #2 (who had by this time come in to check on me) back to the car to retrieve the wire off frame #2. She returned with a wire barely long enough to make, but there was no stopping me now. I pulled the wire through and put those needle-nose pliers back to work pinching the wire around itself to close it.

Meanwhile, Frau Blucher the steward (not really--she was extremely patient and helpful), was bringing in some coated fence wire from her truck (I am not kidding about this) for the parents who were still there trying to get little Suzie's pictures corrected appointed.

Let me summarize: At this point I have paid about $20 to frame a pencil drawing on copy paper. This is one expensive little ribbon--she'd better win.

On to the dog show--bring your own baggies!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Here's the story,
of a short-haired lady;
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls.
All of them had longer hair,
than their mother.
The youngest one in curls.

Here's the story of guy who's handy.
Who had bitten off way more than he could chew.
There was no rest, from such a burden
He had all he could do.

Till the one day when they lady told this fellow,
that she knew that it was much more than hunch,
that if her stall mats
were not put in soon,
his new chainsaw might meet the treehouse with a crunch!

I know the pentameter is a little off, but it's early and I spent two hours waiting for the tow truck to come pick up my rental van, that I got because the lunatic on the cell phone hit my truck when I was coming home from vacation--oh, and my better half was on his way to Wisconsin. Thankfully, I have a spare truck at home and we had a lot of library books.

I have spent the last two months not blogging, but digging. I have planted 4,735 daylilies, gifted from a gifted-gardener friend. So now, I have flowers blooming out the ying-yang, and it's great! I'll try to post some pictures later...

We have also gained a dog and lost a cat...(tears and sadness). Little Darcy is gone from us. I cannot help but suspect the nefarious coyote or fox, although she was not a wanderer. It could have even been a racoon. Darcy was a great climber, loving to get on our giant roof. But a racoon could certainly have followed her. She would not be kept in either. She wanted outside in a bad way, but would come in in the evening when we called.

Our new dog is a smooth-collie. If you google tri-color smooth collie, you'll see a picture that looks just like her. Great dog, more to come on this.

I also promise to post my cousin's recipe for butterfinger dessert--yikes!

The hair report: I have more hair than my dad, but less than my husband. And no weird color change--so disappointing to my girls.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Conversations heard around Netherfield...

With #3 (age 5.5):

#3: Mom, you won't be sad at all when I grow up because you can carry my babies, huh?
Me: That's right. I'll carry your babies.
#3: And they'll be so pretty...
Me: What if they're boys?
#3: That'll be okay, won't it?
Me: Sure, that'll be fine.
#3: How will we know?
Me: If they're boys?
#3: Yeah.
Me: We'll know by looking at them. You can tell right away. Boys have boy parts and girls have girl parts.
#3: What's different?
Me: Different tinklers. You know that.
#3: Oh, I can just look at Reno to see it.
Me: Right. :)

With Handyman:

Me: Did you see the pictures of Chris Evert caddying for Greg Norman?
HM: No.
Me: They're married, you know.
HM: No.
Me: Yeah. They got married about nine months ago.
HM: Chris Evert?
Me: Yeah.
HM: Really?
Me: Yeah. He divorced his wife to marry her and gave his wife a settlement of like $100 million dollars.
HM: Have you seen the pictures of his yacht?
Me: Yeah.
HM: I'd marry him.

P.S. No red bud blooms.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz...

I wonder where my redbud is?

We have a retarded redbud. I'm not really even convinced that it is a redbud. My awesome dad showed up with it a couple of years ago. He knows Handyman loves Redbuds. And he brought a nice little one out of his tree line. We planted it right by the curve of our driveway, sheltered, but where we would see it often.

I swear it's just a wild cherry. Nary a bud. The forsythia is coming on. The lilacs are leafing out. The daylilies are well on their way. The clematis is coming. The rhubarb is making a big showing. But the "redbud"? Nuttin.


On another note, I took a bad step backing down the hayloft ladder on Friday afternoon. Handyman built me this wonderful ladder, that I have been up and down--on average--about 4x/day for the past year and a half. Not one problem. It has a terrific slant, with wide treads. I can almost run up it. I carry the hay in my right hand on the way down. Can do it in my sleep. Except for Friday.

I knew my right, descending foot had missed the step completely. I was turned a little toward the right, looking toward the horses. When my right foot missed, for a second I thought about not wanting to hit my body or face on the ladder as I fell, so I must have spun a little to the right and pushed off with my left foot to clear the ladder.

I landed on my left foot, with that leg completely straight, into the gravel. The right leg went forward, heel first, digging a trench in the gravel. And then I was sitting on my butt. But, I know that my whole body weight landed on that left foot. I'm not sure which step I was on, but I fell far enough that it spooked both horses to run out of the barn, even though they knew lunch was coming down with me.

I felt kinda sick for a moment, thinking if I had broken my leg, what a mess we'd be in. Handyman was up at the house, with my dad and our neighbor the fireman. I had no phone with me. I did the horseman's routine assessment before moving and my Princess Tashi came dashing in the door to me. She had hesitated on the barn porch looking in, knowing that I should not be in that position. She knew something was up and was relieved that I called her to me. Although she didn't pick up on the "go tell Dad that Mom's been hurt" when I asked her to.

I stood up and knew nothing was broken, PTL, PTL. I limped back to the house but didn't want set off any alarms with company. But, it's definitely stoved and sprained. There is no bruising anywhere and no localized pain. But, interestingly, my calf muscle is VERY sore and it is swollen compared to my other leg. It doesn't hurt to put weight on it but both my knee and my ankle are tender, and only work in the straight forward position.

I slept with a heating pad last night, moving it to different places up and down my leg and that helped a lot. I feel confident that nothing is busted and once again, I am thankful for mercy. I think the Lord just wanted me to know how fast anything can change and how fragile we all are. I am glad of another opportunity to rely on the Lord, always, throughout my day and appreciate the amazing engineering He has put in our bodies.

Our church recently finished a series on the book of Job. I can't tell you how worthwhile and uplifting it was. And I was not looking forward to it. Here's a link to the first message in the series. Here's a link to the Sermon directory if you want to read/hear the rest of the series. The first week was January 11, 2009 and it was a 7-message series, if you're interested. You can read the text, download to an MP3 or just listen online. Because, it's not WHETHER you will have suffering in your life, but WHEN. We all need to be prepared.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Need a smile??

Your cheeks will get their workout after you visit Joan's blog post> I can't stop looking at it--

Handyman thinks he wants one, or two. Their poop doesn't require muck tubs or wagons. Hmmmmmmmmm....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

This has never happened to me before...

All my children are taking naps and so is my husband. There is a sinister reason for this...THEY ALL HAVE STREP THROAT! Well, except for Handyman, who is sleeping with Lysol in a holster on his side. He has three night shoots coming up.

My children have never had strep throat and they've never all been sick with something all at the same time. As a matter of fact, my children are hardly ever sick. In fact, #3 has never had a sick office call to the doctor, in her entire life.

I guess this is part of what you get when you send your child to public school.

#1 came home on Thursday, feeling rotten and tired. I let her stay home on Friday, even though she had a social studies test, and she continued to have on-and-off fever throughout the day. Meanwhile #3 had two playdates on Friday, both of them here. #2 went and spent the day at a friend's house, hitching a ride with Playdate #2's mom, in her van--with her 3 other kids.

Then last night, as #3 was getting ready to leave and spend the night with my parents, who had the flu last week, #2 was being dropped off by the family she'd been visiting ALL DAY. That mom is a nurse, and suggested that #1 might go for a strep test today.

Did I mention that #1 was supposed to be at the living history museum today for returning interpreter day? She went to Minute Clinic instead. But before we could get that accomplished, #2 came upstairs with a fever at 7am. (She's the one who rode in the van with 3 other children and then spent the day with 4 other children.) She missed the playdate scheduled for today. (We homeschoolers have trouble with socialization.)

So #1 is positive and #2 should go get tested tomorrow. Oh, and my parents thought #3 was cranky this morning because "she didn't go to bed until 10 last night." I'm thinking--#3 has been up until 10 MANY times before. Mom and Dad put her down for a nap. #3 hasn't had a nap for, oh, 3.5 years! (That's what happens when your sisters are home with you all day.)

Then at 2 pm, Mom and Dad call to say that #3 has a fever of 102. (No wonder she's cranky.)

To be fair, #1 could easily have gotten this at Awana. She leads a table of snotty little Kindergarteners. It's possible. In the meantime, I've got to go fumigate the bathroom and all the phones and doorknobs and car door handles. No rest for the wicked, I mean, well.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Well, after perusing my picture files for something springy--as I am SICK AND TIRED of looking at that snow picture--I see that I do not take nearly enough pictures of spring or summer around here and far too few of the dogs. I have been enjoying reading corgi posts on another great blog, and now believe that I have shorted my pooches of their rightful place in blogdom. I spend far too much type on horses, when I spend far more time with dogs. They never waver in their positive spirit and never fail to lift me with their smiling faces and joie d'vivre (or however that's spelled.)

These two dogs are my faithful companions. Never complaining about what they're getting fed or leaving wet towels on the bathroom or wood floors. They don't create laundry. They don't eat candy in their beds or leave socks in every room in the house. They don't make popcorn and leave the oil opened on the counter. They don't spill milk and they don't moan when it is time to get out of bed. Quite possibly the perfect household companion.

If only I could teach them to unload the dishwasher.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spring must be coming...

UPDATE: Red-wing blackbird on my front walk today!! They are one of the first nester's to return in the spring! I saw robins awhile back, but many of them do not migrate--so this is a definite!! Just like all the buds the deer have eaten off my tulip poplars...

Reno has started shedding. I remember he did this last February too. I was shocked at how early it started. But I suppose when one's hair is 3" long, one must use the time wisely. This must be the reason he rolls in mud everyday. I dutifully use my old pin hairbrush to break up the solid masses of mud caked on top of his back. Much of it ends up in my mouth, no matter how hard I try. I dig and rake and spit. And the next day, it's the same. On the same side. Even as far as his cheek. I do not brush his cheek while he is eating or three pounds of dust falls into his bowl. When I am "done" (a relative term), I see a silhouette of dust outlining us on the ground.

Yesterday was warm and sunny--my favorite combination. So I did what all spring-lovers do--I emptied the horse water tank, scrubbed it and refilled it. Here's the "plug" that comes with the tank heater. Plastic (read fragile), and tough to get at. Also, recently tightened by Handyman (read impossibly tight for female hands.) How do you get at that thing?!

Enter my new favorite tool:(besides my Muck brand boots and my 20-year old ATV. And the lids that snap on my 5-gallon buckets. And my dog that cleans the kitchen floor for me.)

What do you do with that thing--you ask??

Open says-a-me! Voila! Ah, there's nothing more cheery than 15 gallons of COLD water filled with 4 months of hay detrius, horse spittle, old leaves and some vile form of algae that can grow in antarctic conditions. My assistant for the day was PRINCESS--the large pony who thinks she's a dog.

She did the requisite shove against my bum while I was leaning over a tipped-up tank, almost sending me headfirst into the fence and muck that was pouring out. Then there was the lipping of the sleeve. The request for carrots and the sniffing of the empty tank. She is such a charmer. But what a gut! This gal has bellied up to the hay bar a little too often. I don't think there's a wii fit board that'll work for her.

When I brought out the clean water, she was all about sipping each dose as it was added. Handyman needs to do a little adjustment on that fence section behind the tank. The bottom plank is too high to set the bucket on unless I want to pour it down the waistband of my pants. The top plank is literally 1/2" too close to pour the bucket between the planks. So it works out like this. Open the bucket on the ground. Lift carefully to waist height and pour 1/2 between the planks. Then tell Princess to get her big mug out of the tank or be doused. Then lift the bucket to chest height and pour over the top of the entire fence. Now do this eight more times!

Gives the old reconstruction a workout! Everything held--don't worry! ;)

And the better news: My handy-dandy tool has a little brother:

Then again, it might make a terrific crop!

I wanted to get this task out of the way because there is rain forecast for today and tomorrow and then snow for the weekend. If the tank's going to refill on its own, thanks to Handyman's ingenuity, I wanted it to be clean. Princess gave her opinion on the clean water with a happy lip curl--"Weird Mom! It doesn't taste like fermented hay anymore?!"

Today's job--empty muck tubs and clean barn. Did I mention there was another barn "invasion" this week. This time it was #2 who left the people door open. When we drove in, I could see the big guy in the barn aisle. When we got there, he was wedged between the hayloft ladder and the people door (blocked by #1), with the worktable immediately to his left. The saint let me squeeze by him and unlock the big sliding door. He wasn't sure about jumping out, but gave it a shot and thought it was so fun, he bucked too on his way by. I love that horse!

There had been an open bale of hay on the 2' high stack of rubber mats. The bale was, of course, scattered all around the pile of mats. And there were two piles of poop on the mats! I wish I had a camera going in there; watching them standing on the mats like circus ponies. I guess I need to start showing in trail classes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A three-hour tour...

Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea put in just south of the driveway.
As they head for the rapids, a friendly Mandan watches...
...and helps them over a shallows.
They turn east at the juncture with the overflowing creek.
and approach the notorious poultry penitentiary, nearly submerged.
Passing between the garden plot, piled high with "horse product" and the chicken "pen", they continue eastward, toward the "fort".
A friendly "native" joins the little band.
Another low spot. Lewis has to drag the dugout.
View from the fort.
Approaching Trail's End.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Clowns, comedy, kids, crazy horses, mud

Aren't these cute? We had the largest snowfall in about a decade--or these girls' lifetimes--a few weeks ago and this is what resulted. Now, while you're oohing and aahing, I just want to say that those eyes are not coal. We don't have any coal laying around up here. But we do have thousands and thousands of frozen, dark blobs dotting our landscape. Well, various, selected parts of our landscape. Including the garden area just beyond where these were taken. It all originated with one of my many horse catalogs. There was a t-shirt with a little boy building a snowman, and standing off to the side was a cartoon horse saying, "Hey! Little boy! Those aren't lumps of coal." Need I say more...

Yesterday, #3 was practicing her phonics/reading with some cards with three-letter words. One card had the word "wax". She dutifully sounded it out and said the word. I was duly impressed as this is not a common word for a child. She was excited by me and yelled, "Like earwax!" with a big grin. Yeah, like earwax. Ewww.

Although the beautiful snow is now gone, leaving lots of mud in its wake, I did turn out horses a couple days ago, when the ground was just starting to go soft. Unfortunately, I left the "people door" open on the north side of the barn. I had tossed out some hay and begged the horses not to run around wildly and they had agreed. When Handyman drove out for his daily sabbatical to Menards, he saw no horses. Upon investigation, he found two horses INSIDE the barn, pooping in the gravel, carefully avoiding the workbench in the center of the aisle, but dragging their blankets onto the ground and making complete nuisances of themselves.

Now I expect this from Princess--the large pony who believes she is a dog--but not from Reno. Reno is 25 years old, 16 hands and 1200 lbs. To get into the barn, he had to climb up two rather small steps (the top step being less than 24" across), squeeze through a three-foot door and navigate around a table on sawhorses, a stack of barn siding and a stack of rubber mats. He is also completely besotted by the large pony and cannot bear to be out of her sight. He was willing to risk all for love...

Of course, when Handyman arrived, even as he headed for the large sliding door to send them packing, the guilt hit with a vengance and they weren't going to wait for a horse-sized escape. They whirled and headed again for the people door where they both leapt out beyond the steps and proceeded to run hysterically pell-mell around the field. I, of course, received the chastising phone call for leaving the door open, along with threats of spanking.

Needless to say, when I went out later to feed, the field around the barn and beyond looks like a meteor shower happened, with horse divots EVERYWHERE. So much for maintaining grass. I guess the vitamin supplements are doing their job.

This was just too cute to leave out...

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's over, it's over, it's oh-oh-over!

Yeehaa! Today it will climb over the 22 degree mark and not be back for at least four days! Yeah! The snow on the barn roof will melt into the water tank. The horse doots will thaw enough to be picked up without the fork splaying into useless forms! The chicken heat lamp will be turned off and the chickens will get to enjoy darkness while they sleep for the first time in two weeks. I will begin paying down my electric bill--if ANY money arrives in my mail box. The horses will not have frost on their whiskers and ears. I will be able to feel my pinkies and not have to chop ice every morning. I will be able to wash my fleece-lined jeans (both pairs), that now stand in the corner at night, and the frozen snot on the backs of the thumbs on my gloves will now thaw and have to be washed out. Ewwwwwwwwww.

MOM ALERT: Here's a great website when looking for good reading material:

Teen Lit Review: Real reviews for the Christian Parent

I love it already!

Saturday, January 31, 2009


This is just to remind me that I don't live on Hoth.

It's so cold and has been for so long that today's high of 22 with sunshine made me feel happy enough to go to the barn sans hat! I got a giant bag of frozen carrots in the garage to give Reno hope for spring. He can smell 'em a mile off. In fact, I had put two little carrot stumps into my coat pocket several days ago and forgotten them and when I was putting on his blanket the other night, he started backing away from me as I was trying to buckle the front. He never does that and he was not stopping and then I remembered, or thought I remembered that there might be some carrot stumps--He knew it! He smelled those old wilty things and wasn't taking no for an answer. Good thing I found them or I could have become the victim of a stall rage incident.

Today, I whipped off the horse blankets and shoveled that water tank full of snow (turning on the heater, of course). The poop is still frozen solid and the hay supply is dwindling, but I saw a huge flock of robins near the henhouse and I am thinking we're about to turn the corner. Well, except for that entire month of February. The dark doldrums lie just ahead...after the Cardinals kick some serious steel batootey tomorrow!! Gotta go make some chili, make some velveeta rotel dip and start on my taxes...

I've got my Gurney's catalog laying on the dining room table and I am still trying to figure out why we live this far north. We're lovin' Netflix here in the sticks, although I miss the librarians, a little. We've watched Tropic Thunder, The Mummy--Curse of the Dragon Emporer, Becoming Jane, Dark Knight (not me), IronMan (not me) and tonight, Mad Hot Ballroom (it's about middle schoolers.)

Time for dog dinner!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How cold is it?

I hate the cold. I really hate the cold. There hasn't been much wind and we're way behind on the snowfall; but I really hate being cold. Thank goodness my MIL bought me the second pair of fleece-lined jeans or I'd still be wearing the pair I put on in November. Once they're on, I can't bear to part with them. I am a poster child for effective winter gear. I was selling fleece-lined jeans to some lady at my chemo treatment six weeks ago! I have cuddle-duds. I have Muck brand boots. I have a down-filled coat from LL Bean that MIL gave me before I got married (!!), that I still wear when it is colder than all get out. It's the best. I have smart wool socks. I have these fleecey pajamas that actually make me almost too warm. I have a bed heater. The only thing I don't have is a butt-warmer in my car. Handyman got used to one in a truck he uses on occasion and I think we'll be having one in our next truck, whenever it comes.

In fact, Handyman appears to be weakening on the whole seasonal-demeanor issue. He seems to be suffering this year more than ever. I never noticed it too much. It was always me whining and complaining. He is the one who taught me about great outdoor gear. He made sure I acquired all the right stuff. I made sure we got a good bed warmer. But this year he has been whiney and slow to get outside. I may be making headway with the whole "let's retire further to the south" thing.

But back to the headline--how cold is it? It's so cold that I bedded my stalls with straw last week. Seeings how I have next-to-no sawdust left and it was going to be -15 overnight, I felt they had to have something more than their blankets between them and the ground, so I used a couple bales of free straw that came home from a shoot. Looks great, makes a big mess to clean up.

It's so cold that Handyman broke three muck tubs trying to empty them. This brought on the "don't fill tubs with wet sawdust when it's zero degrees outside" lecture. Also noted that the $17 muck tubs from Tractor Supply did not break. Only the $6 from Menards. (Note to self.)

It's so cold that my plastic muck fork doesn't really cut it since the piles are rock hard. So, the effective method is pick them hand. Grab one dooper with your (gloved) hand and the whole pile comes with.

It's so cold that Reno had frost forming on his ear hair. It's so cold that the snow on the barn roof won't melt so we had to haul water twice last week. It's so cold that the heat lamp has been running in the chicken house 24/7 for more than four days.

It's so cold that my million-dollar geothermal furnace has been running on "auxiliary" (read BIG BUCKS) power for four days plus. It's so cold that all my gloves have frozen snot on the back of all the thumbs.

It's so cold that we're burning through the hay and will be needing to get more--of course. Of course the RCI vacation guide came in the mail this week...wonder how much a horse-sitter charges for January, if I provide all the polar fleece you can wear?

Dear Old Dad had to haul water for me yesterday and today he is bringing SAWDUST! I can't remember the last load of sawdust we got! Unfortunately that means I have to remove all the sodden straw that I had to use this past out to the barn I go to muck, on this one glorious day of temps above 35--it's a divine gift to give me hope that there are better days coming!

I might lay on the asphalt just to pretend it's summer!

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Dad sent this to me...

...and needless to say, I loved it--Bet there's lots of "girls" who relate:

My daughter turned sixteen years old today; which is a milestone for most people. Besides looking at baby photos and childhood trinkets with her, I took time to reflect on the young woman my daughter had become and the choices she would face in the future. As I looked at her I could see the athlete she was, and determined woman she would soon be.

I started thinking about some the girls we knew in our town who were already pregnant, pierced in several places, hair every color under the sun, drop outs, drug addicts and on the fast track to no where, seeking surface identities because they had no inner self esteem. The parents of these same girls have asked me why I "waste" the money on horses so my daughter can ride. I'm told she will grow out of it, lose interest, discover boys and all kinds of things that try to pin the current generation's "slacker" label on my child. I don't think it will happen, I think she will love and have horses all her life.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has compassion. She knows that we must take special care of the very young and the very old. We must make sure those without voices to speak of their pain are still cared for.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned responsibility for others than herself. She learned that regardless of the weather you must still care for those you have the stewardship of. There are no "days off" just because you don't feel like being a horse owner that day. She learned that for every hour of fun you have there are days of hard slogging work you must do first.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned not to be afraid of getting dirty and that appearances don't matter to most of the breathing things in the world we live in. Horses do not care about designer clothes, jewelry, pretty hairdos or anything else we put on our bodies to try to impress others. What a horse cares about are your abilities to work within his natural world, he doesn't care if you're wearing $80.00 jeans while you do it.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned about sex and how it can both enrich and complicate lives. She learned that it only takes one time to produce a baby, and the only way to ensure babies aren't produced is not to breed. She learned how babies are planned, made, born and, sadly, sometimes die before reaching their potential. She learned how sleepless nights and trying to outsmart a crafty old broodmare could result in getting to see, as non-horse owning people rarely do, the birth of a true miracle.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she understands the value of money. Every dollar can be translated into bales of hay, bags of feed or farrier visits. Purchasing non-necessities during lean times can mean the difference between feed and good care, or neglect and starvation. She has learned to judge the level of her care against the care she sees provided by others and to make sure her standards never lower, and only increase as her knowledge grows.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to learn on her own. She has had teachers that cannot speak, nor write, nor communicate beyond body language and reactions. She has had to learn to "read" her surroundings for both safe and unsafe objects, to look for hazards where others might only see a pretty meadow. She has learned to judge people as she judges horses. She looks beyond appearances and trappings to see what is within.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned sportsmanship to a high degree. Everyone that competes fairly is a winner. Trophies and ribbons may prove someone a winner, but they do not prove someone is a horseman. She has also learned that some people will do anything to win, regardless of who it hurts. She knows that those who will cheat in the show ring will also cheat in every other aspect of their life and are not to be trusted.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has self-esteem and an engaging personality. She can talk to anyone she meets with confidence, because she has to express herself to her horse with more than words. She knows the satisfaction of controlling and teaching a 1000 pound animal that will yield willingly to her gentle touch and ignore the more forceful and inept handling of those stronger than she is. She holds herself with poise and professionalism in the company of those far older than herself.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to plan ahead. She knows that choices made today can effect what happens five years down the road. She knows that you cannot care for and protect you investments without savings to fall back on. She knows the value of land and buildings. And that caring for your vehicle can mean the difference between easy travel or being stranded on the side of the road with a four horse trailer on a hot day.

When I look at what she has learned and what it will help her become, I can honestly say that I haven't "wasted" a penny on providing her with horses. I only wish that ll children had the same opportunities to learn these lessons from horses before setting out on the road to adulthood.

Thanks Dad--for providing me with the opportunity of a lifetime; and for putting the plexi in my stall doors this week! :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Be very wary

My BFF has spent the last week of her life in the Children's Hospital downtown with her soon-to-be eight year-old daughter--who got some skin grafts for the New Year! Seems there was a ugly combination of a long plugged-in flat iron, a can of hairspray next to it, a little fingernail polish remover in-use and the ultimate ingredient of...a little burning tea-light candle at the far end of the bathroom vanity.

Seems the little girl bumped into the hairspray, which was apparently overheated from sitting next to the flat iron. The can sprayed out under pressure and went right into the burning candle at the far end. There was some sort of flash fire and the fumes from the nail polish remover hovering around her hands ignited, burning the backs of both hands and spot on her neck below her chin.

We are all praising the Lord that her daddy was in the living room, in direct sight and saw the entire thing. He was able to fling the child out of the bathroom, douse the flames and while he did inhale searing fumes; he was not badly harmed.

She is being released today; will probably not return to school until February and will wear pressure garments on her hands and neck for a year. Again, the critical component in this near-tragedy: a burning candle.

Candles are fun. Candles smell great. And, candles can be deadly. Do not ever underestimate the danger in a burning flame, no matter how small.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Spreading Manure

Yes, I took a long holiday hiatus, although I thought of blogging, a lot! We had several mild days over the holidays and Handyman is making serious headway on the south side of the barn. The "tack room" has a window now, and there are three sliding stall doors. One of them has plexi in place and the other two have all functional hardware. Princess continues to entertain us, by galavanting right on through the inside stall door, if it's left open by chance. She isn't a bit phased by stacks of lumber, power tools, cords. If there is any snippet of food in the immediate area, this gal would take on fire-breathing dragons with a wide-eyed, pinky-nose gaze. I hope someday we get to take her out on cross-country or something. I think her attitude would be amazing.

During those warm days I was able to dig out some colonies of Curly Doc that were taking hold in the pasture and do some "manual" manure spreading. We do not own tractor or implement, but we are both committed to not having an eaten-down dirt lot, so we try to keep the pasture maintained. The first year, I dutifully picked up all the manure piles, summer and winter, in the whole pasture. Then a couple of people reminded me that I was gathering up and disposing of some great fertilizer that could benefit my grass.

We have a large area of deep, terrific clover and grass that the horses will not graze. There was also a lot of Curly Doc in that area, so I went on a rampage to eradicate it. I tried hand-spraying Round Up, but Handyman and I were both unhappy about the results from that. So the only choice left was to dig it, one at a time. This is one of those weird, wacky tasks that I actually enjoy--although it may take a lifetime to finish. Fortunately, Curly Doc grows on a tap root, so I use a sharp, straight-edge shovel, point-first into the root. When I hear the snap under the ground, I can pull the whole, giant plant up and dispose of it.

So during those warm days, whilst I was digging Doc, I also started "spreading" manure. As I wandered from plant to plant, I kick any nearby piles for all I'm worth! WARNING: Do a few test piles first. I am not responsible for any broken big toes! It's pretty easy to do a hip and thigh workout, as I kicked for all I was worth about two thousand times, each day! If the manure is spread out, it won't kill the grass underneath, it fertilizes a bigger area and melts away in the soil. Left in those big piles, it burns away the grass, the horses won't graze there and it takes MUCH longer to disappear.

Now, my horses are wormed regularly and there are no other horses coming onto my property, so I feel pretty comfortable about leaving/spreading their own manure in their field. Of course, there could be a time when there is too much manure in the grass and in that case, I would remove it.

The bad part of my method is that Tucker the Wonder Dog thinks it is awesome to have fresh manure flying into his face. So he would bark and dive at my feet as I kicked. Fortunately, I avoided kicking his teeth out. That dog would not quit. Didn't matter how much poop was flying, he was on it.

Although I do not miss having a chicken living in my kitchen this winter, I was delighted to see that a guy down the road has four or five roosters that look just like my old John. I'm even thinking of leaving a note in his box, asking if he wants to get rid of one. Are there folks who don't want to get rid of roosters?? Probably not.