Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Small change(s)

Last week's casserole was a big hit with the guys. Tom ASKED to take leftovers for his lunch the next day! When I have time, perhaps I can add it to "Cooking with the Cow Crew".
Friday saw me washing dishes at The Wooden Spoon- and I was offered (and accepted) more hours! I am now Assistant Culinary Utensil Sanitation Specialist on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10-3. That starts TODAY! Today, being Valentines Day, the Spoon is having a rare non-Friday evening opening. Normally, The Wooden Spoon is open M-F, 10:30- 2. Then on Friday evening, 5-9 pm. On these rare occasions when the Spoon has a special opening, they take reservations, such as tonight. I get to work tonight as well- so it is almost working a double. Not quite, though, as I only have five hours this morning, then perhaps five more this evening.
I like working at The Spoon. Nobody yells at me. People do not cuss, at all. People help one another in every task, if help is needed. We all have a common goal- to cook, serve, and clean up. And everyone helps. If I fall behind in dishwashing, people step in and help put away dishes, or scrub stubborn pots. If I am all caught up, I find ways to help. Last week, I got to help the salad maker prepare the carrots for the salads.
The owners of the Spoon work with people when they need time off, so I can go with Tom on his vacation weeks- something I couldn't do with most jobs.  Starting at 10 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays will give me time to do my garden chores, and take care of the chickens when we eventually get them. Getting off at 3 leaves time for canning, if I need to,  and cooking supper. Fridays I will be working 8- about 3:30 or 4.

My Dad's 80th birthday is coming up in a few more weeks. Grand Daughter Alana's is the day before Dad's- she will be an amazing 14 years old! Even closer than Dad's birthday is Nickole's. Nickole will be 8! Dad doesn't want a party- feeling his 75th birthday party was quite enough of a disaster. (They were robbed during the party, and less than a week later, Bill Joe passed away.) So, we are honoring his no- party wish. However, I want to ask everyone reading this, to PLEASE send him a birthday card! Contact me if you need his address. His birthday is March 6th, so please mail your cards by the 3rd or 4th.) Maybe his grandchildren can enclose pictures of their families- I haven't sent him any swiped pictures in a long time, and little ones grow up so fast. (He also likes dark chocolate caramels with sea salt, and loves to read- if anyone wanted to send a gift!)
For now, the time has come to prepare for work. Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Happy, Happy

It is easy to make me happy!  I was feeling quite terrible on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I plugged along at work Friday, trying not to whine TOO much. Saturday, I barely got out of bed. By Sunday, I felt quite a bit better. It was a warm, sunny day, with barely any breeze at all. Tom and the boys changed oils and cleaned vehicles, while I sat on a log and "minded" the burning brush pile. The guys had already split the larger branches and lesser trunks of the downed trees that had shaded the garden area.  Sitting in the gentle winter sun, by a nice bonfire, doing non-strenuous work was just what I needed.
Monday, Daniel was granted an unexpected day off. Once Tom and I got back from our WalMart run, Dan unloaded and put away the groceries. Tom napped; I unloaded the pantry, and explained to Daniel what I wanted to do to organize it better. I needed a couple of narrow boards to add a few shelves, which I planned to make from leftover plywood already on hand. Once Tom woke up, I dragged him into my project. (I had intended to do the laundry room cupboard, which also needs a shelf... but one project at a time is about all we had room for!) It was five thirty by the time we finally finished the pantry. I still had to put everything back into the pantry, cook supper, clean the kitchen... there was no time for the laundry room! I can probably use a couple of the makeshift racks I had in the pantry to remedy the laundry room cupboard.
Today (Tuesday!) I ran the errands we missed out on yesterday, and picked up the items we missed getting Monday. A miscommunication at the grocery store left us without tea. It was not on my list, but I thought someone had said we were out of Sleepytime. I asked Tom, who was looking for our brand of bread, if we were out of Sleepytime Tea. He said no. So I got my Constant Comment  and some Matcha tea, and we continued our shopping. Then at bedtime, someone asked if we had bought Sleepytime. I said, "No. I asked Dad if we needed it and he said no." From another room, Tom called out, "I thought you asked me if *I* had gotten the Sleepytime. That's what I said NO to!"
So, we missed tea... and peanut butter. The last tablespoon was used up this morning. I already had to go to Aldi for our cheese, chips, yogurt, and produce. What's one more stop?
I am actually quite pleased over my errands over all today. 38 mile round trip, eleven stops, and I was home by twelve-thirty. (That's not even counting that I was two miles from the house on the trip out, when I realized I had left my over-due library books on the couch. I had to turn around to get them!) Filled the car with gas, went to the library, post office, bank, Lowes... to apply for a job. (Which I couldn't, because, even though they have a banner out front that says "NOW HIRING!", they do not, in fact, have any openings.) From Lowes, to Wal Mart for the peanut butter and tea. Then to another bank. An (unplanned) quick stop at Dayspring card outlet, then Aldi, Tractor Supply, and finally, a quick drive through at Panda Express for a lunch bowl.
I had to stop at Tractor Supply to get a new "live trap". The "live traps" come in two packs- a large with a small. Our last two pack, we got at Atwoods. On about the seventh or eighth possum captured, a piece was lost from the larger trap. Tom continued to use the smaller trap. Last night, yet another "ugly kitty" was caught. Tom sat the cage behind the car so he wouldn't forget to take the ugly kitty off and release it "elsewhere". He left the trunk open to remind him of the cage behind the car, and came back inside to get ready for work.
As you have probably guessed, it would of been better to set the caged animal next to the driver's door, rather than behind the car. Tom jumped into the car and backed right over the cage! Fortunately, the possum was just fine. The cage was damaged beyond salvaging, and once the critter was released, the cage was tossed into the dumpster. This is probably the tenth or eleventh opossum caught trying to get under the house, so we really do HAVE to have live traps set pretty much all the time.
Since getting back from errands, I used my favorite purchase of the day to organize my mugs and glasses in the cupboard. An "expandable" wire mesh shelf from Aldi ($4.99) gave me two more feet of room in the cabinet where my cups and glasses live! Happy, Happy me!
Now, I suppose I'd best get off the computer and go prep supper. I am going to make enchiladas with chicken, avocado, and green sauce. Corn tortillas, to stay off the flour products as much as possible, and will likely make it as a casserole, rather than actual rolled enchiladas- just because it is easier. (Also, I've noticed the guys eat less when it is casserole, as opposed to rolled enchiladas.)
Have a blessed day, Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Still alive!

With the really terrible internet connection and speed, it seems I have nearly stopped blogging. Here it is February, and this is what? my second post of 2017?
Benjamin and Paula came to visit this past weekend, and we had a great time. Jasher is very much his daddy all over again. Little Althea tried hard to keep up with Jasher, but came away with a number of  bumps and bruises.
The boys (so hard to think of all my sons as men!) helped Tom take out several trees shading the proposed garden area. The trees also leaned far over the neighbors fence, with long reaching branches. One branch broke off a few weeks back and took out a section of fence. As the trees came down, we could see it was only a matter of time before they came down on their own, being hollowed and ant filled in their hearts. Tom built me a bin for compost.
The guys (and Paula) played Frisbee- and as usual with this bunch- it became a very physical sport. All the guys were sore from tree felling, fence repairs, and Frisbee. While the trees were coming down, the fence was taken down and moved out of their gravity path. The boys took turns demonstrating mad dance moves- or as they called it - "Ninja skills"- to the neighbor's curious herd of cows. The cows stood back far enough to avoid contact with these strangely gyrating humans. Jasher and Althea got out the preschool ride-on toys that the former owners left here. Jasher had a great time being pulled way too fast around the yard by his Daddy and Uncles. When Jasher had had enough fun and tumbles, Daniel and Sam took turns pulling one another around in the little car. The next day, Jasher decided the driveway and yard were too rough to ride on. He pulled the smaller car to the top of the storm cellar, which has a sloped concrete roof and a smooth metal door. He pushed the car around for a bit- testing how it landed when pushed off the cellar roof- a drop of 10 or so inches. Then he invited Bill Joe Althea to go for the first test ride. Althea obliged. She extracted herself from the wreckage before any adults could intervene... and helped Jasher get the car set up for another run. It reminded me so much of Bill Joe's grand ideas on how something fun really OUGHT to work. Floaties on his feet to try and walk on water. A tarp duct taped to his wrists and ankles so he could glide off the roof off the barn like a flying squirrel. (Thankfully, his glide belly flop from the roof of the barn was cushioned by a manure heap.)
Today, I got the last of the bedding washed and folded. The small hand and face prints are (sadly) cleaned from the door glass. The toys are back in the cardboard box, to be carried out to storage until the next visit. The house is terribly quiet.
In other 'news'... I am working on Friday mornings as the daytime dishwasher at The Wooden Spoon. I was concerned about my ability to DO the job, but so far, I have managed. I think both my times to do it have been "slow" days. I stayed on top of the incoming dishes, and fell behind a few times on putting away, when others would help out as their tasks slowed down. I do come home completely wiped out! It is the kind of job where the day passes quickly, because you don't stop. I still have applications out in other places, but haven't heard back from any of these.
That's about all from here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

One To Ten

Here it is January already- the tenth!  Tom and I made a trip to see Miss Katie and the West Texas bunch over New Year's weekend. She is certainly a bundle of cute, only just beginning to plump up. (If I had better internet access, I would certainly share pictures!)
The Bolt Internet company was out this week, taking measurements to lay the fiber optic lines, to get us a super-fast internet speed. They won't even be started until February, we are told, and it could be June before we actually have it out to our house. Meanwhile, we growl in frustration at the poor "hot spot"- both for its slow speed and unreliability, as much as for its expense.
I have an application in for desk clerk at a new Holiday Inn Express being built in Siloam Springs. Meanwhile, I was asked to come back to the Spoon as a part time Culinary Utensil Sanitation Specialist, on Friday mornings. I am going to TRY. It is a very physical job.
  The last week or more seems to have been run, run, run! Errands almost every day, even the days I intended to stay put. Yesterday, Tom and I split the running. He went for groceries, I accompanied The Individuals to a surgical evaluation . They are both having wisdom teeth removed next week. We got home and got busy on a few chores, only to remember at the last instant, it was the day of the Mennonite School Blood Drive. I made a really fast supper, and we were off to donate blood. Getting home after 7:00, the boys opted for a second supper. I got the clothes washed earlier into the dryer... (at least I was TRYING to. I got the load from the dryer, and returned to find Sam putting the wet clothes in. When I thanked him, he said: "I'm always right here to serve my own interests!, Uh, I mean, You're welcome, Mom". I laughed.
On the homestead chores lately, I decided it wasn't terribly imperative to clean out the martin houses. Instead, I cut down the dead flower canes from the hibiscus and other standing flower stalks. Tom and Sam worked on clearing deadfall, rocks, dead leaves, and errant weeds from a non- yard section adjacent to the designated garden plot. This was to be the bee area. After an entire afternoon of work, Tom and Sam decided on an entirely different place for the bees. That's just how things go when you are figuring out a new place. Sam will be ordering his hive kits and bee "nucs" in the next couple of days. (A "nuc" is a nucleus of bees. A queen and a start of workers. Sam is getting two.) (We have to go GET the nucs, in late May. But they have to be ordered now, before they sell out. Sam found a supplier about an hour and a half from here.)
The weather has been cold and windy, overcast and just a touch unpleasant outside. Too "blowy" to try and remove a tin roof from the last dog pen. It warmed up enough to take off one layer of coats as I worked.
 The winds have now changed directions, blowing in warm from the south. Today is supposed to be in the upper 60*s! I have a pot of beans on to cook/ soak. The library to get to, as well as the inevitable return trip to the grocery store. It seems like, without fail, the moment we get back from the grocery store, a new list starts. Items we run out of right that day, which no one realized was running low. Items we REALLY needed, but failed to be written on the list. It was amusing to me yesterday, after we divided lists, and got home- Tom and I had duplicated items! One list was for our small, local health food store. None of us were going in that direction yesterday, not even close. However, the boys and I made much better time getting all the way to Bentonville than we had anticipated. With a solid 45 minutes to spare, I was less than a mile from the large health food store. I got the items I remembered from that list. I got home to find these items already on the shelf. Tom had gone out of his way to go to the more local place.
The boys have an "after-holiday" party this evening... a late Christmas party, if you will. (The Spoon was far too busy during the holidays to have their annual employee shindig!) The theme this year is "Retro". We stopped and shopped for gifts for them to trade. While shopping, I actually picked up another item Tom and I had mentioned getting for the homestead- and then put it back down. A peeve of mine is not being able to find a marked price on items, nor on the shelf! So I walked out without getting a mineral block to put in the woods for attracting wildlife.... and just as well. Tom came home with one himself!
If the weather co-operates this coming weekend, we have several trees to fell. A large branch from one fell across the neighbor's fence on Christmas Day. This tree, and its nearby companions are not only hazarding the fence, but would make the garden spot a bit too shady. Tom got the materials to repair the fence, which we will have to take down for a section, to drop the trees. Once the trees are removed... (more than just cut down- also cut and split and MOVED) we need to start tilling the garden spots. Give the roots a chance to die off, the ground cover a chance to compost before planting time.
I am LOVING the path the boys have been working on. It really is like hiking one of the beautiful State Parks. I can hardly wait for it to have complete loops. The leaf blower was a great idea. (Sam invested in a leaf blower. A pretty smart thing when you live on 30 acres of trees.)
(I have mentioned Sam working the property several times... Dan does too. But he has been off gallivanting the country during several of the most recent projects. :) )
That's my update. Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

End of the year...

This year really has flown by. We moved TWICE... not a lot of fun, I can tell you. I got to have quite a few of the grandkids visit over the summer. That WAS fun! We have been getting settled into our OWN home, for the first time in more than a decade. We got a new grand daughter- Katie Sterling Jones was born to Becky and Stephen on Dec. 17th. Our son Stephen (TOMMY!) graduated from Christ for the Nations with a certificate in World Missions. Daughter-in-law Paula is graduating any day now, as a Master Herbologist. Sam is midway through his second year as an apprentice electrician.
There is ALWAYS something to do here on the homestead. We have been planning a nice sized garden, and are currently in the "but first" stage. The stage where you want or need to get something accomplished, but first you have to do something else that is time consuming and/or expensive. This home sits in a heavily wooded area. There is little sunlight available for a garden. While we really want to get the garden areas tilled up, we first need to clear out some trees. Clearing out trees will also mean removing some stumps. And in other areas, we will need to build some raised beds, as the main soil here is more stone than soil!
This past weekend, Tom and Sam and I were busy tearing out some eyesore dog runs. These were chain link enclosures with corrugated metal roofs. (Rooves?) One came away intact. Another came to pieces. The third is still standing, as we ran out of daylight and gitty-up. We MAY be able to re-purpose the frames as greenhouses. Some of the metal can go to the recycler, and we may be able to re-purpose part of it. (I am hoping to use a portion to make a compost "bin"... BUT FIRST we have to decide where we want the compost bin!)
Maybe I can use part of the corrugated metal to construct a poultry house. There are so many predators, I doubt we can manage totally free range poultry. I need guineas to reduce our tick population, and I want some chickens for eggs and possibly dinner. But First, we have to make a place for them.
The boys want to build an outdoor, wood fired pizza oven. I envision it also having a grill side- as the current grill is one of the little city park style, maybe 12"x15" . NOT big enough for company!
We (mostly the Individuals and I) have been discussing the merits of a farm stand garden. The nearest "bigger" town to us, Siloam Springs, has a lovely Farmer's Market downtown two or three times a week. I can grow a few items that not only will WE enjoy, but which could also make profit enough to BE my job.
Sam plans to have his honey bees started this spring, so by fall, we would be able to offer local honey. If we can get the chickens going soon, we could offer organic, cage free eggs. I can put out a selection of Paula's PBJ Herbal products. Perhaps offer aprons. I can do jellies, and my mom suggested some baked goods. I am hoping to have a large variety of peppers in the garden, and create my own chile powder and spice blends. I am also hoping that our woods does produce a good crop of morel mushrooms!
This summer, Camp CowGranny just might have to be a concentrated week or so of as many of the grands as we can get, at a time when Becky may be able to come and assist me, if I DO have a regular job by then.
That's what's up with us! We are supposed to have internet (reliable internet!) before summer. I will be so grateful! This "hotspot" is temperamental, unreliable, slow, ... and EXPENSIVE.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I AM "McGyver"!!!

Today was QUITE the day. I got up and got my regular Tuesday routine ordered. I set out bacon and sausage from the freezer, planning to make the guys some breakfasts. I made several phone calls, getting information as far flung as cat spaying, homestead tax exemptions, and Texas prison commissary regulations. I wrote letters, hung curtains, decided supper, and had laundry going. I did debate myself on whether or not I was actually going to go to the library or not- our home internet really stinks. I was going to get a few gifts ordered, and check on some job web sites, plus grab a few new books to read. I had my second load of clothes in the washing machine when I decided yes, I WOULD go to the Post office and library.
I gathered my books. I put my package and letters to be mailed into my book bag.  I made sure all the windows were locked, the sliding patio door secured. Made sure my keys were on purse; and set out the door, locking it carefully behind me. I got into the car and reached for my keys, attached to my purse.
No purse? Only my book bag?
This cannot be right. A second and third look confirm: I do NOT have my purse. My purse has ALL my keys- both car and house. Tom carries our shared cell phone on a regular basis, unless I am traveling. No cell phone.
I am locked out of the house. My car keys are inside the house. It is 39*- the high for the day already passed.
Assess the situation.  The well house is not locked, and has a heater inside. I walked to the well house and turned the heat up a bit. Then, back out to check all the windows and doors. Sure enough... all are securely locked. I carried the ladder around the house, checking every window. No one has left one unlatched. I tried the doors... All are locked. I tried the "credit card"  latch release. Doesn't work here. After much searching, I found some wire... I discovered I cannot "pick" a lock, as some of my children are adept at.
Back to the warmth of the well house. There is a small bench in there... not comfortable, but a seat at least. And in the fridge in the well house- a bottled margarita! (So the day isn't a total loss!)
I have more than six hours before I can count on anyone being home. What do I do? Fend off neighborhood dogs and walk a couple of miles to see if anyone is home? Stay near the house where I know there is heat and water? (And, as I discovered, paper towels in the unlocked car, so "necessities" could be taken care of... and HAND SANITIZER!)
I stayed home. Do I sit in the well house for the six plus hour wait?
 I decide that this is as good a time as I can be forced into accepting to transplant the rose bushes that are in the way of the carport. The tool shed is not locked. I retrieve the shovel and post hole digger, and set to work. Just over an hour later, I have three adequate holes excised into the rocky soil near the fence line. The rosebushes are moved. I return to the well house and warm up again. I decide to carry the letter to the street mailbox- not a long task, but chilled in the cool air.
The sky remains heavily overcast. I trudged back to the house, and warmed again in the well house. There is no comfortable place to sit. I have nothing to read. Perhaps I can nap? I settle into the back seat of the Lincoln. I have small travel pillows I keep in it, and Tom had left a jacket inside. Whoo hoo! WARMTH! I laid down in the back seat and TRIED to nap. Giving up at about a half an hour, I made use again of the roll of paper towels, and hand sanitizer. Cold weather really makes ones bladder active! I returned to the car, hoping to try again for a nap. Only three and a half hours until someone gets home!
I had a sudden thought... if only the brown shed were not locked... there is a corded phone in it. I might be able to plug the corded phone into the phone jack outside the house, and call for help! But, Tom never leaves the sheds unlocked. It was a miracle that the well house was not locked! I looked... and it appeared the brown shed was NOT padlocked. Could this BE? I hied myself to the shed.
Indeed, it was open. There was the corded phone, right where I had thought it to be! AND... a most necessary item- a telephone line cable. I took the phone and cable up to the house.
*Sigh*... the most hoped for plans of cold persons can be soon thwarted. The outside telephone connection port was screwed closed. I had already searched for tools. No screwdrivers.
 But, it occurred to me- a dime can sometimes work as a screwdriver. I searched the cars, and found a lone dime amidst the toll road quarters stash. At first, the dime refused to turn the screw- but at last it broke free. With arthritis and COLD fingers, maybe it took longer for me... but the phone box was at last opened. Only to discover there was no phone jack. I sighed my disappointment. I followed every wire in the box. Then I saw a small panel that flipped open- with a phone jack behind it! I plugged in the telephone, and was relieved and gratified to get a dial tone! I called the cell phone- and when Tom answered, i told him, "I am FREAKING McGyver!"
He called Sam and Dan to see if anyone could come to my rescue. They were farther away than he was. So Tom headed to the house to let me in. I was locked out a little more than four and a half hours. We decided that instead of just thinking about, and discussing a set of extra keys, it is time we put one out in the woods.
In my "distress", I was never in danger. Despite the cold, I had a warm place to go to. I had water, juice, even beer if I wanted. (YUCK!) I had just eaten, but there was food to be had- as well as a means to cook it if I had really been hungry. I learned that to get into this house, one would have to BREAK something. I was reminded that winter is upon us, and I NEED to keep an extra jacket and a blanket in every vehicle. I had many internal debates with myself: What is a real crisis? I had everything I actually NEEDED. Do I waste the afternoon waiting to be "rescued"? Or do I accomplish things that need done?
I am so grateful that God reminded me of the things I could use in my time of need.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November's End

Yes, I am still alive!
This month has both flown by, as well as dragged on- if that is possible. I was surprised to see Thanksgiving items marked down at the grocery store... Ii was an effort to remember that yes, indeed, we are past Thanksgiving.
It was just Tom and I and the twins for the meal here. I prepared as if there were still a double fist of us to feed... but made a smaller turkey, and fewer pies. Mom and Ralph had dinner with Robbie, Dad, and Kathie, but came up the next day... bringing us more pies! (As well as a bedroom suite that Dad and Kathie have been holding for me for a number of years now.)

The house is starting to come together. I got the kitchen painted, a pegboard hung to store my cast iron on, a couple of shallow shelves above the pegboard to help alleviate the clutter on top of the fridge. We got bright LED lights in most of the darker spots that already had lights. (Still need my budding electrician to install some lights in the really dark places!)

I got a few pictures and art hung on the walls. Despite following the exact instructions on the 3M Command (R) strips, several items have fallen. One frame broke into bits... :( I will be having to decide exactly where things will live and use a few discrete nails to hang items up. The walls are already full of hundreds of holes from the previous owner's 30+ years of incessant over decorating.

The internet here really stinks... our "hotspot" is a mildly tepid spot on its best day. We have applied for and paid the installation fee for the fiber optic internet to be installed- they say it will be between February and June.

Tommy graduates CFNI December 9th!