Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trying to Find My Enthusiasm

It seems to have gotten lost in all the hubbub lately.  Between all the reunion prep, and DH's long work days last week (48 hours in 4 days, plus another 3 hours of conference calling from home on Friday morning when he was supposed to be 'off' so he could get all the unfinished stuff done at the last minute--like order the porta-potty he'd forgotten to reserve earlier in the week!!), and the chaos of the reunion itself, and the clean-up afterward. . . Plus it's Fair Week, and DD2 is involved with that through FFA. . .

I just can't muster any excitement about anything.  I canned 16 quarts and 14 pints of beans; should feel good about that.  But I just look at the jars and feel indifferent.  Some of them are earmarked for gift giving--my brother used to ask our Grandmother for her home canned beans for Christmas back in high school.  (She and Grandpa moved off their acreage the same year he graduated.  No canning in the condo where our uncle put them because of Grandpa's advancing Alzheimers).  After Grandma passed away just before Christmas of 2012, I wrapped up some of my jars of beans and gave to him.  He was ecstatic.  So this year, for Christmas, he's gonna get a case of homegrown, home canned beans, just like Grandma used to make.

I've weeded the tomatoes and the peppers in the garden.  The tomato plants are loaded with green 'maters, as well as more blossoms, promising a bountiful harvest in August and September. Should feel good about that.  But I look out there and only see the weeds sprouting up between the rows of corn that I weeded last week.  And the ones in my rows of shelling beans (the beans that will become dry beans for soups this winter).

DD2 got Best of Show on her photography entry at the Fair.  Should feel good about that.  There is a glimmer of pride, but not the celebratory elation I should feel.

I went down to the horse farm to fly spray all the horses, and do a few other jobs that are on my list this summer (greatly reduced my hours there since mid-June because of all the other stuff I've got going on in my life this summer).  Should feel good to be around the horses, especially since I haven't had time to ride in the last month and a half.  But I looked around and saw a whole bunch of un-done things at the farm. Honestly, the place looks derelict; not like somewhere I want to be affiliated with.  I also saw a horse of mine that is getting too fat, and another getting too skinny.  They need different living partners (all the horses live outdoors in the summer, in small groups) but the farm owner isn't open to changing the arrangements she set up in May.  I feel more frustration than enjoyment over horse ownership right now.  I had wanted them home this summer; last winter DH told me we'd move them home this summer.  Here it is mid-summer and there is zero progress toward moving them home. . .

My dryer died.  Clothes are all being hung out on the line to dry (normally I don't hang the towels or jeans; takes too long and get too stiff/scratchy before they are dry).  We are in a cool and rainy pattern this week, making drying clothes outdoors a juggling act.

My meat birds are about fully grown and ready to go to freezer camp.  No one wants to help me with that; and after having my hands so stiff and sore after doing last year's butchering, I'm not feeling like tackling it on my own.  To send the birds out will cost me $3.50 a bird, not a lot, but added up, it isn't quite in the budget right now (boy that reunion cost a lot to host!!  Expenses were supposed to be split equally between DH and his siblings--the co-hosts--but it didn't quite work out that way.  Something about how we have such a nice place and DH has a good job, and the others don't. . . Excuse me, not my fault they make the decisions they make and can't handle money.  DH and I shouldn't be punished for being responsible and knowing how to prioritize. . .)

I know I'm currently caught in a spiral of depression.  Too many things to keep track off, not enough down time, not enough relaxing time with DH. . . I hate feeling like this.  I know it's happening, yet I can't seem to pull myself up and out of it.  Other people look at me and say "What's your problem?  You got a great life.  You don't even work." Which is about the worst thing you can say at a time like this.  Kick me in the face, stuff me back down the blackhole, why don't you?

At least, with the rainy weather, the ground has softened up enough that I can harvest my garlic without breaking the stalks off the bulbs.  I think I'll head out and do that right now, since it isn't raining at the moment.  And maybe later I will go upstairs and do a little sewing; I have a toddler sized sundress to finish up and mail down to K3.  Try to come up with a dinner idea that no one will complain about (how I hate spending time prepping and cooking meals just to hear one or more person say "eww, why did you make that?" ever single bleedin' time.)

I think about what if I didn't grow a garden next year?  What if I didn't raise any poultry?  What if I sold the horses and went out and got a different job, one with a paycheck people could see and appreciate?

No garden:  I would have to eat food from the store; which is why I started gardening back in 1998.  Don't want to go back to that.  I plan to garden until the day I die.

No poultry:  see no garden.  Had birds since 2003.  Don't want to go back to eggs and chicken from the store.

No horses: no reason to live. Seriously.  Horses are a large part of who I am inside.  There are things I want to do with the horses that I have not been able to do yet, and I'm not ready to give up on that.

A 'real' job that is acceptable in the eyes of others:  been there, done that, hated it.  I don't do office politics.  I also don't do employers who expect my family to come second to my job.  Besides, I'm already exposed to both of those enough via DH's career.  No thank you. I'd rather live in a box under a bridge (with chickens, and a garden, and a horse, of course!).

Honestly, that is probably just what I need right now to get up and out of this dark pit of despair:  a little space, a little privacy, and just the things I have chosen (garden, birds, horses) with none of somebody else's opinions and to-do lists foisted off on me.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It Wasn't All Bad

Lest I gave the impression that I married into a bunch of inconsiderate ingrates, I'm writing this post to talk about the good and fun parts of the family reunion.  His family isn't all bad, it's just that the bad ones tend to stand out so much and overpower the rest of the group. Many of the relatives are well mannered and enjoyable people. It's just the others. . . I'm not sure what happened there.

Biggest surprise was that DH's uncle, who lives in Canada (and, I think has a special place in his heart for DH who looks more and more like this uncle as he ages), showed up.  It had been a decade or more since he had made the trip across the border to attend a family reunion.  So it was very, very nice to see and talk with him.

DD1 made personalized t-shirts for the 3-10 age group.   On the front was "(family surname) Reunion 2014", and on the back "I belong to:  ".  As each child and their parents arrived, the child was given a shirt in the correct size, their name was written on the front in fabric marker, and then the name of the child's parent was printed on the back in the blank spot after "to:". This was an idea DH had actually come up with, since there are about a dozen little kids of roughly the same age and coloring and it's hard to keep track of whose is whose.  Having the kids wear these shirts helped greatly when little ones got misplaced, or into mischief.  Very easy to take them by the hand and return them to their parent.

DD2 planned and ran two scavenger hunts. One around the front and back yard for the younger kids with prizes at each stop (stickers, hard candies, bubble solution and wands, little spiral bound notebooks, colorful pencils, small toys, etc) and ice cream bars at the end.  The second one was for the teenage crew, which sent them all around the property (well, except for the woods, we decided there was too much poison ivy to send them back there) in search of clues that would tell where the next clue could be found, until they got to the end and also received an ice cream bar.

DH's uncle from Arkansas made it up for the reunion, as well as his aunts from Ohio and Pennsylvania.  The only aunt who didn't make it was DH's aunt who lives in Alaska.  So of the six living siblings, five were able to attend (of the original nine children DH's grandparents had, one died in the 1970s, and two in the 1990s, all sons). The widowed wife of the uncle who died in the 1970s did show up with her children and grandchildren, so that was a good part too.

The food was awesome.  DH roasted a pig that his youngest sister (the one who lives at mother-in-law's house) had raised.  I had a ton of green beans ripe in the garden, so went in search of a recipe for those and came up with a really delicious one to use as my dish to pass.  Many of the dishes to pass that were brought were homemade and very tasty, especially those brought by the eldest generation.

We had a big bonfire and burned up about half of our pile of stumps from the corner of the property where DH had drug them out of the woods last winter. These were stumps of trees that had been uprooted or broken off during the big wind storm we had last November.

Since the hay had been cut just over a week prior to the reunion, our hayfield was still short.  DH told everyone to bring mitts for softball, and we held a softball game out behind the barn, in the hayfield.  Participation in that was overwhelming, and two large teams were made.  Everyone who wanted to play, got on the field every inning.  Have you ever seen a softball game with about six outfielders?? Or a team that included both a twelve year old and a sixty-something player?  Have you ever seen a bunch of overweight men in their forties try to run bases?  Or a teenage boy who has never played ball get patient batting instruction from a State Champion high school softball player?  It was a ball game for anyone and everyone, of all abilities and ages.  It was also a very close game, with a final score of 11-10.

See?  It wasn't all bad.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What Not To Do At a Family Reunion

This weekend, DH and I hosted his family reunion.  It was not my idea.  I don't like crowds.  I also was raised with certain manners and expectations that apparently a lot of his relatives were not.  So if this post comes off incredibly negative and even bitchy, I apologize to the reader.  I mentioned last week about being so busy getting ready for the reunion that I hadn't had much time to blog; and since I missed posting a challenge on Friday because of the reunion, I kind of feel like I owe my loyal readers an explanation.  So I made myself a little list that hopefully might show what I was up against in this reunion hosting obligation.

How DH and I came to host it goes like this:  Many years ago, eighteen I think,  DH's paternal grandfather died.  All his descendants came for the funeral, and it was decided that the family all needed to get together annually instead of only at funerals (DH's father died 20 years ago, the other time all the extended family got together).  And, since DH's grandmother hadn't had much opportunity to travel to see her grown children, it was decided that this annual reunion would change hosts and location each year, with each of the nine (yes, NINE!!) children of DH's grandparents taking a turn in birth order, from youngest to eldest. Two of those children had all ready passed away, so when their turn to host would come, it would be their offspring who would have the planning and hosting responsibility.

Which means that since this year was my late father-in-law's turn, the hosting fell to DH and his three siblings.  And how DH and I got lucky (sarcastic tone when you read 'lucky') to have it at our house goes like this:

--youngest sister and her husband let their house go back to the bank a year ago after they stopped paying the mortgage so they could 'save money to build a new house' and they currently live with mother-in-law.  Since this is mother-in-laws EX-in-laws that the reunion is for, we couldn't very well have it there.

--brother's place has pretty much turned into a pot farm, with a Cujo dog to guard his plants/profits, so we couldn't very well have it there.

--eldest sister's husband is a hoarder and their property pretty much looks like the set for Sanford and Son (in other words, a junk yard), so we couldn't very well have it there.

-- DH and I have a large property, a huge yard we keep maintained, a clean and orderly home, a large garage, and a pig roaster.  Lots of room for everyone, no junk needing to be hauled off first, somewhere to go if it rained, and we could roast a hog for the main dish.

So, that is how it fell on us, even though I hate crowds, hate chaos, and have no patience with drunk people.  Oh, did I mention there are a lot of alcoholics in DH's family?  Probably not, as I try not to mention them, or think of them, very often.

Long story short, a whole year to plan out the reunion, between DH and his three siblings (I had been told I wasn't needed in the planning), and it comes down to not a whole hell of a lot getting done until the last minute (needing me to  bust my ass put in a whole lot of hours last week).

DH and I wrote up and mailed out the necessary reunion info letter in January, letting people know of the reunion date far enough in advance so they could arrange for time off of work (and have time to save up $$ for traveling, if necessary), the location (our property), and that the meat and one keg of beer would be provided by the host.  It is one day, beginning at noon, with the family business meeting (updating address list, adding new spouses or children to the family tree, announcing of next year's host and potential location) done before the keg is tapped, food served as soon as the meeting is finished, and each guest should bring a dish to pass.  Also, any drinks other than the keg are BYOB, so make sure to pack something for your kids to drink, and yourself to drink if you don't wish to consume the keg beer.  All of which are the original conditions set up 17 years ago when this reunion business began.

That's the background that will hopefully allow you read between the lines of my list below, and understand some of what happened at my house this weekend.  Remember, the reunion is ONE day--Saturday, beginning at noon, everyone should bring a dish to pass and their own beverages.

What not to do when you go to a family reunion:

1.       Bring your dogs, then proceed to stand there and laugh when they chase and terrorize the host's livestock.

2.       Look perturbed when host grabs your dog (which you didn't even try to catch) and hands it back to you.  Especially don't give the weak excuse "He's just so fast I couldn't get him.". Not when the host watched the chasing for two entire minutes before stepping in, then easily caught your dog in a few seconds.

3.       Help yourself to a breakable bowl (which so happens to be part of the hostess's wedding china) from the hostess's kitchen to water your dog with.  Especially when there was a plastic bowl within easier reach that you could have used instead.

4.       Set the breakable bowl on cement, right in the doorway of the garage "so it's in the shade" even though everyone needs to go in and out that doorway to get their food and drink.

5.     Bring your dog, not keep it on a leash, then when it runs off into the 18 acre cornfield and is baying to let you know it's on the scent of an animal, insist everyone drop everything and rescue your dog who is "lost and barking for us to find it."  

6.   Bring your dog, and let it run loose underneath the food tables.  

7.    Show up 24 hours (or more!) early, then expect to be fed and entertained until the reunion gets started. 

8.     Set up your tent in the parking area even though you were shown the allocated area for camping, thus making older relatives have to park further away from the food and seating area when they arrive.

tents of people who showed up Friday night

camper and more tents of early arrivers

vehicles parked around tents of some who set them up in the parking area

vehicles of more Friday arrivers

9.      Park your vehicle right in front of the host's portable poultry pen, making the door to the pen almost impossible to access to feed and water the birds, let alone move the pen to fresh grazing.  Then act annoyed when asked to please park in the parking area.

10.   Show up with your dish to pass and expect the hostess to cook it for you.

11.  Bring a dish to pass, then require the hostess to provide a dish or platter large enough to serve it on and something to scoop with.  

12.   Tap the keg early, before the scheduled time, then request the host make a beer run at 10 p.m. when the keg goes dry.

13. Not bring anything for your children to drink and expect the host to run to the store for juice, pop, etc. for your poor thirsty children.  Refuse the host's offer of water from the tap in the house.

14.   Let your children run, indiscriminately, through the hostess's flower beds and vegetable garden.

15.   Let your teenage children throw balls against the host's metal-sided barn.

16.   Let your preschoolers run around unattended, in and out of the host's house, when the reunion is outdoors on 40 acres of land, with a large garage and shaded patio for people to sit in out of the sun. 

17.   Let your older children run around, yelling and screaming, until one a.m. or later.

18.  Without asking, put up signs on the doors to the host's house that say "Use Porta-Potty.", then tell the hostess you are helping her by posting the signs because "there's too much traffic going in and out of the house".  Proceed to come in the host's house yourself every time you need to use the bathroom.

19.   Smoke, then toss your not-stubbed-out cigarette butts into the host's yard, flowerbeds, etc.

20.  Smoke in the host's garage, where all the food is.  Leave cigarette butts on the floor.

21.   Allow your 17 year old child drink beer (and get drunk), even when the host expresses concern about this.

22.  Bring fireworks and set them off without consulting the host first.

23. Bring your ipod and speakers, and proceed to play your music at the same location--and louder than--the music from the playlist that was made for the reunion, which includes a variety of genres and nothing considered vulgar or offensive.  Even after being asked, twice, to turn your music down or listen to it somewhere else, keep playing it right there so everyone has to hear it.

We had a few people show up on Thursday afternoon, four hours before DH got off work. (Who then kept asking me why he wasn't home and how soon would he be home.) We had about three dozen more show up on Friday evening. For a reunion that began at noon on Saturday. Of those early birds, six live out of state. The rest of them live within three hours of us. Easy enough to get up Saturday morning, drive here, and not be late for the family meeting. (I've done that often enough and never been tardy, even when I had babies and young children to wake up and travel with.)

So, that's all I'm going to say about the reunion. Other than that my tongue sure hurts from being bitten, and I'm sure that today more than one of my in-laws thinks I'm a real uppity bitch.

But you know what? At this point, I really don't care. Because at least I know how to behave when I go to someone else's home.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Not Much To Say, Lots of Pictures

I had intended to write interesting posts this week, but, well, as you can see, that hasn't happened.  Still trying to catch up on weeding the garden after being gone to South Carolina earlier in the month.  Also trying to get ready for DH's family reunion, which we are hosting this year. (Just a little affair, you know, about 80 people or so! Many of whom will stay overnight.)  Might have a post about that once it's over.  Plus, DH has worked some long days this week, two at over 13 hours each and one at eleven hours, so a whole bunch of the final reunion prep stuff has fallen to me.

So, instead of interesting reading, you get a bunch of pictures to look at.


The west end.

The east end, before weeding.

The east end after about 5 hours weeding.
And so many more to go.

The round zucchini that became chocolate zucchini cake
the basil that became pesto.

Bush beans are ready!

First basket of beans;
blend of Contender, Golden Wax, Royal Burgundy 
(and Dragon's Tongue, which is not visible in picture)

Two double rows of onions:
Copra, Red Zeppelin and Ringmaster.


Bachelor's Buttons
(on edge of garden; still needing weeded)

(mostly weeded)

Balloon Flower, 
a member of the Campanula family.

finally grown from seed!


The geese.

This one snuck up on me while I was 
laying on my belly getting the picture of the balloon flower.

Washing dishes last night, I heard a racket on the front porch. 
I looked up to see this.
Darn turkey.

And then this!
(and boy, I need to wash the kitchen windows before people arrive for the reunion!)

This week the ducks, geese, and turkeys have developed an affinity for 'helping' me weed.  Actually, I weed, and they get their heads right down in the way, waiting for any bugs or worms that I shake out of the weeds in my hands.  It's kind of a strange feeling, having your face less than a foot away from a bunch of beaks.  A living on the edge sort of feeling, like you are just begging for something bad to happen.  So far, they've only nibbled my toes and haven't gone for my eyes yet!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hay Done--PHEW!

Our hay got baled Saturday.  I have to confess, I was stressing over it.

When it had been cut, we had a seven day weather forecast that was clear and dry.  But Saturday morning that forecast had been changed to a fairly good possibility of scattered showers during the later part of the afternoon.  Not a good omen after waiting a month for a dry enough stint of weather to get good horse hay made.

Commence stress level increase.

Both DD1 and DD2 had commitments that would keep them away from home until after dinner on Saturday.  On Friday, DH had woken up with a knot in his shoulder that sent pain up his neck and limited movement of his arm, shoulder, and neck.  All of which meant the less hay we had to put into the barn, the better.  Also meaning if I could sell hay out of the field, without having to touch it after it came out of the baler, the more chance we had of actually getting good dry hay stored for our use, and sold to others for at least the same price as I was being charged for the custom baling.

In an attempt to sell as many of the 'extra' bales as possible, I put an ad on Craigslist that I would have hay for sale, out of the field, for $1 less per bale than the current going rate, Saturday only.  I even posted on Facebook about having hay available on Saturday afternoon.

As of noon on Saturday, there were no replies of anyone wanting to come get hay out of the field (ie, hay that we would not need to put up in the barn). I didn't want to put more hay in the barn than the 350 bales I was planning to keep for my horses to eat in the coming year.  I really doubted the durability of DH's shoulder, our hay elevator was dead, and I'm not capable of standing on the hay wagon and throwing hay up into the loft like DH is.  Well, like he is without a bum shoulder.

Continue stress level increase.

I was expecting 100 bales to the acre, and there were seven acres to bale.  With just two of us to unload and stack all that hay (plus get 350 bales of it twelve feet up to the loft where it would still need to be stacked), and one of us not in top form, I was really stressing.  One-thirty p.m., the sky was clouding up, and still no replies to my Craigslist or Facebook postings. The baler would be here any minute now. . .

Add upset stomach to stress level; ironically caused by nearing stress level threshold.

But then a carload of teenage boys showed up with the tractor, baler and hay wagons.  Plus two young men in their early twenties who were part of the family we'd hired to cut and bale our hay.  Turns out the family had three fields down, all of which they'd been hired to do and waited on a long stretch of good weather, all of which had to be baled before it rained, and they'd called in a working crew of available high school guys to help with unloading wagons so the baling could continue uninterrupted.  To beat the rain, as so often goes with haying, and had been every hay farmer's nemesis this year.

Hallelujah, God is good!  Six young, strong bodies to help us two forty-somethings with all that dang hay.  (Funny how hay goes from good:  hooray, it's cut and dry!--to bad: oh my gosh, how are we going to deal with 700 bales of hay?!?--to good again:  abundant hay, baled dry, and stacked in the barn).

Open stress relief valve, suddenly lowering stress level to nearly non-existent.

Now all we had to do was beat the rain.

Well, 720 bales and five hours later, all the hay was put up in the barn, safely stored from the passing sprinkles that did come briefly--say three minutes--our way.  The hay crew had gone home, the tractor and baler and wagons gone too.  DH and I had a shower (oh, the sweat and hay chaff!!), dinner, and a few beers.  His shoulder was actually in perfect condition, not giving him any discomfort at all.  It was a good end to a day of hard work.

That was when he looked at me and said "How is it that two old people" (meaning us) "outworked a bunch of teenagers?"

Which was true.  When it came to hefting, toting, and stacking bales, we'd worked those kids hard, and sometimes still had to wait for them to catch up to us.  And it had been DH throwing those 350 bales up into the loft from the wagons, with me jumping out of the loft down onto the wagons to hand him bales once he'd thrown the top two tiers from each one.  All the teens had done the easier work, stacking bales in the loft or throwing them down off the wagon into the bottom of the barn, where my 'for sale' hay had been put.  DH and I had stacked as well, but we'd also done the hardest of the work, the throwing hay over our heads.

We might be old, but we've still got it. ;0)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Challenge #26: Go To The Beach

Here's a summery challenge for you:  find a beach somewhere and go to it!

Maybe this is easy, for you live within walking distance of a lake or an ocean.  Or maybe there is one just a short drive away.

For other people, getting to a beach might be a herculean task.  Maybe you have to plot out an entire day on the calendar to get to a beach and back.

But that is why I decided to make it a challenge; because even though I live in Michigan, the state surrounded on three sides by water, I live in the lower middle, where it's a bit of a drive to get to the shores of the big lakes. And, I confess, most of the small lakes around here with beaches aren't all that interesting, and usually very crowded with what our family (living in the sticks, as it were) refer to as 'city people'.  Not in a derogatory way; just as an identifier:  "all those city people from Lansing (Detroit, Ann Arbor, etc)".  Meaning simply that that particular beach is the only one within an hour or more and will be crowded with every beach seeking member of the metro population.  Not like the more spacious beaches of the big lakes, and definitely not like the beaches of Lake Superior, way up in the top of the Upper Peninsula.

I think that is where DH and I got spoiled on wanting quiet, sparsely populated beaches--those few years we spent living in the U.P.  It was after we moved back downstate that we got so picky about having a beach that wasn't full of 'city people'.

I digress.  Back to the topic at hand!

When my kids were little, and I wasn't working outside the home for hours and hours every weekday (so, like 1998 to 2002), I often took them to a nearby rural state park with a small beach that wasn't full of city people. The beach itself wasn't anything exciting, but it was water, and sand, for a hot day and you weren't cheek to jowl with a bunch of other human beings who were also seeking water and sand.

We would get out one of my big rectangular laundry baskets, load it up with beach towels and not-yet-inflated swim rings, as well as sunblock and snacks.  It made the perfect beach tote for a large family: everyone's necessary gear fit into it, and it could be hauled by two of the kids if my hands were filled carrying smaller siblings.  We also took water or lemonade in our gallon sized thermal jug.  With those things, we were ready to spend a hot afternoon relaxing at the beach.

Then we moved to this little place here.  Neither DH nor I knew of a beach within a half hour drive of our new home.  I also worked until one o'clock every weekday, and part of the afternoon on Sundays.  I stopped taking the kids to the beach for those two reasons.  Unless we were on vacation, my kids didn't go to the beach again until their late high school years, when they would be invited occasionally by friends to drive about forty-five minutes to get to the favorite 'local' one.

Well, when we were in South Carolina earlier this month for Toad's birth, I finally went to the beach again.  I confess, it had been two years, since DH and I's short trip to Myrtle Beach, since I'd been swimming or just sat in the sand and relaxed.  And, when DD2 suggested it--let's take K3 and go to the beach!--I resisted at first.  Unfamiliar area, the ocean and it's currents, so many people, yadda yadda yadda.

But she talked me into it as a way for K3 to run and make noise and have some fun when her life had just changed dramatically with the arrival home of her new baby brother.  Now she had a super tired Mommy and Daddy, and people dropping by all the time, many of whom were telling her to sit still and be quiet around the baby.

So, since grandmas are such suckers for wanting their grandchildren to be happy, I agreed.  I even drove!  A feat in itself since DH usually does the driving/navigating in unfamiliar areas.  But he and DD1 had left the day before because both of them needed to be back to work, while DD2 and I stayed a few extra days to help with the whole 'bringing home a new baby' thing. So if DD2 and I were taking K3 to the beach, I needed to drive us there.

And you know what?  I had fun.  I had so much fun on that beach with K3 and DD2.  It was so enjoyable (and, being a Monday after the holiday weekend, the beach was pretty empty) that it made me wonder why I didn't make an effort at home to get to a beach at least once a summer.

Hence the idea for this week's challenge.

Go to the beach.  Even if you think it's a lot of trouble to get to.  Even if you aren't excited about going.  Just go.  Do it.  Pick one, make time in your schedule, and go.  You can thank me later.

DD2 & K3, heading to the water

shrimp boat, coming in closer as the tide came in, covering up most of the beach 
(same boat that is barely visible in top right corner of the first picture)

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Hay is late this year.  As of this morning, my hay field was still standing, uncut.  For the last two months, pretty much since before the field was ready for cutting, our weather forecast has called for rain every second or third day.  We need three good, dry, days for making horse hay.  Four would be even better.

It wasn't just horse hay that hasn't gotten cut on time this season.  All hay has been late in my neck of the woods.  First the farmers (we hire a small, local farmer who lives less than two miles over) had to get their grain crops planted for the year.  Then they had to cut their own hay.  And after that, they do the custom cutting & baling for those of us lacking our own mowing, raking, and baling equipment.  With the long cool spring, no corn got in the ground until about mid-May (corn is usually an April thing around here).  And after corn, the soybeans needed to go in, most of which didn't get started until after Memorial Day.  There was not a single hay field cut before the second week of June, and many of those were destined for cow hay, which can get a little wet.

While I wasn't thrilled with the delay in getting my own hay done, I understood it.  That doesn't mean DH hasn't been driving me crazy, asking just about every day for the past three weeks "When is your hay going to get cut?  Have you heard from your farmer?"

And every time he asked, I had to say "Not in the next three days; it's gonna rain again tomorrow."  Or "Supposed to rain day after tomorrow."  And "No, I haven't heard yet."

Just to make DH happy, I called the farmer yesterday (after I checked the 10-day weather forecast and found the next 7 days to be devoid of precipitation--HOORAY!!).  The farmer confirmed that I am tops on the list for this good spell of weather.  Time to get that horse hay made, while we have a decent forecast, otherwise there might not be a second cutting this year.  Being a month late in getting first cut off the field, if we go into a drought now, which usually happens mid-June through about mid-August, the grass and clover won't rebound enough to cut and bale before we go into the cool, wet fall, when it's about impossible to make horse hay in Michigan.  If the grass isn't long/tall enough, it just doesn't bale well.  Nobody wants bales that fall apart whenever you try to pick them up.

If you haven't guessed by now, horse hay is kind of a picky thing.  Sorta like horse people, a little bit elitist.  (I say tongue-in-cheek, since I have been a horse person for going on thirty years. . .)

This afternoon, shortly after lunch, once last night's heavy dew was good and dried, I rejoiced to hear tractors out on the road.  Now, I hear tractors on the road many times each day, thanks to  a large  and sprawling dairy farm that has acreages all over the neighborhood in about a two mile radius.  The tractors I heard after lunch, however, were different tractors.  And they didn't drive by with a feed wagon, or a manure spreader, or a load of round bales or a silage wagon attached to the back.  Nope, they pulled up my driveway, and into my hay field.  The farmer had brought not one, but two mowers to get my field cut as quickly as possible!

little tractor

bigger tractor

It is amazing the feeling of relief that came over me as I watched the tall grasses fall in rows behind the tractors.  I couldn't help grabbing the camera and taking pictures.  I guess subconsciously I had been doubting this day would ever come; that there would ever be hay taken off my field this year (honestly, DD1 asked me on Tuesday night, when it was raining yet again, if we were just going to brush hog the field since it was all ready the middle of July).  DH's incessant pestering about 'when is your hay going to get cut' hadn't helped dissuade this doubt any.

No, we were not going to 'just brush hog' it.  Definitely not, not now. Not now that the tractors were finally here, finally mowing it down. 

Seven acres of fresh cut hay is a beautiful sight. Even if it isn't primo quality hay by virtue of the slight over maturity of the grass, it is beautiful.  It is feed for my horses this winter.  It is extra bales to sell, hopefully enough extra to cover the cost of what bales I keep.

looking out over the 5 acre 'old' (original) hay field

the two acres of 'new' hay field I planted last year

where the 'old' and the 'new' meet;
the new field is greener, having just recently matured
(I am planning to keep mostly the hay off the new field this year
 and sell as extra the bales from the 'old')

There is still much work to be done, getting about 350 bales hefted into the barn loft for feeding out in the next twelve months (hopefully only eleven months--hay season 2015 surely can't be as wet as 2014 has been).  That will be a long, sweaty, prickly afternoon yet this weekend where tempers will flare and daughters will try to weasel out of helping and DH will ask, about a million times "Have I told you I hate doing hay?"  But once it's done, once those precious bales I need to keep are safely stored indoors, there will be a sense of security that will overcome any blizzard the winter may bring.

The same sense of security DH feels in the fall when we've hauled from the woods, and split and stacked a winter's worth of firewood next to the wood boiler.  Another long, sweaty job where daughters try to be scarce and bickering seems to come as natural as breathing, at least until everyone gets into rhythm and we work as a well-oiled machine.  But at least don't hate doing firewood.  ;0)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Knitting

My knitting is sporadic in the summer time.  Not completely stopped, but going in fits and starts as I have time.  I did spend several hours in the car knitting on the way to and from DS2's concrete canoe competition last month, all of which resulted in this new sweater for K3:

Prior to that, I made these socks, which actually were the socks of the month for May at the LYS (local yarn store).  I finished them right around the beginning of June, before the weeds in the garden went gonzo and ate up a lot of knitting time.

About the same time I finished the socks, I finished this infinity cowl for DD1's birthday.  I had picked up the yarn back in November, at the LYS's 2nd anniversary sale (50% off, if I remember right), and planned for it to become DD1's birthday present since purple is her favorite color. The picture doesn't do the lace pattern justice, but it does accurately show the color and shine of the yarn.

Then, for all the traveling to South Carolina, and the waiting times while I was there, I brought along yarn and patterns for some dish cloths I needed to make for a dish cloth exchange I had signed up to participate in.  The two I made for that are shown in the next two pictures, both of which for some reason keep wanting to load sideways--argh!

I had also brought along the pattern for a cloth I'd been wanting to make for myself for about a year.  I'd tucked it into my knitting bag 'just in case' I finished the first two before returning home.  As it turned out, I did finish those, and was able to do about half of this one while in SC.  And K3 even helped me knit a few stitches in several of the rows! She wanted so badly to do what Grandma was doing, so I would place her hands on the needles, put my hands over hers, and guide her through 4 or 6 stitches until she got tired of that and wanted to run around again.

There is a companion pattern to the above dish cloth, which I decided to make since I still have enough of the yarn to make yet another dish cloth.  I am currently 75% done knitting that pattern.  Then I will move on to probably another pair of socks.  I'd like to do some for myself, but I think it would probably be a good idea to get cracking on some to give as Christmas gifts. Especially since I have about four skeins of sock yarn in my stash designated as socks for specific family members.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


When we bought this little place here, at one corner of the property was a smallish mulberry tree.  The purple kind, not the supposedly more desirable white kind.  But that was A-okay with me, because I like purple mulberries.  I'd only ever had them on the intermittent occasion that my parents and I attended the annual family reunion of my paternal grandmother's side of the family down in Kentucky.  At the park where the reunion was held was a huge old mulberry tree and the berries were always ripe at reunion time.  So, for me to find a mulberry tree at this little place here seemed like a great and wonderful thing.  Mulberries of my own! Mulberries every summer!

It hasn't quite worked out that way in the twelve years that we have now owned this little place here.  Some summers I've been so busy that I forgot to check the mulberry tree until all the berries had gone.  Other summers there weren't many berries at all even though I did check at the right time.  And, honestly, that mulberry tree of mine isn't in the easiest place to harvest; on the edge of the ditch between the front field and the road. There is some poison ivy in that area that we haven't gotten around to eradicating yet.  Plus, most of the branches are over my head, so I am unable to reach most of the berries.

A few years ago I noticed a seedling growing on the eastern edge of my garden. Joyfully I identified it as a mulberry tree, and decided it could continue to grow right where it was.  Most volunteer seedlings we get in the garden get pulled and transplanted within a year or so, but this one, this little mulberry tree, was right on the edge.  The edge of the garden seemed a perfectly good location for a tree with edible fruit.  Easy to get to, no poison ivy, and level ground that I can set a ladder on when the tree grows too tall for me to reach much.

This year it has an abundance of berries.  When K3 was here, they were just starting to get ripe, and we'd check that little tree daily for berries that were ready to eat.  At first she wasn't so sure about that; eating the little purplish black things that Grandma was picking off the tree. But within a few minutes she'd tasted them, and found that she loved them, and her face and hands were stained purple with their juice.

If a day went by where I'd forget to check the tree with her, she'd say "Grandma, yum!" (I only heard her say 'mulberry' once, the last day she was here) and point at the tree. Then we would walk to the edge of the garden and eat some mulberries.  She did this with DS2 on a day he came to visit, and I was able to get a picture of them as they picked and ate the fruit.

There are still more mulberries ripening this week.  Last night I put a handful of them on top of my slice of angel food cake during dessert.  Yum!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Toddler Days

The week and a half that K3 spent at this little place here brought back memories--good and bad (like how few diapers DH ever changed when our four kids wore them; he didn't change a single one of K3's, GRRRR!!).  The days were packed full, yet I got very little from my regular chores list accomplished each day.

Mostly it was care of K3; the dressing, the brushing of teeth and hair, keeping her entertained and out of harm's way, bath time and reading time and song time and bed time interspersed with breakfast, lunch, dinner, laundry, packing DH's lunch on work days, and making sure dishes got done every night.  Every day a full day, six a.m. til about eleven p.m. Every day a tiring day.  But each and every day started with a big smile from my favorite two year old (she is one of those children who wakes up happy every single morning).  And each and every day wrapped up with snuggles and stories and songs before she went to sleep and I tackled the dishes and swept the floors before I went to sleep.  Just like old times, when my kids were young.

We didn't go on any fancy outings while she was here.  Just to the grocery store twice, if you can even call that fancy.  Well, DH, DS2, and both DD1 & DD2 did take her canoeing, but I stayed home and tried to catch up on weeding the garden while she was enjoying the boat ride with Grandpa, who normally does not carry passengers in his canoe.

What we did do was feed and water the poultry every morning, letting them out of their pens and coops.  We shut them in again each night.  Several times in between the letting out and shutting in, K3 liked to just sit in her little lawn chair and observe the birds in their chicken-ness, duck-ness, goose-ness and turkey-ness hunting for bugs and eating clovers as well as grass seeds and various weeds. I have to admit, I like to just sit and watch them too.

We also played ball a lot.  She loves to run, as most toddlers do.  Let me say here, to parents who may just be in possession of a toddler of their own:  being a toddler is not a passive activity.  Toddlers need to be burning off energy constantly.  To expect them to sit, contained and quiet for more than fifteen minutes at a time is being unrealistic.  It also leads to lots of tantrums. (One of the first questions her mama asked, over the phone on day two of K3's visit, was "How many tantrums has she had?"  I replied truthfully "None."  Ain't nobody got time for that.  We'd been too busy running and playing).  Let them run, and run with them.

me and K3 playing soccer,
'shirts vs skins' style

When we weren't running or playing ball together, K3 would play ball by herself, whacking it across the yard with a hefty plastic yard stick and then running to catch up.

One of K3's most favorite things to do, when we weren't kicking a ball around the yard, or whacking it with the yard stick, was to run from one end of the deck or front porch to the other, while saying "Grandma, go, RUN!"  I bet we ran a couple miles during her visit, thirty feet at a time.  We also had fun 'off roading' with the stroller, where I would run as fast as I could, pushing it through the yard over bumps and down hills, or through the paths in the garden, while she leaned forward, laughing and squealing with every bounce or turn.

Climbing was another favorite activity, which I let her engage in within safe limits. I believe climbing is a good skill, it develops not just strength, but also large motor skills, and problem solving abilities (Hmm, how do I get from down here to up there? Now that I'm up here, how do I get down?).

Playing in the water was good for giving me a chance to cook dinner several nights running. A dishpan full of water, a cup, and our enclosed back deck (no way down from the deck except through the house), and K3 was entertained while I tended a hot stove.

She had a few 'farm only' adventures, like seeing two raccoons up close and personal, after they were caught in the live trap set in the barn. (We'd been having a coon/chicken problem again. . .)

contemplating a raccoon

And every day of course included some time spent with books (we made a trip to the library too).  Most of the time I read to her, but sometimes she wanted to read on her own.

She sure kept me busy while she was here to visit.  I admit, some days I felt like I was getting absolutely nothing accomplished (and that brought back lots of memories!).  Especially as the weeds in the garden grew and grew, or I needed to get dinner cooking and she was being clingy.  But I wouldn't trade time with that girl for anything in the world.

I have a card, one of those inspirational ones that were so popular in the mid-nineties (which, coincidentally is when I bought it), that summed up my philosophy so neatly that I framed it and have kept it in my bedroom for going on twenty years.  It is has a picture of a small girl, probably no more than four years old, in a dress and straw hat, standing on a hill in the sunset.  Below the picture is a quote, which I believe is attributed to Forest E. Witcraft, although on the card no author is given.  The quote says:

"A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. . . But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."

In every one of the above pictures, I see those words in action.  The world isn't going to be much affected by how tall the weeds in my garden got.  Or if dinner wasn't served at exactly the time I wanted it to be, a night or two.  But for K3, everything I did those ten days or so of her visit, was important; for those days I was defining her world.

Moms and Dads (and even Grandmas and Grandpas), think on those words when you are feeling frazzled and unsure if you are spending your time most effectively or not.  Toddler days don't last forever, but the things you do during them, the attitudes you have, will.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Challenge #25: Count Your Blessings

I almost hate to title this challenge as such, because counting your blessings seems to be rather a trite phrase and practice touted by those self-helpers (and zealous religious persons) when a person is feeling overwhelmed by the events in their life.

Trite or not, it is an exercise I do when I feel myself focusing more on the negatives and 'have-tos' than the positives and 'want-tos'.  So, today, I find myself mentally counting my blessings.  Maybe you want to write yours down as you count them, I sometimes utilise pen and paper in my blessing counting.  But this morning, I am mostly busy doing other things with my hands, so it is a list in my head that I am creating.

Such as:

  1. I am blessed with wholesome, homemade bread.  (We are down to our last 1/4 loaf, so making bread is high on today's to-do list for me. And since I don't want to buy that chemical-laden stuff called bread from the store, I must make my own.)
  2. We have been blessed with abundant rain this season.  (So much so that the lawn needs to be mowed and the weeds in the garden seem to grow knee-high in just a day or two. And the hay still stands, a month late in cutting.)
  3. I was blessed with a week and a half of having K3 at my house.  (I am cleaning up and stowing away the books and toys she played with while here.  Missing her too, but oh so glad for that tiring time I got to have her with me. Long distance grand-parenting is hard on the heart.)
  4. I am glad to have a garden to weed.  (Really.  Even though my back, legs and one elbow are stiff and sore from all the weeding I've done in the last two days and there is still so much more to do before I'm caught up, I realize that many people are not able to have a garden at all, and here I am with nearly a quarter acre!)
See what I am doing?  Instead of overwhelming myself:  "oh woe, I have to make bread", "oh woe, the lawn needs to be mowed again--and the hay is still not cut--because it keeps raining about every second or third day", "oh woe, I miss K3 and look at all this stuff I have to put away", "oh woe, the horrible weeds in my garden, I'm never going to get them all", I am focusing on how blessed it is to be given these tasks and situations.

If you are feeling overwhelmed at all today, count your blessings. It's hard to count them and not feel some glimmer of joy. 

Even if you are content right now, count your blessings.  It will make you feel even better. 

As so many things in life are, it's all a matter of attitude.  (How's that for some more trite rhetoric?)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

And Then She Threw Up On The Computer. . .

Which is why you haven't heard from me in almost two weeks.  Having K3 here for a visit was a blast, pictures and posts about that coming soon, but unfortunately there was one day where she had a sour stomach and DD2 had the laptop out on the couch.  I'll spare you the gross details and the lecture DD2 got about not being on the computer when she was supposed to be minding K3 while I cooked dinner.  But the computer ended up in the repair shop while we all went down to South Carolina to welcome Toad into the world.

Posts about him coming soon too, I promise.  I have a ton of catching up to do at home (garden, flowerbeds, hay to make if the weather ever cooperates), and it appears the new keyboard on the laptop (just retrieved from the repair shop yesterday afternoon) isn't working right--no numbers and an intermittent space bar--so it will have to go back today for more fixing.

Meanwhile, please be patient and keep checking back.  I have not abandoned this blog!  I'm just a low-tech lady with one laptop to share and no smartphone (I'm too cheap to pay for data; I still believe a phone is for talking on and a computer is for getting on the internet, no sense paying a monthly bill for data on a phone and wireless internet for the house, especially when the data plan for one phone is almost as much per month as the internet access for the house).  In other words, while the computer is incapacitated, you will not see any new posts from me.