Friday, February 28, 2014

Don't let these innocent faces fool you.....

See sweet Zoe sleep.....

See innocent looking Clyde perched in his tower.....

......see the mess I found on my living room carpet this morning....

HMMMMMM....perhaps the cats have taken up a sudden interest in gardening? I guess I should be glad they left the rest of the seeds in the box.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Garden Club Junk Jaunt or Women Gone Wild!

Last winter a group of garden club women drove to Minneapolis for a February Madness at a big greenhouse. We had a good time but the most fun was hitting every thrift store and Goodwill on the way home. We drove in a snowstorm so that also slowed us down and we were trying to unload a pickup in the dark and snow at 8 PM Sat night to divvy up our treasures.

We have reminisced about that trip and decided to do a Junk Jaunt closer to home for those brave enough to join in. Kim came over one morning and, over coffee and muffins, we plotted a route using the site You can punch in a zipcode and kind of store you are looking for, thrift, consignment, antique, etc. and it will pop up the ones in a 60 mile or more radius. Kim and I had a pretty ambitious schedule but we also decided nothing was written in stone and we could add or delete as needed.

The date was set for Friday, Feb 21 and Sat, 22, overnighting in Carroll. Thursday morning it started snowing, I had to take another sick cat to the vet and the roads were terrible. On the way home I was convinced that we would never get to go. But Mother Nature is fickle and easily changes her mind, by afternoon the snow was nearly melted with water standing all over the place.

Eleven hardy souls met at Laura's house bright and early Friday morning, pumped to have been given a reprieve from the nasty weather of the previous day! Our first stop was Odebolt ‘Two Peas in a Pod’ where we arrived before the proprietor. We were milling around like a bunch of sheep without their shepherd, “Where do we go? What do we do now?” Luckily another woman with a shop in front of the store came out and took charge and herded us through her salon into the back. The young woman with husband in tow arrived with hot chocolate and coffee and several goodies, we felt like royalty. We left an hour later with promises to be back.

Next stop was Ida Grove where we found a huge store packed to the gills with garage sale finds, it made my head spin. There was much laughing, ‘helping’ others find something they can't live without, and, in the end, parting with some money. There was another thrift store a block away and our three vehicles began to fill with packages and this is only the second stop, "Girls, we need to pace ourselves!"

It was close to noon when we left for Denison, way behind the schedule we didn’t have but I was beginning to think we would never hit all the places we had on our map before most closed. After stopping at HyVee for lunch, it was quick and a wide variety for everyone to choose, we went back to our shopping marathon.

Laura kept smoozing the salesmen to get better prices, shameful!!

Sue was way too excited to find some fake grass, I told her that someday we will have real grass, I promise.

The Junkery, it sounded like our kind of store but it wasn’t. It was an antique store with antique prices, a beautiful store but not exactly what we were looking for. Everything was displayed beautifully and the store went on and on, up a story and down two. Lots of fun to look but not a lot of buying.

Two different shop owners told us about a store in Breda that we would love so we made the executive decision to make the 8 mile detour on the way to Carroll. The name of the store is 5 Sisters and it looked like a junk jaunter’s delight. Looks are deceiving, the store is evil and must be destroyed!! (What movie did that phrase come from?) We were happily shopping our way through the huge place when the young man behind the counter changed the price on something Laura had picked up and set there while she shopped some more. He denied it but I had seen the original price so in solidarity with one of our own, most of us put down our purchases and walked out, Sara and I refused to buy the 5 cards between us that we had carried around. But then there were no envelopes in sight so that might have had something to do with it.

We got to our overnight stop of Carroll and found two thrift stores in the same block, more shopping, more laughs, we were never bored. We learned of another store, the Lincoln Highway trading company and it was very diverse, good prices and they liked to deal always a plus while junking. A great way to end the marathon shopping trip. It was 5 PM and we had hit every store on the list, made a detour, even finding more stores, something I never thought would happen in one day. It was time to eat and drink so off to Santa Maria Winery. It’s a good thing we were that early because we found out that a group our size usually needs reservations. But we're special, we know that. Our waitress was so much fun, served us with much enthusiasm and even posed with us in this picture.

I won't go into detail about the 36 wine glasses gracing the table, suffice to say, a good time was had by all.

Getting out of the winery proved to be harder than anything, they were busy and just couldn’t seem to find the time to give us our bills so we finally stormed the cashier and forced them to deal with us, after all, we had a pool and hot tub to relax in back at the motel. A few brave souls put on our suits, the hot tub was heavenly, the pool was nice, the hot tub was heavenly again before going back to the room to shower and don pajamas for the party in the motel lobby. More wine, more food, burp, they have a computer for the guests so Kim found 5 Sisters on Facebook and left a scathing comment, which they deleted sometime before morning, guess we showed them.

Barb showed her expertise at opening the ultra delicious wine her grandson made, “How often do you do this??”  This particular kind was named ‘Panty Dropper’ but I fooled them, I didn’t wear any.

Everyone was peppering me with what time in the morning we needed to be ready to go and my reply was, “Just try to be conscious by 8, we’ll go from there.” This isn’t a bus trip where you have to have your luggage outside the door at 7 AM and ready to go. The beds were heavenly, the three of us in our room all like to read before we go to bed so we were very compatible, I slept like the dead till 4:10, then dozed off and on until a more reasonable time. There was a great breakfast, waffles, bagels, toast, cereal and milk, muffins, orange juice and lots of coffee. Someone even bought some creamer, perfect! There were those people who shuddered when we arrived in mass, and then there was the woman having breakfast in the motel with her family who thought we were having too much fun and wanted to join the group, we told her to load up if she could find a spare seat.  

The drivers of the group tried to rearrange our loads, we were dangerously full and still had half a day shopping to go. We arrived at the Manning New Hope at 9:30 and found the store did not open till 10. But there was a woman already there and when she saw 11 woman with cash hanging out of pockets and purses, made the executive decision to open early. Besides, she said it prevented her from doing the cleaning she usually did that time of day. It was a great store, I promptly found an Eddie Bauer barn coat, regularly $2.50, 1/2 of 1/2! Sara took that challenge and found her own bargain coat for the same price. Laura, as usual, beat us all, but then she did bring the pickup, more rearranging, removing legs from a table.
Our next stop was the highly touted Chuck’s Bargain Barn near Audubon, Kim and Jeff found it while on a road trip last summer. What a fun place! 10,000 square feet of very well organized, priced to sell, willing to deal, actually it’s a requirement, varied merchandise. My bargain was a brand new saddle pad for $15!! Unheard of!! I also got my cat fix for the day with Wilson, the boss. He’s plying his charms on Kim.

Wilson is at least 25# of snuggle, I hauled him all over the heated building until I thought my arms would fall off. He kept giving me kitty kisses to show his gratitude, even bestowing one on a little girl who admired him. But when I stepped out of the heated building into the attached unheated building, Wilson made it plain that was not in his best interest so I took him back. He was ready to get down and go eat some cat food, he was feeling a little weak from hunger. Here are the girls all lined up to pay for their purchases.  

And then there is Laura again, with her best buddy Rick, we didn't get the other guy's name but he was a sweetie too. He even carried Kim's purchases to her van and stopped by our vehicle to make sure we had a good time, we assured him we will be back!

They told us for a good meal, to make a short detour to Hamlin, and go to Darrell's, they were right. We had deep fried green beans, deep fried dill pickles and deep fried corn balls, all delicious with a side of ranch dressing. But then we all know if you breaded the tongue in your shoe, deep fried it and served it with a side of ranch dressing, it was be yummy. No wine today, we had to drive.

Last stop, Manning, Village Bargain Shop where I got the buy of the day!! A glider rocker for $6.50!!! Eat your heart out!! I couldn’t buy it until I could see if it would fit in Laura’s pickup and it did! We weren’t the only shoppers, but as usual we were lined up to pay, all in row. There was another woman in line between the last of our group and me. As she paid for her purchases, the cashier said, “Well you ladies have a GREAT DAY!” Then she said, “Oh, you aren’t with that group.” And the woman then had the nerve to say, “No, Thank God!” So I piped up, “I resemble that remark!” But she found no humor in it and stomped out of the store, maybe she was cranky because she didn’t get the glider first.
We were loaded, counted heads so we didn’t leave anyone behind, since we kept switching seats, it was a wonder that never happened, and hit the road for home. It was a lovely drive, I think we got to Laura’s about 4. Surprisingly the unloading didn’t take that long, but then we didn’t arrive at 8 PM in a snow storm like last year. But we had STUFF!!

We had a BLAST!! This was the 1st Annual, we will definitely do it again next year but there is no place like home. Everyone was glad to see me, Mollie was beside herself, whining, wetting the ground, trying so hard not to jump on me, Bruce was the same way, minus the whining and wetting. Zoe tore around the house, bouncing off the walls and furniture, before collapsing into her favorite position.

"I'm cute, ain't I cute??"

 Clyde was bobbing and weaving, his palsy exaggerated by all the excitement of getting a new chair to sleep in. It’s great to be missed.
I was stowing my treasures and chattering away a mile a minute to Bruce about the trip when Kim called. Chuck, the owner of Chuck’s Bargain Barn who was not able to be there today, called her to make sure we had a good shopping experience at his store!! He wanted to know if there was anything he could improve upon! What a guy, quite the difference from the day before. So if you are ever around Audubon, go have a good time and say “Hi,” to Wilson for me.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hanging out with my seestor!

I hadn't been down to my sister, Rosanne's, house for some time and with all the winter we have had, I was needing a greenhouse fix. A few years ago I had a hand in on putting up her greenhouse addition to their home and she has it full of green and growing things. I found her on the couch since she hasn't been feeling well, and cheered her up with a bunch of seeds to share.

I had to go see the resident guinea pigs and this one voiced her opinion at my lack of treats.

"Sure, you bring her something but do you think of us??? NOOOOOOO!!!
Rosanne got them a carrot so they played tug-a-war until the caramel colored  pig won the prize, I thought they were going to fight to the death.

It was a beautiful day so we went outside, I had never seen the chicken coop that Rosanne labored over all fall, it's really cute and it works well.

She can retrieve her eggs from the outside.

I was anxious to see the greenhouse, it smelled so good! Here Rosanne is checking on some baby plants just sprouting. I ate fresh peas right off the plant and swooned.

As soon as she opened the door, here come the hens, they love to come in and prune the plants and leave a little fertilizer in the bed. Things they spurned last fall with all the green stuff around to eat, they now gobble down with gusto.

But all good things must come to an end, otherwise there would be nothing growing in the greenhouse, and out comes the dreaded broom.

"OK Girls, time to go back outside."

The hens know the drill and reluctantly head for the door, any lagers get a prod with the broom.


Outside by the porch are the signs I made Rosanne for Christmas, just in case you want to take a trip.

They have a beautiful view out their door.

Rosanne is calling her hen, Bawl Baby Betsy to come and share the sprouted sunflower seeds treats.

Four hens and two dogs begging.

I came with seeds, chicken and noodles, danish rolls that were burnt on the bottom, sorry, some peach leather and a small portable greenhouse from our friend, Kim.

I went home with a blooming plant, a bag of chicken scratch, sprouted sunflower seeds for my own girls and some aluminum pans. We forgot the letter punch set so I could take it back to Kim, SORRY!

All in all it was a fair trade, wouldn't you say?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Our basement Old Cat infirmary.

It's been a long, Long, cold, COLD winter in NW IA, cold weather and old animals don't mix. The first cat to end up in our basement was our old, old Callie. I'm not sure of her age but she is Tiger Woods sister from another litter and he would have been 17. Callie was in the barn one day staggering around so I brought her in the house and installed her in the back room of the basement since she has never been a house cat. I thought I was bringing her in the die in peace, she fooled me! After a few days bed rest, Callie lobbied to be allowed upstairs during the day and this is how she spends most of her time.

She finds a quiet place to snooze, whether it is a chair under the table, the couch, or with Bruce on the daybed for his daily nap. Callie is old, thin and kind of grungy looking but she is happy and healthier in the house. At night she has to go to her room in the basement but she no longer tries to beat me to the door, she accepts her fate and settles in her bed for the night.

Tigger has been spending the winter in the garden shed with Bonnie, I could tell she was not feeling well but didn't realize how sick she was until I took her to the vet. Tigger had a bad respiratory infection and was dehydrated, I took her home after she got a long lasting antibiotic shot. I put her in the basement by the corn stove and went down several times a day to coax her to eat and drink. 

Bruce thought she was really old until I told him her mother, Tigger Mama, is the tortiseshell cat at the farm and she is a glowing picture of health.

After a couple of days Tigger was getting stronger and eating better so I thought she was over the hump, until this morning. I noticed she was wobbly and one eye was rather swollen so back to the vet we went. The infection triggered a problem in her eye that is causing the fluid to build up, much like glaucoma. Steve said she can't see out of that eye at all and he doesn't think she sees well out of the other eye, that is the reason for her wobbling. He sent her home with eye drops twice a day, the fact that she eats and drinks is a good sign and she does make her way around the basement. He said blind cats can get along pretty good as long as they are in a familiar territory, don't switch the furniture around on them.

Tigger finds her carrier when she is tired....

....and she is grooming herself which is a good sign. All we can do is try and I think they deserve the chance, I had a hard time getting away from her after taking a picture. 

She kept following me to the stairs. Now that the word is out among the other outdoor cats that some have made the leap into the house, the rest are lobbying for equal treatment. They complain that it just isn't fair and there should be equal treatment for all. They are staging protests and walking the picket line outside the back door.

OMG!! I've raised Democats!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Shopping for a Valentine's present, sort of.....

Bruce has had this little Owatonna skid loader for years, it has replaced his back in cleaning many hog and cattle buildings. It was used to clear snow on the pond so the nieces and nephews could go ice skating, and then fell through the ice. It has cleaned my horse barn, mixed my compost pile, hauled landscaping material around the yard for me and became my best friend while doing the big patio project last fall.

To show his gratitude, Bruce has replaced nearly every part on it that was possible and even bought it a new bucket. But there comes a time in every machines life where it has to step aside and let the new guy take over. The only trouble was finding another small skid loader in this farming world of bigger, better and badder. While Bruce was on the farm show tour with his 4 buddies, he talked to a young man who works for an implement dealer at Emmetsburg, IA. Colin told Bruce they were getting in a Gehl skid loader for a guy who also needed a smaller version and he would call so we could come and look at it.

Colin called yesterday that the skid loader was in, so armed with measurements and Gehl literature with all the bells and whistles circled, we took off this morning to check it out. It was sunny and 37 degrees, the cruising was good and directions couldn't be easier, take Hwy 3 east to Hwy 4, hang a left and go north and it will take us right to their business. 

Colin escorted us to their very busy shop where the bright, shiny, no manure has touched, Gehl sat. Bruce kicked the tires.....

....checked out the chassis.....

....and learned that the hardest part would be fitting his 6+ ft frame into that small cage!

"I'm not sure what is the easiest way to get in."

"This is worse than trying to limbo!"

"I made it, just don't know if I will ever get out again."
Colin trying to give a short course on the joysticks and pedals.

The second hardest will be getting out of the skid loader.

Wait till he tries this with all his winter gear and 5 buckle overshoes!!

After measuring height and width and assuring himself that the skid loader would fit in all our buildings, we went to the main office and sat down to deal in earnest. We came out triumphant, got them to throw in the $100 horn free if we bought the package! Life is good!

Colin told us to drive a mile east of their shop to where the Poet Bio-Refinery is making ethanol from corn stover, that is what's left on the fields after combining corn. On the drive up there, we saw several piles of big square bales of corn stover sitting on the edges of fields guessed it was to run the plant. We were right. Colin said that the piles we would see at the plant will run it for 60 days, it's hard to believe that they can get enough to run it for an entire year.

Everywhere we looked there are huge stacks of big round and big square bales. This is an over view of the bales with the plant in the background.

Big rounds....

Big squares covered, just think how much time that would take?

More big squares, just the acres it takes for storage is mind boggling. We weren't the only sightseers, we thought we would not get back to the road for the traffic jam.

People don't realize how many business' a plant like this has an effect on. Colin told us they have never been busier, next week they will start servicing 17 telehandlers for the plant, those are the large machines that handle the bales. He said all the hotels and restaurants are full around town.


Bruce decided to drive home a different way and took Hwy 18 west, heading out of town we looked for someplace to eat. Right across from each other was a DQ and an A n' W, with dueling $5.00 lunch specials. Where else would you be able to have a burger, fries or onion rings and a big, frosty mug of A n' W root beer for that price? God Bless America!

We headed on west with full bellies and drove into '40 miles of bad road', the wind had whipped up, blowing loose snow across the road and freezing, making it a treacherous trip home.

You have to love IA winters to live here. And you have to hope the others on the road are as careful as you, we made it home safely.

Zoe was keeping watch on the house....

"Did you bring me anything?"

When I checked the coop, I found these beautiful eggs waiting, why in the world would anyone buy sweatshop eggs when you can grow you own?