Tuesday, December 22, 2015

♫A Caroling We will Go, A Caroling we Will go.....♫

Sunday was the much anticipated Sunday School Program about the birth of Jesus Christ, it's always fun to see how the kids do. We only had one melt down when one of the littlest girls was accidentally pinched by a snap in her costume and nearly missed the entire production. But, considering it lasted about 8 minutes, there wasn't much time for Izzie to regain her composure.

Bruce was drafted as the narrator and he took his job seriously.

This was our resident angel, Abby, and she really is an angel, working hard in school so she can fulfill her dream of being a doctor and we have no doubt she will make it. 

The program was a great success and we all got our bags of peanuts, an apple, a candy bar and a candy cane on the way out of the church. We were meeting back there at 5 PM to go caroling. The weather was very cooperative, the nicest we have had in years. When we were inside the nursing homes, it didn't matter, but when we were standing outside, it was much appreciated.

This is our youngest caroler, Treton, singing to our oldest member, Bernice. Treton was the youngest member until his sister, Addison, arrived. He has always been special to all of us, growing up in the church since he was tiny and he is so outgoing. 

Bruce was getting a kick out of him belting out the songs that he knew best.

After the caroling party, we all met back at the church for two kinds of soup, breadsticks, cookies and candy and fellowship. This really gets me in the Christmas spirit.

So much so that I made my way to the basement and drug up a trio of three small trees and put them by the TV in the living room. They were already pre-lit and they actually worked so I then hobbled upstairs for Christmas ornaments. I know, it's pretty lame but they did put the spirit of Christmas in the house that had been sorely lacking.

That was so much fun, I decorated the top of the TV but think I will stop there. Then I decided to take a picture to share but the lights don't show up very good.

So I shut off all the lights and just used the camera settings to take it, better.

Then I got really creative, "Like, far out, Man!"

'And now for something completely different'....who can tell me where that statement came from?

I'm always on the hunt for a great bread recipe, in fact I have a Pinterest board with the title, "I Can't Have Enough Bread Recipes." I found these last night and my mouth watered, I had to try them today. They are Honey Rolls from pastryaffair.com.

Even if you have given up on bread, you should to to the website just to read her article on her affair with bread, it had me rolling on the floor and it is so true.

I went one better and baked them in a cast iron skillet, the honey butter that is basted over the top dripped down into the skillet making the bottoms crispy and setting off the softness of the roll.

It was pure heaven, Lord, take me now!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fighting the vermin!!

Keeping ahead of the rodent population is a never ending battle and when you live in an old house, they are going to get inside, no matter how hard you try to keep them out. Each fall they move in with their little suitcases and set up housekeeping. I fought them in the kitchen, setting traps under the sink but when I found them in my kitchen drawers, I waged an all out assault and finally figured out how they were getting there. It wasn't easy but I did get that route blocked off so I can once more put the bread in the bread drawer.

We hear them scurrying around in the ceiling and they have gotten into the upstairs bathroom so Zoe hangs out there a lot and has captured a few. The problem is, she only wants them to play with and does not know or refuses to give them the death bite. After all, then they quit moving and aren't any fun, she even had the audacity one evening to bring a much alive mouse into the house with her.  One night we woke up to the sound of her playing with one in the bedroom and Bruce chased her down one evening when she carried one downstairs.

When I was laid up with my leg and sleeping on the couch, I woke up one night to find Zoe and Clyde had a mouse cornered in the living room. By the time I got to my feet, she had grabbed it and ran into the kitchen where she promptly lost it. She sniffed around the pantry door so I opened it but there was no mouse, then she looked up at me with a distressed, "MEOW!" which I translated into, "What did you do with it??"

One day this week I pulled out a pair of old tennis shoes that sit by the dryer to find they each had a pile of corn inside and when I dumped it out, each shoe had been chewed on!! Some little enterprising mouse was living under the dryer, where no cat could go, and living off the corn that scattered from the buckets as they are hauled to the basement corn stove. The buggers!!

You just feel like they are giving you the finger.

So I got out the traps and set one on each side of the dryer, I got really excited when one went off within the hour but it turned out to be a false alarm. It took a couple of days but yesterday morning I couldn't sleep and got up about 5 AM and stumbled downstairs to find Clyde guarding a very dead mouse, still in the trap, that he had managed to drag into the living room, thank you very much. He had desecrated the body but I will spare you the gory details, I flushed the rest of the carcass, much to his dismay. He had plans for that mouse.

If Santa asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I would say a mouse free house but then I would be depriving the cats of some entertainment.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Things are heating up in the coop....

....or actually they are cooling down considerably.

If Larry the third was a smart boy, he would have all three hens nearby for body warmth but evidently it is not to be. I have no idea what has happened out there but she looks to be thoroughly ostracized. Perhaps I can ask Santa for a sweater for Christmas to keep her warm during these long nights.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Christmas surprise....

...and the girls who pulled it off!

I was expecting my friend, Kim, to come over last night for a visit and hotdogs over the fireplace. I was completely surprised when four friends showed up, bearing food gifts, and sang Christmas Carols to Bruce and I and then we all had hotdogs over the fire!

I didn't have the where with all to snap some photos so I went into the archive and pulled them out.

Eva, a hardworking wife and mother of three girls, as if she didn't have enough to do she came a year ago and helped my sister clean and winterize the backyard pond. The dogs were also exhausted watching all that work.

When Lisa, another hardworking farm wife with an outside job, mother of two and proud grandmother of Izabelle, found out Rosanne and Eva were here, she donned her water boots and gloves and came to help. Lisa was the one who hatched the idea.

Becky, after a few glasses of wine - need I say any thing else?

Lastly, Kim, the go-between, she comes over quite often to have hotdogs over the fire so I didn't suspect a thing.  Here she is, last summer, helping me rebuild the pond, she is shoveling some dirt with a hen nearby helping.

We sat in the kitchen, eating hotdogs, chips and drinking wine, since I'm off painkillers, it is permissible. Then the fire drove us out and into the living room where Bruce had been peacefully watching Monday Night Football. They all started talking about the 'Voice' which we never watch but Bruce turned it over, being the good host that he was. (He was probably counting down until they left so he could go back to his football.)

We all had a lot to talk about, jumped from topic to topic like jumping beans but all too soon, the party had to break up and the girls left. It was then I looked around at my undecorated and messy house and thought, that is when you know who your true friends are, I never gave it a thought while they were here.

I wish you all Christmas surprises when you are least expecting them.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter chores

On a nice day, after the last big snow, the dogs and I took the gator to the pond to do a bee check. I was very disappointed to find one of the hives was not thriving late this summer despite me feeding them sugar water in copious amounts and one day there wasn't a bee to be found in it. I closed up the hive, plugging the holes so nothing could get in. 

The second hive did extremely well with the feeding, I had two jars of sugar water and had to replace them every few days but have to try to feed them over the winter.

Yes, I know, I tried last year but I was not ready to give up. So I looked into making sugar bricks, not as much work as fondant and made 20# of sugar into bricks. I feed sugar water as long as I could but when it got cold, they would not take it in so it was time to help them out. The first thing I did was take bales of hay over and put around the hive for insulation.

After the first snow I took the sugar bricks over, I had fashioned some mesh bags that I stapled to some top bars to hang down in the hive but did the 'Mountain Man Sugar' where you just lay newspaper across the top of the top bars and dump the bricks on top.

I had to move the bales first to get at the hive and several mice bailed out, scared the beejeebers out of me!! So I gave them a present when I left, several bags of mouse bait, enjoy your little buggers.

I thought the bees would be very quiet inside the hive, I was wrong. When I started moving top bars to place the sugar bricks they took offense and tore out to do battle with me. I retreated to the car and got the smoker out to control the hordes. After removing the half finished jars of sugar water, I separated some top bars and carefully lowered the mesh bags in place. When I had done the three I made, I separated the rest of the top bars until there was a bee sized space, spread the newspaper and dumped a pan of sugar bricks on top. I have done all I can to get them through the winter, just praying for the best. Whether or not they make it though this winter, next spring Bruce and I are going to tear up some of the brome nearby and seed it to bee friendly plants. It seemed like there should be enough natural food for them in those 14 acres but evidently not.

Then the dogs and I took off for a hike through the pond, Murphy was so excited but Mollie wasn't so sure.

When I reached the north end of the first pond, there was Murphy, knee deep in the water! I yelled at her to get out of the water and she gave me the most puzzled look, "What? Who? Me?" What a dufus!

On the way home I looked across the corn field and thought it looked like the scenes out of Dr. Zhivago, remember when they were in the sleigh going across the frozen tundra?

Back at home the "Icicles were hung from the roof line with care..."

It was a beautiful day and time to cut more wood to keep us warm at night but first Bruce had to spear the loader into the snow covered pile to get at some logs.

The dynamic duo were there to 'help!'

"What can we do, huh, huh??"

But first Murphy had to quench her thirst, do you think she knows about 'yellow snow?'

Bruce does most of the heavy lifting, I'm there to fill the loader bucket and give moral support, the splitter does all of the heavy splitting. It was one of our best purchases, we have some logs that Bruce would never be able to split by hand.

Mollie is intent of ferreting out some creature that lives deep in the pile.

There is no way she will ever get at it but does not give up.

"Snowbonnet? What snowbonnet?"

Fast forward, 10 days later.....

.....what the hey??

No, I did not slip some spring photos in, the snow is gone due to warm weather and rain, the grass is green, a hardy pansy is blooming and the pasture is flooding!

In December!!

This is something Bruce said he has never seen, we wish we could share some of our excess moisture with drought stricken CA but perhaps El Nino will bring them some much needed rain and snow. This kind of weather makes it hard to keep cattle dry but my hubby does his best, cleaning and bedding often.

And then he gets up early and builds a fire so this is what I see when I stagger downstairs in the morning.

He is definitely a keeper!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Moose on the loose

This is the picture I wanted to take the day I had my ill fated fall in the garage.

He is the brainchild of a very talented artist, Denny, who lives near Aurelia. The moose resided on the east hill over looking Cherokee and made from scrap metal, the land where he lives belongs to Steve and he put the hunting vest on the moose for his protection.

It will give you quite a start when you come up over the hill and see this big moose and one young granddaughter told her grandmother when she came to see her, that she saw a moose on the way. The grandmother said, "Well, sit there and minute and you will see he doesn't move."

Denny has made other creations, a dinosaur, a buffalo, an over sized bicycle and Jack and the Beanstalk reside on the side of their corncrib. I am now the 'Hawkeye' for Cherokee Co. for Our Iowa magazine. It's a volunteer position, we keep our eyes out for things that go on in the county that would be of interest so I sent in the moose with a little information about Denny, in hopes that they will want to feature him. After all, it's not every day you see a moose in a hunting vest on your travels.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Another Saturday, another emergency room visit!

Yesterday, Friday, Bruce and I were in the garage getting ready to go to Cherokee for a tractor part. I was carrying my 50# camera backpack in one hand, my purse, water cup and flash unit in the other when I caught my leg on a wire and crashed to the cement floor, landing on my bum knee. There was a lot of pain but with Bruce's help I slowly got to my feet, flexed my leg and decided nothing was broken so off we went.

I was able to get the picture I wanted, Bruce got his tractor part and we went home. My leg was getting stiffer and it was not easy to get around but I decided I would be fine until Monday.

I wasn't, I didn't get much sleep, getting up and down off the couch was pure misery and as soon as Bruce was up I said I needed to go to the ER.

He had to do my chores along with his own so we didn't get down there till 9:30 and had the place to ourselves. Two sets of xrays and a lot of waiting later, Dr. Harrison gave usthe news that I fractured my kneecap but it was a good fracture, if there is such a thing. It was on the side, vertical not horizontal. She also said I had a lot of blood pooled above my knee and tried to draw it off but it had already clotted so I have to wait for it to dissipate on it's own. 

3 hours later they sent me home on crutches with a knee stabilizer which really helps and a bottle of hydrocodone, which REALLY helps!

So Bruce is now chief cook and bottle washer, horse, chicken, cat and dog chore boy and has to keep Clyde's litter box clean.

Pray for him and send rubber gloves.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


I didn't think up that cute term, our weatherman did because we set a record for snow in November, all I know is that it makes a heck of a lot of work for us!

Two weeks ago we got nearly a foot of very fluffy snow and spent a day at the farm cleaning yards, bedding and feeding cattle and hauling manure, a day in the life of a farmer. Then the sun gods came out later in the week and melted most of it and we cheered because we still had cattle to work and the weather had not been conducive.

We did manage to work cattle the day before Thanksgiving and woke up the next morning to sleet and then snow on top which made for a very slow trip to Paullina to eat with the Lundquists. We were glad we only had to travel 10 miles and not over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house.

The sun gods again came out on Saturday and melted most of it which we cheered because the weatherman was already saying we would get dumped on beginning early Monday morning and continuing through Tuesday at 6 PM.

The snow gods were not wrong and we awoke Monday morning to huge, marshmallow flakes floating gently to the ground. I decided to keep a photographic journal of the progress, here the tree has no snow stuck to it and you can see the size of the flakes.

It's beginning to pile up...

...Murphy loves it, she was out the entire day while Mollie holed up in the dog house on her heated bed. Mollie's my kind of dog.

The snow was heavy and wet, sticking to everything.....

....dragging branches to the ground.

Murphy is on the hunt for the elusive squirrel that taunts her from the tree tops.

Did I already say the snow stuck to everything?

These are the cranberries on the bush the squirrel loves.

Our huge evergreen, when Bruce and I got married, I put lights on this tree, not any more.

Did I already say the snow stuck to everything??

We lounged in the house all day Monday, there wasn't much we could do while it was snowing so we conserved our energy for the next day. Bruce was already gone when I finally got up and I knew this was no day to laze around in my PJ's but got dressed, did chores and headed to the farm where I knew there was plenty of work waiting me.

Bruce was moving snow and he had a parking place all plowed out for me in front of the garage and Lena came running and running her mouth, complaining that there was no food in her bowl yet! Bruce said when he got there, Ole was waiting also so I fed Lena and suddenly who should appear, but Ole! I was standing about 10 feet away but kept talking to him, he was wolfing down the cat chow as though he hadn't eaten in a week. I kept moving closer, he wanted to run but the food was just too tasty.

I ended up sitting on the steps, just inches from the pan, Ole moved back but he wanted to be petted. He rubbed against the garage, against the live trap that was there, he really, really wanted to be petted and he finally let me. It was a break through moment!

But I couldn't spend all day petting him, there was snow to move, Bruce filled my trusty skid loader with hydraulic fluid and away we went to the three bay cow pens. I pushed snow and poopy bedding out, into the alley for Bruce to haul away. He is trudging to the machine shed to get the tractor and manure spreader.

So that is how we spent our day, pushing snow and manure, loading and hauling manure back onto the fields, breaking for dinner and a nap before returning to the farm.

It's a lot of work but so satisfying to see our lovely bovine ladies hanging out in the clean bedding, if we could just convince them to step out of the shed when they have to go.

I wasn't even done in the barn when the fat cattle were checking it out, I'm sure they are all warm and cozy tonight in the fresh corn stalks.

I was finished, put my skidloader away and was walking to the barn to shut the door when Ole shot out, took one look at me and ran back into the barn. He was by the big bales, I'd call him and he would answer so I just sat down and waited. Just like this morning, he wanted to be petted but he'd been a wild cat for so long he just couldn't make up his mind.

Ole rubbed the bales, rubbed the posts, got so excited he peed a little bit, then rolled around on the ground, peed some more.

"Geez, Ole, get a grip!"

After thoroughly wetting everything around him, he came to me, and we had a love fest. Then I couldn't get away, he was all over me. Ole is not as heavy as he was when he came, he was a big boy but then he was kind of a couch potato. So I'm just hoping he will remember how good this felt and want to be around us when we are there.

Who knows, maybe he will be the next tractor cat, kind of picking up where Morris left off.

Friday, November 27, 2015


  1. the expression of gratitude, especially to God: 
Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day and we celebrated with the Lundquist family where we had turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and all the rest of the trimmings, eating ourselves into a coma. Before the meal it is tradition to hold hands in a circle and say what you are thankful for. Most were a form of being thankful for family, some for the food we were about to partake. The list in my head was so long, I had to shorten it to family and good health.

From the time the news of my diagnosis of lymphoma was known, I received numerous cards and letters from well wishers. Some from people I had never met but they knew someone who knew me and that I was in desperate need of prayers. I have saved all those cards and letters in a tin box that was part of a gift package from a good friend. Yes, you get presents when people learn you are seriously ill, this one contained a bottle of wine but unfortunately Murphy beat me to it because we weren't home and it was left on the porch. The bottle of wine shattered on the cement step and ran down the back where a toad lived, I hope he enjoyed it. Others sent gift cards, prayer shawls, homemade candy, Sherri's Berries, a care package full of essentials from another cancer survivor, and comfy lounging clothes for those down days. And then there was  the food! From the garden club members, neighbors, friends and our church family, it was overwhelming.

The tin box has been in residence on top of the tv for the last year and it was time to purge, I'm trying to do that all over the house and this seemed a good place to start! I sat in our quiet kitchen and read each one all over again, some made me laugh and some made me cry. 

The friends, there more than one, who regularly sent cards just to let us know they were thinking of us and later celebrating with us.

The totally unexpected note from a lady I barely knew but we had spent a couple of hours together in a tornado shelter waiting out a storm.

The family members who drove at least 6 hours out of their way to deliver some care packages and hugs of encouragement during a particularly low period.

The sister and a neighbor of another family member who sent such lovely cards and letters, a complete surprise.

A nephew who lives in the electronic age, who cared enough to find a card, write a note and mail it, that made me cry even though it was a funny card.

The little girl who belonged to the TLC club in a Storm Lake after school program, where they made colorful get well cards and delivered them to the oncology department at the BV hospital. When I felt better I wrote back to Kayla in care of the school and I later received letters from both her and her teacher. Her teacher thanked me for writing back to Kayla, that it told her she made a difference in someones life. That she was important.

Never underestimate the power of a card, whether you let the card say what is in your heart, or along with a heartfelt letter. I recently visited my former co-worker who has  been challenged by a life changing illness herself. She said the out pouring of love from everyone has been humbling and she is going to remember that when others are in need of encouragement.

I was at the bottom of the box, the only things left were some dead bugs and dust bunnies and fond memories. The urge was strong to hang onto the cards but I was stronger, I shredded the appropriate material for Clyde's litter box and used the rest to build a fire in the wood stove. You will be happy to learn that they not only warmed our hearts, they warmed our bodies.

And I can't even put it into words what they did for Clyde.

Monday, November 23, 2015

I spy, with my little round eye, something hairy and dangly...

That sounds like something either naughty or creepy and it was neither, instead it is adorable and I wonder if it is a hummingbird nest?

I was captivated this fall with the hummingbirds I had at my feeders, I spent a lot of time on the patio watching their aerial antics.

Last night was going out to shut up the chickens and something high up in the locust tree caught my attention, I could tell it was made out of horse tail hair and it was dangling from a branch. Too high to reach with the ladder but today Bruce brought the loader over to split wood for the stove. After we unloaded it into the garage I directed him to the tree and hopped into the bucket.

"Going up!"

It was higher than the loader would reach but I managed to pull down the branch and then snag the tiny nest that had fallen from it's place in the tree and was hanging by a thread.

It measures 2 1/4" across on the outside and 1 3/4" on the inside, made by intricately weaving horse hair that I combed from their manes and tails. Around the outside are some grasses and even a couple of strands of the netwrap that Bruce uses when he bales hay.

I tried to compare it to some common household items, a mini beany chicken, the sewing tape measure and a magnet off the refrigerator.

Then I held it in the palm of my hand and bugged Bruce to take a picture of it while he was engrossed in the State Football championship game that he was watching on the internet because it wasn't televised. He went along with it and got this picture but when he tried to do it straight now, the camera acted up and he went back to the game.

I managed to get a photo of the inside without him and wondered if it truly was a hummingbird who made this, it had to be an awfully small bird.

When I was watching the hummingbirds, I saw a couple of juveniles that weren't too sure of themselves, could they have hatched right here in my backyard?

If someone out there is an expert on bird nests, feel free to chime in but you can bet next year I will have the feeders out early and all summer, hoping to attract more hummingbirds.

I'll also probably have a permanent crick in my neck from looking up in the trees.