Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Home is...

Yesterday I posed a question - whether rural living or "neighborhood" living is better while raising kids. I got several responses (and hope to get more), and I began to think of my own family and three kids. They grew up in university towns, East Lansing and Stillwater, during their nursery school and primary school years. When we moved to rural Kansas, it was when the kids were in secondary and middle school. The three kids requested a "country" home at this move.

Maybe we made a smooth sail of it because we tried to give the kids what they wanted. I don't know the answer to my own question, although I have such fond memories of our kids playing in the snow in East Lansing with all the other kids whose back yards backed up to ours. And the kids in Stillwater, walking up and down University Avenue to their playmates' homes all over the place. Talk about a 'hood! The summer when college boy Graham was maybe eight or nine, he awoke early every morning, ate a bowl of cereal, and was out the door and down the street to "the twins' house", where a collection of sports-minded young boys seemed to gravitate every morning and every evening, the entire summer. That is a top slot in my maternal memory - he was so eager to GO PLAY.

And then later we moved here, on ~ 15 acres plus a creek, horses, dogs, and miles of open space to roam. We have all loved it here. I think in moving to the country, we gave our kids a home where they could explore, and plant, and observe all things in nature: the seasons, the weather, wildlife, the stars in the dark night sky. Time to think and to dream. And lots of learning to be done out in the country - I think more so than "in-town" growing up.

I guess, Amy, all-in-all, I like the way we did it: neighborhoods in early childhood, and country life, when kids are capable of savoring it. I think our kids did indeed savor it. I realize not every family can pick and choose; some families live in a big-city brownstone complete with subways their entire years. And some live out in the middle of nowhere and find that it's the perfect fit.

Maybe the answer is to hang your hat where the hook is and make it good. Yes?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Here's a Question:

My niece posed this query to me
over the weekend:

So which is better:
a neighborhood or country living?

My niece and her husband have a 2-year old, and another baby due this summer. After she wrote this to me, I tripped down memory lane in an attempt to give her sage maternal advice.

I gots nothing.

We lived in neighborhoods when our kids were young, and while there, we rented pasture land for our kids and their horses. We moved to the country, to an old farmhouse and acreage, when our kids were entering their teens.

There were great things about both lifestyles.

And there were downsides of both as well.

What do you think? What's your opinion?

Kindly spill your guts.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Goodbye, January

Well. What has happened to winter? Will it come later? Will it come at all?

Normally this time of year I am enjoying cold, quiet evenings with soups and stews, and snowy days, if we are lucky, complete with cross-country skis and acres of trails, with fluffy dogs playing alongside. Our winters involve jigsaw puzzles and popcorn.

This January I found myself a bit disappointed with our weather. No snow, not too much frost, actually. As a matter of fact, tonight we are under "extreme fire danger".

Oh, well. I will start looking forward to this year's gardening season, instead. Last summer was so dismal and brown, I have only to look forward to something better...

Friday, January 27, 2012


The prologue is this: I did my undergrad at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. As did my parents, and my Grandma Ruth and quite a few of her 13 siblings, before my parents. There was a household of Aussie students living just down the road from me one summer, and that's where I met him: that Spouse o' Mine. But this entry is not about him, or us (that comes next week on our wedding anniversary!). It's about our life in Stillwater.

After he & I finished our respective degrees and moved away from OSU, we eventually married. We moved to Egypt, then Michigan. And then, the chickens (we) came home to roost: back to Oklahoma State University! I could not have been happier. With our three young kids in tow, and a large dog, we purchased a house in a neighborhood right by the university campus. A better neighborhood one will never find. We loved our house, we loved our neighbors.


They want to know my business in the old neighborhood.
They give advice about the things I shouldn't do--or should.
But all the while I sort of feel they mean it for my good.
And I can't get angry, somehow, at the old neighborhood!

They borrow--how they borrow! in the old neighborhood!
But when it comes to lending, they are, oh, so kind and good!
And they'll do a favor quicker than most anybody would--
For they feel an interest in me--in the old neighborhood!

There's a little world of sweetness in the old neighborhood.
And I wouldn't move away from it--no matter if I could.
Bless their hearts! I say sincerely. Bless their hearts with every good!
For with all my heart I'm grateful for the old neighborhood!

by Winnifred J. Mott, 1935

I do miss our old neighborhood.
I am so happy that we could give our kids the experience
of a neighborhood when they were young.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


We have two dogs: Biserka and Beau. A Bouvier (Google it) and a Bloodhound.

We have a large yard, and we keep Beau in a large fenced part of our yard, called the Dog Yard, for a good amount of the day. Beau likes to chase things -moving things, smelly things, things going down the road at 50 mph, any things. He is a scent hound who loves to run, run, RUN! We let Beau out into the big yard early mornings and late evenings. He romps with Biserka, jumps over the pasture fence and heads down to the creek to make his rounds, and is a general busy-body the entire time.

Biserka spends part of her time in the Dog Yard, and part of it in the big yard. When we feel that she's had enough of Beau and his 120-lb shenanigans, we separate the two.

A couple of weeks ago we became recipients of two large pans of meat. "Dated" meat. A pan of hotdogs and a pan of hamburgers, that had spent more months in a freezer than was fit for human consumption. We're not talking a few hotdogs and burgers, we're talking pounds and pounds of leftover meat, to be fed to Biserka and Beau. Since the weather here in rural Kansas has been far below the freezing point, we have been storing these pans of meat in the bike barn, and doling out a few burgers or hotdogs each meal for our pups. (They will never go back to dry food, I anticipate.)

Last night, that Spouse o'Mine neglected to close the bike barn doors after he was finished doing whatever project he was doing. I discovered this, this morning when I went out (5:30 am?) to let Beau out to romp, and to feed the two dogs. Oh, dear. All the meat was gone. Lots and lots of burgers. All in Biserka. (Because Beau was in his Dog Yard all night.)

I figured she would die today.

Anyway, we let Beau out into the big yard this evening, and he with his bloodhound nose, went right for some "hot spots" around the yard. And Biserka got REALLY defensive w/ him, even fighting him.


Apparently, we have a yard full of buried hamburgers.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tactile Information

I have a "mini" Rolodex, which I began using some ten years ago. Nowdays most people consult their Smart- or i- or whatever-phone. And most people have folders in their computers holding all sorts of pertinent information. I, too, have a myriad of tunnels in my computer. I should just title them all under one file: Rabbit Hole.

But this Rolodex? It's a thing of beauty. It holds all sorts of information into my life and my business from the past decade. Lots of orchard names - some of which no longer exist, or exist under a different name, or have merged with other orchards. These cards have notations and little "family trees" jotted on them in order to trace their whereabouts in the current horticultural business. And there are names in the margin of these cards, to prompt my memory: Kagehiro, Fugachee, Carlos, Kitren, Ramon, Silke, Holger, José...

Under "L" is my library card number.

Under U-Z are my three kids, and their umpteen address changes from the past six years. Manhattan, Lawrence, Atlanta, Falls Church, San Diego, Richmond, Bellingham... Don't question my filing the kids under U-Z, it just works for me. Also under U-Z is an address for my niece Amy in Stillwater. Trouble is, Amy hasn't lived in Stillwater for a couple of years, a marriage, and a baby. Hmmm...must edit Amy's life card.

I have cards for universities: Washington State, Concepción, Oregon State, U. of Chile, Michigan State...anywhere that there are cherry researchers.

I have a card for my parents' cell phone, and for my sister-in-law's as well.

W holds Walla Walla and Webster information.

A recipe here, hastily-scribbled directions there...

I like my mini-Rolodex. It's more tactile than an iPhone APP.

And here is a Postscript: In addition to my old-fashioned Rolodex, I have an old-fashioned index card box in my kitchen drawer. It holds lots and lots of recipes! But in addition to those, it holds the secrets that any good hostess should know about her frequent guests and diners:

Before my "A" recipes stand a collection of cards for anyone who has regularly-dined or visited us here in rural Kansas. It tells me their culinary likes and dislikes, any allergies, and anything else I would like to know for their comfort.

Someone might remark that this effort is taking it a bit too far, but I disagree. If Boyfriend X hates broccoli (even though we all love it!), I am not going to serve it when he graces us with his presence. Ditto, when daughter G mentions that eggplant and avocados make her throat itch, you can be sure I will serve chicken and rice when she is home, sans the above.

And there you have it: two of my relic organizational skills.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I was writing an email to some of our kids, and in it I said something about being a broken record. And as I proofread my email (because that's what you do, even with spell-check and all), I thought to myself, "These kids have no idea what a 'broken record' even is."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter Wear

Brrr - it was cold today! This evening before sundown I went out to feed animals. The UPS truck pulled up in our drive, and so Biserka and I went to the gate to meet him. Biserka always sounds ferocious and behaves much like her name when she hears the UPS and Fed Ex trucks heading down our road. True to form, she ran and barked and growled, and then stopped as soon as the UPS man threw her a dog biscuit over the fence. These UPS drivers know what they're doing.

Then the driver said hello to me, and I noticed he was noticing my attire. Mind you, it was 22º out and the sun was setting. I had on my sherpa hat and my Stay-Puff snowmobile suit. This snowsuit has seen many years of winter mornings and evenings, feeding animals, moving hay bales, getting caught on nails in the barn, barbs in the wire, and so on. The white insulation fluff from the inside of the suit was sticking out here and there, all over the suit. Last year I purchased a new snowsuit, but it just was not as warm as this Stay-Puff thing. So one day I laid the old snowsuit out flat on the floor, and began mending the rips and holes with - you guessed it - duct tape. I have duct tape wrapped all around one pantleg of the suit, from the thigh clear down to the calf. And this wasn't just your run-of-the-mill silver duct tape (which would have been preferable, given that the suit is silver), because Santa only delivers COLORFUL duct tape in our stockings. So my snowsuit leg is wrapped in white and teal. Very nice.

It didn't occur to me until this evening that I might look like a hillbilly derelict out in the winter yard. But a WARM hillbilly, at least.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Goose Swirls

Outside this morning I observed hundreds and hundreds of geese flying from the river two miles north of us, right over our property, and circling, circling, looking like they were hunting for a landing strip that would fit all of them. They first circled our little pasture: no good, apparently, and the vortex of wings and honking whirled further east to another field, and then another. But they never landed. They circled back they way they came, circling across our little pasture and back to the river just north of us. The whole thing took maybe ten minutes.

Then they repeated this trek. Same way, same noise, same circles. Across a few fields, and back to the river. At this point in my 9º morning, I thought to run in and get a camera.

SO when the geese did this a third time, I had my camera ready. Unfortunately, it's not a good camera. So...one can HEAR the geese, but one can't make out the hundreds that are making smoky swirls in the sky. Too bad, too - it was quite a sight.

It is cold and windy this afternoon, and the wind is out of the southwest. The forecast calls for cold wind through the night, too. But it will be coming out of the north. Maybe the geese were trying to decide whether to plan for southwest or north winds before they landed. Maybe they just gave up after the third try and went back home.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I am trying to keep up with my 7.5's:

7.5 miles of walk, or walk/run, and best of all, my run/walks (not clear up to a complete 7.5-mile run, but hope springs eternal.) The former dictates which I did more of, walk or run, and the latter, the lesser movement.

I began this activity in September, or August, after watching the College Boy Graham head out one day on one of his runs in the triple-digit heat. I was watching through the study window as he effortlessly ran down the road. "I want to be able to do that", I thought to myself. I hadn't done "that" for several months, given the heat of the summer and my inability to cope with it.

So as soon as the summer heat abated a bit, I started out, first on walks. I didn't start out on a 1-mile walk, though. I started out on a 7.5 mile walk. Why piddle around with what the "experts" say? The 7.5 miles is the distance from our house, around three-quarters of the section to the community cemetery, and back. An out & back, in running lingo. I chose this route so that I wouldn't have to contend with the pit bull at mile 3.5, were I to loop the section.
And, because our section is wonky, it comes to 7.5 miles instead of 6.

After a month or so of the 7.5, I threw in a 10 or 11-mile hike once a week. I used to be able to do it, I told myself. And I was right: I can still do it, albeit slower than I did, say 15 years ago. Quite a bit slower.

College Boy Graham can run ten miles and come indoors as if he accomplished a waltz across the road. If I go ten miles, I arrange for a bottle drop, either by myself, or by that Spouse o' Mine. And it takes a couple of hours. Come to think of it, the College Boy can run 20 miles and probably be home before I complete my ten miles. Nevertheless, I am out there doing it.

On a running portion of my 7.5 miles last week, towards the last when I was feeling spent, I flushed a covey of quail and I very nearly had a heart attack. It scared the daylights out of me. (Death by quail?)

This afternoon, I was midway through my miles and all of a sudden a beautiful pheasant flew up in front of me. He was really pretty. I can't imagine anyone wanting to kill a pretty bird just to eat it.

I suppose there are those who can't imagine hiking 7.5 miles just to write about it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January Twilight

"The shortest day has passed,
and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February,
at least we notice that the days are getting longer.

Minute by minute they lengthen out.
It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.

It is imperceptible, even as the growth of a child,
as you watch it day by day,
until the moment comes when,
with a start of delighted surprise,
we realize that we can stay out of doors
in a twilight
lasting for another quarter of a precious hour."
- Vita Sackville-West

My twilight included watching our two big ol' dogs frolicking as the sun set. What made them so playful, I wonder? Our horses, in my mind's eye, would prance and kick and rear before a snowstorm or thunderstorm.

I used to love watching them.

I loved watching the dogs tonight, too. Kind of a smaller version of the equine, this canine play.

After all the frolic, I came in to start dinner:

Mozart in the background, potato casserole (My Lutheran friends and I call it Funeral Potatoes.) and a spinach-mushroom frittata are in the oven.

And bright and early tomorrow?

I go to an orchestra "affair"
to buy new strings for an old cello.

Life just progresses through the season.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Power of Positive

I have to counter yesterday's negative list with something positive. So here it is:

Things that I appreciate tonight:

I had lunch with a good, fun, friend today!

The sun was shining. The wind was not blowing too, too hard.

I am finishing a quilt tonight.

My oldest brother's birthday is tomorrow. Yay that I have three older brothers and an older brother-in-law who dovetails in there with the brothers, and celebrations of such.

We are having leftover feijoada tonight, and that means dinner is A) a no-brainer, and B) really GOOD!

I loved romping with our two dogs in the 22º temp this evening. No kidding! I am missing out on my 7.5 mile walk/runs in these temps, and the pups are missing out on their normal activity. Hopefully I/they will sleep well tonight. (That is to say, hopefully the dogs will not bay at coyotes/foxes/the moon/thunder/the air, in the night.)

Three cute kitties who seem to be in hibernation mode, which makes them all cute and cuddly. They only raise their heads for a moment when I enter the room, and then: POOF! Back to snoozetown.

And so, with all this positive thought, I can go and attend. Address? Conquer? Delight in?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Things I Don't Like Tonight

What electrical engineer came up with the stupid "ground" that only allows me to plug into an outlet one way?!

At 5'2", I can barely reach the plastic bags hung in the produce aisle of Wal Mart (which I boycott from T'giving to New years, by the way). How do handicapped people reach those STUPID bags, anyway?!

Down the road from us the KDot people (Dept. of Transportation) are making our road "federal-guideline" worthy. They have drilled and placed new electrical poles and lines SMACK in the middle of our neighbors' yards. I want to know: Who got a federal kickback on this idiocy?! I am sad for our neighbors.

Sneezing people in public. I sneeze a lot. I am sensitive to candles, pollen, animals, dust, dirt, wind, invisible allergens, and pterodactyls. When I feel a sneeze coming on, I pull out my tissue or my kerchief. None of this FREE-FALLING sneezing, or in-my-palm sneezing, or even "in my sleeve" sneezing.

Hacking, too. If you are hacking, stay home. Puh-lease.

I was pricing wedding cakes today. $8.00/guest? Really, cake people? I am in the wrong career.

Free range: Only outside of the US is the term Free Range defined as: are allowed to roam freely instead of being contained in any manner. Our ducks are not, in my opinion, free-range, in that I become rankled when they roam outside their 5-acre realm, and into the "coyote zone", down by our creek. (And this is where five of them were this afternoon. Bah! Humbug, ducks.)

The meteorologists forecast cold and snow for this afternoon. WHERE the heck is my snow?!

OK, OK, this entry is full of negativity; I suppose that it presupposes an entry tomorrow FULL of positive whatnot.

But, of course.

Monday, January 09, 2012


When you pray for others,
God listens to you and blesses them.
When you are safe and happy,
remember that someone has prayed for you.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Fun Stuff!

One of our kids is getting married! This is fun stuff!

Our second child, College Grad Claire, is engaged and getting married sometime this summer!

That Spouse o' Mine and I met her Betrothed years before they actually got together. Funny (kind of horrible, too) story: That Spouse o' Mine and I were corner-marshalling during a collegiate cycling crit race. The collegiate racers flew through our corner, into the next road, and beyond. Our corner was buttressed with hay bales and such.

Nevertheless, there was ONE cyclist who managed to wipe out on our corner. On our watch. I was horrified. It looked bad. This cyclist got up after his really bad skid across the tarmac and kept going. I felt ill.


After the race ended, the cyclist unknown to that Spouse o' Mine and me approached us both, and asked, "Do you know what happened just before I wiped out?"

Heck, no, we did not.

A year or so later, did we know what happened just as he met our daughter?

Heck, no, we do not.

But we are happy with the engagement!

Claire and her fiancé, Richard Shurtz

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Twelfth Day of Our Christmas

Our Twelfth Day of Christmas dinner holds shrimp and salmon, and a 7.5 mile walk, and so much in the way of "wedding planning" to boot.

I already miss our College Boy Graham (who left Monday).

That the daughters are both leaving tomorrow? I don't want to think.

Here's to my holidays!

Thank you, all of you.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

11th Day of Christmas

"On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree."

So, I'm not sure about the pipers, the lords, the ladies, the maids, and the swans; we DO have ducks a' laying (still 100% egg production...!).

We have one golden ring to celebrate:
Daughter Claire is engaged! This is exciting. No date, no venue to date. We just told them...let us know when and where, and we'll be there! (I hope it will be this easy.)

As for the calling birds, (I always thought they were Cawley Birds?? Somebody check on that for me.), and the French hens, we have none.

The two turtle doves? May we please switch out our pair of peacocks? It has come to light this month that we do indeed have a peacock AND a peahen. And in the words of Martha Stewart, my domestic hero, "And that's a GOOD thing."

The partridge in a pear tree. Hmmm. How about the tufted titmouse that beckons each morning at my front porch? Yes! That works.

Tomorrow is our Twelfth Day of Christmas. And then, Epiphany.
You all can look that one up, either in the Bible or on Wikipedia.
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