Category Archives: Family

Made It!

Today’s Farming Update comes from Ben.

Should be warming up by the time you’re reading this. My mom’s mother’s birthday is February 8, 1899. (She died on February 8, 1990.) and mom always said, by her mom’s birthday you could tell spring was coming and the days are getting longer.

But boy, the wind on Thursday. Blowing out of the North and it’s COLD, yet the sunshine is so nice.

15° but there’s mud on the south side of the shed, and that’s what’s so cool about the weather. The sun sure is getting powerful as we move toward spring and April showers and it will be here before you know it.

We were at supper with friends the other night and comfort food came up. I hadn’t thought of an actual food to call comfort food and I was kinda stumped. Popcorn was a big one though. Lately I’ve been making coleslaw at home. Met a friend at the grocery store one day and he had a bag of cabbage mix in his cart, and I thought that sounded good. A little vinegar, sour cream, mayo, pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper, garlic and onion, and Kelly and I are really enjoying it. I can’t figure out why. I think it’s such a good mix of crunchy, creamy, with just a little ‘zing’ too it. Some of you that know your way around the kitchen better than us; should we replace the bay leave that’s been in our flour container since 1997??

Egg production is down a bit with these temps, but everyone is surviving. I’ve got my new hooded jacket, zak-traks for my new insulated boots, and wearing nitrile gloves under my regular gloves and were doing fine.

This cold weather has me thinking of watering calves when I was growing up. Baby calves were kept in the barn with the cows. (Which is frowned upon but now; too many germs spread from cows to the calves that the calves are not old enough to handle yet.) They were warm and I had a simple float on a bucket for their water. When they were about 3 months old, I moved them up to the other barn. They’d be about 300 pounds and boy, that was a rodeo. It’s only 50 feet from here to there, but they didn’t know where they were going, and after burning the horn buds off they were all riled up and it was all I could do to get them up there. It was uphill. Both ways. I just hung on for the ride and tried to head them in that direction. Course once in that barn, I still had to get the rope halter off them. I was younger then thank goodness.

And in this barn was an old metal water tank. 400 gallons or something. One of those galvanized oval metal tanks you’ve all seen. In the summer it was outside with a hose and a float to keep it full of water. In the winter, it was inside. Dad didn’t believe in electric waterers nor was there an outlet in the barn and the calves would have gotten into it and that would be a whole big thing.

Sometimes I would use a hose to fill the tank. And then drain the hose and it hang inside the feed room door, so it was on the warm barn side. But if I didn’t want to use the hose, I used 5 gallon buckets. Carrying those buckets of water built muscle and character. Carrying 2 did it even faster. Remember it was uphill. Depending on the weather, it might take 4 or 6 buckets to fill it. When it was this cold it all froze solid except maybe a depression in the middle so it would only hold 5 gallons. Eventually I’d have to knock out the ice to make more room. The calves, like any outdoor animal, is fine in the cold as long as they can get out of the wind, and they have enough food and water to keep their energy up. When it got to the point they couldn’t drink I could bang on the outside using the backside of an old axe, then chop out a bunch inside, then pound some more on the outside. Mind you, eventually I’d cut a hole in the metal. Sooner if I forgot to turn the axe around. Then it held less water…

As the weather got warmer, eventually Id be able to get the water tank out of the frozen manure, and flipped over all ALL the ice knocked out of it and those ice chunks would last a long time.

So now in winter I haul water in 8 quart buckets to the chickens. It’s downhill all the way to their pen. And a longer walk of 150 feet. (summer we use a hose and multiple buckets) I can carry two buckets in one hand, and corn and water in the other. I have strong fingers. Maybe from all those 5 gallon buckets?

Chickens don’t like bread crust either. But they didn’t eat the cantaloupe, which is weird. We’ve always said we have fussy chickens.

I’ve mentioned we have electric heat. When its below zero, it might cost us $12 / day and I have to think, how much is heat worth to me? Do I want to be cold or do I want to pay the $12.

Good thing this cold spell didn’t last too long.

What Is your favorite cabbage recipe? What is the longest cold spell you remember? What is your ice removal strategy? What do you do with old spices?

Right Or Left

Husband describes himself as a left handed person, so one would think that the small fracture he currently is sporting in his right wrist wouldn’t be as big a problem as if had he fractured his left wrist. Well, that isn’t the case at all. Husband writes and reaches for things with his left hand. Those are things he learned before the age of 5. He does everything else with his right hand, including throwing balls and fine motor tasks like buttoning and tying his shoes. He also has carpal tunnel issues with his right hand, so his fingers don’t work that well.

It has been an exhausting learning experience for him to make his left hand work in ways it is unaccustomed to. I am unusually dexterous, so this is all painful for me to watch. I suppose this is a textbook case of mixed lateral dominance. We are supposed to write and throw and kick with hands and feet on the same side of the body. Husband writes with his left hand, but kicks and throws with his right hand and foot. He is also right eye dominant. Can you imagine how hard it would be to navigate the world not knowing what eye, hand, or foot to use? Husband’s father was a lefty. Both our children and our grandson are righties, so I hope the mixed lateral dominance gene has been evaded for future generations.

Are you a lefty or a righty? Know any lefties who struggle? Any stories of lefties who were forced to change to righties in school? Ever broken a bone?

All The Risotto In Seattle

Our children grew up eating a lot of rice, especially Basmati rice since we made curry pretty often. I made risotto occasionally, but not often since it was such a boring pain to make, standing at the stove and stirring and adding the broth for what seemed like an eternity.

The advent of the Instant Pot has revolutionized risotto making, and you can get a really decent risotto in no time with very little effort. I splurged and got a large bag of Carnaroli rice from a fancy, mail order Italian grocery store. It is heavenly. It is said to be far superior to Arborio rice. I haven’t decided yet.

I was tickled the other day when our daughter told me that she and a friend are determined to sample every risotto in Seattle. Their most recent foray into risotto was at a very fancy Italian restaurant where the risotto was green (presumably from pesto) and had Wagyu beef on the top. Daughter said it was wonderful.

I think she and her friend are on a lovely quest, and I wondered where I would want to go to sample a delicacy. All the minestrone in Tuscany? All the baguettes in Paris?

Where would you like to travel to sample the food? What is your favorite rice dish?

Another Week, Another Snowstorm

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

We got a good 6 to 8 inches Wednesday night into Thursday. They were predicting that, so I unhooked the rear blade and hooked the snowblower on the tractor on Tuesday. I hadn’t used the blower this year, so I had to put the hydraulic cylinder on it to rotate the spout, check the oil, grease the power takeoff shaft, and I was fairly impressed with myself that I could get in amongst the linkage and frame and get the power takeoff shift connected to the tractor. I would not have been able to do that last summer. BULLY FOR ME!  

It was kind of fun to blow snow again, I do things a little different with the blower than I do with the blade and it’s just been the last few years that I started using a blade for snow, so the skills for this came back pretty quick. I remembered it would be slower, but I forgot how much it makes my neck hurt because I’m looking over my right shoulder to do it. The seat swivels a bit, and I sit as sideways as I can, but it’s still looking over my shoulder. My next tractor will have heated mirrors so they stay clean. Or maybe my next tractor will have a blower on the front!

Kelly took some video of me, and I put my first video on YouTube.

One day I had to stop at Fleet Farm as I was looking for insulated winter boots. I found them over in the ice fishing section. You all know I’m not much of a sportsman so I don’t think I’ve ever walked through that area before. It was a little bit fascinating!

I found some boots; they’re keeping my feet much warmer than the plain rubber boots I had been wearing.

Then I went to Menards and walked around there for a while. After that, I had a meeting on the far end of the college campus, and by the time I got home I was pooped out. Nothing hurt! Just pooped out.

Kelly counted 17 pheasants in the yard one morning. The most we’ve ever had, and I love seeing them. I have one neighbor that always asks if he can pheasant hunt and I always tell him no.

My chickens from last spring are just coming into their peak. It’s not unusual to get 16 or 20 eggs a day lately. If anybody was up for a road trip again for eggs, this would be a good time. Although we should wait for the driveway to get better than glare ice.

After that rain we got on Monday, our yard and driveway became pretty slick. It’s been packed snow all winter, not thick, just a half-inch maybe, but that’s what rain does to it. I went to a meeting Monday night. I was impressed that I was even able to get out. Years of practice I told Kelly. After I got home, I used the loader and tried to scrape the ice on the hills and corners on the driveway. It didn’t do much, but it did rough it up a bit and that helps.

I went out to do chores while it was raining on Monday, I tried Kelly‘s yak traks, but they didn’t fit my boots, and I lost them on about the third step. Again, I’ve been doing this for years, I know how to aim for the gravel or bare ground or walk through the snow. Once I got to the feed room, I threw out a bunch of corn, and that gives some traction. Then I carried a bucket with me and scattered corn in front of me to make a path to walk on. A win for the crows and chickens and ducks, and a win for me.

I remember an old movie called Angel In My Pocket, Andy Griffith and a host of character actors that you would recognize. It came out in 1969, and a gentleman playing the church caretaker, Parker Fennelly, reminds me of my grandfather Hain. That was the only movie I was able to watch this week. I couldn’t find it online anywhere so I ordered the movie off eBay and it came from Australia. Spent a week in customs in Chicago. It a long way for some entertainment, but I really enjoy this movie and it makes me think of Grandpa.

I was filling the birdfeeders one day, and I love the fact that the chickadees don’t even wait for me to finish, and they don’t appear to be very scared. I was standing right there filling things and they just come and sit on the birdfeeder.

And here’s Humphrey breaking the corn cob into bits.  PHOTOS

Do you, or did your family do home movies?

Garden Preparations

This weekend Husband and I plan to order our seeds for the garden. Husband has picked out three varieties of zinnia seeds. We will have our usual San Marzano 2 and Brandy Boy tomatoes which we will start in March. I found a source for the Doux D’Espana red sweet peppers. They are unavailable from our usual suppliers, so I hope the new source is reliable. I have no idea why they are in such short supply. We will also grow New Mexico Joe Parker Anaheim peppers.

Husband wants to plant turnips this year instead of kohlrabi. He will have them all to himself, as I don’t like turnips. I don’t like kohlrabi, either. He also wants to grow 12 heads of Alcosa savoy cabbage. We agreed on growing more Hamburg turnip-rooted parsley, as it is so good in soup and stock. We will grow our regular peas, Italian giant winter spinach, chard, Hidatsa pole beans and green beans, Italian parsley, and butternut squash. I am feeling tired already!

What are your summer garden plans? Any travel plans? What flowers do you like to grow? Any opinions about turnips?


I’m not sure what I looked at online in November that caused “Build Your Own Stonehenge” to start popping up as side ads on my pc.  It looked cute and I already have a “Build Your Own Carcasonne” from a trip years ago.  Then I made the ultimate mistake – I clicked on the ad.  It was smaller than I thought and cheaper.  Both good things.

I put it on my list for the holidays, not expecting to get it; YA doesn’t always humor my eccentricities.  When I unwrapped it on Solstice, I’d kind of forgotten about it, to tell the truth.  It was much easier to put together than I had expected; all the standing stones and bluestones had numbers on the bottom that corresponded to marks on the earthwork piece.  (I had a layout of Stonehenge pulled up on the internet in case I had to figure it out myself.) After I laid it out once, I hot glued everything down.  I think it’s adorable; YA isn’t impressed.  It’s living in my studio now, next to my miniature castle.  I wonder what other “build your own” project will attract my attention next.

Have you ever built a model of anything?

Before & After

YA and I have a disagreement about one thing at the State Fair.  She loves to go through the Home Improvement Building, see all the vendors, ask questions, take brochures and cards.  I do not.  Honestly, on days when I go by myself, I skip the building altogether.  But when we go together, I always trail after her.

This is how we ended up with cabinet refinishers sitting in our dining room in mid-October.  Contract signed, cabinet fronts selected, countertop material chosen, knobs and pulls picked out.  The original date they suggested was the first week of December.  I pushed it to January – between our Hawaii adventure, the Great Gift Exchange and the holidays, I couldn’t face having no kitchen during any of those times.

All the time we waited and made preparations, I was anxious.  Seems like nobody has ever had a big home improvement project go smoothly.  When they said it would take a week, I expected it would take longer.  In fact, Occasional Caroline and I worked out that if the remodel didn’t go as planned, we would do Blevins at her place instead of mine.  I set up the plumber and the electrician for a week after the project was supposed to be finished.  Weird, anxiety-ridden dreams filled my nights for a week before they showed up.  And we can’t even get into how long it took to get everything out of my kitchen and breakfast room.  The photo above is the front porch… the dining room looked similar.  It took me 6 days.

Turns out this project was the exception to the rule.  Jake showed up on time every morning and was finished by 10 a.m. on Friday.  4½ days.  No surprises, no unexpected issues.  Of course since my anxiety had scheduled the plumber so far out, I had a great looking kitchen but no water.  And no point in moving the fridge back until there was water.  Luckily I was able to reschedule the plumber for Saturday morning and the electrician is coming this morning.  (Electrician is just to provide better wiring for the hood over the stove.)

I’ve started putting everything back – I expect to be all done in the next day or so.  It still seems unreal to me that all my low-level worry came to naught.  Of course, I’ve been to the hardware store seven times now for this 4½ day project (s hooks, little can of white paint, contact paper, electric face plate, wire, cleaning stuff, etc.)  

When was your last pleasant surprise?

January Bleary

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Middle of January now, gray days, average temperatures, and we must persevere. A couple more weeks, we’ll start to see some change in the daylight, and hope will return.

I’ve been able to do more chores again. Feeding the chickens and ducks and collecting eggs. One day there was 7 male pheasants came from the East, while the 5 females come from the North to eat the corn we throw out. 

I watched a flock of 12 ducks fly figure 8’s over the yard one day. Four finally landed in the pond. Not sure where the rest went.

Bailey played King Of the Hill all by herself.

I’m back to work half days now for a couple of weeks. Then I’ll go full time. The knee is still doing fantastic. Now it’s just getting all those muscles stretched out again and used to walking and retraining those left leg muscles to walk straight instead of bowlegged.

Movies this week were Judgement at Neurenberg, Glass Onion, and Passing Strange (A little known Rock Musical that I really like.

Other movies during various recoveries this year have included Men Who Stare At Goats Animal House, Kill Bill 1 & 2, Django Unchained. (Boy…those Tarantino movies. Kelly won’t watch them. If you don’t know, there’s a lot of blood, and a lot of language).

Obviously having a job is cutting into my movie viewing time so still on my ‘To View’ list is Citizen Kane (for the 8th time) Bridge on River Kiwi, Blazing Saddles (For the umpth time) The Terminal, and the Original The Producers (For the 3rd time).

I’ve got everything locked in now for spring of 23. Oat seed has been reserved and paid for, soybean Seed ordered and paid for, and corn seed ordered and charged. Oats is $11.70 per bushel and I plant three bushels per acre. Soybeans are planted at 55 pounds per acre and a 50lb bag is either $50 for non-treated or $60 for treated. (Treated for insects and rot if the ground is wet when planted.) Corn prices vary depending on the variety and things, but my average cost is $269 per bag. A bag will do a little over 2 1/2 acres and a bag is 80,000 kernals.  I  order a little extra in case I don’t have rates’ quite right or I over plant on the corners or heck, might even spill half a bag on the ground. And we can always return to the dealer what we don’t use. There’s nothing worse than being almost done and it’s 6 o’clock at night and there’s rain on the horizon and I need one more bag of seed. Been there done that.

I had a cement contractor to the farm the other day, looking at pouring some cement either inside the shed and ideally, I would build a wall and insulate and get my warm shop. But of course, a slab outside would be nice to so that I have a place to work on things without lying on the gravel. We will see what the prices are. Like everything, last year the price of concrete increased at a rate no one had seen before. Until this year when it increased again an unheard-of amount. Ballpark around here is $190 per yard just for the concrete not counting site prep work and labor.

I’ve mentioned a few times in the past about remodeling at a local theater and now some HVAC work. The HVAC work was begun in August, new ductwork was installed, and some old things removed, hopefully the rooftop unit will arrive in March. This past week, they installed a ships ladder, and cut a hole in the roof so we have roof access from inside rather than an extension ladder outside the building. It’s really fun; I’ve been on the roof several times this week. Also, couple of supports and steel beams were placed on the roof to support the rooftop unit whenever it gets here. I had a good time talking with both the sheet-metal workers and the ironworkers. The first day, I wanted to get up on the roof to see what was going on, but I didn’t think I should be climbing the outside extension ladder quite yet. It took me a few, tries to find the person that owned and operated the boom lift, and I played the “new knee card“and he took me on the roof.

It’s surprising the things you can do if you just ask. I got above the ceiling of the chapel at the local nuns home, Assisi Heights, because I happen to be there one day, putting up some stage lights for a show and their maintenance crew said they were going to replace some house lights so I asked if I could come along. That was an adventure.  In high school I always heard about the large ventilation pipes under the building and so we asked Milo the head maintenance guy. On the last day of school, he took my best friend Pete and I down to the basement and opened the door and said here you go, I’ll meet you over in the gym.  it was just a big metal tunnel, but it was still kind of cool. You just gotta ask.

Driving one day and the song ‘Open the Door Richard’ by Count Basie was on XM Radio. Remember the Bugs Bunny cartoon with Yosemite Sam chasing Bugs and Sam pounds on the door and yells “OPEN THIS DOOR!” then turns to the camera and says, “Notice I didn’t say Richard?”

Makes me laugh every time.

I returned a box to Acme Tools last week. The clerk asked me if there was an anvil in there.

What have you learned from cartoons?

What have you gained by just asking?

Odd Couples

Husband drives to Bismarck for work every Tuesday night, and returns home Wednesday night. He is usually pretty tired on both drives, and cranks up music on the radio to keep himself awake.

The other night he listened to the Sinatra station, and heard what he thought was one of the oddest duets he ever heard. It featured Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin singing What Now, My Love.

I have to agree with husband that this is quite weird. I can’t imagine what possessed the Queen of Soul to sing that with Ol’ Blue Eyes. Their styles are so different and not really compatible. Sort of like Ozzy Osbourne singing gospel music with Amy Grant.

What music keeps you awake when you drive? What are your favorite duets? What are some duets you wouldn’t want to hear?

Zoo Buddies

YA and I can’t go anywhere without seeking out the closest zoo or animal park (or both).  We were both actually surprised that there is a zoo in Honolulu.  When we were deciding on a hotel, we had several places marked on a map and while we didn’t choose Waikiki due to its proximity to the zoo, it certainly didn’t hurt that it was walking distance from our hotel.

It was bigger than I was expecting considering its prime location right off the beach and had a bigger variety of animals that I was expecting as well.  It was a quiet day when we were there so no jostling and every docent was all ours. 

There were three giraffes and one zebra together in a large savannah-like enclosure.  I asked the docent whey the two breeds were together; zebras have a reputation for not getting along with anybody else, including members of their own species and troop.  The docent told me that the larger/older giraffe was named Squirt and the zebra was named Mr. Z.  Apparently they had been housed together for many years until just recently when the two younger giraffes were introduced.  Mr. Z has access to his own space and sleeping area at all time but he prefers to hang out with Squirt and even sleeps with him.  The docent also told me that although Squirt seems to enjoy having the two younger giraffes arounds, he still prefers the company of his zebra pal.  The zoo considers them a bonded pair.

I love hearing stories like this so it was great to have the docent all to myself for a bit.  Of course, I got a rare YA photo that morning as well so it turned out to be a fabulous morning.

Do you have any “must dos” when you travel or when you have out of town visitors?