Category Archives: holidays

Stonehenge-ette

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?

Revolutions

Today’s post comes from Ben.

The end of another year, pretty fitting that it happens on the last day of the week. It just fits the calendar so nicely and it feels so right that the last day of the year, the last day of the month, also ends on the last day of the week. And then we begin another month, another week, another year on the first day of the week. No open squares, it just all seems better that way.

The end of the year, all the old hackneyed, banal phrases of closing out another chapter, turning the page, another chance to try it again. But they still apply.

On the farm I will collect mileage from all the vehicles and the hours on the tractors and the lawnmower, the four-wheeler, the gator, and even the total gallons on the diesel barrel pump. I put all the data in my spreadsheet to compare with the other years. (At one point I believe we had to report the mileage to our accountant and there must’ve been a deduction for farm mileage or something. Now it’s just all under the standard deduction but I have always enjoyed keeping track of things like that). I also have our farm balance sheet that I will spend the next month working on.  It’s fun for me; I like compiling the data and seeing the changes, adding pretty colors, and formatting it. 

During 2022, I kept track of how many dozens of eggs I moved out of the house. It was easier keeping track of the dozens going out then it was the eggs coming in. The last few weeks I haven’t actually moved very many, so counting the eight dozen I have on the counter now, I moved 320 dozen eggs. That’s kind of impressive. That’s 3480 eggs. Which averages 10 eggs per day for an entire year. Back in October I only moved about 10 dozen, while between March and August it was upwards of 30 per month. If you count all the chickens around here, which is somewhere between 40 and 50, 10 eggs per day doesn’t seem like enough. I never said I was looking for efficiency, I’ve always said it was a chicken retirement farm.

I’ve also been getting crop inputs finalized for next year. Prepaid some fertilizer, locked in prices on some other products, and finalizing my seed orders. It’s discouraging that fertilizer and chemicals are as expensive this year as last. Hope for another good year of crop production and prices. I expect prices will have to crash and we’ll all take a loss one year before things will come down again.

A lot of the stuff we do before the end of the calendar year so that I can take the financial expense this year. There’s also typically a discount on pricing when you order sooner. My seed company discount goes until mid-January, and I expect to be driving again by then so I will get that done at that point. We paid off all of this year‘s crop loans, paid off another small loan on my truck, and paid a good chunk of an operating loan. Also, at the end of the year the equity checks come in from the various co-ops that we belong to. March 2023 will be 19 years since I sold the milk cows. The dairy co-op that we sold to, AMPI,  has a 20 year payback on their equity and so for the last 18 years I’ve been getting a check for a few hundred dollars from the dairy co-op even though there has not been a milk cow on the farm. The check this year was for $200. There’s $2.48 remaining in my equity.  Seems to me it would’ve made more sense to just add it on too this year‘s check. But whatever, one more check from the milk cows. 

We are all glad the weather has finally warmed up. The ducks finally got out of the pond and actually came back up in the yard. Chickens, squirrels, pheasants, and lots of birds are out and about and enjoying it. The show has melted off the deck so I can go out there and walk around a bit.

I am getting along very well on my knew knee. (Gnu G-knee!) And the 37 staples were removed from the incision on Thursday. The doctor gave me a good report. A few days prior to that Kelly took me out for a ride in the gator, it was just nice to get out of the house. She even took me over to the shop and I got up in the tractors. Just to say I could. Again, after all the trouble I had the spring and summer, I didn’t really think this would stop me, but it still felt good to get in there. I sort of expect to be driving again this weekend and I may have to take over snow clearing duties soon.

Prior to the surgery I had to remove the two earrings that I wear. I asked daughter to put them in. She doesn’t have pierced ears, and she’s never done earrings before and I thought this would be good practice for her. As a guy, I can’t get them in myself, I generally ask Kelly. Daughter got one in and Kelly got the second one.

Years ago when I was giving a farm tour to some elementary school kids, a little girl asked me about the ear tags that I put in the calves ears. I was kneeling down and face-to-face with her and I told her it was like getting your ears pierced. I have a very vivid memory of her looking to my ears at the same moment I Iooked to hers. I had earrings, she didn’t and I thought to myself, this is a fascinating little discussion and I wondered if she’s going to go home and ask to get her ears pierced.

One of the movies I watched this week was ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’.  One of those movies I’ve heard about and seen bits of, but never seen the whole thing. I enjoyed it. I also watched ‘All That Jazz’ for the 349th time. I was home alone so I had it loud to make it the best it could be. And I picked some new bits out of it. I never get tired of that movie. 

MAKE A NEW YEAR RESOLUTION FOR SOMEBODY ELSE.

TALK ABOUT GETTING YOUR EARS (OR BODY) PIERCED.

Winter with a knew knee!

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Boy, If I was gonna pick a week to stay inside, last week was the week to choose. Although 5 months ago when we set this up, I wasn’t expecting this weather yet. I think there’s some record of the second week of February being historically the coldest. I do remember February 1996. Daughter was born in 1995 and that February she was in the NICU with a bad cold. Kelly spent nights there with her. I was still milking cows and doing chores and it was -42° one morning. That’s the coldest I remember. An owl spent the night in the garage it was so cold. And some yahoo went 4-wheeling with his truck in one of our fields and got stuck and came into the barn looking for help. I wasn’t very nice to him, but I did pull him out. Eventually.

This cold weather is also a helpful remind that I didn’t turn all the heat on in the house this fall when it first got cold. Because we have electric heat, all the rooms have thermostats and individual breakers. I turn them all off in the summer. When it started getting chilly, I turned on some of them. They’re not all labeled, so I only turned on what I thought were the important ones.

Then later we started saying ‘It sure is cold in the living room’ forgetting that I hadn’t turned everything on. Until last week. I managed to get my knew knee (I know that’s wrong, I just enjoy the alliteration) down to the basement for several things, including going in to check that breaker panel and oh. Yea. Only about half are on. We don’t use the basement for much, so I set those all to about 50° and turned on all the heaters. Boy, there’s nothing like the smell of dust burning off a heater.

Got my grade for Meteorology class. ‘A’. I don’t take classes spring semester; too much other stuff going on.

The ducks are spending all their time in the pond with this cold weather. Maybe to stay warm, maybe to keep it from freezing. It has shrunk up a little bit as the stream of water coming into it is pretty light. We seem to have picked up a couple stray ducks. One flies away when Kelly approaches, but there’s still an extra in the pond too. Alumni? Possible. And the chickens don’t have much interest in coming out of the coop either. Kelly opens the doors and throws out corn for them. But no Thanks. We’re fine. They do have water, corn, and egg layer ration in the pens. No reason to come out if they don’t want too. The guineas come out a bit further, but even they don’t go far.

I’m getting around pretty well on the knee. Better than I would have expected at this point. It’s still uncomfortable due to some swelling, and it’s still all sorts of colors. I get a little stiff in the shin and calf. Takes a few steps to get the muscles and tendons loose and moving. Using a cane 50% of the time and walker 25% and nothing 25%.

I’ve hit the BDDT phase of recovery. ‘bored, discouraged, depressed, and tired’. Hard to sleep at night just cause I have a hard time getting comfortable. And eventually, lack of sleep just makes me grumpy. But I’m surviving!

Did you know there is drone racing on TV?? On NBC! With fancy lighting. And drones, which I don’t care so much for, but the lighting is cool. Found a lot of old B&W movies on these new TV channels (new to us. Something called ‘Pluto TV’ which I haven’t quite got all figured out). Jack Lemmon in ‘Operation Mad Ball’. Spencer Tracey in ‘The Last Hurrah’ (with Basil Rathbone and John Carradine. Man, what a long face he has! And he sure could scowl!) ’12 Angry Men’ and things like ‘The Professional’, and several versions of Pink Panther movies. Plus, ‘St. Vincent’ on Netflix. Highly recommended.

Kelly continues to be my rock star. Not only doing all her work, but my work too. She really has never liked cold weather, so extra accolades on her for getting up early and going out to collect eggs and feed everybody. The day she spilled water into her boot I thought she’d quit. But she’s almost starting to enjoy driving the tractor and plowing snow. Almost.

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH A WEEK STUCK INSIDE?

Christmas Cheer

Yesterday was possibly the worst Christmas Day we have ever had, as all the things that could have gone wrong with Daughter’s flights home went wrong. Our weather in ND was awful, with snow, sleet, a Winter Weather Advisory, and then an Alberta Clipper with a High Wind Warning. Her flight from Denver was cancelled. To make matters worse, her flight from SeaTac to Denver was four hours late due to technical problems, and they allowed anyone at SeaTac who missed a connecting flight to depart the plane with their luggage. The cost and uncertainty and anxiety in rescheduling was too much for all of us, so she had a friend drive her back to her apartment in Tacoma. We will try to have her fly here for Easter. It is in early April. I know we have April blizzards, but this gives us some hope.

Daughter was as brave as could be, waiting on the plane for four hours. She would have had a couple of days waiting around in the Denver airport for a flight here, but that would have been too sentimental a decision. It was a tearful decision, but I am glad she is at her home in Tacoma. I will send her cookies and lefse and her presents.

When was your first Christmas alone? What are some good Christmas jokes? I need some humor!

Ready?

We finally got out of the house yesterday to buy some groceries. The weather had been so awful we didn’t want to venture out until Friday afternoon. I think the whole town got to the store the same time I did. It was crazy busy, and I saw one ribeye roast after another being handed out at the meat counter. Grocery shelves have been pretty bare due to the interstate being closed and trucks unable to deliver to the stores. Anyone planning a large family gathering for Christmas must have been stressed and panicky not being able to get things from the stores.

Our daughter will arrive at our local airport tomorrow night around 9:00. We are traditionally Christmas Eve people, going to church, celebrating with our big meal, and opening presents and calling it a night. This year our Christmas dinner will be on Boxing Day, and we agreed that presents will be simple and few. The bathroom remodel is at a standstill until the flooring arrives and workers can get here from Bismarck. Our home isn’t the tidiest right now, and there isn’t much we can do about it until the construction is done.

The most important thing for us now is to get our daughter home, and to just hang out together for the week. I am not so concerned with having everything done at the proper time than I am at having a less stressful holiday. Our tree is up but not yet decorated. We will do that on Monday. The Christmas baking is done. We will spend the week cooking our favorite foods and taking naps.

Are you a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day person? How do you manage holiday pressure and stress? Tell of some of your more memorable holiday gatherings.

The Best Laid Plans

Plan A: This plan originated in September, when Daughter purchased her tickets for a flight home for Christmas. She would leave Seattle/Tacoma on December 22, fly to MPLS, have a nice long layover, and fly into Bismarck at 11:00 PM. We would pick her up that night and take her home.

Plan B: This plan originated late last week when I saw that we were to have patchy blowing snow the night of the 22nd, and the wind chill was predicted to be -51. Daughter decided that she would spend the night of the 22nd in Mandan with the mother of her childhood best friend, and we would pick her up on Friday, when the snow was predicted to stop blowing.

Plan C: This plan emerged after Daughter saw that the weather was going to be a little snowy in MPLS, and that, if her flight to Bismarck was cancelled, she would stay with a friend in the Cities. Alternatively, if the friend couldn’t get to the airport to pick her up, she would stay in a hotel close to the airport. With either option, she would hope to get to Bismarck on the 23rd.

Plan D: By Sunday, Daughter started to panic, and thought that she wouldn’t get out of Seattle/Tacoma because there was a snow storm predicted on the 22nd, and there had already been many cancelled flights after only 1/2 inch of snow. She planned to prepare herself for being stuck in Tacoma.

Plan E: This plan emerged in the wee hours of Tuesday after Daughter saw the terrible storm predictions for MPLS. After convincing herself that she wasn’t being impulsive, she cancelled her reservations for the 22nd, and rebooked herself on another airline for the 25th that would take her to Denver, and thence directly to Dickinson by 9:00 PM. The weather and winds in Denver and Dickinson are predicted to be manageable on the 25th. She didn’t book this sort of flight in the first place because she really dislikes the Denver Airport.

What is your plan B? Have your thoughts about winter travel changed at all over the years? What is your opinion of John Steinbeck?

Bah Humbug Day!

“He lived in chambers that had once belonged to his deceased partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again.”

One of my favorite metaphors from one of my favorite books – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Most years I try to re-read this little classic some time in December.  It’s a quick, satisfying read – a great story of redemption if ever there was one!

Yesterday was the anniversary of the publication (1843).  For the first time in my memory, I had an absolute day of leisure.  Past years I either had to work or I was deep into party prep; with the party behind me (it was wonderful!) and new to my retirement, this year is different.  I decided to celebrate by watching every movie of A Christmas Carol that I like (there are more than you can imagine and I don’t like them all).

I didn’t plan my viewing schedule ahead of time… just went with the mood of the moment whenever one ended and it was time to select the next.  Started with the Reginal Owen/Gene Lockhart version then headed into the Alistair Sim version.  Needed a little lighter fare after that so did Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.  George C Scott was next followed by Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  Patrick Stewart was next, then Scrooged with Albert Finney, rounded off by The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. 

Thought about American Christmas Carol with Henry Winkler but just wasn’t up for it after 10 hours of Charles Dickens.  I don’t know if I’ll celebrate this way next year but it was a relaxing and enjoyable day for me.

If you had a free day to celebrate/commemorate something, what would it be?  And how would you like to celebrate?

Your Order, Please

Our daughter is flying home next Thursday for a week of rest and relaxation. It has been a big year for her, getting her independent clinical social work license and starting a private practice. She is very excited to be home and her phone calls are becoming more frequent.

One of her joys visiting home is choosing the menus for our meals. She wants Turkey Chipotle Chowder and homemade cinnamon rolls. We have settled on Horseradish Encrusted Beef Tenderloin garlic mashed potatoes, cheesy baked asparagus, and apple hand pies for Christmas Day. Sometime during her week here she wants Croque Madame Casserole.

We love to cook for her, and it will be good to have her home. She will lie on the sofa and knit an afghan for us as our Christmas present. She also wants to play cribbage with her father. She doesn’t want anything from us this Christmas except a quiet and good food.

How are you planning to spend the holidays? What would you like to eat ? How were your visits home when you were in your 20’s?

Advent Party

These weeks before Christmas are a time of waiting and anticipation for many Christian believers. In our community for the past several days we have had an additional anticipation event in the form of a “monstrous” snow storm predicted to last from Monday night into Thursday. We may get 8-11 inches after a spate of freezing drizzle.

Like most everyone else in town, Husband and I have been planning what we will need if we are stuck at home. We have been to the grocery store three times since Friday. A young couple was buying many gallons of paint in Ace Hardware yesterday in anticipation of finishing a home project if they are snowed in. There is a party atmosphere in the grocery stores, people chatting to each other in the checkout lines, strangers smiling at strangers. Excitement is in the air. People want to be snowed in. Husband insisted on buying a large quantity of dog toys and treats since no one wants to be cooped up with a bored terrier puppy. Kyrill is supposed to be neutered on Tuesday. We shall see if we can get to the vet office on Tuesday morning.

I had planned to finish all my Christmas baking by last night, so that I could get all the goodies we are sending to the UPS store today. The storm anticipation has helped me slow down, and I plan to finish everything in the next few days and send them out on Thursday or Friday. Being this frenetic isn’t good for me. It is interesting, though, how staying at home necessitates so much planning.

What is the most elaborate party you ever planned? What would you need to stock up on if you were to be snow bound and had time to plan? What is the allure of being snowed in?

December Music

We have sung some hymns in church set to Welsh melodies lately, and Husband says he gets the shivers whenever he hears them. He attributes this to having some Welsh ancestors, and thinks the melodies tap at some deep primordial aspect of his collective makeup.

I tend to be more opinionated rather than shivery over church music. I like Advent music in church. One isn’t supposed to have Christmas music in church until Christmas. Advent music tends to be quiet and contemplative, which is fine with me. I find my teeth on edge when our church music gets too boisterous or when we sing hymns that have a lot of lyrics in the first person. How Great Thou Art is an example. Our Worship and Music director really dislikes Blessed Assurance, but was gracious enough to sing it the other day at the funeral of a 103 year old parishioner. Our recently retired choir director couldn’t stand Amazing Grace and refused to perform it or sing along when the congregation sang it. We have one song coming up on our December choir schedule that sounds like it should be in an old time western movie. The left hand piano accompaniment rhythm sounds like a horse ambling slowly on the trail. The congregation has loved it when we have sung it other years. I try to think of funny lyrics to it while we practice it, which reduces my irritation.

I really do like to sing in our church choir, and we have some fun performances coming up this month. Husband will play a duet on his cello on Christmas Eve with a flute player. We will do A Festval of Lessons and Carols like they do at King’s College on December 18. We won’t sing How Great Thou Art.

What gives you the shivers? What December music do you like? What December music do you loathe?