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Bottle Art

Today’s post comes to us from Aboksu.

In 2018 I retired after 39 years of life in Taiwan. I moved to Holland, MI, and bought a hundred year old house in the city. 

The town was platted out sometime in the 1960s, and included alleys in the middle of blocks.  One by one, the city “vacated” many of those alleys, but some remain.  Near our house there’s one that a community association “neatened up” within the last 10 years. It’s an “art alley”.  One back yard installation included a few racks of colored bottles on poles. They attracted me. I figured I could do that, myself, in my own yard.

After examining the installation, I decided that I could do it cheaper too.  I sent out a request for empty bottles on a neighborhood bulletin board, and got “not few” responses, sometimes linked to statements that “we didn’t drink all that wine” or “the bottles accumulated over a long time.”  (That’s Holland, MI piety speaking).  My own installation, because I did it on the cheap side, blew apart in the wind more than once. Lots of bottles and red vases smashed before I finally figured out how to make it secure.

As I live and drink, I accumulate bottles regularly. Three windows in the garage were “bottled up” in 2022. More racks and installations have taken places in the yard.  As I write, there are 50 bottles and vases, drilled and washed, waiting in the basement for another inspiration to strike.  

Tell me about your last inspiration!

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?

The Favor

As you all know, I adore being retired.  It’s been six months and the novelty has not worn off.  And my boss knows as well.  When she called me last week, the first words out of her mouth were “don’t hang up on me”.  Two new programs for the first week of May have just sold, an unusual happenstance for this late in the fiscal year.  They are warehouse programs, of which I was the undisputed queen, and nobody else has any wiggle room in their workload to fit these in.  Could I pretty please with a cherry on top come out of retirement on a temporary, part time basis and run these two programs?

I thought about it over the weekend and got input from several friends (all of whom said “go for it’ – I need new friends).  When I told my boss I would do it, I gave her a long list of requirements, all of which she agreed to.  Rats.  I also told her that this was a big favor and it was the only one she was going to get.  If these programs re-up next year, I won’t do them.  And she can’t apply the favor to a non-warehouse program.  It’s these two and no others.

I’m not all that excited about this development, but all my former team-mates are ecstatic.  Not so much because I’m coming back temporarily but because now they know they don’t have to try to squeeze either of these programs into their calendar!

Tell me about a huge favor you’ve done for someone.  Or a huge favor they’ve done for you!

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?

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?

Posing With Dinosaurs

As you all know, YA and I travel pretty well together.  For the most part we like to do the same things, we are usually on the same page where restaurants are concerned and we’re both flexible about things that pop up or that change.

When we were planning our Hawaii trip, she was really interested in a UTV tour on Oahu.  It was on the other side of the mountain from Honolulu and took place on a big ranch where Hollywood likes to film.  In particular Jurassic Park and Jurassic World had scenes filmed there.  I’m not a big UTV fan.  First off, I don’t care for the driving; usually it’s rough terrain and I end up going pretty slow.  This either ticks off anybody in line behind me or ticks off the “sag” driver if I’m at the end.  But I also don’t feel all that safe with anybody else driving either – due to the rough terrain.  YA was pretty insistent so after getting her promise that she would drive the whole tour, I acquiesced. 

It was a gorgeous day and although it was rainy on the mountain road, once we got past that, the sun was shining and it was nice and warm.  The ranch owners are smart cookies.  In the 70s, when beef production fell, they started dipping their toes into the tourist industry.  But they never abandoned the cattle so when pandemic hit and tourism tanked, they stayed afloat on their beef business.  Today the tourism is back and they run a slick show with all kinds of different activities. 

The most fun part for me was that it was another of those days when YA lets me take pictures!  The header photo is of us in front of the UTV.  (The dino is thanks for a hand puppet – very clever.)  Then she let me take a photo in her driving gear:

And then there was another treat… she was willing to pose with a dinosaur at another stop where they have a few Jurassic props.

Honestly if I could figure out how the stars align for the few times she allows photos, I’d be in heaven!

Have you watched the Jurassic franchise?  Did you like any of them?

Best Toy Ever

Our dog’s toy arsenal has been quite limited because of his post-surgery cone, and he has had to adapt to continue to have fun. Some toys just don’t work with a cone. I am happy to report the horrid cone comes off today. We and he are heartily sick of it.

One toy that has proven a continued delight for him is the large, orange tennis ball in the header photo. I placed a smaller red ball next to it so you could see the size difference. The orange ball is about 7 inches in diameter. He plays with it in several ways. He loves to peel the orange cover off it. That orange cover is glued on really tightly, and I am amazed at the strength of his jaws and teeth. He also likes to slam the ball on the floor while holding the fabric scrap in his mouth, then shaking it violently. He rolls the ball and chases it all around living room. We like it because it is too large to roll under the furniture. He barks and whines for us to retrieve smaller balls. He also likes to have us hold the ball while he tugs and tugs the fabric scrap. A ball lasts about a week.

What have been your pets’ favorite toys? What were your favorite toys as a child. What toys would you buy for a child these days?

The Weather Outside….

Yesterday while it was still snowing, my neighbor to the north got his snowblower out and worked on his driveway.   A couple of hours later YA headed out with a shovel to do the steps and back sidewalk.  Across the street my neighbors were struggling to get their snowblower going.  One neighbor to the south was out doing her steps as well.

Me?  I’m sitting inside in sweatpants and fat socks, watching tv and sipping my beverage.  For some reason I have always been and “wait until it’s over” kind of person.  I would rather do 8” once than 4” twice. 

And this works out rather well for me most of the time.  For example, as I type this, my other neighbor to the south is currently doing OUR driveway (for which he will be rewarded generously with homemade cookies).  My neighbor to the north did our front sidewalk when he was out (cookies for him as well).  So by the time this ends and I finally venture out, I’ll have less to deal with!

How do you like to deal with winter’s excess?

The Rental

When we were planning our trip to Hawaii, we were using “award credits” from our company.  YA had quite a few and I had a small fortune, all of which had to be used within a certain amount of time after my retirement before I would lose them.  This made it easy to plan things that would have seemed atrociously expensive if it were coming out of my checking account (and have I mentioned how expensive everything is in Hawaii).  

Adding a rental car on Maui was a no-brainer.  It’s a 45-minute drive from the airport area to the two major resorts areas (Lahaina/Ka’anapali in one direction, Wailea in the other).  Even getting around once you are in the resort areas isn’t all that easy.  No sidewalks, no buses, a few rare shuttles and extremely expensive Ubers. As YA was scrolling through rental cars on the award credit site, she was looking for small, inexpensive models.  When I said “get a convertible” she just about fell off the bed.  When did her mother EVER advocate for something more expensive?  But there is backstory.

I’ve been is the islands many times over the past 30 years for work.  Yes, work.  And my job, even in paradisical places like Maui, was work.  Early on, I decided that one of the ways I would take care of myself was a convertible.  Usually it turned out to be cheaper than private transfers but while I used that as my “excuse”, the main reason was that for the day or so that I had on my own before clients showed up, I had the sun on my face and the wind in my hair.  In addition, Maui (and the Big Island) are fabulous for someone who is directionally challenged… so few roads!

When we got to the rental car center at the Maui airport, they sent us down to the big parking lot, saying “turn right and pick your convertible”.  There were three to choose from, all three white Ford Mustangs.  Easy peasy, right?  The two gals who had met us, helped get the luggage into the first car and said their goodbyes.  YA was hanging back as I got into the driver’s seat and then suggested that we “look at the other cars”.  I’m not at my best on travel days and I certainly didn’t see what there was to look at; they all looked identical to me.  She was adamant however and after poking through all three models, she announced that the farthest one was bigger inside and had leather seats.  Despite some whining on my part, I let her move the luggage to the bigger/leather interior.  I figured if the rental car company didn’t care which one we took, I shouldn’t care either.

I can’t tell you if this was a better car but it made YA happy and as we rounded the first hill on the West Maui Mountain Highway, coming upon the sun shining on the water, it made me happy as well.  This is why you want a convertible on Maui:

How do you keep your hair from getting mussed with the windows open or the top down?

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.