Learning Curve

Just Jamin’

July 15, 2016

The recipe said, “Quick and Easy Apricot Pineapple Jam“.

The dirty liars.

We have a thing for apricot jam.  This year was ‘the year’.  ‘THE’ apricot tree belongs to Mother Mary, but it is My Sweet Friend’s job to pick the fruit for her mom.  Every other year is a bumper crop and My Sweet Friend heaves great sighs, just thinking about it.

‘No problem’, I told her.  ‘I’ll help you!’  I had two days to pick.  No problem.

Day One: I picked, then went to Store A. for sugar and pectin.

Day Two: My Loving Spouse and I picked.  (I also picked up the fruit on the ground and brought it home for the chickens, who now have a steady supply of apricots to dine on.)

Day One’s pick goes into the sink for a rinse.jam sinkDay Two’s pick waits their turn.jam bagsCanning jars go into the dishwasher to be sterilized.  My Loving Spouse says, “That is more than enough jars!”  Note to self, do not listen to that guy!  I should have washed every single jar we own!

The jam recipe should have said:

Apricots, Sugar, Pectin, Pineapple and a Full Tank of Gas.

Off to Store B. for more sugar and pectin, except they didn’t have any pectin.  I do pick up three cans of pineapple to make a ‘few’ (9) jars of apricot-pineapple jam.  The first can I grab is perfect, crushed pineapple, so I do not notice that the next two cans are pineapple chunks.  Yes, I used them anyway!  A stop at Store C., who also is completely out of pectin.  Let me tell you, the fruit is ripe in the valley and people are busy ‘putting up’.  Store D. comes through with pectin, so I return to the farm to start cooking.

Number Two Son is gone.  My Loving Spouse is gone.  I realize I still do not have enough sugar for the 50+ cups of apricots.  I call My Girl for reinforcements, but she doesn’t answer.  I think about asking my neighbor, to borrow some sugar, but I seriously do not thinking asking to borrow 24 cups of sugar is practical, so I return to Store B. for more sugar.  I might have spent half this week’s food budget on sugar!  (Yes, I know, I should have figured it out ahead of time.  Honestly, jam takes so much sugar, that by the time it is made I can hardly eat it!)

The fruit is pitted and sliced.  Luckily, I have a really big pot!jam pot

Now I start cooking.  I move 15 cups of apricots to a separate large pot to add the pineapple to this batch and to make room in the big pot.  It sort of overflows.  It makes a small mess.jam bubbling potI cannot stop now.  I jam on.  Filling a few (9) jars with apricot and pineapple (chunks) of jam, thinking that at least Number One Wife will like it, as she loves pineapple.  (Also, she is pregnant, so she can eat a lot of jam!)  At this point I have to abandon the rest of the apricot pineapple pot, as I am becoming concerned over the number of cans I have at the ready.  In between stirring the giant pot of apricots, I start sterilizing more cans on the stove, while also stealing every canning ring we have on every jar in the pantry.

The big pot now overflows making a colossal mess.  I am talking sticky and smoke and it is everywhere.jam bubbling pot twoI cannot stop!  I remove as much foam as I can and stir!  All the other large pots are full of sterilizing jars or the abandoned apricot-pineapple jam, so I have nowhere to move the jam.

The kitchen is mostly sticky, but…jam stove

the jars get filled.jam jars36 in random sizes…mostly large…and I think…. this is why my mother made jam with the gals on her street…people should not jam alone!

I then spend the next 2 hours trying to clean the kitchen.  The dogs come into help out with the floor.  On my next trip to Store A, I will be buying new rings for the stove.

Jam anyone?

With or without pineapple chunks?


From Pitch Fork to Party Frock

December 16, 2015

I went from one extreme to another this weekend, from pitch forks to party frocks.  Okay, so I did not actually wear a ‘frock’, it just sounded so good and I did wear pearls, which is almost the same thing.

Saturday morning Our Friend the Farmer called.  The Girls (my cows) were ready to come home from the prom.

“Did I want to update their shots since they could easily be in a squeeze?”

‘Oh, yes, thank you…’

I grabbed the syringes, the inject-able wormer and vaccine.  It is a bit easier to give the shots whenever my lovely beasts are in a squeeze, because believe it or not, but telling cattle to ‘stand still and this won’t hurt a bit does not actually work’.

Our Friend the Farmer balances ‘getting the job done’ and ‘teaching his city-born neighbor’ with great insight and gentle patience.

“We’ll run the cattle in…”

‘So this is where I stand back and stay out of the way?’, which earns me a smile and a nod.

Once the three girls, Agnes, Clara and Eliza Doolittle are in the shoot, I step up to give all the shots.

“Don’t put your arm through the bars, go over the bars to give them the shots, because sometimes they jump up and can trap your arm…..  Make a fist and bump them in the neck then stick the needle in and give them the shot.”  8 shots in all and I am learning, but they do all get done and my girls returned to our farm.girls

I get cleaned up, prepared to drive over the mountain.  I have a party to go to, oh yes, and half a pig to deliver…and it was snowing.  Ut, oh…I have done my best to not have to drive anywhere in the snow, but now I must, so I load up the half a pig, my party frock (pearls) and an emergency bag of peanut-butter M&M’s and commence pretending I know what I am doing.  Mostly I drive carefully, slowly and stay back from anyone else who is driving.  In the first 20 miles I see 5 cars that slide off of the road, which is a club I do NOT want to join!  Somehow I stay cool, calm and collected until…I reach the place where the snow was really thick and my windshield is sort of filling up with snow and the review mirrors are snowed up and there is a flashing sign.




I have chains.  I am not sure they go to this car…and I am sure I do not know how to put them on.  I call My Loving Spouse, just a tad panicky…

What’s A.W.D. and do I have it?

This is when I learn that it means…’All Wheel Drive’ and yes, I have it and all I have to do is to keep driving slowly in that darn snow.  I do get off of the mountain, only to then drive in the dark, rainy freeways of Seattle where I accidentally went in one special bus lane off ramp and one HOV lanes.  I get the half a pig dropped off at my cousin’s house where their freezer is waiting, arrive at my destination for the evening and am very happy when they offer me a glass of wine!

Growing up in Southern California 50 plus years ago, it was very common for people to not have extended family nearby.  My parents gave us all a gift.  They along with 8 or so other families formed a ‘club’…it was called “The Darn Club”, partly because they were funny and partly because sometimes the mom’s would get together and mend or darn the kids clothes.  The Darn Club became a family….a very special group…  I was joining 3 Darn Club sisters in Seattle to fly down to Southern California for the Darn Club Christmas party…just for the day.  With most of our parents gone…and most of us older than our folks when the club all started there was much reminiscing of days gone by…  Extremely special hugs…hugsThe day was tiring, up at 4:30am to catch our flight, a gift from one of the Darn Club ‘kids’, a flight attendant who’d flown us up and down for the brief day.   The day was emotional and very special.  Traveling and spending the day with the sisters was nothing short of an amazing treat!  I am so grateful to our parents who gave us all this gift of belonging to one another…and to reconnect.  Some traditions returned…like the Chocolate mice that hung on the Christmas tree…choc. mice…and I am blessed.



My 100 List

November 23, 2015

  Not exactly my bucket list (except #60) and not meaning
  to brag (except #79), but curiosity took me to counting….
  some of what I’ve learned, seen and done…
  in the last 3 years that I had never done before.
  What I have Learned
1 There is a difference between heifer and Hereford
2 All hay is not the same
3 What a Black Baldy is
4 Not to buy shampoo from the Dollar Store
5 What a bale wagon is
6 Not to burn willow in the wood stove
7 What a PTO is
8 It is good if your pig’s tail curls
9 How many days it takes to hatch an egg
10 The beauty of genre shelving in the library
11 What a broody chicken is
12 The significant difference between 2 and 3 string bales of hay (and it is not the number of strings)
13 What you’ll find in 743 of the Dewey Decimal system
14 What ‘on the hoof’ means
15 What ‘hanging weight’ means
16 Recognize a cow in labor
17 What a top link is
What I’ve seen….
18 A calf born by helping to pull it out
19 Vet pregnancy checking cows
20 Seen Puppies born
21 A cow artificially inseminated
22 Seen Calves born
23 Seen Pigs castrated
24 Seen Calves branded
25 Fields fertilized by helicopter
26 Baby bulls castrated
27 Eagles, Hawks, Owls, Quail, Heron
What I’ve done…
28 Held a dead goose
29 Fed cows
30 Given cattle shots
31 Given calves bottles
32 Moved cattle
33 Fed chickens
34 Washed chicken poop off of my eggs
35 Saved a new-born calf!!!
36 Tried to save a dead calf
37 Ridden a quad with a dog
38 Buck hay (that means stack it)
39 Collect eggs
40 Driven through a buffalo field
41 Hooked up electric fence
42 Painted a two story Victorian house
43 Ran a ditch-witch
44 Work in a school library
45 Ran a back hoe
46 Moved irrigation with quad
47 Pound fence posts in
48 Installed a new wood floor
49 Laid tile floor
50 Canned beets, beans and applesauce
51 Helped make sausage
52 Made saur kraught and chutney
53 Picked blue berries
54 Used a head catch
55 Shot a shot-gun
56 Face time with our Grandson
57 Rode horse gaming (barrel racing etc)
58 Load a horse on a trailer
59 Put up storm windows
60 Rode horse home from work
61 Stuck my hand in a horses mouth to feel the teeth
62 Rode horse through a winery
63 Host croquet tournament
64 Hosted a barn dance
65 Hosted a barn sale
66 Hosted a family & sorority reunion
67 Served communion
68 Designed a bathroom
69 Bought my jeans at the hardware store
70 Bid at a farm auction
71 Won a blue ribbon at the County fair
72 Fed pigs
73 Sewed a quilt top
74 Swept the chimney from the roof
75 Winterized my garden hoses
76 Helped at the church bazaar
77 Used a long arm quilter
78 Sewed feed bags into shopping bags
79 Replaced septic drain field
80 Bale hay on a tractor
81 Drive a tractor
82 Level ground with tractor
83 Mow fields with tractor
84 Run a fence post auger with tractor
85 Used a chain binder
86 Use Clevis pins
87 Work the loader on a tractor
88 Drive with a trailer on the road
89 Hooked trailer on truck
90 Loaded a tractor onto a trailer
91 Work an irrigation pump
92 To weld
93 Burned a slash pile
94 Run a wood stove for heat
95 Split wood with a log splitter
96 Split wood with a maul
97 A chain saw
98 Fed cow banana
99 Eaten meals completely raised on our farm
What I know
100 Change is a good thing
…and I am blessed.


Chim Chimney, Chim Chimney

September 28, 2015

Good planning dictates that one would clean their chimney before they need the chimney.  We’ve never done this before (the good planning part), we usually wait until the darn chimney doesn’t draw any more and then freeze while My Loving Spouse climbs on the roof and sweeps the chimney.  It is not freezing yet, so it would seem a good time to sweep the chimney, except…My Loving Spouse has just finished recovering from a month-long leg infection.  (We are thrilled and grateful that he does not need two more surgeries on THE Knee and appreciate each and every prayer you sent our way).  Call me crazy, but it didn’t seem to me, that the way to celebrate this was for him to climb up on the roof!  There was some discussion (argument) about who was going up onto the roof to sweep the chimney.  I won the discussion (argument), by pointing out that I was now completely ladder ‘savvy’ after spending all summer on ladders painting the house.

In just minutes, I was scampering up the ladders and onto the roof top.  (All definitions of ‘scampering’ will be defined by the ‘scamper-er’ and any adjustments to the definition of said ‘scampering’ can only be made by other females my age or older who are also willing to ‘scamper’ up ladders as high as these).chimney sweepMy Loving Spouse had told me during the discussion (argument),

“You’ll have to stand on the roof”,

but what he meant was, that I’d have to stand on the roof edge!

“Oh, yes, and don’t grab the chimney…some of the bricks are loose.”

Okay…check.  Stand on roof edge… do not grab the only thing around to balance…oh, and yes, it was windy….well, not Ellensburg windy…just breezy.  It was at this point that I started to think about which direction to fall, should I loose my balance.  However, I have learned a lot about ladders this summer, and so I then insisted we add one of our ladders that can collapse over the ridge of the roof.roof topThis additional ladder gave me something to stand on and I commenced sweeping…chimney sweeperWhich is actually hard to do…even if the view is pretty incredible….roofI’d have to say, that I don’t like chimney sweeping…I don’t feel lucky, (as lucky as can be)…but, it is done!  We can burn the wood stove as the weather cools and commence enjoying fall, and most of all we are grateful.  Grateful that My Loving Spouse will not be down for 6 months with continued surgeries.  As he shared with our church family, the English saying… ‘If you’re upright, you’re all right’.


Vegetable Garden

August 24, 2015

Most days it seems as if my motto should be…

“I don’t really know what I am doing, but I’m trying my best.”

No where does that bloom more readily than in my vegetable garden.  I can take little credit for the good results…that is God’s magic.  My weeding and watering schedule are both random.  The only thing I know to do religiously is close the gate to keep the chickens out. harvest tom

My tomato plants went crazy.  Huge bush like monsters hiding the produce within.  In an effort to find and save the fruit I removed all the vines without tomatoes.  I worried more about finding and getting the current fruit off the ground, than the plant growing more fruit.  I was amazed at what was hiding under the bush.harvest tomatoNow all the tomatoes are supported by random wire cages to keep them off of the ground…and the gate shut.

This sneak peek at my pumpkins will show that I have powdery mildew on some of them.  How dare that stuff!  Now I need to pull those leaves off as well (according to the internet after I Googled ‘Powdery mildew’).  You can also spray it with milk and water, but I have too many pumpkins to try that solution.harvestThe pumpkin patch is out performing itself once again.  Most of my family members still roll their eyes when I mention the word ‘pumpkin‘, so I am twice as thrilled to have THE Grandson, because I can tell him all the time…

“Wait until you see Grammy’s pumpkins!”

He never rolls his eyes at me….of course he hasn’t learned how to do that yet, but you can tell he is a really good listener.jonahSo now I shall return once more to painting the house…it may never end…

I wish you all a blessed day.


Tractor Trailer

March 24, 2015

I have a love-hate relationship with tractors and trailers.  I love my tractors, the trailers not so much.  The gigantic flatbed trailer that is about a block long, makes a lot of banging noises when you drive it and is impossible to see as you drive it (‘that’s what your mirrors are for’ per My Loving Spouse) is the worst of all of our trailers to drive…and that is just forward.  The thought of having to possibly back that trailer up or drive it in populated areas makes me rather ill.

There are two types of trailer drivers, those who drive forward and backward and those of us Who Do Not Back Up.  We Who Do Not Back Up are sort of like a special club…almost a support group.  We don’t try to fix each other.  We understand and attempt to plan a route that includes no backing up.

We had a problem.  The herd needed more hay.  The best way to buy it is from a big hay company that sells ‘kick out’ hay.  Hay not good enough for exporting, but good enough for the herd.  Except…we have to pick it up…between the hours of 9 am-noon…and My Loving Spouse The Trailer Driver Forward and Backwards Guy is busy…all week…and we needed it now…which is why we ended up in an empty parking lot over the weekend for ‘trailer backing up lessons’ and honestly I’d have to say…I hated it.

Love of the herd found me calling the hay company early yesterday morning.

‘I want to make sure I go the right way’  (which is sort of code to those who belong to We Who Do Not Back Up to really mean ‘Lord have mercy do NOT make me back this trailer up’), I said to the gal who is in charge of telling ‘kick out hay buyers’ where to go what to do, when to weigh the truck, where to go with the truck and possibly making them back up!

‘Oh, I don’t back up my trailer either’, she said on the phone.  Oh, thank goodness, I thought, she belongs to the group (We Who Do Not Back Up)!  I managed to go to the hay company, get the hay, drive through their yard, not get in the way of about 5 gigantic fork lifts, and 3 hay trucks, get home without side swiping anything or anyone.  I did not need to back up until home and then it was only for me and I will say, I did a fairly impressive job.trailer

I stacked the bails in the barn, fed the starving animals (who are all a bunch of liars, claiming to be starving every time they see me) and needed to put the trailer away.  5 back up tries later and I decided to leave the trailer out in the North 4 to be dealt with by My Loving Spouse.  I had to go to town and needed that darn trailer off of the truck, if I was going to do it safely for all of us, except that the trailer didn’t want to let go of the truck.  I could not get the trailer hitch to let go of the ball thing.  I needed more power…in came Blue to the rescue.  I used the front end loader to pick up the trailer, which I had to do twice before the trailer let go of the ball, but it worked…and that is just one of the many reasons why I love tractors so much better than trailers.Blue Tractor

It still amazes me that part of my answer to a problem includes driving a tractor and actually knowing how the front end loader even works!  Life is good…as long as I do not need to back up.


Dispatch Day

Tomorrow is the ultimate farming day and I plan to be absolutely no where around.  (Team Offspring has the same plan).  My Loving Spouse (the original British born country boy) will be here to deal with ‘it’, while every city born inhabitant flees for the day.  The Dispatch Truck is coming.  The real truth is […]

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Beautiful Red Round Feeder

Cows are pigs.  Well okay, not real pigs..pigs are pigs.Cows are pigs when it comes to the way they treat their food.  We show up with their hay and the mighty cattle herd of 3 show up with gratitude and appreciation…ah, no.  Agnes will meet you at the barn door (that we cannot open all […]

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Tractor Tales

My tractor Blue and I were hired to mow a field.  There were no bogs, ponds or irrigation ditches.  I carefully mowed around the 5 water spouts in the field, leaving them all intact.  I did not run into anything or run over anything.  I did not need to rent special equipment to drag me […]

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Tractor Rescue

Tractor rescue… I’d love to say, that we used our tractor to rescue someone/something in need, but alas…we needed to rescue the tractor.  Blue and I had been hired to mow a portion of a field covered in thistles and nap weed.  The cows in the field wouldn’t eat those items, so they needed to […]

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Paint Sprayer

With My Loving Spouse My Patient reasonably comfortable (pain meds in full force) and not needing anything at the moment, I decided to finish painting the vegetable garden fence.  All in all there was only half of it that needed painting and with a sponge roller, I should be able to finish it off simply and […]

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Amazing Fetes of Driving

In the country there are a LOT of trailers.  People here have all kinds of trailers (stock trailers, horse trailers, travel trailers, utility trailers, tilt bed trailers, trailers for toys and trailers for tools) and drive them around like it is no big deal to drive through town with a trailer trailing behind them.  They […]

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