November 16, 2011

Back in the Game

Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hubby and I recently re-instituted "Date Night" and returned to our old haunt, the local Buffalo Wild Wings, to partake of their delicacies and kick butt in the trivia game held there every Tuesday evening. You see, Hubby and I complement each other quite well in our knowledge of different trivial things, so, we usually win the game. Over the course of many years of Tuesdays, we could count worthy opponents on one hand. On some nights, we played simply to better our own scores.
After a hiatus of a couple of years, we returned to the game, probably much to the chagrin of the two or three semi-good players who will inevitably be de-throned. We are actually doing a public service by forcing them to bone up if they want to have even a chance of beating us.

Last night, we won every one of the five rounds leading up to the final question. We had about 25,000 points and our nearest contender was 9,000 points behind us. On the final question, one can bet from 10% to 50% of one's accumulated score after one gets to see the category of the question and before the actual question comes up -- just like Final Jeopardy. We figured that we would win handily, even if we got the question wrong, if we bet only 10% of our points, our usual ploy.

Then the category for the final question came on the screen:

European Geography

Filled with something I would describe as hubris squared, since both of us were practically jumping out of our seats with glee, we immediately changed our wager to, of course, 50%!*

Then came the question:

Which of the following countries borders Slovakia?

A. Poland
B. Germany
C. Romania
D. Switzerland
E. Serbia

Piece of cake!!!



We lost half our points. One of our 'unworthy opponents' got it right and flew by us on the leader board. (Actually, only one person in the whole joint got the right answer. Probably a lucky guess.) I suppose it's only fair to let someone else win once in a while.

By the way, the answer was Poland. Go look it up. I did. I'm still a little in shock, but we'll be there next week. Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

*For those of you who may not know, I've got Western Europe pretty well wrapped up and Hubby covers Eastern Europe quite well, each of us having visited those countries over many years in the past, so, since this was in his bailiwick, the responsibility for our heinous loss is more attributable to him than to yours truly.

August 11, 2011

Call Me Anti-American

Last week, our family was graced with the presence of our college-aged daughter and her Moroccan beau. She, of course, is quite accomplished, hard-working, beautiful, and loving. But since I'm her Mom, I'm "supposed to say those things", as one of my daughters once told me.

So, instead, let me tell you about her Honey.

His name is Nadir (pronounced na-DEER, not NAY-der, as the airline agent, who didn't even give it a college try, pronounced it). He is fluent in English, French and Arabic. He completed the International Baccalaureate degree in high school and is studying Film and International Security and Conflict Resolution here in the States. His goal is to work for an NGO and travel around the world exposing political injustice through documentaries. He has already done a few in his homeland.

So, he, too, is quite accomplished, talented, hard-working, beautiful and loving. And I'm not his Mom, so the compliment counts for more!

And yet, because he travels on a foreign passport and has an unusual (although lovely) name, he has to plan to spend at least a day of layover when re-entering the U.S. after going home to visit his family in Morocco because the customs people always take him to a small room and interrogate him. This surprises me only because after talking to him for just a few minutes, you can get an idea of what he's all about.

When we took him and my daughter to the airport to go back to school, I got to witness the discrimination first hand.

At every turn, she sailed though while he was detained, asked extra questions, and treated like a potential terrorist. I was amazed at the dignity with which Nadir bore it all. I guess that since he's used to it (a sad state, to be sure), he's decided to take the higher road. It was noted.

So I challenge those of you who are into "security" and "safety" to think about the ramifications of that and to try and remember what this country was founded on.

The very definition of an American is someone from somewhere else which encompasses all of us. (Except, of course the Native Americans, but don't get me started on that topic!)

In this nice family photo, you have either:

a Muslim terrorist, a Basque bomber, and Mata Hari


a future Ken Burns, a retired Grandpa, and a future ambassador to Spain.

You be the judge.

July 25, 2011

She's Ba-a-a-a-ck! (But just for a minute.)

July is a crazily busy time on the farm, but we seem to be keeping on top of things. There are cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, shallots, potatoes, and herbs to harvest. There are the remnants of the spring garden to clear and till in preparation for the fall garden. And, as always, there are weeds to contend with.

In addition, Hubby (God bless him) decided that we should re-stain the cabins right now.

No problem. Just call Superwoman! Oh, she's busy? Ok. I guess I'll do it.

The first veggie harvest was in last week. Here we have cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, and three kinds of beets.

Yes, because of the new garden fence (thanks, again, Honey!), we have more than three beets this year!

It's hard to tell in this photo, but the cooler is full to overflowing with beets and I only harvested about half of them! I've already put up seven jars of pickled beets, had a meal or two with fresh beets and am in the process of putting up some boiled beets so that Hubby can have borscht any time he likes in the coming months.

I'm sorry for those of you who may have wanted to purchase some of our lovely beets, but, after five years of waiting, we're keeping them all to ourselves.

However, if you need cucumbers, call me!

June 10, 2011

I Spoke Too Soon

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome. Isaac Asimov

Yes, things are back to normal on the farm. I guess last week's positive perception of things was just a dream after all.

Upon arriving last weekend, we found all our lovely chickens, raised from babies, once again massacred, this time by a weasel who entered through a hole about three inches in diameter. That night, we set the trap near the cinder blocks in front of the coop. In the morning, the bait (one of the dead chickens) was gone, the trap was about 15 feet away (on the left in the green bushes in the following picture) and it had been turned on its side so that an opening was created for the dastardly critter to escape.

So, the chickens are gone.

In addition, yours truly managed to disable two mowers.

The neighbor's well-beloved German shepherd, Raza, went to her eternal rest after 20-plus years of a good life raising all the children in the area.

It was 100 degrees the day I needed to harvest perishable items for sale in the CSA in town. (They didn't look too good, needless to say.)

The Missouri river is experiencing historic flooding, closing our route to the farm (but not affecting our land -- silver lining there).

And when we got back home, Maya's new bike had been stolen.

Given all this, I'm beginning to understand why all our farmer friends are always so cheerful. You simply have to laugh to keep from crying.

May 31, 2011

Pinching Myself

I'm going to dare and write a sentence that is not usually found among these pages:

Things are going quite well on the farm.

Thanks to the addition of the new fence around the garden, it looks like I might get more than three beets this year.

Here we have about six rows of radishes and four rows of lettuce (also unheard of before the new fence -- the deer have good taste).

Next we have the second round of tomatoes in addition to some peppers, on the left, all weeded and mulched and supplied with drip hoses. On the right, that large, leafy plant in the foreground is one of our signature volunteer sunflowers. Behind it are two rows of beets straddling a wide row of arugula (or "rocket" for those of you across the pond).

For dinner, we had some of said lettuce, radishes, and some of the lovely herbs that are also thriving.

In addition to the garden successes, in this same week, we sold our hay from last year. (We're one step closer to breaking even on that score!)

The rain, which has been a little too much for most people around here, has made it easier for us to weed and keeps things growing in our little microcosm.

The garlic and onions and aronia berries are all doing well.

After a couple of years of strategic abandonment, the clematis are a profusion of color.

Even the long, lost kitty, Tsarmina, returned to the fold! (While she was away, her six kittens went to that great cat box in the sky, but we'll save the negative stuff for one of the many other blog entries about the farm.)

May 16, 2011

A Wedding and Four Funerals

The Wedding

Last weekend, my cousin got married in California. It was a most lavish affair. A goodly number of us cousins flew out to witness the fine nuptials.

But not all was sweetness and light.

Funeral Number One

Given the timing of the wedding, I was pressured to plant about 100 tomato plants before leaving for California on May 6th. Given that our last frost date is usually around April 24th, and last year's was actually March 30th, I figured I was safe.

Ha! (You're never safe when farming.)

There was a freak frost the first night that damaged my beautiful seedlings. It was followed a couple of days later by 97-degree heat which did them in completely. Two plants remain. No worries. I have another hundred or so that will take their places in the garden. I would have had too many tomatoes if the first batch had made it. Yeah, right. How can you have too many tomatoes?

Funeral Number Two

Time. Money. Sleep. Yes, it was one of those vacations from which one needs a vacation. I swear I won't do this ever again. The next vacation will be relaxing and fun and restful.

Funeral Number Three

My Mom looks up at her little brother in this photo taken three years ago. Since then, however, my Uncle Frank has been fading, both physically and mentally. The brother she has known for over 70 years is gone.

Funeral Number Four

The innocence of youth can be buried after this visit.

About 15 of us cousins grew up spending the summers together. But that was 40 years ago. We have all gone our separate ways and grown apart. After three days with one aunt and uncle, we realized that the ties that bound us together all those years ago do not exist anymore. It was made clear that we were not welcome. I will not see them again.

I am reminded of the old joke about the man who opens the door to his hotel room only to find the place covered in thousands of bottles of Angostura.

When he goes back to the front desk to complain about the state of his room, the concierge replies, "I'm sorry, Sir, but you have to take the bitters with the suite."

Such is life.

March 15, 2011


The planets were aligned for Lizzie last weekend.

But first, a little background...

I have had a big vegetable garden for the past five years. In order to keep the critters out of it, I've had a 6-foot high fence made out of netting around it. It has served me well, but it was getting a bit worn and easy for said critters to breach. Also, I was spending some of the precious time I have for working in the garden repairing the fence for the garden. One morning, two large does were breakfasting on my brand new spinaches and lettuces. They were completely non-plussed when I tried to shoo them away. Rather than pulling out the big guns, literally, Hubby offered to help me re-do the fence.

We happened onto a sale on heavy-duty, tall, chicken wire at the local farm store. A neighbor offered to find us tall fence posts. All we needed to do was dig a few holes and pop those posts into them.

A piece of cake.

Yeah, right.

Here are some things to consider (for you non-farm types):

Can we get this project done before the asparagus starts coming up in early April (because, if we can't, the deer are going to have lunch, too.)

Can we get the old steel posts dug up and the netting cleared away so that we can put in the new stuff?

Is the ground thawed enough to dig into?

Is it thawed enough but not too wet to dig into?

Is the neighbor going to bring the posts when the ground is thawed and not too wet?

Can we dig 32 holes in a weekend?

Well, yes!! (to all of it!)

We started by digging holes by hand. After about one and a half holes, Hubby jumped in the truck and went to town to rent an auger for us. (What a guy!)

The gas-powered auger made things a bit easier, but it had to be man-handled (or, at times, woman-handled) and had no self-propulsion or lightness of being to it. :( We did get a system going and managed to bang out the 32 holes. (Our muscles suffered the consequences of this system the next day.)

We say "ni hao maa" here because this hole goes all the way to China. :) Seriously, though, the holes needed to be about 2.5 feet deep.

The ten-foot (plus) hedge poles were delivered about two hours behind schedule (much closer than 98% of the goings on at the farm) and promptly popped into their holes around the garden. Each pole was weighty enough to require two people to carry it, so, it was quite fortuitous that the now mostly-grown neighbor children showed up to help. In addition, daylight savings time had just kicked in so we had an extra hour of daylight to get it all done. We'll wrap the whole thing with the chicken wire next weekend. The hard part is done.

It was warm enough.
It was dry enough.
The auger was available to rent.
We had time to do it all.
The neighbor kids helped out.
The planets were aligned for Lizzie last weekend and she was well pleased!

We may even have more than three beets this year!

February 18, 2011

Vive les Dioramas!

As I've gotten older, I've become more patient with the semi-annual need for teachers to have their students do some kind of project. The latest incarnation was not quite as bad as the model of the pancreas, but it was the same short notice. (Don't children know that we Moms need more time to make a great model?)

"Mom, I need a pioneer house for school tomorrow morning!"

I used to insist that my children do these projects by themselves, stand on their own merits, be able to stand back and be proud of their accomplishments.

Well, over the years, I've seen that there are too many Moms who don't share my idealism when it comes to child-rearing. The competition is fierce! The kids know it, too. My daughter insisted that it be "perfect".

So, I helped.

After some cutting and taping of cardboard, paper, and aluminum foil, we broke out the paints and produced:

Notice the toothpick windows, the blue curtains, the opening door, and, you can't see it from this view, but, the chimney is fully functional, i.e., there is a hole in the roof. The entire roof is detachable so that you can see inside, where we have a tiny flashlight "fire", and some "buffalo skin" blankets for our cardboard people:

Bring it, Fourth Graders!

January 12, 2011

Traveling Light?

Here is what my college-aged daughter needed for her two weeks at home over Christmas:

We have here two bags to check, one carry on, and many instruments of hair torture. They intrigued me, so I had my daughter explain each one:

From the left, the first item is a ceramic hair straightener. The second is a small-curl curling iron, not to be confused with the third item, which is a large-curl curling iron. And the last is a hair dryer with no handle (very curious for me, all-the-rage for my daughter).

But maybe there's something to her list of necessities. I mean, here I am, barely cognizant of the ins and outs of a basic hair dryer (although I do brush my hair daily, mind you):

And here she is, after all her careful coiffing:

Maybe it was worth the $60 in checked luggage charges and all the expensive salon equipment.

I'll let you be the judge.