Mom just called

I am blessed.

Blessed: To be content, fortunate, happy,

Just got off the phone with her.

She is 87.

I don’t take these conversations for granted.

She called to tell me she tried the bread I dropped off yesterday. Quoting now, ” You really need to think about entering it in the fair, if they still have that sort of thing.”

Two weeks ago, after 20 plus years of dabbling with bread making, I finally, finally cracked the code on how to consistently make a good loaf of sandwich bread.

Back in my 20’s when my grandmother was still alive (I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this more than once), I asked her to teach me how to make bread.

She was a master bread maker.

Did everything by feel.

Her specialty was rye bread.

She would make 5 loaves at a time.

Used real, freshly ground rye (along with regular white flour)

One of my struggles has always been how to get the loaf big enough (between the rise, and quantity of dough in the pan) to create a respectable sized loaf, but it wasn’t until I watched a video a couple of weeks on You tube, that the lights finally came on and I understood how to shape the loaf.

Duu.

I still contend bread making is an art.

You are dealing with several variables each time.

Temperature variables. ( The room itself, as well as the ingredients, as well as the temperature in the oven.)

Quantity variables.

Liquid variables. (A little change goes a long way.)

Yeast variables, (sour dough, store bought, variations of store bought. Has it died? Started to loose it’s viability? etc)

Types of flour variables. (Freshly ground, as well as the multiple varieties from the store.)

Pan size variables.

Timing variables…(ie how long it takes for something to rise,how long to bake, yada, yada,

Then you run into the wholelanguagething. Just like any hobby, or area of life. For some reason, people love to use words that only an insider knows what the heck in the world they are talking about.

Just stop it sometimes.

Tell me what to do in layman’s terms.

Now that I’ve “figured out” how to consistently make a loaf of what I call, Sourdough, rye Swirl, with onion flakes, I can continue to build off my experience.

This particular bread recipe, is great for making sandwiches, or toasted. The texture will melt in your mouth. One of the problems with this bread is, if you eat too much of it, your butt, thighs and or belly may will expand.

I think it has something to do with the sourdough starter.

Of Grit And Bone. 11/8/2020

Last Sunday evening, as we were settling in, my wife’s phone rang multiple times.  Third time, I thought I better answer.

Caller was bugging out.  It took me a couple of minutes before I was able to grasp the situation.

I’m not at liberty to get into too much detail here, for obvious reasons, but the call had to do with someone we know having a psychotic break.

This is the 2nd time this (psychotic break)  has happened in the last 10 years. 

Ever been around something like that?

As I was driving to town to see what I could do,  a Vince Lombardi quote kept coming to mind.   (While he was talking about the game of football, the quote could be applied to any situation.)

“Football….beyond any game invented by man is closest to war….it teaches a most important lesson of life….the ability to walk through a storm and keep your head high..”

  In the next hour, I got a  tongue lashing, talked  with a policeman,  and finished the night with the person having a psychotic break sleeping in our guest room….and I still had my wits about me. 

 

+++++++++

I hate heights. 

I am a carpenter, have no problem working on roofs, as long as they are not too high.

Somehow,

(The need for $?)

I allowed myself to get talked into bidding the repairs on two end walls on house damaged from the Derecho that hit  in August.

Tuesday morning, I was 35 feet in the air on a JLG:

 

While that machine has the ability to go 40 feet in the air, what you may not realize until you operate one, is the more extended the boom, the bouncer it becomes. Every movement is amplified, not to mention those machines are designed to sit on a flat concrete surface, so most of the time this week,  one of the red warning lights was telling me to be careful.

I had 4 days of that low grade stress and I am still recovering.

I suggested to my wife on Thursday, we should celebrate the completion of the highest gable with a steak dinner after work.

I believe in  weaving small acts of celebration into my everyday life.

She was all for it!

(I think I mentioned this before. In September,we’d purchased a 1/2 of beef from a local farmer. By the time we paid the farmer and the locker, it averaged just $2.85 a pound.  As I was eating the 30 oz, 1 inch thick T bone steak sitting on my plate I was thinking about a proverb  “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.”

There I was, enjoying  the best of both worlds…a feast, and a quiet house. 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When I got to the top of one end wall, I found a surprise. 🙂  Last guy up there had left his mark.  Reminded me of  Jules Vern’s, Journey to the Center of the Earth, where they would stumble across the initials A. S. (Arne Saknussemm).

Have you ever done that sort of thing?

(I added my DM to the mural. It seemed only fair. 🙂

++++++++++++++++++

Got time for one more?

Yesterday morning, when I tried to print off an estimate before going to work,  the printer kept throwing off the  “paper jam” message. Only thing was, there was no paper in the printer. As I looked at it, I discovered a mouse had  stashed shelled corn in the bowels of the printer.   When you’re living in a 110 year old farmhouse with a limestone foundation,  there is bound to be a few trade offs.

Even after I was able to finally get all of the corn out, it wouldn’t work.

Brand new Epson Ecotank 2720.

Toast.

Trying to put the best construction on that $220 financial blow, I thought about the mouse. 

He was only doing what came naturally.

Prepping is hard wired into creation. 

It is not necessarily a lack of trust.

BTW, I did utter a few choice words as i processed that.  It took awhile…

Anyway, take care, and thanks for stopping by! DM

++++++++++++++

 

 

 

The Price of food may be going up

Today is a two post day. 🙂

PSA

Maybe you have already noticed…

Maybe this will be old news by the time you read it….

And maybe in your neck of the woods it won’t happen,

but according to our local grocery store manager (who shared this info with our neighbor’s niece who works at that grocery store….)

The prices of food will be going up in the not too distant future….

Not trying to stir  up any fear, rather, give you a little heads up so you’ll have a chance to prepare.

+++++++++++++++++

My wife is a frugal shopper.  Her favorite place to shop for groceries is a local Amish discount food store.

Items are pennies on the dollar in many cases.

Not outdated,

Plus they sell in bulk.

+++++++++++++++

Quick question-  Have you heard any rumblings of this where you live?

Take care. DM

 

Ode to the blue collar man (ie. my father)

Ode: An ode is a kind of poem, usually praising something. … An ode is a form of lyric poetry — expressing emotion — and it’s usually addressed to someone or something, or it represents the poet’s musings on that person or thing.

(Long time readers may remember a version of this post from 2016.  It showed up on my “blog stats” this morning and I thought it was worth reposting. DM)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My dad graduated high school in the early  50’s.

A local attorney  (Remley) who at one point owned the farm my dad  lived on,  offered to pick up the tab on his college tuition “because  he had a knack for math.” My grandparents were not rich.  They’d raised a family through the great depression, then after WW 2,  shipped, case after case of canned food and clothing to grandma’s relatives  back in the old country (German).. .so grandpa and grandma never really got ahead financially. Dad opted not to go to college, instead went into the service, then went to work at a packing house. After that, he started  driving a cement truck for a local cement company.   At some point, he was asked to come into the office and help behind the counter in the lumber yard portion of the business, eventually rising through the ranks to manage both the lumberyard and the concrete plant.

(Remember what I told you about math.) 🙂

In the early 1970’s dad went into business with his brother as a general contractors. They built up a multi-million dollar construction company, employed one  hundred eighty men over the course of a 30 year span, one of which was me.

This is an ode to the  blue collar man that shaped my life..

 

Ode To The Blue Collar Man

He

had

 the

hands

of a

farmer.

The heart of

a musician,

the mind of

an engineer.

But somehow..

between raising a family,

paying the bills and farming the land,

his steel guitar  got misplaced in the mix.

Life is a pendulum.Sometimes we learn

by example, and sometimes we choose

a different path.

Of Grit and Bone September 13, 2018

About the title, read this if you’re curious.

6:39 AM. Sun is just coming up.

Normally, about this time, our resident tomcat Barron  comes to the front door and starts scratching.  He wants two things.  First, a snuggle.  He’s the only cat on the property, and since he and Libby (our Labrador) do not like each other, we are Barron’s only family.    I found him a couple of years ago , in the median strip of a 4 lane highway about 2 miles from here.   He was a half-grown kitten at the time.  If I’d not stopped to rescue him, he would have been run over.

Which means he owes me his very life blood.  🙂

(Remember that scene from the Star Wars series? That creature with the big floppy ears)

Second thing he wants is to get fed.  If I leave his food dish out over night, sure as heck, a raccoon or opossum will find it.

Here are some of the issues currently in the mix:

My Dad,  New remodel at work, the Rat Invasion, The apple crop.

I’ll start with my dad.  Dad is 86.  Until a week ago, he was still driving.  Mom and him would go out daily for lunch. They moved to town in May, after 50 plus years on the farm.  Last Tuesday I got a call from my sister in the morning.  Dad had fallen and was en route to the hospital.   Pretty sure he’d broken his leg. (He did)  Quite a bad break.  Doctor told my dad and sister (who is a  nurse) before going into surgery, there was a very real chance he might never be able to walk again.  Surgery went better than expected.  He will be able to walk, (will probably have a limp) but considering the alternative, that was very good news.  My mom, was already scheduled for hip surgery before all of this happened.  Looks like the two of them will both be using walkers in the near future.  They are so thankful to be surrounded by a large network of extended family. That’s the sort of thing you don’t think about when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, healthy, and living La-Vita Loca. (Living the crazy life.)

It has been so touching, humbling, encouraging, energizing, and inspiring to watch how different ones have stepped  forward to use their individual talents to help out.  One sister is a nurse. She spent the first several nights with dad @ the hospital.  Another sister, has the gift of administration.  Between the two of them, they have coordinated  all of the communication between the various health care entities, rehab,  scheduling who is available to drive when and where.

Wife and I have been  staying overnight with mom, helping drive her to her various appointments, etc.

You may have already seen this action photo of the crew who helped move them in May:

Several of you  have come to mind recently.  (Marilyn, Val, and Di to be specific)  All of you have had to say good-by to your mom within the past couple of years, and that thought has  energized me to make the most of the time with both of my parents.

    Work. I am in the middle of a large remodel.  It has been a mixed bag.  House is situated out in the middle of 40 acres of timber.  Yesterday we could hear the walnuts falling.  It continues to keep me physically fit, and it pays the bills. I get to work with my son on the project. He scheduled his work load to be available to help. Considering, I started taking him to work with me about the time he was 5…he is a gift to have on the crew. On the negative side of the ledger, we’ve just finished  enduring almost 2 weeks of nonstop rain.  Financially that cost me in rental equipment, and lost productivity.  I saw some yellow fungus  starting to grow on the side of house Monday.   One of my new co-workers decided to not show up the day we set roof trusses (between rain showers, over the existing house)  That ticked me off.  His phone has been surgically  attached to his hand so I know he could see me calling to find out where he was.   He didn’t answer.  That proverb about a faithful man…who can find?  Yep, they are getting harder and harder to find.

The rat invasion

Normally I equate rats with an active farmstead with grain and fresh feed supplies..(we don’t have either)  Well, when I got on my lawnmower 3 weeks ago,  4 large healthy rats came tumbling out of the mower deck.  We have a lawnmower with a 6 foot deck.(the mower is in  front rather than underneath.)

Creep-ed  me out.

Two of them were as large as squirrels.  I  had noticed half a dozen holes around the perimeter of our red barn (rat activity) but never gave it any thought until that day.  As I looked around the basement of the barn, I could see multiple spots where the rats had dug tunnels right up through the concrete floor.  The thing is, the barn is less than 100 feet from our 110 year old farmhouse with a limestone foundation.  Come winter, the last thing I want is for that horde to send some scouts over to our house.   So, I bought a 9 pound pail of rat bait.  It was gone in 3 days. Bought a second. Same thing.  Talked to Dave @ the store, he recommended the more expensive stuff. I am on my 3rd 9 pound pail of super-duper, heavy-duty rat bait.  At $50 plus dollars a pail, the novelty has worn off. (and one feeding is supposed to kill them)

There is definitely a life lesson in all of this for me.

And finally the Apple crop.

Another Japanese Beetle invasion decimated 80% of our Gingergold and Honey Crisp apple crop this season.  Each female beetle can lay up to 60 eggs in the fall.  Last season, I thought..it couldn’t get any worse.

Well, it did.

Japanese Beetles on a Ginger gold apple

(I think they look like Christmas tree ornaments.)

Japanese beetles on peaches 2018

We did manage to save 2 bushel of peaches. Bartered for some peach wine, and peach pies from the neighbors.

In spite of the rats, the beetles, the no-shows at work, and the rain,  I have a remarkably flippant, detached attitude most of the time.  I can trace it right back to a book my dad gave me when I was 14.  He said to me, “Junior, you need to read this book.”   

I did.

Norman Vincent Peal’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

It changed the trajectory of my life.

Not saying I’m on my game 100% of the time…but can’t imagine what life would feel like to just focus on the nasty.

+++++++++++++++++++++

Well, time for me to wrap it up.

Bus leaves in 45 minutes. DM

 

Crack’n The Code

Apple juice now….

Apple juice now….”

I was standing next to my just turned two-year old granddaughter last night at a shrimp boil.

My sister Karen looked at me and asked, “What is she saying????”

It sounded like “Apple Juice now” to me.

“Apple juice?  Is that what you want Willow? “

Nada…

She kept repeating the phrase… there was  a  hint  of urgency in her tone…

Suddenly it clicked…

She didn’t want apple juice.

 ap-ple….

Slow it way down and with a little imagination you might hear, “I- poo”…

“I poo?  Do you have to go poo????”

She nodded her head. The two of us made tracks to find her parents.
Cow manure, chicken manure, even hog manure I can handle…but baby poo. No way!

I opened the door, looked over at my son.

“Someone has to go poo poo…now!”

I had cracked the code,

just

in

time.

 

 

Picking green beans in the rain

It had been thundering for the past half an hour, and then it started to rain.

I was out in the garden picking green beans Tuesday night.

I could feel the anger slowly melting  away.

In the Christian tradition, there is a thought that goes like this….Be angry but do not sin…do not let the sun go down on your anger.

The word sin has all but disappeared in the work a day English language.

Too bad.   It  literally means  “to miss the mark”… a word picture of a faulty bow (bow and arrow) that doesn’t  shoot straight…shoot an arrow with this bow and it will inevitably veer to the left or right.

So there I was grousing a bad attitude about something I could not shake.  I did not want to have a bad attitude but i did…. If I told you what it was that had me vexed, you wouldn’t believe it.  Doesn’t matter. problem was, I could not shake it. Tried everything I knew…

And then it started to rain….and the bad attitude just sort of dissolved…. Not sure how that works, but I like it.

Pause.

Stopped by my mom and dad’s yesterday morning for coffee. They are both in their 80’s….still live on the family farm.  Dad was outside pushing a riding lawnmower onto a trailer.  I got there just in time to help him finish.

I cherish moments like that,  all the more of late… There has been a slew of obituaries in the local paper of people I know….most of them my parents age or younger.

My favorite moment yesterday  happened just before I left.  I asked dad about the young farmer who had recently purchased an adjacent farm dad used to farm.

(I’m scratching my head wondering how that math works…farm ground around here is still in the $5000, to $6000 per acre range, and with current corn and bean prices, dad lost money last season farming that same ground).

Dad said...”The younger generation has never experienced what can happen when the bottom drops out.  I have.  You never forget those things.. I would be very careful just how much debt you take on right now.  One of the salesman in the local John Deere  store told me this week, they are looking at a long term gradual decline in sales, just like back in the 1980’s…”

Listening to my dad validate my concerns did something for me.

It helped me to feel grounded.

Picking green beans in the rain and having coffee with my parents gave me a sense of being grounded.

____________________________________

When you hear that term “grounded,”   what does that mean to you?  What are some ways that happens in your life?  I want details.

DM

One ton of fresh compost

The keeping of bees….continued

Honeybee nuc.

I noticed a lot of bee activity the past couple of days on the outside of the new nuc, so I texted my bee mentor Mike last night.  (This nuc is a small box with 5 bee frames in it.  It was split off the main hive a month ago.)  Mike suspected they had probably outgrown their new home and it was time to move the bees into a regular bee hive box.

He wished me luck. 🙂

Up until now, the only thing I have personally done with the bees is open the hives and peek in….

Bees go to bed relatively early, so once most of the bees were back in the hive, I taped their front entrance shut then carried it down to the new hive.  The thing was a lot heavier than I anticipated.  It had to weigh at least 50 pounds.

Inside of this little box was  20 pounds of honey and thousands and thousands of honeybees…

Opening the lid on the nuc box felt just like opening a Christmas present.

Mike had been correct.

The bees had outgrown their space. The frames were thick with crawling bees, and once I started prying the  frames out of the box, the pitch of the hum changed. It doubled, then tripled in volume.

They were TICKED OFF.

(My first thought was, I sure hope this bee outfit is all it is cracked up to be.)

To give you an idea of how many bees there were, you can buy them by the pound (live)…a 3 pound container holds about 10,000 bees.  I’m guessing there were between 20,00 to 30,000 in that box.  The new queen has been busy the last month.  We learned in class last winter she can lay between 1000 and 2000 eggs per day…

Just wow

Here is a picture some of you may not have seen that I took back in June of a frame full of bees in the main hive:

Frame of honeybees and honey

Doing all of the switching around of the bee frames last night without anyone else present was a rush.  I feel like I hardly know anything, and yet, just like anything else, I have to start somewhere.

Few years ago, I had a woman stumble across my farm blog who makes her living raising vegetables.    You could sense the contempt she had for my lack of knowledge in her one and only comment.  The only experience I had gardening growing up was one year, dad decided to cover the potatoes with a pile of old hay, rather than bury them in the dirt.  I remember pulling back the hay, later in the summer, and seeing all of the new potatoes on the top of the ground. That is it.  The rest of my gardening knowledge has been acquired through reading, and a few conversations with more experienced gardeners…and I still feel like a newbie.

 

I am a teacher.  I love to mentor, especially in the construction field.  SO, when I am on the receiving end of someone teaching me, something new (like bee keeping, or gardening)  I can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher in 2 minutes.

It’s 95% attitude.

 

 

How would you approach this?

Twice a month, my wife and a neighbor  take turns driving to an Amish discount grocery store.  It is a combination, girls day out, and a chance to save some serious $  on the food budget.

When I got home from work, the last time they made the trek, my wife looked at me and said, “We were almost killed this morning in a traffic accident.”

Our neighbor, is in her late 60’s, does not like to drive in traffic, and creeps along when she is out and about.   Apparently, she (the neighbor) did not look to her right as she turned left out of the driveway.  The Amish store is situated on a paved road, below the crest of a hill..accident waiting to happen.  There is not a lot of traffic on it, but all it takes is one screw up.  Just as they were about into their lane, a blue pickup truck, flew in front of them, going at least 60 mph.  Both wife and neighbor were startled,  and neighbor sheepishly admitted she had forgotten to look to her right.

THEN,  as they were having this conversation, a semi barreled over the hill and passed them on their left…he too was flying, and had they been in an accident with the pickup truck moments before, there was little doubt in my wife’s mind, that the semi would have ran into all of them.

It is not my place to tell my wife, how to run her life, BUT I did suggest, she think twice about riding in the same car with the neighbor, if she is driving.

Wife had already made up her mind, that was the last time.  I suggested saying something sooner than later about the driving arrangement, before the next trip rolls around.  Both of us are pretty sure, our neighbor will not respond graciously when my wife breaks the news…Their next trip is coming up in a week or so…and neighbor reminded my wife on the phone yesterday, it was her turn to drive.  Wife didn’t say anything on the phone.

I always think, as much as possible it is better to have those kind of conversations in person, rather than over the phone, via e-mail, etc. etc.

Any suggestions on how to have that conversation and how you would word it?

As far as I’m concerned, she is an accident waiting to happen.  I can  very easily see this drive a wedge in our neighborly relationship.

Oh well.

Apiary Update

When I suggested to my wife in December, I was “starting to feel a stirring” to get into  honeybees…I prefaced my newfound interest by promising  I would not spend money we did not have. 😉

(I’m learning)

There is definitely a knack  to dreaming dreams and not letting money (or the lack thereof) from stifling ones ability to plan.

I got a little cash for Christmas, so I used that to pay for the six week beginning beekeeping class offered through a local community college ($35)

Out in my wood shop, I had some 1 by 12 pine boards just sitting around, got on-line and found some Do It Yourself plans for building the hive boxes.

Mid February,  I met with a woman who wanted to learn how to prune apple trees.  She spent the morning with me pruning, and over the course of our time together, shared, she herself had a small apiary, and if I did get honeybees, I was more than welcome to use her honey extracting equipment come August…

In addition to the cash from Christmas, I had a small reserve of petty cash from people who have tipped me  over  the  past year….normally, that is my coffee fund (Starbucks/ french roast/ beans/ not ground) but feeling as strongly as I do about getting a bee hive (or two), I decided to dip into that.

I did some work last Fall for a local electrician who offered to sell me one of his nucs this spring  (A Nuc is a new bee colony with 3 to 5 frames of bee larva, eggs, etc).  It is a great way to get a jump-start on raising a new colony.

So after totaling up what  two complete hive boxes, frames, smoker, gloves, bee hat, hive tools, bees would cost, the total came to $900.00.  I created a go-fund-me site a few weeks ago with a $1000 target goal.  (Go-fund-me and all of their related fees costs just under 10% of what you raise, so I figured, by the time I paid the fees, if $1000 came in, I would be set, and still live within my budget.

So yesterday, I sold some free range eggs to  someone locally. Our four free range hens have found their egg laying groove again.  They are laying more than we can eat, so I have started to sell them on a limited basis.

The four hens have  not cost us a cent since before Christmas.  100% of their daily food intake has been coming in from  foraging.  I do not have an electric water heater for them this winter either (normally that runs $30 a month in electricity), and when you’re watching pennies, $30 is not chump change….Instead, I use two plastic coffee cans and make sure they have access to fresh water a couple of times a day…birds in the wild, if there is no water, will eat snow, and I’ve noticed the hens are doing that as well.

I am selling the free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen….so when I went out into the shop yesterday to get the $5.00 for the two dozen eggs…this is what I saw:

To date,  counting yesterday’s gift, $370 has come in..which will pay for all of my initial gear, and the forty  frames for one hive…enough to get started.

I have kept my promise.

I have not spent $ we do not have.

Lest you think I am a mooch, I/ we, have also been on the giving end of the equation, multiple times over the years.

I have a very detached attitude about money.  I can give it away and receive it with equal grace.