Country Living Series

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ultimate composting

Here's my WND column for this weekend entitled What's Next? Composting Dead Babies?


And because I forgot to link to last weekends column, here it is: Does It Really Cost $245,000 to Raise a Kid?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Creepy sleeping

Does it seem like more and more people are looking for ways to avoid making any decisions for themselves anymore?

Apparently there's a new mattress cover in development called "Luna" that will turn out the lights for you when you go to sleep, and get coffee ready for you when you wake up.


According to the article: "Luna’s new device fits around the mattress like a cover, and monitors whether those sleeping on it are asleep. When it senses that they are, it can power down lights or change heating settings. And when it detects that they’re waking back up, it can start brewing coffee or turn the lights back on. And while you’re asleep, it will track the room temperature and how much sleep you get, creating the perfect conditions. The bed has 'dual zone temperature,' which means that it can monitor different sides of the bed separately."

What's next? Will it flush the toilet for you when you use the lavatory in the middle of the night?

And that's not all. Apparently it can "accurately tell when demonstrators [in a showroom] pretended to go to sleep and wake up."

And: "Data is stored on the smart mattress cover itself, and then sent to Luna for storage and analysis."

Analysis of WHAT? I'm sorry, but does anyone else find this just plain creepy?

It's beyond my comprehension why anyone -- even technophiles -- would voluntarily participate in this kind of intrusive data collecting.

Sheesh. Give me an old bed any time.


UPDATE: An anonymous poster left this comment, which cracked me up:

"Mom goes to bed early. The lights go out. Dad goes to bed late in the dark. Mom gets up to use the bathroom. The lights go on and the coffee starts brewing. Mom returns to bed and the lights go out. Dad gets up to use the bathroom. The lights go on and the coffee is getting stronger. Dad returns to bed and the lights go out. Dad has been grumbling because Mom woke him up and Mom is upset with Dad for waking her and the coffee is getting stronger all the time. This could be a lot worse if mom and dad are old and get up more than once during the night. I see so many problems with this, it would take for ever to list them."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Milestone!

I'll admit it, I'm shameless when it comes to watching my Google Follower numbers. For days they hovered tantalizingly at 1198, and I thought I'd take a screenshot when it hit the momentous 1200.


But today while I was gone, it tipped over to 1201. Thank you "chobers" and "Pladd" for being my latest followers!

This blog is growing slowly and steadily, and I have all of you wonderful folks to thank.



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wheeling eagles

The other day while cleaning the barn, I heard the agitated cry of a red-tailed hawk. Turns out the reason it was agitated is it was competing in the sky with a bunch of bald eagles, wheeling high overhead.



The eagles were very far away, and at the time I was photographing them (at maximum zoom) it was hard to tell what was what. However it looks like there were some juveniles mixed in with the adults (see this link for wing markings). This photo is heavily cropped, hence the blurriness.


Another juvenile?


Altogether I counted seven huge birds in the sky at the same time (they wouldn't conveniently cluster within frame of the camera lens, of course). Pretty cool, if I do say so.

Oh, and the red-tailed hawk departed soon after. Too much competition, I'd say.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Laundry issues

Some time ago a reader asked the following:

Patrice, how do you dry bed linens indoors? I have a great drying rack that holds a full/large load of laundry but I still find it challenging to dry bed sheets inside. Some days, like today, it was just too damp and cloudy for the bed linens to dry on the outside line. I have them draped over the clothes rack now but in order to do so, I have them folded several times. If I hadn't hung them outside today, despite the weather, I doubt they'd dry anytime soon folded on the clothes rack. Any tips?

I've been meaning to answer this question for some time, so here's a short history of our laundry (specifically drying) issues.

We have a clothes dryer but hate to use it because it sucks up so much propane. Years ago, Don installed a clothesline for me, which I used constantly during warmer weather.


But during the winter, obviously we couldn't use the clothesline. For awhile it meant we reverted to using the dryer.

Then I discovered standing clothes racks. Oh my, what a difference. We seldom used the dryer after that, during the winter.



But summer time, I still used the clothesline until one fateful day when it simply... broke. Dropped four loads of wet laundry onto the ground. Bummer.


So I went to using clothes racks full-time, particularly since the clothesline broke in October and outdoor drying was about finished for the season anyway.

But clothes racks have their limitations, notably space. If I have a heavy laundry day, I simply run out of racks.

Additionally, it's almost impossible (as the reader above noted) to dry sheets on racks. We used to use our stair banister...


...but it's not good for more than one sheet at a time.

So a few years ago, my dear husband built me a hanging clothes rack, permanently suspended from our upstairs ceiling. This rack holds four loads of laundry at a time. I still use standing racks for overflow laundry, particularly whites (socks, undies, dishtowels, etc.).




The hanging rack has made all the difference when it comes to drying sheets. This past week, since everyone was sick in our house, everyone wanted fresh clean sheets. I had everyone strip their beds, and I was able to hang every last sheet at the same time. Bliss!



Incidentally, we never did re-install an outdoor clothesline. Why bother, when the indoor one works so well? (Though I'll admit nothing beats sun-dried sheets for a fresh smell.)

So that's how we handle our laundry issues.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Writers wanted

Joe Wurzelbacher (familiarly known as "Joe the Plumber") has a new website entitled Survival Nation.


Joe is looking for writers for this site. As he puts it: "It is not a doom and gloom or zombie apocalypse site. I currently have four writers, three are retired Air Force survival experts. They generally talk about having the right attitude and a good plan. They are all about developing skills. I'm looking for someone that knows about homesteading/pioneering, real world skills that can help people in their everyday lives."

My schedule won't permit me to take on this task, even though I think the website is wonderful.

So -- any wanna-be writers out there with homesteading and pioneering skills want to give it a try? If so, Joe has a "Contact" box at the bottom of his page, and I urge you to let him know.

Spring fever

It seems New England is bracing for a massive blizzard.


Meanwhile I'm almost embarrassed to admit we're experiencing near-record high temperatures in north Idaho.



I screen-shot the above on Saturday. Here's today's forecast of 56F:


I'll admit spring fever is hitting hard. Don keeps talking about all the work he wants to do on the tractor. I keep walking through the sleeping garden and making plans. Must... resist...

This lovely weather isn't likely to last -- we could be due for the blizzard of the century next week -- but it sure is a nice interlude.

Meanwhile to all those in New England due to be impacted by the blizzard -- stay warm and safe!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Losing Tarzan

We lost our young rooster Tarzan yesterday.



It was very strange. I tucked him into the coop as usual the night before, and he was just fine. I always keep roosters separated at night because Snap, our mature rooster, will beat the tar out of any young whippersnappers left in his clutches in the coop overnight. Tarzan is used to the routine and obediently goes into the inner cage (I usually leave him with a few hens).

But yesterday morning as I released the birds, I saw he was huddled on the floor, head on the ground.


He had no visible injuries, and he was lusty and strong the day before. What happened? Who knows. I can't imagine he was ganged up by the hens since hens aren't known for aggressive behavior toward roosters (though a few have chased him away when he got too persistent in his attentions).

After keeping a hopeful eye on him for a few hours, it was obvious something was terribly wrong and he was dying. I finally asked Don to put him out of his misery.

I find myself very upset at losing little Tarzan. From the crop of young roosters we hatched last summer, he had the nicest disposition and the handsomest appearance, and I was fond of him. Who knows what went wrong?

We're back down to just one male, faithful Snap, whom we hatched in 2010.


He's getting up there in rooster years, though still vigorous and fertile. We'll get another rooster this upcoming summer to share the load.

Sigh. Bye Tarzan, you were nice while you lasted.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Are Millennials in trouble?

I caught a Yahoo article this week entitled Baby limbo: Millennials struggle to find the right time for parenthood. As I will mention in my upcoming WND column for this weekend, the article detailed how many young couples find themselves so saddled in student loan (and other) debt that it literally paralyzes their financial position for decades to come –- including during that critical window in life when they would otherwise be buying homes and starting families.

The article highlights some high school sweethearts named Mandy and Nathan. "By the time they graduated college in 2009, both with degrees in English, they were already married. They had talked about having children for years, but with graduation came an unwelcome reality check: a combined $60,000 worth of student loan debt."

After giving the statistics on how Millennials are putting off traditional adult benchmarks such as buying homes and having babies (due to a combination of debt and a poor economy), the article gave some advice for young couples wanting to untangle their financial knots and plan for a future family:

1. Practice living off of one salary for at least a year.

2. Make lifestyle adjustments now, not later.

3. Review your health insurance policies.

4. Balance your savings needs with your children’s savings needs.

5. Plan your transition away from and back to work carefully.

While I don't necessarily disagree with these bullet points, I have a feeling the problems with the Millennials goes deeper.

It saddens me to see so many young people starting out their adult lives as slaves... because make no mistake, debt on the order of $60,000 (or more) is little more than a slave collar around their necks. It makes me want to shake them (or their parents) for encouraging or accruing that kind of debt to begin with, particular in a fragile and shaky economy.

As carefully as this article suggests planning out one's future, it never touches on what got this couple in trouble in the first place: poor planning for their future. Mandy and Nathan accrued $60,000 studying a subject (English) for which there is no appreciable demand.

It's not that I object to studying English -- far from it, I take great delight in writing and literature -- but Mandy and Nathan should have been advised to match supply and demand before spending that kind of money (see this blog post for a better explanation). There are far more English majors (supply) than there are jobs to support them (demand). And while they are actively working to build their careers (kudos), student loan repayments wait for no man. And now this young couple's future is trashed because of it.

If I could make some possibly unfair assumptions about Millennials, one of the problems is they've never been told "no." They've never been told it may not be a good idea to major in English or Psychology when there are no English or Psychology jobs available. They've never been told NOT to "follow their heart" when it comes to studying useless subjects in college and then wonder why they emerge with $60,000 in student loan debt that haunts them for years to come.

If you're at the juncture of your lives where your future may literally hang in the balance -- namely, graduating from high school and contemplating entering college -- think very very carefully about the path before you.

You don't want to end up like Mandy and Nathan.

Pinned on Pinterest

The Molly Green Magazine editor (Marla) emailed and said she'd "pinned" my latest article, The Beauty of Gender Strengths, on Pinterest (as well as tweeted it on Twitter).


Thanks, Marla!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Shaky but back...

Holy cow, I don't know what it was the Lewis family had, but it sure knocked us for a loop. It started with Older Daughter, then Younger Daughter, than myself, then our houseguest GG, then finally Don. Poor GG got it the worst and spent one whole night upchucking. The rest of us escaped that fate, luckily.

We've been gradually regaining our strength and going about our chores very slowly. Don's even tried to get some work done in the shop (since we have orders due) and can only manage about half an hour at a time. Our minds have been fuzzy and illogical and sometimes we even speak gibberish while trying to say something sane. Very strange.

The neighbors have all been so kind, calling for health updates and with many offers to do chores or cook meals. We haven't taken them up on anything because (a) we don't want to expose them to what we had, and (b) none of us have much of an appetite so meals aren't necessary. As I told a friend yesterday, right now we sound like a Greek chorus of the walking dead -- deep hoarse chest-rattling coughs, violent sneezes, etc. Wheee!

I'll try to get my brain to cooperate and get something intelligent on the blog in the near future. Meanwhile, thank you all for your prayers and well-wishes.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Please stand by....

The girls and I came down with a bad cold/fever over the weekend and I feel like ca-ca. Older and Younger Daughters are pretty much recovered, but I'm in the worst of it right now.


I had a lousy night's sleep (shivers, fever dreams, etc.) and spent much of the day in and out of bed, taking ibuprofen and eating scads of oranges

Please stand by until I've got some brainpower back!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Inflation? What inflation?

I'm in shock. Sticker shock, that is.

We're working on an order of tankards. The customer would like them later this week, so Don's finishing up sixty pieces. He shot them with the first coat of varnish, then waited until they dried so we can scratch them (with 000-gauge steel wool) and brush them, then shoot them a second time with varnish.


But we were out of steel wool, so I volunteered to go to the hardware store to get some.

"While you're there," said Don, "could you pick me up some tomatoes?" My hard-working husband asks for very little, so a few out-of-season tomatoes is a treat I'm not going to deny him.

So off I went -- with $18 in my wallet. No problem, right? I mean, how much could a few tomatoes and some steel wool come to?

Well as it turns out, $19. I had to scrabble some coins together from the dashboard of the car to finish paying for everything.

The tomatoes were $2.99/lb. The total for five tomatoes came to $7.05. This was so startling to the checkout lady that she rechecked both the weight and the price, then shook her head sadly as she bagged them up.

At the hardware store, I confidently expected my remaining $11 to cover two bags of steel wool. Wrong. Steel wool, it seems, is now $5.99 per bag. As I said, I had to scramble for the last few coins to complete the sale.


I got back into the car stunned at the cost of these two items. It's not like I haven't had sticker shock before. But for Pete's sake -- $19 for two things...??!!


Therefore it was with grim amusement that Don forwarded me a ZeroHedge article on the official "lack" of inflation. This came on the heels of two articles linked on Drudge about the increases in food and electricity prices.

The ZeroHedge article is amusingly entitled There Is No Inflation (Unless You Eat Food, Use Water, Live In A House, Get Sick, Go To School, Or Do Taxes). It illustrates how deliberately manipulative government statics on inflation are for the common person. These number-crunching bureaucrats apparently never take a jaunt to the store for tomatoes or steel wool and leave with moths flying out of their wallets.


The article had a table showing the annual price increases for items that might impact your life on a daily basis, such as meat (up 12.7%), eggs (10.7%), fruits and vegetables (up 4.1%), butter (22.5%), and hospital care (up 4.9%). The funny thing is, ZeroHedge got these figures from an "official" government site. We already know they massage numbers -- so these price increase represent the massaged numbers. Are we having fun yet?

Hard on the heels of this article was another article which documented the record-high prices for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs. "In January 1967, when the BLS started tracking this measure," notes the article, "the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs was 38.1. As of last December 2013, it was 239.151. In November 2014 it hit 260.247. And in December 2014 it hit a record high of 261.002, an increase of 9.1 percent in one year."

Yet another article noted, "Data released today by the BLS indicates that the electricity price indexes hit all-time highs for the month of December and for the year. 2014 was the most-expensive year ever for electricity in the United States."

But remember: "Inflation? What inflation?"

The bottom line, folks, is we are having the (steel) wool pulled over our collective eyes by those who want to convince us the economy is just ducky.

I challege the pencil-pushers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to go shopping for two items with $18 in their wallet, then tell me to my face there's no inflation.

Okay, rant over.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The advantages of being a country bumpkin

When we think about the Great Depression from the 1930s, we think of the images of pathetic apple vendors on New York City streets, or people lining up for soup kitchens, or families fleeing dust storms billowing over prairie landscapes, or other grim scenes. We hear stories of hardship handed down by our grandparents. We remember the sad cases of people losing everything they owned when the stock market crashed.




What we don’t hear very often are people who (mostly) escaped the hardship and deprivation of the 30s altogether... because they were independent farmers in parts of the country not hit by drought.

Reader Sidetracksusie left this comment on my Why Be Normal? post which was so fascinating I didn’t want it buried. She wrote:

An old rancher in Wyoming shared with me that he was not aware there was ever a depression: he had no stock in Wall Street, only stock with four legs; no money in a bank, only what was in his pocket. He rode out to care for cattle every day, cut hay with a team of horses, ran his simple irrigation ditches, fixed his fence with tools and wire he all ready owned. He pushed cattle to mountain pastures in the spring and brought them back in the fall. He didn't have tv, radio or a newspaper. He just had his work and his land. Prices of beef went up and down. He never have many clothes, and no fancy ones, but kept a good heavy coat, gloves, hats, scarves.

He found it strange that "normal" people thought they could make something from nothing and would jump off buildings (something he read years later) when they found out it didn't work. He was happy he lived in what he learned was "fly-over" country.

My mother's parents fared those same years in much the same way…they were poor and raised every bite they ate, buying only salt and such. No savings in a bank that they "lost". Nothing much changed for them, other than they shared what they had with more people. Country bumpkins that were probably looked down upon, previously, and that in years to come, were most likely looked down upon again, living life simply by the labors of their hands, content to sit on the front porch and visit, to play cards with the extended family and neighbors, to have potlucks after church.

They had little but I guess they had enough and they seemed secure and content for as long as I was honored to have them as my grandparents on this earth.


This is an intriguing notion -- to be independent enough that an economic depression more or less passes you by. It shows the strength and benefits of tangible assets (cows, garden, chickens, etc.). Being a "country bumpkin" has some advantages, I guess.


I know it's not possible to be entirely immune from another economic depression -- but it's not a bad goal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Middle Earth epitaph

A friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) spontaneously came up with this joke which cracked us up:

What is written about people in Middle Earth when they die?



A Hobbituary.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Vanilla cream rolls

It was my turn to bring dessert to our neighborhood potluck. We expected a large turnout -- 16 people -- so I needed to bring a hearty amount. But what to make?

For some reason I had it in my head to try a jelly roll, only not filled with jelly but with other stuff. Trouble is, I'd never made a jelly roll before. Quick, to the internet!

After a few minutes' searching, I came across this recipe for a vanilla cream roll and decided to give it a try.

First thing to do was find jelly roll pans (not something in my usual kitchen repertoire). I called a couple of neighbors to no avail. However I remembered years ago I'd bought two small cookie sheets for use in our old wood cookstove (which had a small oven). Since the wood cookstove was never used, neither were the cookie sheets.

So I pulled them out, dusty and dirty, and prepared to clean them up. It's worth noting -- ahem -- that Don was also sharpening the chain saw blade at the same time. Typical country kitchen scene.


Since the potluck group was so large, I doubled the recipe. Here's the batter ingredients:

⅔ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

I preheated the oven to 375F, then mixed the dry ingredients -- flour, baking powder, salt -- and put them aside.


I separated the eggs into whites and yolks.


The whites were whipped separately, gradually adding half a cup of sugar (remember, I doubled the recipe), then put aside.



Then it was the yolks' turn. Beaten, with one cup of sugar slowly added.


Adding vanilla and water.


Then it was time to combine wet and dry ingredients. The instructions say to add about half the flour gradually, mixing all the while, then dump in the rest and mix well.


Then fold in the whipped egg whites.


The recipe said to use parchment paper on the pans. Since I've never used parchment paper in my life, I simply greased and floured the pans (which worked fine).


While the cakes were baking, I took two clean cloths and sprinkled them with powdered sugar.



Here's the cakes, out of the oven.


The instructions said to loosen the edges with a knife while hot...


...then immediately flip them out of the pan onto the sugared cloths. This is the part where I thought the cakes would stick, but they didn't (phew!).


Then came the fun part: while the cake is still hot, gently roll the cake and cloth together.



The rolls are then placed seam-down on a cooling rack to cool completely.


While these first two cakes were cooling, I made two more (for a total of four cakes).

Then came the choice of what to fill the rolls with. I decided to fill one of the rolls with Cool Whip since one gentleman at the potluck is lactose-intolerant and can't have dairy. A second roll I filled with sweetened whipped cream.


It didn't come out as picture-perfect as the photo on the original recipe link (I presume jelly roll pans are longer and narrower, allowing more "roll"), but I figured it wouldn't affect how they tasted.


Since I had leftover whipped cream, I decided to fill the two remaining rolls with the cream mixture from trifle which consists of cream cheese, whipped cream, sour cream, and vanilla pudding.

I put everything in the freezer until it was time to leave for the potluck.


By the way, the trifle filling was by far the most popular. I sent the remainder of the Cool Whip filling home with the lactose-intolerant fellow, since no one else wanted it.

All in all, another dessert dish for my repertoire!