Country Living Series

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fly-out interview

As I write this, it's Saturday evening and we're down one daughter. That's because Older Daughter is presently in New Jersey doing a fly-out nanny interview with a prospective family.

We've enjoyed every minute of having her home since her graduation from nanny school in September, but we knew she wouldn't be with us for long.



The school notified her that a family in New Jersey (both parents are doctors) are looking for a live-in nanny for their four boys (four-year-old twins, six, eight). They actually employ two nannies, one live-out and one live-in. The live-out has been in their employ for seven years; the last live-in for four years. This implies a stable, secure family, just the kind Older Daughter was hoping to find.

So, after two highly-successful phone interviews, these folks flew her out yesterday morning for an in-person interview. I dropped her at the airport around 8 am.


She arrived around midnight their time and flies home around midnight our time tomorrow (wow, she'll be a zombie by then).

We're all dying of curiosity to know how things are going, but of course we're not going to call or email to find out. We'll learn soon enough, and Older Daughter has earned the dignity of not having mommy and daddy checking up on her every two hours. (Though that doesn't mean we're not curious!)

I have every expectation of a happy conclusion to this interview. On the down side, Older Daughter will be waaaaaay far away from us; on the up side, she'll be very close to her dear friend GG, who spent five months with us last year and is currently working on Long Island. (I think GG's nearness is instrumental in Older Daughter's acceptance of the position.)

So -- changes a-coming. Our little bird is flying from the nest.

The horror of overprotective dads

Here's my WND column for this weekend entitled The Horror of Overprotective Dads.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cheese and children

Our advertiser Tim Young ("Self sufficient man") has a new video up entitled Starting and Running an Artisan Cheese Business.


He also has one of his children's books entirely online -- well worth reading.


Folks, this guy is amazing. Consider he's a "late" starter to the field of homesteading, he has learned more in the past ten years than many of us learn in a lifetime. His videos and podcasts are always worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Modern man vs. country man

Recently the New York Times posted an article entitled 27 Ways to Be a Modern Man. As promised, readers receive 27 pieces of sage advice defining modern manhood -- by New York Times standards (the author of the piece, let it be known, hails from DeKalb, Illinois).

"Being a modern man today," begins the article, "is no different than it was a century ago. It’s all about adhering to principle. Sure, fashion, technology and architecture change over time, as do standards of etiquette, not to mention ways of carrying oneself in the public sphere. But the modern man will take the bits from the past that strike him as relevant and blend them with the stuff of today.

Needless to say, the 27 points that define a modern man were so hilariously at odds with the men of my acquaintance that I decided to write brief rebutalls/slash/contrasts. "Modern men" is in bold; "country men" are in italics.

Without further ado, here's Modern Man vs. Country Man:

1. When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn’t have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.

(The country man doesn’t buy shoes for his spouse. He knows she’s all grown up and can buy shoes for herself. Besides, Don and I both agreed it was just a little creepy for a husband to say something like, “Surprise, honey! I bought you a new pair of shoes today! Look!”)

2. The modern man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is.

(The country man has lapses of confidence like anyone else. He’s only human, after all. But it just means he works harder at whatever it was that affected his confidence.)

3. The modern man is considerate. At the movie theater, he won’t munch down a mouthful of popcorn during a quiet moment. He waits for some ruckus.

(The country man seldom sees a movie in a theater – they’re generally too far away – but he holds doors for women, carries heavy packages, and otherwise acts like a gentleman.)

4. The modern man doesn’t cut the fatty or charred bits off his fillet. Every bite of steak is a privilege, and it all goes down the hatch.

(Agreed. The country man would do the same.)

5. The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines.

(I don’t know why this is an issue. I suppose a country man would do the same.)

6. Before the modern man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse’s phone and his kids’ electronic devices are charging for the night.

(Um, no. Even assuming the country man’s children are steeped in electronics, he thinks it’s more prudent to teach his children responsibility by letting them charge their own electronics. If a country man wants to courteously charge his wife’s electronics, I suppose I wouldn’t object.)

7. The modern man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he’ll show you the door.

(Um, beer. Just think beer.)

8. The modern man uses the proper names for things. For example, he’ll say “helicopter,” not “chopper” like some gauche simpleton.

(The country man, far from being a “gauche simpleton,” frequently continues to use the jargon he learned in the military, where “chopper” was a regular part of the lexicon. Now let’s back up; who are you calling a “gauche simpleton”?)

9. Having a daughter makes the modern man more of a complete person. He learns new stuff every day.

(The country man knows ALL children are blessings. He can teach his daughters to be ladies and his sons to be gentlemen.)

10. The modern man makes sure the dishes on the rack have dried completely before putting them away.

(The country man is often so busy doing manly chores like cutting firewood, feeding livestock, building structures, hunting to provide meat for his family, and other responsibilities that putting dishes away isn’t even on his radar.)

11. The modern man has never “pinned” a tweet, and he never will.

(Ditto. I’m not even sure what “pinning a tweet” is, and I’m thankful my country man doesn’t know either.)

12. The modern man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out.

(This defines manhood? Ooookay. Whatever.)

13. The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.

(My country man and I had to look this one up. Wu-Tang, it seems, is an American hip hop group from New York City. Listen to hip hop? Not on your tin-type.)

14. The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.

(Let’s face it, the country man tells his wife to please not forget [whatever] at the grocery store. As for the country wife, it would never in a zillion years occur to her to look for a grocery list on a telephone.

15. The modern man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords.

(The country man often has 100 year old hardwood floors by default. As for Kenneth Cole oxfords – pause while I gasp with laughter – try steel-toed boots instead.)

16. The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away.

(The country man sleeps with a shotgun by his bed so both he AND his wife have an excellent chance of “getting away.” The wife, incidentally, has her own firearm in convenient reach as well.)

17. Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?

(Oh please. The country man can pick his own cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew fresh from the garden. After that, all he needs is a butcher knife to cut the melons.)

18. The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.

(The country man buys footwear that fits and doesn’t think anything else about it. But if he were caught using a shoehorn by his buddies, the ribbing wouldn’t be worth it.)

19. The modern man buys fresh flowers more to surprise his wife than to say he is sorry.

(The country man brings his wife a fresh pack of ammo. Or a fresh pack of canning jars. Or a fresh pack of 2x6s, after which he proceeds to build her the livestock feeder she’s always wanted. Flowers? She can pick those in the pasture.)

20. On occasion, the modern man is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.

(The country man loves to spoon and be spooned. I don’t know if feeling “down” or “vulnerable” or requiring an “emotional” or “physical” shield has squat to do with it.)

21. The modern man doesn’t scold his daughter when she sneezes while eating an apple doughnut, even if the pieces fly everywhere.

(Um, what?)

22. The modern man still ambles half-naked down his driveway each morning to scoop up a crisp newspaper.

(The country man shoots a bear from his doorstep while buck naked. Yes really. One of our neighbors did this. It’s become local legend.)

23. The modern man has all of Michael Mann’s films on Blu-ray (or whatever the highest quality thing is at the time).

(Who the heck is Michael Mann and why is he important? We had to look this one up. Nope, neither of us has ever seen a Michael Mann film.)

24. The modern man doesn’t get hung up on his phone’s battery percentage. If it needs to run flat, so be it.

(Oh please. The country man remembers what life was like before the ubiquitous phone and is perfectly comfortable going hunting or fishing without one.)

25. The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will.

(The country man knows a gun is a tool, like a chainsaw or a hammer. He owns anywhere from several to a lot. He knows he can protect his family, unlike the so-called “modern man” who would cry like a baby upon meeting a Bad Guy intent on harming his family.)

26. The modern man cries. He cries often.

(Maybe the modern man met the Bad Guy mentioned in #25. The country man doesn’t cry unless he’s grieving. Otherwise he just takes care of things. Often with a gun. See #25.)

27. People aren’t sure if the modern man is a good dancer or not. That is, until the D.J. plays his jam and he goes out there and puts on a clinic.

(The country man does a mean two-step or swing. And don’t forget slow dancing.)

Ahem. Feel free to add your own.

Monday, October 26, 2015

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more"

Too clever not to share. These are some very patient dogs.


And this, you must admit, is the ultimate book-lover's cake.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

The ripple effect of training children

Before I forget, here's my WND column for this weekend called Are You Raising 'Bummer' Children (originally titled "The Ripple Effect of Training Children").

It's a brave new world out there...

Yesterday our beloved retired pastor called and asked if we'd like to meet he and his lovely wife for church, then afterwards go to dinner (our church offers a Saturday evening service in addition to two Sunday morning services).

We had a wonderful time. They took us to a deluxe hamburger restaurant called Red Robin, and as you can imagine on a Saturday evening it was packed. We had about a 15 minute wait before they were able to seat us. The service was great, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was upbeat and family-friendly, with lots of children.

With the happy, cheerful crowds in the restaurant, an odd and disturbing thought passed through my mind as the hostess seated us: it would be a perfect place for some nut-job to conduct a mass shooting. And for once, I wasn't packing heat.

So it was very interesting to note something that happened late in the meal. Several young men (late 20s, early 30s) were walking the floor of the restaurant. They were smiling and helpful. While they didn't serve food, they gladly fetched condiments or extra napkins or anything else diners might require. One stopped at our table to see if we needed anything. And around their waists they all wore high-tech belts containing walkie-talkies and sidearms.

I mentioned this to our pastor's wife, and she said a lot of places are now doing this -- having visibly-armed security officers present, particularly during high-traffic hours.

While it's sad that so many restaurants feel the need to have these security officers present, I for one was glad to see them. There's only one way to stop an insane gunman, and that's a sane gunman.

Yep, it's a brave new world out there...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Farewell to an icon

I just learned about the death of Maureen O'Hara, the incomparable actress best known for her roles in the 40s and 50s.


I best remember this beautiful woman in her beloved role of Doris in "Miracle on 34th Street," one of my all-time favorite movies.


(The movie included one of the most touching scenes in cinematic history, in my humble opinion.)



But it wasn't until I'd read her autobiography 'Tis Herself that I realized what an amazing life she'd led. As one reviewer wrote, "What a woman! A star in life and a star in films."

Maureen O'Hara was one of the last remaining stars from the Golden Era of Hollywood. May she rest in peace.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Farm injury

For the last few days, Don has been complaining about a severe pain in his left arm -- a shooting pain that traveled up and down, sometimes localized and sometimes all over the arm. He took a small fall off a ladder a couple weeks ago and mildly hyperextended the arm, so he wondered if it was related to that.

When the pain didn't abate and it was getting harder for him to work, he took himself off to the doctor, who almost instantly diagnosed him with a classic case of tendonitis (apparently unrelated to the fall).

So he came home with a "tennis elbow" compression strap and strict instructions to do NOTHING for a couple of weeks.

Doing "nothing" on a farm is not easy, especially in the fall when there's so much to be done before the snow flies. This afternoon our friend's daughter Miss Serenity came over and cut a log into rounds for us (never mess with a teen girl who can handle a chainsaw!) so we'd have a few days' worth of firewood. (It was 25F this morning.)

Right now Don has his arm in a sling and is applying ice as well as using the compression strap as necessary. He's also frustrated by his relative immobility and we may hire a local kid to help do some of the projects (under Don's supervision) he had planned in the next few weeks.

Such is life. We roll with the punches. Could be worse.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Building a bull shed annex

Slowly over the last few years, we've been modifying the barn to suit our particular needs -- or more specifically, the needs of our livestock.
When Don built the bull pen in 2012, he included a nice shed to offer shelter for the bull and whichever penmates he had with him.


As it turns out, this shed got bogged in mud (gutters are our next project) so we had to add tons of gravel to keep the animals elevated out of the wet during bad weather.


Also as it turns out, one shed wasn't enough. Dominant animals boot out less dominant animals, so last month Don built a second shed to house everyone.




But the bull pen had yet another weakness: it had nowhere to feed the animals. For the last few years, we've simply pitched hay over the fence onto the ground, possibly the single worst way to feed livestock in existence. It's hugely wasteful and resulted in an ever-growing mound of buildup. Additionally, it meant the animals fed outside regardless of rain or snow, so any leftover hay quickly became inedible. They also soiled it with abandon (urine, feces), so nothing stayed fresh or edible.


We did this for several years. As the mound rose higher, we had to tie cattle panels (some call them hog panels) to the pen rails so the bull couldn't jump over the top. Clearly this massive mound of hay/manure buildup was a problem we needed to address.



Don cleaned out the bull pen over the summer before he built the shed extension, and his next project was a two-fer: feed boxes for the bull sheds, and a lean-to annex to cover them.

He started with slats for the feed boxes. We blocked off the first shed so the animals wouldn't get in, and he stripped off the outer wall. Then he installed sturdy boards across the bottom. (The sagging PVC pipe holds the wiring for the hotwire around the perimeter of the pen. We secured it later on.)


Then he started bolting in diagonal slats, using the same jig he used while building the feed boxes under the awning.


Then he switched focus and started working on the lead-to annex outside, to cover what would become the feed boxes (and, incidentally, to shelter us in inclement weather while we're feeding).


By the way, take a close look at that middle 4x4 pressure-treated post on the left. Notice it's bent near the top?


In anticipation of this project, last year Don had cemented these 4x4's into the ground. The middle post warped over the winter. So, clever fellow that he is, Don inserted a shimmy to "straighten" out the post so he could install a cross-board. That's my smart man.



With the support structure in place, he started putting up the roof structure.





Here he's installing furring strips across the roof boards to hold the metal roofing.


Incidentally, the roofing metal came from the massive (and lucky) salvage find at the dump a few years ago. You know the old saying: one man's trash is another man's treasure.


With the roof on, it was time to cut a door into the back side of the barn.


Don measured and marked, then started cutting.


VoilĂ , a door. Eventually he'll frame the metal sides of the door with wood so no one slices themselves on the sharp edges.


Can you see what an improvement this will be when it comes to feeding in wintry weather?


Here Lucy explores the new space.


Next, the floor. We needed a deep gravel base so nothing would get water-logged, as well as to provide a platform for the feed boxes to rest upon. Don scooped up some gravel with the tractor and dumped it at the mouth of the annex...


...and the girls spread it evenly.


Don also dumped, and the girls spread, a layer of gravel in the new shed.


With the infrastructure of the annex in place (roof, siding, floor), finishing the feed box itself didn't take long. Don had to build the angle of the backing a bit steeper than the original feed boxes under the awning, simply because the space in the annex is more cramped.



Then we removed the paneling that had been blocking off the shed, and let the animals in to try out the new feed box.


They took to it like a duck to water. Yay! No more feeding on the ground and wasting hay!


But wait, Don's not done. He still wanted to build a second feed box for the new shed.


So he repeated the process. We blocked off the shed so the livestock couldn't get in, then he removed the fence and installed sturdy boards across the base.


Up went the diagonals. By the way, the little square-ish slot on the right became a little hatch door so we can climb in and out of the shed, for cleaning purposes, without having to go into the pen itself.


The second feed box didn't take long.


Here's the little hatch door. There's a similar hatch door by the other feed box as well. Clever, no?



That's currently where things stand. Don still needs to close off the end of the annex (since it faces the prevailing wind direction). He's also going to frame the end to hold a window -- we have a number of salvaged windows we could use -- but that may not happen this year.


Little by little we're making progress!