Country Living Series

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Backup backup backup backup.....

A dear friend had a financial blow over the weekend. Her husband, a finish carpenter, had all his tools stolen from his vehicle. It seems some thieves -- who apparently had been watching for the opportunity -- backed into their driveway around 2:30 a.m., wrenched off the tailgate of the truck, emptied the contents within two minutes, and ran.

It's a shattering loss, financially as well as impacting his livelihood. Additionally, there are psychological ramifications -- besides the sense of violation, he had a certain emotional connection to the tools he had been collecting for over 25 years and which he used to provide for his family.

Anyway, yesterday this friend and I were chatting via instant message and we started speculating what things we would be devastated to lose to thieves or disasters. The first thing that popped into my head: my laptop.

The trouble with a laptop, you see, is all the valuable data that tends to accumulate on it. In my case, it's not just my writing; it's all the photos I take, all the articles I collect, all the links I record...

This is why I'm a huge huge HUGE advocate of backing up computers, something my dad always hammered into my head as critical. He's right, too, since backups have saved my fanny any number of times.

But a year ago I had to migrate to a new laptop, and for a variety of reasons never got around to backing it up. It came with a built-in backup program from Dell which wanted me to back my data up to the Cloud (NOT!!!!!), and knowing that my valuable data were vulnerable always nagged at me.

So, in light of my friend's reminder, yesterday Don installed a backup program to my computer and we did a full-scale backup to an external hard drive.


Then, as extra protection, I also backed up specific files (photos, my writing, etc.) to another external hard drive.


Also -- and I'll thank Granny Miller for this -- I backed up my blog (Granny lost her entire blog a few years ago, a devastating blow).


I can't begin to describe the feeling of security all this backing up data gave me, so I'm passing on the reminder to all you dear readers. Backing up files, photos, etc. is critical in today's high-tech world, where data loss can come from any number of directions.


Please, do it today!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A bit broad in the beam

Matilda is finally pregnant. The last time she gave birth was back in 2013 when she had Amy.


But when Amy was born, Matilda's massive udder was so pendulous and enormous, it dragged nearly to the ground and Amy couldn't nurse. I milked out the colostrum and we bottle-fed Amy for the first few weeks until Matilda's udder assumed more normal dimensions and Amy could nurse directly.


Matilda is getting older -- we estimate she might be around fourteen years old -- and she missed two seasons of breeding. But I distinctly saw the bull nail her on August 16 of last year, which would make her due date around May 25. Sure enough, she's been rounding out.


A few days ago I put my hand on her belly and could feel the calf roiling around inside.


Poor Matilda gets all bent out of shape in the latter months of her pregnancy, culminating in the week before when she's positively enormous, with a swollen beach ball between her legs. But she's a born mother, loves loves loves having babies, and I'm looking forward to milking her again.


So now it's a waiting game, with dear Matilda patiently growing new life inside her.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Teaching new tricks

Younger Daughters's Quaker parrot, Lihn, is now almost two years old. She's quite the sassy little bird, opinionated and chatty, and lots of fun. (Mostly. Except when she squawks loudly to deliberately inflict misery on poor Lydia, who howls in response. They set each other off. It's actually quite funny.)


She has a fun vocabulary so far, ranging from whistles (including a wolf whistle), kissing, clicks, snaps, boops, etc., to words like "toodle pip" (just a nonsense word), hello (she says that whenever the phone rings or someone walks in the house), clever girl, and, most hilarious, a perfect imitation of an "evil laugh" ("bwahahahahaha!") which she manages to insert with perfect comic timing into conversations.

Anyway, Younger Daughter is teaching her a new trick: to lie quietly on her back and let her head be stroked. This is more than just a parlor trick -- it's a handy way to keep the bird quiet while gently releasing pin feathers on her head that are just coming in, and which seem to cause her a lot of itchiness unless the thin casings are rubbed off. In the wild, grooming of this nature would be done by other parrots in her flock.


Birds don't like to be off their feet -- to "lie down" is a sign of illness -- so it's something that goes against her instincts. Still, she trusts Younger Daughter implicitly and has learned being on her back with her head being rubbed has a soporific effect -- she actually dozes while Younger Daughter gently rubs away the casings on the pin feathers and releases the growing feather.



This state only lasts a few minutes before she pops her eyes open and decides she's had enough.


Then it's back on her feet to fluffle her feathers and re-assume her sassy ways.



Yep, lots of personality in this little lady.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Happy post-Resurrection Day!

Sorry I didn't get a post up yesterday, it turned out to be far busier than I planned.

The highlight was attending church, of course.


On this day, because the crowds are overflowing, the church rents a theater hall at a local college to hold the main service. Later I looked up the seating capacity, and it came in at 1150, and I estimate 80 percent of the seats were full.


The thing about attending a huge church service -- something we seldom do, since our church isn't a "mega"-sized entity -- is the sheer wattage of joy that overflows from the worshippers. We opened with a rousing version of the hymn "Jesus Christ is risen today" and it brought chills. On the stage was a choir, some additional singers, a bell choir, and a small brass ensemble, so the music swelled along with the voices.

On the left is the church's pastor emeritus, who retired a short time before we began attending. He's substituted during a few services over the past couple of years, and it's easy to see why he was so well-loved by the congregation -- he's fabulous. He gave the readings.


The pastor in the middle is the senior pastor, a powerful speaker and joyous soul whose voice, unfortunately, was raspy after so many back-to-back services. He gave everything but the sermon.

The pastor on the right is the assistant pastor hired last year, a man with an extraordinary amount of foreign missionary experience. He's fluent in several languages, including Russian and Polish, and spent many years in remote areas of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, etc. He delivered a rousing sermon.

This is my WND column for the weekend, entitled "Cheap Grace."


In response to the column, I received an email from an atheist reader as follows:
Your basic assumption is that the Bible is written by God when it was written by many men and politically rationalized under the Nicea agreement. God could easily convince us all he is real but does not bother; men have to play games with bronze age authors to make themselves important, writing things that control people.

It is such an obvious fabrication that young people have no time for such [expletive deleted].

You are past your sell by date when you cannot recognized such obvious fraud. The current and future generations will not be so naïve. Jesus, a great personage, will go the way of Apollo, Zeus, Ishtaar and Thor.
This email saddened me -- not for the hateful tone (I'm used to that) but because this man is missing out on the sheer joy that comes with faith. Sad, very sad.

At one point during the service, a thousand voices recited the Lord's Prayer in unison. A thousand people, praying the familiar prayer given by Jesus himself. Top that for sheer power.

I hope, dear readers, you all experienced a blessed Resurrection Day. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

More seedlings

The seedlings I planted indoors in mid-February are doing great. Here are the Brussels sprouts:


And here are the cayenne peppers:


Of the 100 cayenne peppers I planted, about 75 grew. So I decided to take the empty 25 pots and get some basil started.


This packets came with hundreds of basil seeds.


It took no time at all to get 25 of these tiny seeds into the soil. If all goes well, I'll have some healthy starts to transplant into the garden come June.

First escape of the year

Ah spring, when a cow's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of grass -- which (as you know) is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Yesterday afternoon I noted little Curly was out. He apparently had managed to push the bottom portion of a section of cattle panel away and slipped through, and was happily cropping the grass by the edge of the driveway. (You can see the pushed-aside panel behind him.)


This wasn't an urgent situation, so after mentioning the First Escape of the Year to Don (who agreed it wasn't urgent), I straightened up and re-tied the cattle panel, then walked down to close the driveway gate.

This is when I noticed Shadow/Sparky (I can't tell the difference between these two ladies, they're identical), who had also pushed under the fence. She was further down the driveway, meaning she had been the ringleader for The Great Escape and Curly was merely following her example.


Needless to say, the rest of the herd was very interested in this development.


Later we rounded up both the recalcitrant critters and put them back in the woods, with the peanut gallery in attendance.


Shortly thereafter, I caught Dusty looking mournfully through a gate. "Hey, I want to escape too!"


Fear not, dear, in a few weeks the pasture will be green and lush, and you'll be in paradise. Hang in there.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mistakes, immortalized

Some of you may remember several years ago when I (foolishly) attempted to can refried beans.

It was, to put it mildly, a catastrophic failure.


I now know refried beans are one of the foods home canners should NOT attempt to can.

Thanks to reader suggestions, I stopped trying to can refried beans, and now I just can cooked pintos, which can be whipped into refried beans in no time flat. (This is a much safer method.)


Anyway, that was several years ago. Then two days ago I received the following emai:
Dear Ms. Lewis:

I am working on an exhibit for the National Agricultural Library on the history of home canning and I would like to use one of the images from your blog post [she referenced the refried beans post]. I would be happy to give you credit and provide a link back to the original post.

Please let me know if this is something you would consider. Thanks in advance, Emily

Emily Marsh, Ph.D., MLS
Librarian | Digital Library Branch
National Agricultural Library
emily.marsh@ars.usda.gov
My reply:
Permission granted. As my husband points out (tongue-in-cheek), one of my major canning errors will thereby become enshrined in a national archive. Wheee!
So there you have it, folks. My biggest and most impressive canning blunder will be immortalized forever.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Welcome, spring. Now go away.

We're still having "lion" weather here in north Idaho. We'll be teased with temps as high as 65F, then suddenly we're plunged back into snow.

Despite spring having officially sprung, yesterday we got the snow. It snowed and snowed and snowed -- but, since the ground and ambient temperature were fairly warm, it hardly stuck (no more than an inch deep). But wow, it came down hard for awhile.




Sometimes winter loses its grips slowly.


When I let Polly out of her pen, she seemed, well, surprised at the sudden change in scenery.



The snow tapered off by late morning and changed to rain, and the ground was bare once more by late afternoon.

Yep, lion weather.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A true hayseed

Snapshot of life on the Lewis homestead:

Younger Daughter has gotten very adept at French braiding, so frequently I'll ask her to do my hair.


Yesterday we were heading into town, so I asked if she could braid my hair. I sat down in a chair and she took up the brush. "First let me get the hay out," she said, picking at various strands.


This is pretty normal. Sometimes it seems I wear half the contents of the barn after feeding the beasties in the morning. I guess this makes me a hayseed.

End of snapshot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Experimental strawberries

Along with about half the rest of the nation, our mailbox was clogged with gardening catalogs in January. I seldom order anything anymore -- we have most of our garden seeds already, thanks to Victory Seeds -- but one thing caught my eye: Pineberries.


The catalog blurb said these are a naturally hybridized strawberry with a creamy-white appearance which taste something like pineapple. We love strawberries and have many beds of them in the garden, so a couple extra beds of a different type would be intriguing. "Do they really taste like pineapple?" asked the young man taking my phone order. "We'll find out, won't we?" I replied.

The plants arrived over the weekend, so I got ready to plant them as soon as we had a break in the rain.



The nice part about having a large garden is the ability and room to have unusual varieties. I had already cleared out a couple of tires near the other strawberry beds, so it was fast work to get these pineberries planted.


I spread them out across the bed first, to space them.


It didn't take long to slip them into the dirt. They won't do much for the next couple of weeks, but if the success of the other strawberry beds is any indication, we'll have a small crop this summer and then bumper crops thereafter.


If anyone has experience with pineberries, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Big sky pictures

For the last couple of days, we've had cold winds, intermittent rain or snow, and once in awhile a burst of sun. It's been lousy weather for working outside -- but wow, the skies have been gorgeous. Here's what we've seen over the last two days.

Yesterday:













Today (started with snow):


Late in the afternoon, a final burst of sun lit up the distant mountains. (Unfortunately an electrical wire crosses the scene.)






We're blessed to live here.