Saturday, July 31, 2021

Glitch on Blogger

Just an FYI to my dear readers -- I keep trying to respond to various questions or comments on various posts, and Blogger isn't letting me. It keeps giving me a "Whoops! Something went wrong" message.

So I'm not ignoring you. Truly I'm not.

Your chuckle du jour

Stumbled across this today. Made me laugh.

Ah, the importance of a well-placed comma........

Friday, July 30, 2021

Where's my popcorn?

Younger Daughter's Quaker parrot, Lihn, is in our care while YD serves in the Navy.

I try to give her lots of out-of-cage time (notably mornings and evenings), and she's gotten into a good routine with us. (Surprisingly, Mr. Darcy is very calm and patient with her. There are times Lihn flies around and lands on the floor right in front of him, and he doesn't pounce. For a hunting dog, that's impressive. We always praise him up the whazoo whenever this happens.)

Anyway, it's become an evening habit to give Lihn a piece of popcorn. As I sit at my computer, she flies to my fist (encased in a glove, otherwise she'll nibble my cuticles to death), eats her popcorn, and then attends to her feathers while I watch stupid YouTube videos for an hour or so. Pets thrive on routine, and this is ours.

I keep her popcorn in a jar in the kitchen, and the other day it was getting low, so I pulled it out and put it on the counter as a visual reminder to pop more corn.

In the morning I put Lihn on the counter while making tea, and she made a beeline for the jar.

"Hey, where's my popcorn?"

Sorry, kiddo. Popcorn is an evening treat.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"Her Path to Redemption" release day!

My latest Amish inspirational romance is officially available!

Here's the back-cover blurb (which, grrr, includes a sentence fragment...):

I've already received several charming emails from readers indicating they've enjoyed the book, so I hope you'll consider reading it and leaving a review.

Here are some locations where it can be purchased:



Books a Million


One thing I thought was hilarious – I now have an Author Page on Amazon. Hmmm. I wonder how that happened? It certainly wasn't put together by me.

I'm monitoring the Amazon stats and will post updates. Here's stats from 7/27 at 7:30 pm:

And here are stats from 7/29 at 6:30 am:

At any rate, help me show strong numbers to the publisher! Please!

Monday, July 26, 2021

Update on our tractor

Some time ago, a reader commented, "It's been quite a few years since you purchased your tractor. I was wondering if it was still a brand you would recommend."

She's referring to the long-awaited brand-new tractor we took possession of in January 2015.

This machine is a 35 HP 4-cylinder Nortrac 35XT from Northern Tool & Supply. It's a Chinese-made (though American assembled) tractor which, as you'll see, has both strengths and weaknesses.

Right now the tractor has about 400 hours of use on it, so it's still in the "we don't expect any major problems" stage of its life. It's not an exaggeration to say this machine has been a game-changer as far as our homesteading efforts. I'll leave you to speculate how difficult it is to get heavy work done around a farm without a force multiplier.

But tractors are expensive. We muscled through the first 12 years in Idaho without one, until it became absolutely necessary to either get a force-multiplier or stop trying to homestead. The tractor was one of only two things we ever borrowed money for (the other was building the barn).

Here are its strengths:

• It was inexpensive, relative to similar horsepower tractors with similar features. We paid $15,000, and that was at least $10,000 less than comparable models.

• It has a straightforward 8-speed shift. It is NOT a hydrostatic tractor, which means it's better for tough work like dragging a plow. Because it's a shift tractor, it means the driver has to come to a complete stop before shifting gears, but it also means it stays in that gear.

• It has decent hydraulics. The machine came with two additional hydraulic hookups on the back we've never used (designed for implements we don't own).

• It has very good fuel economy (diesel).

• It's fairly straightforward to work on, mechanically.

• It uses a minimum of different kinds of fluids. Transmission fluid and hydraulic fluid is the same, for example, so we don't have to purchase different fluids for each component.

• We requested "ag" tires for the tractor, and they're still doing great.

Here are its weaknesses:

• While the tractor came with an awning/roll bar, Don wishes it had an enclosed cab for winter use. It's possible to rig something up, so he may do that in the future.

• The tractor is something of a conglomeration put together on order from Northern Tool. We hypothesize they gave specs to their Chinese suppliers, and as a result it's kind of a mishmash of various non-standard features: an engine from one company, hydraulics from another company, transmission from a third company, etc. This means finding parts for our specific tractor can be problematic. It's not impossible, but you need to do a little detective work.

• The electrical system has been kind of wonky. Our tractor no longer has a horn, for example (not that we care) because water got into it and it wouldn't turn off ("hoooooooooonnnnnkkkkk"). Don had to clip the wires to shut it up. On the other hand, the headlights, tail lights, and turn signals all function perfectly.

• The tractor cannot do more than it's rated for. All tractors come with information specifying how much weight it can lift, drag, etc., and we learned the hard way not to exceed that.  If the load limit is X, then it's X. It's not Y or Z. We bent the rod on one of the hydraulic cylinders by trying to lift a 1200-lb. hay bale on pins that are only rated for 1000 lbs., for example. (The good news is it was a fairly easy and inexpensive replacement installation.)

• It's not as easy to hook up three-point implements as some of non-Chinese tractors. The implement has to line up very accurately to get it on.

I asked Don if he could start over, would he get the same tractor or something different (brand, upgrade, etc.)?

Putting aside the obvious answer that he would upgrade to a 45 or 50 HP model (anyone who ever buys a tractor always thinks they should have bought the higher horsepower model; this is known as "tractor envy"), he's pretty satisfied with the Nortrac. What he would be interested in is better hydraulics capable of lifting a bit more.

That said, for a general purpose tractor – and as long as he stays within the weight and load limits for its class – this machine has certainly served us well and never given us any major problems.

Don also adds a caution: the Nortrac 35XT we bought in 2015 may NOT be exactly the same machine as today's 35XT. It's just the nature of the beast to tweak and change things.

Here are the attachments we've accumulated over the years. Some were purchased new, but most were purchased second-hand:

• Rototiller


• Seed spreader

• Post-hole auger

• Cultivator

• Rock rake

• Subsoiler/powerline feeder

• Brush hog

• Bucket forks

[Don added the following sorta-rant: "There will always be someone who claims they would never buy a tractor (or car or lawnmower or whatever) made in China. That's certainly your right (for the moment anyway). But the major thing to keep in mind is this: There are very few smaller general-purpose tractors made in the USA. For those tractors that claim they are, many of their parts are not. When (if) America can produce a dependable 35 or 45 horsepower tractor that isn't nearly twice the cost of its foreign competitors, I'll be glad to take a look. (And check the bottom of your household appliances. Bet you'll find a lot of "Made in China" stickers.) Sorta-rant done."]

Hopefully this will help others decide if a Nortrac tractor is for them.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Decorating the walls

In our old house, before we made all the improvements prior to selling, we had lots and lots of oversized thrift-store prints on the walls.

While they were chosen because we like old-fashioned rural-themed prints, their real purpose was to hide the 11-foot-high walls, which were very ugly. That's why we had nothing short of a gallery of oversized prints.

Naturally all these prints were packed up and put in storage during the two years it took us to fix up the house, sell it, and move to our new place.

A few weeks ago when we opened the box truck after emptying the storage units in our old town, the prints were among the first things to come out. What fun it was to see them again! Like seeing a bunch of old friends.

But we also knew we couldn't use them all. Our new home is much smaller, nor do we have 11-foot ceilings in the living room as in our old place. Bottom line, it was time to assess our prints and determine which ones to keep.

So we wiped them down to remove the dust, and spread  them all over the house to get an idea of which ones we wanted to keep.

For a little while, our place resembled an art gallery.

Complete with canine art critic.

Eventually we got everything sorted, and Don installed hooks on the walls for hanging. We each selected a print to hang over our respective desks...

...and other prints are scattered around.

Eventually (probably over the winter) we're going to remove the upper kitchen cabinets (since they're too high for me to reach anyway) and that will allow room for artwork on the kitchen walls. So we stacked some of the prints aside for this purpose.

Other prints will eventually get hung on the bedroom walls.

We have one large print that will get hung in the larger bathroom...

...and we put a smaller print in the smaller bathroom.

With the exception of a signed print by the wildlife artist Sir John Seerey-Lester that I bought long before Don and I even met (probably worth about $250)...

...not one of our wall hangings has any value whatever. We just like them.

It's the little things that make a house a home, y'know? Including pictures on the walls.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

So long, box truck

During our Moving Adventures, you might remember the bad experience we had with U-Haul, which made us determined never to use their services again. However since we still had farm equipment and household goods to transport to our new home, we ended up purchasing a massive 26-foot box truck for an incredibly cheap price.

This truck has been wonderful. It runs like a champ (only a couple of trivial mechanical issues that didn't affect its on-the-road performance), it has all the room in the world, and it has a lift gate on the back for moving heavy things up and down.

I mean, look at that space! You could fit an RV in there!

We took several trips with it (here and here) to bring up the total of our household goods, farm equipment, and shop tools.

In every possible respect, buying this truck was one of the wiser moves we made over the last few months, with one exception: Don absolutely hated driving it.

He handled the monster superbly, but let me tell you it gave him instant respect for what professional truckers deal with when driving their big rigs. Navigating a truck of this size is no small feat. Frankly, he couldn't wait to get rid of it.

Now that everything we own is here in our new place, some dear friends from our old town expressed an interest in taking the truck. The husband is a brilliant mechanic (in fact, he's the one who gave the box truck its initial bumper-to-bumper checkup to let us know if it was worth the purchase price), so he'll be able to perform the one or two service things needed to make the engine purr like a kitten. He'll fix up the truck, sell it, and split the sales price with us.

On this excuse, these folks came up to see us on Monday, and it was great having them for a few hours of company. We were able to catch up on all the news, solve the problems of the world, and reaffirm why this wonderful couple are our friends.

Then the husband climbed into the cab of the box truck and pulled out of our driveway, closing another chapter of our Moving Adventure.

So long, box truck. May you bless someone else's Moving Adventures. Don't forget to give a middle finger to U-Haul on the way.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Coffee guide for the coffee ignorant

Confession time: I don't like coffee.

I mean, I really really really don't like coffee. I love the smell but hate the taste. It's not a simple dislike; it's a revulsion. I jokingly call this my "superpower": I’m able to detect a single molecule of the hated flavor in any food or drink.

It doesn't matter how dolled up the coffee is. It doesn't matter of it's coffee-flavored ice cream or candy or whatever. I hate the taste.

Admitting I don't coffee is like a slap in the face for coffee aficionados. Coffee remains one of the most popular beverages in America, possibly the world. And I can't appreciate a drop of it.

I remember my dear mother telling me she never liked coffee until she went to nursing school, and drank it so she could stay up late studying. I went to college (and grad school) and swallowed caffeine pills if I needed to pull an all-nighter (which, frankly, never did much good – caffeine doesn't seem to affect me). I never learned to drink coffee in college. If anything, my aversion deepened.

Here's one guy who gets it:

"Growing up in the San Francisco area I remember crossing the bay bridge on foggy mornings with the smell of the Coffee Roasting Plant drifting up from under the bridge at the San Francisco end. Rich, full, luxuriant, coffee smells like chocolate tastes. Unfortunately for me the taste of coffee has none of the depth, the subtleties, the scope that the smell has. I only taste one flavor. Bitter.

"It doesn't matter how much milk or sugar I add, it doesn't matter if it has been turned into a rich dessert like tiramisu or a coffee candy, or coffee ice cream. The bitterness is pervasive. Not a light bitterness that can lend an interesting edge to a dish. No, this is a medicinal level of bitterness, like drinking a beverage brewed from aspirin."

Yes!! This guy understands! It has nothing to do with caffeine and everything to do with taste.

I tried looking into whether a coffee aversion has a scientific basis, but bizarrely, studies into coffee aversion seem to focus on one of two things: either a sensitivity toward caffeine, or cultural conditioning (i.e., whether you grow up around coffee drinkers). I have no sensitivity toward caffeine at all – it doesn't seem to affect me one way or the other – and I grew up around plenty of coffee drinkers. I just – plain – hate – the – taste.

But here's an interesting side note: I'm not fond of chocolate either. I don't hate it (like I hate coffee), but it's definitely not my favorite flavor. Apparently there is a connection between coffee aversion and chocolate aversion, something about a genetically predisposed sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil. That sounds nice and weighty, doesn't it? I'll use that as my excuse.

Once in a blue moon, I have the opportunity to get a fancy tea in a coffee shop (my standard is a chai tea latté). When ordering, I know from cruel experience to clarify, "This has NO COFFEE ELEMENTS in it, right?" Heaven forbid a dash of coffee should ever touch my tea.

Anyway, as a result of this coffee aversion, I'm completely ignorant about what makes one kind of coffee different from another (I'd make a lousy barista). Therefore this little sign was surprisingly helpful:

Oh, so that's what a cappuccino is. Who knew? The last two selections listed above are my go-to options in a coffee house, the operative words being "not coffee."

So there you go, my deep dark coffee-colored secret. Who else hates coffee? Is it just me?