Thursday, May 31, 2007

Because every time the price of gas goes up here in the US, somebody points out how much more it costs in Europe. So let’s compare other things. Some of you Europeans who visit here, what do you pay for the following? Here's what I pay here in the heartland:

Butter $2.85/pound
Large Eggs $1.25/dozen
Milk $1.88 half gallon (Hy Vee has just started carrying milk in glass bottles again, so I get a $1.50 return for every bottle I bring back, so a half gallon actually costs me 38 cents. And it tastes better!)
Ground beef 90% lean $2.25/lb
Bread $1.25/loaf
Hot dogs $1.25 for 8
Pork & Beans .59 can
Heavy cream $3.88 quart
Breakfast cereal $4.00 box
Ice cream $3.99 for 5 quart pail
Fresh halibut steak $12.99/lb (How sad is that?)
Beef T-bone steak $5.99/lb
Lettuce .99/head
Cabbage .29/lb
Apples $1.99 lb
Laundry Soap 40 load bottle of liquid $2.50
Bath soap $3.89 for 4 bars Olay (Other brands make me itch, so I have to go with the expensive stuff.)
Shampoo $3.99 30 oz bottle
Dish soap $1.89 30 oz bottle
Toothpaste $2.79 for a large tube (Can’t remember how many ounces, and I usually don’t bring it with me to work, so I can’t go take a look!)
Toilet paper $6.00 for 12 double rolls
Beer $4.99 six pack
Good beer $7.99 six pack
Local telephone landline $19.99 month
Cell phone minutes $29.99 for 100 (my family uses tracphones)
Electricity $100/month average
Propane for heat $1.89 gal
Hay for the horses $4.50 per bale, delivered.
Dog food $16.99 40 lb bag dry
Cat food $26.99 40 lbs Iams (Another expensive brand name we use)
Cat litter $3.99 20 lb bag

Shirl & Sue, how much for cable tv and internet access? We don’t have either one at home.

I usually buy the store brand of everything instead of the brand name products, so that is what I’m basing my prices on. And I don’t know how any of this would figure in metric equivalents.
A Closer Look

A gravel road offers a lot more to see when you are walking on it than when you are speeding along at 55 mph.
For example, you can see what the grader accomplished when he went rumbling by yesterday and it looked like he was just kicking up dust. You can see that his blade scraped off the brome and weeds that were creeping into the roadway from out of the ditch. And you can see that his blade turned up old gravel, spreading it out where it might otherwise have been beaten down into the earth by the traffic.
You can hear birdsong when walking at 5-6 mph that you can’t hear at 55: blackbirds, chickadees, meadowlarks and occasionally the scream of a soaring hawk.
At a place where the creek crosses the road, you can see that a backhoe made an attempt to clear flood debris. It was clear for a few days, but the swollen creek soon filled it up again, debris straining against a doomed barbed wire fence.
Invisible to the driver, but obvious to a walker are the entrances to ground squirrel burrows. Just holes in the road with small piles of dirt and gravel to mark their presence, they speak of life underground, out of sight, down in the subterranean darkness. Who knows what nefarious plans and schemes for survival are made down there?
You can see the new gravel that was spread just a few days ago and how it has filled in the soft spots in the road where potholes threatened.
The color and fragrance of wild roses, goldenrod, red cover and dozens of other wild flowers come into perfect focus to a walker. As does the trash: beer and pop cans, fast food sacks and so on – containers people have sucked the goodness from and discarded.
There is a lot more to see when you slow down and take a closer look.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My internet connection was down for most of the day.
See you tomorrow.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day

I extend a salute of respect and my heartfelt thanks to all who are now or have in the past served in the American Armed Forces.
Thank you for defending my country, my freedom and my way of life.
God bless you all.
Ferrier Visit.

Bubba got new shoes yesterday evening so we are ready to roll!
A couple of weeks ago, I left home around 5:30 PM to make a grocery run. On the road, I met my Ferrier. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “I wonder where Bob’s going?” Well, guess what? He was coming to my house. I’d had an appointment with him that day and completely forgot about it. Very bad. Very bad. He is one of the best ferriers and one of the most reasonably priced in this area and he can pick and choose who he wants to keep on his client list. He was very gracious about rescheduling this time, but I need to be more careful about honoring my appointments with him. I don’t want to have to start with someone new at this point. He’s been doing my horses for 11 years.

Does this count as a Blackberry moment? Or a senior moment? Or an “I’m just too darn busy to be polite enough to keep my appointments moment?”

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tale of a tail.

No, I’m not trying to ‘moon’ you. This is the north end of a southbound mule. His name is Big John and his rider is Bruce (my landlord). If you’ll notice Big John’s tail is cut to show three bells. This is a practice that dates back to the time when the US Army used mules and horses instead of humvees. An Army mule was trained to do one, two or all of three tasks: pack, drive and/or ride. Once in a while, a mule would go AWOL from its assigned unit and, if it was lucky, join up with another unit. His new handlers would need to know what their new recruit was trained to do. If his tail had one bell, they knew he was a pack mule. Two, meant he could both pack and pull a wagon. Three bells meant he could pack, drive and carry a rider. No bells in the tail meant meat for supper. Big John’s bells tell us he can do all three. He stays in a pen at my place during calving season and Bruce rides him out amongst the cows to check on things.

Okay, ‘fess up. Who is visiting from Alvo, NE? And Blair? Annoymous comments are not only allowed here, but encouraged. But please, mind your language. I am the only one allowed to use profanity. (Well, it is MY blog).

We had an inch of rain overnight and it was still coming down when I left home this morning.

I enjoy May and June. It’s encouraging to me that every day offers a few more minutes of daylight than one before. So what to do with this extra light? The possibilities are nearly endless! Walk the dog. Ride the horse. Mow the lawn. Weed the flowerbeds & garden. Plant something. Or just sit on a lawnchair and watch Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal. That last one is my favorite.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Here are my friends on the Sunday trail ride: Renee on Cody, Kate on Boscoe and Bubba, carrying around a circus fatlady.
I’m a little miffed.

A certain lovely young woman I know recently had a discussion with her significant other, expressing her desire to devote the rest of her life to him, bear his children and generally forsake all others, keeping only unto him.
His response? “What’s your hurry?”
My response, “Well, what the hell are you waiting for, Bozo? If you don’t have enough sense to jump in and grab the good life this young lady is offering you, then adios, amigo, vaya con Dios and have a nice life, ‘cuz God has a better plan and a stronger man in mind for her.”
I’ve never met this young man and I’m certain he has some lovable qualities and charm, otherwise our girl would not be interested in him, but this is really ticking me off. What’s your hurry, indeed. Where’s your brain, Fool and how about your heart? If you don’t have the guts to give your heart to this woman, then you aren’t even remotely good enough for her.
There. I said it. I’ve been thinking about it since 3:00 this morning. It’s only my opinion and opinions are like a**holes – everybody’s got one. I’m entitled to mine and this is my blog, so take it for what it’s worth.
I get real upset when someone shows a lack of respect for people I care about, but I feel better now.
This blogging is very therapeutic.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Jack’s birthday at the zoo.
This is my family. They must have behaved themselves while they were there because they didn’t get locked in with the apes or anything.

Bubba & I went on the sweetest trail ride yesterday. We had permission to ride on a hunting preserve about 11 miles south of me. Lots of wooded areas, rustic scenery, a riverfront and hills. The afternoon ended with a nice potluck .
I reconnected with a dear old friend whose life had taken some unexpected twists & turns.
In the middle of the day, one person’s horse got loose and panicked because his saddle slipped and ended up on his belly instead of his back. He disappeared, bucking, crow hopping and running full speed ahead into the woods. Now if you’re going to run into trouble with your horse, the best place to do it is in the midst of a crowd of cowboys and cowgirls. The ropers of the crowd mounted up and went in after him. It wasn’t long before the most gentlemanly of these calmly walked out of the woods with the frightened horse in tow. The renegade had succeeded in shedding the saddle somewhere in the woods and another group emerged a few minutes later with the missing saddle. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the ride continued as planned.

I had a ton of paperwork to get done today, thank goodness that’s over with.

Randy is leaving on a road trip to deliver augurs to northeast Iowa tomorrow. He’ll get home Wednesday evening.

Street Sense lost the Preakness to Curlin by a nose hair on Saturday. The top three finishers were the same three that finished in the top three in the Kentucky Derby. It will be fun to see if the same three horses win, place and show in the Belmont.

Until tomorrow!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Preakness tomorrow at Pimilco Park Maryland.!
Street Sense will try for the second jewel in the 07 Triple Crown.
Post time 6:15 PM eastern.
Toastmasters International

I feel very lucky to have become involved in Toastmasters. Usually when I mention it, someone will say, “Is that group still around?” Yes, it is. I’ve belonged to a group that meets in Fremont every Wednesday at noon and have successfully worked my way through two and a half of the books of speech assignments they provide.
I first got involved when I was working at the quilt shop. One of my main duties was to sell sewing machines. Now you would think that it wouldn’t take much to sell a sewing machine to someone who came into the shop looking to buy a sewing machine. You would be wrong. I was a miserable failure as a salesman, so my employer signed me up for Toastmasters. Within a few months, my communications skills improved drastically and I finally sold not one, but THREE sewing machines to one customer (it was for a high school home ec class). I also gained enough confidence to begin teaching a few classes a week and all my students gave me very complimentary feedback.
I don’t work at the quilt shop anymore, but I maintain my membership in Toastmasters. In my present job, the skills I’ve picked up at T/M have helped me in doing collections and in customer communications.
In my club, we all take turns filling the various jobs at each meeting. The meeting is held in a party room at a local restaurant, so we usually eat while we meet.
A typical meeting goes like this: The Toastmaster of the Day opens the meeting, sometimes with an Invocation. The Toastmaster is responsible for introducing each participant, leading the applause, and keeping the meeting moving.
Next up is the Reader; this person reads a story, poem, article, (the Chicken Soup for the Soul books are a popular source for this) or other reading for 3-5 minutes.
Next is the Jokemaster – this person tells jokes (duh) for about 3-5 minutes.
Next is Table Topics. The TableTopics Master has three questions prepared and calls on three people to speak extemporaneously on the topic for 2-4 minutes. (This was the hardest one for me – my first time, I only talked for about 45 seconds!) At the end of the meeting, everyone votes for the Table Topics speaker of the day. I’ve gotten better and have even gotten this prize a few times.
After Table Topics is Speaker #1 and then Speaker #2.
Then the Evaluator takes the podium and gives kudos for the things each participant did right and makes suggestions for improvements for next time.
Then we vote on the Speaker of the Day and review the next week’s assignments.
The first book you work your way through includes ten speech assignments that increase in level of difficulty as you go. I worked my way through that one in 10 months. The next books you choose depend on your interests and your goals. I chose to do Interpretive Readings and Storytelling. (It’s the Drama Queen in me).
At any rate, ALL Toastmaster clubs heartily welcome visitors and you won’t be called on to participate in any way shape or form unless you want to be until you’ve actually paid your dues ($30 twice a year) and become a member.
You can find a club in your neighborhood by visiting

Tim McGraw - Live Like You Were Dying

I found this video of one of my favorite songs. The basball player in the vidoe is Tim McGraw's dad, Tug.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal

We have a pair of cardinals living on our place. They have the most beautiful song, and Mr. Cardinal is like a flying flower with his bright red feathers. And Shirley is right: Mrs. Cardinal’s tans and browns are gorgeous.
Mrs. Cardinal might be in need of some therapy. She perches on the door of Jack’s car and looks into his side mirror. Then she hops up on top of the mirror and looks behind it, then looks around, as if saying, “Where’d she go?” She hops back over to the door, looks in the mirror, chirps wildly and then hops on top of the mirror, looking behind it trying to “catch” that ‘other woman.’ She may have a bit of a jealous streak.
Meanwhile, Goldie, one of our cats, is watching her, slinking along low to the ground until he thinks he is within pouncing distance, when he makes a run for it. Of course, she probably saw him coming from the very beginning, so she escapes every time. As soon as Goldie retreats, she comes back to the mirror and starts the whole routine all over again.
Goldie is the first one to figure out that Cody does not want to eat the cats. In fact, he has even gotten interested in Cody’s squeaky toy. Somebody picks up the toy, squeaks it, and Cody come bouncing in from what ever else he was doing, ready for a game of fetch. This takes Goldie’s attention away from Mrs. Cardinal and as soon as the toy is thrown, Goldie and Cody both chase it. Cody always wins the race, but I wonder what Goldie would do with it if he got there first?
With all this going on right outside my front door, who needs television?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

From an advertisement:
A man took his ailing horse to the vet and said, “My horse limps and then sometimes he’s just fine. I hope you can help me.”
The vet examined the horse and said, “Yes, I think I can help you. When he’s walking just fine – sell him.”

From a Business Card for an auto repair shop:
“Labor charge is $40/hour. Discounts given for anyone who hasn’t already tried to fix it themselves.”
Commuter sightings
Road kill. Need I say more?
No, I don’t have any pictures to go with this.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Handsome Fellow
Here is a toad that Jack rescued from the lawn mower and from the cats. We thought he (the toad) was unusually cute and I wanted to finish up a roll of film, so we photographed him before we turned him loose into the creek.

Mother's Day USA
I got some really nice gifts from my family this year.
Jack commuted all the way into Omaha to get me two floral scented candles: lily of the valley and Victorian Rose.
Randy got me two movies: A Prairie Home Companion and Where the Heart Is. He also ordered the video Barbaro: America’s Horse, but it’s not here yet.
Emily got me a beautiful journal to write in. It’s leather bound and the front cover is a reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci’s horse sketches. I love a brand new blank journal – it represents such potential!
A Prairie Home Companion is such a hoot. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should. And I finally know what the Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band looks like.

"Real Quick"
Since I’ve been working for Joani I’ve picked up a phrase that I need to eliminate from my vocabulary: “real quick.” As in, “I’m going to run into the grocery store real quick for some milk.” Or “I’m going to go do the bank run to Fremont real quick.” My mom used to say it once in a while, too. “I’m just going to sit down here for a ‘real quick’ nap,” she’d say and then be snoring in a matter of seconds. I had a lot of stuff to get done this afternoon, so I wanted the bank run to be “real quick” today, but of course, that couldn’t happen. It seemed the world was trying to teach me that there is no such thing as “real quick.” For starters, there was only one car ahead of me at the bank drive through, but I still ended up sitting there for 10 minutes. I sat behind the same car for another 5 minutes trying to make a left turn onto a busy four lane street. The Sonic burger joint at the edge of town is usually a “real quick” place to pull in for a “real quick” cup of afternoon coffee, but not today. I got behind someone who was apparently ordering for a group, because they handed out way more bags of food and trays of drinks than there were people in that pickup. Just when I’d think, “That will surely be the last one,” the window would open up again and out would come a couple more bags and trays. When it was finally my turn at the window, they greeted me with, “We had to put on a fresh pot. It will be just a few minutes.” So much for “real quick.”

“Real quick” in this life is either a lie or a fantasy. Come to think of it, it’s not even good grammar, is it?

Your turn
What did you get (or do) for Mother's Day?
What’s a phrase you use that turns out to be a lie or a fantasy?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Happy Mother's Day to every mom who visits here!
Excuse Notes

I’ve been reading Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man. McCourt is the author of Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis – two of my favorites - and Teacher Man is the continuation of his story. Anyway, as a teacher of a creative writing class in New York City in the 1960s, he notices that the most creative things his students write are the forged excuses they bring from “home.” He gives them an assignment based on the Excuse Note. He has his students write an “Excuse” to God from Adam and Eve. Or from Napoleon Bonaparte to the French for Waterloo. Or some other moment in history. If I’d had the good fortune to be in Mr. McCourt’s class, here is what I might have written:

Please excuse my daughter Hilary for missing class. Her husband Bill is out of work and she has been seeking a promotion, which requires that she frequently be out of town.
Sincerely; Mrs. Rodham

Please excuse my son Alec for missing class. He had a terrible hangover.
Sincerely; Mrs. Baldwin

Please excuse my soninlawdaughter Brangolina for missing class. They have been out of town collecting babies.
Sincerely; Mrs. Jolie

Please excuse my son Jamie for missing class. He couldn’t find a thing to wear.
Mrs. Oliver

Please excuse my son Smokey for missing class. He had such a raging fever, it was like he was on fire!
Mrs. Bear

Please excuse my son Alfred for missing class. He was having dizzy spells and got crapped on by a flock of birds.
Mrs. Hitchcock

Please excuse my son Carl for missing class. He was all worn out from coughing billions and billions of times during the night.
Mrs. Sagan

Please excuse my son Stephen for missing class. He was all out of time.
Mrs. Hawking

I’ll probably think of more as the day goes on, but do you have an excuse to add?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

All bets are on

It’s a good thing I did not have the opportunity to put any money on a horse at the Kentucky Derby, because I did not pick Street Sense to win. I enjoyed the 90 minutes of pre-race coverage, though. With the thunderstorms raging outside my window, I just sat on my duff in the easy chair and stared at the tv, like some kind of a couch potato. I know it’s all hype and holler, but I liked it. We even made mint juleps and my own version of Kentucky fried chicken for supper. I’d like to host a derby party – maybe next year.
Queen Elizabeth made her appearance, although I didn’t like her hat as much as the one she wore the day before. She very graciously stood respectfully while everyone bellowed “My Old Kentucky Home,” though she looked a bit perplexed. I think maybe she was expecting the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Anyway, when the gate opened and the field spread out, Street Sense was in 19th (out of 20) place. He made his way up the pack, mostly on the rail until he found an opening on the home stretch. He blew past the leader and crossed the wire, winning by a couple of lengths. The horse that ended up in second had been leading the whole race and was completely clean at the finish. Street Sense, on the other hand, was covered in dust from the top of his ears, the white blaze on his face, his chest, his front legs and clear back to his withers.
So let that be a lesson to you – If you have to come from behind, you might still be able to win, but you’re going to get covered with dirt.

Now for a practical application… I don’t really have one. What do you think?

And, like the old song says, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish…”

Another thing – in 1973 when Secretariat won the Triple Crown, he stumbled coming out of the gate at the Derby and had to come from dead last.
I know who I’m going to be rooting for in the Preakness.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Here is a GOOSE (or two) to get you going on this soggy Monday morning.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Tomorrow is DERBY DAY!
Guess who is coming to the Kentucky Derby? Queen Elizabeth! Don't worry, LaDawn, we'll take good care of her - I'll bet she'll have the nicest hat in the crowd. The one she had on yesterday when she visited Jamestown was lovely. I wish Ladies' hats and gloves would come back into style.

Lucy's first Ride. We had a little excitement, she wasn't too sure about his saddle, but once Mark was on board, she was a jewel. You can also see Kelli in the background. Mark and Kelli run the Mid-States Ranch Horse Association (Link at left). I'm going to be their cook for the cowgirl camps they are sponsoring.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Today, Thursday May 3, is National Day of Prayer. I share this from Charles Swindoll:

"Almighty God, we pause to reflect on Your character as we seek wisdom for such a time as this.
In these unsafe days,
You remain all-powerful and able to protect;
In these uncertain times,
You remain all-knowing, leading us aright;
In the unprecedented events we're facing,
You remain absolutely sovereign.
Our times are in Your hands.
Therefore, our dependence on You, is total, not partial
. . . our need for Your forgiveness is constant
. . . our gratitude for Your grace is profound
. . . our love for You is deep.
We ask that You guard and guide our President
and all who serve the people of these United States.
May uncompromising integrity mark their lives.
We also ask that You unite us as truly "one nation,
under God." May genuine humility return to our ranks.
And may that blend of integrity and humility
heal our land.
In our Lord's name we pray,
If you want to know more, visit

Well, Lucy is a trooper. I thought I’d done our groundwork pretty well, but watching the pros in action, I got to feeling like I had been trying to do brain surgery with a degree purchased on ebay. Mark came and worked with her for 2 hours yesterday and when he got on, she demonstrated back for him everything he’d taught her from the ground. She was thoroughly worn out when he left, and just stood and rested in the corner of her pen for about 2 hours. I’m supposed to ride her when I get home today, but it started raining about an hour ago, so I don’t know if that will happen or not. I took LOTS of pictures and they are at the developer’s today, so I should be able to post some tomorrow.
My mood right now is as gloomy as the sky is grey. I had the worst case of insomnia from last night/this morning 1-4 AM that I’ve had in a lo-o-ong time. (YAWN) Don’t know what’s up with that.
My saddle club is supposed to have its first trail ride of the season this Saturday, but it’s supposed to rain then, too, so that might be canceled. (sniff)
I hope I have a little more energy tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It turns out my banishment was very temporary. Whatever the problem was has fixed itself.

I’m so excited! Tomorrow my friends Kelli and Mark who train horses for a living are coming over to help me get on Lucy for the first time! I promise pictures! And hopefully, no broken bones. I don’t expect any trouble – Lucy is as gentle as Bubba and very sensible for a 3-year-old.

Lucy was a gift to me two years ago from my friends Merle and Fran. Merle has since passed away from cancer and Fran had a scary experience a few weeks ago. She still lives on the 320 acre place she and Merle owned, along with their remaining 3 horses. She was at home one stormy afternoon and her lights began to flicker. She looked out at the western sky and thought it looked like it might rain, and proceeded to go down to the basement to check her fuse box. She was downstairs for maybe 2 minutes and when she came back up, a large, old fashioned hog barn and half of a cattle shed were a pile of rubble. Huge sheets of roofing tin (from a neighbor’s building) were laying here and there in her pasture. A tornado had hit while she was in the basement and she hadn’t even heard it. She was kicking herself for not having the radio or TV on to check for weather warnings, but decided God was looking out for her and sent her to the basement at the right moment. Within 20 minutes, the chief of the local volunteer fire & rescue was knocking on her door to see if she was okay, which helped to set her mind at ease. We are all so thankful that she is okay, but her adult children and I are hoping that the sale of her place will come through quickly now so she can move to Omaha and be near them.
When she does move to town, we are going to adopt her 10-year-old black lab, Cody. We haven’t had a dog in over 22 years. Big changes for everyone!

Jack and Emily are finished up with their classes for this semester, so they are both in a good mood.

Yesterday, we borrowed a tiller from our landlord and worked a whole bunch of horse manure into our little garden plot, so now I’m ready to put in my tomatoes and peppers. It’s really been such nice weather the past couple of days – warm and sunny. Very cheery.

I had a visitor to my blog from Sweden today! How cool is that?
Banished again.
My internet access at the office is down again, so I'm sneaking in to check on everyone at the Library. Hope to be back soon.