Tuesday, March 30, 2010

All About Them

My friend Kristi is motivating me to "organize" my blog. She posted about how she was planning to concentrate on one subject per day on her blog. I tried that about a year ago. It worked well, but I slipped away from it, so I'll give it a whirl again. I thought of copying her idea for Tasty Tuesday, sharing recipes here. But then you would have to decide whose recipes you would be cooking, and I wouldn't want to put that pressure on you. So we'll call Tuesday "All About Them." I'll update you on what my little darlings are doing with their lives. (Please hold your applause, and look for recipes on Thursdays.)

Jay and Kris are still in Marengo, still raising 4 great kids. Kris is attending school, courtesy of the GIBill, and, therefore, your tax dollars. She's doing well, so you can rest assured that your money is being spent wisely. There may be big news about them this fall, but that's all I'm told.

Matthew and Keri are in their last 5 months of Army life. Their plan is to move here to Illinois, where he'll study Criminal Justice and she'll beg him to buy a horse. Get a job, Keri; ponies ain't cheap!

Ethan is doing well at MCC. He's planning a big summer of Civil Air Patrol activities, including a trip to Britain as an IACE participant. If his suitcase gets really heavy, he should check for air holes. Someone who shall remain nameless -cough cough- may have sandwiched herself inside! He'll be home in time to maybe join us for a family camping trip and then he'll start his Paramedic coursework.

Mary is spending her days avoiding Math, working with Skye and Wakiya, and making dreamcatchers. One of these days she plans to open an Etsy shop. She was thinking of studying veterinary medicine in the future, and spent the last year and a half or so job shadowing our bovine vet to see what that was like. She decided that was not for her, and is now considering becoming a veterinary technician. She'll be job shadowing over the next few months, with a local small animal clinic, and also a regional horse clinic. I am so excited for her! One of the best parts of homeschooling is the flexibility to do such things, and she is so blessed to be able to do them.

So now you're caught up on the doings of our kiddos. The grandchildren are spending their time growing, aggravating their parents, and charming the rest of us. It's a rough job, but someone's gotta do it!

Monday, March 29, 2010

It Was Supposed to Be "All About Me..."

I had a plan for a post. I decided Monday would be "All About Me Day," and I would start using Mondays to toot my own horn. After all, Monday is crummy anyway, so I figured you might like reading about someone else's (mine!) troubles or thoughts, you know, get out of yourself and your misery a bit.

But then my darling daughter (and I really mean that) posted a bit of a rant on her blog. Yeah, she whined and complained a bit, but she made several really good points. So I decided to link you to that post, which is here. Take a gander. Her writing seems to be getting better everyday. I can't take any credit for it; she's self-taught! But she is a smart sweetie, and her post is worth a read. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pro-Life Corner

When you devalue one life, you devalue all lives.

Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schindler Schiavo

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday Farm Report

Lunchtime. We've been to the grocery store, office supply, Starbuck's (a must do) WalMart, Menard's and the feed store. No, one single person did not do all that; we tag-teamed the shopping this week.

Jay and Kris will be bringing Sean for tacos tonight; we have everything we need for that. Cedar raised beds a la Pioneer Woman are being installed. Lilies have been planted. Chicken soup is being prepared and will soon be eaten.

This afternoon, compost will be carried to the beds and also used to fertilize raspberries and another flower bed. Peas will finally be planted. The pasture will be tilled and overplanted. And then all will fall onto sofas, clutching cold beers and ibuprofen.

Root beer, for some of us!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Fun

Well, Mom has still not left the hospital. One of these days...

It's a lazy Friday morning. We've been busy this week, starting early each today. Today's busyness involves an afternoon trip to O'Hare, so I am starting slowly today.

This week's garden work involved triage. About a week after I started them, a certain puppy who shall remain nameless dumped my seedlings on the floor while chasing the cat through my grow-light shelving. I had foolishly labeled them very inefficiently, just placing the labels in the tray next to each row. About 5 seedlings were destroyed by the dumping, and the rest were jumbled and shuffled. I was counting on planting by appearance, rather than be variety; not very scientific, but, oh, well. This week, she found herself again next to my seedlings, which had been fertilized with fish emulsion. "Mmmmm...," she said, and ate about a third of them. So I now have a messed up jumble of cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and lettuce seedlings. The lettuces will be fun; mixed salad greens right in the bed, ready to toss into a bowl. The rest, we'll just play, "Let's see what this blossoms into."

Yesterday onions were planted. I put floating row covers over them, trying to keep them a little warmer, and, more importantly, to keep the chickens out! The garlic is up, the asparagus is weeded and fertilized, the raspberries are pruned and some transplanted. It just gets more fun everyday!

This weekend, two more raised beds will be installed in the garden. I'll move a dwarf peach seedling out of the flower bed it lived in last summer. Stalls will be cleaned, compost will be moved. I'd like to get the chicken fencing repaired so the little darlings stay in their pen. We'll see!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring in Illinois

Friday, March 19, mid-morning

Saturday, March 20, mid-morning (notably, the First Day of Spring)

Sunday, March 21, mid-afternoon

Yeah, it's schizophrenic. But no one ever has to plan for an earthquake...or a hurricane. Tornado, maybe, but not a tsunami.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Fine Pup

Guinness was a Toy Fox Terrier. He belonged to Matthew, The Artilleryman, until he married. Then he came to live with us. He became John's best buddy, curling up in his lap in the evenings, getting petted and snarfing snacks when he could. He was just about to turn one, sometime next month.

Last weekend, I noticed he had developed a habit of hanging out by the highway. There's lots to sniff and find up there, not to mention an almost infinite supply of cats at the farm across the street. I was afraid that this would be a bad thing. I even told Mary that it was just a matter of time before he was injured, or worse.

Well, worse happened. Sometime this afternoon, Guinness found his way up to the highway again. He did not return. We don't know any other details. We would ask, in your travels, if you should cause the death or injury of what is obviously somebody's pet, that you please let them know. We would not have been upset with you, but would have preferred that he be cared for immediately, not lying pathetically on the side of the road.

We will miss the little beast. Hug your puppies tonight!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Farm Report

So yesterday the garden shed got emptied, as did the feed hut. Both were swept. I got all the pegboard pulled down in the garden shed, and put back only about 25% of the contents. The rest were pitched or put back where they belonged, in other buildings. I pulled out the shelving unit, and all of the waterers and feeders. I put water in the waterers, and found the two that leak. We have enough that those two can go to the scrapyard. I left it all outside, thinking that today I would wash them.

And God said, "Bwahahahaha!"

While I was enjoying a night out with some other homeschooling moms, I learned that the snow we expected tonight had been moved up to last night. Yep, all those waterers, etc, are lying out in the snow. It won't hurt them, and it's supposed to be back up to 48 tomorrow. By Monday, I'll be cleaning waterers and probably planting peas and onions.

Such is March in northern Illinois!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Fun

Not so much.

There is much to be done about the farm today, and much mud to slog through while doing it!

The chicken house needs to be cleaned this weekend. We try to clean it every six weeks or so during the warm months. In late fall, though, we stop, and clean again sometime in March. We're told the composting manure helps keep the chickybirds warmer during the cold months, so there is a method to our laziness. But it's really nasty when it begins to warm up, which it is doing this week. This weekend is supposed to be cold, though, so it'll keep the smell down a bit while we clean.

Our chicken house has become something of a rat colony over the past few years. This year, I'd like to make some changes to make it less hospitable for the rats. The house is split into two small rooms; one is the actual coop, and the other is a small feed and garden tool storage area. We have pegboard on the walls, for hooks on which we hang the tools. I want to remove all the pegboard, behind which the rats are nesting. I also want to take out a set of shelves that have become pretty useless. The rats tend to hang out there, and I won't go near those vile things. Then I want to seal off the eave vents with new hardware cloth; various grackles, rats and other vermin have torn into them over the years. If I can get them sealed, and leave fewer hiding places for the rats, maybe I can get ahead of this. It's a long shot; anytime you have grain sitting out, you're going to get rodents. But I can try, right?

The chicken house also needs a new door, a new roof, (John is thinking metal this time) and a paint job. It is 10 years old, after all, and has had no attention during that time.

We're still moving tigerlilies, too.

I'll be working in the main pasture this weekend, also. The horses spent most of the winter there, so there is old hay to be moved to the compost, and lots and lots of manure. Oh joy! I also want to overseed.

So, if you're looking for something to do this weekend, you know where to look for activity!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sandhill Cranes

I mentioned these beautiful birds yesterday as being my ultimate sign of spring. Mud is one; farmers say you can't have green grass until you have mud. Well, our horses, goats and birds love green grass, so we need mud. Although I really don't like it.

Robins are a common sign of spring. But I've also heard the farmers say that, once you see a robin, there's one more snowfall left. The jury is still out on that one for this year; I saw my first robin yesterday.

Cranes, however, are another story. There are several subspecies of cranes, three of which are endangered. The cranes we see here in Illinois, both migrating through and also nesting nearby, are not among those. And, yet, sandhill cranes are not seen everyday. We hear them in the spring and in the fall, migrating overhead. They sound like this when we hear them. They fly very high, using thermals, coasting northward on the air. I usually hear them long before I see them. When I do see them, they are often directly above me, so small as to be easily missed. More and more often, we're hearing them nearby, or seeing them flying over at the level of the trees. I know they nest nearby, because we hear them calling in the fields. It's amazing how far that call travels!

In spring, they seem to come after the first Canadian geese, but before the robins. As they migrate southward in the fall, they are usually among the last migratory birds we see. So I always say that I know it's really spring when we see them going north, and really fall when they head back south.

I don't remember seeing cranes while I was growing up only about 30 miles from here. I can't recall seeing them at all before about 15 years ago, when I had a pseudo-religious experience involving sandhill cranes. Yes, I know how that sounds. But follow me here.

Fall (or autumn, if you prefer)is my favorite season. I love the colors, the scents, the crisp, cool air. But one fall, I was having one of those really rotten days. I mean really rotten. Nothing seemed to be going right, and there was no relief in sight. I did what any sane person would do; I prayed. "Dear Lord," I prayed, "I know this has to happen. Just help me learn something from it, and show me that there's an end in sight. I just really need some happy in my day." Well, just then, about 20 cranes flew over. I heard their call, looked up, and saw them. They were circling. (I don't know how scientific this is, but I have noticed that, unlike Canadian geese, they don't fly in a v or exchange lead geese in an orderly fashion. They seem to decide it's time to change, and swirl around for bit, until one of them decides to be the boss crane.) There they were, above my house, circling and calling. Something in me said, "Hey, it's fall. Be happy."

Coincidence, I've been told, is when God works and chooses to remain anonymous.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Of Trailers and Tigerlilies

Spring is springing here. We've seen robins, had mud and rain (and are bound to get much, much more!) but, most tellingly, the cranes are overhead! Sandhill cranes have been, for years, my tell-tale sign that spring has sprung (or, on the other side, that fall is falling.)

Today, with visions of trail rides dancing in our heads, we loaded up the horses to take them to a friend's farm, where there is an indoor arena. More honestly, we tried to load them. Most honestly, we tried to load mine. Hope can sometimes be a Silly High-strung Intense Thoroughbred (interesting acronym...) and gave us a bit of grief. So we gave her some. We got them loaded, had them stand for a bit while we ate lunch, took them for a ride around the block, took them out, groomed them, and reloaded. It was a long day, but it was good, solid work. (Actually, she does load decently. She just wasn't doing it like I'd like her to, and we're going to work on that.)

In between loading and grooming, while they were standing, we started a small garden project. Years ago, I took some tigerlilies and started a small bed in our backyard. As happens, I've gotten bored of them there, mostly because they're hard to see in their spot. So we are going to dig and move them, leaving their spot to return to lawn. We're moving them up to the bank of the ditch along the highway. Hopefully they'll bloom for many years, and passers-by will enjoy them!

I wish I had some photos or videos of today's adventures. But it seems my camera has wandered off again...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Fun

Today was VIP Day at the day school. Mary was VIP for her niece, and I drove our grandson back over there later in the day to see Corbin's amazing wild animal show. A good time was had by all.

I do find it telling that my 15 year-old noticed a lot of wild, erratic behavior. "Well, yeah," I said, "you get a bunch of kids all excited about visitors, pack the visitors into the school, and have kids and visitors going from room to room to see displays about different nations, complete with food. Then you put all these excited people into the gym and parade reptiles and exotic mammals among them. There's gonna be wild, erratic behavior." "But Mom," she said, "the worst were the parents. The kids were wild, yeah, but the parents were the ones who couldn't seem to control themselves."


Thursday, March 11, 2010

"I Ate Fleas"

This has been a hectic week, with visits to Mom, (she's doing well) and housecleaning, both ours and hers, filling up most of the agenda. Thursdays, though, tend to be our midweek break. We sleep in a little, read, and rest up.

I've done some homemaking today. I baked; banana muffins, oatmeal bread and waffles. I made some Colorado Beans and Barley for supper; it smells good upstairs!

The kids have been keeping themselves busy. Ethan has no classes today, so we've been blessed with his presence. And stories. At lunch, he and Mary were doing what they do best; annoying each other. She had to leave the room at one point, and warned him, "Don't TOUCH my waffle!" Of course, he HAD to touch her waffle. Just one little bitty touch, but it was enough to galvanize her into action. She touched HIS waffle! She thought she had him there!

But she forgot one of his many Basic training stories. Seems one of the meals they ate in the field was generously topped with...fleas. Yep, you read that right. Now, being Basic, there was no asking for replacement food. And Ethan was too hungry to care. So he, yep, ate them. Now, when he comes across something that is less than appetizing, but is presented with no other choice, he can shrug and say, "I ate fleas at Basic, I can do this."

So he looked at his sister's offending finger on his own personal waffle lunch, and said, airily, "I ate fleas."

"Durn," she said, having failed to annoy him...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tax Day

I've been tiptoeing through our tax forms today, and my brain is mush. Please enjoy this happy, friendly guy.

Thanks to April, who doesn't know me from Eve, for posting this on her blog!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pro-Life Corner

I think that it is vital that society understands and appreciates the sanctity of every human life whether it is a developing child in the womb or somebody approaching the end of their life. When I graduate and become a doctor I am hoping to be able to use my skills to help save lives. I think abortion is never the answer and hope that one day, as a doctor, I will be able to help women to make the right decision.

Siobhan Fearon, 19, of Hull York Medical School

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jay!

27 years ago, The Infantryman, our oldest son, was born. It was a Saturday, too; a day like we had here at the farm today; warm, sunny, a first taste of spring. The only difference was that there was no snow that year!

On Friday, I worked my last day. I was a secretary/receptionist/teachers' aide at an alternative school. I was tired and uncomfortable and HUGE, and was actually quitting a week earlier than I had planned. I was hoping to spend that time cleaning and shopping and otherwise getting ready to have a baby.

The next morning, John left very early for Michigan, where our best man would be married that afternoon. I got up, had some tea and toast with him, kissed him goodbye and went back to bed. My plan was to sleep until I woke up, whenever that was.

About two hours later, I woke up. It soon became apparent that I was in labor. I called my doctor, and my mom. She came by and sat with me for most of the day. 27 years ago, mere mortals did not own cell phones, so there was no way to let John know he that he might want to come home. All we could do was call another friend, who was waiting for John to pick him up so they could attend the wedding together. Since the drive was close to 4 hours, I knew we wouldn't see John again until nearly suppertime. He would pass the hospital on the return trip before he would get home, so we told him to just go there. We headed that way about 4pm.

When I got to the hospital, I learned that we really hadn't needed to get there so soon. As is typical for first babies, Jay was taking his time making an appearance. We spent about 7 hours looking at each other, and at the nurses. Moaning, hollering and complaining were coming from several of the other labor rooms, and I was getting a little nervous. How much noise would I be making soon? When the nurse came in and offered me something to help me sleep, I was a little skeptical. Then she told me, "Honey, this baby isn't coming till early tomorrow morning, 6 or 7am. (This was 7pm) I'd really like you to get some rest." As she gave me the shot, she told me that occasionally she'd see women relax enough to deliver faster than she had predicted.

About 11:30, I woke up feeling some nasty pain. I got more nervous...Certainly I wasn't going to be feeling this until early morning? I woke up John, who had gallantly agreed to sleep on the hard floor after driving 8 hours, rather than leaving me alone and heading to the Fathers' Lounge. He began rubbing my back, which was where most of the pain seemed concentrated. (Childbirth educators don't like the word "pain;" they prefer "discomfort." It's PAIN.) Suddenly he said, "Did that hurt?" Duh. Then he said, "I'm calling the nurse. I think I felt a head come down your back." Sure enough, he had. In the 2 1/2 hours I had been asleep, I had become very ready to deliver. I was not waiting until 6 or 7am. In fact, I was not waiting until 2am. I was moved to a delivery room, pushed a blessedly short time, and, right after 1am, Jay was born.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Thanks so much for the trip down memory lane!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Fun

A relaxing day. Did a few chores, then took Mary and Skye to The Square. We had dark cherry mochas and visited Read Between the Lynes, where they oohed and aahed over the little pup. She got so much socializing done that she flopped down on the floor of the bookstore and didn't want to get up to go home. Also took some clothes to the cleaners to be altered; when you lose weight, you have to buy new clothes! I liked these specific ones, so I am having them cut down a bit. Not cheap, and I really want to learn to do it myself, but I don't have a really good teacher close by.

This afternoon was supposed to be me-alone-in-the-house time, but there was a communication gap and it didn't work out. But I understand, and I'm OK with it.

Then the little people came over. Jay and Kris brought the kids, and they showed me their new Book Fair books. Seems the school at Zion is having a book fair every other month these days; a sign of the economy, I suppose. Schools need more money, and this is one way for them to get it. I'm just glad that the kids are wanting books!

Tonight is Karaoke night, but I think I'll be hunkering down with Numb3rs and a good movie. Maybe this one.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

In Memory

In May of 1944, a local boy, Joseph Obinski, was flying The Hump in Asia. His plane and all aboard were lost. Recently, (2004?) remains of the plane were found. Mr. Obinski's dogtags were the only recognizable remains. On Tuesday, with Patriot Riders, Air Force and Army brass, the high school band, and members of the American Legion, Joseph Obinski came home to Marengo when his dogtags were returned to his only surviving sibling, his brother, Eddie. (Another brother, a pilot over Europe, was also lost in WWII.)

Sadly, I forgot my camera, so I have no pictures to share. And, frustratingly, the local newspaper didn't see fit to send a reporter, so I can't even direct you to a web article.

But thank you, Obinski family, for your courage and sacrifice. The Petermans remember.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I have been dealing with tennis elbow in my right arm for about two years. This year it developed in my right arm, too. I will never again snicker silently when someone complains about their tennis elbow. I will never again think, "Yeah, like THAT'S dire."

This HURTS. It hurts all the time, most especially when I wake up. It makes for one more thing on my list of Things That Make Me Pull The Covers Back Up Over My Head. I never realized how many things I do with my forearms, at least how many things I do that stress them. I've become very friendly with our bottle of ibuprofen. I also have brand spankin' new forearm braces, which are supposed to help while I do chores, but I think they help because it's really difficult to DO chores while wearing them, so I just pass some off to Mary, getting some rest in the process.

There's just SO much to DO!

Monday, March 1, 2010

And So It Begins...

John calls it a congenital disease. All the women in my family enjoy gardening. Flowers, veggies, fruits, trees...we don't care. We like to grow things.

I have had a vegetable garden in our yard for the past 25 years or so. We like fresh vegetables, and nothing tastes like a veggie you grew in your own garden. The past two years have been terrible gardening years; cool and wet. We got a grand total of one tomato last summer. Two falls ago, there had been so much rain that, when it came time to dig the potatoes, we pulled the pitchfork out of the ground and the potatoes ran through the tines like mashed potatoes. They smelled vile and it was really disappointing. I tend to like the early parts of the garden; planning and planting. I don't even mind weeding so much, at least in May and June, when the mornings are cool and things are under control. As the summer heats up and the weeds begin the invasion in earnest, well, I can find lots of excuses to stay inside and let them. John prefers the later parts; harvesting and preserving.

I really like to have a plan for the garden, kind of like a cookbook. You know, what to do when. It makes it more likely that I'll get everything done. More likely; not a guarantee! This year I am following someone else's plan. It came from this book, looked sensible, and I wanted to try it. I decided to jump into it at the first of March. I'll start getting the beds ready and also start seedlings for cool weather plants.

This morning I went outside and saw this.

Last fall, we built raised beds in our garden, filling them with compost. (You gotta do something with all the poop and bedding we collect around here.) The very next day, the chickens descended, scratching and pecking through the compost. We re-filled the beds, and covered them with straw and wire to hold it all together.

This morning, I pulled off the wire. That was much tougher than it sounds, as the wire was frozen to the snow cover, which was frozen to the straw, which was frozen to the frozen ground. Did I ever mention my tennis elbow? Well, it got quite the workout. But I finally got the stuff off. Then I covered it up with black plastic. Hopefully, this will hold the heat in and warm the soil so I can plant things like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, peas and lettuces. In the end, it looks like this.

(Those things lying on top of the bed that look like ladders are tomato supports that The Medic built for me about four years ago. They work great for keeping tomatoes up off the ground...and also for holding things down during the windier parts of the year.)

And the gardening season has begun!