Monday, January 31, 2011


We butchered our first beef on Saturday. I took the camera to get photos to document the process, but then got busy watching the guys cut her up, and then wrapping up the meat myself, and completely forgot to take pictures!

Dad had this heifer at the ranch who broke her leg or something, and so they kept her separated, but whenever they'd try to load her on a trailer or anything she'd go berserk on them. Knowing they'd never be able to sell her, Dad asked Kevin if he'd be interested in butchering her himself. Kev was, so 3 weeks ago, they put her down and quartered the carcass. Kev then ran the quarters up to our friend Mark's house. Mark happens to have cut up a couple of beef before and he also has all the necessary equipment, so his house tends to be our butchering headquarters. We let the meat age for 3 weeks.

Now last week, as all of us in Kansas are aware, we had a warming trend. On Saturday, butchering day, the temp outside was 70. Our meat had thawed, but was still nice and cool. It really was a nice day to cut up meat. Dad came and helped Kevin and Mark cut up the meat and Deanna and I wrapped the meat. (Mom was assisting with a 90th birthday party...or so she says.)

We didn't get a final weight on how much meat we had, but I know we had well over 100 packages of hamburger. Dad took 1/2 and we got the other half. They guys figured she weighed 1400 or more pounds.

We started around 12:30 and the guys finished up their end close to 7 p.m. I thought they did a fantastic job, because cutting and trimming all that meat is a job and they are amateures. We meat wrappers are too. Our packages aren't as pretty as commercial butcher packaging is, but we don't care. Besides, Commercial packagers don't label meat "boogers" or "Buger" or "Eye of Newt steaks"!

Last night, Kev grilled T-bones. They were huge, but oh so tender and tasty. Just melted like butter in your mouth. Miss Kat and I ate one steak and Kev ate the other. So wonderful! There's nothing better than home grown and home butchered meat. I, for one am very happy to have a freezer that is full of beef and chicken. In two weeks, we'll be butchering pigs.

There's nothing better than a freezer full of meat.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Glenn's Bulk Foods

Last weekend, we drove to Hutch to see Kim and Bob and their family. We hadn't seen them since sometime last fall and we were long over due a visit. One of our favorite shops to visit with Bob and Kim in the area is Glenn's Bulk Foods, just west of Hutch on Highway 50.

Glenn's caters primarily to the Amish and Mennonite populations that are prolific around that area. We like it because we like a full pantry and it's much cheaper to buy in bulk. Now, Glenn's isn't like Costco or Sam's. They only sell bulk foods--as in spices, dried fruits and veggies, pantry staples, some frozen fruits and veggies and even some locally made cheese and butter.

Our primary objective was to stock up on some spices, as we'll be butchering at least 4 pigs in February. Those spices we bought will be used for Brats and sausage. I also nabbed other spices that we use a lot of--like chile powder and poppy seeds. I got a nice big tub of poppy seeds for $3.00. It's probably double the quantity of what you buy for the same or more money at the grocery store at a much higher quality.

We also bought a four pound bag of oatmeal for $4.00, a five pound bag of blueberries for $15.00 and a 50 lb bag of Hudson Cream Flour. Hudson Cream Flour is all I use and it's a Kansas product. I paid $18.79 for 50 lbs of flour which figures out to be $.37 a pound. CHEAP.

It's funny, when I buy 25 lbs of flour at the grocery store, someone always comments that they don't do that much baking...but no one batted an eye at Glenn's. To them, it was just another typical sale.

When we got home, I discovered that I already had a 25 lb. bag of flour in the freezer. So, I now have 75 lbs of flour. Since we're getting ready to butcher beef this weekend, I knew that I needed to get my flour out of the freezer. I gathered up all my large Tupperware canisters and started filling them. I only needed 8 canisters for my 75 lbs of flour. I was very happy and surprised that I had enough bug-safe storage for all my flour. Now to find time to bake bread again!

We probably spent an hour in Glenn's looking at everything. It totally amazes me what all you can buy in bulk for your pantry. Glenn's Bulk of my favorite stores.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frosting on the cake

I did it. It's done!

Since November, I've paid off $3000 in medical bills. I mailed the last three checks last night. How'd I do it?
  • Last semester, I taught a section of College Orientation. I earned some extra money for that.
  • I got a raise that was paid in November, but it was retroactive back to July.
  • Kevin has been working like crazy, earning a lot of overtime.
  • Kev also had maxed out his vacation time, so had to cash some in.

And every extra dime we earned went towards paying off those darn medical bills of mine. (And with Christmas and the start of a new college semester for Andy and quarterly insurance, it wasn't easy.) I stuck to my budget and to my guns and we managed to pay it all off.

I can't help but think of the other things that money could have been used for, but I need to thank the stars that it was here when we needed it. Kev's overtime hours should be ending soon, and I'm glad. While we needed that money, I like having him at home on weekends and he needs a little down time. I'm not teaching a class this semester, but I did put my name in the hat to teach some outreach classes and perhaps I'll teach again soon.

On another front, we opened a letter from the County Conservation office last night. Apparently Miss Kat won an award for a limerick she wrote last spring. We've been invited to the annual banquet for a free steak dinner where she'll receive her award. She hasn't decided if she can "fit" the banquet into her busy schedule yet, but even so, I'm proud of her...if only she could remember her limerick! I'm not biased at all, but I think she has a future as a writer--maybe even a paid writer!

Her award was just frosting on the cake.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January stitching

Last night, while it was snowy and blowing and icy as all get out, I stitched by the fire, curled up in my nice blanket sitting near my favorite husband. As I sat there, I thought that I'm a very lucky girl. What is better than a nice fire, and being toasty warm, with your favorite person on a cold wintry night? Oh, and stitching!

Now, this little guy is not what I stitched on last night, this is one I finished over break. He is "EduCATed" Stitched on some scrap linen I had. The pattern suggested using Weeks floss, but I didn't have any and I was not about to invest in any just for this little 3" x 6" project. Fortunately, they gave DMC floss colors as an "alternative". I have oodles and oodles of DMC floss, so that's what I used. He's now living in my office. Framed.
In many of the stitching blogs I read, folks participate in a TUSAL (totally useless stitch along) and share pictures of jars containing thread ends and scraps. Each month, all these gals post a picture of their jar of thread scraps.
I don't participate in that stitch along, but I do have a jar by my stitching spot for ends and pieces. This is probably 6 months worth...excluding the Kleenex at the bottom...
This is what I stitched last night:
It doesn't look like much yet, but just using pretty pastel colors makes me think of spring. And these colors are nice and cheery when it's crappy outside. I started this project on Sunday. I'm using the fabric that came in the kit--Aida, 14 count. The only reason I'm resorting to the Aida fabric is because I didn't have any better fabric in my stash that was big enough for this project. I debated waiting until I could get to Hobby Lobby, but decided I'd not be wasteful and use the darned Aida. Besides, the darned old eyes are struggling even with this right now. (Never fear, I went to the Eye Dr. yesterday. And new glasses will be ordered tomorrow. The weather was crappy enough after my appointment that I didn't order glasses then, and I left my script at home today, so I'll have to order new lenses tomorrow.)

And, finally, I'll just leave you with a taste of spring...the picture of what my latest project will look like when finished.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The long awaited 2010 reading list

If you aren't a reader, and don't care to see what I read over the past year, then move along! I'm a reader and I keep track of what I read each year. I also like sharing what I read with others. So, without further ado, (and without proper citation)...
  • America's hidden history: untold tales of the first pilgrims-- Kenneth C. Davis Who doesn't like to know more of the story--other than what we were told in school? American History is much more complex and complicated than your teacher ever told you!
  • The Virgin Queen's Daughter--Ella March Chase I liked this premise--that Elizabeth I had an illegitimate child; fathered by her stepfather, Thomas Seymour. This was very well written, believable, and enjoyable.
  • Mrs. L (Alice Roosevelt Longworth)--Michael Teague i I've long been fascinated with Alice Roosevelt Longworth, also known as "Princess Alice". She was the daughter of Teddy, the only child of his first wife. Alice was a political figure and a mainstay of Washington DC society through the Nixon presidency--thumbing her nose at social mores and lived her life to suit herself. A fascinating woman.
  • Raising Dragons--Bryan Davis This was the first volume in a series I bought for young Dual's birthday. Of course I couldn't give it to him without reading it first! The premise is that Dragon's live amongst us, camouflaged as humans. They are also Christian. So this series is a Christian Fantasy series--not something you see every day.
  • Plum Spooky--Janet Evanovich I enjoy Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. This is one of the "In-between" novellas.
  • Rangers Apprentice: Erak's Ransom--John Flanagan The first of 3 Ranger's Apprentice books I read this year. This is young Tate's series that I buy for him, and again, I get to read it first! Written for young boys, I love the series. Maybe because all Ranger's are archers!
  • The Sisters who would be Queen: Mary, Katherine & Jane Gray--Leanda de Lisle I love history, and this book; about the Gray sisters didn't disappoint. Some would say that the Gray sisters had a better claim to the throne than did Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth, and in fact, according to Henry VIII's last will, they should have inherited the throne. They didn't, but did not manage to have quiet, peaceful lives.
  • The Sew-it Book: things to make with needle and thread--Rachel Taft Dixon I bought this book with high hopes, I've seen it in lots of my needlework catalogs. It's a reprint of a 1920's book. It just wasn't what I expected and I didn't really like it at all.
  • Endless Forest--Sara Donati The final installment in the "Into the Wilderness" series. An excellent conclusion. Historical fiction. The ending left me in tears. Fabulous.
  • Flow: the cultural story of menstruation--Elissa Stein & Susan Kim Yes, I have eclectic tastes. But, do you have any clue how much media (Print and all) influences how women feel about their cycles? The products they use? Yep. This was an eye-opener. I enjoyed it and feel every woman should read this.
  • Graceling--Kristin Cashore I buy a lot of Young Adult books for my students. This was one requested by several students. It was a nice fantasy tale of a gal with special abilities--she's an assassin.
  • Brisinger--Christpher Paolini a re-read for me. The third book in the Eragon, or Inheritance series. I'm awaiting book 4...which isn't close to being published yet.
  • Fire--Kristin Cashore Set in the same world as Graceling (above) this was a very different "country" where there are "Monsters" who can manipulate humans.
  • Woods Runner--Gary Paulsen Paulsen is one of my favorite YA/male focus authors. Woods Runner is a tale of the Revolution told from the viewpoint of a young man living on the frontier, who had no interest in the war but was drug into it anyway when his family were captured and imprisoned by the British. Paulsen did his research; this was a fantastic book for boys.
  • A Reliable Wife--Robert Goolrick An Excellent book of a woman who answers an ad for a bride. Her past collides with that of her new husband. Who wins? Her former lover, or her husband who only advertised for a "Reliable" wife.
  • Fantasy in death--JD Robb If you've read my blog at all, you know I pick up all new books by Robb and Nora Robers--who are one and the same person!
  • Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief
  • The Sea of Monsters
  • Titan's Curse
  • Battle of the Labyrinth
  • The Last Olympian--Rick Riordan (These 5 are the Percy Jackson series.) After 2 students requested this series, I bought it for the library. And then the movie came out. So, of course I had to read the series! It's a fun premise the Greek Gods and Goddesses are still here, and still cause trouble. It's also a great way to interest kids in Greek mythology. Fun books.
  • Roses--Leila Meacham I LOVED this book. If you liked Edna Ferber's Giant, or even the movie, then you'll love Roses. It's a love story told through three generations. A fantastic book.
  • One Second After--William Forstchen Apocalyptic books are fairly popular. This one caught my interest after reading a review. It is about a Carolina town after an EMP attack on the US. I walked away from it with a greater understanding of how reliant we are on technology and transportation. Without either, our entire society would collapse.
  • Cleopatra's daughter--Michelle Moran So, Queen Elizabeth I could have had a daughter, but Cleopatra did have a daughter who survived her mother. This is a work of fiction about young Cleopatra Selene and her life in the first years after the death of her parents.
  • Savor the moment--Nora Roberts It's Nora, need I say more?
  • My brother Sam is dead--James Lincoln Collier A classic Newbery winner. I hadn't read it and decided it was time I did so. Another tale of the Revolutionary war. Sam's parents are Tories, and his brother, Sam, fights for the patriots. Sam is caught in the middle. This is based on a true story.
  • Drop Edge of Yonder--Donis Casey Last year, I read two books by Donis Casey. My mother saw the review here, and said "Why didn't you share these with me?" She bought them, loved them, and shared them with her friends. Then, Mom bought the next two books, and I had to wait in line to read them! Donis Casey writes about Northeast Oklahoma, during the early 20th century. Murder mysteries solved by Mother and Wife, Alafair. She even includes recipes. Pick up one of Casey's books, you'll enjoy every minute.
  • Running Hot--Jayne Ann Krentz A paranormal romance title I picked up this summer. It was OK. Not a bad read, just fairly predictable. Something nice when you just want something to read.
  • Haunted Ground--Erin Hart I think I have two of Erin Hart's books on this list. Both are about Irish bogs, bog people (Those bodies found preserved in bogs) and a mystery. The same characters are in both which makes for nice continuity. In this book, 2 brothers find the severed head of a beautiful red haired woman while cutting peat. Archaeologist, Cormac McGuire and Pathologist Nora Gavin are called in to study the remains and maybe solve her story.
  • Hero at Large--Janet Evanovich Just a light escape reading type book. A light romance, one of Evanovich's early works of fiction.
  • The sky took him--Donis Casey Read what I wrote about Casey's books above. In this one, Alafair travels to Enid, Ok.
  • American History Revisited--Seymour Morris It seems lately that ther eare more books taking a closer look at History and the untold stories.
  • Christy--Catherine Marshall I first read this book as a teenager, and was fascinated by the culture of the Appalachians. This time, I wasn't as enchanted, yet it is still a good read.
  • Warriors--edited by George R. Martin I bought this collection of short stories for one reason: it had a short story by Diana Gabaldon. Diana is one of my favorite authors, and I read anything she writes. Her story featured Lord John Gray, a minor character in the Outlander series. I read most of the other stories in this collection, but war stories and fighting stories aren't really my thing...
  • Lake of sorrows--Erin Hart This is the second book of Hart's. It again is set in the Ireland countryside around an archaeological mystery.
  • The Search--Nora Roberts This is one of the 4 books I read on vacation. After I read it, Andy asked to read it. I read it for the enjoyment of reading a romance book. He read it because it's about search and rescue dogs. It was rather interesting to discuss it with him since we were coming at it with different expectations.
  • Sizzling Sixteen--Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum is at it again! You've got to love an author who makes you laugh in every book she writes!
  • Rangers Apprentice: Kings of Clonmel--John Flanagan Another Tate book. Archery, lost kings, mysterious activities in the woods, adventure at it's best.
  • The Passage--Justin Cronin I picked up this book solely because it was getting a lot of hype from editors, reviewers, etc. In fact, it is considered to be one of the best works of fiction released in 2010. I disagree. I managed to read about 200 pages in this 900 page book and quit. I won't even share what it is about because I never felt I got to the gist of the plot. If you're curious, go read the description on Amazon. This is, without a doubt, my biggest disappointing read of the year.
  • Birthmarked--Caragh M. O'Brien Another YA book bought for the library. Each Midwife who lives outside the city must deliver the first 5 children born each month to the city officials. The babies are never seen again. A new, young midwife discovers what happens to those missing babies...
  • The short second life of Bree Tanner--Stephanie Meyer Miss Kat and I both read this short novella of the "Twilight" series. If you like that series, you'll like this story.
  • Written in Bone: Buried lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland--Sally M. Walker In the recent archaeological digs of Jamestown, they've done forensic examinations of several skeletons. Written for children, this was a really great introduction to what we can learn about our ancestors from their bones and items buried with them. It was a hard hard life. The information isn't dumbed down, and it's full of photographs and illustrations that bring history alive.
  • Red Pyramid--Rick Riordan After finishing up the Percy Jackson series, and writing about Greek Gods, Riordan started a new series focusing on the Egyptian gods. It looks like it will be a good series too. This one is contains more pages than the Percy Jackson books did. I anticipate another excellent series.
  • Dragongirl--Todd McCaffrey Todd McCaffrey has taken over writing the PERN series for his mother, Anne. If you like the PERN books, give Todd's a try. He's writing his own stories all based in the 4th pass. Each of his books has gotten a little better. I always look forward to going back to PERN.
  • Triumph: life after the cult--Carolyn Jessop The FDLS, those polygamist Fundamental Mormons have been in the news. Jessop's ex-husband was one of the leaders of the group in Texas. This is her story picking up where her last book, Escape, ended and it touches on the situation in Texas.
  • Sixteen Brides--Stephanie Grace Whitson A nice christian fiction that doesn't preach! I really enjoyed this story of a group of women who signed up to homestead in the west, but discovered they were supposed to be brides instead. Don't worry, you don't have to concentrate on 16 stories, just 4. It was a very nice book.
  • Shelter of Stone--Jean Auel A book I've had for years. I had to re-read it once I learned that the next book in the "Earth's Children" series will be out in March.
  • Echo in the Bone--Diana Gabaldon When I don't feel well, I often pick up books I've read before. This is book seven in the Outlander series. I've read it at least once, but Diana is always good.
  • Why is sex fun: Evolution of human sexuality--Jared Diamond Don't skip over this! This is a book that looks at human sexuality and asks why humans view sex so differently than any other animal species. From enjoyment to why we have hidden ovulation and recreational sex to why menopause evolved and what benefits it all has for the survival of our species. (And even why human male penis's are so much larger than those of other animals...) This is a science book, lots of big words and scientific terms, but I learned a lot and even enjoyed reading this book.
  • A nation rising: untold tales of founding fathers--Kenneth C. Davis One more of those hidden history books. Aren't they great?
  • High King of Montival--SM Stirling The 4th book in the Sunrise lands series which are sequels to the "Change" series. An alternate history/apocalyptic novel.
  • Wicked Appetite--Janet Evanovich The first book in a new series. This one will revolve around the 7 deadly sins, ie. those things let out of Pandora's box. Similar to the Stephanie Plum books, so if you like those, you'll enjoy this one.
  • Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker & the rise and fall of the Comanche Nation--SC Gwynne I have this "thing" about Quanah Parker, so I had to read this new book about him, his mother, Cynthia Anne Parker, and the Comanche Indians.
  • World made by hand--James Howard Kunstler Another apocalyptic book, but one in which the world isn't changed by a cataclysmic event, but instead slowly erodes with the disappearance of oil and cheap fuel. Set 15 years after the end of oil, this book is more about apathy and surviving in a new world no one was prepared for.
  • Happy ever after--Nora Roberts
  • Indulgence in Death--JD Robb
  • Lost Hero--Rick Riordan Riordan was busy in 2010. He had 2 new books come out. This one concerns the Greek Gods and the Percy Jackson's world, with a twist...the Roman gods...
  • Ranger's Apprentice: Halt's Peril--John Flanagan The final book released in 2010 of this series. There will be more in 2011, never fear!
  • Room--Emma Donoghue From here on are the books I read post-op. ROOM is a story told from a 5 year old's viewpoint of life with his mother in an 11 x 11 room. Ma was kidnapped and lives with her son hidden from the world. Jack saves his Ma, and changes his entire world--and the outside world is very scary to a little boy who's entire world--to this point--was in an 11 x 11 room.
  • The Other side--JD Robb, et. al. A collection of short stories by 5 women, one of which is JD Robb. The theme of the stories is the paranormal.
  • Songs of Love and Death--edited by George R Martin Another collection of short stories bought for one story by one author--Diana Gabaldon. But in this case, I did read all the other stories. The theme of the collection is star-crossed lovers. Some had happy endings, some didn't. But all were really good stories!
  • Book Thief--Markus Zusak Set in Nazi Germany, a young girl steals books. Books not approved of by the Nazi regime. At the same time, her family has a secret... This was a great look at life in Nazi Germany. Not necessarily a happy book, but still, a great book.
  • Year of living Biblically--AJ Jacobs Have you ever wondered how hard it would be to live by all the laws given in the bible? AJ Jacobs tried to--in modern New York. I knew I had to read this when I heard how his wife dealt with some of those laws! It's a very interesting look at faith and religious customs and of course...laws. It will make you laugh and think at the same time.
  • Blindness of the Heart--Julia Franck After finishing this book, I decided that most of the books I had brought home recently had been very dark tales. This is a very dark tale. It tells of a boy and his life at the end of WWII. He and his mother are attempting to flee before the Soviets arrive. They make it to the train station...and he never sees his mother again. We then shift our focus to his Mother's story--of her childhood in WWI, and through WWII. It's a very good book, but one that makes you wonder if you'd make the same decisions, and if you'd even have the option to make those decisions....

That's it. That's all I read in 2010. If you've read any of these titles, tell me if you agreed with me, or if you think I'm whacked. I can take it!

Friday, January 07, 2011

5 weeks

Today is my last week day at home. Monday, I go back to work; five weeks and four days after my surgery. Am I eager or ready to go back to work? No...not really. I enjoy being at home and can find plenty to keep me busy. But, while I was recuperating, i managed to:read these seven books (plus one I'm still reading.) I watched 4 movies and several TV shows we had taped. Let me just say that daytime television is a huge disappointment.
I finished embroidering these tea towels. (I'd finished two before the surgery.)
I started and finished Baby Kate's sampler. Now I just need to get it in the mail for her.
I started this candlewicking project. I'm probably 1/2 way finished with it, and hope to finish it before the weekend is over.

I also stitched a little cross-stitch project of a cat standing on a stack of books for my office. (Don't know why I didn't get a picture of it.) Other work I accomplished was to can five quarts of salsa, two batches of Sandhill Plum Jelly and I made eight loaves of bread.

I assisted with butchering 50 chickens too. Well, I sat at the table, and wrapped the birds in freezer paper.

Can you just imagine what I'd accomplish in 5 weeks at home if I wasn't recuperating from surgery?

A tale of cats, chickens, and mice

This morning, as I went to get feed out for the chickens, I discovered 5 mice in the feed barrel. The level of feed was low enough that mice couldn't scamper back up and out. They were trapped.

I don't hate mice, but I also don't necessarily like them either--especially if they are running across my feet or up my legs. I tried to convince the chickens that they should come back inside and catch these mice...after all, a little protein would be good for their health...

The stupid chickens decided they would rather be outside eating sunflower seeds and enjoying the sunshine instead of catching mice inside. They felt that I was better suited to handle the situation.

So, I did what any other country girl would do...

I went outside the pen, grabbed the yellow tom and showed him the buffet dinner. It didn't take him long to literally jump in and grab a snack. He then jumped back out and took his tender tasty treat outside. That worked so well, I went and grabbed another cat. I showed her the feast and she immediately deserted my arms for the smorgasbord. The third cat I selected was afraid of my attentions. I had to put her into the feed barrel and she sat there, confused as three little mice ran around and under her tail. She finally noticed the delectable morsels running around her feet, made her selection, and departed. This left two slightly panicky mice. By this time, Cutie, our former house cat, now outside cat, came over to see what I was doing--giving attention to these other cats and not her.

Cutie immediately assessed the situation in the feed barrel and took matters into her own paws--deserting me for a tender mouse snack. I had one mouse left, but the other cats who were around aren't exactly tame and wouldn't hear of me picking them up. By this time, Cutie had finished her snack, I decided to see if she was hungry enough for seconds. She was.

The chickens were right...I did know how to handle the situation. Who needs chickens when you have cats.