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Just a spot to share some wisdom from God's Word for women of all ages...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Life As I Know It - The Simple Life

Years ago I lived in a little country house that did not have heat or air conditioning.  One part of the year it was like living in a freezer and the other part of the year it was like living in your own private sauna.  We had four rooms and a bathroom.  There was only one closet and a pantry for storage.  Fortunately I had not been married too long, was fairly poor and didn’t own much.  A lot of people would say this was the simple life.  Simple included having to build a fire in two wood stoves for basic warmth.  One stove was long and rectangular and it was easy to burn your fingers while adding more wood.  The other one was a little pot belly stove with a design that made it impossible to start a fire.  One advantage was that you could heat water on top of the stoves to provide humidity in the air.  That was a good thing since the smoke plumbs could choke a horse.

The stoves only heated the rooms where they we located.  We heated other rooms with portable space heaters.  One stayed in the bathroom permanently, I’ll just leave it to your imagination as to why.  The other one was moved around to where it was needed.  There were times during the winter you could see your breath in the bedroom.  We had an electric blanket on the bed that was always on a setting of 10.  Little good that did when it was 28 below in the room and icicles hung from the light fixture.  The curtains swayed when the wind blew year round.

When it was time to get up in the mornings I had to go turn on the space heater in the bathroom so it could warm up enough to take a bath.  I would turn on the water in the tub, there was no shower hook up, and jump back in the bed for exactly 10 minutes while the tub slowly filled up.  I wore a robe made of gorilla hair and lined with seal blubber.  Sexy was an understatement.

During the winter the field mice moved in.  They took up occupancy in the pantry.  I knew it was bad when they started getting their own mail delivered to the house.  I had to move all the food products to a metal cabinet so the only other storage space in the house was a four story house for the mice.  They built a playground out of cereal boxes and I watched the babies climb up the box and then slide down the interior wax paper like a slide.  I knew we had to dispose of them when they started watching TV with us and called in pizza deliveries. 

We moved into the house during the summer.  It was so hot my dog crawled into the upright freezer to cool off.  The layout of the house prevented proper air circulation so we prayed for winter.  The year we decided to plant a garden we had a drought.  A small half acre was cleared for planting however, my husband, who had a tendency to go overboard on projects, planted 5 rows of corn, 18 hills of squash and 48 tomato plants.  All of this effort went into feeding only the two of us.  Fortunately the beans and the corn never came into fruition.  The tomatoes and squash however, were a bumper crop.  I had never seen so much red and yellow in my life.  I was calling people in the phone book to see if they wanted free vegetables.  In addition to taking on this project it was decided that we should also raise chickens and sell the eggs.  The barn was cleaned out and we hauled home 40 laying hens.  Raised as a city girl I had never had dealings with chickens.  They laid approximately every other day so I was washing poop off of 20 eggs a day.  My husband miraculously disappeared when it was time to wash eggs.  There is truly only one word to describe chicken excrement, but this is a family blog.  I would haul cartons of eggs to work to sell and give away or toss at unsuspecting citizens.  Once we had a chicken thief in the neighborhood that left the barn door open one morning.  The chickens were all out in the yard and it looked like it had snowed.  I coaxed in all but 13 of them.  I decided my husband would have to find the others when he got home from work.  I wasn’t going to climb any trees to save a chicken.  I have my pride.

We also had a little cocker spaniel named Duke.  One day some friends needed to give up their little female cocker named Chancy.  She was a bit shy, but Duke was an Italian Casanova and had his way with her all night.  I had never seen a dog so happy.  A few months later we were blessed with nine puppies.  Of course, it wasn’t two or three puppies, but nine.  When I carried all of them to the vet I had to make two trips in the door.  One trip included a laundry basket full of puppies to sit inside the vet office for everyone to play with and then a second trip to haul in the proud mom and pop.  Chancy was always slightly nervous and never failed to leave a treasure for the techs to clean up.  A friend’s dad was a vet and he gave me a group discount.  I certainly felt I deserved it with 11 dogs.  I was almost his entire clientele.  I cried when they had their tails nipped.  New to the puppy business I didn’t know they weren’t born with the cute little cropped tails.  Our brood included three white pups with little brown patches, four buff colored babies and two chocolate brown angels that were twins.  Ultimately it was fairly easy to sell or give away our little cuties.  Chancy even went to live with my Aunt and Uncle in Kentucky.  I would tell you their adventure getting her home, but you would think it was fiction.

One night my husband was not home and there was a ruckus in the hen house.  I looked out and a possum had invaded the barn.  The chickens were screaming at the top of their lungs.  I went and got a little .22 rifle, not that I knew how to use it, and ran out to the barn.  I opened the door and raced in.  The door slammed behind me and the latch flipped around and basically locked me in. Okay, it was 10:00 p.m. and I am in a barn with 40 hysterical chickens, an ugly possum and a rifle I don’t know how to use.  My cocker spaniel stared at me from the kitchen door.  You know, there is only one word to describe chicken…. oh, well.  After about 15 minutes I finally managed to use the butt end of the rifle to work the door open and free myself.  It's a wonder I didn't shoot myself!  It seemed like an eternity.  You can only imagine my relief for fresh air and a bathroom.

After a season of chickens we decided to sell them and see if we made a profit.  Considering the original purchase, cost of feed, what we made on selling eggs and the money from the sale we calculated that we had broken even.  Of course, that didn’t include the cost of time to water, feed, decorate the barn and sew all the cute bonnets for their heads! 

These days I once again live in the country.  I have a lovely home, heat and air and a different husband.  But, some things don’t change…. I now have 10 chickens, 3 goats, 3 dogs and a cat.  Seventeen critters is way down from about 51, and you might call me crazy, but I guess I still like the simple life.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

               Thanksgiving is a great time of year.  You don’t have the hype that surrounds Christmas and shopping for gifts.  The weather is cooler and you can finally breathe after surviving a summer of insufferable 90 degree temps where your makeup drips off your face like a melting popsicle.  The leaves have changed to beautiful gold, red, and yellow and the blue sky has a much deeper, clearer hue.  You smell the hint of smoke sifting from the fireplace and the tastes of the season are richer and fuller.  I like to go where they make sorghum syrup and although eating this delicacy stirred up with about half a tub of butter placed on top of a white fluffy biscuit will make you gain 15 pounds on the spot…..the aroma is intoxicating.
            Most of us spend time thinking and contemplating the things we are thankful for.  Of course there is always family (at least most of them), and our health (unless you are over 50 and then you’re just grateful you’re vertical), our friends and neighbors (always check them out before you move into a neighborhood so you can be grateful).  Many are thankful for church and church family, and the awesome blessings given to us by the Lord.  With a lot of the hardships all of us have faced as a nation the last couple of years, most are grateful to have a job and food on the table.  At this writing we’re thankful that we have had the mid-term elections and all the campaign ads are off the TV now. 
            For us, we are always thankful if the house is still standing after I’ve cooked my portion of the Thanksgiving meal.  A tradition for us for years is that we would have a spaghetti dinner on Thanksgiving Eve, normally a quick meal that involves boiling noodles, browning the meat and pouring on the sauce.  It gets really fancy if I heat up some garlic bread and fix baked potatoes.  I’m not very patient, so I love to turn the heat on the cook top up to high so things will cook faster.  While supper is going I usually have other items in the works for the feast the next day.  Being an over achiever I like to fix the turkey, sweet potato soufflĂ©, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, 7 layer salad, provide cranberry sauce and supply and the ever illusive pickled peaches.  I have learned to share all this cooking fun with my other family members since all they had left to bring was the carrot sticks.
            One year in particular I was working and had come home to start all the festivities in the kitchen.  Needless to say I was in a rush and had everything going at once.  My husband was not at home and had gone to pick up his kids and was visiting his mother briefly before he and two young boys hit the door and all hell would break loose for the evening.  Mind you, they were great boys, but periodic visits limited my ability to cope with the increased decibel level upon their entry.  It was like going from a peaceful bubble bath to the back side of a roaring turbo jet in 20 seconds flat.
            While I was boiling and stirring I heard a little sound that went “poof!”  Nothing serious, a slight poofing noise in the kitchen could be anything.  I then detected the smell of something burning.  Nothing on the stovetop had stuck to the pot yet and the oven was working properly.  The cook top was a counter mount and I opened the cabinet door underneath to get another casserole dish when I discovered the wiring was on fire.  Now I am not the panicky type but I do believe my entire life flashed before my eyes.  I knew better than to throw water on it (I’m too embarrassed to tell you HOW I know this) and searched frantically for my container of flour.  Locating it behind six bags of sweet potatoes I gingerly tossed an entire container of flour by the handfuls onto the fire. I did have the foresight to turn the knobs to off to stop the flow of electricity to the cook top.  Finally the flames had stopped licking the bottom of the cabinet and I took a look around.
            There was flour and soot everywhere.  Everywhere.  Believe it or not, a little five pound bag of flour can expand to look like three dump trucks of pastry dust have been unloaded in your kitchen. Every cook pot and casserole dish under the cabinet was filled with black ash.  The kitchen was smoky.  We were definitely not having spaghetti for supper.  I picked up the phone and called my mother in law’s house.  My brother in law, who just happens to be a firefighter, answered the phone.  Really, what are the odds of that?  I asked if my husband was there and my brother in law said he was.  Being the wonderful fellow he is, he asked how I was doing.  I squeaked out something about the cook top catching on fire and needed my hubby to come home.  I believe at that point I was formally blessed out for not calling the fire department immediately.  Honestly, the fire department was only two minutes down the road.  He did not even give the phone to my husband, but called on his radio to the station and I heard sirens coming before he told me they were on the way and hung up.  I guessed my husband was on the way, too.  Plus there was no way to get all that soot cleaned up before firefighters entered the house.  I just hate it when the house is a mess and we’re having guests.
            I would probably break down and cry if I re-counted the portion of this story about the many trips up and down to the electrical panel and back to the kitchen made by those wonderful firefighters and their boots.  My husband was able to re-wire the cook top to their satisfaction and our evening resumed.  So, we had sticky noodles, half cooked ground beef and sauce, a kitchen that looked like it had been invaded by a small militia armed with soot guns.  The boys tried to pack the flour and throw it like snowballs.  There was still quite a bit to cook along with loading and unloading 431 dishwasher loads later of pots, pans and casserole dishes.
            It took about three years before my family would let me bring anything except the carrot sticks for Thanksgiving.  I donate regularly to the firefighter fund; it’s either that or invite them over for the holidays.  The family just doesn’t like to come with the fire truck parked out front.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Goat Tails - The Sequel

How many neighbors does it take to pen a goat?  More than anybody on Orchard Ridge Trail wants to admit.  Oddly, the electric fence still was not working properly and our precious little mama goat continued to get out.  My neighbor up the street was very worried that she would make her way up to his wife’s flower garden.  They have invested in a flower bed that is the size of a city block.  Irresistible plants reside there providing an endless buffet for any goat.  Recently all three goats secretly followed Greg up the hill to their house and found wonderful treasures there.  Mr. J decided that immediate action was called for before their garden looked like it had been hit by a whirlwind.

Mr. J drove his little golf cart to the goat pen daily to make sure Little One was in her pen and then made multiple trips to Tractor Supply to get necessary supplies to ensure the pen was properly electrified.  Our next door neighbor, just stopping by for a visit, got in on the festivities ultimately touching the fence to test it and got shocked.  He’s bald now.  Well, he was bald anyway.

Ten replacement plants, $300 in golf cart fuel, and a $100 investment in a larger controller was installed and electricity was flowing properly through the wires.  A tester was applied and it lit up like a Christmas tree.  Finally our neighborhood was satisfied that we had successfully contained little mama goat.  We celebrated with flags and a parade, complete with a motorcycle ride to help cover expenses.  (This is normal in our town.)

For the last few days mama goat has been standing on her little hill in the pen and has hardly moved.  We are convinced that the singe marks down her side and pillows of smoke emitting from her fur are evidence that she has been converted.  It was a baptism by fire resulting in regular prayer and a tent meeting scheduled for next week.

We won’t talk about the tattoo now embedded on her neck from the copper wire wrap on her collar.  It spells “gotcha” in four different languages!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Goat Tails

I love my animals.  They are a constant source of joy and hilarity.  There’s just nothing like a chicken following you around the yard like a dog or watching the goats literally skip across the yard with glee!  They have distinguishable social skills and are eternally grateful for each morsel you feed them, until it’s gone, of course.

To provide extra safety to our goats we recently installed an electric fence inside their penned area to keep our little Houdini’s from getting out in the yard.  We don’t mind letting them graze while under supervision, but when they are not being watched they morph into locusts and devour everything in site.  Our bushes were unidentifiable all summer….just naked.  Our neighbors thought we had been hit with blight.

Ok, so the electric fence was installed more for my piece of mind and to hopefully recover some semblance of green in the front yard before winter.  Selfish, I know.

We were basking in our success of installing the fencing and relieved we did not have to worry about them escaping and cleaning out the chicken feed when our little mama goat began to appear in the yard.  She is smart.  She would wait until we weren’t looking and sneak out into the yard.  We would put her back in the pen and in less than five minutes she would be back in the yard.  We could not believe she was making it past the electric fence.

Now you have to understand, all we have to go by is the pulse light on the charger box to know that the electricity is running through the fence.  We don’t have a suitable way to check each line as of yet.  Greg suggested maybe I should touch it, but I’m just not ready for a perm right now.

After several days of trying to watch how this goat gets out, Greg has his bait of it and chained her to a tree inside the pen to teach her a lesson.  I told him goats don’t think quite like us so I’m not sure she understands the deeper underlying message.  They’re smart, not philosophical.

This morning we unhooked our little lady goat and within two minutes she was out.  At this point I decided I was not going to be outwitted by a goat.  That’s just too embarrassing.  I may not be smarter than a fifth grader, but I’m sure smarter than a goat.

I walked down the side of the pen and found the escape hatch. They just have to have a space big enough for their head to get through – but she was having to get on the other side of the electric fence – plus Greg had put a collar on her wrapped with wire and prongs so she’d get an extra shock.  Don’t tell PETA.  Greg got her collar and pulled her back into the pen and we made a trek down to the escape hatch.  Little mama goat walked down with us and decided she’d give us a demonstration!  Yes, pride cometh before a fall….. apparently the bottom wire of the fence was not hot as she slipped underneath it.  Then she walked over to the hole and tried to go through it.  Just as she did, the wires coming out of the collar got hung in the fence and she backed right into the upper wires of the electric fence – those wires were hot!  I’m not quite sure of the exact voltage she felt for that brief moment…..but I do believe I heard a distinct buzzzzt.

Of course, this gives new meaning to the old idiom “to get someone’s goat”….
I’ll go see to my stylist if I want curls. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Life As I Know It - Moving II

When my husband and I decided to make a move to the mountains we had no idea that it would take a year to sell our house.  Just before the real estate market was making a severe downturn, it was getting hard to sell a house since our commissioners decided they wanted the county to look more like brick and mortar than green space.  The housing market was flooded with new homes and there was little opportunity for us re-sellers.  We went through three real estate agents in the course of the year.  Each one was nice and did what they could to bring in a buyer.  Each new agent meant a barrage of questions, interviews, more paper to fill out, photos to take, and lockbox to install.   These also meant arrangements had to be made for the dogs when a potential buyer wanted to see the house.  I was more concerned about the dogs getting out of the house than of them hurting someone.  They would have licked them to death and helped them carry out anything they wanted if they had been thieves.  Then, of course, there were the open house events.
We always hoped this would bring a multitude of interested people to the house and our buyer would come through.  How do you comfort a real estate agent when no one shows up?  It was beyond me.  We left again with the dogs while she packed up two weeks worth of groceries to take home.  I didn’t have the heart to ask her to leave some for us.
We had already started our search for our mountain home and had met a very nice agent.  She began to learn our taste for a house and after hours of searching the internet on our own, we would send her a list of properties we were interested in and she would go preview them.  Then when we made our trek to see them, she only carried us to the ones she knew we would like.  We still make referrals to others for her services.
In desperation after we let our third agent go my husband decided to put out a “For Sale by Owner” sign.  This would save us a ton of money at closing and it was certainly worth a try since we had had no offers.  We designed our own flyer and put it in a cylinder holder and prayed.  Everyday we went down and counted how many flyers were there to see if any had been taken.  We soon discovered that most of them were taken by our neighbors so they could see what we were asking.  We had to reduce the price three times.  Even our neighbors were getting desperate for us to leave.
The funny thing about our street was that it was an older established neighborhood and rarely did a house go up for sale unless someone died or went into a nursing home.  When we bought our house we knew all of our immediate neighbors and we all helped each other.  When we initially looked at what would be our home and walked through it, I am the type of person that opens closet doors, drawers and cabinets to get a real feel for the house.  After about twenty minutes of inspecting I raced to find my husband and our agent and exclaimed, “the owner must have died!”  Things just were not in place if someone stilled lived there.  All the furniture was there, but there just wasn’t enough clothing in the closet to suggest a live in owner and significant amounts of dishware, toiletries and hangers were missing.  I just hoped they hadn’t died in the house and I didn’t want to know the details.  It did turn that the owner had passed away, but in a nursing home before getting to come back home.  I was sure it wasn’t because he missed the green and orange pineapple wallpaper in the kitchen or the gift wrap paper in the bathroom, all fixable.
We really became concerned when we both had found jobs in our new mountain location and we had no home there and had no prospects to buy ours.  Fortunately my husband was in sales and could stay at home, but I wound up making arrangements to live with my niece and her husband in a nearby community and came home on the weekends.  My dear hubby decided that when he saw someone stop and get a flyer he would race down to the end of the yard and ask them if they wanted to see the inside of the house.  I would have given anything to have this on video.  He was quite fast getting out the door.  I think he missed me.  Much to our delight we ultimately found our buyer this way.  She was very impressed with how clean and nice our house was considering the price range.  We had lowered the price, but hey, we couldn’t just give it away.  She signed a contract that night.
Great, now we were homeless.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Life As I Know It-Moving

Five years ago we moved from the city to the country, well the mountains actually.  It was hopefully a dream come true.  Originally we started looking for a second home to retreat to, however the more we looked, we decided that the upkeep on two homes would be somewhat costly, and we probably would not get any rest at either home.  Everyone in the community we were looking at said we’d move there permanently.  They were right.
The idea of living in the mountains was heavenly and we loved the idea of slowing down to the pace of life enjoyed here.  We began our quest to purchase a home in the mountains.  Our house had to sell first before we could make the big move.
We had already spent a considerable amount of time upgrading our home of fifteen years to the way we wanted it. My mom and I literally spent hours painting every wall, every door frame, window frame and shoe molding.  The job was made a little easier by the fact that we were ultimately going to replace all the carpet so we did not have to put down any drop cloths.  If I was vertical, I was painting.  I went to sleep at night with my arm moving up and down in brush strokes.  I had nightmares of paint dripping off the ceiling.  I always kept one room in order as the clutter of paint cans, brushes and ladders throughout the house drove me nuts.  I love for my home to be orderly and neat so I was almost ready for a rubber room before we finished.  Something clean, white and sanitized was starting to sound very appealing.  I had even taken down and re-painted 31 cabinet doors in our kitchen and put on new hardware.  My husband stayed out of the way until it was time to install the flooring.  I don’t know that he really had any projects going at the time, but he found lots of reasons to hide out back in his shop.
Once the painting was finished everything looked fresh.  We discovered that we could install our own hardwood floors and this part fascinated my husband.  He took a “quickie” course on floor installation and we were off.  We took up the old flooring which terrified our dogs and made sure we had all the proper tools for the project.
Now just as a side note, we had a private joke about our house which was built by a man that begged, borrowed and bartered to custom build this home.  All of the closet shelves hung at an angle, towards you.  The clothes rod was galvanized pipe (he was a plumber).  There were holes big enough to hold sixteen penny nails over the stove top to hang pot holders on.  His wife probably nagged him to get her something up there to hold her pot holders in a handy place…..so he drilled three big holes over the cook stove, stuck three big nails in there and probably said, “there you go honey!”  I’m guessing she lived with it since they were there when we moved in.  Bless her heart.  The basic gist is….in our house it wasn’t just cheap….it was Bonker cheap.  (Not their real names to protect the guilty).
            While prepping the floors for hardwoods we worried that the house was not plumb.  We were certain that there would be some major cutting involved and lots of anguish and gnashing of teeth throughout the project.  Some good friends came to assist and much to our surprise the house was plumb and the project flowed from the living room to the kitchen and the laundry room without a hitch or a transition piece.  We were elated! 

Next we were to install the remaining flooring in our guest bath off of the kitchen.  We had a “soft” spot next to the shower so my husband decided to inspect the problem.  Much to our horror, the floor joist had been cut out to provide room for the toilet pipes!  We could have fallen through to the crawl space at anytime while taking care of business.  I personally would have died from embarrassment.  Headlines:  “Woman Lands Cheek Down from Falling Floor and Dies from Over Exposure.”
We were finishing the project around the holidays and had to shut down the bathroom until after Christmas.  My husband was frantic knowing this had the potential to put me over the top while decorating and hosting a family Christmas event.  He admired my resolve and maturity as I posted an “Out of Order” sign on the bathroom door.  I went to the other bathroom and threw up.  Oh well, so much for maturity.
We did manage to complete our project before Christmas and were very proud of our accomplishments.  Our improvements were going nicely and I had managed to maintain and element sanity throughout the process until the carpet delivery.  The carpet dimensions had been mislabeled and there was not enough to finish every room.  The installers decided to go get another piece and make the cut for the hallway.  That was fine until we discovered it was a different dye lot and didn’t match.  Our sales lady tried to convince me it was the shadows from the darker hallway.  Who was she kidding?  I know beige from slightly darker beige any day of the week.  She made a trip out to the house to inspect the carpet and she was immediately convinced I was right.  Could have been the dogs growling at her the whole time, but I doubt it, the color difference was obvious.  In a good faith move the store agreed to remove the hall carpet and allowed us to put the hardwood flooring down the hall and gave us all the transition pieces for five doorways.  It made all the difference in the world.  The dogs, however would not leave the carpeted rooms and it got rather tiresome to have to carry them across the hardwoods to potty.  We bought rugs to put down the hallway.  Figures.
After almost fifteen years our house looked more like us than the previous owners.  It was time to sell.