March 17, 2015

Pi Day

Last Saturday evening was beautiful, calm, and unusually warm at our farm in southwest Iowa. So, what do I think to do? Go horseback riding, of course!

March 14th of this year, "Pi Day" (3.1415...) was, as it turned out for me, appropriately sandwiched between Friday the Thirteenth and the Ides of March.

Near the end of our ride, the horses were getting uppity and wanted to be done with us. Jake, my horse, is usually just stubborn. This day, he was downright feral. Out of the blue, he kicked and bucked and spun around and dumped me on the ground -- the ground being our gravel road instead of a nice, soft patch of grass. I must have hit something on the way down, like the saddle horn, or Jake's hoof (as he tried to finish me off as he fled), or both, as I have bumps in three distinct places on my head.

I blacked out and lay on the ground.

Andre scooped me up, put me in a truck, and wanted to take me to the hospital. Once I came to, as he went to unsaddle and put away the naughty nags, I begged him not to take me in, recalling that we will be paying for a recent hospitalization for the next year and a half as it is.

Fortunately, we were in the country, where people are naturally, maybe necessarily, tougher. Our lovely neighbor rushed home from town and checked me over. She gave me a salve to put on my sore back muscles. She felt my back shoulder bones and ribs and said that nothing was broken and that, if there were cracked ribs, there's nothing that they would do for me in the hospital. They'll just heal eventually, on their own. She said that it's good that there are bumps on my head that we can feel. If we couldn't feel them, that might mean internal bleeding under my skull, which is, of course, quite a bit more serious. The swelling under one eye had already diminished and would keep getting better. Nothing to be done about that, either. She came back later that evening to check on me. She sent her daughter to look in on me in the morning. All the while, Andre was tending to me and feeding me and watching over me. I felt much better taken care of than if I had gone to a hospital.

The casualties include:

- a couple of ribs, some scrapes, bumps, and bruises
- the camera that was in my pocket
- my pride

On the plus side, we have:

- the love and care of a wonderful husband (and daughters, now that I am home)
- the attention and friendship of a loving neighbor
- the beginning of acceptance of getting older
- a use for the vicodin that went unused after a recent root canal

My love of horses has been a quiet, constant thread throughout the fabric of my life. One of my earliest memories is of horseback riding with my sister and Charmaine Decimas at her family's farm near Fresno, California, where our Grandma took us and let us roam while she visited with the adults. I thought that trail rides for my birthday in Seattle were the best a birthday could get. As a young adult, I bought a colt, "Alex", from the Mustang rescue and round-up program for $50 and cared for him at my uncle's farm in California. Throughout my adult life, I have sought out places to ride in Mexico, Spain, France, rural Maryland, and, most recently, rural Iowa. I have prided myself on my mastery of the noble beast and on having taught others how to achieve the same.

But time stops for no woman and this woman's body is just not able to handle the slings and arrows of being thrown off a mount. I will miss the feel of the wind in my hair and the rumble beneath me as I ride over hill and dale. But I will look forward to the next generation taking up the riding crop in my stead. It's a wonderful feeling. 

November 16, 2011

Back in the Game

Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hubby and I recently re-instituted "Date Night" and returned to our old haunt, the local Buffalo Wild Wings, to partake of their delicacies and kick butt in the trivia game held there every Tuesday evening. You see, Hubby and I complement each other quite well in our knowledge of different trivial things, so, we usually win the game. Over the course of many years of Tuesdays, we could count worthy opponents on one hand. On some nights, we played simply to better our own scores.
After a hiatus of a couple of years, we returned to the game, probably much to the chagrin of the two or three semi-good players who will inevitably be de-throned. We are actually doing a public service by forcing them to bone up if they want to have even a chance of beating us.

Last night, we won every one of the five rounds leading up to the final question. We had about 25,000 points and our nearest contender was 9,000 points behind us. On the final question, one can bet from 10% to 50% of one's accumulated score after one gets to see the category of the question and before the actual question comes up -- just like Final Jeopardy. We figured that we would win handily, even if we got the question wrong, if we bet only 10% of our points, our usual ploy.

Then the category for the final question came on the screen:

European Geography

Filled with something I would describe as hubris squared, since both of us were practically jumping out of our seats with glee, we immediately changed our wager to, of course, 50%!*

Then came the question:

Which of the following countries borders Slovakia?

A. Poland
B. Germany
C. Romania
D. Switzerland
E. Serbia

Piece of cake!!!



We lost half our points. One of our 'unworthy opponents' got it right and flew by us on the leader board. (Actually, only one person in the whole joint got the right answer. Probably a lucky guess.) I suppose it's only fair to let someone else win once in a while.

By the way, the answer was Poland. Go look it up. I did. I'm still a little in shock, but we'll be there next week. Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

*For those of you who may not know, I've got Western Europe pretty well wrapped up and Hubby covers Eastern Europe quite well, each of us having visited those countries over many years in the past, so, since this was in his bailiwick, the responsibility for our heinous loss is more attributable to him than to yours truly.

August 11, 2011

Call Me Anti-American

Last week, our family was graced with the presence of our college-aged daughter and her Moroccan beau. She, of course, is quite accomplished, hard-working, beautiful, and loving. But since I'm her Mom, I'm "supposed to say those things", as one of my daughters once told me.

So, instead, let me tell you about her Honey.

His name is Nadir (pronounced na-DEER, not NAY-der, as the airline agent, who didn't even give it a college try, pronounced it). He is fluent in English, French and Arabic. He completed the International Baccalaureate degree in high school and is studying Film and International Security and Conflict Resolution here in the States. His goal is to work for an NGO and travel around the world exposing political injustice through documentaries. He has already done a few in his homeland.

So, he, too, is quite accomplished, talented, hard-working, beautiful and loving. And I'm not his Mom, so the compliment counts for more!

And yet, because he travels on a foreign passport and has an unusual (although lovely) name, he has to plan to spend at least a day of layover when re-entering the U.S. after going home to visit his family in Morocco because the customs people always take him to a small room and interrogate him. This surprises me only because after talking to him for just a few minutes, you can get an idea of what he's all about.

When we took him and my daughter to the airport to go back to school, I got to witness the discrimination first hand.

At every turn, she sailed though while he was detained, asked extra questions, and treated like a potential terrorist. I was amazed at the dignity with which Nadir bore it all. I guess that since he's used to it (a sad state, to be sure), he's decided to take the higher road. It was noted.

So I challenge those of you who are into "security" and "safety" to think about the ramifications of that and to try and remember what this country was founded on.

The very definition of an American is someone from somewhere else which encompasses all of us. (Except, of course the Native Americans, but don't get me started on that topic!)

In this nice family photo, you have either:

a Muslim terrorist, a Basque bomber, and Mata Hari


a future Ken Burns, a retired Grandpa, and a future ambassador to Spain.

You be the judge.

July 25, 2011

She's Ba-a-a-a-ck! (But just for a minute.)

July is a crazily busy time on the farm, but we seem to be keeping on top of things. There are cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, shallots, potatoes, and herbs to harvest. There are the remnants of the spring garden to clear and till in preparation for the fall garden. And, as always, there are weeds to contend with.

In addition, Hubby (God bless him) decided that we should re-stain the cabins right now.

No problem. Just call Superwoman! Oh, she's busy? Ok. I guess I'll do it.

The first veggie harvest was in last week. Here we have cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, and three kinds of beets.

Yes, because of the new garden fence (thanks, again, Honey!), we have more than three beets this year!

It's hard to tell in this photo, but the cooler is full to overflowing with beets and I only harvested about half of them! I've already put up seven jars of pickled beets, had a meal or two with fresh beets and am in the process of putting up some boiled beets so that Hubby can have borscht any time he likes in the coming months.

I'm sorry for those of you who may have wanted to purchase some of our lovely beets, but, after five years of waiting, we're keeping them all to ourselves.

However, if you need cucumbers, call me!

June 10, 2011

I Spoke Too Soon

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome. Isaac Asimov

Yes, things are back to normal on the farm. I guess last week's positive perception of things was just a dream after all.

Upon arriving last weekend, we found all our lovely chickens, raised from babies, once again massacred, this time by a weasel who entered through a hole about three inches in diameter. That night, we set the trap near the cinder blocks in front of the coop. In the morning, the bait (one of the dead chickens) was gone, the trap was about 15 feet away (on the left in the green bushes in the following picture) and it had been turned on its side so that an opening was created for the dastardly critter to escape.

So, the chickens are gone.

In addition, yours truly managed to disable two mowers.

The neighbor's well-beloved German shepherd, Raza, went to her eternal rest after 20-plus years of a good life raising all the children in the area.

It was 100 degrees the day I needed to harvest perishable items for sale in the CSA in town. (They didn't look too good, needless to say.)

The Missouri river is experiencing historic flooding, closing our route to the farm (but not affecting our land -- silver lining there).

And when we got back home, Maya's new bike had been stolen.

Given all this, I'm beginning to understand why all our farmer friends are always so cheerful. You simply have to laugh to keep from crying.

May 31, 2011

Pinching Myself

I'm going to dare and write a sentence that is not usually found among these pages:

Things are going quite well on the farm.

Thanks to the addition of the new fence around the garden, it looks like I might get more than three beets this year.

Here we have about six rows of radishes and four rows of lettuce (also unheard of before the new fence -- the deer have good taste).

Next we have the second round of tomatoes in addition to some peppers, on the left, all weeded and mulched and supplied with drip hoses. On the right, that large, leafy plant in the foreground is one of our signature volunteer sunflowers. Behind it are two rows of beets straddling a wide row of arugula (or "rocket" for those of you across the pond).

For dinner, we had some of said lettuce, radishes, and some of the lovely herbs that are also thriving.

In addition to the garden successes, in this same week, we sold our hay from last year. (We're one step closer to breaking even on that score!)

The rain, which has been a little too much for most people around here, has made it easier for us to weed and keeps things growing in our little microcosm.

The garlic and onions and aronia berries are all doing well.

After a couple of years of strategic abandonment, the clematis are a profusion of color.

Even the long, lost kitty, Tsarmina, returned to the fold! (While she was away, her six kittens went to that great cat box in the sky, but we'll save the negative stuff for one of the many other blog entries about the farm.)

May 16, 2011

A Wedding and Four Funerals

The Wedding

Last weekend, my cousin got married in California. It was a most lavish affair. A goodly number of us cousins flew out to witness the fine nuptials.

But not all was sweetness and light.

Funeral Number One

Given the timing of the wedding, I was pressured to plant about 100 tomato plants before leaving for California on May 6th. Given that our last frost date is usually around April 24th, and last year's was actually March 30th, I figured I was safe.

Ha! (You're never safe when farming.)

There was a freak frost the first night that damaged my beautiful seedlings. It was followed a couple of days later by 97-degree heat which did them in completely. Two plants remain. No worries. I have another hundred or so that will take their places in the garden. I would have had too many tomatoes if the first batch had made it. Yeah, right. How can you have too many tomatoes?

Funeral Number Two

Time. Money. Sleep. Yes, it was one of those vacations from which one needs a vacation. I swear I won't do this ever again. The next vacation will be relaxing and fun and restful.

Funeral Number Three

My Mom looks up at her little brother in this photo taken three years ago. Since then, however, my Uncle Frank has been fading, both physically and mentally. The brother she has known for over 70 years is gone.

Funeral Number Four

The innocence of youth can be buried after this visit.

About 15 of us cousins grew up spending the summers together. But that was 40 years ago. We have all gone our separate ways and grown apart. After three days with one aunt and uncle, we realized that the ties that bound us together all those years ago do not exist anymore. It was made clear that we were not welcome. I will not see them again.

I am reminded of the old joke about the man who opens the door to his hotel room only to find the place covered in thousands of bottles of Angostura.

When he goes back to the front desk to complain about the state of his room, the concierge replies, "I'm sorry, Sir, but you have to take the bitters with the suite."

Such is life.