Friday, February 27, 2015

Five Bummers Living on a Gravel Road

Yes, there are things I do not love about living on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere.

  1. Wal Mart.  Wal Mart is 25 miles away.  25 miles!  And it is a tiny Super Wal Mart.  If I want a mega sized Wal Mart I must drive for an entire hour there and back.  Two hours of my life wasted in the truck.  I need a list with no dumb blond moments. Forgetting something becomes a federal crime punishable by not having something important like bird seed.  No bird seed leads to angry birds who retaliate by decorating the house windows.
  2. Seasons.  Winter gives presents of chapped lips and cracked, bleeding fingers. Spring brings mucky, slippery mud.  It cakes everything from boots, hems on blue jeans, to my rump as I fly down.  Summer arrives with bugs of all shapes and sizes. Some you can see others are called "No See Ums" for a reason.  Harvest arrives in the fall.  This means numerous tractors and big rigs roaring up and down the gravel road.  Dust rolls across the yard and sneaks into every crack this 115 year old house owns.
  3. Livestock.  They stink.  Plain and simple.
  4. Community.  Small towns have eyes and ears posted on every electrical pole and spots in between.  Every one in town knows Doug tried in vain to send his 27 year old daughter to her room.  I must not extend my ladder to it's full twelve feet extension while Doug is away. People I've never seen before yell at me as they cruise by, "Hey!  You're too high.  You're going to take a tumble."
  5. Snow.  It's wet.  It's cold.  It's heavy to shovel.  Snow makes tires spin and cars do loop-d-loops.  It blows, giving the illusion of living in a snow globe.  A person could be trapped in their homes for weeks on end with only a cat for company.
These are my top five detrimental things about living on a gravel road.  Is there more I should add?

Friday, February 20, 2015

My Knight in Shining Green

I have been drumming my fingers against the frosty windows anxiously awaiting a snow fall amounting to more than "jam the truck in 4-wheel drive and drive over that white stuff." It finally happened.

Thursday evening the more experienced weather forecaster expected 1-3 inches of snow on Saturday. It would be pretty outside, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Friday morning the young intense forecaster predicted 5-8 inches of snow for the weekend.

I jumped off the couch whooping and hollering sending cats scurrying in all directions.  The kitchen was scanned for necessities-bread, milk, popcorn, and hot chocolate.  Books were dusted off.  The time had come to be snowed in!

The snow fell silently all day Saturday.  Sunday morning I was awakened by the shrill of the telephone.  (Yes Paul, you did wake me.)  No church today.  I was officially snowed bound.

The ground glistened like God had sprinkled millions of diamonds.  Wind blown snow swirled like icing on a frozen cake.  Inside was warm and toasty.  I had furry cats to warm my feet and vanilla flavored chocolate to warm my insides.

Monday morning reality hit.  I was snowed in.  Really snowed in.  The wind had howled all night. It's icy breath picked up snow and thrust it into drifts knee deep to hip high.  I would want to leave my house sometime before the Forth of July.

I put on my winter gear and forged through the drifts to the shed where my snow plow lay waiting for me.  I had the forethought to tote along the snow shovel.  The snow had to be shoveled away to slide the shed door open.  My frozen fingers turned the plow's ignition key.  The frigid snow plow coughed, sneezed, and shuddered but wouldn't come to life.

Great.  I trudged back down the hill to nab the 114 pound battery charger.  It had to have weighed at least that much.  Probably more.

Gasping and panting, I made it back up the hill and jumped the snow plow to life. I roared out of the shed lowering the steely blade.  Snow slowly parted for ten yards.  It was then the snow decided to become a brick wall.  Knee deep drifts has frozen in the overnight sub-zero temps.

There was no choice but to back the plow back in the shed.  I prayed the snow would melt before Memorial Day.

A couple hours later I was inside praying now that the snow would melt before Easter.  A green streak appeared in my peripheral vision.  I trotted to the window to find my Knight in shinning Green clearing the driveway.

I grabbed my parka and shoved my feet into snow boots.  By the time I was outside the green angel had cleared my way to freedom.

Justin, a neighbor climbed down from his lofty perch.  (He's not really a neighbor, but his grain bins are and his corn and sometimes his cattle.)  "Hey, I was just driving down the road and saw you might need a hand."

That was an understatement.  I was now free to go somewhere before Easter.  Justin you saved me from having to eat canned tuna for the next three months.

I have decided to ask Doug for a tractor for my birthday.  I can then scoop myself out and cruise the roads in green style.  So, if you spy my husband in passing, please mention that his wife really needs a tractor.  You might also add it needs to be an automatic tractor!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Burnin' Christmas Eve

I asked for a new range for Christmas.  Presents were piling up under the Christmas tree.  None of them looked or felt (not that I shake presents) the right size for a kitchen range.  It's not that I wanted one exactly, I needed one.  

Yes, this current one matched the other appliances and had the flat cook top that I prefer.   Those were the only two characteristics that endeared this maker of meals to me.  The oven is as loony as an addict on crack.  It takes twelve and a half minutes to preheat.  The center of the oven might read 350 degrees while the sides would be dancing at different tunes.  275 on one side 425 on the other.  Food has to be rotated every quarter of the cooking time.

And the broiler doesn't work at all.  My brother-in-law visited and wanted to make nachos.  The broiler wouldn't heat to pop a single kernel of popcorn much less melt cheese on nachos.  My brother-in-law was not happy.  Shouldn't we keep extended relatives contented cooks in our homes?

Christmas Eve arrived and still no large heavy box taking up most of the space under the Christmas tree.  But the children were home and life was good.  Robby awoke and requested chocolate chip muffins for breakfast.  It is a pleasure to cook for your children when you don't do it on a regular basis.

I mixed up batter and turned on the turtle oven to preheat.  Robby called out, "Hey Mom!  I'm going to town with Dad.  I'll eat the muffins when we get back."  No problem.  The oven might be at an acceptable temperature by the time you return.

Nicole awoke and staggered into the kitchen.  "What smells?"

What did smell?  It wasn't an offending smell, like the cats had eaten too many mice.  It was a plasticie smell.

I opened the oven door and discovered what it was.  Flames were doing a tango in my oven!

This year I was extremely organized.  The bread for the stuffing had been dried, cut and stored in plastic bowls.  However with so many sweets on the counter there was a lack of storage.  So I stuck them in the oven.  After all I always peek in the oven before I turn it on.

Flames danced around the inside of the oven.  Plastic dripped from the racks.  Bread crumbs lay charred at the bottom.  The fire alarm in the oven began a piercing chirping.

Luckily Doug had not left for town yet.  "Fire!  Get Daddy!"  I hollered to Nicole.  He's the fireman. He can have this out in a snap.

Doug doesn't move too fast.  I'm sure he didn't really believe there was a fire.  But, I knew how to get those flames out.  I am known for my hot air and ability to blow out numerous birthday candles with one breath.  Taking a deep breath I began to blow on the flames.

"Mom!  What are you doing?  Don't you know oxygen makes fire bigger?" Nicole screamed.

When did the kids get so smart?   I didn't know I was blowing oxygen.  Just hot air.

Finally Doug arrives on the scene.  He scampered out to the garage for a fire extinguisher.  Pushing us all aside he prepares to PASS.  Pull.  Aim.  Squeeze.  Sweep.  Nothing came out.  Not even a trickle.  Nada.

Nicole squatted down to assess the mess and think.  She is of the generation that can not go for 1.2 seconds without a phone in their hand.  My wonderful, stressed husband assumed she is talking on the phone.  Did he think she was punching 911?  Doug snapped at Nicole, "Go to your room!"

Nicole is 27.  She doesn't live with us.  Who tells a 27 year old to go to their room?  A room they don't have.

About this time the fire really gains speed.  The entire oven is now engulfed in bright orange, intense flames.  Someone says to Doug, "Maybe we should call the fire department."

I have been married to Doug for twenty six years, four months, and 18 days.  He was thinking:  "Not going to happen.  I am not calling my friends on the fire department.  I will get this inferno out and no one will be the wiser."  Then he slammed the oven door.

Cracking open the oven door, the flames were indeed extinguished.  Black smoke poured out filling the kitchen and surrounding rooms with smoke and dead plastic smell.  Windows were thrown open. Lucky for us it was 30 degrees outside, not -30.

Doug looks at me. "I didn't buy you a new oven for Christmas."

I had found a way to get one anyway!

Then Robby pipes up.  "I can clean this up and you will be back in business."

He rummaged through my cleaning supplies.  He scrubbed and rubbed and didn't even cuss.  The darn thing looked good as new.  I didn't have the heart to tell him I really wanted a new one.

We found extra oven racks in the porch closet and indeed I was back in business.  All that excitement and not one new oven on Christmas morning.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tamales Anyone?

There are many things you can count on in the fall in Iowa.  Sweater weather, a welcome relief from the sultry days of summer.  Apples fresh off the tree-sweet and juicy.  The kaleidoscope of colors painting the soon to be baron trees.  And corn husks.

Yes, harvest leads to loose corn husks.  The wicked Iowa wind whips these nuisance things through yards, under bushes and into crevasses that you didn't know existed.  These dried up blankets for corn do not bother me much.  They do however, make my stomach rumble.  I think they should be captured and rolled up for tamales.  Yummy!

While I can over look the blowing debris in our yard, Doug is a perfectionist and it drives him mad!

The wind had been howling and corn husks were on the loose.  Doug would be home in a few days.  I was fretting how I would dispose of them before his arrival.  I tried mowing them.  Which lead to neat rows of husks through out the yard.  I thought about raking them.  But really I am not that insane.  Then Mother Nature helped me out.  She snowed.  Fluffy, glistening, corn husk hiding snow.

Doug arrived home to a beautiful yard of white.  I just knew snowing so early in the season would mean lots more snow and cold.  This was Iowa.  I was up for a cold snow bound winter.

Mother Nature does have a sense of humor.  She warmed up.  Not just a little, but snow disappearing over night warm.

"What is all over the yard?" Doug wondered peering out the kitchen window.

 "Ahh, well...," I stammered trying to jog my brain into an acceptable answer.  "They harvested and the wind has been blowing and don't worry, they will all blow back in the field where they came from."

He just looked at me.  I knew that look.  We were about to go outside and dispose of the corn husks. Some how.

First he tried mowing them.  Even though I mentioned many times, "Tried that.  Doesn't work." Abandoning his mower, his brain began to churn again.

Doug high tailed it out to his shed.  He trotted back with one of his favorite toys.  His candy red blower.  The plan was he would blow the husks into long piles.  I would pick them up, dump them into the back of the Polaris, and off load them into the pit we had burned the day before.

Seemed to me I was doing all the manual labor.

Off we went on our corn husk disposing mission.  I noticed after a couple trips to the burn pit, it was still smoldering.  A few more trips and flames were shooting up.  Me, being the nervous nellie around fire, I insisted Doug babysit it.

I actually had an ulterior motive.  I didn't want anyone to see him blowing corn husks into line dancing rows.  I really didn't want anyone to see me out there helping with his outrageous plan.  So with Doug at the far end of the property, I could still pick up the offending husks and listen for vehicles.  When my ears picked up the sound of an approaching car, I jumped in the Polaris and hid behind the potting shed.  No one would be the wiser that I was helping in this futile plot.

This went on for what seemed like hours.  Darkness came and I was released to the seclusion of the house.  Needless to say, the corn husks continued to swirl around the yard oblivious to our efforts.  I think next year I am going to trail the combine and collect corn husks then and there.  The only thing Doug will have to complain about is the collection of husks in the garage.  I will dry them out and make good use of them.  Tamales anyone?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Where's the Head?

I have just been to my first rural Iowa wedding.  It was nothing like you're thinking.  There was no granny sitting in the corner with her shotgun.  The buffet was not all corn pudding, corn bread, and corn souffle.  Like any other wedding there was the happy bride and groom and attendants.  The guest gussied up in Sunday best and sparkles.  There was food and dancing.  But that seems to be where the similarities end.

 My third cousin was getting married.  I was privileged enough to be invited to the wedding.  The family had fingers crossed for months for no snow and no ice.  I think they must have forgotten to ask for an above freezing temperature.  Outside was a deep freeze but beautifully sunny.

It was a lovely ceremony with the bridesmaids in stunning black and pink.  The bride had a sparkly gown ending with a cascading train of white.  A long veil covered her face.  It is a well kept secret that brides wear veils not to cover their tears, but the cover the mascara tracks down their cheeks.

The ecstatic couple floated down the aisle after the "I dos."  I sprang to my feet only to be yanked down by my cousin.  "We can't leave yet.  The couple hasn't greeted us."

Greeted us?  I thought we congratulated them at the door.

Sure enough.  The bride had ditched her bouquet and the new Mr. and Mrs. were headed back down the carpeted aisle.  Pew by pew we filed out, hugging the new couple while they thanked us for coming.

Outside a gleaming stretch limo awaited the happy couple.  The guests stood shivering on the sidewalk armed with bubbles until everyone was properly thanked for coming.  Once the couple emerged a rainbow of bubbles assaulted them as they nonchalantly made their way to the getaway limo.

 The couple ducked in the limo not by themselves, but with the entire wedding party.  Minus the children.  This was foreign to me.  It occurred to me it was three o'clock in the afternoon and the reception was in a neighboring town at five o'clock.  What did we do for two hours?  What did the wedding party do for two hours?

My cousins patiently explained to me that the limo may take the party to various small bars (dives) on the way to the reception.  Well, what do we do?  If you knew my cousins you could have anticipated the next answer-go shopping!  I was whisked off on an impromptu shopping trip with a cousin and my 96 year old uncle.  He ain't stupid.  He came along for the nap!

The reception was full of food.  Meats and potatoes and salads.  There was pink punch to match the bridesmaids dresses.  I did not spy a wedding cake.  But five tiers of cupcakes left my mouth watering.  Each tier was a different flavor, white, chocolate, spice, and two others I didn't sample.

We anticipated the 96 year old uncle may want to leave before the carriage turned into a pumpkin. When asked he exclaimed, "No!  This is too exciting!"

And it was.

There was a photo booth hidden in the corner for amusing pictures.  There was a DJ who played a variety of music.  Guests of all ages lined danced, boogied, and did the YMCA. There were kids darting across the dance floor.  Everyone laughed and ate cupcakes.

I was startled when my female cousins jumped up searching wildly for their purses.  Once located they pulled out their wallets fat with one dollar bills.  They waved the bills like a flag on the Forth of July.  Didn't the bride have a bachelorette party?  Were they really going to...

Why, of course.  They were really going to pay to dance with the bride or groom.  What was I thinking?

The DJ announced it was time to throw the garter.  I love this part of the reception.  The groom shyly slides his hand up his new bride's leg and slowly slips off the garter.  Then I realized what the DJ really said-"It's time for the groom to remove the garter using no hands."

Sure enough the bride was seated front and center.  The groom knelt down and his head disappeared under the waves of white.  His hands were over his back in full view.  I began to wonder what was taking so long, when he emerged triumphantly with the garter secure in his teeth.

When the bride's turn came to throw the bouquet I was ready for anything.  But it was the usual-round up the single females and toss over the head.  The bouquet bounced off many hands before crashing to the floor.  It was snatched up by the bride's sister.  Her boyfriend happened to be sitting at our table.  All eyes swung to him.  He just leaned back and smiled.  Now we really like this boy, so there is pressure to keep him around.  Grandma may own a shotgun.

I arrived home from eight hours of celebrating totally exhausted.  I don't think I have been to a more interesting, fun wedding.  So, when my children get married, may I suggest a rural Iowa wedding?

*While sister, Makayla, may have caught the bouquet, she will not be the next to get married in my family.  Congratulations to my niece, Cayse!  She was proposed to on the top of a snow capped mountain.  Jay welcome to our wonderful, wacky family!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stop the Madness!

There is something fishy going down on my road.  I don't like it.  Help is needed from all of you.

I love cats.  No news there.  Cats of all sorts show up at our house.  Gray cats, black cats, big cats, baby cats.  They all have one thing in common.  Hunger.  I feed them.  Love them.  Give them shelter in our hen house.  (Maybe it's a cat house.  No red lights!)

These are not feral cats.  They do not arch their backs and hiss at me.  They crave human petting and loving.  These are cats that have come from homes.  I have racked my brain wondering where all these sweet cats have come from.  One day it hit me like a cat pouncing on an unsuspecting bug.  I knew how these cats got to my house.

The coyotes.

Yes, we have coyotes hanging around.  They love to dine on fat cats.  I know they have installed a sign at the end of my road with a large red arrow and a caption that reads:  "Drop Cats Off This Way!"

These wise coyotes know the unsuspecting cats will be fattened up at my house.  They are given shelter where they can come and go as they please.  The devious coyotes keep watch through the dense pine trees until the cat has enough meat on it's bones and Bam!  Dinner is served.

This needs to stop!  That is where you come in.

When you pass by my road and spy the coyotes lurking around the sign don't keep on driving muttering, "It's a shame."


Hang your head out the window.  Yell at the coyotes,  "Kittens are poison.  You are going to die!" Show them your lead poisoning rifle.  Don't actually shoot them, we are all God's creatures, just scare the cat out of them.

Stop the car.  Get out.  Make yourself tall, like a wild grizzly bear.  Growl.  Chase the coyotes.  Bring spray paint.  Tag the sign-"Cats Rule.  Coyotes Drool."

Together we can stop the madness.  Cats will stop showing up at my driveway.  Coyotes will go eat at another county.

I have found and kept numerous cats in the two and half years we have lived here.  Three have come inside.  Many have stayed outside and become chow.  I now have a new hungry friend.  He is black with white tips on his paws and a white wide face.  He allows me to hold him and love on him while he looks at me with his twinkly yellow eyes.  His pink nose and snow white whiskers twitch at me.  If anyone has misplaced this lovey fur ball, come and take him home!  If you would like a wonderful cat for, say Thanksgiving, come on out-he's yours!

This could be a battle.  Our cry will be "Remember the Hen House!"  We will win.  The sign will go down!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wonderful Autumn

Autumn is a magical time in Iowa.  Leaves pop with color.  Farm implements appear in the fields reaping the year's toil .  Blistering summer days are replaced with cool sweater weather. Cooler weather also mean some unwanted visitors begin to appear.

One brisk autumn day the truck cried for a road trip.  I rushed through my chores-fed and watered the cats-and backed out of the garage.  I slammed on the brakes at the end of my driveway.  My own yard was awash with shades of yellows, oranges, reds, and greens.  The mums surrounding the house were opening their green buds into oranges flames of color.  I needed to get out of the house more.

Thirty minutes later I found myself at the county park, Prairie Rose.  I strolled around the lake admiring all the foliage glistening onto the water like a mirror.  I have lived in the big city most of my life and am extra cautious when hiking alone.  So when the bushes began to rustle and shake, I wondered what I could hit someone with besides my powerful fists.  A doe bounded out of the brush twenty yards ahead of me.  Tall and graceful she swished her stubby white tail at me.  We stood there for a full five minutes assessing each other's beauty until another doe peered around the bush.  I am certain I heard her tell my new deer friend, "Idiot!  Run!"  They leaped back into the dense trees to find safer places to romp.

Later that afternoon I arrived home looking forward to a quiet relaxing cup of tea.  My first sip of tea scalded my fingers not my tongue.  There was a horrible ruckus outside.  An ear deafening humming, followed by clanging, and roars.  The noise was headed down the road towards my house.  The Trojan army must be attacking!

I sprinted to the window.  My eyes did not find a wooden horse, but a large green combine.  It maneuvered into the field on the north side of our house.  The parade didn't stop with that bumpy implement.  No.  It had loyal followers.  A massive green grain cart being pulled along by an equally bouncy huge green tractor.  Two empty semi trucks braked to a halt waiting to be loaded with yellow gold.

The hungry combine set to work eating corn and making dust.  It ate, then spit the corn into the grain cart.  The grain cart lumbered over to an idling semi and spewed corn into the trailer.  The semi tore down the hill with dust swirling in its wake.  The yellow gold was deposited into the shiny grain bin.  Then the entire process was repeated hundreds of times.

Now that the corn was gone, I again have a view of the area.  What a beautiful view it is!  But, being a realist, I know that the vegetarian combine has scared critters out of hiding.

That night I was sleeping peacefully with a cat by my back, a cat by my feet, a cat between my legs and a cat by my neck.  I was cozy and warm and happy.  Until the scratching started in the wall.  Scratch, scratch, scratch.  Up and down the wall all night! Darn that combine.  He had scared the mice out of their habitat.

Blurry eyed the next morning, I tramped down the basement stairs in search of my treadmill.  That's when I spotted it.  A mouse!  It looked like a scene from "I Love Lucy."  I hopped on the treadmill and opened my mouth to scream.

Wait!  Who will hear me?  The cats.  Last time we had a mouse in the house the cats were terrified.  They would be no help.

I spied an empty orange juice container within reaching distance.  (Please don't ask why there was an empty orange juice container in my basement.)  I gingerly stepped off the treadmill, snatched up the jug and hurled it at the offending mouse.

No movement.  Was it dead or playing opossum?  Hiking up my big girl panties, I tiptoed toward the mouse.  Still no movement.  Yup, it was dead.

Poor mouse!  It really was kind-a cute.

Yes, autumn is a wonderful time in Iowa.  I give thanks for all the colors and cool weather.  And I give thanks to my wonderful husband for planting mouse poison in the attic.