Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Let's Try Again...

I posted this the other day but I was still fighting with Blogger ...and losing miserably ...to allow comments on my posts.  I think the problem is resolved (thanks to MDR and Sista!) so I'm reposting this as a test run.  If there is an option to leave a comment after I publish it ...I will be a happy camper.  If not, I'm going to be thoroughly disgusted (again) with Blogger.  Cross your fingers!

Repost of
'Three Grapes ... ?'

I witnessed something amazing this morning.  I stopped at the grocery store on my way to work and felt fortunate to be only second in line at the only register open that early in the morning.  The lady in front of me had only four items, including a very small bunch of grapes.  She asked to pay for the grapes separately.  Not unusual.  Maybe she was picking them up for a friend and needed a receipt.  The cashier rang up her other purchases ...less than $10 total.  She swiped her card and got cash back on that purchase.  I'm not sure how much cash she got back ...it was three bills and one of them was a $10 bill.  The cashier reached for the bag of grapes and laid them on the scale.  She said, 'No, I need you to ring them up SEPARATELY ...one grape at a time.'  I'm sure my eyebrows went up, it seemed an odd request.  The cashier was undaunted though and pulled the grapes out of the bag.  There were three of them and they were all loose, as if she had plucked them separately from a bunch before putting them in the bag. 

He put one grape on the scale.  The screen read 2 cents for the purchase.  The lady swiped her card, then got cash back ...another three bills, one of which was a $10 bill.   Okay, now I was intrigued.  The cashier placed the second grape on the scale ..again, the total was 2 cents and the lady got three bills in cash back on that purchase.  She looked at me apologetically and said, 'Sorry ...just one more.  This is the only way I can get all my cash off the card.'  I smiled and said, 'No problem ...but how did you figure this out?'  She said her mother worked at a grocery store and told her how to do it.  Awkward silence and she went on about the business of swiping her card for the last grape.  Dumbfounded, I was thinking to myself how ingenious people can be when they are trying to find loop holes.

My train of thought was interrupted at that point when I heard her tell the cashier, 'You can just throw those grapes away.'  She had paid for and pocketed her 'cash back' on the last of the three grapes and they had served their purpose.  They weren't food to her.  They were a means to an end.  Each grape merely represented a 2 cent surcharge that allowed her to extract 'her' cash from the food stamp card she was using to pay for them.  Is anyone else shaking their head?

Food stamps in Texas are distributed in the form of a debit card and only work for certain purchases.  If you buy something that is not an approved item, you have to pay cash for it.  Why in the world should 'cash back' be an option on a food stamp card?  How is that appropriate?

I could not see the denomination of all the bills the lady got back today.  But I could see that one of them was a $10 bill each time.  She got three bills back in cash on four separate purchases.  Assuming the other two bills each time were only $5 bills, she just 'cashed' $80 worth of food stamps.  What if each of the bills I couldn't see were $10 bills ...or $20 bills?  The lady in the line in front of me this morning purchased less than $10 of actual food, and left the store with somewhere between $80 and $200 in 'cash back' on her $10 purchase.  Adding insult to injury, she told the cashier to throw the grapes away!

Again, I ask, is anyone else shaking their head?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Now I Need to Decide

Yeoldfurt converted from Blogger to Wordpress a while back and after much soul searching has deleted both blogs. I don't think he'll be back. 

Maintaining a blog does take a lot of time, especially if you try to post with any regularity.  The benefits used to be there ...a sense of community, a sharing of ideas and information.   I'm grateful that we had the privilege of meeting some of you face to face and grateful for the friendships we've made, even with some that we only know in this cyberworld format.  But could the hours I spend at this keyboard every week be put to better use in the garden, with the animals or perhaps even researching new skills?  Probably.  No, not probably ...absolutely.  When money is short, you get frugal and watch every penny before you spend it.  Well, time gets spent too, folks.  And time that is wasted or misspent in less productive endeavors will be far more costly in the long run than money wasted or misspent. 

Though my readership is more now than I ever thought it would be, I am seriously leaning toward following Yeoldfurt's lead and shutting this blog down.  If I do, please know that I appreciate everyone who clicked 'Follow' and has stuck with me through the many dry spells of sparse posting.   

Monday, March 5, 2012

Exceptionally Good Weekend!

My weekend got off to a great start since I was off work on Friday for Texas Independence Day.  It was an optional holiday at work.  If I had gone in to work, I would have earned comp time, but I had the option of not going in and that sounded like the better deal to me! 

Modern Day Redneck and his family were coming to visit on Saturday so I had plenty to keep me busy  getting ready.  Yeoldfurt and I had the pleasure of meeting MDR and Mrs MDR a few months ago when they dropped their oldest daughter, BEB, off for her freshman year at Texas A&M.  We were looking forward to seeing MDR and the Mrs again, but this would be the first time we would get to meet the girls so we were really looking forward to it. 

If you are familiar with Modern Day Redneck's blog and have been reading his posts for any length of time, you will know that he is very proud of his three girls.  After meeting the girls this weekend, I can tell you that he is not just blinded by fatherly love ...those are some truly awesome young ladies! 

When I found out a few weeks ago that they would be coming to our place, I decided to make lasagna for dinner while they were here.  I made a grocery run that Tuesday before and accidentally grabbed two big packages of MONTERREY JACK instead of MOZZARELLA cheese.  They're both WHITE cheese and I was in a hurry, what can I say?  I discovered my mistake when I got home and resolved to pick up the CORRECT cheese on Thursday ...which I did.  Unfortunately though, I did not have the foresight to put the MONTERREY JACK in the freezer and far, far away from the MOZZARELLA cheese in my fridge.  Nope.  That would have made too much sense.  Instead, I put them next to each other in the fridge and again ...they are both WHITE CHEESE and I was in a hurry Friday morning so I grabbed the wrong one! 

I did not discover my mistake until the lasagna was made and I was cleaning up the kitchen.  I grabbed the bag of cheese and there in big block letters were the words MONTERREY JACK CHEESE.  When I realized I now had a FIVE-POUND pan of lasagna made with the wrong cheese, a couple of rather non-churchy words escaped my lips.  Okay, it was really only one rather non-churchy word repeated several times in rapid succession.  

I confessed my mistake to MDR in email and left it up to him whether to forewarn the rest of the family that the lasagna would have a bit of a southwest twist.  I told him I hoped it would still be good ...I thought it would still be good and that I experiment on Yeoldfurt with recipes all the time.  But I was a little freaked to be subjecting HIM and his FAMILY to such an experiment, especially considering it was not a PLANNED experiment.    He graciously laughed off my concern with "I don't know if there is such a thing as wrong cheese.  No worries." What a nice family those Rednecks are! 

All's well that ends well though.  We had a great time catching up with MDR and the Mrs, and really enjoyed finally getting to meet their three girls.  Yeoldfurt also managed to get the tractor running again so he no longer has to roll round bales by hand.  Yup, it was an exceptionally good weekend!  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Well, They're Gone

Two of the horses we thought would be with us all their lives left in a two horse trailer this afternoon, heading back to Alvin with their new owner.  This will be a new chapter in their lives and, hopefully, it will be the beginning of happy times and new adventures for them.  The man who bought them has a lot of kids, including two teenage boys.  Yeoldfurt and I hope each of the boys will strike up a bond with one of these two horses.  If that happens, the lives of those boys and these horses will be mutually enriched. 

The trailer they left in was a fancy rig but has seen better days.  The floor was good and solid though and the latches are secure.  We don't haul that often and ours is an open aluminum stock trailer.  This is a two horse straight load and I wasn't sure if the horses would be balky.  But they loaded right up when asked, they made me proud.  Maybe it was the fresh hay I put in the mangers for them, but I like to think it was their quality upbringing. 

We sent them off with a 50-pound bag of feed so that if the new owner has a different type of feed, he can introduce it gradually.  We gave him their bridles and bits too.  They are good leather headstalls, double-stitched and well-oiled, and they are already adjusted to fit these horses.  We have a surplus of tack anyway and want the transition for Lucy and Lyric to be as smooth as possible.  Hopefully, a few little familiar things from home will facilitate that. 

The two horses that remain will have 8-1/2 acres to themselves.  We expect them to be anxious and calling for their missing herdmates for a few days.  It's always unsettling to a horse when members of the herd come or go.  But by next weekend, they will have settled into the notion that they are the herd now ...just the two of them.  The good rains we've had these past six or eight weeks have caused the grass that was so stressed by last summer's heat and lack of moisture to try and come back.  With only two horses on it now instead of four, it will recover more quickly.  If the rain patterns continue through the spring and we have at least minimal rain this summer, maybe hay prices will come back down too.  With only two horses on the feed/vet/hay/farrier bill now, maybe our finances might have a chance to recover too.  One can hope.

I took one last picture as they pulled out of the driveway.  I wish them and their new owners all the best.  Sometimes we have to let go of things we love in order to do right by them.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Paying it Forward

Nothing like an unexpected accolade from a friend to brighten up your day.  Modern Day Redneck nominated me for the Liebster award.  The icing on the cake was that he referred to me as his 'teacher' when it seems to me I've learned a lot more from him than the other way around!  But it sure was a bright spot in my day and now I get to pay it forward.  

Here are the rules:
1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award.

3. Pick your favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.

4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.
It's hard to choose just five from the many that I read every day.  But here are my five: 
Lamb of Frippery Farm who I first met through the chatroom.  A world class lady who carves a homestead out of the west Texas desert ...quite a feat in itself.  But she also bravely wrangles teenagers and an ever growing menagerie as her Darlin' Man seems to bring home a new critter every time she lets him out of her sight.  
Humblewife of Double Nickel Farm who is the epitome of all things wholesome and good.  She loves the Lord and embraces all her roles ...wife, mother, homemaker, homesteader ...with grace and humility and enthusiasm.  
KX59 and Southern Belle of Bells A Ringing are a husband and wife team, emphasis on team.  They are 'on the same page' and yet autonomous in their perspectives when they each post on the shared blog.  Sometimes serious, sometimes humorous and sometimes downright hilarious ...but always well worth the read.  
Melissa at Kids and Canning Jars is a homeschooling mom with a knack for canning and all things frugal.  She cans hotdogs ... who'd have thunk it possible?  She dehydrates citrus ...again ...I never would have thought of that.  Maybe I've just led a sheltered life in my homesteading ventures so far, but I always look forward to her new posts.  I just know I'm going to have an 'a-HA!' moment!
Last but not least, is Kate at The Craftivist who is one talented lady!  She can knit and crochet and sew.  If it's crafty ...this lady can do it.  She even did a post on making homemade Bouncy Balls ...how fun is that?!? 
If you are on my blog roll but not on the above list, please know that I read you every time you post and choosing just five for the list was really hard. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Yup, 'Interesting' is One Way to Describe this Past Week...

Like Yeoldfurt said in his post earlier today, it's been an 'interesting' week.  It seems like everything around here either needs fixing or replacing these days.  The vehicles have been taking turns breaking down for three months now.  We've had to put money into every single one of them, each time from $200 to $1500.  They're just old vehicles and mechanical things have a tendency to wear out.  I broke that tooth a couple of weeks ago and get to spend $95 to have it pulled next Thursday (a good bit cheaper than what the dentist wanted to do) and today I got to spend $15.00 on a new mailbox and hardware because some hooligans trashed our old one night before last.  Makes me wonder what next week has in store for us. 

My venture at Yesteryear's pays for itself but not much more than that.  In the three months I've had the booth space, my net after expenses is a little over $100.  Not exactly a revenue stream, but I am purging a few things and turning them into cash.  My primary goal in setting up the booth space was to purge, so technically it's a success.  But I was hoping it would generate just a wee bit more cash than what it has so far.  I could really use an infusion of cash right now.  I'll give it a full year ...or until the first month I actually have to pay the booth rental ($35/month) out of my pocket instead of my sales ...and see if it's worth continuing. 

Looking around for what else I can sell, I couldn't help but take another look at the horses.  We have the two that we ride and we have the 23 year old who is our grandkid horse.  Those are 'forever horses.'  That only leaves the six year old, Lyric.  The one I was going to saddle break last year and it just didn't happen.  Well, technically, she's broke to saddle and will take a bit and bridle very nicely.  I've just never climbed up on her back.  Every time I think I'm going to, my wiser self reminds me of how well I wouldn't bounce if I hit the ground these days.  It's been about 12 years since I had a 'horse wreck' and I was lucky that time ...nothing broken, just some cracked ribs and a hairline fracture of my pelvis.  The way things have gone for us in general the last couple of years, I think my luck may have run out. 

So, I listed Lyric on Craigslist today.

She was a pretty little thing as baby and she's grown up to be a really nice mare.  I'm asking $600 and hoping I find someone half my age who has a bit more disposable income than I do ...most importantly, someone who will love her and appreciate her.  She deserves more than I can give her at the moment. 

This is my first ever attempt at selling something on Craigslist.  The price is right (free) ...I just hope she sells.  If I can get $600 for her, the money will go to stock up on hay for the three we will still be feeding.  Sounds like a lot of money, doesn't it?   We used to get 1000-pound round bales for $70/each ...delivered.  Now we can only find scrawny little 500-pound bales for $135/each including delivery.  So converted to round bales at today's prices, $600 is only about 4 weeks worth of hay for the three horses we'll still be feeding.  Lord, I hope the good rains we've had for two months now continue through the summer so our local hay producers can get up and running again!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dora's Very Bad Day

You remember Dora, don't you?  She's one of the three hens from our first year of keeping chickens.  She and Reba and Red literally rule the roost around here ...never letting the three newbies we added last spring forget who is in charge.   Well, she had a rather traumatic day last week when a Red Tailed Hawk tried to make her his dinner.

I happened to be home and just happened to look out the back window in time to see the hawk pin her to the ground and to witness her desperate struggle to get free. I was about thirty yards away but slammed the door behind me as I came out of the house, hoping to startle the hawk and scare him away.  I yelled and waved my arms as I came out and the hawk finally let go of Dora and took off when I was about halfway down the hill to them. 

Feathers were everywhere, it looked like someone busted open a feather pillow in the middle of the yard.  Dora was lying where the hawk left her, limp and not moving.  Her eyes were closed and I thought she was gone.  But when I touched her, she opened her eye a little and made a weak attempt at a cackle.  I picked her up and just cradled her for a minute, trying to let her know she was okay now.  Her little chicken heart was just a fluttering.  I carried her to the little brood coop and set her on top so I could check her over.  She couldn't even stand, she was so weak, but I felt her all over and found no puncture wounds at all.

This is the last thing she might have seen or the last thing her feathered friends might have seen before the attack.  A bird of prey zeroing in on it's target is an awesome and beautiful sight ...unless you're the prey.

Poor Dora was just scared to death.  I'm sure she saw her little chicken life flash before her eyes when she was underneath that big hawk. 

Satisfied that she was not physically wounded, I carried her with me and searched the coop and the yard for the other five chickens.  I finally found them hiding underneath some equipment in the awning next to the shop.  Thinking they were all okay, I left the dog in the chicken yard to make sure the hawk didn't bother them and took Dora into the house.   Our dog is a Boxer and that's not your typical livestock guardian breed, but she's an exceptionally good dog and she's been around the chickens since they were just pullets and she was just a pup.  She would never hurt them.  If she ever tangled with a hawk, she might be hurt but so might the hawk and I was hoping the hawk would be smart enough to know that. 

I fixed Dora a temporary nest in my laundry basket with newspaper lining the bottom.   She still wasn't able to stand, but she seemed more alert and 'talked' if I got out of sight from her.  She seemed to want me to stay with her so I carried the basket with me as I worked around the house for the next hour or so.  By then, she was starting to stand and though still a little unsteady on her feet, I felt she might be better off down in the coop.  I popped a bag of popcorn before I carried her down there ...a treat for her and bait to help me get the other five out of the awning and back into the coop. 

When I carried her back down the hill, I set her in one of the nest boxes Yeoldfurt built last summer, thinking she would feel safer in close quarters.  I gave her a handful of the popcorn and she went right after it, so I was pretty confident she would make a full recovery in time. 

Coaxing the other five hens out of their hiding place in the awning and back into safety of the coop proved to be a bit of a challenge.  We originally only had three hens but we bought some new chicks last spring to enlarge the flock and as replacements for when the original three hens were gone.  The older hens tolerated the newcomers but just barely.  Before the hawk attack that day, you never would have seen the older hens mingling with the younger hens.  Though they all share the coop at night, the three older hens would be on the roost and the three younger hens would be wherever they could find a spot.  But there was definite segregation going on in there.  So to find them all huddled feather to feather, beak to beak in a two-foot square space told me they were traumatized as well.  Dora was the one that was attacked, but they witnessed the attack and they were traumatized.

Microwave popcorn is a real treat though and the familiar sound of me shaking a bag was too much for them to resist.  I stood at the doorway of the awning shaking the open bag of popcorn and four little heads popped up from behind their refuge.  I tossed a handful at my feet and started backing up the hill toward the coop.

Chickens are highly motivated by food and they're also highly competitive about food.  All it took was for one of them to make a move toward the scattered popcorn and the others wouldn't be able to resist making a charge themselves.  As soon as they were in sight of me, I tossed another handful and they ran toward me ...now halfway to the coop and real safety.   I wasn't counting heads at this time.  I was just intent on getting them to the coop.  Once inside, I scattered several handfuls of the popcorn for them and started counting.  I came up one short so I counted again.  Still one short.  One of the younger reds was missing.  Dora was still in the nest box and seemed okay so I locked them in the coop and went back down to the awning.  I looked high and low but found nothing.  Then I walked the yard, checking every clump of grass, every nook and cranny that could possibly conceal a hen.    

I was just about convinced the hawk had made off with the missing hen and that Dora was perhaps the second course that day when I decided to check the awning one more time.  There is some lumber stacked vertically in the very back corner and it's right next to the metal piece that the other hens were hiding under so I decided to move a couple of pieces and see if she might be hiding back there.  Sure enough, when I moved the first piece, I heard a faint chicken gasp ...a kind of 'yikes, something's found me!' sound.  I poked my head back there and shined the little pen light into the darkness and there she was ...wide-eyed and looking very ...well ...chicken! 

I would have thought when she saw it was me and not the hawk or some other scary unfamiliar face, she would have come willingly.  But she was not willing at all.  I had to move several pieces out of the way and make a grab to finally convince her to come out.  It was very tight quarters back there and lousy footing, so I missed when I made the grab.  She darted out into the open though and I went after her, thinking I could either herd her back to the coop or corner her and catch her.  The riding lawnmower is parked smack dab in the middle of that awning though and she used it to her advantage several times to keep me from getting her out of the awning.  She was determined not to go out in the daylight where something might swoop down on her like it had swooped down on Dora. 

I was finally able to spook her out into the yard and once in the open, she made a beeline for the coop.  Chickens are big on personality, not so big on brains ...but they do know where they're safe.  Once they were all back in the coop, I topped off their food and water and went back to the house.  Twenty minutes later, I looked out the back door and the hawk was back, sitting on a fence post directly across from the coop and not twenty feet from where he attacked Dora.  As I watched him, another hawk flew in and settled on a branch a few feet above the fence post.  A mated pair ...no wonder they were bold.  They probably have a nest in the dense woods that border our property.   I couldn't get close enough to get a picture of them together, but this is one of them sitting on the shed roof next to the chicken yard.  I think the Red Tailed Hawk is a magnificent bird ...just not when it's trying to eat one of my chickens!

From now on, if the chickens are in the yard, they will have an MP with them ...Mutt Patrol ...Maggie, guardian of her domain.  Hopefully, she'll never see action.  I'm hoping her mere presence will be enough to deter the raptors.