Wednesday, November 30, 2016

No Tip For You

I consider myself a good tipper because I've been fortunate and I like to pass it on to those perhaps less fortunate. Those that receive tips are generally working minimum wage jobs or less and are providing with me a dining experience so I don't have to cook or do dishes myself. Occasionally I have tipped in other situations like to the fellows who moved me into this hot on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. In all cases, they have provided a service and done it in exceptional circumstances or done it exceptionally well. But this one has me scratching my head wondering if he was just being an ass or if I am just out of touch.

My daughter participates in school reading challenges which (much to my delight) aren't much of a challenge to her since she reads more than the required amount each day. The teachers get burnt out holding these challenges so they don't occur very often, maybe once or twice a year. As her reward, my daughter gets a certificate for a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.

Despite living next door to one of the largest Pizza Hut franchise owners in the country, I really don't care for Pizza Hut pizza anymore. I prefer to just make my own at home. But because my daughter won the award, I felt obligated for her to redeem her certificate so I ordered her free personal pan pizza along with one for the other daughter and one for the rest of us at full fare. Even with the free pizza, I was still paying almost $24 which I felt is quite high and perhaps another reason why I prefer to make pizzas at home for a tiny fraction of the price.

Normally we have always ordered at one of their sit down restaurants nearby but due to hard times, it went out of business since the last certificate my daughter won. So this time I ordered from a place downtown that is strictly a delivery or pickup location. There is no dining in option there. They slid the pizzas to me on the counter and I handed them my credit card to pay. The worker gave me a receipt to sign which included a line for a tip.

I didn't give a tip. I have never given tips in situations like this where I'm picking up takeout and the person behind the counter didn't provide any service to me other than take my money and give me the product. Had they delivered the pizzas, I would have gladly tipped generously and in a restaurant where they not only wait on me but I use their resources for clean tables, dinnerware, restrooms, etc., I would have tipped. But I have never tipped when I have picked up takeout food and have never had anyone say anything to me until this time.

The man told me snidely when I handed back the signed receipt, "I should have made you cook your own pizzas."

Kind of in shock, I just chuckled as if he made some sort of clever joke and walked outside with my daughter and pizzas. But as I drove home, the more his words stuck in my craw. I thought I was doing him a service by ordering two other pizzas (at full price) that I really didn't want and didn't have too in order to redeem the certificate. However, I realize that as someone who doesn't go out much or pay others to perform services for me, perhaps I am out of touch with reality and it is expected to pay for takeout food these days.

What say you my readers?

Monday, November 28, 2016


I had two tasks for Thanksgiving, smoke the turkey and cook the pie. Ever since my brother gave me the best birthday gift ever and got me a smoker, big enough to smoke about four turkeys at once I might add, I've been smoking our families Thanksgiving turkey. Warm out of the smoker, smoked turkey is excellent but eating it cold the following days as a sandwich are to die for. This year I chose mesquite wood to smoke the turkey with and honestly, my palate is just not that sensitive or it really doesn't make a difference, but I've yet to meet someone who could tell what wood I used to smoke the turkey, only that it is smoked. Because Thanksgiving was down on the farm this year, I smoked the turkey on the Tuesday before since Wednesday was forecast for rain. It actually rained on me Tuesday while I was checking the progress of the turkey and was sunny on Wednesday. You just can't trust a weather forecaster. I like to smoke the turkey ahead of time though because the hour long drive down to the farm is not conducive to keep a turkey warm and it allows us to keep some of it cold to enjoy alongside the warm turkey. Did I mention cold smoked turkey is the bomb?

The pie was baked the day before and when it came out of the oven, I suspected something was off. It was too blonde looking but since I had cut back on the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg that I had used a week before when cooking one, I thought perhaps that was the reason why. However when we tucked into the pie, I quickly found out the problem. I had forgot to put in the brown sugar. It was like eating plain squash custard which when combined with ice cream wasn't bad but it was fairly bland to eat by itself. Since that pie is now digested thoroughly, I decided to cook another one yesterday to redeem myself. This time was to be the culmination of all my experimenting to make the perfect pumpkin pie. Instead of using flour when rolling out the crust, I used chocolate graham cracker crumbs. I used our homegrown and canned Hubbard squash for the filling along with brown sugar this time and cutting back on the spicing as I did the last time. I dislike heavily spiced pumpkin pies where you can't taste the pumpkin. The result, heaven! Redemption!

After our Thanksgiving dinner, we do what we always do. While others are sleeping over football or pushing each other over Black Friday deals, we always go for a hike. This time we went to a local State Park where I learned to swim some 35 years ago at that beach in the background of the below photo. My daughter couldn't believe that anyone would be dangerous enough to learn to swim in a lake instead of a swimming pool. "There are fish in there," she said! After our hike to settle the turkey, we did our other tradition and liberated a red cedar tree from it's earthly toil in a road ditch on the way back to the farm. We hauled it home and it is now decorated up as our Christmas trees. With some green food coloring in the water, they green up nicely from their brownish winter slumber and the smell is so Christmas to me. Now while others frantically prepare for the holidays, I do all my shopping online and stay out of the public until the new year when most come back to their senses. I plan on reading my thick tomb of a book in front of many a crackling fire until then... and perhaps keep up on my blogging.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Ever since I first started computing with the above picture computer, one thing has been sure, computers go obsolete. Actually I still have the above pictured computer and it still works. But it has the computing power of a cellphone that has been dropped off a hundred story building and run over repeatedly by a herd of elephants chased by a string of steamrollers. It sits in my basement waiting for some day when I would like to dust it off and display it in some fashion.

My everyday computer, while more powerful, hasn't been supported software wise by Microsoft and others for several years. It runs Windows Vista, which I hated from day one and still to this day. It is a platform no longer supported which means if something happens, you are SOL. Many software developers no longer write their software to work on Vista since it is no longer supported. I can't update my web browser to the latest because of the OS and thus website are starting to no longer load correctly or even work on the old versions of web browsers.

As old computers tend to do, it has also become arthritic in its age. Often, it now requires multiple boots to get it up and running with everything running (that can still run) and even then, it takes about 15 minutes to boot up completely. There are corrupted files everywhere which means that sometimes the computer will freeze up now and then. A clean install of the OS would solve all those things but that takes me back to the beginning where they don't support the OS anymore.

So it was time to get a new computer. It looks just like the older one but is running Windows 10 which is supported OS. I had a laptop that had Windows 7 on it and absolutely loved it however in the dead of the night, Windows somehow started putting Windows 10 on it. It of course hung up and became a door stop for almost a year before one day I sat down and figured out how to get it to finish the install. Since I had written it off, I poked around and actually found that I liked Windows 10.

Thus far, the swap has been relatively painless compared to other times. When I got my last computer, I made the decision to save everything that I cared about on a separate hard drive than the OS. This makes it much easier to find thing and back them up. I opt for a cloud based backup software that takes care of it automatically. So when I got my new computer hooked up to the internet, I simply logged into my online account, switched my subscription to my new computer and told it to restore the files. With all my pictures and music, I have around 400+GB of stuff backed up. It has been working on it for about five days now and is about half way done. The one drawback is that they throttle down the connection a bit so a whole bunch of people restoring their computer don't bring the entire system down. However, the computer is still absolutely functional while waiting so unless I need some particular picture or song, things work out great.

Right now, my old computer still occupies the place of honor on my office desk and the new one is sitting off to one side. I've been using the new one a few days already and as I find some odds and ends, like how to transfer my iTunes favorites over to the new computer, I have to switch and grab the appropriate file. When I get to where I think everything is running fine on the new computer, I'll swap it for the old one and let the old one sit on the floor nearby for a month or so to make sure. When I'm sure, I'll probably grab the hard drives out of the old one and stick in the new one as backup just in case they are ever needed and send the rest of the computer to computer heaven at the recycling center. I'm guessing computer heaven will end up someplace in China.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Let There Be Light

I don't have a picture because I'm too embarrassed at all the junk in our utility room so you'll just have to use your imagination. In getting prepared for some winter projects, I knew that I needed to fix the lighting situation in our utility/laundry/storage room. It consists of about one fourth of our basement but only had three lights. Each of the lights were pushed up against a air duct or a beam so that you got some light but mostly you just got dark shadows. I found myself pulling out my cellphone and using it as a flashlight to find things just so I didn't have to go back upstairs to get a real flashlight.

So with the local home improvement store having a 11% Rebate going on, I loaded up on light. I ended up getting a half dozen 5 inch can lights and two industrial looking sconce lights for the wall underneath the ducting. I also got LED bulbs to put in everything. The sconce lights are for the utility side of the room where there is no space above to put a can light, or even a ceiling light. I put them on the wall on either side of the central HVAC unit so I can see the water heater and breaker box better. I also have some shelving by the breaker box for storing household repair stuff that is temperature sensitive like leftover paints, spackles, caulking, etc. Now I can easily see what I have.

The six can lights I strung in a line from one end to the other with one of them going into an alcove where the laundry machines are. I wired them all up using new wire and after turning off the switch, made the final connection to the wire that came from the light switch that had previously gone to the first light in the old series. I turned on the switch and nothing happened. I got out my electrical tester to find out where I had gone wrong but it showed there was no power to the switch and I hadn't done anything to the back side of it. I started checking outlets and all of them were dead. I flipped and reflipped breakers but none had tripped and nothing worked.

Cussing under my breath, I started taking the cover off the first light from the switch to check the wiring when I noticed the outlet that had gotten replaced during my last electrical fiasco. It was one of those GFI outlets per code in basements these days. It had been behind the door so I hadn't seen it right away to trip my memory. Sure enough, the light was not on which meant that it had been tripped. I'm not sure why it tripped but I suspect that I must have bumped it with a tool or my leg while I was working in that area to attach a junction box for the sconce. I pushed the reset button, turned on the light switch and light shown forth.

My basement is well lit now. I went from three poorly placed 8 inch can lights with CFL bulbs to six 5 inch can lights running LED bulbs and two sconces running LED bulbs. I also used daylight temperature bulbs which is a whiter light but is nice when you are hunting for things in the corner of the basement. 

Now that I have light, my first plan is to add some more storage for our excess kitchen gear. With our small kitchen and both of us loving to cook, we simply have no place for all our kitchen gadgets or utensils. When you need ten ramekins for a dessert, they are nice to have but where to store them. Right now, they are balanced on our large storage shelves along with our plastic storage totes but they collect dust and I'm afraid that someday they will be knocked onto the floor. We also have other stuff like canning gear, extra coffee pot, rotisserie, etc. that get used a few times a year but spend their time in boxes on the floor. My solution is to buy some cheap upper kitchen cabinets from the home improvement store and mount them to the wall in a corner with nothing and put all the fragile unboxed kitchen stuff there. The rest of the boxed items can go back on the now vacated shelf to free up some floor space. I will get some pictures of that as I get those projects done and I can narrow in the focus of the picture so not to show all the other junk packed away.

Monday, November 21, 2016

An American Treasure

Those who know me well know I have an eclectic taste in music and would not be surprised that I love listening to John Prine but the real reason I love his music is my Dad. Some of my most cherished memories as a kid are of my parents putting on a John Prine records on a rainy Sunday and watching them dance in the living room. They were always so happy dancing and listening to John Prine.

If dreams were lightening and thunder were desire,
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago.

As a teen and driving an open tractor with no radio for long hours during the summer months to cultivate crops, rake hay or whatever needed attention, I would often sing to myself. One of the songs in my rotation was Prine's "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore."

Well I got my window shield so full of flags I couldn't see.I ran my car upside a curb, right into a tree.By the time they got the doctor there, I was already dead.And I'll never understand why the man, standing in the Pearly Gates said,
"But your flag decal won't get you, into heaven anymore."

Like much of John Prine's work, there isn't a lot of heavy meaning in his lyrics but his lyrics are simple and masterfully written. Over the years I would buy my Dad some of his albums as they came out and he would always enjoy them. However, I still really loved the memories Prine evoked in me and not Prine himself until I was recently out of college. I bought some tickets to go see Prine with my parents who due to field work, couldn't make it. I still went and felt really out of place since I was the youngest one in the room by a couple decades. But I really enjoyed the experience and probably more importantly, I awakened to Prine's talent and really dug his music. Song's like "Hello In There" just moved me in ways that music at the time (and to this day) don't.

So if you are walking down the street sometime
And spot some hallow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello."

A handful of years would go by and I had another chance to see him in concert at a much smaller venue. I bought his anthology album and grabbed my copy and went to see him in concert. Afterwards, I sat in my seat until the ushers told me I had to leave. I told them I would really like to meet John Prine and they pointed me to a hallway on stage left and told me to go to the end of the hall and wait at the door. Someone would let me in. Someone did about twenty minutes later and I got to enter into Prine's offstage room and speak to him for a few minutes. He graciously signed my copy of his Anthology album along with the other which I had him sign for my Dad. We both treasure our copies.

When I woke up this morning, things were lookin' bad.
Seem like total silence, was the only friend I had.
A bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down... and won.
It was twelve o'clock before I realized I was havin'... no fun.
Ah but fortunately, I have the key, to escape reality,
And you may see me tonight, with an illegal smile.
It don't cost very much but it lasts a long while.
Won't you please tell the man, I didn't kill anyone,
No I was just trying to have me some fun.

 A couple weeks ago, the stars aligned and John Prine was back in our area, the field work was done and my Mom was back home. I bought tickets and took my wife and parents to see John Prine in concert. Prine has suffered two bouts with cancer and his voice was a bit gravelly due to an operation and subsequent radiation but it didn't matter. I was also about the youngest in the auditorium by about two decades but it didn't matter either. Sitting next to me were my parents and this being their second concert they have ever attended, they were extremely happy. Once again, John Prine has etched happy memories into my brain. I'm not sure we'll get to see him again and that is a shame because I really feel that he is an American Treasure.

When I die let my ashes flow down the Green River,
Let my soul roll on up, to the Rochester Dam.
I'll be halfway to heaven with Paradise waitin'
Just five miles away from wherever I am.

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Edible Post

Round two of the gourmet group that we hosted recently went well. This time since we didn't prepare all five courses like the first time, it was much much less work. This time we went back to convention and just prepared the entree and let the other four couples each bring a course. As I said in my previous post, this time we went with a British theme. While I didn't get a picture of all the courses, I did get a picture of a few and I thought I would share them here.

Smoked salmon on cucumber was one of the appetizers. I think they skimped on the smoked salmon because it was almost tasteless compared to the cucumber which shouldn't be since it was the star of the dish. Still, I've had much much worse when it comes to appetizers.

Another appetizer was a scotch egg. Being that the couple bringing them had never heard of them, they did a great job. They were very flavorful. My only complaint was that a true scotch egg has runny yolk but when preparing them at home, carting them across town in your car and then sitting there while you socialize over some drinks, it is probably very hard to do.

Pickled onions rounded out the appetizers and they were delicious. Can't go wrong with picked onions as far as I am concerned.

The second course was tikka marsala served in a small dish with some naan. The person making that is an excellent chef of indian cuisine and did an outstanding job. I wish I had a giant pot of that to eat on the first blowing blizzard of the year.

The third course was the one we prepared and was bangers and mash with some carmelized onions. After all the taste testing, driving many miles and with a pile of pork sausage now in our freezer that we didn't end up using, we ended up using just Johnsonville sweet Italian sausage found at the local grocery store. Well if it wasn't out of stock. I ended up driving clear across town to the other one which had them in stock. My wife wanted a puff pastry "tower" to class the mashed potatoes up but wasn't able to make one that she could remove from whatever she used as a mold. So she ended up turning it over to me and after some experimenting, I used some upside down metal mixing bowls, a matrix pie crust cutter and some cooking spray. They turned out pretty nice but the worst one (my plate) was the worst looking of the bunch. In case you are wondering the mashed potatoes are on top of brown onion gravy.

The fourth course was a British salad, the name of which escapes me right the moment. It has some stinky cheeses, fruits, lettuce and a vinaigrette. It was delicious.

The fifth course was spotted dick, something I have heard of but never eaten before. The best I can describe it is as a bread pudding with raisins served with a sweet white sauce over the top. It was very delicious.

The one flop was my idea to serve vodka martinis, shaken not stirred, stolen from just about every James Bond movie. I had been making them all week to experiment with them and got them to where I thought they tasted good. Only three out of the ten of us tried it. They drank them down and said they were good so I'm guessing the rest just weren't martini fans. Honestly, even though I drank them this week, I don't think I am one yet either. Fortunately I found some Scottish Pale ale that went over well and we consumed several bottles of wine. Finally after four hours, the guests left and my wife and I spent the next two hours hand washing the china and putting it away before collapsing into bed. The following day we spent another several hours cleaning up. So now I hope that if things go well, I have probably another year and a half of eating a gourmet meal every several months without having to host again. I can't complain.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Edible Research

I apologize for the terrible photo that is out of focus. It was meant to just give my wife halfway across the state an idea about the size of the sausage while we were frantically searching for sausages to fit our needs. But let me take a step back first.

As you may recall, my wife and I are part of a gourmet group that hosts one meal a year for four other couples. Our next turn wouldn't occur until late spring or early summer of next year, but the wife of one of the couples of our group is having some medical issues and wasn't up for hosting the next gourmet dinner. My wife, volunteered to swap with her about a week and a half before the event. Last time we spent months getting ready and we only had ten days this time around.

After our last time hosting, we were tossing around themes and came across having a British or UK themed party. The problem was coming up with UK themed foods that were identifiable to our guests that we could serve in a gourmet style. Somehow for the main dish, probably due to lack of time, we settled on trying to elevate bangers and mash as the main course. This past week, we have experimented with the mash (i.e. mashed potates) and have a great recipe worked out but we've been struggling with the bangers (i.e. sausages). Most of the sausages here in America are what I would call link sized and normally served with breakfasts, too small for the star of a entree. The bigger cased sausages like what is shown above, thus far have been more the consistency and taste of a hotdog and not a proper sausage. So with two days left before we serve it, my wife headed to the urban jungle to see what she could find while I exhausted local possibilities and we reviewed and sent pictures of our finds via our smart phones 100+ miles apart. The sausage above was a cooked one from a BBQ joint but was also disappointingly hotdog like in taste and consistency though the sauce (which we can't use for our meal) was tasty. As I write this, a favorite sandwich deli shop in the urban jungle that I used to pick up awesome subs time to time while my wife was in residency has something that will work according to my wife. I certainly hope so because the clock is really ticking.

This time around, we are just providing the house and the entree which is bangers and mash with peas and a lattice tower made out of puff pastry to elevate the plating. The other four couples will provide the rest of the meal. Tentatively they are planning for the arrival appetizers to be some smoked salmon and crackers. The first course will be a Scotch eggs. Next will be a light version of tikka massala severed with naan. Dessert will be spotted dick, which I have never had before. Starter drinks are going to be a selection of UK beer and vodka martinis, shaken not stirred of course. I couldn't find in UK based wines so I just got some American versions for the main meal. It should be fun but right now after eating perhaps my 12th sausage in about five days, including three times with mash and onion gravy, I'm sausaged out.

Monday, November 14, 2016

One of Those Days

Vent stack is the one on the right with the new boot installed

It was one of those days a couple weeks ago with sunny skies and warm summer like temperatures so I finally put to bed one of those projects that always tickle the back of my head.

When we purchased our current house privately from the previous occupant, he kept insisting that the transaction would be "as is" and that once an offer was accepted, no inspection would derail it. When I hear someone being insistent like that, I immediately suspect that he is hiding something and with a house, probably something major. Still the house appeared to have really good bones to it, everything to my eyes looked sound and it was by far, the best house we looked at over an entire year for the money. We went ahead and bought it.

Shortly after we moved in, perhaps days, I noticed that the valve underneath the kitchen sink had been leaking for a LONG time. It is a super simple fix and cost me about $20 to do so, but the damage had been done. The entire bottom side of the cabinet was rotted out along with the floor and the water had gone down to office wall in the basement which caused a funky smell. I cut out the rotted underside of the cabinet and floor and patched in new wood and last winter, I finally got around to gutting the office wall and ending the funky smell. Along with that problem, when the first rain came, I could hear water running down through the wall between the bathroom and the living room. My inspection showed that the boot for the vent pipe on the roof had seen it's better days and had inverted to actually create a funnel for water to run down the vent stack all the way to the basement.

I went up in the pouring rain and slathered on some tar until the leaking stop and then later when it had dried out, I tried to do a permanent fix. I bought a new boot for it but the pipe had been extended with another length of pipe on the roof and the bell end prevented me from getting a new boot over it. (You can see what I'm talking about on the right pipe sticking out of the roof in the picture above.) So I ended up slathering on a lot of tar over it and calling it good.

The problem is that roofing tar cracks with age so it became a chore that I had to do about twice a year to prevent leaking. However, one afternoon this past spring while looking up at that eyesore (only to me), I pondered that maybe the pipe extension was just pressed onto the vent pipe and that there was no permanent adhesive. If I could just pull the extension off, I could slide a new boot on it and do a proper job. Well I had already put fresh tar on it which is about impossible to remove and summer was around the corner when doing roofing work in the heat on asphalt shingles is not the most pleasant thing to be doing, so I kept putting it off. This fall as you know was extremely busy but our normally cold November has been like early fall anyway. So while doing something else on the roof, I wiggled that pipe extension on my way by and sure enough, it wasn't adhered to the vent stack.

So I got to work and spent an hour chipping away about two gallons of roofing tar slathered over the old failed boot and got it removed. I put a new boot in place seated in a nice bed of tar to adhere it to the shingles and help the uphill shingles adhere to the top of it and now all is right with the world. I can look up at it from my deck (the picture above is now what I see) and see a proper boot instead of a mound of cracked tar. The tickling is now almost gone. Now if I can just fix that improperly flashed joint around my chimney. But that is for another day when I replace the shingles.

P.S. The house turned out to have good bones and other than a couple simple problems to fix, it has and still is a great home.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Leaving Bait for Catches Made Years Later

Many years ago when I was trying to break down a genealogical brick wall in my family tree, I left a number of posts on an online forum that is arranged by surnames. Some of the posts paid results almost immediately as was the case I am specifically thinking about now and others take many years before someone discovers them and makes contact with me. When that happens, sometimes together we can solve the answer and sometimes we just exchange notes and a new friend/relative is made.

About a month ago, one of these posts that was answered years ago, yielded fruit in a different way. A researcher for a distant relative of mine posted a new question on that post and I made contact in an effort to answer her question. In this case, she was looking for information on the grandson of the common ancestor I share with the distant relative. I had some information on that person only because he happened to be related to one of my brick wall families and in trying to figure things out, I often traced lines down to distant cousins in hopes of producing new information.

We swapped information and in the process, I learned of another brick wall further down the tree. It is funny because that brick wall doesn't bother me in anyway but for my distant relative, it is a major brick wall. With my help, I was able to help peer beyond the brick wall in one direction but not another. In plain English, due to a probable out of wedlock birth and subsequent adoption, we may never be able to break down the wall completely. However, being male and the unknown person in question was along the paternal line, DNA may be the solution to at least give us a pretty good guess as to who the unknown person was and thus a way to peer behind the other side of the wall.

I've offered my help because darn it, I love a good mystery when it involved genealogy and one like this doesn't come along very often. Plus, we are related and that is what related people do. They help out their blood, even in this case if blood is very distant. I wish I could tell you more but due to the nature of the adoption and living descendants, I think it best to leave it to generalities. But I do encourage others to definitely leave comments or questions on these forums that even if they don't return results right away, they will definitely yield fruit years later when you least expect it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wrap Up

With the crops out of the field and Mom back living to living her normal life on the farm, we paused to celebrate by taking the weekend off and then got right back into the tractors to do the dirt work. We prefer to do much of our dirt work in the fall to help aid in decomposition of the organic matter over winter and also it allows the fields to dry out quicker in the spring. In our areas, wet early springs are common and thus this is necessary. On the ground where we just harvested corn, we like to run over it with a chisel plow on the flat parts to cut through the trash on top and stir in all that great organic matter which will slowly decompose over winter. The picture above is one I took while doing just that. On any ground that is sloped, we use another tillage tool that is more minimalist in approach to prevent erosion from the spring melting. It leaves more trash on top to hold the soil which means it does dry out slower but being that the ground is sloped, it dries out about the same speed as the flat ground. For the soybean ground, we generally leave it untouched until spring since there isn't as much residue on top like in a corn field. I did run the chisel plow around the outsides of a few fields that were slightly wet when we took the crop out and where the heavy wagons of grain and combines did a lot of driving and thus compacting the soil. Doing that loosens up the soil again and providing a great base for next springs planting. It took us about a week but with three tractors going, we got the ground all worked until next spring and my farming career is now at an end for the year. I'm ready to recuperate by catching up on all those household things that have fallen behind!

One other task that we did along with the dirt work was to rescue this year's popcorn crop. We plant it in the fields along with our sweetcorn believing that in order to get a good crop of the latter, one must plant more than the local coon population can eat. We plant the popcorn every two or three years as needed and generally it grows well in our climate. We built this mini-corn crib several years ago to store our crop until it dries a bit and we can get it shelled. The crib is eight feet long, two feet deep and five feet tall to give you a sense of how much popcorn is in it. We have an antique popcorn sheller that we use to shell all that popcorn and then store it in five gallon jugs in the basement until needed. As you can probably guess, we go through a lot of popcorn in our household.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

She Won't Be the First American Female President

American presidential elections are marathons compared to other countries. When you live in the state with the first in the nation Caucus, it can be especially brutal. Candidates for the next presidential cycle often show up 24 to 30 months ahead of the November vote. This isn't too bad because it is often announced in the television and newspapers so paying attention is not mandatory. However, about three months before the caucus or about a year before the actual vote for president, they take to the phones. The next six months are bliss as the candidates vie for the nomination in the other 49 states and then come three months before the election, all  hell breaks loose with the telephones again. In the depth of the caucus or presidential election, those of us with landlines get about 6 to 8 political robocalls a day polling or urging us to vote for someone. If you call my landline during those months, you can expect me not to pick up. Now that the election is over, I have 18 months, 24 if I'm lucky, before all this starts over again.

I did my civic duty and voted this morning. However, I will never encourage anyone to vote. I am perfectly happy to live in a country where those who care take the time to vote. Those who don't care enough to either vote or pick up an absentee ballot are doing the right thing by staying home. In my precinct, it felt like an average election but I tend to vote mid morning after the school parents get done and it is mostly just those that are retired. I think if Trump stands a chance (I didn't vote for either him or Clinton), those people will hit the polls from 4 until they close here at 9. Looking at the electoral college map, it looks like it is Clinton's to lose. Although I don't like her in many ways, I think that if she wins, it will probably be the best thing for the Republican party of which I am tentatively a member. Hopefully they will lick their wounds and spend the next four years regrouping and becoming a more inclusive party. Unless something radically changes, Congress and a President Clinton will be gridlock for the next four years anyway so there probably won't be any earth rattling legislation to worry about. It will be sad to lose a conservative Supreme court but I would be happy with a liberal one if they picked someone who wouldn't legislate from the bench. I'm not holding my breath on that one. If Trump somehow wins, I'm worried that the party will fracture into several factions and the next couple decades will be a decidedly liberal one, assuming we don't go bankrupt or fall apart as a nation first.

Finally, if elected, Hillary won't be the first American female president. That honor falls to Janet Jagan pictured up at the top of this post. So unless you specify which country, you are wrong.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ringing of the Bell

This is a couple weeks after the fact but I thought I would note it down here. My Mom completed her final radiation treatment a couple of Monday's ago and the whole family went up to accompany her. When she came through the doors post treatment, I could tell by her face how much it meant for her to be finally done. She wasted no time in walking over to the large bell on the wall and ringing it for all it was worth. Everyone, patients and medical personnel alike, all stood up, cheering and clapping. There were hugs all around from our family and from a few of the patients.

Which leads me to this observation, fighting cancer is like fighting a war. No one really understands what it is like except those who are down in the trenches with you day in and day out. I could see it in the eyes of some of the other cancer patients who got to know my mom over these last six weeks. They knew exactly what she felt. To continue the analogy, the war fighting of Mom's brain cancer is now done and we hope the peace will last the rest of her lifetime.

Since we had all gotten up at dark-thirty in the morning to make the drive up to the cancer center, we were all pretty hungry so we decided to go out and celebrate but all the restaurants that were open at that time in the morning were breakfast place so breakfast it was. With harvest over two days prior and now the radiation, I think we were all worn out and drove home to our respective houses for a well deserved afternoon nap.

Mom has a follow-up MRI during the last week of November and will also restart taking oral chemo pills but in much higher doses. That may last for a year or a lifetime but only time will tell. Fortunately, chemo agrees with her and as long as she eats before six o'clock, she has no problems. If she waits later, the chemo does a number of her stomach.

This will probably be the last post I due on this subject unless something changes. I want to thank all of you for the kind words and prayers given for my Mom during this ordeal. I know she would give each and every one of you a personal hug if she could. It means a lot to me too.


Friday, November 4, 2016


Found this clump of mushrooms next to three other clumps around a rotted tree stump. I wish I knew mushroom identification because I could only wish to throw those in a hot skillet with some other veggies and saute them for supper. Instead, I left them to do their thing of helping the old stump decay.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

3020 Conversion: Part Two

It doesn't look like much with all the sheet metal pieces removed, but when it is together, it will be a nice tractor, especially at its sole job of powering augers on the farm. We got the correct batteries and I installed them with one being temporary since the battery cable that came with the kit was much too short. With held breath, I turned on the key and pressed the starter button. Nothing. I fiddled around for awhile checking wiring connections and checking my rewiring which did reveal one minor thing I forgot to rewire. But when I made that correction, there was still not a sound when I pressed the ignition button.

As I mulled things over during lunch time, I knew that more and likely, some of my wiring was the culprit. The kit had come with not a single page of instructions and so I had been working off instructions I found online that someone else had written and produced a Youtube video on, the only person to do so. The problem was that guy had different brands of components than we had in our kit in an effort to save money. I figured the problem laid with how I wired up the starter and solenoid and figured ours were configured differently than his were.

I looked online and found a schematic for the starter and did find that two of the posts were different than the posts in the Youtube video so I took the wire I had put on the back post and moved it to the front post. I pressed the ignition button and was so surprised when the engine turned over that I stopped pressing the button. When I tried a second time a minute later, nothing happened again. Unfortunately, the soybeans were now dry enough to harvest and I had to get to the field. It would be several days before I could get back to the project.

During that time, I suspected that when I had removed the wire from the back post, I had not put the nut back on to hold the remaining wire in place. When it initially turned over, the vibration probably caused it to fall off the post and thus why subsequent tries resulted in nothing. So when I had a chance several days later, I put the nut on the post and tried and finally, the tractor now repeatedly turns over whenever we press the ignition button.

The good news is that we know the engine isn't seized. The bad news is we still haven't got it to start. I've narrowed it down to a fuel issue (most likely) because we are getting fuel to the pump and nothing after it. After doing some more online research, there is a spring inside that often gets stuck with nonuse over time and probably needs to be loosened up. I started to take the cover off to check but got called away to finish up corn harvest. I have yet to return to the project. One of these days however, it will run again.