Girl Power

Our van is broke.

Since it won’t start and it’s stuck in our driveway, Jan had to trailer it in to town.

(May I stop here and point out the fact that this is the third time in 18 months that we have had to tow this particular vehicle? Once on the way home from camping after rodents gnawed away some important wiring, once from Des Moines when the brakes locked up and now because it won’t start.

You may find this bit of history fascinating – but my husband did not.)

Towing the van into town meant he needed to borrow a trailer as the van is exactly 4.187643923 inches too big for ours.

So he borrowed Dagmar’s truck and the neighbor’s trailer.

IMG_20140922_133845_879This is when things got interesting.

The first time we towed this van we rented a car dolly.

The second time we towed this van we rented a trailer from U-haul that has a fancy come-along thing to pull the vehicle up on the trailer.

This time we have the neighbor’s flat bed trailer with no fancy come along thing.

Remember that the van won’t start.

He needed a plan.

He choose gravity.

So he and Buddy used the tractor to pull the van to the top of a small rise in the yard. Then he backed the trailer up to the rise, and they pushed the van down the slight incline to the trailer.

The plan worked well – at first. The van moved beautifully down the slight incline – but when it reached the trailer, there was a slight uphill to get it on the ramps.

And the van wouldn’t budge.

After several tries, they called for reinforcements.

And since both of our strong, handsome older boys are gone – there was only the two girls and me.

Imagine his reaction when two of the three of us showed up in flannel jammie pants wearing cowboy boots and flip flops!

shoesThey shall remain nameless – but I can assure you that I wasn’t one of them.

But sometimes you have to to work with what you’ve got and we were drafted anyway. At least two of the three of us lift weights occasionally.  (Once again – I can assure you that I am not one of them!)

It took several tries but believe it or not – we did it.

We got that van loaded up and ready to go into town.

No fancy come along thing.

Just brute strength. 🙂

Flip flops, cowboy boots, jammie pants and all.

Girl power.

Buggy Issues

Have you ever noticed that listening to the crickets chirping outside your open window at night is a beautiful symphony of fall that will lull you to sleep?

But one cricket chirping incessantly under the freezer in the basement is so annoying it drives one almost to insanity?

10363853_10204754165637991_3338193488871808662_nAnd leads to extreme methods of extermination.

Or that a few fruit flies enjoying the ripening tomatoes on the counter can easily be ignored.

But if left unchecked – those few fruit flies can become an militant army in the midst of a covert invasion almost overnight.

IMG_20140917_131721_498Which leaves you fighting a losing battle armed with several fruit fly traps and massive amounts of apple cider vinegar.

But sometimes the most annoying bugs are the ones you don’t see – the ankle biters.

These are the seemingly invisible ones that attack you in the grass and the yard.

You don’t even know were there until the next morning when you when you discover your ankles and feet are covered with tiny little itchy bites.

These – my friends – are the pressing issues that bug me today.

Planting Trees

It’s been a tough a year for trees around here.

We lost one in a storm last fall; then 5 more to nasty pine beetles.

Now that Jan and the boys have finally gotten them cleaned up – it was time to replant.

tree stumps

Since we lost a total of six trees, we ordered 500 trees to replace them.

Yes – 500. That is not a typo.

I was half asleep the night Jan placed the order.

I vaguely remember the conversation.

Jan – How about white oaks.

Me – I like oaks.

Jan – How about red oaks?

Me – I like oaks. (yawn)

Jan – How about pin oaks?

Me – I like (massive yawn) oaks.

I must have been asleep when he asked about the chestnuts and hazel nuts.

I was, however, wide awake when the UPS man started delivering trees – hundreds of trees.

And by trees I mean short twigs with long roots.

My heart sunk as I thought of the time and work it would take to plant those things. We’re talking days, weeks, even months, to get 500 trees in the ground!

But I didn’t need to worry – they make a machine for that.

A handy-dandy tree planting wonder.

And – our county owns one.

And – we could use it for free.

And it was available right then.

Would you believe that in less than 6 hours Jan and Pedro had all 500 trees in the ground?
DSC_0043All of them.

We now have a hard wood windbreak started to replace the rotting silver maples on the north, and east. We have some beautiful oaks planted around the ravines to add some fall color.

And we planted several oaks in the yard, because they’re my favorite.

And because we need a new swing tree – although it will be many years before these twigs will support a swing! But that’s okay – there’s something hopeful about planting  a tree.

Grow little twigs! Grow!

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ~Martin Luther



Well – that’s a problem

Well -that's a problemWe lost our water on Friday.

Pedro was in the shower in the middle of washing his hair when the water pressure dropped and then quit.

This did not make him happy.

As soon as Buddy and I walked in the door after running some errands – he told us.

This did not make us happy.

And since we are not on rural water – but have our own well – there was nobody to call to come fix the problem.

Except for Jan.

So I did.

That did not make him happy, either.

The only one that was unaffected by this earth shaking news was Dagmar – who was on her long shift at the hospital all weekend and could actually shower, wash her hands and flush the toilet.

Jan climbed into the well house when he got home and discovered a blown switch.

Just a blown switch.

Both Jan and I were scared that the well had gone dry. It has been a seriously dry two years. People around us have had it happen. The possibility was very real.

But it was just a switch. This time.

Thankfully we had a spare and by evening the water was back on.

And everyone was happy.

But we’re cutting back on water consumption – just in case.

And praying hard for rain.

Photo by Angelsharum

Unskilled Labor

Three of my kids were in Des Moines this week attending Teen Pact.

Which meant my house was really quiet, dishes were limited and whenever Jan needed help outside there was only one option – me. Poor guy, he had definitely reached the bottom of the barrel.

After all – I am definitely unskilled labor.

I can carry water to the pigs – 4 trips to Jan’s one.

I can feed the chickens and gather eggs.

And I’m getting pretty good at chasing the calves back in their pen – if I can catch them before they head down the road.

But this was a week to expand my horizons and increase my limited skill set!

I can now open and close gates for Jan while he feeds a bale to the cows.

I have learned how to walk the fence line and check the wires to figure out why the fence is shorting out and the calves are in my yard again.

I learned that screaming loudly and swinging a big stick will remove the cows from the hay bales – but that it is wisest to leave the bull just where he is until my husband comes home.

And – are you ready for this – I even drove the tractor!

Yep. I did.

White knuckled, without a bale, in low gear. But I drove it. Five times even.

And I parked it in the shed – by myself – and didn’t hit anything.

Although Jan still laughs when I let off the clutch too quickly and give myself whiplash. (Wait – that is called the clutch – right?)

I have even progressed to the point that I can switch gears without assistance.

Yep. I definitely expanded my horizons this week!

And – as exciting as it was – I’m quite ready for the kiddos to come home!

They can go back to the chores they do so well and I’ll head back to my house and garden.

Washing dishes never looked so good!

Flying Pigs

While most people would consider this a season of flying reindeer – around here we are more burdened with flying pigs.

Yes, you saw that correctly. Flying piggies.

We discovered this amazing feat quite by accident. The electric fence was down one day last week and the entire herd of pigs took advantage of this oversight on our part, rooting up my yard, making it look like a bomb crater.

This is not pretty. Nor will it be fun to mow next summer.

As soon as the fence was fixed, most of the pigs stayed in the pen – except for four little piglets. These little varmints have been out every day expanding the mess in my yard.

I declared war, sending Pedro out to lower the fence, expecting them to get a good zap when they tried to get under it.

It didn’t work because they didn’t go under it – they went over it.

when pigs flyYes, my friends, pigs can fly. They jumped that electric fence with such form and grace it would make Bambi proud.

I saw them myself.

I do not lie.

They took a running start and flew right over that fence.

I told you these pigs were amazing.

Since they are so intelligent, maybe we should train them to pull a sleigh? I wonder if we could attach reindeer antlers? Think of the marketing potential!

Move over Rudolph – meet the flying porkers!

Maybe if I post a video on YouTube Santa will see it and want these amazing piglets with him at the North Pole!

Anything to get them out of my yard.

Direct Hit

skunk stenchOur sleep was rudely interrupted the other night by the tear-inducing, horrific stench of fresh skunk spray.

My initial thought was that that skunk must have been  pretty close to the house and hoped that whatever animal he nailed would be long gone by morning.

But as we woke up it was impossible to miss the lingering skunk stench hanging in the air through-out the house. This smell was especially strong in the kitchen, down the basement stairs and in the basement laundry room.

Thankfully the morning passed quickly and we had a 4H activity for a good part of the afternoon that allowed us to leave the smelly house (with windows open in hopes of airing it out) for a while.

But – alas – we returned to an even stronger skunk smell.

It took Buddy to discover the cause. As he went out the side door on an errand, he happened to glance backwards and discovered a brownish stain all over the storm door.

Upon closer examination (yes – he actually smelled it!) – he verified it was definitely skunk spray.

It was a direct hit. Bull’s eye.

Whatever varmint animal provoked the skunk attack must have escaped unscathed while the storm door took the complete force of the assault.


But how does one clean skunk smell from a storm door?

A quick look at Google determined that a solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap should work.

The only problem – the “recipe” called for 2 quarts of hydrogen peroxide and we had – maybe- a half of a cup in the bottom of the bottle.

Buddy bravely mixed that 1/2 cup with the soda and dish soap and scrubbed that door clean.

Bless his sweet heart.

And- surprisingly – it helped! A lot! While there’s still a lingering nasty smell right near the door itself (possibly some spray on the wooden trim?) – it is definitely improved.

Now if I can just get my hands on the pesky critter who provoked that smelly varmint to attack…

Because – of course – I have no intention of going after that smelly varmint himself.

Nope – I’m giving him a really wide berth!

Second Annual Griner Tractor Ride

The Griner Family Tractor Ride was so much fun last year – we just had to do it again!

This year’s ride was in Grandpa’s honor – and he would have loved it.

He’d be grinning from ear to ear just seeing all his great-grand kids sitting behind the wheel of these vintage tractors .

Scuba and the Farmall

The kids were grinning, too.

And yes – so was I! There’s just something exciting about the sound of an old tractor.  Especially when your surrounded by family and memories.

Sweet memories.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the very cool concept of our family tractor ride, let me enlighten you.

First, everyone claims one of my Uncle Delbert’s vintage tractors. This can be very interesting since each tractor has a unique personality and temperament.

And each driver has a different set of driving skills.

Pedro on red

Some more experienced drivers just jumped on a tractor and took off.  They looked and felt right at home behind the wheel.

Others needed a lesson or two before we started.

And some took Dad along – just in case.

Angel Girl driving tractor

This was Angel Girl’s first time on a tractor – and she wasn’t the only one.

Buddy even got to drive for a little while – with Dad of course.

My Uncle Delbert was everywhere at the same time.

Vance on the DeereStarting tractors, giving lessons, answering questions.

He is a brave man to share his toys with us!

tractor line up

Once the drivers were ready, they lined up at the edge of the farm yard ready to hit the road.

They didn’t stay lined up though. They’d sit there for a few minutes, then somebody would grin and pull out of line and make another pass around the machine shed.

Or two or three.

Soon the whole line up was circling the buildings.

It was like herding cats. 🙂

hitting the roadWhen everybody was ready – and the hay rack was loaded with of those of us “non-drivers” – we started down the blacktop.

It was our very own family parade driving by all the familiar places of my childhood.

Uncle Delbert’s farm. The river. Uncle Dale’s farm. The Anderson place where we lived until I was eight. The Morgan’s.

And then past the cemetery where Grandpa and Grandma are buried,  into town and to the park.

backroadsWe took the back roads home, right to Grandpa’s farm.

It was a little bittersweet to drive in the yard, see those tractors circle the barn and come to rest in front of the house.

It seemed like Grandpa should be there, opening the door with a grin and offering us a dish of ice cream and piece of Grandma’s chocolate cake.

They would have loved this.

We all loved it.

Thank you Uncle Delbert.

Photo credits: Wiggy Photography, Inc. Thanks guys!

Here We Go Again

poison ivyThis wasn’t the post I had planned to write today…actually yesterday.  But sometimes things just don’t go as planned.

Angel Girl broke her glasses last week and she and I ended up driving the 45 minutes to the eye doctor to get a new pair.

Before we left in the morning I noticed a rash forming on my upper chest and a few spots on my legs.

Since I’m a little sensitive to the prickles on squash plants and I have been spending a lot of time in the patch squishing squash bugs, at first I thought it was just more squash rash. Itches for a few hours, is gone the next morning.

But by 1:00 it started burning.

By 4:00 I knew it was poison ivy.

By 7:00 I knew I was going to the doctor just as soon as the clinic opened.

By 9:00 I knew I wasn’t going to get any sleep.

I was right.

Some steroids and a prescription inch cream (the largest one they sell with 3 refills!) made things more endurable. Slightly.

But how in the world did I end up with poison ivy again? I have been so careful and hardly left the house. I’ve avoided all areas where the noxious weed is present.  And then I’ve faithfully washed with my poison ivy soap every time I’ve been out!

The answer was staring me in the face. The rash on my chest is in almost the exact outline of my work out shirt.

Every morning, I put on my work out clothes, gather the laundry and carry it to the basement, sort it, start it, and then exercise.

The guys have been in and out of poison ivy moving cows and pigs and fixing fence. There must of been some urushiol on their clothes that I unknowingly got all over my upper chest.

Then I worked out and sweated, which only made it worse, causing it to drip to other places, like all the way around my neck. (I knew I shouldn’t have done crunches!)

There must have been some on my shirt that I wiped on my face.

Then I showered, but didn’t use my poison ivy soap because I never knew I had been exposed.

So while I sit here in misery tonight, with the largest band of poison ivy rash I’ve ever had – covering my upper chest and wrapped around my neck like a boa, I’ve decided that the morale of this story is simple –

Don’t do laundry and don’t exercise.

At least not on the same day.

Battle of the Squash Bug

squash-bugs-1There’s a fierce battle raging inside my garden.

We call it the “Battle of the Squash Bug”.

Last year we had scorching heat and no rain for months. Our poor garden was withered and stunted despite the many hours we spent trying to keep it watered and alive.

We spent so much time watering that we had no time for insect control.

Weak and stressed plants attract varmints and one by one we watched our beloved squashes die. Butternut, spaghetti, acorn, even the prolific zucchini fell to the onslaught of the squash bug.

We retreated in defeat to focus on saving what we could in the rest of the garden. That, my friends, was a tactical error.

While we turned our attention to the tomatoes and corn and beans, those pesky varmints organized. They amassed thousands of new troops that quietly took cover over the winter.

And there they waited patiently for the first tender squash leaves of the season.

But this time – we were waiting, too.

Never again will we give up in defeat.

We are determined to be victorious this season!

We started with gloves and a bucket of rubbing alcohol, shuddering every time we plucked a bug and tossed him in the bucket to die. Hundreds, nay thousands died in that deadly chemical bath.

But it wasn’t enough – still they kept coming.

We painstakingly scraped the eggs off of the leaves and into the rubbing alcohol, and stamped out thousands of tiny blue nymphs, making this a battle that spans generations!

We plucked, we stepped on, we scraped. Yet the battle rages on.

Now – we’re in hand-to-hand combat.

Buddy and I pick them and squish them in our bare hands, relishing the stink of a dead squash bug.

Our focus is keen. Our passion is firm. Our cry is strong.

“Give me zucchini and give them death!”