An Open Letter to a Malfunctioning Fitness Tracker

Dear step counter/fitness tracker:

We had a deal.

Every day I am supposed to drag my sorry carcass out for exercise. You are supposed to whistle, beep, and send me shiny icons and provide motivation to continue doing that.

Most of all though, you are supposed to count.

Imagine my surprise when I looked and saw that it took me exactly zero steps to run one and a half miles today.

I know I could look back at one of the past days and see how many steps it took for me to do that, but there is a principle at stake. If I’m motivated enough to do the running, the least you can do is hold up your end of the bargain.

After all, who wants a fitness tracker that is lazier than they are?

image

This lonely Nebraska road seems even lonelier when you discover your step counter has abandoned you. At least the useless ranch dog stayed with me…until she saw the squirrel…

Perhaps I have found a new job skill to compliment the “chicken physical therapist” line previously placed on my resume.

This one will be….”fitness tracker shaming”.

I believe I have started an entirely new industry. I like the sound of that.

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Blizzard February 2, 2016

We spent a lot of time last night bringing the cows home from their winter corn stalks and getting hay bales set out for them.

Why?

Because of winter storm “Kayla”, which was predicted to bring 8-12″ of snow along with 40 mph winds to our little corner of the world.

Livestock can handle harsh weather pretty well. This is an extreme situation in which shelter and feed can be lifesaving. We even went out this morning after the storm started to make sure they were in a sheltered spot.

Unfortunately, hubby’s trip ended with me having to mount a rescue mission after his pickup got stuck in the pasture. It might have to stay there for a day or two.

The late afternoon foray was more successful. Cows were located and followed hubby into their “blizzard” pen. The blizzard pen is a small paddock with trees on all four sides and rows of trees in the interior that provide additional shelter.

Once the snow lightened up a bit, the farm boys even went out to play in the snow.

boys playing in snow drifts in the blizzard of 2016

Of course, farm dog had to get in the fun too.

20160202_173432[1]

All in all, it was a pretty good day given the severity and dangerous characteristics of this storm. All the planning ahead meant that the animals – cows, chickens, dog and cats were all well fed and sheltered.

The humans are all warm, dry, and accounted for too. That makes this farm mom very happy.

That, and the bottle of wine I picked up on my pre-blizzard grocery run.

Did I mention that I REALLY like to plan ahead?

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Avian Influenza, Toy Chickens, and County Fairs

You may, or may not, be aware that Nebraska is among the many states that was affected by the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Nationwide, around 47 million birds (chickens and turkeys) died or had to be euthanized because of this disease (late summer 2015).

One of the possible vectors (ways to spread a disease) is through wild birds, especially wild ducks and geese.

My sons’ small chicken flock (30-ish birds) has not been affected (knock on wood) but they have taken precautions. Food and water are exclusively inside the coop (they used to have some outside in the pen too, but that could attract wild birds). Visitors need to wear a pair of our boots instead of their own shoes. If we had visitors that had their own chickens, we probably would not let them go out to the coop (we have not encountered that yet).

One other side effect? Poultry shows, sales, and other events were cancelled throughout the state of Nebraska (and many other states). This included the county fair.

As a result, all poultry events at the fair required props instead of real birds. Therefore, about a month ahead of the fair, I did an Internet search for stuffed chicken. I quickly amended the search to toy chicken.

We ended up with this…

toy chicken

She does not produce many eggs, but does not eat much feed either.

Her name has been the source of much debate. I will let you know the eventual winner but “bawk bawk” seems to be in the lead.

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Garden Update: Invasion Of the Pumpkins

My garden tendencies are a matter of public record on this blog.

Too much. Too close. Great ideas gone awry (not posted in previous stories to protect the innocent).

I tried to behave this year. I actually planted those tiny seeds and transplants far apart – like the label and catalog recommends. Really! I did not cheat on the 3 feet between rows and 6 feet between hills this time.

My reward? A cool, rainy spring and several years of work improving my garden soil (Operation Cow Manure) means that I still cannot walk between rows and I am going to have to replace all of the cheap, crappy tomato cages that collapsed.

Oh, and I finally understand why zucchini is a weed (after many years of struggling to keep mine alive past powdery mildew/vine borer season).

pumpkin invasion 2

Pumpkins growing out into the lawn (buffalograss in case you were wondering)

This morning, I was out in the garden before starting my work day, per my usual routine. A quick two-day family trip down the Niobrara River (next blog post) meant the plants were a bit neglected….in 85 degree weather….with humidity….and rain. In other words, if you listen closely, you can hear the corn (and other plants) growing.

My keen eyes immediately noticed the asparagus wall was being breached by the pumpkin patch. Not just the asparagus (north side), but the barbed wire fence/lawn (east), raspberry patch (south), and popcorn (west) were all struggling to hold back this cucurbita menace.

I will explain why I have a three-strand barbed wire fence around my garden another time. (Hint: cows)

I waded through the tomatoes/collapsed tomato cages in my main path. The zucchini managed to grow in all four directions (how?). The “bush” beans are still showing “pole” bean tendencies and sent vines across the walking path, maybe to intimidate fellow legume and non-Nebraska native – peanuts? (Son 3’s idea – yes, another blog post).

When I hacked my way to the asparagus wall, I was dismayed to see that many weeds had snuck into the mix. I now had two jobs: 1) detangle the pumpkins from the asparagus and turn the vines back toward their native patch and 2) pull up the weeds.

pumpkin invasionDetangling the pumpkins and asparagus proved to be a fruitless task. The fine, feathery foliage on asparagus, coupled with strong stems, is a perfect place for pumpkin tendrils to attach and curl. I had to choose between the two.

The struggle to grow asparagus (Son 2’s favorite vegetable) in my previously crappy soil means that those plants are treated with great deference. I chose to begin cutting the pumpkin vines in order to end their assault.

I was not as nice to the weeds as I was to the asparagus. Those were ripped up by the roots and…then….I had to decide what to do with the weed carcasses.

I could compost them. I could throw them into the lawn to be chopped up by the lawnmower. I could pile them to dry and burn them.

Or, I could toss them into the pumpkin patch itself. This very simple solution seemed perfect.

Velvetleaf. Kochia. Lamsquarter. Nightshade. Bean vine (Oops).

All were tossed into the pumpkin patch as quickly as I could pull them. The area was soon much neater and I was left with the feeling that I somehow made a sacrifice to appease the pumpkin gods.

I will let you know in a week or so if they were pleased with my offering…

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Life With Sons – Some Lessons Learned As a Mom of Boys

Those of you that are regular readers know that I have three sons. No daughters. Just sons.

I was always a tomboy and never a ‘girly’ girl. So, I thought that if anyone could adjust to living with all these males, it was me.

I was wrong.

Even a tomboy brain like mine does not process things the same way as boys. Some examples:

Farting is always funny

I was working on my computer while standing at the kitchen island. Son 3 ran up the stairs, clearly on a mission. When he reached the top, he yelled Son 1’s name (Son 1 was sitting in the living room). When he had the attention of older brother, son 3 proceeded to twist his body sideways and release a long, loud, gaseous emission. He was incredibly amused with himself and looked toward brother for approval, only to notice that brother was looking into the kitchen – at me.

Son 3 looked my way and immediately realized he probably should quit giggling. He put a serious expression on his face and barely choked out “Excuse me…” before running back down the steps. I managed to keep the smile off my face until neither one was looking at me.

Mom should stay out of the way when brothers pick on each other

Earlier this summer, we proceeded through our normal July routine of  filling the pool. Leveling the sand, cleaning the liner, and patching holes all preceded the final step of adding water. On the very hot day of this task, the boys reveled in the cold water coming out of the hose as the first few inches filled the pool.

The heat of the day quickly warmed that little bit of water and son #2 laid down in it to cool off. Son #3 kept spraying him with cold water from the hose which led to many arguments and shouting.

I finally banished Son #3 from the pool to come with me and check on the condition of the inflatable toys. We spent 10 or 15 minutes looking for holes and filling said toys. After an appropriate amount of time, I finally let him go back to the pool to rejoin his brother.

It only took a minute for him to return to the garage and report that his brother was no longer in the pool. A quick peek in the house showed Son #2 acting bored. When asked why he was in the house, he said it was no fun in the pool by himself.

Sigh.

Mom lesson learned. Leave the boys to their ‘fighting’ until blood appears.

Do not ask questions unless you really want to know…

Shortly before a school concert last spring, I hollered downstairs to the boys “We leave in 15 minutes!”. I overheard, “Quick-we have to get the syrup out of my hair”.

I let them deal with it and we arrived at the concert sans syrupy locks. I still have no idea what happened or why.

It is better that way.

A picture that perfectly describes life with  young males…

In case you did not know, boys like to take everything apart. Everything.

liquid soap where the spout has been removed and poked into a bar soap

 

Another reason to never ask questions….

One evening I walked into the garage for a purpose that I can no longer remember.

I noticed 3 young male humans acting like they were completely innocent — a posture that immediately arouses the suspicion of moms everywhere.

I was also greeted by a spoiled kitten and a chicken perched on the edge of a cardboard box.

There was no smoke, blood, or sharp objects visible. It also appeared that the kitten was not being trained to hunt the chicken (who would have completely kicked kitty’s butt anyway). I walked by all of them, grabbed a beer from the shelf and went back in the house.

Everyone was happy.

The end.

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Flood Cleanup At the Ball Field – More Than Just Getting Ready For a Game

It has been a busy summer on the ranch. So busy, that I have not had time to sit down and write for a while.

Three sons means that June is consumed with T-ball and baseball games. Except for that one week it rained….

The ball field in our little town is located in a low-lying area. Our boys have been playing ball for 10-ish years now and this is the first time I can remember the diamond being underwater. Check out the pictures below from the flood and subsequent cleanup. The flood pictures came from hubby and several friends (used with permission–thanks Curtis, Jenny, Cory, and Christina).

Is it wrong that I was really tempted to put a palm tree on the pitcher’s mound “island” and hang out with a lawn chair and margarita?

ball field 2015 flooding view from northwest ball field flood 2015 view from grandstandOf course, a big flood means a big cleanup. Many baseball parents (and players) gave up a Sunday afternoon nap after the floodwaters receded.

nine year old power washing cement after flood receded

Above, son #3 (9 years old) commandeered the power washer to clean mud from the cement around the concession stand. We did not allow him to wash inside (fortunately, it is on slightly higher ground than the field). He was soooooo excited that we let him use the power washer he forget to angle the nozzle to keep mud from splashing back up on the siding. Sigh.

raking debris off the infield

The boys on the infield are gathering the last of the debris. In the background, you can see the last large pile of cornstalks raked out from the fenceline.

Small towns are amazing places. While they may lack for some conveniences, there is definitely an abundance of “can do” and “I will help” attitudes all around. No one hesitated or balked when the call for volunteers went out. “When?” and “What can I bring?” were the general responses.

This ball diamond will probably never produce a single major league baseball player. It has an excellent chance of producing future adults who understand the importance of community and volunteerism.

I would say that was worth missing a Sunday afternoon nap. How about you?

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May 18. Frost Advisory. Unhappy Gardener.

covered plant

A tomato plant covered with a pop bottle. We take the lid off for daytime and remove the cover entirely when the weather gets hot.

I have written in the past about extreme gardening in the Great Plains. Between wind, drought, and more wind, I have often wondered if I should seek some type of therapy. I have gotten used to a gradually-warming climate (welcomed it even).  One side effect of climate change is the uptick in extreme events. We have been increasingly experiencing early warming in the spring followed by a late frost/freeze that throws all of my plans aside.

Today is the latest date we have been under a frost advisory since, well, anytime I can remember. In response, we found tarps, emptied the linen closet, broke out the collection of discarded curtains retained just for covering garden plants, and even stole the dog’s fuzzy blanket to cover the tender plants in the garden tonight.

My thoughts on this uncharacteristically late freeze? Imagine the following to the tune of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves song, “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work I Go”).

potato patch covered

The potato patch covered with a tarp. There was just a little bit of wind, so the rhubarb leaves add some weight to keep it from blowing.

Hi ho, Hi ho
Off to cover the garden I go
We plant plant plant plant plant plant plant plant
In the soil the whole day through
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
Apparently too soon
It ain’t no trick
To plant too quick
And ya wait wait wait
For the weather’s fate

….

Hi hoooo, Hi hooooo, HI hoooooooo, Hi hooooo, Hi hoooooooooo
Hi ho, Hi ho
Out to cover the garden we go
[whistles] It’s May 18, For goodness sake
Hi ho, Hi ho, Hi ho, Hi ho, Hi ho….

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