Oh Christmas Tree…

The quest for the perfect Christmas tree is fairly universal.

The definition of “perfect” differs from person to person. In our house you will find “straight”, “cheap”, and “big” as preferred adjectives. Each of those words comes from a different person, of course.

After years of cheap trees that were crooked with bald spots, I finally put my foot down and insisted our next Christmas tree come from a local tree farm.

On the chosen day to pick a tree, I did not go along. My only edict was that I wanted a straight tree. Son #1 wanted a big tree. His brothers agreed. Hubby talked the boys into a “medium” sized one. (Guess who was the “cheap” advocate?)

This is what they came home with.

large Christmas tree

After using the chain saw to pare down the trunk enough to fit inside he tree stand, they brought the “medium” tree into the house and stood it up.

“It didn’t look that big outside.” (Our ceiling is 12′ tall at the peak).

There was a lot of engineering at work. Even after it fit into our tree stand, it was too heavy to stay upright. Hubby grabbed a board and bolted it to the trunk to keep the tree from crashing backward into the large picture window.

A rope was strung over to one of the legs of the buffet to keep the tree from falling to the right.

I stopped them when I found fishing line being attached to the curtain rods.

At this point, I was very unsure about the whole situation, but was trying to be a good sport. The decorations started to go on the tree. It soon became obvious that this might be the most crooked tree we had ever gotten to date.large christmas tree with decorations

This was straight out of a scene in a certain Chevy Chase movie.

All of the furniture in the room had be be adjusted to make room for the monster tree. Moving around meant stepping over ropes, boards or trying to not touch the tree and accidentally tip it over.

After a week, I called it quits.

large christmas tree taken outside

A normal-sized, straight tree that stands without additional support has taken its place.

normal christmas tree

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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My New Workout: The Catwalk

Out here in rural America, “working out” is different than large cities. There is no need to go to a gym when there is a pile of fence posts that needs to be sorted and stacked. There is no need to run in the park when you have miles of gravel roads or a wayward calf that needs to be brought back to the pasture.

Picking apples leads to even better stretches and poses than yoga and lifting weights is passe when there are dead tree limbs to clean up in the shelterbelt.

My latest workout might be the more unusual than any of those. When I posted it to Facebook and asked my friends to name this exercise, the winner was “The Catwalk”. Do you have another name for it? What “workouts” are on your list?

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Ten Signs You Are At a Small Town Football Game

  1. There are kids that not only play offense and defense, but also can play two or three positions on each side of the ball.
  2.  At least one (and probably more) of the linemen are 180 pounds or less
  3. A single family has two sons playing, dad is part of the chain gang, daughter is helping with stats, and mom is working a shift in the concession stand. (Not to mention the uncle who is a volunteer coach, cousin running the scoreboard, and another uncle in the color guard).
  4. Someone brings a cooler and school officials just smile and wave because they know it is an egg delivery
  5. The ticket takers do not bother to ask students for admission fees because all of them are either playing, student managers, cheerleaders, or in the pep band
  6. Parking on the track goes all the way around the field and car horns celebrate every touchdown. The vehicles are also a handy way to warm up during halftime.cars parked around football field for high school game
  7. At least once during the season, play has to be stopped because a three year old ran onto the field after recognizing his/her older brother
  8. Even the kids over at the school playground stop what they are doing when the national anthem is played
  9. The young kids from the home and visiting teams all find each other for a pick up game
  10. The foreign exchange student is always the field goal kicker
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I Cannot Have Nice Horticultural Things

Landscaping on the Great Plains is a losing proposition from the get-go.  It does not help that I am not very good at gardening. It is even worse with pets and livestock.

When we first built the ranch house, we knew we needed a dog. Every rural abode needs a protector, right?

We found a nice puppy and watched helplessly as she dug up every ornamental I tried to plant and wrestled possums in the yard. After puppy unfortunately chased the front wheels of a passing truck, we adopted an older dog who never caused a minute of trouble. During that time I thought, for sure, my landscaping would thrive.


Instead of a thriving landscape, I began to realize how incredibly bad hubby was at closing gates and building fences. One day, a ticked-off bull dug holes in the dirt around the house while staring at his reflection in the patio door. Cattle are even more destructive to a landscape or garden than a puppy.

About the same time as we adopted the older dog, the farm cats began to grow more domesticated. They associated the house with food and hung around a little too much.

Does anyone know what cute kittens at play can do to flowers and even shrubs?


This summer has been especially hard on my landscape. I had a very crazy project at my job that took up a lot of May and June. The garden and landscape did not get much attention and a few weeds may have sprouted around the shrubs and flowers.

Helpful hubby and sons tried to assist by mowing.

A shrub that got mowed off in the landscape

Those two stems sticking up in the middle of the photo used to be a false spirea.

We also have a dog that is actually more hair than dog. She gets hot easily. She has discovered that the north side of the house is an ideal place to dig a little hidey hole on a hot summer day.

hole dug by the dog in the landscape. She is looking for a cool place on hot days

Our little school started an FFA chapter – a development that I am very excited about. Son #1 decided he wanted lambs for his FFA project. I warned him all spring about the fencing requirements for sheep. To his credit, he sort of understood and tried to shore things up.

Unfortunately, every day when the sons leave for school, I soon notice our “free range” sheep making their way toward the house.

potted plants eaten by sheep

The potted plants on my front step are apparently especially yummy. Since this photo, they have even eaten the yellow hosta that are in the front of the fish-shaped pot.

Little do they know but the date that they meet the butcher is drawing near.


Next spring, I will greatly enjoy grilling lamb burgers outside while figuring out new ways to keep the dog from digging holes and reminding the sons to feed the cats over at the cattle yard and not by the house.

And just when I think it is safe to plant something again, someone will leave a gate open.

At least I don’t have any expensive, grafted, high-quality landscape trees.

Because expensive trees are especially attractive to an itchy heifer that just walked through an open gate.

Don’t ask me how I know.

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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.

country road

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?


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.


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.


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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