will it never stop?

More sky pictures.







At least there are clouds in the sky this time :-)

again with the sky

In honor of today's beautiful, fall like weather, and as a result of my lack of motivation to write anything more than a sentence, I present some sunset pictures from the other day.





Enjoy.

Free Beef

When we first moved into our little farm house, we were under the (apparently false) assumption that from time to time, free beef from our own farm's beef cows would find its way to our freezer.

After almost 15 months of farm living....we finally got our first cut of free beef. I think it was un-official payment for being willing to feed the baby cows one weekend. I will feed cows in exchange for beef any day....though it does seem disturbingly ironic.

Anyway....here it is:

Our free sirloin steak, marinating.

We then grilled it.

It was very yummy.

We also got some ground beef and a pork chop (not from the farm...we don't have pigs).

I don't think this free meat thing will become a habit....unless I keep trading them for free bread....


To change it up

How about a sunrise?Just to change things up a bit.

More of the same

You all are probably sick of these random sunset shots by this point. But I can't help it. Every night I am tempted to take pictures of the sun going down. One day we will not live on a farm, we may even live in suburbia. Then there will be less sunset shots, I promise.

Until then....


I wish I could take better sunset shots, the colors never come out quite accurately.


There still nice though.

One of a Kind

Most of the frogs here on the farm are these adorable little brown frogs. They are quite cute, but there are so many of them, they have become quite common place.

So the other day, when I was weeding the garden, and saw this little creature:


I was pleasantly surprised. I first mistook it for a large green grasshopper. But a closer look confirmed it was, in fact, a frog.





I have never seen a green one on the farm before, nor since. So I am not sure where he came from. I can only imagine that he hopped a long way to get here.


A few minutes later he kept right on hopping, and now he is gone. Who knows where he went, but it was nice to see him while he was here.

Chick and Ruth's

Enough about the postcard, onto what we actually did while being touristy with Little Sister and Mon Amour's cousin last weekend. There was some site seeing, some window shopping, some enjoying of the air conditioning in the visitor's center....
But ultimately, the best part was lunch at Chick and Ruth's. It's a diner....more like a landmark. It's always busy. We passed by there earlier in the day, stopped to examine their menu, and were accosted by the friendly host. Who offered us a table. Little sister said only if they served grilled cheese. Which they do, in a bunch of different varieties. But...we still politely refused, but said we might come back.

Well, we did come back, and by that time, there was a rather long wait for a table. We went in to have the host put our name on the list - and when he recognized us he immediately put us at the top of the list and we got seated almost immediately. I don't think the other people liked us much at that point; but who can blame the host for succumbing to Little Sisters flirty eyes. :-)

The diner is quite small - it is miraculous how many people they get to fit in that place.


They also hang bagels from the ceiling. No one knows why.


Apparently instead of rolls, or chips, or whatever else restaurants give you to start off - this lovely diner gives you pickles. It was weird. None of us really likes pickles, and most of us don't even like the smell of them, so we were really hoping to pawn them off onto someone else's table. But I suspect they just would have replaced them for us...they are that nice.


Little Sister got her grilled cheese.

And all around, everyone thoroughly enjoyed their food!

It was a grand time!

Deceptive

Last weekend Mon Amour and I spent some time in my favorite hometown with some family doing some sightseeing. Since we were doing the toursity thing, we had to browse the post cards, and we found this one:


Its a good thing we are locals, otherwise we would have been deceived on any number of points. The most minor offense is that the scale is obviously way off. Centreville is not that far north, Annapolis is not that far east, etc. But that can be forgiven, its just a post card after all.

But wait - that's not how you spell "Centerville". Its "CentREville". Trust me. I lived there.

Also, what is this mysterious town called "Helkton"? (top of the map) I am not familiar with the town of "Helkton".

Poor tourists who buy this postcard. They will be so deceived.

The End of the Toaster

This is our toaster:Let us have a moment of silence for our toaster because today, it toasted its last piece of toast.

Yes, folks, I am sorry to say, our nameless toaster has died.

Here's how it happened.
I made toast for Mon Amour.
Then I stuck my toast in and pushed the little lever down. About 30 seconds later, it popped back up. It does this from time to time. It likes to pretend that toast is done, even when its barely warm.
So I popped it back down again. It wouldn't stay. The little lever refused to stay down, which means the heat won't come on, which means no toasting is achieved.


I was very disappointed. I tried not to get too depressed, and I proceeded to give it a good cleaning. Took out the crumbs, fiddled with the lever, unplugged it, and plugged it back in

Toast in. Lever down. Nope. Lever comes right back up.

"Fine" I think - I will just hold the lever down. I don't need it to time how long my toast toasts.
Success! I can feel the heat starting to come from the toaster. No big deal I can stand here and hold my toast down while it toasts.

Only wait...we have another problem.
Its hard to see in the picture - but do you notice the red hot coils on that center wall of the toaster? That is a good thing. But do you notice how the coils on the outside wall of the toaster are not red at all? That is a bad thing.
It's only cooking one side.

I will manually hold the lever down to get my toast to toast. But I will not hold the lever down, then rotate the toast and then hold the lever down again. Sorry. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Good bye super cheap toaster. Its been real.


Ironies

Life is fully of dysfunction and irony. Some of its funny. Some of its aggravating. Today was mostly filled with aggravating dysfunction, peppered with irony. So I thought I would end it with some humorous irony, peppered with dysfunction:


Its a board. Nailed to a wall. For no apparent reason. The best part, though: the side of the board not on the wall says "this side against the wall".
Nice work.

The Cows Escaped....again.

The other day, while the landlord and landlady were away from the farm at a conference, I was given the task of feeding the baby cows. I love that task.

The only problem, is that whenever I am on cow-duty, some bunch of cows or another always manages to get out of the fence. Remember this time? Yeah. that one was intense.

Well, this time was no exception. There I was, innocently feeding Bert and Ernie. When I came out from behind the silos...this guy greeted me.


In case you can't tell, he is on the wrong side of the fence, or, more specifically, the wrong side of the silos. (pardon the weird blue tone, I took this picture with my phone)

I tried to remedy the problem on my own. I was going to have Mon Amour drive the car down the drive way in attempts to scare him back where he came from. Only I couldn't find an opening in the fence to scare him back into.

I thought perhaps if I just left him alone, then he would get bored and return to his barn home. But no, he started wandering further away from where he came from.

So I decided to call the landlady. We went through the usual routine - "Is it a big cow?" "Yes, it's a big cow. A very big boy cow as a matter of fact" (they are scarier than girl cows usually)

We finally established that it was a real crisis - and they called a farm hand to come remedy the situation. That brave farm hand remedied the situation by setting out the cow's breakfast - then smacking it on the bum to get it to move. Literally - the cow perked up at the sound of breakfast being set out, then the guy went over, smacked it, and there it went - back home to the pasture.

So, I was later told that there was a hole in the fence where that cow may have gotten out. So I went to investigate.

It was hard to find, but right in between these two silos....


There is a broken fence. And by broken fence, I mean a total absence of a fence. And just on the other side are all the cows. If they wanted to, they could all just walk out.

The farmer assures me that they wont - that cows are dumb creatures of habit, and even though the fence is gone, because they have never crossed that line, its like the fence is still there.

That's a nice thought, but apparently one cow knows the difference between a fence and no fence.


Simplicity

I really like this picture.
I edited it lots of different ways.
But ultimately decided that I liked it best the way it looked straight from the camera.
So that is what you get to see:

7%

Recently, Mon Amour and I went on a date ....to the grocery store. Don't worry, I considered it incredibly romantic. I love grocery shopping. And I love that Mon Amour doesn't mind shopping with me. He is very helpful! Helpful for keeping me on track, helpful for telling me its ok to loosen up from time to time, helpful for asking cashiers about items that seem to be out of stock, and helpful for carrying things to the car. Very helpful.

This trip was particularly thrilling. The short version goes like this:

Total Retail Value of my Groceries: $179.97
Total that I paid: $13.61

That's approximately 7% of the retail value. It like everything was 93% off.
hehe. Pardon the giggling. But saving money on groceries makes me giddy.

So, what does $179.97 worth of groceries look like?
Like this:
As for the details -first the "don't be TOO impressed" details (i.e. the flaws/errors with my shopping):

$15 of this shopping trip was the result of a cashier error - not through my own planning (though this trip did require quite some planning!). They accidentally printed me twice as many coupons as they should have. My conscience haunts me a little about not correcting their error...but in the moment, I wasn't convicted enough. So, really, if not for this cashier error I would have spend $13.61 on only $164.97 worth of groceries. Still a very good trip.

Then the sad news - we actually could have gotten 2 free bagged salads added to this trip. There were coupons for free salad with the purchase of dressing that we didn't notice. They were right on the dressing bottles, but we didn't see them until we got home. Lame.


Now the fun news. I won't bore you with all the details. Just some highlights.

The core of the savings was based on a Unilever offer - by $30 worth of stuff, get $15 off your next purchase. Well, the $30 is pre-coupons. So $30 sale cost - approximately $13 in coupons = $17 cost, with a $15 coupon for next time. Do that twice, this time using that $15 coupon in lieu of cash - and you only have to put out a few dollars to get ANOTHER $15 off the next purchase coupon. You can roll the deal like this a lot if you have lots of coupons. I only rolled it twice. (the 2nd time was when they printed me $30 in coupons, instead of $15. Oops.)

The really good deals:

We were randomly awarded a coupon for a free box of cookies from the bakery. Score!

I had a coupon for $0.50 off 2 candy bars. They were on sale 2 for $1. And the coupon was doubled. This equals 2 free candy bars.

And the best deal - Kellogs is running a back to school promotion where if you purchase 10 Kellogs products and mail in the receipt / UPCs, you get a $10 rebate. Well, it just so happened that the grocery store had Kellogs Pop Tarts on sale at $1 a box. A great price even without the rebate. I also had coupons for $0.50 of 2 boxes. That coupon gets doubled. So each box cost me 50 cents. Totalling $5 for 10 boxes. Mail in those UPCs and receipt - and I just made $5 on 10 boxes of Pop Tarts.

On my last transaction of the evening - where I was using up my $30 in "next purchase" coupons. I wanted to get as close to $30 as possible. I didn't want to put out any more cash, but I also didn't want the store to techically owe me money at the end. So, we added a few frivolous items (like gum, and an artichoke). My in-store math was just about dead on. After sales, regular coupons, and the $30 coupons, I owed the casheir 51 cents. Perfect.

Yes, it was a good trip. Next time I will correct a cashier error if I catch it. I enjoy couponing, and don't feel any shame about "making money" off of certain deals - but I do believe couponing should be done correctly, with in the guidelines carefully established by marketing firms everywhere. I don't want to abuse the system (like the guy who was at the store with us who bought 150 jars of mayonaise cause he figured out how to get them for free or at least nearly free).
To me, couponing is a game (a very practical one) and like most games, its really only fun if you play by the rules and be a good sport.

Crop Failures: Part 3

My third crop failure is due in equal parts to my own impatience the general difficulty of this crop. You see, watermelon, it seems, is very very difficult to pikc at the appropriate time.

Even the Farmer's Almanac admits that it is a guessing game. There are some signs, but really, who can really tell?

We can't apparently. We read all about the signs. Applied them to our watermelon and determined it was time to pick it....and share it with some friends.

Well, our friends hopefully got a good chuckle out of it - cause they sure didn't get any watermelon:


Still pink. And actually the picture gives it even more color than it actually has. Haha.
It smelled really good. And the pink parts weren't half bad.
But it definitely wasn't ripe.

We have one other significant watermelon on the vine. We are going to wait a LONG time before picking that one.

Then, I have been informed (2nd hand, though from a real legitimate watermelon farmer) that you can cut open the watermelon a little bit while still on the vine, and if it is not ripe - just duct tape it back together and let it keep growing. Sounds like a reasonable idea to me!

Crop Failures: Part 2



My second crop failure: Tomatoes.

How can you mess up tomatoes?
Well, in my defense, I don't think it was my fault and so far, only 1 of the 25 tomatoes on my plants has failed.

Look at it - it looks so nice.

Until you flip it over.

That's some kind of weird mold / rot that has attacked the bottom of the tomato.
At first I was optimistic - I would just cut it out. Tragically, the rot went ALL THE WAY THROUGH! Yikes. I didn't even want to touch it after that.

So I threw it away. Back to the store bought tomatoes I had on hand.

But, like I said, there are 25 ish tomatoes on my plants, just waiting to turn red. It is just a matter of time (hopefully) before we get a good one.

Crop Failures: Part 1

Let me preface this mini series with a perky disclaimer: I do not consider my garden to be a failure. I have had a delightful time planting it and watching it grow. I have no regrets. Nor am I depressed by my failures.

At the same time, however, I recognize that I am not a farmer. I just live on a far.
I have minimal gardening talents, and am still honing my gardening skills.

As a result, not everything went as planned in the garden. Like when the lettuce started sprouting flowers. Yeah, I didn't expect that. I kind of thought we would eat it all before that happened. But, we really didn't eat as much of it as I thought we would. But, ultimately I would consider this one to be a farming success because I gathered seeds from these flowers, and now I have seeds for next year. That's 20 less cents worth of seeds for the garden budget next year. haha


Anyway - down to business. My first gardening failure:
My Sunflowers


First the good news -
I didn't expect these to grow at all, but they did. Yay!
In fact, they got HUGE! That one really big one must be close to 18" across. Yikes!
They were really pretty looking
I got some sweet pictures out of these flowers.

Now the bad news -
I was hoping to collect some seeds from these sweet flowers. I read a few websites about when and how to dry and harvest sunflower seeds. I was totally prepped. On the day that I cleared out the garden I cut the flowers off like I was supposed to. And while I was preparing to hang them somewhere to dry, I noticed they looked kind of funny. Kind of not like sunflower seeds. Perhaps I just do not know what they should have looked like - I haven't seen a genuine sunflower close up in a long time. Then I noticed that one of them had bugs in it. Like all over the place in it. And another one had weird rotting brown spots on the back.

So, in summary, I have no idea if I could actually succeed in drying these and getting seeds out of them. But the bugs and the rot and the all around heaviness of the flower heads, has led me to the decision to not bother trying.

Thanks for a lovely summer, Sunflowers, but its dumpster time.

Storm Front

Here on the farm, you can tell a storm is coming, when the corn starts to do this:

video


And in case you ever wondered why they called it a "storm front" or a "line of storms"....this would be why:

Pretty cool. Literally, actually. It was really hot on the left side of the pictures, and quite comfortably cool on the right side :-)

Typical Bert and Ernie

I think I have said it before, but...
I love the baby cows on our farm.

I very much love that they have personalities. Really, they do. If they were identical looking, I would still be able to tell them apart. Let me illustrate - typical Bert and Ernie attitudes.


This is Bert (dark face) and Ernie (white face).
They are peeking through the feeding trough bars at me. Initially both kind of curious.


Then something moves behind them in the pen (probably a bird of some sort)
Bert jumps back in fright and turns to assess the situation.
Ernie sticks his head through the bars to get a better look at me.

Crisis averted behind Bert. Bert returns to assessing the situation in front of him, still very tentative.
Ernie - sticks his head as far as possible through the bars to see if I will give him something to eat.

This is how it always goes. Bert looks sweet, but scared. And Ernie wants to know if you brought food.
Ernie has no fears. None whatsoever.
Bert on the other hand, has only gotten close enough for me to pet him like once.

I try and bring them both yummy clovers to eat from time to time. Ernie eats his right up. Bert sniffs his like it might be poisonous. And by the time he decides it might be safe, and works up the courage to stick out his tongue, Ernie's over zealous tongue (which has already consumed his own snack) swoops in to steal Bert's. I don't know how Bert ever manages to eat anything.

Poor Bert.


Clearing Out

This weekend, I decided it was time to clear out some of the stuff in the garden that was past its prime. This is what it looked like beforehand:


Mostly what needed to go were the large, drooping sunflowers, and the lettuce which I had let go so long had started blooming.

So, armed with a pair of these:

aka the rusty-est, most antiquated garden clippers you have ever seen, that my landlady very benevolently let me borrow after showing me her favorite pair of to-die-for garden clippers (not pictured)

They did the trick - and after removing this large pile of plant-ness...

This is what the garden looks like now:

You can actually see our watermelon!
What's left?
Well, the wildflowers are still going to town.
We have a few more sunflowers.
We have a huge watermelon plant currently growing 2 watermelons
A teeny tiny cucumber plant with lots of flowers (its so small, but it is trying very hard to produce a good crop)
And 10 tomato plants, which at last count, had about 25 green tomatoes on them. One day they will actually turn red.
Oh, and some basil and some oregano. They are still going strong.

A glorious day

We don't often get much mail. And usually the mail we get goes straight into the trash. But the other day when we got a letter from SallieMae, we figured we better open it since they were probably looking for money from us or something.

Much to our great surprise, we found, not a bill, but a check!!!


For $2.26.

Wohoo!

We actually paid off one of our Sallie Mae accounts last fall. And paid according to the 10 day pay off amount - and when our money got there before the 10 days was up, that meant we actually technically over paid. By $2.26. I figured that money was lost, and wasn't too concerned about it.

But it seems that many months later, Sallie Mae finally looked at our account and realized that they owed us money!

Yes, what a glorious day. When your loan company owes you money. Off to the bank we go with our $2.26.

1 loan down........and....a couple more to go.

Peaches

This past weekend I went to an orchard.....


With my lovely sister...



to pick peaches.....


We picked 17 lbs of peaches.
Which doesn't look like that many in the picture below. But trust me. Its a LOT of peaches.

In order to make sure none of these yummy peaches go bad, I have been doing fun things with them. Like making jam.


When I made it, the peaches had definitely hit prime juicy-ness! The juice you see in the bowl is just plain old yummy peach juice goodness. No water or anything added.

Then of course, I added some sugar.


And boiled and boiled and boiled....



Until I ended up with this....



The rest of the peaches have made for yummy breakfasts, yummy snacks and yummy desserts. And I have frozen a few bags of peach pieces for later yummy-ness. And I still have lots of peaches left....maybe its time for pie....