Summertime Visit

Each year I drive the long miles to pick up my grandson, Mr. J. He has come to my home each summer since he was four years old. He actually lived with me for nine months starting at age two. Circumstances with the divorce of his parents, and his mother moving to Texas, he needed a place to stay for awhile until she became settled. Granny’s house was a good place to go. Then his father came to Texas and stayed with us for nine months. So, for over a year he lived at our house.

When things settled and his parents found their rhythm in life, he came for visits. The length of time started as a whole month. But as children grow, they have other activities. This year Mr. J will visit for three weeks.

The drive to bring him to Texas and return him home is the worst part of our summertime visit. Two days on the road makes a long trip. On the trip to Texas we talk about the year and catch up. We also make plans for what we will do this visit.

This year, we are fishing and riding horses. His horse is not caring for a baby this year, and we will be able to go on rides. He has been riding her since he was two, they are both getting older. There will come a time when he will not be able to ride his beloved Vicky horse.

Fishing is another activity he started learning at the age of two. We would take him to the local lakes, hook the perch and let him reel in the fish. He has learned how to bait his own hook, take off his own fish, and how to put rigging on his pole. The first day of fishing this year, his first fish was a channel catfish, 20 1/2 inches long, weight 3.5 pounds. His largest fish he has brought to show was three years ago, a channel catfish 28 inches long.

But staying with Granny is not all play, there are the daily chores of taking care of the sheep and horses. We are also refinishing a dresser for his aunt who is having triplets. He has learned how to paint different items in the past visits, but this year he is learning how to hand sand and refinishing an old dresser, and make some minor improvements and repairs.

Two years ago when Covid-19 broke out and everyone was on lockdown, he could not come for summer visit. His mother said he was miserable. She said that would not happen again. His summertime visits are a recharge for him. A time to learn new things and just be a kid.

Mr. J and I have a special relationship, grandmother and grandson, but also best friends. He is able to talk to me about anything and everything, without feeling judgement or getting in trouble. We have worked through some of his hard problems, learned how to deal with emotions,the problems that arise from having divorced parents and step parents.

During our fishing trip, we discussed that these summertime visits will eventually come to an end. He is getting older. One year he will have a job, or be at college, and unable to take three or four weeks visits with Granny. He is getting older, growing up and will eventually have commitments and responsibilities, that he does not have today. Today, we will enjoy the talks on the lake banks waiting for the big catfish to bite, or feeling the rhythmic hoofbeats under us as we ride.

He also realizes that the day will come when his beloved Vicky horse will no longer be able to carry him on a ride, she is sixteen this year. His hope is to ride her filly born last year, when the filly will be old enough to ride. And perhaps, he will be able to train her, be the first on her back for the first ride.

It has been a cherished joy to teach my grandson the many lessons, first to be talk using words, to learning to ride alone, to catching and reeling in a 28 inch catfish. Memories we both will cherish for a lifetime and beyond.

So, if I miss a day or two from writing the next few weeks, I am out fishing or riding or working on a dresser, building more memories to recall in the future and a relationship for a lifetime.

amtolle

First Big Step in Life: Graduation

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It is the time of year I start receiving graduation announcements. Family members and young people who I watched grow up are finishing the last days of high school and graduating. Graduation is a time of celebration, their childhood work of education is completed and they are stepping into adulthood.

In the United States, a child begins the education journey with their first step into a kindergarten classroom. For thirteen years they will attend public education provided by the country. This is only the beginning to a lifetime journey of learning.

I hear seniors say they will be so glad to be out of school, they are tired of learning, lessons, tests and homework. Truth is schooling is the easy lessons to learn. The lessons from life are pass or fail. There is a cost when you fail the lesson in life.

Learning continues in after high school graduation with the choices. One pathway is to continue with structured classes in a college or university to obtain an occupational degree. Others choose to become certified in an occupation such as beautician, electrician and many others. Some choose to enter into military service for the country. Last, there are those who just want to get a job, and figure out what they want to do. Regardless of the choice to continue with more structured learning, all will start their lessons of life.

Lessons taught on financial responsibility. Some young people are surprised by the expense of having a cellphone. A common item used daily, that is paid for by their parents, now becomes their responsibility to keep the bill paid.

Time management is another life lesson. Balancing time spent with college or work and with family and friends. Balancing having fun with what is required to pay their new found bills, and not falling asleep.

After high school, people seperate to start their new adventure in life. Some leaving their hometown for the first time. Learning people from different places do not think the same as they do on a vast array of subjects. There is work involved in keep friendships alive when they are not seeing each other daily, often having a visit months apart. Making new friends and keeping old friends, and developing romantic relationships without supervisor or wise words from parents.

The lessons young people learn after graduation are lessons they will continue to learn as adults for a lifetime. We meet new people, we learn new jobs, our old friends move away or we move away from them. Our lives and the lives around us are always changing, and the lessons are learned and refined as we gain in age.

Do we ever arrive at knowing how to work around those we may not agree with? Do our friendships never change? I do not think we are ever “done” with learning.

We change yearly, hopefully getting better at our life lessons. Looking forward to the next adventure, the new friend and making wiser choices.

amtolle

Dealing with Grief

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I have taken some time away from my blog to grieve, grieve for my sister-in-law, Sally. Sally went to be with the Lord the day before Easter this year. A memorial was held on May 7, and her ashes spread on May 8, Mother’s Day.

I was unable to attend. The services and placement of her ashes were in Wyoming, a long way from where I live. My husband attended. Being separated during the time of grieving for a close relative is difficult. I wanted to be next to him with love, support and comfort. He had lost his only full sibling, two years his junior.

I had met and visited with Sally on several occasions. When we traveled north to visit family, I made sure we visited her, let her know she was accepted by her brother’s new wife, and she was important. We hit it off. She enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed hers.

I wished I had been able to visit her in person before her stepping through the door, but it was not to be. I am a sheep farmer, responsible for the well being of my sheep, horses and dogs. She understood my situation.

My husband brought back a few personal things that belonged to her. Sally had few possessions, she only kept what meant the most to her. A family portrait, a clown statue her mother had, a few Christmas ornaments, a verse she had written while missing her mother, little things attached to memories.

A sister-in-law chose a leather jacket Sally always wore. Inside the pocket was the ticket stub when we all gathered in Texas for the State Fair of Texas. The last time all four siblings were together. That occasion meant alot to all of us, but apparently was very important to Sally. Everytime she placed her hand in the pocket, she was reminded of being with her sibling, half-siblings and their spouses. The happy day of all of us together sharing memories and making new ones.

Her life was not easy. Their parents divorced when she was two years old. Her father did not spend much time with her due to different situations. Her stepdad did not accept her. She longed for a father’s love. She was closests to her mother, and when their mother went home to the Lord, Sally was lonely.

The day before Easter, the day celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, Sally went to be with her Heavenly Father. She was baptised as a young girl, but was not raised in church. She loved God, she prayed, but she was unable to touch or feel God. Sally now has the touch and feel of a Father’s Love, something she searched for during her lifetime.

We all grieve in different ways. I choose solitude and prayer. I am gradually finding the places to put the few things we have from Sally. She will always remain in our hearts, and will have a place in our home.

amtolle

Remembrance

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While watching a murder mystery where a policeman was undercover as a college professor teaching English Literature. The policeman gave the students an assignment of writing their own obituary. This brought to mind a Bible study I participated in years ago titled “One Month to Live”. In the Bible study we were to write our obituary, epilogue and what our headstone would say. Sounds morbid, but the focus on the Bible study was are we living life, and are we living a life in a the way we want to be remembered.

Are you living your life in the way you want to be remember? Are you grouchy to people in the check out line, instead of patient for your turn? Are your reactions the actions you want people to remember?

The study brought to focus, that I was not really living life. I was home, alone doing what needed to be done, but not really having joy in the day. I was not in conscente communication with my children. And due to the distance, I was not finding ways to have my grandchildren know who I was. There were things I needed to change.

I wanted my grandchildren to know more about me than just I am their parents’ mother. I wanted to know my grandchildren beyond a name and birthdate.

Obituaries tell the facts about a person’s life. Their spouse, how many children, grandchildren. Where a person grew up, what school or schools they graduated from, and organizations they may have belonged to.

The epilogue is where someone tells others what type of person you are. They give information to how you feel and react, what you believe, what are the most important memories of you from those who know you. The epilogue tells what type of person you are and your life.

My epilogue was faded, vague not much in comparison to what I wanted to be remembered for doing and being.

How would the life you are currently living align with what you would want to be said in an epilogue? What type of memories would be shared by those you care about and love concerning you?

My epilogue has changed since the Bible study. I made changes to my life. I get out of the house, there are others besides family who know me as a person, not just a name. My grandchildren can share stories of things we have done together. I once again have dreams and goals for my life, although I am in the downward side of my lifespan, I have things I want to do and be remembered for doing.

How does your life align with what you would like shared in your epilogue?

amtolle

Frog Eye Salad, a tradition

There are some recipes our family uses in celebration of different seasons and holidays. Frog Eye Salad is an Easter dinner tradition. I found the recipe years ago in a school generated cookbook. The school collects recipes from the families of students attending, and compile the recipes into a cookbook and sell them to raise funds for specific items or programs at the school.

Where the name Frog Eye salad comes from I do not know as there are no frog eyes in the recipe. It is a sweet tropical pasta fruit salad. There are three parts to the recipe: the sauce, the pasta and the fruit. I do variations of the recipe depending on what is in the cupboard at the time. I will put my variations in parenthesis to show the difference from the original recipe.

The Sauce:

1 Cup of Sugar 2 Tablespoons of flour 1/2 teaspoon of salt 1-3/4 Cups of Pineapple juice ( I get the juice from the cans of fruit I am adding, or if I am using fresh pineapple, after blending the pineapple I strain the juice into a cup ) 2 eggs beaten 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Combine sugar, flour and salt, stir. Beat eggs then add to pineapple juice. Add the juice/eggs to flour mix, stir well, cook over moderate or medium heat, stirring the mixture until it thickens. I like the consistency of thick gravy. Once the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, can be fresh or bottled.

The pasta:

The type of pasta is Acini de Pepe or pearl pasta. Same pasta two different names.

16 ounces of pasta

Cook pasta according to directions until al dente. Really soft pasta does not hold up in the pasta salad. Drain.

In an airtight container mix the pasta and the sauce together and refrigerate until cold.

The Fruit:

3 – 11 ounce cans of mandarin oranges, drained 2- 20 ounce cans of pineapple chunks, drained 1- 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained

(I will substitute fruit cocktail for a can of mandarin oranges or one can of pineapple. The pineapple makes the salad. One fresh pineapple is substituted for all the canned pineapple chunks and crushed. I also drained Maraschino cherries to add color to the salad for July 4th. )

1 – Cup of miniature marshmallows (I consider these optional, if I have them I use them. If I do not it does not distract from overall taste.)

1 – Cup of coconut (This is listed as optional, but I consider it a main ingredient. The flavor combination of pineapple, oranges and coconut are what give this salad character. )

Fold the fruit, marshmallows and coconut into the pasta, until well blended and refrigerate until cold.

If kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this salad can keep for up to a week.

amtolle

Planters (part 1)

I like to have unique or different planters for the plants outside. I enjoy recycling or repurposing an item, to be used again instead of throwing into the garbage, and the item ultimately being in the landfill or ocean. I find that repurposing something is less expensive than buying an item for the purpose. Today, it is planters. I love plants and growing things, but I do not always have enough containers to put plants.

I wanted some planters for my new patio. I am repurposing two metal coffee cans. If I were not repurposing these metal cans, they would be in the metal pile to be taken to a scrap iron yard and recycled.

For my project I am using the two metal cans, some wallpaper border I fell in love with, sand paper (the size of the grit is not important), a paint brush, and wallpaper glue or paste.

Since I am making planters, I need to drill a couple of holes to allow excess water to drain away from the roots of the plants. I used a 1/4 inch drill to make the holes. I would not go larger than 1/4 inch, as the soil would escape from the planter.

Removing the labels, I will sand the sides of the cans. The sanding is to create a broken surface, or rough surface for the wallpaper adhesive to bond to. Sanding to create the rough surface does not take much effort, basically just rubbing the sandpaper back and forth to create “scratches” in the polished metal.

Next, I measured out the wallpaper border to fit around the can, with 1/2 inch extra. I had found this wallpaper border at a Habitat for Humanity Store. I love visiting those stores, and have purchased building materials for remodeling and updating my home. This wallpaper border does not go with the interior theme of the house. But it will look good for planters.

I put the wallpaper adhesive on the can a few inches starting at the top and moving to the bottom. I attach the wallpaper making sure it is straight. Proceeding along the side, adding some adhesive and attaching the wallpaper a few inches at a time until I reach the start. I place some adhesive on the 1/2 inch extra and attach. I then take a damp rag, with gentle pressure I rub the wallpaper around the metal can, smoothing out bubbles and wrinkles, and making sure the wallpaper is glued to the whole surface of the can.

I am pleased with the final product. These will look nice on the patio, adding some unique color and design.

I placed rosemary in the new pots. Rosemary is good to keep mosquitos and spiders away for an area. They do not like the smell. A gentle rub on the leaves will release the aroma of the rosemary. Rosemary is also good for cooking in italian dishes, fish and lamb. When using fresh rosemary for cooking, a little bit adds a lot of flavor, fresh is much stronger than dried. You can also dry the rosemary you grow in planters.

amtolle

What’s for Dinner?

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Everyday, without fail, I make the decision regarding what is served for dinner at 6 pm. My husband is able to cook, but what he cooks is not healthy. He loves cooking everything in one pan (less dishes to wash), fried. When we met his dinner was Hamburger Helper with a can of vegetables added. Needless to say I have made his life healthier and with more variety in what he eats.

There is always the question “What’s for dinner?” that I must answer daily. I love grilled steaks, grilled corn on the cob and a salad for dinner. There is the budget to keep balanced. Steak is good on occasion but not healthy everyday. The cost of steaks today, the bank account would be zero.

The challenge is to prepare healthy meals, variety and stay within the budget.

As a child I was excited to become an adult. In high school we were required to take a class, Early Adulthood. This class covered job applications and interviews, how to balance a checkbook, make a budget, the process of a marriage, renting and buying a home, divorce and funerals. There was nothing said the daily decision on what to feed yourself and a family.

My parents did their best to prepare me for adulthood. My mom never mentioned the constant decision of what to fix her family for dinner.

Somehow telling a child “When you become an adult, you will have to decide what you are going to eat everyday.” was not important. There is a lot that goes into deciding what a person should eat.

First, there is what they like to eat, favorite foods and those they hate and refuse to eat.

Then there is the budget. Many of us can not afford to go to a store and get whatever food their taste buds desire.

Health, the meals prepared need to be healthy. “Garbage in, Garbage out” is true when it comes to what we feed our bodies. In order to stay healthy, we have to put healthy foods into our bodies. Providing our bodies with the proper nutrients and in balance, not too much of this vitamin and enough of that mineral, keeps our bodies working properly allowing us to grow, work, and enjoy life.

Then the time required to prepare the meal. Working a job takes time away from preparing a nutritious meal for ourselves and our families. Crockpots and planning ahead help with the time management of preparing a meal.

All things considered and executed daily to answer our loved one’s question: “What is for dinner?”

Ironically for many decades being a housewife was not considered an occupation and did not require a skill set. A very untrue statement. The meal planning and budgeting and cooking required skills.

amtolle

Different Lifestyle

I realize the posts I publish exhibit a different lifestyle than most lifestyles of those reading the posts. I enjoy sharing parts of my life with others. I say parts of my life as it is very to post about the varied things I do in one day of living.

My life is multifaceted. I am a mother. Although my children are grown, when you are a mom, you are a mom forever. I am proud of my children and their families.

I am a grandmother. I currently have eleven grandchildren. I will have a granddaughter born in June. And the triplets will be born in September. Two of my grandchildren have graduated from high school.

My biggest passion is horses. I professionally trained horses for twenty years. My children grew up during the time I was training, raising and selling horses. I love the foals, and being the first to teach them about people and starting their training on the ground. Currently I own four horses.

My children were involved in 4-H. You do not have to live on a farm to join and receive the benefits of being involved in 4-H. My children showed horses, pigs, sheep, rabbits and poultry. But they also did rocketry, leather craft, ceramics, baking, sewing, and photography and painting. There are many projects a child can learn to do and exhibit that do not involve an animal or having to have a farm. I was a project leader of many of the projects my children choose to participate in.

4-H teaches more than projects. Youth learn proper rules and etiquette for council meetings and meetings of government entities. They learn to present what they have made and learned. Record keeping is also done and judged. There are local, regional, district and national offices the youth campaign for and are elected to by their peers. In my opinion, 4-H is a great place for youth being homeschooled, it provides a fun environment for learning and meeting others with the same interests.

I taught horsemanship clinics and judged horse shows, poultry shows, rabbit shows and even judged llamas once. I did not know much about llamas, I told the show management as much. But I was present and the llama judge was not. I was chosen for the position.

Working with others to learn to ride and the various projects I taught in 4-H, I realize people do not know what I am talking about at times. They do not know the procedure and steps to get an animal ready for exhibition or a piece of ceramic.

Currently, I am a sheep farmer. I love being a sheep farmer. Watching the lambs, talking with the sheep, and seeing my breeding program evolve bring me joy and completeness.

Be assured I care very much for my animals. They are living beings. Yes, I do eat my own sheep. I also am thankful to the animal, and there is a ceremony, that gives its life so I may live. I sit up all night with a sick lamb. I have sick lambs in my house, along with the unpleasant odor and mess.

I am willing to answer questions concerning my posts on things you, the reader, may not understand. I know the posts I read are from people who do very different activities and have different passions than myself. I am not afraid to ask a question. We gain knowledge by seeking, asking and listening.

amtolle

Dorper Sheep Show

A White Dorper Sheep class at Mid-American Dorper Show April 2022

The past two days I have been attending the American Dorper Sheep Breeders Society Mid-American Show and Sale in Duncan, Oklahoma. This event is fairly close to where I live, meaning travel expenses are lower than if I went to other events.

Why do I attend this event? I am a sheep farmer raising Dorper sheep. Attending this event I have to opportunity to meet with and talk to other Dorper Sheep breeders. I study their animals and their bloodlines. As a sheep farmer I will need to purchase breeding rams for my farm every two to three years. I want to know what other sheep breeders raise that would benefit my breeding plans for my sheep.

It is an event that brings anxiety as I am very nervous in large crowds. This year the event was even more crowded. With the lifting of many of the moretoriams due to Covid-19, people were able to travel, show and sale their sheep from states that previously they had not been able to travel to. The event is also a large learning time for me to study sheep and bloodlines. I also get to connect with sheep farmers whose sheep I like and want to put their bloodlines in my flock. Sheep farmers are able to see what the sheep look like that others are breeding and what bloodlines they are using with their sheep.

Sheep farmers like looking at others sheep. Talk to each other about the influences in the sheep agriculture business. Mostly, they like to show they have the best sheep. Yes, the show is very competitive. When the sale day arrives, there are some sheep who fetch a very high price as there are sheep farmers wanting to improve their sheep, and bring in different bloodlines.

Two years of not being able to buy rams and ewes with different bloodlines, put the breeding plans on a holding pattern of just maintaining the quality of their sheep, without improving their sheep.

When you live in an area, the area gets saturated with certain bloodlines. Breeding only those bloodlines does not improve your sheep, but can cause your sheep to degrease, as the recessive genetics start showing up as dominant traits. With these large show and sales, sheep farmers are offered the opportunity for bloodlines very different than the ones they have.

Several sheep farmers in different states are bringing in bloodlines from Australia to diversify the bloodlines in the United States. Sheep embryos are purchased, shipped to the United States and implanted in a ewe in their flock. The expense of shipping embryos is much less than trying to ship a sheep. This method is too expensive for me at this time. But I have learned at the event, a sheep farmer and friend has done that and the embryo produced a ram. Great news as a ram will put the bloodlines in many lambs, where a ewe will only put the bloodlines in her lambs.

At this event I met and talked with a breeder and we became friends. They were also able to tell me about the new ram I purchased. The information was most helpful. I am looking forward to more visits as they are close to where I live. Although it will be difficult to purchase sheep from them, since the new ram I purchased came from ewe and ram they had sold to the person I purchased the ram from. Sharing knowledge and conversation will be good.

At the sale I purchased three ewes to add to my breeding program. The person I had purchased the ewes from has been most friendly to us. Has wanted to help us in the sheep business. He has definitely encouraged me to on improving my sheep and showing my sheep. Although I did not have a sheep to show this year. I do have a couple to show next year. He was so thrilled we purchased sheep from him.

Some things I left with I need to learn more about artificial insemination and looking into doing embryo transfers. I also need to find a veterinarian who has working knowledge of the procedures and does them with a good success rate. I will be busy for the next year learning more about being a sheep farmer.

Regardless of what you do for income or as a hobby, there is always more to learn. I need to learn to move forward and improve in what I am doing as a sheep farmer, and with the other things I do with my life.

amtolle

Birthday Gathering

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We gathered for the 80th birthday celebration for Hank, a dear friend of ours. Before Covid-19, a group sometimes large and sometimes small would meet every Friday at Casa Torres for dinner and conversation. The people who came had one thing in common, they were friends of Hank and his wife. Horses was the other thing everyone had in common. Those who came were owners or previous owners of horses, the common thread of the group.

We met Hank and his wife when I answered an ad for a stall cleaner. I worked for them, cleaning 18 stalls every weekend for six months. We became very good friends. I only worked cleaning stalls for six months, my older body could not handle the physical labor of 18 stalls.

Shortly after starting to work for Hank and his wife, we were invited to join the Friday Dinner Group at Casa Torres. Most of those we met were older than my husband and I, as most of the group was retired. Some of us talked about current horse events we were training and competing in. Others talked about past events and horses. The conversations were about horses, riding techniques, chiropractors, farriers, and the events competed in. We would talk until told the restaurant was closing.

Tonight the whole group, less two who happened to be in the Cayman Islands, were there, 27 of us. We had gathered to celebrate the birthday of a remarkable man and dear friend.

It was so pleasurable to see and talk with everyone again. Conversation was catching up with each other’s lives from the two years we had not seen one another. Learning the ups and downs, injuries and horses retired.

I feel the Covid-19 stole two years from life. In the beginning of Covid-19, with states restricting where people could go, I could not even visit family. Casa Torres had closed. No dinner meetings. No seeing friends, since they were quite a few years older than myself, I would not risk exposing them to Covid-19. The area we would trail ride was closed.

We all had missed each other and the weekly gatherings at Casa Torres.

As business and the area gradually opened. Some of us were able to meet to ride. When riding horses, you are more than six feet apart. But the Friday dinner group did not meet. Hank, who went on dialysis a year before Covid-19 would not risk being exposed. He also has not ridden horses for over a year.

We had gathered to celebrate a birthday for Hank. There were to be no gifts.

There was a gift given, from Hank to all of us, we all met together.

Tonight was special.

Tonight will be remember.

We gathered again at Casa Torres.

amtolle

P.S. The restaurant had cleared all the tables and all the chairs, except ours were on the tables. We had left after closing tonight.