The Calculator

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This coming week many young people will be heading back to school. The beginning of a new educational year. Their parents have been busy getting school supplies, school clothes, and other necessary items for their children.

I remember always looking forward to returning to school. I love learning. I enjoyed the classroom where I excelled. The classroom was a place where I could be myself, not worry about upsetting my mother. I may not do things right at home for my mother, but in school I was free from her constant disapproval. My father was always proud of my academic achievements.

I did not have many friends in school, actually only one or two the entire time in high school, and they graduated before I did. My last two years of high school, I was alone during lunch time. But it did not matter if I had friends or not, I had books, knowledge and learning.

The purchase of school clothes was simple, three pants, four shirts, undergarment, and a package of socks. When I started junior high, a P.E. uniform was required. These clothes had to last all year long. I would not get any other clothes until the following school year, with the exception of Christmas. At Christmas we all got a new package of socks, and if I was blessed a new shirt.

School supplies were the bare minimum for the year. The first day of school was just a pencil and notebook. I was to write down all the required notebooks and supplies from each class. The following weekend we would go shopping for the supplies. I remember my sophomore year, I was required to have a certain calculator to use in chemistry and geometry. My mother said “no, that is too expensive.” (Later I learned this was a lie.) So, for chemistry and geometry, I took scratch paper from home to solve complex mathematical equations with a pencil and my mind. Just before Christmas, I received a letter from my chemistry teacher to give to my parents. All school correspondence to my parents was seen first by my father. The letter stated that I need the calculator for class, it was required. I was called into the room my father used as a home office, door closed with my father and mother inside.

Now what is a child supposed to do? My father would not tolerate any untruth from me, and I am a terrible liar and poker player. My mother would be mad at me if I told the truth. I also knew that the truth would cause an argument between my parents. My father asked the question I knew was going to be said, “Why did you not tell us you needed this calculator?” Looking at the ground, not daring to look at either parent, I replied my mother’s words that it was too expensive. “How much does it cost?” my father asked. Keeping my eyes staring at the floor I replied with the cost. My father dismissed me, after I closed the door the argument began. That Christmas, in my stocking was the calculator, the only gift I received that Christmas.

Home was a difficult place. While I got along great with my father, I was always in turmoil with my mother. School was the place to get away from my mother.

Every year when school is beginning to start and I see children and parents purchasing school supplies, this memory comes forward. Yes, I became very good at chemical equations rounding the answer to five places behind the decimal. I was able to do the calculations as fast as the older students with their calculators. I used a lot of scratch paper, a forest worth. And every year, as I watch children and parents get school supplies, I hope a child does not have to go through what I did for a calculator.


Inspiration for the Coming Week

He lays me down beside the still waters. Psalm 23

On Sundays I try to have a day of rest and relaxations. I still have to feed and water the livestock and care for my small garden. There are daily responsibilities such as cooking dinner for my husband. I try hard to not plan any projects or work on Sunday.

I read, relax and recharge for the next six days. One way I recharge is to read some quotes that have and do inspire me to continue forward.

“All great things have small beginnings.” by Peter Senge.

As a sheep farmer, I started with a few bottom of the market sheep. I have worked, learned and made decisions that have improved my flock. Sometimes, I feel like I am not going to achieve my goal of being a seed stock producer for Dorper Sheep. This Peter Senge’s quote helps to encourage me to continue with my goals and plans.

Perhaps your first car is not what you really wanted to purchase, but you did purchase a car. As you work at making good financial decisions and improving yourself, you will be able to purchase the car you desire.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Mark Twain

Before we can move forward, we have to be moving. Getting started is the hardest part for most people. We question if what we are about to start is a wise choice. It is hard to steer a vehicle that is not moving. Regardless of the direction you are steering the vehicle, if it is not moving you are not going anywhere. Get started, and you choices will steer the direction of your dream and obtaining that dream.

Tomorrow we begin another week of work, striving and reaching for our goals. Today, we rest, relax and recharge.


“Sale Barn” Day

Today I went to the sheep and goat sale barn. I have not been since April when the young owner of the sale barn shut down suddenly for unknown reasons. He reopened in July.

I took a four young sheep to sale. I was planning on keeping three of the young sheep for replacement ewes, and the ram lamb was going to the freezer. The drought in my area has created a shortage of winter hay. I purchased hay for winter this last spring. The lack of rain, the pasture is not growing. Since July I have been feeding the winter hay.

I made the decision to slow the growth of my flock by keeping only two young ewes for breeding ewes. I sold three of the five ewe lambs I was retaining for growing my flock.

I have another ram lamb, that I was growing up to see if he would make a herd sire. This ram lamb is not what I would consider a herd sire. He is larger and ready for the freezer. By putting him in the freezer, and selling the young ram lamb I was feeding out to put in the freezer, I remove two sheep from the feeding program.

Lastly, I took the little billy goat I had purchased to be a sire. The reason for selling him, he was too little to be a sire.

Totally I have removed six animals from the feeding program.

I have five baby lambs with their mothers and four more ewes due to lamb in the next month. Another group of thirteen ewes will start lambing in October through December. I will be adding more animals to the feeding program, but also some of these lambs will be sold to buy additional feed that will be needed. Raising sheep is a constant program of breeding, lambing, weaning and selecting animals to keep or sale as breeding stock, and those that will be sold for market.

I also went to catch up with friends and acquaintances. The talk at the sale barn was about being able to obtain hay, what condition pastures were in, and how many animals people were keeping and selling.

One acquaintance, I will call TOV, their auction name, said they were going to “roll the dice” and keep all their stock and not sell off any. Taking a chance that there will be rain and another cutting or two of hay before the cold weather hits. If we get rain for another cutting or two of hay, that means there will be pasture grass as well. They have finally built their breeding stock up to a good quality, and was not going to sell them at the low ewe prices, and pay more to rebuild next spring.

I can agree with not selling the ewes. The prices for breeding ewes is very low. It was tempting to purchase a couple of the ewes going through the sale, due to their price. But, I am concerned with the amount of feed, and I just sold some really nice young ewes from good bloodlines that I raised. Breeding ewes will be higher next spring, when everyone is trying to buy ewes because they sold theirs now. I have seen this happen before.

I am also “rolling the dice” as I do every day with my sheep farm. Calculating, watching the sheep market prices, feed prices, and praying for wisdom. I make plans on the direction of my sheep farm, only to be held at the mercy of the weather and the markets of supply and demand.

I was blessed today as my fat well cared for animals brought the top of the market prices for today. I feel good about the decision to sell some of my animals now, instead of waiting.

There are always decisions that need to be made. We can not see the future, but we can look at the information, pray for wisdom, and make a decision we are at peace with. I look for guidance in making choices. In the process of choosing which young ewe lambs would be sold, I sorted through them based on their conformation. As I sorted, I would separate the ones I was keeping, then sort through them again, until I had the number I needed to sell. One ewe lamb had my marks on her back, she was the last one I sorted off to sell. My marks on this ewe lamb showed the decision to sell her was not a random selection, but a decision of thought. Every decision needs to be a choice by thought and prayer, not a random choice of convenience.

As I continue with raising and selling sheep I will also continue to pray for wise choices in how to manage my sheep farm as well as for good lamb crops and rain.


International Youth Day

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International Youth Day is an United Nations holiday to bring awareness of the needs and accomplishments of youth world wide. Initially the focus was on educational issues facing children and teenagers. Today, the focus is on all aspects of challenges and needs of youth.

I live in the United States where education is free for children and teenagers, and mandatory. In countries with high poverty, education is not readily available for children. The ability to read and calculate math is important in doing well.

Yet, there are some teenagers who do not finish public education in United States. Some I have spoken to say they are tired of learning, studying, and learning is hard. If the youth do not have parents that think education is important, the youth do not graduate from school.

In poverty countries, this is even harder. Culture is not built around education. The need of children to work, bring in an income to help the financial support of the family is more important than education. Yet, education would help the child to obtain a higher income. The daily needs of the moment are more important. How can a parent send a child to school, when the child needs to work in order to put food on the table that day?

Cultural differences hinder children obtaining an education. Some cultures do not see where girls need an education. They are to be wives and mothers, and a school education, reading and math are not needed.

The youth of today face different educational challenges. Most of education is with and based on technology. I was an adult with children before I used a computer. Their knowledge is limited to having a tool of technology in their hand. The youth of today is very comfortable in using the tools. Higher paying positions are dependent on knowing how to use the tools of technology. Greater is the struggle for youth who grow up in poverty to climb above the poverty they were born into.

For us in the United States, education is free and easily accessible, but for others education is a dream.


National Son and Daughter Day

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An unofficial day celebrated in the United States. The National Son and Daughter Day was first recorded in 1936, in Missouri. J Henry Dusenberry came up with the idea after overhearing a young boy asking why there was days to celebrate moms and dads, but not children. Soon Missouri was celebrating National Son and Daughter Day.

In August 1944 the St. Joseph News-Press/Gazette printed an article about J Henry Dusenberry and National Son and Daughter Day. Several clubs and organizations promoted the celebration. In 1972, a Florida congressman presented a bill to congress to create a National Son and Daughter Day as an official holiday, but the bill was not voted on.

People continue to celebrate a day for children. Children are believed to be life’s greatest gift, and the future in many cultures. Some places of employment allow employees to bring their children to work as a celebration of the holiday.

For some parents, it is a day to separate from everything else, and spend time with their children, focusing on them only and creating memories. I think it is important to celebrate a day for sons and daughters. Today, both parents usually work, children are in daycare, school and after school programs, leaving very little time for just family. Having a day that celebrates children, helps parents keep in focus on what family is. Children are with us a short time, then they are adults living a life of their own.

As parents we should slow down, take the time to keep in touch with our children, young or grown. Let our children know they are loved, create or remember memories and events. To connect.


Happy S’mores Day

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August 10 is Happy S’more Day, the sweet treat prepared over a fire. A camping tradition of ending the day with conversation and eating s’mores.

The recipe is simple, get a two gram crackers, put a piece or pieces of chocolate on one side, roast your marshmallow and sandwich between the gram crackers. Then eat the sweet sticky sandwich you created.

Conversation always turns to how to roast the marshmallows. There are those who place the marshmallow in the flames, let it burn, creating a black burnt sugar crust. Then there are the patience roasters, taking time to turn and slowly cook the marshmallow to a golden brown. And lastly there are the impatient ones who put the marshmallow over the fire and remove it saying the marshmallow is done.

When I was a child, on camping trips with my family, we would have marshmallow roasting competitions. The goal was to see who could get the largest roasted marshmallow. There are several tricks to creating a roasted marshmallow four to five times the original size.

The marshmallow must be roasted slowly and evenly. The stick can not be too thin or too fat. Then there is learning when to roast it and to remove it from the heat to cool, then putting the marshmallow over the heat again. To obtain the largest roasted marshmallow, the golden crust can not form too early, but needs to form to help hold the marshmallow on the stick. A fine art of timing to create the largest marshmallow.

Regardless on how you roast the marshmallow for eating or making s’mores, the goal is family time, and having fun.


National Book Lovers Day

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August 9 is National Book Lovers Day, a day for those who love reading books. I enjoy reading. The tablet is fine to read from, but I gain more joy holding the book, turning the pages, and the smell of a book.

I think my love of books started before I was five years old and started school. The first book I remember is “Eskimo Boy”, author forgotten. My dad read this book to me, the only book he read to me. Last Christmas, I gave this book to my oldest granddaughter as a gift, telling how my dad read it to me. The story is of a young Inuit boy on becoming a man. The boy goes on his first hunt with his father, only things go bad when a walrus attacks their boat and kills his father. Now, the young boy must become a man, and provide for his mother and siblings. The problem, he is afraid of the water. But the hunting is in the water and without the blubber from the sea mammals his family will freeze and starve. A very moving story.

I have a library of books I have collected over time. Mostly about horses, but some antique farm books on the types of livestock and how to treat different ailments. One of my treasures is a very antique copy of “Pilgrim’s Progress”. It used to be the book everyone learned to read from. Another old treasure is a pocket dictionary that belonged to my fourth grade teacher who I kept in contact with as an adult.

Books are more than education or history. Books can take us to faraway countries with different people and customs. Or they can take us to imaginary countries, peoples and adventures. And for the sentimental or romantics there is poetry.

Growing up, books took me away from the troubles of home. I could disappear in a book and forget the troubles of the day. I would read late at night until my eyes closed in a land faraway. Awaking in the morning, with the hope things would go well. In high school, books opened the door to knowledge, learning about science, animals and different ways of doing things. Most of my adult life I was reading books to gain knowledge in what I was doing. Today, I have relearned the pleasure of going to a different place, different people and customs.

I taught my children to love books and reading. Books teach vocabulary. Better vocabulary can lead to a better position in the workforce. So, myself and my children have all read the dictionary. Yes, the dictionary a fascinating book of words and definitions for things, animals, actions and descriptions. Old dictionaries are fun to explore vocabulary of a different time and the definitions and usages of the words.

My children are passing the love of books to their children. It is nice to discuss old classics such as “Pride and Prejudice” or “The Hobbit” as well as new releases. Things to enjoy and things to learn, within the pages of a book.


Out with the Old, in with the New

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When I delivered the dresser I refinished for my grandchildren, my daughter asked if I wanted the bed that used to be in the spare bedroom. She did not need it or have room for the bed since they no longer have a spare bedroom. I said sure. We could use a new or at least newer mattress, ours is old and worn.

This newer bed was complete, bed frame for support, box springs and mattress. I would no longer need the bed frame we were using. The bed frame was made of stout wood, 2 inches X 12 inches, a little big for a bed frame. Instead of going under the mattress and box spring, the frame was on the outside, with the box springs and mattress on the inside. In the dark, I and my husband have bumped a shin bone on the frame, and the house would hear the sound of pain. With a new bed, I would be able to get rid of the old one. It should not take long to remove some bolts, and take the bed frame outside. I have plans on using the wood for another project, so keeping the boards in one piece was desirable.

Getting rid of the old one was more of a job than I thought. The bed frame was handmade by my husband’s son when he was in high school. It was his son’s bed frame. His son made the bed frame from wood boards held together by bolts and nuts. As I began taking the bed frame apart, I recognized the bolts as something that would go on a piece of farm machinery. The bolts were 1/2 inch in diameter. He had put the bed together, then painted it covering all the bolts, the bolt threads, and nuts. In removing the bolts, I had to remove the paint first. Some of the bolts were stripped or cross threaded, meaning taking longer with more work to remove the nuts.

After three hours of work, I was ready to cry. I had wanted to surprise my husband with a new bed. I still had two sides still bolted together. There were other things that I absolutely needed to get done. And I was in the middle of a project I was committed to finishing if we were going to have a place to sleep tonight.

I sat down, and had a good cry. Ok, now the emotions are released, time to get back to work. Sometimes it is good to release emotions in a safe way, to free up the energy to accomplish what we are working on, instead of using that energy to contain the emotions. We all have emotions and things that get to us. It is good to take a few minutes to acknowledge the emotions, breathe, regain ourselves then move forward.

I finished dismantling the bed frame, placing it outside to be moved to a storage shed. Swept the floor and mopped. This bed had been there for seven years, years of dirt in the middle where the broom did not reach, to clean and mop out. Now the floor was ready for the new bed.

My husband arrived home after I had cleaned the floor. He assisted with placing the new bed frame, box springs and mattress in our room. Things go so much easier with a helper. My husband is a good helper. He told me he would have helped remove the old bed frame, and it would have been easier with two instead of my alone. Sometimes, I want to surprise him, and I “bite off more than I can chew in a reasonable amount of time”.

How often we try to live life on our own. We do fine sometimes. Then there comes a time we think we can handle the situation on our own, and we “bite off more than we can chew.” I know I have done this several times in my life. Usually when I am sitting alone, crying due to things not turning out the way I had planned, I look up and see where my help is. Does it change the outcome? No, but helping me to get back on my feet, facing forward and moving through the problem I created, He is always there to help and assist.

Sometimes it is work to remove the old things and ways in our lives that are not good for us. Sometimes it hurts, makes us angry, and we want to give up. But if we stop, look up to the one who is always there to assist and help us, things get better.

I am glad the old bed is gone. I am looking forward to a good night’s rest, and no more banging my shin bone on a hard wooden frame.


Done and Delivered

Yesterday I delivered the old dresser I have been working on. The hours of sanding by hand, cutting wood pieces to replace the broken pieces, and brushing with varnish has produced a beautiful heirloom for my daughter and her children.

This wooden dresser is fifty years old or a little older. The dresser was used by my parents when I was a small child. The dresser has traveled to many states, including being in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. For years it has set in storage, without a purpose. Now the dresser has had a facelift, been restored for the use it was initially created.

The wood is oak, and of high quality. It is hard to find oak or any type of wood board that does not have a knot located in it somewhere. There is no knots in the wood used to create this dresser. Knots in wood are created when the tree puts out a branch. In order to get wood without knots, the wood has to come from the inner part of the tree trunk. There are not very many trees that reach the size before being harvested to produce wood boards without knots.

Like ourselves, this dresser is not perfect. The travels and life have left their marks on this old dresser. There are dings, scratches and stains that I was not able to remove without damaging the dresser to disuse. Each ding, scratch and stain tells a story, the story of life, the places and experiences. Each imperfection gives this dresser character, makes it unique and shows the strength of the dresser.

Our dings, scratches and stains show the same type of story. We have had experiences in life, some good and some bad. These imperfections give us in part our character, make us unique, but more importantly shows us and others our strength. We had the strength to endure, change, move forward and overcome, leaving an imperfection to give testimony to our life story.

This dresser being used by three boys will surely get more dings, scratches and stains in the coming years. But it will also carry a story of once being used when I was a child, how Granny restored it, and how it continues in their lives.


Fall Garden Planning

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Where I live, a person can plant two gardens, a spring garden and a fall or winter garden.

The spring garden is tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn, beans and other vegetables that require warm temperatures to grow and produce fruit. In July these plants in these spring gardens stop producing fruit due to the high temperatures, but will return to production at the end of August when temperatures start dropping. Squash and okra will continue to produce during the hot months of July and August provided the plants are watered regularly.

Fall or winter gardens are for plants who like cool temperatures. We do not get a frost until November and the cold temperatures do not really hit until January. Four to five months of growing cool season plants.

I plant onions in my winter garden, as I cook a lot with onions. Easy to plant and grow. They also are planted in the spring garden, after the cold weather in February. I also start planting radishes and beets. For me, beets grow better in a fall/winter garden than they do in a spring garden, although they can be planted in both seasons.

Radishes grow well year around, except in the strong heat of summer. The strong heat is hard on the seedlings, so during July and first part of August I do not plant radishes. I love radishes, you plant the seed and in 21 to 30 days you have radishes to enjoy. I plant my radishes in two rectangular planters, varying the plant times for a continual harvest. In the spring, I dump out the planters, adding new soil and compost for another year of radishes.

This year I am wanting to add more to my fall/winter garden than the usual radishes, beets and onions. Area gardners do well with cabbage. We like eating cabbage. I am planning on a few cabbage plants.

I am going to experiment with peas. For the spring garden, peas have to be planted the end of February in order to produce fruit before the heat. I am thinking of planting peas at the end of August, and see if I get more fruit before the cold arrives in November that would kill the pea plant. I am also going to mulch or cover with straw to help prevent the cold from reaching the plants.

Gardening is an adventure. The one thing I have enjoyed about moving to Texas is the gardening. Being able to grow a garden year around providing fresh vegetables is a pleasure and blessing. We enjoy eating fresh home grown vegetables.

Anyone can learn to garden. Most people struggle with growing plants due to the watering. I do the simple “finger test” when it comes to if a plant needs water or not. I place my finger an inch or up to the first joint into the soil. If the soil is moist, I do not water. If the soil is dry, I water.

The second reason for a struggling plant is the amount of sunshine. Plants that love the shade struggle growing in full sun. Plants that love the sun, struggle growing in the shade. Learning the sun/shade requirements of plants helps the gardener.

This year, my corner garden was planted near an oak tree, getting late morning and midday shade. Having shade during these times helped the sun loving plants to be cool during the strong heat of June and July. It saved on water use and the plants seemed happier.

The third element to growing a really good garden or plants, is to talk to your plants. This is not an old wives tale, it is a fact of science that talking to your plants helps your plants. Going out at least once a day to talk to your plants helps them to grow. The reason, observation. If you are looking at your plants once a day, you can observe how they are growing, see if they need water. Additional benefit, you relax while talking to your plants.

Do not be afraid to step out on an adventure of gardening or growing plants.