Add to My MSN


Mary ConleyI think of my mother and mother-in-law more and more as I get older, whether I want to share something we are doing at the farm, or wishing I could ask them questions. When Larry and I process sweet corn or do any canning, we wonder how they did it all, often by themselves and with little appreciation. They were true hard-working women of the past.

My mom only went to school through eighth grade as she had to quit to help her mother who came down with shingles. I heard her stories often of how she learned to make pickles, hominy and sauerkraut. She became a good cook, and was well-known for her homemade cinnamon rolls, pies, fried chicken, and chicken and noodles. When she was in her 90s, she told me she remembered feeling sad when she couldn’t finish school, but looking back, she realized that helping her mother taught her all she needed to know to take care of her own family during the Depression.

A story I often heard from Mom was that she made nearly all the clothes they wore. Even underwear. My favorite sewing account, though, is how she would buy a large piece of blue cotton fabric and then cut out Dad’s and all five boys’ shirts from it. She would lay out the patterns for the big pieces first, and then arrange and rearrange the patterns for the smaller boys until they all fit. Of course, if there was a scrap of material left, it would be saved for patching or a quilt block.

Following five boys, I was born when Mom was 40. Yes, she finally got her girl, but always said that she never expected to live to raise me. Yeah, yeah! How many times did I hear that? Then she lived to be almost 97!


My family in 1942. That's me as a baby on Dad's knee.

A mother’s heart: I was born December 1, 1941, just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Mom had the above family photo taken the following June, a few days before my 20-year-old brother left to serve in the Army. Soon after, my next brother enlisted in the Marines, with parental permission, before he was 18. My third brother wanted to serve, but was rejected because of a minor medical problem.

Larry and I never experienced sending any of our boys off to war, so I can’t begin to understand how my mom and dad must have felt. I learned a valuable lesson from watching them over the years. They didn’t give up on life. They quietly continued doing their work no matter how much pain they were in at the time. I often say to myself, “This, too, shall pass.” They taught me that without realizing it, and I feel it is the greatest lesson a parent can teach a child.

olderThis photo was taken many years later when my youngest brother was home from the Navy.

Life for Mom was much easier when I was growing up, but she still grew and processed most of our food, and raised chickens for meat and eggs. Her sewing changed also, as she had a better machine and only sewed for herself and me. Can you imagine how exciting it must have been to sew for a little girl after all those shirts?! She was quite good at it too, knowing how to cut out and match zig zag and plaid patterns, and other special touches.

I’ll always remember her dresser drawer that she continually filled with fabric whenever there was spare money from the sale of cream and eggs. As a child, I loved to take out the material and study the colors and patterns. Then I became a teenager and clothes became more important to me. That drawer took on new meaning! Many a time, I would come home and tell Mom of a special occasion and the “need” for a new dress. We would go to the drawer, choose a fabric, and discuss a style. There were times when I didn’t give her much notice, and she would list all the jobs that I must do so she would have time to sew. I did my part, but I also remember listening to the rhythm of her sewing machine long after I went to bed.

wedding day

My mother made my clothes from layette to wedding gown. Larry and I married when we were 18, and Mom was 58.

I have several quilts Mom sewed, and many afghans and doilies crocheted over the years. She always had her handiwork by her chair to pick up whenever resting or watching TV. Her hands were never idle, and I can vividly see her sitting there.

plantAt left is an example of the many doilies Mom made. She also crocheted a tablecloth for all six of us when we married.

Some of us were able to be with my mother during her dying process. It was a blessing to witness, similar to watching a baby being born. We felt privileged to share the experience as a family. Then the night before her funeral, something unexpected happened to me. As I lay in bed, I realized that I didn’t want her to be put in the ground. Mom was born in 1901 and lived almost a century. She had walked this earth through so many changes and inventions. She had gone from horse and buggy, to the automobile, to watching a man land on the moon. Electricity and indoor plumbing had changed her life. There had been several wars, but also children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. How could she not be here anymore?

When we went back to our home, I taped some photos of Mom on the refrigerator. She had been old for so long, and I wanted to remember her as she was when I was growing up. She may have only completed the eighth grade, but she left me quite a heritage.

I am 73, now, and something unexpected is happening to me again. I often get glimpses of my mother – in the mirror. :)


Mary ConleyDear friends,

A fictional writer in one of prolific author Debbie Macomber’s books said, “Rarely did anything happen to him that didn’t show up in a book sometime, one way or another.” How true of us bloggers! Every time I do something new, or something interesting comes into my life, I excitedly write about it! For instance, I recently asked my Facebook friends what to do with a lifetime of greeting cards. It wasn’t my intention, but when I finished the task, it became my next post. Larry, my editor husband, thinks it a great joke, and calls them my blobs! He says I’m the happiest when I’m writing one of my blobs! However, it is he who insisted that I tell you about the fun we recently had when special visitors came to our farm for a short time.

The reason I’ve hesitated to write this post is because it is just about our family. However, recently I wrote about where you would like to spend one last hour at your childhood home, and many of the comments had to do with being at or with grandparents. So, here goes!

Our youngest son, Jason, and family were in the area and able to visit our farm for the very first time. We didn’t have a lot of daylight left when they arrived, but we tried to show them as much as possible before the sun set. 


Jason & Krista with Charlie, Sophie, and 2-year-old Elliott.


The children had a blast running and climbing all over the place. 


We headed for the creek showing our orchards and out-buildings along the way.


Charlie loved swinging across the creek!


Sophie was afraid at first, but then declared it “Awesome!


Daddy and Elliott!


Next we headed for the lower field and the natural springs. Why bother to open the gate!


Charlie was fascinated with our hydrants as they were the first he had tried that actually worked!


Sophie was the first to find deer antlers, but each had one or more by the time they left.


The following morning there was a little time to check out the buildings closest to the house.


And let Charlie drive Grandpa's tractor!


Sophie took a turn, too, but it was too noisy for Elliott.


The above photo was taken sitting in the doorway of the loft. It is my favorite because you can tell that Grandpa and Elliott are great pals!

Sophie: “This is the best farm I’ve ever seen.”

Charlie: “You’ve only seen three.”

Grandpa and Grandma: “We’ll take it!”

I want to thank you for indulging us with all these family photos. We have learned that buying the farm for just such occasions was well worth the money and effort. Don’t forget to take time from all your hard work to make family memories, too!

Photographs by Krista Conley


Mary ConleyDear friends,

With the month of February came the need to sort out a room full of scrapbook supplies, photos, greeting cards, and everything else I’ve neglected the last few years since we’ve become gardeners/farmers. I’ve been working on it for days, weeks, even months by now. I sorted a little here and there, closing the door after each attempt in desperate hope that I would know what to do with more of it at a different time. “Maybe in the morning,” I would say to myself, “I’ll have some inspiration for another pile.” I found it overwhelming, and each time I entered that room I felt depressed and thought, “I hate my life.” Larry would often remind me to tackle it little by little and it would get done. Well, he was right, and I’m just about finished. But, I’m sorry to say that I have three large boxes of photos in which the sorting means just that – I put them all in three large boxes for a future time that may never occur. 

I would like to tell you about one of the more pleasant parts of the task – the greeting cards. Piles of them! Fifty-five years worth! So I asked my Facebook friends for suggestions on what to do with them, and I received some interesting replies. Here they are:

_Toss them so your children won’t have to deal with them. I'm sure they would vote for this one!

_Toss most of them, saving only a few special ones. Obviously, that person hasn’t been around long enough to know just how many are special! Just wait until his children, yes HIS children, grow up and write sweet things in all his Father’s Day and birthday cards!

_Use them to make jewelry, gift boxes, Christmas ornaments, or other crafts. The web is full of ideas. I’m not exactly crafty, but that sounds like fun. The problem might be that crafts usually require bringing in even more stuff to take up space.

_Save parts to use on scrapbook pages, or intersperse the cards in a scrapbook with photographs of the person who sent them. I doubt that will work as one of the reasons for my mess was that my scrapbooking material was still where I left it laying years ago. 

_Use parts to make personal greeting cards. I like this idea and saved some for that purpose. Now I suppose my family and friends will think that I’ve just gotten cheap! 

_My friend, Janet, gave me my favorite hint. She said she had a friend who writes down the names of the people who give her cards for an event before she throws them away. This worked perfectly for a whole pile of cards we received when our children gave us a 40th anniversary party. It is now 15 years later, and Larry and I had a special time going through them and rereading all the memories people had written. We kept a handful of special ones, the endearing notes, and then I wrote down the names of all the people who sent the cards in the back pages of the guest book. What had taken up a lot of space is now thinned way down and neatly organized.

_Take photographs of favorite cards and keep them on a hard drive, or make a digital scrapbook. I should try this with the homemade cards and notes from the grandchildren.

Allison's card 

Our oldest granddaughter, Allison, made this card years ago to thank me for teaching her how to play the piano. The letters are cut out to reveal the same letters inside the card. I love the horse as it is a reminder of that phase of her life. 

_Bundle and mail or give them back on a special day. We might do that. I think the grandchildren would like seeing cards they made for us when they were little. I also took the time to do something similar for friends. I chose one of the sweet cards they had given me, and wrote on it, telling them I had just reread the many cards they had sent me over the years, and thanked them for both the cards and their friendship.

One of our decisions was to toss cards where people only signed their names. That was easy to do with those sent by friends, but then we realized we had thrown away several from one of our children who often just signed “I love you” and their name. We both choose cards that already say what we mean, and thought maybe that is what we should be cuing in on with this child. So, we started saving some of those. 


A handwritten message is very important!

I am feeling pretty good about our card sorting, discarding and organization. We now have three boxes of special cards: one with cards to Larry, one to me, and one to us. Then I have a box to toss more in as we receive them to be sorted later. All we have left to go through is a box of thank-you cards from our children and grandchildren that we don’t have time to read at the present, but they will brighten up some winter evening in the future.

Then, UGH! I can’t believe what just happened to me. I was in our walk-in attic today and found a box labeled “cards.” Noooooo! Plus, another whole page of OOOOO’s. Surely I had just forgotten to cross out the label, and it was filled with something else? Well, it was full of greeting cards. These cards, however, are different from those we’ve been sorting. They are old! Antiques! Back from when we were dating and first married! Back when we still called each other darling! Also, cards our little children bought or made for us. Cards from our parents. Precious cards. 

tall skinny 

The antique greeting cards were much smaller and often tall and skinny. 


Or long and skinny!

handmade by

Handmade with love!


Made with little fingers. I think this bunny's ears fell off over time!


This says it all!

How could we possibly throw any of these away? We didn’t. Just think how much fun our children will have going through this box someday!


Mary ConleyDear Friends,

Awhile back, I wrote the post “A Final Hour On the Farm Where I Was Raised.” Oh, my, I didn’t see it coming, but this is how 255 of you Capper’s Farmer and GRIT followers told us you would spend an hour at your childhood home if you could. I want to thank each one of you for sharing. It was so very touching. I read every reply, and it made me feel a connection to all of you in a world that is moving so quickly.   

Listen up readers!  Maybe you still have the opportunity to do some of the things these people only wish they could do.

So many of you wanted to go back and get some peonies, iris, blackberries, raspberries, and other plants your parents or grandparents had. “If only I could get or just smell the lilacs again!” you said.

Then there were the photos. You would take snapshots for you and your children of all the rooms in your home and areas of your yard or farm.

Many of you would spend time with Mom or Dad. “Work with my dad.” “I would just sit and talk to Dad or Mom.” I agree. So often, I have questions about something, or wish I had listened more closely when they told me the old stories.

father daughter 

Father and daughter having a chat.

I was very surprised at the number of you who mentioned your grandma and sometimes both grandparents. “I would just hug my grandma and tell her how much she meant to me!” It blessed my heart to hear your love for them. 

sleep over

Making memories: I think our grandchildren will remember all the holidays they camped out on air-mattresses at our house, and the wonderful time we had with each other! When they are as old as I am, I think they might say, “I would love to spend one more hour at Grandma and Grandpa’s house at Christmas time!”

“Tell my parents not to get divorced and make them play with me in the yard.”

“Ask Granddaddy to read me the Little Golden Books! Oh, to hear his wonderful voice again!”

“I would tell my mom and dad how much I love and appreciate them.”

“Just love everyone!”

“I would sit on the garden bench and shell peas with my grandmother, and we would laugh while we worked.”

“I would look at my old comic book collection.”

You remembered your first true love who lived next door! “Find the girl I gave my first kiss and really lay one on to her now that I know what I’m doing!”

“I would walk around and soak up the memories so I won’t forget.”

“I would carry out as much as my arms could hold of the old toys, jars, etc.” 

A couple of you buried things and forgot to dig them up when you left! LOL!

You preferred the quiet life with friendly neighbors instead of the busy traffic noise and people who don’t know each other. You liked neighborhood gatherings. You would visit your high school. 

Then my heart hurt for those of you who wanted to burn the place to the ground or wished you had left earlier. “Burn the hell hole to the ground!” “Burn it down!” “Biggest source of sadness and abuse.” “Burn it!” “I would curse and burn it. It was not a happy place.” “Burn it to the ground!" I was shocked to hear so many of you express that. It is my hope for you that the pain will fade and the good things, yes there had to be some good things, will be remembered, too.

Here are some of the good things often mentioned: pets, nature, ponds, rivers, climbing trees, walks in the fields, swinging, playing in the loft, coloring and doing simple family things, riding your horse, caring for livestock, walking barefoot, picnics, fishing, making homemade ice cream, catching fireflies, playing dolls and jacks. 

Many of you stated that you still live in your childhood home, came back to live there, or are wishing to buy it. Some of you have visited it recently. 

Then there were those of you who moved so often that you didn’t know which place you would like to visit for an hour! I can’t relate to that, but I also can’t help but think that you have some unique memories that none of the rest of us have!

One woman said that everyone has a story, and it was nice having a place where we all could share. A few of you thanked me for taking you down memory lane. Actually, I felt your comments did that for me. What a special time we all had together! Thank you!


Mary ConleyDear friends,

Here is an unusual post! We bloggers try to encourage one another, and about a year ago, I discovered that Nebraska Dave and I live in the same city. He is a blogger for Capper's Farmer's sister magazine, GRIT, and we finally managed to become acquainted over lunch this week.

Dave is a generous and delightful man, which we already knew, not only from reading his blog, but the fact that he often makes encouraging comments below other bloggers’ posts, including those of us on Capper’s Farmer. I know I always appreciate his comments. I thought you might like to see us together.


Nebraska Dave, Old Dog New Tricks, and Larry, my husband and unpaid editor. I did double his salary this year!


Mary ConleyDear friends,

It is State Tournament time here in Nebraska and Larry is very excited because he and our three sons will make their annual trek to Lincoln to watch the boys’ finals on Saturday night. They always stop and buy snacks to sneak in, eat at HuHot, and have a great time together.  

My last post was about how I started playing the historic 6-on-6 Iowa girls’ basketball in the '50s, and I want to share a favorite memory of that time: The State Tournament! If you read that post, you’ll know our team never made it that far, or very far at all, but we got to go watch! It was an amazing time for us Washta teens, as most of us had never traveled past Cherokee and maybe once or twice a year to Sioux City! I think many of you athletes, girls and boys, will relate to the fun we had!

I’ll never forget when Luanne and I, both eight-graders, were told we could go! The school policy was that the first team and the seniors on the team were given the opportunity each year. We were playing quite regularly as the season progressed, so they invited us, too, and there was some dissension again. I know I was excited, but also overwhelmed and a little scared of the unknown. Think about it; Luanne and I were only 14. 

What a blast to get out of school, travel to Des Moines, and stay in Hotel Kirkwood! I had never stayed in a hotel before. We had a chaperone, of course, but she didn’t stay in our rooms, as she probably required sleep. Not us! The way to accomplish this, is to never get in bed. In the five years that I went, I only remember sleeping a little one night as that chaperone and coach came down hard on us.  

The hotel couldn’t put us on the same floors with teams that actually played in the tournament, or other visitors, because we were running the halls and stairs all night and having a great time making friends with other teams.

What fun we had during the day! Freedom to roam the streets, shop and eat what we could afford, and be carefree and silly. Never underestimate being silly! I remember eating pizza for the first time. Some of us had pooled more than we could afford for that pizza, were starved, but could hardly down a piece. The whole top was thick, stringy cheese, and nothing like the pizza we eat today. Perhaps it was because we Iowans were only used to beef, corn, potatoes and gravy!

A highlight of each year was to visit the beautiful Iowa State capital and climb the circular stairs to the very top. In those days, you could even continue on the wooden steps into the dome, which was very scary. Years later, when Larry and I took our children there, it was closed off because of bomb threats. Oh, the innocence of our time.

OK, I know you can’t believe that I would do this, but one year, two or three of us dropped water balloons from our hotel window. Besides us, there were a couple quieter girls who happened to still be in the room. Soon we heard a knock on the door, so we hid in the closet. The other girls had to answer the door and face the policeman who bawled them out and gave a stern warning. Their faces were SO red and they weren’t too happy with us. 


A program from the Girls’ State Basketball Championship the year I was in eighth grade.

The games: Oh, that’s right, we went there for the games! Of course they were exciting, and it was fascinating to see how well the girls played. The thing that actually made me wide-eyed, though, was the overwhelming size of the auditorium, and all the people; it was so far down to the players! Everything about it was new and exhilarating. Contrarily, it was also difficult to stay awake!

I could probably go on for another page or two about the fun we had those five years, but what I’m really hoping is that this post will be a catalyst for all YOUR wonderful memories. If you would like, share one in the comment section for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to click “like” at the top of this blog so I know you read it, and “share” with all your old school buddies! Thanks, and happy reminiscing! 

*Visit my post on How and Why You Should Write Your Memories, and leave your stories for your grandchildren. 


Mary ConleyDear friends,

My name is Mary Moore Conley. Recently, Deb Warth White read my post on How and Why You Should Write Your Memories. What caught her eye was my high school basketball photo, and she suggested I join the “I Played 6-on-6 Basketball in Iowa” Facebook page. So I did! She was also kind enough to share my post to that site.

Oh, my! As I scanned, I saw photographs of teams from way back even before my time (I graduated in 1960) and read some of the history of the unique game. On one of Deb’s entries, she mentioned two of her favorite things to watch is the movie, “Hoosiers,”and the Iowa Public Television video “Watch More Than a Game: 6-On-6 Basketball In Iowa.” I agree. We have that video, and I can almost see myself in much of it. Yes, I wore one of those very modest uniforms! As for the movie, my husband, Larry, and I can fully relate to the cracker box gymnasium in the story, as ours was even smaller. In fact, there is one scene our team experienced. We were about to go to a tournament held in a large gymnasium in Sioux City. Our coach took us there for a practice so we could get a feel for it. Then he used a tape measure to show us that the basket was the same distance from the free-throw line and same height from the floor as in our little gym where the two free throw circles overlapped the center circle! What he couldn’t do, though, was to give me the energy to run such a large court!

Also, as I scanned the Facebook page, I felt left out. I couldn’t identify with the many photos with trophies. Mostly LARGE trophies winning state. Wow! They don’t make them like that anymore! No, we never had a team that played at state, so Washta never had the chance to talk for years about the big game at Des Moines that shut down our little town for the day. However, there are so many wonderful memories in the hearts of us girls that should be mentioned, I think I may have to do just that!

Where to start is the problem. I’m thinking it will take more than one blog post because I want to recall several memories of those times. I’ve decided that I can only start from the beginning of my own story, knowing that much of it will also be the story of so many of the girls. I was not the star player on my team, but still, I can only tell my story. 

It began in a school building that housed kindergarten through 12th grade. First, though, you’ll need to realize that back then, parents didn’t pay for their children to play on teams starting in grade school like at the present. So, I first started playing basketball in seventh grade on our little junior high team.


Junior High Basketball:  I was in seventh grade. 

Then came a big surprise. Actually, a shock. First two, and eventually five of us, were asked to stay after school to practice with the high school girls. You know that our school was desperately small in numbers for that to happen. My friend, Luanne, was better than I, and didn’t seem as scared to be with the older girls. I tried to fake it, but I was petrified. I realize, now, that the coach and superintendent watched us, thought we might have potential, and the sooner we started the better.

Before long, some of us were put in the games now and then to get experience. The regular bench warmers who eagerly waited for a turn were not too happy about that, and I can understand their disappointment. I didn’t win any popularity contest with them, but worked hard and did my best. I don't remember exactly when we began playing quite regularly, but I do know we played high school BB for five years. 

high school

The high school basketball team. I was in eighth grade.

As I previously mentioned, I wasn’t the star player, so I’m now going to tell you my ONE personal highlight I found in my scrapbook today. Then my boasting will be over. It was a county tournament game, and the newspaper article not only verifies how young we were, but also caused me to remember that it was a turning point for my acceptance from some of the benchwarmers and older girls. Mostly, I know all you athletes will identify with the disappointment of playing your heart out and then losing.  

clippingThis is a clipping from the Cherokee Daily Times. We were eliminated in the first round of the annual Cherokee County Tournament.

Yes, I even underlined my name!

We had given it our all and come so close. After the game we dragged ourselves to the locker room. What a pathetic downcast mess we were. Then our chaperone told us not to shower quite yet as the coach wanted to talk to us. There certainly wasn’t much talking going on among us. No, we all just sat down on the floor along the walls and benches and shed a few tears, as girls do, and waited. And waited. Eventually, our coach and school superintendent came in. They were late because there had been quite a heated dispute. It seems the person “forgot” to start the clock as soon as he should have. It didn’t help that he was a fan of the other team. We’ll never know if he did it on purpose or just got caught up in the game. We lost just the same. We were told in detail that we played a great game, and I was personally complimented. One always remembers that.

It was on the bus ride home that a teammate, one of the bench warmers, sat by me and told me that she admired what I had done and that I deserved to be on the team. After that, I noticed that the others also had a better attitude towards me, and I felt accepted. Luanne certainly deserved her place on the team, far more than I. 

A side note is that neither my or Larry’s parents attended our games. News of the game traveled back to Washta before our bus did, and my dad, who played cards in the pool hall while waiting for me, had already heard about the game when I arrived, and I could tell he was proud of me.

Now you know about a young Iowa girl who loved the game even though her team didn’t get far, let alone to state. Please join me again as I recall more highlights as well as the nitty gritty of playing small town 6-on-6 Iowa girls' basketball.

Subscribe today
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to rediscover what made grandma’s house the fun place we all remember? Capper’s Farmer — the newly restored publication from the rural know-how experts at — updates the tried-and-true methods your grandparents used for cooking, crafting, gardening and so much more. Subscribe today and discover the joys of homemade living and homesteading insight — with a dash of modern living — that makes up the new Capper’s Farmer.

Save Even More Money with our automatic renewal savings plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Capper's Farmer for only $19.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $19.95 for a one year subscription!