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9/14/2015

Mary ConleyDear friends,

We have a little farm where we try to grow a good share of our produce organically, and one year we forgot to buy seed potatoes. When we realized it was well past the Good Friday planting time for many, we discovered that Earl May was nearly sold out, and we couldn’t get our favorite Yukon Gold. After a few phone calls, luckily, Larry found some at a nearby city. That was during the past recession years, and I believe the store wasn’t prepared for the new wave of gardening. It did make us think, though, about “what if” some year there weren’t any available.

If you grow your own potatoes, you know that it is difficult to have the perfect conditions to store them for an extended time, let alone until the next planting season. This is what you can do: After curing the potatoes, save the smaller ones the size of a large egg, and keep them in egg cartons in the fridge. You can save a couple dozen in case the “what if” ever happens, or if you have the room in a spare refrigerator, you can save several dozen and skip buying them the following planting season. As you know, seed potatoes are far more expensive than a regular package of vegetable seeds.

seed potatoes

Last fall, I stored three dozen, and this spring, I took them out of the fridge two weeks before planting time to warm up and start to sprout. Because they were small, I planted most of them whole, and some I divided only once. They were a success.

This year, we want to save some Viking Red potatoes, also. They are a large potato, so I don’t have many small enough to fit into an egg carton. I’ve decided to put a few in a box, instead. It will be so rewarding not to worry about buying potatoes before the store runs out, and save money, too. I hope you give it a try!

So why did the potato cross the road?
He saw a fork up ahead!

Happy gardening!



8/31/2015

Mary ConleyDear friends, I think we all have our heroes or people we really admire. Along with Thomas Jefferson, I admire Erma Bombeck, the funny syndicated columnist who entertained us a few years ago with what happens to a pair of socks in the laundry. I imagine it was because of her writing ability that she was able to afford extensive traveling and experience such unbelievable places that most of us haven't even thought about or knew existed. That last part was because her husband planned some of their vacations! I can relate on a smaller scale. I often asked Larry when we did things like climbing Long's Peak and riding mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, "Why do we have to take such hard and scary vacations to have fun"? Yes, we've even walked with moose in Nova Scotia and had a mountain lion visit our tent in Oregon. But, back to Erma. She wrote about many of their traveling experiences in her book titled, "When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time To Go Home!" You should read it since laughter is said to be the best medicine.

When Larry and I bought our little farm seven summers ago, we were, well, that much younger. We could work hard, fall asleep easily, and start over again the next day. Now we have slowed down. Way down. We must find ways to keep and enjoy our place without overdoing it. Larry often complains about how little he accomplishes in a day, but still gets worn out. I recently commented that I wondered just how much a 73-year-old man should work even if he wants to, and suggested that maybe he is only supposed to vacuum and clean toilets for his wife!

wood chips along the fence rows

One of the ways we are making his work easier is to put down paper and pile on wood chips in the fence row around our 20-by-30-foot orchards and garden beds so he doesn't need to use the trimmer as much. We'll see if that works. We also have a better understanding of how much planting to do for the produce we consume in a year, and will cut back to what we use and can reasonably care for.

Larry, scraping, sanding and caulking

I no longer work like I used to either, but I still put in long days, minus our afternoon naps, of course. My latest project this summer was to prime and paint the farm house after Larry did the difficult work of cleaning the newer addition and scraping, sanding, and caulking the original part.

painting in the early morning hours

In the above photo, I’m painting in the early morning before the sun is on the house. I’ve been asked if I should be up on a ladder painting since I just had back surgery a year ago. I don't want to be unwise, but my doctor said I can do anything I want except mud wrestle or sky dive. I immediately took those off my bucket list.

the finished project

The finished project. Isn't this a cheery color?!

only the peak over the loft is left

Only the peak over the loft of the barn is left.

We finally finished the soffits on the barn and shop. Although, I didn't do much of the work, there were parts when two people were definitely needed. As Larry said, "I couldn't have done it without you; I could barely do it with you!” He also felt it rather disconcerting when we were up on the extension ladders and a vulture was lazily circling above us!

looks great!

The shop looks really great now that we have finished the soffits. Larry is in the process of adding more dirt around the foundation, and I will plant periwinkle, which deer don’t prefer, to hold it in place. Also we need steps for one of the entries.

the "before" photo

In reviewing my post before submitting it, I’ve decided I have to stray from my original plan and show you the “before" photo of the above shop. What a difference! We remember when our grandchildren, Josh and Erin, helped us clean it out. Then Todd, Erin, Nancy and Larry built a new roof. Boards were saved from another old building to repair the front. But, mostly we remember the work that our son, Todd, did from the onset of the cleaning, planning, roofing and rebuilding. Larry and I just reread a previous post I wrote about the history of the building and the restoration. You might enjoy it, too.

Back to my story. What I'm trying to say here is that we aren't learning and doing new things on our little farm as often as in the past, but we've been tying up some loose ends, and trying to arrange our lives in a way that we can stay as active as possible and continue what is important to us. That brings me again to Erma. I love her quote that goes something like, "I want to leave this world with not a single bit of talent left, using up all God gave me." I agree. As I age, I don't want to live in fear while I go about doing what I enjoy in life – using up all my talents.

Silly sidetrack: Thank goodness for my pill box or I wouldn't know what day it is out here!



8/26/2015

Mary ConleyDear friends, we don't have TV or Internet at the farm, so we have become avid readers. If I have misjudged and run out of library books before the next time we go to town, there is only one thing to do, read one of Larry's choices. I don't like violence, and I'm way past watching another western on TV, so reading a Louis L'Amour book, well ...

While tackling the first one, I stopped now and then and asked Larry why he or anyone would read one account after another of bloody fist fights and shoot 'em ups. (I know. It's a man thing.) Time after time, the cowboy or rancher enters a saloon, has a few drinks, someone insults him, and there they go again. Can't a man figure it out that he should never go into a saloon? I told Larry that he must be sick to enjoy all that violence. Then something happened to me that made him smile. I got so I rather liked L'Amour's ongoing short stories featuring Chick Bowdrie, Texas Ranger! And along the way, I learned a few things about the taming of the Wild West.

I ran out of reading material again this week, and not surprisingly, Larry had two more of L'Amour's books! I really enjoyed reading "Conagher." A particular passage caught my attention, and then what was exciting was that when Larry later came to that same passage, he said, "Listen to this, Mary," and he read it aloud. It is about land:

Evie Teale had believed the land was her enemy, and she had struggled against it, but you could not make war against a land any more than you could against the sea. One had to learn to live with it, to belong to it, to fit into its seasons and its ways.

the land

The land.

My father was a farmer and would get mad and cuss up a storm at little things, but when the tornado struck or the Little Sioux River flooded, he was quiet. I guess he understood what Evie had learned.

We always wanted land, and close to seven years ago, we bought our little place. It has been just as Evie realized. We have had years of plentiful rain, and years of drought. The spring frosts and freezes paid no attention to reason, as the wicked Stepmother Nature did as she pleased. Some things have flourished and some failed, but most of all, it has been quite an experience.

As I've said from the onset, "We don't understand why we took on this adventure in our late 60s, but we did." We bought the land not having any definite plans at the beginning. Then our latent dreams kicked in and we started planting and rebuilding almost feverishly. In L'Amour's book, "The Ferguson Rifle," I read this statement: When one begins, there is a certain impetus given by the fact of beginning. I'm thinking that explains it all.

after a storm

Wicked Stepmother Nature at work again!



8/6/2015

Mary ConleyDear friends,

I was raised in the country in Iowa, but that was decades ago, so after living my adult years in a big city, I had no expectations of a social country life in rural Nebraska. Well, I did wonder if we would always be considered outsiders. We worked so hard on our weekend trips those first two years that we only had time to meet our closest neighbors. That has changed with retirement, and as we spend more time on our little farm, we have discovered that country people are the best. You may enjoy reading a popular post I wrote about some of these people awhile back called Country Roads and Country People. More recently, I wrote about the public library that we use in the neighboring town of Norton, Kansas, and how we met a dear friend there. Now I'm excited to tell you about a local movie theatre and how it is operated. It is another one of those stories that my husband, Larry, and I feel just blesses the heart. So, come along with us on our date night and experience the Crystal Theatre in Arapahoe, Nebraska!

the line at the Crystal Theatre

Yes, we are going to see the movie, "Max," which is excellent.

Mary

This photo gives a good perspective of the small area as we enter. You come in on the back left, pay for your ticket immediately inside the door while everyone else waits in line outside, go a few feet and turn the corner for concessions, or go a few more feet into the theatre. There is only one men's and one women's private bathroom. (Maybe you should just skip the pop!) I also chose this photo because I recognized this woman as Mary Upson, the real estate agent who showed us our little farm over six years ago!

ticket prices

Now here is where the fun starts! Can you believe these prices? Larry and I can go to a movie any of the four nights for $1 each, children for $1, and anyone can go on Monday nights for $1. Hold on, it gets even better!

concession stand

We'll never get too old for the junk food – especially here. We bought one large and one medium popcorn, one large and one medium drink, and two boxes of candy for $6.50. Our movie date night with all the snacks only cost $8.50.

concession stand

This small concession area gets crowded quickly.

looking for a seat

In fact, the whole place fills up quickly, so I found us seats while Larry purchased the snacks.

The Crystal Theatre in Arapahoe, Nebraska

Yes, arrive early and grab a seat because this theatre often fills to capacity and people are turned away. It happened two of the four nights "Inside Out" was showing. However, you could join the people who stop in just to buy their excellent popcorn!

The Crystal Theatre speaks of a town that cares for its people and looks out for them. Arapahoe owns the building and pays for the electricity, but otherwise, it is run by volunteers. Hundreds of them over the years, and more than 70 at the present. Not only do the moviegoers come from neighboring Beaver City, Edison, Cambridge, Elwood, Indianola, Bartley, Wilsonville, Holbrook, etc, but some of the volunteers come from other places, as well. When I asked a couple of the women how long they had been volunteering, one said about five years. another said over 20 years. They were quick to tell me not to use their names as the theatre was run by many.

Don Sandell, a board member, said that if keeping the theatre going in Arapahoe over the years saved even one young person's life from a car accident out on the roads, it was worth it. You can better understand his statement if you remember this is deer territory. He also mentioned the affordability for families.

I would like to share some of the theatre's history that Don gave me. After it was used for a 1973 Junior/Senior Prom entertainment, the Arapahoe Youth Council asked the high school's student council to help reopen the closed theatre. It happened, and from that beginning it has been operated by volunteers. Students helped again when the industrial arts class made it its project to paint, install paneling and remodel the ticket and concession area. Later, when the owner of a closed theatre in Red Cloud read an article about the Crystal Theater, he offered to sell all his used equipment. The theatre was in such need of improvement, they bought everything, including seats, for $2,000. These seats have been repainted and reupholstered over the years. Eventually, the theatre got an update when 180 new seats with cup holders came from a theater company in Omaha. It was a perfect time for volunteers to strip the theater, clean, paint, and install new flooring as well.

As the film industry changed, the sound system was updated to digital in 2009. Finally, using revenue earned from the sale of tickets and concessions, and many donations from individuals, businesses and even other communities, a new digital projector was installed in 2011 for approximately $90,000. Instead of reels, the movies now arrived on an external drive. The digital projector not only gave the viewer the newest in movie clarity, but allowed 3D movies.

In closing, I mentioned to Don that I had heard rumors of a possible new theatre being built to replace this one. I thought he might be against it since I had seen his photo in many of the newspaper clippings and knew that he had been a great part of the theatre over the years. I was wrong. He said, "Some of us are getting too old to run upstairs and down to the basement for supplies. We would like a supply room, an area to sell tickets, a larger area for concessions, more wheelchair and scooter access, larger bathrooms, and more seating."

Don cringed a little when he said that they may need to increase admission prices. Immediately, a conversation with a woman I sat by the previous week came to mind. She said that many families couldn't afford to go to the movies at regular prices. Including hers. I agree, and oh, the nostalgia of this old theatre! We love it and wish for it to always stay the same. With the right movie, it is a perfect setting for a date night. Thanks for tagging along, and I hope you had fun, too!

If you frequent the Crystal Theatre, are one of its volunteers, or have a similar theatre in your community, leave us a comment to enjoy. Don't hesitate to voice your opinion, and be sure to click the share button to tell your friends about this unique hometown Nebraska story!



7/6/2015

Mary ConleyDo you frequent your local public library? We continually visited ours when we had our four young children, and started again a few years ago. After giving away most of our personal library, we decided to start borrowing books instead of buying them. Of course, the library had really evolved in the meantime, adding many computers and a wide selection of books on tape, computer games, music and movies. We have come to rely on the convenience of going on the web from home, requesting a book or movie to be held for us to pick up or put on a waiting list. Then we get the handy email notices that a book is in or that one may soon be overdue.

Who in our generation would ever have dreamed that we would be able to go online and download a whole book or books from the library onto our personal gadgets? I know there are times when those of us who are technologically challenged have words about our inability to use some of these up-to-date devices and helps, but oh how convenient they can be when we forge ahead and learn to use them. What an exciting time to be alive!

Norton, Kansas, Public Library 

Norton, Kansas, Public Library 

We are now at our Nebraska farm for the summer, and cross the border into Kansas about once a week to run errands and have lunch in Norton. High on our stopping list is their beautiful public library. Besides loading up with books since we don't have TV or Internet, I take my iPad and use the free wifi while Larry gets on one of the computers to catch up on sports, check the weather forecast for the week (which is usually wrong), and gather other information he may need. We've become acquainted with Rosalie, a lovely woman who works there, and discovered she lived on the farm adjacent to ours when she was a young girl. Such a small world. She has become my Facebook friend as well. Whenever I think of Norton's library, I get a feeling of familiarity. Homey like. Just what I need out here.

"The Bronco Buster" by Frederic Remington at the Norton, Kansas, Public Library 

"The Bronco Buster" by Frederic Remington at the Norton, Kansas, Public Library

If you haven't been to a library for a while, stop in and you'll notice people of all ages busy at computers or choosing something to check out. You'll discover you are witnessing something your tax dollars are paying for, along with the generosity of donors, that is worthwhile! It will be a "feel good" experience. Maybe you'll even start using it yourself!

"The Mountain Man" by Frederic Remington at the Norton, Kansas, Public Library

"The Mountain Man" by Frederic Remington at the Norton, Kansas, Public Library



6/24/2015

Mary ConleyI haven't posted for several weeks. It isn't because I don't have a life, just the opposite. We've been exceptionally busy making improvements to our city home, plus the excitement of our oldest son's marriage to Kim. How fun to have a new daughter-in-law! Since Perry usually cares for our city garden, I realized in early spring there was no use planting it as he would be on his honeymoon and setting up housekeeping with his new bride.

Then we had so much rain those garden beds became covered with moss. As easy as it is to do, I didn't even get the early lettuce planted. Then my tomato, green pepper and onion seedlings refused to grow – most likely because of our tinted windows. The disappointments never quit, especially when we didn't get sweet corn and green beans planted at the farm. It is a seventh summer at the farm and the first time we won't have sweet corn.

I don't know how many times I had to tell myself to just let it go. Eventually, we planted the seed potatoes just before they rotted, and a few hills of pumpkins, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. They are late but seem to be doing well. Is it any wonder that I almost expect them to get hailed out or eaten by insects?!

Along the way, a realization would sneak into my thoughts now and then. It was the knowledge of the reward of previous hard work, and it brought happiness to my gardening heart. Perennials! Yes, they saved me from this summer's gardening despair.

First, up popped the asparagus, and we happened to be at the farm at the right time to harvest enough for several meals. Even some lettuce came up voluntarily from seed. Then came the hardy and dependable rhubarb, which we love and find more uses for each year. The spring rains kept it tender until I arrived to bag it for sauce and our favorite recipes.

Chives and mint are plentiful, and we noted that the Russian sage we babied all last season pulled through the winter and is looking healthy enough to cut and dry this fall. Also the horseradish. The gooseberry bushes are loaded and waiting for me to make gooseberry syrup.

For two weeks, we've picked June-bearing strawberries, freezing them in small quantities for many smoothies. Soon, we'll do the same with blackberries and raspberries. To top it off, despite the harsh winter and spring, there will be a few apples and pears this fall.

Nope, you just can't beat perennials. They are a much trusted and valuable friend of the gardener.

A side track: Just in case you were worried that the mosquitoes and chiggers might have died out during our recent years of drought here in southwestern Nebraska, I want to assure you that they are alive and well!

organic white grapes


5/5/2015

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!

1942 

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. :)





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