Add to My MSN


Mary ConleyDear Friends,

Fall is my favorite season. This should be old hat for someone in their 70’s, but the aroma, the crisp feel in the air, and the beauty are as exciting again as if experiencing it for the first time.

Fall leaves

Today, when I went to the mailbox, the sun was shining on a tree across the street, and its golden leaves were drifting in the wind. I held my arms out straight and marveled at it all. Then, self-consciously checked to see if anyone was looking!

Something else feels new to me: The miracle of putting away the harvest. It seems rather silly that I feel this way, but canning and drying apples, baking and freezing pumpkin and squash, and roasting the pumpkin seeds is such a fulfilling experience. I gave it thought today, curious that it makes me so happy. After all, it is work! But, wondrous work!

Squash puree

I’ve frozen several 1 cup containers of butternut squash which is a handy meal size for the two of us, and also 1 cup containers of pumpkin for smoothies and hot pumpkin drink. And, of course, two cup containers for pies or pumpkin bread.


We don’t eat as much baked goods as we used to, so we gave away many of these sugar-pie pumpkins.

We want to be able to continue growing as much of our produce as possible, so it is our goal for next planting season to only plant what we can use, but still be able to harvest pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. We’ve found that two or three short rows of potatoes are enough for us, and we’ll try a small patch of sweet corn. Our kitchen garden will be smaller, also.

I have a sad feeling that at this age we’ll be cutting back more each year. I have not been a good sport about this "getting old” stuff, as I have wished for another ten years or so of working on our special little farm before the slowing down began. I’ve heard about people growing old gracefully. Maybe I should give it a try.

Apple peeler

A great little tool that Larry uses to peel, slice, and core the apples.

Although several of our dwarf trees didn’t produce this year, we still had plenty of apples for sauce and to dry in our nine drawer Excalibur dehydrator. Last year we gave each family member a small bag of dried apples for Christmas and plan to do the same this year.

Garden fence

We planted our sweet potatoes late, then the deer evenly sheared off all that crawled through the fence. Larry wishes they would do that with the weeds!

Sweet potato

We did get several nice sized sweet potatoes.

Mole damage

So did the moles!

Yes, fall is wonderful even if the weather starts getting chilly. It allows us to experience other pleasures such as lighting the fireplace and burning scented candles. Or, how about setting up a card table and getting out a puzzle? Although we complain about the extremes in weather, I would certainly never want to miss out on four distinct seasons of Nebraska — the good life!


Mary ConleyDear Friends,

Last winter, Larry and I were going through a lifetime of greeting cards, and I asked my Facebook friends for ideas on what to do with them. I received some interesting and helpful answers, and used a couple. That made me think to go to them with a recent problem. This time it was when my dishwasher broke, and again they came to the rescue.

Although I’ve had a dishwasher for most of my married life, and bought top name brands, I’ve never had one that actually worked. As one of my FB friends stated, a dishwasher might only be an under-the-counter dish sanitizer. My thoughts, exactly. 

An under-the-counter dish sanitizer! Hmmm. Have you ever wondered why it is such a big deal that they have to be sanitized? People washed them by hand for ages and didn’t die from it. Besides it becomes a joke if we or the children unload the dishwasher or set the table without washing our hands first! I don’t have one at the farm and the thought that I could easily do without one here in the city kept running through my mind. As far as I could tell, the only advantage is keeping the dirty dishes off the counter. One thing I knew for sure: My next one had to work.

The answer I was given is a Whirlpool -model WDT920SADE0. My FB friend, Barb, even told us where they were on sale and the name of a good salesman. Now, that is a true and trusted friend! You might also like knowing that it says on the front of my washer that it was designed, engineered, and assembled in the USA.

a new dishwasher

We’ve all heard the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. You will laugh to know that it took me five loads to fully give over my lifetime habit of getting all the food off the dishes before I loaded the washer! I got a little braver each time, and on that fifth load, I stuck the plates in with dried egg and all! Yes, they came out clean!  

If you have a problem, maybe your FB friends can be of help. Give it a try!


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!


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!


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!


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.


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!


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

Subscribe today

Capper's Farmer Early Spring 16 CoverWant 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!

(* 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