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Mary ConleyDear friends,

Many of you have probably read “An Old Lady’s Poem” that was found after nurses in a geriatric ward in Scotland went through a deceased woman’s possessions. It later went viral on the internet, and then someone wrote a similar “An Old Man’s Poem.” The idea of the poems is that when you look at an old person, you only see the cruel results of old age, but inside that shell lives the real person who had a meaningful life. 

I read that poem several years ago, and it changed the way I look at elderly people. I even find it rather intriguing to see someone in the nursing home and try to imagine them as a child or a teenager. It makes me feel a fondness toward them, and I want to ask them questions about their life.

 old lady

My mother lived to be almost ninety-seven, and had been old for so long that I felt it important to display photos  of various stages of her life at her funeral so others could remember the whole person. When we returned home I chose a few to put on our refrigerator. The image of her sitting in a wheel chair doing word search puzzles was fresh in my mind; I also wanted to remember the mother who raised me and the grandmother of our young children. 

Have you noticed that at a certain time in your own life, the real you remains the same age from then on while your body constantly changes? I think for me, I have stayed in my late forties and early fifties. It was a leveling off time after children, and I have continued being at that age while the mirror mocks me and reflects something dreadfully different. Yes, my body has betrayed me.

You may wonder what brought all this to mind. Well, I startled myself one night this week. We had gone to a boy’s basketball game at Boy’s Town where our son, Perry, teaches. It had a small town atmosphere and I really enjoyed the game. What caused me concern, though, was that I so wanted to go out on the floor and get hold of that basketball. I wanted to pass the ball, dribble, participate in a jump ball, and shoot a free throw. The images scrolling in my mind were of my high school team playing six-on-six Iowa girls’ basketball in our blue uniforms. Oh, the real me was a young teenager again and I had to tell this old white haired lady to stay seated. What a contrast of sheer joy and disappointment I felt. As Oscar Wilde said, “The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.” I don’t think I really understood that quote until now. 

This reminded me of two stories about my late father. The first was a scene in my parent’s house. Carpet had been installed in the upstairs bedrooms and we could hear our young children above us wrestling around on it. Dad, who was pretty much confined to his chair, said with a twinkle in his eyes, “I’d give anything to do that again!” 

Later, Dad spent his last three months in a nursing home since my eighty year old mother could no longer care for him. My brother told me that he and Dad were eating lunch in the cafeteria one day and another patient was babbling loudly not far away.  Dad nodded towards her and said that she was better off than the rest of them because she no longer had her mind. Oh, yes, the tragedy Oscar Wilde referred to: having a young mind stuck in that old body.

We all hope to leave this earth before we totally embarrass ourselves or make life difficult for those caring for us. Unfortunately, it won’t matter whether we have run our own household or a large company; we still won’t have much say in the matter. As Doris Day sang, “Que sera, sera. What ever will be, will be. The future is not ours to see. Que sera, sera.” 

In the meantime, we can enjoy life, make good memories, and hope we can remember them!  Happy aging!





Mary ConleyA William Blake quote: "The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself."

Dear friends,

This summer, a storm took down one of our large trees and while cleaning up the mess we discovered that it had been weakened by ants. To my delight, I also found some of their artwork! Below are photos of my favorite one, front and back.



I loved the piece and thought it straight out of Star Wars or books we used to read with the children.

I wanted to give it to our ten year old grandson, Charlie, as his parents have nurtured the out-of-doors in his life, but my selfish side also wanted to keep it. When I shared this with Larry, he said he thought there was another chunk of wood out in the pile that had similar designs. Sure enough, he was able to saw out two pieces for me, not quite as neat as the first, but interesting just the same. I have them displayed on the mantle at the farm, and yes, I gave the original to Charlie!

Ewok village

Charlie added it to his Ewok village.

My friend, Judy, told me that fairy houses and gardens are popular now, so I checked them out on the web. My creative side has been thinking about how to use my ant carvings and things around the house to build a little fairy garden this summer. Recently I saw several displayed at Earl May Nursery, but the many miniature pieces added up to quite a lot of money. Yes, I will have to be very creative!

Split wood

That old tree of ours provided more than just firewood, so remember, you never know what treasure you might find in a woodpile!


Mary ConleyDear friends,

I had so much fun taking homemade gifts to my friends at Christmas luncheons this year, and I want to tell you about it.

Last December I posted about making hot pads out of old jeans for presents.


You may want to go to this link for my tutorial as it seemed to be a hit.

This December, I also made hot pads for gifts. Twenty-one! And they cost me absolutely nothing but time. These were very easy since there is no bias tape around the edges, but more than that, they used up some of my stash of left-over material. I even finished emptying six spools of thread and some bobbins! How fun it was to put to good use what I thought my children would discover in the attic someday.

For this project you will definitely need a cutting board to cut five 8-inch squares for each hot pad, plus batting. I inherited a heavy flannel sheet blanket I used for batting, and cut three 8-inch squares for each one. (I’ve also used old sweat shirts in the past.) My math tells me that 8 X 21 is 168. Yes, I cut 168 squares during this busy season. My secret to this was to leave it all out, and cut a few here and there as I had a little time or needed a break from something else such as addressing Christmas cards. The cutting may have been time consuming, but the sewing couldn’t have been simpler. You just sew around the square and you are finished unless you want to top stitch after turning. I’m not going to do a tutorial, but give you the links below that I used.


The above hot pads are topstitched after turning. The tutorials I watched used four different fabrics for the top, but I couldn’t find four in my stash that were pleasing to the eye, so I stuck with two varieties.

Pinwheel potholders

These hot pads have no topstitching. I was very excited when I found a small box of leftover Christmas fabric!

The tutorial for the diagonal design: Cutting Corners by Riley Blake.

After learning the technique from the above tutorial, I checked out this one to learn how to fold my pieces for the square design: Criss-Cross Coasters.

Note the cutting is the same for both, but the folding is different. You can make the squares any size you wish. The square tutorial made them small for a coaster.

Stack of potholders

This is a partial pile of my 21 hot pads. I had a problem of “favorites” so when choosing for my friends, I had my husband do it! I’m going to put two in each of my four “girls” bag of goodies for Christmas and tell them that they can trade if they wish.

I’ve never given a present before that I had so much fun making, cost me nothing, and emptied out part of a space in the attic! I’ll even have three left over for my kitchen unless I run into someone else to give them to! Happy sewing!


Mary ConleyDon’t you just love surprises?! We had one today, but first I want to tell you about a surprise that happened several years ago. I was scanning through the newest country magazine, and it asked for stories about outhouses for a future publication. I had a lot to do that day, but quickly wrote about my experience as a child, found a photo of me, and sent them off in the mail. Then I headed for the grocery store and never gave the article another thought. Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when I received an extra magazine and a gift for my submission! I was really excited as it was the first thing I had ever submitted that was published. Forgetfulness was the center of my surprise again, today.

Going back in time, our son, Todd, lived on our little farm for about three years, and he liked to experiment. He took Nancy’s bag of 10 (I think) bean soup mix and sorted them out so he could plant a few of each type to see if they would grow. He found all but one of the varieties, but as they grew he realized he had them all. That fall, he simply pulled up the bean plants, filled about three trash cans, and put them in the shop. Then he left them there. Forever. After all, who wanted to shell all those beans?

Larry doesn’t like messes, and he said to me several times, “What are we going to do with those trash cans of beans Todd left? I would like to get them out of there.” So, this fall, I broke off a few pods, shelled them, and brought the beans back to our city home where I tried MY experiment. First I soaked them for a few hours, then put them in a wet paper towel inside a sandwich bag, and on top of the fridge. My last step was to forget them.

Paper towel

We went to the farm for a few days, came home and got busy. This morning as Larry was hugging me, “What was that in my line of vision on top of the fridge?” I had no idea, and of course Larry wouldn’t know.


You guessed it! So, I opened the bag and found sprouts all tangled and twisted together, and in a fury to get out!

Spread out

After spreading them, I found a few had molded, but the viable percentage was very high.


A closeup of something truly amazing.

So, now we all know that dried beans can be stored out in a shed through years of hot summers and freezing winters, and they will still grow! What a plan!

One of my favorite quotes which I’ve used before and probably will in the future was written by Harry Kemp, “The poet of the dunes” from Province Lands Cape Cod.

Each Day

Each day we die a little more;
Stale custom takes its toll:
It is the Unexpected Thing (yes, surprises!)
That brings life to the soul.


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!

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