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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


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


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!

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