Dot

Dot is an artist. Photography is her medium.

She was also the very first Daughter-in-law for Snoot and Shirley. When she and Clyde (their oldest boy) first met she was active in theatre. She was just the cutest little thing dancing and singing around on that big ‘ole stage. She enjoyed the theatre all during her teenage years, and into her twenties. Snoot and Shirley saw her perform the leading role in Guys and Dolls. They couldn’t stop smiling.

All that was a few years back. Dot and Clyde have been married now for fifteen years. Wow! Shirley says time flies when folks are having fun. Dot has sure brought a lot of fun into the family during all the time they have been hitched. And even before getting hitched.

Shirley tells the funniest stories about those boys of hers and how they would take full advantage of the “Helping Others” chart that used to be taped on their kitchen wall. Shirley worked hard trying to get those rowdy, wild boys to think of others on occasion. So, as they did nice things for others, they would list them on the chart. Once the chart was full Shirley and Snoot treated those ‘good’ boys to pizza. Right or wrong, it seemed like a good way to get those boys thinking of others. Their sister, Tina, did not need near as much bribery.

It worked for a good while. That is until Dot came along. Then they just downright took advantage of it. Shirley says those smarty boys would write things like:

~Washed car windows on Dot’s car.

~Helped Dot carry in a box .

~Took Dot on a bike ride.

~Talked to Dot ’til Clyde got home.

~Dot, Dot, Dot, the whole list had her name on it.

The sun didn’t rise on Shirley just yesterday, dear reader. She was onto those fellas. She put a stop to those shenanigans in short order. They had to do real things for folks besides just Dot. They got by with it once and got their pizza. Shirley says, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Dot and Clyde are the oldest child in each of the big families they grew up in. Like a good herding dog, they know how to get themselves in order, and how to corral the rest as well. Shirley used to tell Clyde he was a ‘good dog’ because he was so thoughtful about keeping an eye on everyone and everything. She has noticed Dot is a ‘good dog’ too! This is a term of endearment, dear reader, kindly take no offense.

Because all these boys have the same last name, Shirley calls each family by the first name of her boy. Such as; the Clydes include his whole family; the Ot’s, his whole family, and the Tanners are his. Does that make sense? Well, the Clydes live the farthest away from Snoot and Shirley. They see them the least. The best part though is those two adorable children visit and stay a good bit with Snoot and Shirley. And even better? Shirley says the parents do not come!

She has good reason for that too. Before their first grandbaby was ever born, Shirley told all her boys and girl that when she became a granny, she was going to be a ‘Yes’ granny. She said she had spent twenty years saying ‘No!”, and now she intended to spent the next twenty with her grandbabies saying nothing but ‘YES!’. That is why it is far more fun when the parents are not around, as there is no contention with all those yeses! Not to worry, Shirley keeps it all within reason. They do not get too spoiled.

Anyway, back to Dot. It is a wonderful thing that she lets those babies stay with Snoot and Shirley. It is just such fun for them all. They laugh, play outside, ride bikes, walk dogs, play in the pond, shoot the bb gun and simply enjoy each others company. Mostly they all get tired, hungry, and have to use the bathroom at the same time too. This makes for easy planning.

Dot is in demand with those fine photography skills of hers. She travels a good bit. She has been in many fine magazines on account of her artistic ability. She has even taught classes. This keeps her right busy in addition to being a momma. Clyde runs his own business. So when life gets a little tight for them those grandbabies get lots fresh air and fresh thoughts with Snoot and Shirley.

Being the oldest in a family must be a tough job Shirley thinks often to herself. She would not know as she was the youngest in her childhood home. Ask her older siblings though and they would say she was spoiled rotten and did not ever have to do one thing. Shirley would not agree, of course, but she does recognize the heavier responsibilities that are often laid upon the oldest child in a family. She knows she did with Clyde, and her dear Dot has mentioned on occasion the load she carried with all her younger siblings.

Seems to Shirley in many ways they have already been parents of sorts. They have a fine family with one boy and one girl, and it is wonderful. Not everyone is meant to have a passel of kids. There is no need for apologies either. If we were all the exact same way, why, one of us wouldn’t be needed.

Socrates got it right way back in 400 BC when he said “Know Thyself.” Shirley believes a thoughtful person spends time figuring out just who they are, and how they are to conduct their own lives. She has heard it described as living in their ‘zone.’ That sounds a little hippie to her, but it is ok. After all, she is a product of the 60’s. She also believes Dot (and Clyde) have a good notion of just who they are. They are thriving. So are those two delightful grandbabies. The only worry Shirley has is that she does not look fat when her talented DIL

Dot takes a beautiful family photo.

Because Wanda said So

Wanda lives near her in-laws.

Snoot, Wanda’s father-in-law, does not give it a second thought. He thinks he is the easiest person in the world to get along with. Is there a greater father-in-law than he? Not in Snoot’s mind.

Now Shirley, Wanda’s mother-in-law ain’t quite so confident. She’s been know to say that being a MIL (mother-in-law for short) can be like walking on thin ice sometimes—-really thin ice.

Before being too hard on Shirley, dear reader, know that she don’t mean too much bad about it, per se. What she is trying to get at is that the ‘letting go’ thing mothers have to do when their sons marry can be trying at times. Really though, it is more like a ‘keep your mouth shut’ sort of thing. This is an ongoing practice for Shirley. She has often said, “I can’t get that gate shut on my mouth fast enough!”

Makes sense if you would think about it a bit. After-all, Shirley has been a momma telling her boys stuff longer than she has been a MIL. Now she has to learn to be quiet so her daughter-in-laws (DIL) can tell their husbands what to do. It is all a little amusing in Shirley’s mind. Woman have always told men what to do since the beginning of time. So now she can sit back and enjoy the change in power. Though sometimes, she admits, it is hard to let go.

The biggest worry for Shirley is the hope that her DIL’s would like her. All the MIL jokes used to be funny to her before she became one. Odd how things change isn’t it? It is wise not tell any around her, she tends to get a bit testy.

Shirley’s own MIL just recently passed away. It was a fine 42-year-long relationship. They did not do too much together, but the general feeling was friendly and easy. There were times she got a bit too pushy with Shirley and said more than she probably should have. But the sum is more important than the parts, and Shirley knew her own day was coming to walk in those slippery shoes.

And now, she is in those shoes. Man! These roles in life can sure get the best of her. So many of them: daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, wife, teacher, neighbor, aunt, grandmother, and now mother-in-law. If Shirley only had Snoot’s opinion of herself. “Well”, she reasons to herself, “There are no Father-in-law jokes to fret him”. “Are women just more difficult to get along with then men?” Shirley wonders. She recalls the comment a fellow once made about not understanding women and how we spat and such at one another. He said, “When my brothers and I got mad at each other, we’d beat each other up, then we’d be friends again”. Hmmm.

Wanda, Tanner, and their cute, little boys live close to Shirley and Snoot as previously mentioned. And this is what causes the angst. You see, Shirley wants to be a good MIL. So she must believe the lovely thank you notes Wanda sends to her about the fun they have had visiting and enjoying supper together. She has to believe it—

Because Wanda said so.

Shirley has also learned that being a good MIL takes time and practice. She knows the important role all three of her beautiful DIL’s play in forming a family unit. Dot is her very first lovely DIL, and Hazel is her second. These three, wonderful gals have worked together beautifully to create a greater family unit with everyone. It has taken time, effort, and sometimes tears, but it is beautiful.

Shirley would be remiss if she did not mention, Tina, the only daughter. That was an entirely new path too, i.e. being a sister-in-law. Tina was the only girl in the household. She had to learn to step aside also, and make room for these fine gals. “Tina,” Shirley would tell her, “it seems like life is a constant shift and wiggle, most especially when folks are involved.”

“For instance,” she continued, “if the dog was buggin’ you, you could just throw him outside for awhile. But we cannot do that with these new gals that have now become part of our family.” Tina is smart, she gets it, and she’s getting better and better.

Time is a good thing for folks. So is age. So is having children. So is taxes, thinks Shirley. After all what would Snoot have to complain about if it wasn’t for taxes? But the best thing of all is a growing family. Hard as it is to shift around to settle into another comfortable place. When the heart is in it, everyone knows. Love can be felt. Shirley always said one of the best things her good MIL taught her boy Snoot was to always think of the other person and their feelings. She did a good job of it too. Snoot has grown his own family up into an ever-larger loving group of folks.

Fact is all of these folks have worked to build their family unit. It is important to each and every one of them. When they all get together they have a fine time laughing, joking, cooking and eating together. They may not agree on everything, but they let those differences go. They focus on the fact they are family, and there is joy and pride in that. It has taken time to get to this place. Shirley thinks it was worth every bit of work, hardship and effort. She is quite sure everyone would agree with her, because she can see it, and hear it in their voices. She can also see it in their faces. They have each made it their job to build their family unit.

Shirley would say it has been worth the growing pains. She is sure everyone else would agree. She bets $10 (she is a betting sort of gal at times when she knows she will win), that her three, best-any-momma-would-ever-want DIL’s would surely say so too…

Because Wanda says so…

And for certain Dot, Hazel, and Tina would agree.

The Lazy Man

I may be lots, I told myself, but one thing I am not and that is lazy.

Is that so? The next thought begged the question.

My thoughts immediately turned on their defensive mode. I grew up in the tourist industry on a big farm. We twinsters started earning paychecks long before our hours could be legally reported. No, no, I am not a lazy man!

Yet, there they sat, all ready to go. My photographs. Carefully place in frames that added to their visual appeal all ready to be entered into the county fair. Why bother with this fair in this other county? You have already won ribbons from your own county fair. You do not want to take the time to drive all the way over there. Think of all the work you could get done here in the time wasted doing all that mess! My thoughts nagged me.

Does anyone else have thoughts like these? These: don’t do it; it’s a waste of time; it’s not worth it, kind of thoughts? What a battle! I was exhausted! When suddenly floated in the encouraging words from my daughter:

“Yeah! Go for it, Mom!”

“You will have fun!

“Your pictures will win, they are great!”

The urge to not let my main cheerleader down pushed me to grab up the photographs and head to the fairgrounds.

It was in this struggle that the truth of Proverbs 13:4 hit me head-on:

“The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”

Just how diligent am I being toward gaining my personal goals? What are my personal goals? It has struck me that I am a worker. I know how to work. But this Proverb did not speak of work. It spoke to me of desires. These are two different notions.

I do work hard. It is hard work to keep our animals healthy and well cared for. It is hard work maintaining the gardens and farm. However, I desire to become a better amateur photographer, a better blogger, a better horsewoman, a better Christian.

I realize I must be diligent in working toward my desires. After all, they will not improve just because I want them to. I must not be lazy in working to improve them. These desires add a great richness to my life. A cheerleader is another important piece to this puzzle. I did not want to disappoint her hope in me. Everyone needs a cheerleader in life.

As for the entries in the fairs? I won eight ribbons between the two fairs. It was a fun surprise to see which ones won. Call me sappy if you like, but when I saw that blue ribbon hanging from the photo of our steer, it put a lump in my throat!

I am rich indeed.

Ribbons won from both the Frederick County and Clarke County Fairs.
The blue ribbon on this photo of our steer put a lump in my throat. Yes, I am sappy.



In Focus? #3 – Negative Space

Negative space is an element I enjoy incorporating in my photographs. I have discovered some folks enjoy negative space, while others do not. They want the area filled in with something. Anything! Just do not leave all that empty space. Sort of like putting one beautiful slice of a garden tomato on a huge dinner plate. Fill that plate up for goodness sake!

I can understand this philosophy. Being wasteful is not a bragging point. However, I appreciate the way the negative space emphasizes the beauty of the one or two objects in the photo. Or for that matter also in a flower arrangement, and even sculptures. It leaves a space for the viewers imagination to fill in with their own experiences and ideas.

So take a stroll through this gallery. Fill in your own stories, and share your thoughts. Have fun!

A Soup a Man would Like (as long as it is served with a Hamburger)

It seems to be a basic fact: woman like soups far more than men. Unless there are loads of beef, sausage, or ham in it. Does that sound pretty accurate?

Carrots and sweet potatoes make this a pretty orange soup.

This soup has our beef stock added to the it. Thus giving it a heartier taste, sure to please the men at the table. Though I would still serve a juicy hamburger with it too.

Beef stock is easy to make. Another good reason to purchase 1/4 or 1/2 of well-raised beef (like ours!) as bags of great beef bones are part of the order. This post though is for the soup recipe. So here it goes!

Our homemade beef broth from our beef makes excellent, hearty stock.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

2 medium onion thin sliced

1 T olive oil

2 T butter

1 tsp dried thyme

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

4 c water

2 c beef broth

1 T apple cider vinegar with ‘the mother’

4 T chopped fresh parsley (2 T for soup, 2 T for garnish)

In iron skillet heat oil and butter, sauté onions. When nicely caramelized add to soup pot. Add water and beef broth (they should both be room temperature). Add carrots and sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Simmer gently for about 1 hour, or until potatoes and carrots are tender. If you have time after that, turn soup off and let it just ‘rest’ for awhile. Heat back up just before serving. If you prefer ‘lumpy’ soup, mash it with a potato masher. If you prefer a puréed soup, use your immersion blender. Season again with salt and pepper if needed. Garnish: Fresh chopped parsley and a big spoonful of yogurt or sour cream. Enjoy!

Tip Dry roasted pecans additionally make a nice garnish. Also, be overly generous with the chopped fresh parsley. It is full of Vitamin C, and is great for the tummy. 🙂

Chopped parsley, yogurt, and dry roasted pecans are a lovely garnish. ~Enjoy~

In Focus?

Sometimes it is hard to tell. Most especially through the tiny viewfinder on the camera. I have taken photographs all my life. Which is now turning into a long time. I thought getting old would take longer.

The camera has no opinion of my age, though it does have a way of telling me my eyes are not what they used to be. Lighting can be manipulated, color, tone, etc as well. But not focus. On days I am feeling especially smarty, I tell folks I meant for that photo to be out of focus!

I took a photography class not long ago. The instructor said if our photos are not shared, but most especially not printed, our photography is incomplete. So I have decided to regularly post some of the photos that folks seem to like.

It would be a great joy if you would comment and share some of your photos as well. Include stories associated with photograph, if you like. Which one do you like, and why? I appreciate the feedback.

This one was meant to be out-of-focus. Seriously.

Only in Winter

Only in winter, and even then, it does not happen often nor stay too long. However, this past Monday through Wednesday was a different story. An ice storm that kept our part of the world heavily clothed in its command for two full days, and one night.

There was a frightfully, intriguing appeal to being out in that winter storm. Venturing out several times with camera in hand and hoping to capture an image of this beautiful, powerful storm kept me busy looking and watching. It seemed to want an audience. As if it wanted to remind us of just how helpless and small we truly are. Breaking, falling limbs, and trees crashing all around. First a small, creaking sort of sound, followed by a mighty rip of wood falling without knowing from where or to where. Best not to get too close. And the air. It was filled with the sweet smell of fresh split pine. How full the atmosphere was of that woodsy, comforting smell.

This magnificent storm captured my attention and imagination. Perhaps my images will convey part of its mighty story to you.

By the breath of God ice is given,

and the broad waters are frozen.  Job 37:10

What in the World are you Doing?

This is a legitimate question to one who is not familiar with this procedure. It seems so awful, and cruel towards the horse at first glance. Sometimes not everything is as it seems. In the horse world it is called “floating a horses’ teeth.” It can be a life saver for neglected horses because these painful, sharp tooth points interfere with eating and drinking.

At first glance this procedure looks so cruel.


Horses teeth do not stop growing over their life. The expression “long in the tooth”, comes from the horse world. An old horse is described as being ‘long in the tooth’ because their teeth grow longer as they age. Because of this growth, horses need regular dental care. This procedure is called ‘floating the teeth’. In simple terms it is like filing one’s fingernails. Floating grinds down the sharp, uneven surfaces of the teeth. Many times sharp, painful points are formed on the teeth. In the above photo, Dr. Rhode is feeling around Duke’s mouth to find the sharp points. These points are what need grinding down. They can cause pain in the mouth when eating, and could cause problems with digestion as well.

Tracy is an amazing assistant to Dr. Rhode. Duke was in very good hands with her.

Horses are sedated before the procedure is started. In the above photo Duke is obviously not feeling too much pain. A bright light is attached to the mouthpiece that holds his jaw open. In the below photo, it has been circled in a green marker.

The flashlight is that square in the middle of the green circle. It is very bright, as is seen in photo.

His heavy, sedated head is resting on a sling. A close look in the above photo shows Tracy’s gloved hand holding the pole steady. Tracy said Duke was very good because he did not shake his head from side to side, which makes for a very difficult job. I was very thankful.

The sling Duke’s head is resting on can be seen in this photo also. Dr. Rhode’s power drill is loud and big, but it has big teeth to grind down.

After the points had been ground down, tarter was removed from his canines. This was the last thing to do. Duke’s dental appointment was over. Good, good horse. Great vet and assistant.

Tarter is being removed from his canines.

I am not able to post the video for some reason. It can been seen on my Instagram account @primaryfarmoperator.

History Note: Before hand tools were available for this job, it had to be done by the vet with big heavy files by hand! 

  

#chickensmakeuschuckle

‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones’, so advises The Book of all books. This comes from the book of Proverbs 17:22, which happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible. It has been said that this book of Proverbs is our guide for person-to-person relationships.

This timely advise forms the foundation of why I created this hashtag #chickensmakeuschuckle. I like to laugh, and it is even greater fun when others join in! So, this is my mission, to spread lots of chuckles to all that love the good medicine of a joyful heart.

Chickens, it seems to me, are some of the most industrious, busy, noisy, funny, sweet and beautiful of all farm animals. They are never ‘off-duty’. How could they be? When one is literally everyones potential lunch? Even when in the coop at night, they all have something to say before finally getting quiet! They fill this farm with laughter every single day. There is not a chicken owner alive that I have met that does not have a funny chicken story and/or photograph.

#chickensmakeuschuckle is THE hashtag to spread the fun, joy and chuckles of life with chickens intertwined with we all-too-serious-humans. Since starting the hashtag last fall, we have nearly 500 delightful chicken photos shared. It was SO difficult picking out these ten. So to have a real fun time follow #chickensmakeuschuckle to be sure to get a daily dose of laughter. Remember, it is good medicine!

Top Row L-R: @poultry’nmotion; @whimsyofwillowsfarm; @lakefronthomestead

Bottom Row: @chickenchikita; @melton_homestead

Top row L-R: @honeycreek_farm; @farmgirllizzy; @my_backyard_paradise

Bottom two: @shortgirlfarm; @glaistighomestead

These accounts are on Instagram. I am very grateful for everyone that shares their chicken fun with us. Go check them out and follow them. They are full of lots of chicken chuckles. You too are welcome to join the fun and laughs. On your Instagram account tag me @primaryfarmoperator, or better yet ‘follow’ #chickensmakeuschuckle. The winning photo is posted every Monday morning. The best way to start the week is with a good laugh, so join the fun with #chickensmakeuschuckle.

Always a Winner- Chili

Happy New Year! Real winter has yet to start here in our part of Virginia, the Northern Shenandoah Valley. We have had snow and ice already, but typically we get blasted in January and February. Which makes this recipe a winner all the time.

It is easy to put together, and by the time your family storms through the door at the end of another busy day, they will be asking when will it be time to eat. Perhaps they are running in only to run back out, then you may catch them eating straight from the crock-pot!

In your frying pan:

Heat: 2T oil of your choice (olive, safflower, sunflower, avocado).

Add : 2 cups chopped onion, and 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

Add: 2 lbs ground beef (Our homegrown beef of course!). Brown beef with onion and garlic well, drain off fat (will not be much with our beef. :))

If the beef is still a bit frozen, place a piece of aluminum foil over pan to help cook meat faster. Set pan on edge of burner to help drain fat.

Rinse and drain:  4 1-pound cans of red kidney beans. Place in crock pot.

Add:  2 28-ounce can tomatoes, 1/2 cup beef stock (I use Better Than Beef bouillon)

The goodies that make it yummy: Remember: T=tablespoon,t=teaspoon

4 T chili powder

1.5 t salt

1.5 t paprika

1.5 t oregano

1.5 t ground cumin

1/2 t cayenne pepper (or a bit more if you are daring)

Add beef mixture, mix well. All ready! Cook on LOW 8-10 hours, or high 5 hours, or on automatic 6 hours.

This chili will take the most wonderful additions. Try any or all of the following:

Shredded cheese; sour cream, greek yogurt, jalapenos, tortilla chips or fritos. Let me know if there is something special you put on yours!

Kitchen Tips

I always season beef when browning. Use your favorite brand.

An excellent way to get iron in one’s diet is cooking with a cast iron skillet. Remember, they are heavy. I would recommend an 8″ skillet. The weight and size are great!

If you noticed in the photo of beans, there was a can of black beans. That is because I did not have enough kidney beans. They worked very well!

Do not be intimidated by recipes. By trying something different you may just discover something wonderful!

Homemade is always best