Home and Family

Home and Family topics and commentary.

Dogface In The Morning

I ate some chicken. It doesn’t matter WHOSE chicken, or where, probably ANY chicken would have done it. (A few months ago the water went off here – smelled of chemicals, badly. I’ve been having severe allergic reactions ever since. Necessary backstory, I suppose.)

Somewhere  in the middle of the night I wake, and my lips feel funny. Sorta like the novacaine is wearing off, only fat and puffy. It happens sometimes, and it is never even. Various parts of my face swell up and itch – it isn’t hives, this is LOTS of swelling, and a little bit of itch. It hits one side of my lips (never the same one twice in a row), one side of the top lip, sometimes the other side of the bottom lip, sometimes my chin, sometimes my cheeks, occasionally under my eyes.

This time it is everything. But not on both sides. One side has more than the other, and it isn’t balanced at all.

I look like a dog.

A sad dog.

A St. Bernard.

I’m not quite drooling. Small blessings.

I take the Zyrtec. It isn’t quite up to it.

Oddly I can breathe through my nose for the rest of the night. The swelling doesn’t go down, but it doesn’t go up either. It does not progress to congestion and severe asthma. But my whole face has lumps and distortions.

I wake in the morning and it is still very swollen. I know how this one goes, as I move my face, the swelling will go down. Takes about an hour. This time it takes three… four. Geez. After about two hours I still looked like I had Bell’s Palsy on one side, sorta saggy. It isn’t that my face is saggy, more like there just isn’t room for it all up higher.

My lip still doesn’t FEEL normal, but my upper lip on the left, the last place to resolve, is finally NOT looking like a middle aged man who just shaved for the first time in 10 years and everybody can see how much his lip has grown.

I’m no longer a St. Bernard though. So that’s good.

The Loom That Laura Made

loomHandmade Shoelace (Band) Loom

The yarn here is handspun, and then plied, so it is a fine spun thread that has been plied into a two ply yarn.

I am using a single ply, thinner, weft thread, and this pulls it to give it a somewhat scalloped appearance on the sides of the finished ribbon.

This loom was made of thin wall trim, glued together with shoe goo. I made the shuttle and heddles also. More shoe goo.

The warp winds around another wood piece on the back, and I use the two clamps to anchor that wood piece so it won’t unwind.

I also peeled and scraped two pieces of elm branch, to use as raddles at the top. They separate the threads (use the heddle – drop it and insert one raddle, then raise it and insert the other raddle), so they don’t get tangled at the top of the loom. This is how I used it the first time.

Shown here is a SECOND heddle, right at the top of the loom, and I used that on this weaving, to see if it was easier to keep the warp threads from tangling as they unwound from the wood piece on the back. It did help – I didn’t use the raddles at first, but put them in later for this picture to show what they were supposed to be doing. Use of the second heddle there is not needed, it is just an optional thing. Once you start weaving, it doesn’t do anything to help things stay neater if the raddles are in use.

When warping the loom, the second heddle in the back can be moved out to the ends of the warp threads to keep them neat and even as you roll the warp onto the back stick. I kept that heddle just in front of the threads I was winding onto the stick, and it kept them neat and even as they went on.

I’m only using this for shoelaces. It is really too small for any other kind of compressed warp weaving, the heddles that fit it are just too narrow. I could use it for narrow balanced weavings that turn out the full width of the heddle, but it would still be mighty small stuff!

You can see the finished lace, and it is pulled down and wrapped around the back brace on the loom, and held there by a binder clip.

To advance the warp, I remove the binder clip, take off the two pink clips, and then unroll the warp stick. I then refasten the pink clips, and pull on the finished weaving to pull the unrolled warp thread up and over, through the heddle and raddles (again, only one or the other is really required at this point). I pull it very tight and re-clip the finished weaving to the back brace. All the rest of the finished lacing dangles off in a pile.

This loom is pretty tiny, and the working space (space between the obstacles at the top, and the frame at the bottom) where you can actually WEAVE, is very short. I have to advance the warp about every 4″. I think this is about as small as I’d ever want to make a loom for making ribbon or bands, or shoelaces.

People do use smaller looms – pin looms, tiny tapestry looms, H looms, and other little bitty things. They are used for small weavings, pieced projects, etc.

This little loom holds up to a 15 dent heddle – that means 15 holes, and 14 slots, for 29 threads total. If using larger yarn it makes a fairly wide piece, and the warp is not compressed. Once you go to band weaving with a compressed warp though, it narrows down considerably, and will only make half that width or narrower, depending on thread weight (the narrower the thread, the narrower the finished piece).

Is it fun? It is faster than I thought it could be – feels faster, anyway. The warping is tedious and awkward. The advancement of the warp is tiresome. The weaving itself is boring, as weaving tends to be. But it is a calm and simple thing to do when I’m tired, or when I’m occupied with something else and just need to keep my hands busy. I don’t really binge Netflix, I’m not the type anymore, but I do spin or weave in the evenings when we watch a movie, and sometimes during the day when I have to sit down.

I’ll be making another of these, much wider. I want to do wider pieces of compressed warp weavings, with band style straight weave and complex weave designs. I have more homemade heddles that have more than one row of holes in them, to vary the weave type.

UPDATE: I did make another wider loom to make wider weavings on, and when I made this first loom I had also made a beveled shuttle. It took several days of sanding and shaping (I only had hand tools to do it). It was pretty hard to do, and I had no motivation to do another one, especially the larger one I really needed. But I had a 4 inch one (Inkle style), when I discovered how to make a simple shuttle from popsicle sticks. I used the stick shuttle for several sets of laces, and found it to be functional, but sometimes awkward due to having to keep track of two ends as I worked it through the warps.

Today, three weeks after this initial post, I tried the beveled shuttle. It is FAR easier to use, it just slides through without hanging up. I’m really glad I learned to make the popsicle stick shuttle, but I’m much happier using the beveled shuttle.

Ever Wonder About Those Corncobs?

“I’d like to subscribe to your newspaper, what is the cost?”

“It is a dollar a week. But tell you what. You drop a load of corncobs behind my outhouse and I’ll give you that subscription.”

“If I had corncobs I wouldn’t need your newspaper.”

This is an old joke, and we wonder about those cobs. Surely that would tear you up so bad it would not clean you at all! And that’s the truth.

They didn’t USE corncobs, they only CALLED them that. The corn was husked dry, and the kernels were rubbed out, leaving the cob with the husks attached. You had a bucket in the outhouse, and you filled it, cobs down, husks up. You took off HALF of the husks, and that was your TP. If you were the second user, you tossed the cob into the can after you tore the husks off.

That isn’t all they used. Outer cabbage leaves, dried flexible, were an option, as were lettuce leaves, dock leaves, elk cabbage leaves, maple leaves, and other large leaves that were not scratchy. Newspaper was used, and was preferred because it was a softer paper. But the Wards or Sears catalogs would do just as well (once the new one came out you could use the old one, if you were still using the catalog you had to tear out the pages you did not need and put just those in the outhouse, otherwise you just left the catalog, a double benefit if you were a reading stinker thinker). Once they went to those glossy paper catalogs though, they lost their appeal as an alternative to paying for TP. Some families still endured it though, and remember it as a sort of punishment.

In the winter, rags were cut up into 4″ squares, and left in the outhouse. SINGLE USE! So you needed a lot of rags for a thriving family.

We are so pampered to have soft paper, and we don’t even know it. We complain if we are forced to use what my family called “Elephant Wipe” (paper towels). We don’t think about the privations of yesteryear, if we even understand what they were!

There are so many things we hear of and we can’t begin to comprehend what it actually meant. Corncobs are just one of those things that is misinterpreted regularly.

Lessons From Solitaire

I admit it, I play Solitaire on my computer. It is one of those things that rests my brain, and brings order when I am in the middle of chaos, or when I’ve had a day that really took it out of me.

There are lessons in Solitaire, and some are fairly profound.

  1. Some people judge you if you play Solitaire. Life is full of people who judge you as inferior if you engage in certain activities. But there is no dishonor in Solitaire. It can be a great time waster if you lose yourself in laziness, but it can also be used in positive ways.
  2. There’s more than one game. Hoyle has more than 50, and it is generally accepted that there are around 150 games, plus variations on those, bringing the total with variants to over 500. Life should never lock us into just one game.
  3. Never play an unwinnable Hand. Experience teaches us that many games as laid out are unwinnable. We can recognize these with a fair degree of accuracy, and filter them out. No point wasting time playing the game we know we will lose.
  4. Choosing not to play the layout means you forfeit. It counts as a loss. Most people filter that out in their calculation of how winnable a game is, so their perspective on the game is skewed.
  5. Don’t get too attached to the draw. When we invest the time in playing the game, sometimes we want to really make sure it is not winnable. With a computer game, we can undo, and then replay certain parts. Sometimes this leads to a win. But there is a point where we have to abandon an unproductive game, and go on to something worthwhile, because a game we cannot win, or even one we spend too much time winning, is no longer worthwhile. Maybe you COULD win after all. But at what cost?
  6. Most people cheat. When you ask someone who plays Solitaire with actual cards, how much they win, they report higher win rates than they experience on a computer game. It is so simple to shift a card, shuffle a deck, or reverse a draw pattern, giving us a chance to win simply by breaking the rules in some little way that we excuse for ourselves. We always discount this, and count the win anyway. We cheat more than we acknowledge. My own person observation and analysis shows this is fairly universal.
  7. Cheating skews your perspective regarding the odds of winning. This means you will recommend a game as winnable that YOU, PERSONALLY have to cheat, to win at the rate you credit yourself with. It does not make you GOOD at it, it just makes you INACCURATE at teaching about it.
  8. Playing a hand with physical cards is DIFFERENT than computer Solitaire. You can cheat more easily with cards. The computer generally stops that, but you are limited by the programmer’s interpretation of the rules (and some are implemented incorrectly), and you are given additional tools to aid in playing more easily.
  9. It is HARD to play a new game when you don’t have a copy of the rules. Ponder that.
  10. The best games are the ones that are less popular. The games we love most are not Klondike or Freecell.
  11. We enjoy Solitaire more when we have a variety of games. We rarely love it when we lock ourselves into a single game.
  12. The game that is easy to win is not always the best game. Those games that require more skill to win are the most fun for me. Those that are easy to win are what I go to when my brain is overloaded, and I just need to be able to do something right.
  13. The “Best” game is the game YOU think is best. It is never the one someone else likes best.
  14. Winning is never just chance, and never just skill. It is always BOTH. Even with an “easy” game.
  15. If we pay attention, SKILL develops over time, and a game we could not win, becomes winnable. This means we can LEARN to win some games. The skills we learn may be somewhat different from game to game.
  16. The rules of the game, and the way it is played results in a WIDE variation of winnability. Some games are simply easier to win than others, even when we have no skill. We learn to filter for those games we consider to be WORTH trying to win.
  17. Sometimes the Undo command allows a more realistic life experience, and sometimes a LESS realistic one, depending on what you are relating it to. Sometimes errors can be undone and corrected in life. Sometimes they cannot.
  18. With Computer Solitaire, you get either a single game in an application, or a bundle of games. Your perception of Solitaire on the computer is strongly affected by the software you choose. The Programmer becomes the origination of your Definition of Computer Solitaire. In life, our definitions of various activities and endeavors may be defined by OUR programmers – our parents, teachers in school, college professors, employers, government, etc.
  19. If we approach Solitaire with a track record in analytical problem solving, we will develop our own set of guidelines to improve the odds of winning. Things like looking for a hand with aces showing, or simple rules for ourselves about when we play the drawn card, and when we pass on it, depending on the objective of the game.
  20. The way the computer automates the game is NOT always the best way. You can’t always let the computer do it for you, sometimes you have to place the cards yourself in order to get them to go in correctly.
  21. According to one source, people who play multiple types of Solitaire learn critical thinking and analytical thinking better than those who do not. Those who play complex types score even higher.

So we do not intend to imply that all the world may be explained and rationalized through the lens of Solitaire.

But it does give one something to think about.

The Smell Of Rain

I grew up in Washington State. I was an avid reader, and I had read references to the smell of rain, but had never experienced it. Washington, you see, was always wet where I lived, so it never smelled of rain. It never even smelled wet. It just did not smell at all. Where I lived, nobody EVER prayed for rain, let alone held Ward Fasts for rain.

But Yakima smelled of rain if it had been dry for a while. The smell of wet dust. It happened just as the rain started. Or sometimes JUST before the rain hit.

Wyoming is where I really knew what rain smelled like. It isn’t rain, it is the dampening of layers of dryness. An earthy smell that rises as the dirt first gets damp. It happened a lot, because it rarely rained back to back, it almost always really dried out in between cloudbursts.

There are so many things like this in my life now. I know what they are. I have a metaphor for them. But most people have never smelled the rain I am talking about, so the metaphor does not work, except for THAT conversation. The one where the other person is experiencing a thing, and is not certain whether ANYONE else will get it. Then the metaphor works. The smell of rain is a thing they know I know.

Creamed Peas A’La Mode

It does not mean Ice Cream, it means “Of the trend”.

I don’t know what made my mother make creamed peas with dinner, she was never that ambitious about the vegetables. Oh, some scalloped corn now and again (and not even any bacon in it), but veggies were usually straight out of the can.

But she did. We ate them. We were like that. All six of us kids, and Pa too.

Pa finished dinner and left the table, and there were just a few of us left at the table. I think just April, Ma, and I.

I moved around to the end where Pa sat, and Ma was on the other end. April was right next to Ma, there were three seats on each side of the table.

I’m not quite sure what preceded the incident, but April apparently had it coming, at least a little. I must have been in Jr. High somewhere, to have the nerve, I guess.

She annoyed me some, and I was in a good mood. Decided to take my chance.

Loaded the tip of my spoon with ONE PEA. A saucy one.

Fired that pea, catapult style, at April.

That pea had no sense of proper direction, and hit my mother right in the middle of her forehead, just above where her eyebrows considered meeting up. She sat there stunned as that pea stuck, and then slid slowly down her nose, right between her eyes, and then took the slope to one side of her nose.

She didn’t say a word, she just got up and left the table. I was never sure if she went to laugh herself to tears with my dad or not… She does insist that I was the one who ended up doing the dishes that night. But I suspect it was my night anyway, she wasn’t the type to let someone else off the chore roster to punish another.

I don’t know how I escaped the wrath of mother wronged, but somehow I did. I remember that as well as I remember that pea sliding down between her eyes, and my own sense of horror at the retribution that I KNEW absolutely MUST follow such a thing! Food fights in our dining room were SIMPLY NOT DONE! No one would DARE!

April got off Scot Free, and seemed to do a lot of smirking that evening. I never again attempted such a thing, I knew that if I did, Ma WOULD NOT HOLD BACK! The shock that held her helpless this time simply would not be THERE a second time.

I remember telling this story to my own children. I had no fear in doing so.

You see, I NEVER made creamed peas.

Foraging Free

A cat marauded the chickens, and one chicken escaped from the chicken house. The chicken house is not ours, and we cannot make repairs to it, so there are places where a determined bird can escape, but they only wiggle out if they are frightened by a predator.

Kevin calls her Ginger. She’s just that chicken.

She got out. The next day we lured her back in, but she was out again when Kevin fed them in the morning.

There is no water out there. No free food either. She has to go after everything she wants.

A few days of luring her back in, and after that she won’t go. No point putting her back in, she just gets out. She stays pretty close though. Just one lone chicken.

Water is hard for her to get. Food isn’t plentiful, but she finds it. No doubt a hard life, there are cats, dogs, skunks, and even big cats now and again, all putting her at risk.

But she would rather have freedom than companionship, easy food, and plentiful water.

She’s just a chicken.

But freedom is just that precious.

It’s Just A Lap Spindle, It Isn’t Broken

Confusion reigneth, and I am obliged to clarify a technical issue.

This is spinning. It isn’t Sleeping Beauty.

A Lap Spindle

Just a twig. Or a lathed stick. Or a dowel with a pointy top end, and a less pointy bottom end, and grooves top and bottom to anchor the fiber.

It has no whorl, because it is not dropped. It is twirled.

It is not a drop spindle, though it can work like one if you get a little spun thread or yarn on to weight it like a drop spindle.

This is a RESTFUL spindle, and you sit back comfortably, and you just twirl it. You do so casually, and if it hurts your hand, you stop, and wait until tomorrow. In about three weeks, it doesn’t hurt anymore if you keep it up.

There are technical issues for this that do not apply to a drop spindle in the same way.

The first, is ROLL RATIO.

A smaller diameter spindle will roll MORE TIMES on a single twirl than a large one. You roll it up your thumb when you twirl it, and a small one can roll 2-4 times, where a large one rolls 1/2 to 1 times.

The other issue is Spindle to Output Proportion.

Large yarns do best with a spindle that is 1/4″ or larger in diameter.

Small yarns and threads do best with a thin one. Thinner thread, thinner spindle.

There are TWO reasons for this, and the first is just ROLL RATIO, again. Small yarns take MORE TWISTS to spin them well. So you spend more time twisting. A finer spindle twists faster.

The second reason is that Large yarns don’t handle well with a small spindle. The spindle should be at least 2X the diameter of the finished yarn, or it just won’t roll well, your thumb kind of catches on the thickness of the yarn if it is the same diameter as the spindle.

Kind of hard to describe.

lapspindle

This is a large lap spindle, and the diameter of yarn would really be faster to spin with one about HALF this diameter.

You don’t HOLD THIS OUT to spin, like in the picture, you tuck it up and get comfortable with it.

The wool is Coopworth Locks, and it is a burgundy. One of my favorites because it feels soft and luxurious. I spin everything on lap spindles, and I have a whole collection of them, they look just like sticks.

There are a bunch of small differences between spinning with a Lap Spindle, and spinning with a Drop Spindle.

You never have to hitch it to drop it. You just spin, and hold the spindle tucked at your side while you rove or draw out more fiber, and then you spin and spin and spin, and then do it again. No hitching, no leaning forward to drop.

It seems slower, but it isn’t. People who use this spin as fast as people who use a drop spindle, in part because what they lose in spin time, they gain in not hitching.

But it is an exercise in patience, and teaches you to just keep working, even when you are resting. No wasted time while you binge Netflix. See? I was working!

This is also the EASIEST spindle to get started. Just rove out some thin rove, twist the very end, and wrap it 4 times in the groove at the bottom (make sure you wrap it the correct direction or it will fall off – roll the spindle UP your thumb to get the direction right, it should wind the same direction as you are spinning). Then just SPIRAL the rove UP the spindle to the top, and then spin a length of rove off the end (about 6 more inches).

When you have tight yarn off the end, unroll SOME of the spiraled rove, and it will twist, and you can spiral it up again and spin some more. Repeat as many times as y9u need, to get the yarn spun tightly all the way down to the bottom of the spindle. Then unwind the spiral, and spiral it up more tightly to begin spinning normally (Do NOT spiral the yarn close together when you wind it onto the spindle – it will compress as you add more wound on layers, and push the whole of the wound yarn right off the ends of the spindle – you need to spiral the layers, and you need a space between the spirals of about the width of the spindle to keep it from compressing and pushing off the end).

It literally takes half a minute to get your spindle started and a good length spun and wound on, instead of fussing with it.

So you can make your own lap spindle.

Plum suckers make great lap spindles, you can find a nice straight one, and you can usually find long ones. Get one about TWICE the diameter that you need to end up with, because the bark accounts for about half.

Peel that sucker, and point the ends, and put some grooves in, bottom and top (3/4″ from the bottom, and 1″ from the top).

Elm seedlings and branches are another option, but they are never straight. They always curve, and when they dry they curve MORE. But some of them will work.

Apple, Lilac, Apricot, Pear, and other branches work well also, but BE WARNED, Apple branches have a brown dye on them that comes off on your hands until they are well worn, and it may stain your wool.

This is an ancient, and a primitive type of spinning spindle. It was around, and CALLED a Lap Spindle long before modern spinners tried to name something else by that name because they did not know what it was.

It has been lost, because nobody wants to explain how to use a thing y9u can make yourself, instead of having to buy it from them.

This is the spindle that freed me to be able to spin when I could not afford to do so.

One more note… If you have been taught to wrap the yarn onto the spindle, tight against the whorl, you won’t do well with a lap spindle. It will just compress down onto the spindle, and then expand upward and downward along the spindle, and fall off the bottom end. With a drop spindle, it can do this and PUSH THE WHORL right off! This is why I tell you to spiral it when you wind it on.

Give it a try. Because…

Anyone Can Spin

Horse Snot in Utah and Out

Not the state. The horse. People in my family understand this reference.

Utah was a pretty big pony, almost horse size at 14 hands. Heidi, a Welsh Shetland cross, nearly kilt herself bearing that big boy. He had a few issues… Apparently the genetics were not as sound as the breeders liked. One of those things was an epiglottis that sometimes failed to understand its job in keeping food out, so the horse could sometimes end up with unexpected coughing fits.

He was a good horse though, a bit stubborn now and again, but large enough that my sizable grandfather could ride him without fearing injury if he were to break out into a trot (the horse, not my grandfather, he never broke out into a trot). This was important to Grandpa, because Heidi was really too small for Gramps, and had a habit of giving him a tiredly accusing look if he were to try to ride her. The grandkids got a lot of mileage out of Heidi though, so Grandpa had a reason for keeping her, and Topsy, another mare about the same size as Heidi, but not quite so round.

One day my grandpa fed Utah a treat, and he managed to choke (the horse, not the grandfather…), and it was bad enough that he actually went down (again, the horse… Gramps stayed upright for the moment).

“You ever seen a horse turn blue?” Grandpa asked when he told me this story. He waits, for me to register this and laugh. “His lips did anyway.”

There was Utah, DOWN. There was Grandpa, coming close to a panic. He was a respectable millright mechanic, and a noted record blood donor. You just don’t assassinate your favorite horse with a bucket of oats.

Not knowing what else to do, he did what the vet had told him to do if Utah ever did this… he sat down on Utah’s ribs. He’s a big guy (Grandpa, not the horse), and he said he heard ribs crack (the horse’s ribs, not Grandpa’s).  Poor Utah.

Whatever, poor Utah got the hint, went “Uuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!” (and maybe a few more exclamation points, Grandpa tells this pretty emphatically), and staggered to his feet.

He then coughed (the horse, not Grandpa), and landed a great big gob of horse snot RIGHT ON GRANDPA’S BOOT. Right on the curve of the front of the boot, where it instantly bonded with the laces.

Grandpa was NOT HAPPY… he was holding back his gorge, trying to get to the hose to swill down his boot, trying and failing to stop thinking about that big gross gob on his boot, his stomach trying to heave every time he thought about it, finally managing to hose it off without throwing up. He didn’t even want to THINK about how much of that had seeped into the boot and onto his socks. (At this point, Grandpa wants us to know it was a BIG glob of snot. A VERY BIG ONE. Even for a horse.)

Utah is fine with all of this, he can breathe again, in spite of the two broken ribs (Grandpa counted, said it was obvious), the snot does not bother him one bit anymore, and other than not being able to be ridden for several months, Utah is acting pretty normal.

Grandpa keeps the story pretty much to himself…  mostly because he can’t tell it without a surge of nausea at the remembered image of that great plop of slimy mucus.

Now Robin wasn’t a horse. Robin was a little bird, whose wings had been broken so many times by someone who thought that was fun, that she was plumb scared to fly. She hadn’t forgotten how to run though, and still had some pluck left, though it was all wrapped up in a little ball of watchful scared.

Really, Robin was a little girl, whose life had been pretty rough up to that point, and my grandparents adopted her and her brother Tony. They were some kind of messed up, but then, so were Gram and Gramps sometimes, and at this time, she’d been with them long enough to be sure of her place there, but not long enough to learn to know how to laugh or to really remember what tears were for, let alone that she had a right to them (She did eventually learn that.).

Robin and Tony had started out living with Grandma and Grandpa’s youngest daughter, along with a houseful of kids, and she’d just picked up calling the parents Mama and Daddy along with all those other kids in the house. So Robin also picked up the Grandma and Grandpa right along with the Mama and Daddy. She’d just been adopted by Grandma and Grandpa, but hadn’t yet got used to calling them by the names of Mom and Dad, as she would eventually, and the whole idea of having nieces and nephews her age was still just a novelty, and not really real.

Next morning (after the Great Snot Plop), Grandma comes out into the entryway of their house, and there is Robin, hunched down over Grandpa’s boot.

“What are you doing, Robin?” asked Grandma.

“There’s something on Grandpa’s boot.” she said. She didn’t look up. I guess Grandpa didn’t do as good a job hosing that boot down as he thought!

Grandma looked. Grandma puzzled for a minute. “Did you do that, Robin?”

“There’s something ON it.” Robin insisted. “I thought I’d clean it off but I don’t know how.”

“Robin, did you put that there?” asked Grandma.

“No. It was just THERE.” she’s still looking at that boot.

By now, Grandma is pretty sure she’s figured out the nature of the something on the boot.

Robin shakes her head, and says, “That’s too big to come out of MY nose.” she’s still examining it, then she looks up at Grandma and says, “You better ask Tony if he did it!”.

Grandma laughed, and thinks the better of asking if HIS nose is big enough. Robin looks up at her. “It’s ok to laugh, Robin.”

“That’s too gross to laugh about.” Robin said, shaking her head.

Grandma patted her on the head and went back inside.

Robin didn’t laugh, but she smiled.

Grandma gave Robin a scrub brush, and Robin cleaned the boot. At least, that’s what she SAID she did. Grandpa never did comment on the wet inside of his boot, or the amount of SOMETHING that he wiped out of the inside of it.

Later that day, Grandpa thanked Robin for cleaning that boot, and Robin asked about the mess.

“Utah did that.” Grandpa said.

“Well, HIS nose is big enough!” Robin was satisfied that the world now made sense.

And that is the story of Horse Snot in Utah… and OUT of Utah.

 

For books, and more stories by Laura Wheeler, look for her name on Amazon, for Kindle, and in our bookstore at http://firelightheritagefarm.com

Stouffer’s, Did You Pee In My Chicken?

I run a family safe blog, so my deepest apologies to those people who did not need to hear the “P” word here today. There was just no other way to say it.

We loved Stouffer’s Chicken Alfredo meal. We had watched the quality of their lasagna decline until I could not really eat it anymore (No meat, no cheese, just noodles and sauce.), but we bought a few other dishes every few weeks to alternate with other once or twice a week shortcut meals. The Chicken Alfredo was actually good.

A few months ago we brought home a large size Chicken Alfredo (and yes, it WAS Stouffer’s, the stores we shop at don’t carry any other brand of Chicken Alfredo). A few days later I opened it up and flipped it onto a cookie sheet, and then flipped it again into a metal baking dish – we don’t do plastic and paper in the oven here I’m too allergic to plastic – and I popped it into the oven, and we went off to do livestock chores (this is a pompous way of saying “feeding the chickens”).

When we came in, I pulled the Alfredo out of the oven, and noticed it smelled different. Not strongly so, but THERE. I dished it up anyway, and we sat down to eat. The first bite of chicken and I KNEW something was REALLY WRONG. It tasted so foul that I could not eat any of the chicken… I picked it out and got some of the noodles down, but could not even eat much more of that. We ended up tossing out most of the dish, which should have lasted more than one meal.

We have never bought it again.

It was a day or so after that disaster that I realized the smell in the dish was Ammonia.

The Tyson Chicken we put in the oven a few weeks later was simpler to identify. When the oven door opened at the timer beep, a cloud of urine smell rose from the chicken to assault my nose. If you overcook it, the smell dies down enough that you can gag it down, but you find yourself NOT wanting to eat any leftovers, or cook any more of it!

A short time before the Chicken Alfredo went off, I stopped buying Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage. The flavor was so disgusting I could not finish a hotdog sized sausage.

NOTE: Somewhere around the beginning of 2021 I took a risk and bought a large 3 pack of the big loop sausages – Hillshire Farms Smoked Beef Sausage. I cook them well, and they are ok again. They seem a little lacking in salt and flavor, but they do not gross me out or make me sick. I do not know about the smaller ones, I’ve not tried them again, yet.

How can you eat food like that? How can manufacturers SELL food like that?

The problem with all of these foods is Ammonia. This is a LOT MORE than just using ammonia on the processing line, they have so much you know they PUT IT INTO THE FOOD.

Now, let me make this absolutely clear…

There is NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON to put AMMONIA into food! If you do, it is not FOOD anymore! It is POISON.

Ammonia is difficult for kidneys and liver to clear from your system. And excess ammonia in the body is known to be neurotoxic, and to cause a form of degenerative dementia (resembling Alzheimer’s in many cases), and a condition that is similar to dopamine resistant Parkinson’s, as well as neurotransmitter deficient seizures, an increased risk of several types of cancers, and various forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Ammonia in food is deadly.

Short term, or long term, it kills.

So watch out, folks. There’s a distinct YUCKY flavor to this stuff, and much of it smells of urine, which is the smell of Ammonia. Many kinds of processed meats not mentioned here have this in it, as do many processed meals.

There are a number of other products I have to warn you about, and they maye Ammonia or some other contaminant in them, I can only GUESS what they’ve done, by flavor, and tendency to vomit after consumption.

The first blew us away when we discovered that Nesquik had changed their recipe in the bottled chocolate milk.

It was readily apparent that whatever it was flavored with, it WAS NOT CHOCOLATE. It tasted more like a blend of burnt soybeans and burnt carob. NASTY. It was also apparent that whatever was flavored with the Not-Chocolate, was NOT MILK! The underlying flavor of soy, and the thin and watery consistency of it clearly indicated that a cow had nothing to do with the new recipe – I admit I may actually be wrong here, they COULD have thrown in a miniscule amount of powdered milk, but if they did, they held out enough that you can’t actually say they did! There is a chemically sweet unnatural flavor that is so scary to find in food that we are pretty certain that it is contaminated with other nasty things. We can TASTE that the ingredients listed on the label (which did not change), are NOT ACTUALLY IN the end product! Finishing the 16 oz bottle was NOT possible!

Watch out… It DOES cause stomach upset. Some people vomit from it. Too bad Wal-Mart stopped carrying Promised Land Chocolate Milk. That stuff is the ultimate in chocolate milk, and my husband’s life long love affair with Nesquik was utterly shattered by Promised Land Midnight Chocolate Milk. No more bottled Nesquik for him, but he’s aching for a pre-mixed option that he can get locally now that Nesquik is undrinkable.

Red Button Triple Chocolate Chunk ice cream (which says “Old Fashioned Creamery” on the label) also gets panned here, it has the SAME flavor as the new bottled Nesquik, and by the time you get into the second scoop, you just know you will never want another bowl of whatever THAT was! Ice cream hides the nastiness better, because of the chill, but it does not hide the belly-ache that follows. Somehow I suspect that if any old fashioned creameries made anything like this, they were not on the end of town where one goes to buy the good stuff.

The next one disappointed us also, and is a bit of a tragedy for my husband, who used to love Chef Boyardee Ravioli for a quick lunch. His enjoyment had lessened, year by year, as they pronounced meat to be outdated, and extolled the virtues of soy, one of which they apparently believe is that you will never be able to tell they put it in instead of real meat!

We noticed. The fact that it was on sale did not entice us to purchase more.

The latest change though, like Nesquik, is so major that their label should have changed to reflect a change of ingredients, and it did not. I do not even know how to describe the changes.

The ravioli are stiff and the pasta is almost toughly crumbly, and does not have a clean pasta flavor – the color is dark and dirty looking. You WILL notice if you attempt to eat them. You can’t really finish a can of them, or even a half can, if you have any sense of TASTE at all!

The sauce is thin, and the flavor is off. That kind of nauseating “off” that makes you wonder whether the can was properly sealed, or whether it came in contact with animal waste products prior to distribution. Very yucky!

I don’t know if it is Ammonia in the token bit of meat they may still be putting in, or melamine in the flour, or some other nasty thing. What I can say unequivocally is, that SOMETHING IN THEM IS NOT FOOD.

The next major issue I had was that the last box of anything Hostess that I purchased almost a year ago was inedible also. The Zingers, which should have tasted of chocolate and that mysterious white greasy sweet stuff they put in the middle, tasted instead of Chocolate Engine Oil. And I’m pretty sure that is a product that is NOT made for use in food! It as such a strong flavor that you could not mistake it, and I was not able to eat them. Engine Oil is not a smell or taste you should find in FOOD!

Food Club brand Orange Juice is something I bought ONE TIME. The carton. The flavor is sorta scary sweet, washed out, and weirdly wrong. You don’t figure out there is really something wrong for a couple of days if you have one glass a day. But this orange juice toxed me in the same way heavy air fresheners do (you know, the neurotoxic kind that gives you insomnia and microseizures?). Something in this is a thing that should NEVER be consumed as a beverage, let alone a healthful one! That thing that happens when you take a drink and say, “Well… I suppose it does have some orange flavor… but how odd… is that sweet natural?”. That thing. That is the only warning you get with this one. Three days in, you start to get sick, and you don’t get better until the orange juice goes away.

I also have to add in Simply Orange Juice, purchased at Arby’s some two years after the writing of this original post. It had SOMETHING in it that WAS NOT FOOD. I took a swig, and swallowed, and my mouth was filled with cologne. Seriously! A chemical astringent base with PERFUME over the top. You could still taste the orange juice, but whatever else was in there just rose up as soon as you swallowed, and overpowered the orange. It was so bad I could not drink any more, and threw away a nearly full bottle. How can a company known for good juice sink so low?

I absolutely LOVE Santa Cruz Organic Apple Juice (can’t vouch for whether it is still as good as it was or not, they are not the one that messed me up). I cannot get it anymore, but I loved the stuff. One day I could not get it, and Knudsen’s Organic Apple Juice was there instead. The three quart bottle. Both are a pressed cider type product, not a steamed juice type product, which is what I wanted.

I bought it. I regretted it.

I opened the bottle, and I could smell the chlorine in it – it produces a distinct chemical smell, that takes a bit to identify because of how it interacts with the apple juice, but it is identifiable because it is SO strong. I could not drink it. Chlorine overload gives me raging headaches and causes a flare of IBS (and if I am not careful, will lead to Crohn’s again), and if I ignore that set of symptoms (or cannot avoid the chlorine), it will precipitate an allergic crisis which ends in anaphylactic shock. Not somewhere I can go.

Shame on you, Knudsen’s, for adding chlorine to a pressed apple cider type product! There was NO CAUSE to add water to it, and NO CAUSE to have chlorine in the product at all! This seriously disappointed me, and their brand instantly became one that I cannot trust.

They just keep coming, and I find I am needing to add to the list now and again.

Marie Calendar, how could you? So much for home cooked goodness. The breaded chicken in your freezer dinners is only edible if you have a craving for textured soy imitation meat. EYOOO. The Orange Chicken was hard to think of as chicken. It tasted like about half Chicken TVP. Not what I wanted to find in one of the more expensive meals! Even Banquet does better than this!

The Homestyle Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders are so obviously stamped out in a chicken molding machine that I have not been able to even contemplate microwaving the package to see if maybe they forgot and put some real chicken in them.

I don’t know about you, but I do NOT make breaded chicken tenders at home by chopping up the leftovers of the butchered chicken, adding soy flour, and pressing them into a pseudo-chicken tender shape! You should at least change the name of them if you intend to go on passing this substance off as chicken!

Huge Disappointment, for sure. But also a dangerous thing. I am a recovered Crohn’s patient, and I am still sensitive to the things that gave it to me in the first place. Soy is one of those things. Kids with peanut allergies also have a high rate of soy allergy reactions, and individuals with acquired metabolic damage (this is a damaging world we live in, this is a large percentage of the population) cannot digest soy (or other beans, tuna, peanuts, eggs, and several other types of proteins and partial proteins). You just can’t put that stuff in there and call it “meat”, there are too many people with problems with it!

Stewart’s Sodas have also gone rogue. I had a Key Lime Soda yesterday, and it was ok. It was not wonderful. Stewart’s Key Lime is WONDERFUL soda. Stewart’s Sodas are PREMIUM sodas. The expensive stuff. And you know it when you drink it. The Key Lime is mellow, the Orange Cream is rich, and the Cream Soda is sweetly gentle. And this was not. But it WAS ok. The Cream Soda was NOT OK at ALL. I’m not sure what they flavored that with, but I can tell you it was NOT Vanilla! An added bonus is that it leaves an artificial flavor lingering on your palate, to warn you not to take that next sip too soon. I could not finish the bottle. I kept thinking maybe I could, but by the third sip, it was clear that I was NOT going to be able to trick myself into believing that it was Cream Soda, nor any other drinkable soft drink. I wasn’t even thinking ENJOYABLE, just SWALLOWABLE. And this is not.

Now I know what was wrong with the Key Lime. The vanilla flavor was NOT vanilla. How dumb do you have to be to substitute something for vanillin? I mean, vanillin is a substitute for vanilla. We can deal with that. Vanillin is CHEAP. And you use VERY LITTLE of it. How much, really, could you save by subbing something else that MIGHT be a few pennies cheaper per pound? It doesn’t even change the price of the soda! This is how corporations commit suicide. By COLLOSSALLY DUMB decisions that compromise their entire product appeal.

This is not just soda, it is EXPENSIVE soda. It was on sale. I got lots. Now I know why it was on sale. (Gotta watch that, it is a new trend. Thing goes on sale, it is a new recipe nobody liked. Can’t trust anything on sale anymore!)

Shame on you, Stewart’s. We will miss you.

Colossally disgusting. Completely inedible. Dangerously contaminated.

Call it what you will, these companies deserve to go under. They deserve to have America (and anywhere else where these products are sold) turn away and refuse to buy. They deserve to be held accountable.

I sincerely hope that somewhere in here there is a fluke. Just a single time error on the line. Because the food was entirely inedible, and I no longer trust any of these companies, and cannot buy ANYTHING that they produce.

NOTE: These were my honest experiences with these foods. If these companies wish to refute, they will have to do so with edible food that replaces the products that are inedible. I sincerely hope others have had better experiences, but I did not.

Goodbye Mama

We’ve called her “Ma” since we were in our teens, but today it seems she’s gone back to being Mama.

She was taken to hospice a few days ago, in end stage kidney failure. Our relationship over the past few years has been complicated, usually companionable but sometimes turbulent, and I had not talked to her for a while (she could no longer communicate well on the phone), and could not possibly go to visit her, many hours from where we live.

I had gone to bed that night, and it took me a while to fall asleep. It took me til nearly midnight to settle in. As I was drifting off, I had a thought.

“I wrote a story today, Ma. I learned what it means to spin straw into gold. It is flax. It is dried, and kinda rough like straw, but you treat it, then spin it and wax it, and if you do it right, it ends up golden colored and shiny. So you really can spin straw into gold.”

I heard a reply. Not with my ears, but more like an echo of my mother’s voice in my mind. “That’s JUST the kind of thing I love to learn!” She sounded really tired.

And then, “Laura, I’m afraid.”.

“It’s ok. It’s just a door. You’ll keep learning cool stuff, you just won’t hurt as much.”

And I went to sleep. I am comfortable with death, and I’d often felt my father, and my daughter as though their presence was near me, after their deaths. On some occasions, I’d had that feeling of hearing them in my mind. It was a comfort to me, to know they are still aware of the lives of their loved ones.

I woke a few hours later to go to the bathroom, and heard my mother in my mind again, “Laura?”

“Yes.”

“You gave me a gift! I’m ok! I’m not scared, I’m ok!” she sounded cheerful.

I went back to bed. In the morning we got the news that she had died in the night.

She loved to learn new skills, and had once learned to spin. I hope she really did hear what I tried to say. The one thing I am certain I learned from my mother is that if I need to learn to do something, I can.

Her body and mind were so crippled for the last several years that she really could not do that anymore.

It was several days before I realized I’m not even grieving her death. This is a hard thing to admit, since people get so nasty about it if you do, but my stages of grief over losing my mother were over long ago. She left years ago, and the person in the house with us just wasn’t her anymore, and wasn’t going to BE her anymore. She lived in her chair, and entire days would go by without her saying anything to anyone. She’d hold it together enough to be chatty with visitors, but even then she could no longer control her side of the conversation. Dementia robs you of the person day by day, and you grieve it out as it happens. By the time they are truly dead, they’ve been gone a long time already, and there’s nothing left to mourn.

Ma lived next door to us for about 11 years, and relied on us and our kids to help her out. I was the one of her children who saw the gradual breakdown of her capabilities and her capacity to reason and think things out. We moved away, and she would not go. When we met up with her again a few years later, her capacity had declined so much that she could no longer live alone. The last 4 years of sharing a home with her were tragic in so many ways, that her death has brought us only the sorrow that those years were so difficult, and so painful for both her, and us.

We did not have a funeral, there really wasn’t any point, since only a couple of people could get there. And I’m really ok with that, f I could afford to travel up for a funeral, I’d have done it when she was alive, when it mattered to her. I did not need to say goodbye to an empty body. She was already missed… and we are kind of used to that.

I hope she now has the chance to learn to spin straw into gold.

How Men Can Earn Permanent Points From Their Wife

So we’ve all heard the points system. How men and women score points differently. I can’t remember which funny man said this first, and I can’t seem to get Google to cough it up either, so we’re just going to have to pretend I know who to attribute this to, and that everybody already knows what I’m talking about.

Kevin and I joke about points a lot. “Wow! You really did that!”, and he says, “So am I going to end the day with a positive total?”. I’ll tell him maybe! He’s already a point and a half in the right direction! He rolls his eyes and laughs. Sometimes I am flagrantly generous, and award more than one point for a thing also.  There have been occasions, not many, mind you, but some, where he has actually ended the day with five or six points!

(Please laugh, this is done entirely in jest, and if I were really awarding points, I’d lose count pretty easily because he really does rack them up FAST.)

Anyway we have some fun with the whole thing, and there is some truth to the way men’s and women’s brains count up meaningful gestures.

But something men just don’t get. Something the male relationship experts haven’t even figured out.

Women also award permanent points. Points that never go away.

It isn’t for the regular things. He doesn’t get this for complimenting her, or bringing her flowers, or taking her out, or even for doing the dishes one evening.

  • He gets permanent points for getting up in the night when she’s had a hard day, and taking care of the kid that is throwing up.
  • He gets them for hugging her every day when she cries in grief over a loss that he can’t fix, and that makes him feel utterly helpless.
  • He gets them for not expressing irritation at her for an accident that totals HIS car, not hers.
  • He gets them for doing the laundry year after year because the detergent and heat from the dryer makes her so uncomfortable she dreads it.
  • He can even get them when he WRAPS her Christmas presents instead of just handing them to her in a bag!
  • He gets them every time he apologizes without being asked.
  • He gets them when he stops in the middle of what he is doing, to come and tell his wife thank you for packing his lunch that morning.
  • He gets them when he sets out the fan as soon as the weather gets hot, so his wife won’t overheat.
  • He gets them when, the FIRST TIME EVER, he turns around on the road to go back so she can look at the thing she spied beside the road.
  • He gets them when the spiders in the bathroom disappear because he dispatched them without being asked.

They aren’t things anyone can really PLAN for. They are the acts that show the depth of character and love right in the middle of the chaos and crisis and frantic coping of real life. Things unexpected, and given just because he COULD, when nobody expected he WOULD.

Permanent points are never forgotten. They don’t disappear at the end of the day. They embed themselves in her heart, and serve as an anchor for love to grow on.

When she’s just HAD it with him, and isn’t sure its worth it, those are the things that she hangs onto, that pull her back.

When her friend says, “Why do you stay if it is that hard?”, she says, “That. That thing, right there!”.

“So what, exactly, IS that thing?”

“I can’t remember. But it was that thing. That one. Right there.”

The things that remind her that he really DOES love her, even when she’s forgotten exactly what it was that he did. A thing that CAN’T be forgotten entirely, even if she can’t remember completely.

Regular points, they reset at the beginning of the day. Usually. Unless he was in REALLY deep. Then they might not COMPLETELY (fair is fair, after all!). But usually they just reset, positive, or negative, he starts fresh each day.

But permanent points stick. Little bits of glue, bonding him to her heart, in spite of the day to day.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.