50th – not a funny story though I try….

Yep, it was just my 50th….  I have to say it was a lot more disappointing than I expected.  I actually love birthdays. I try to plan them out for the boys….  Once for my husbands 40th I invited people for a surprise (even my grandmother was there!) and then had a cake with 40 candles.  What I did find was 40 candles creates a small fire warm enough to catch about anything on fire. A friend also snuck into his department office another year and hung a what happened the year you were born on the wall – no name, just the year.

My husband is great and has done things, I just thought there would be something special for my 50th.  Instead, due to everything going wrong, there wasn’t even a cake or a Happy Birthday song.  My family doesn’t even realize they forgot it all. The day before we went to a restaurant I chose for a Birthday/Christmas family dinner – yep birthday by a holiday really sucks your whole life.   The place was packed and took forever, it also took forever to get there due to my mother’s door lock breaking that day.   My birthday was mentioned as the check came and the server did say Happy Birthday.  Having a family that doesn’t care about birthdays they don’t realize that I’m the only one that’s never gotten the free birthday dessert, the restaurant singing happy birthday to me because I don’t feel I should be the one to tell myself.

For my birthday I had it planned to go eat at Indy and see the Children’s museum , but the lock was still broke… So by the time we left and they gave up on the lock it was late.  We arrived at the museum having not had lunch, 2 hours before the museum closed and right after their food court closed.  We ran through as fast as we could…. and then had a late lunch/dinner at a cracker barrel as fast as we could on the way home, arriving late at home.

The next day I did run out to get and eat a free cupcake from Gigi’s while my husband was on lunch break.  My family had already told me they didn’t want any so I ate it in the car before coming home….

Having a birthday at a holiday is pretty disappointing, every year growing up the school would plan the school program on my birthday, friends would be busy with their family, family my family hadn’t seen all year would be coming into town – and it always seemed that they would arrive on my birthday… with my mother saying isn’t it nice they are here for your school program, birthday whatever…. Nope, I just wanted one year that it was a day I wasn’t told that people had to rush off because so and so were coming, or were tired or whatever because they just arrived.  And the whole here’s your birthday/Christmas gift.  What they are really saying is, this time of year is busy and expensive and so we can cut corners on you, so we did….  We couldn’t even splurge for birthday paper.  I didn’t even realize you could get birthday wrapping paper until I had my own kids.

Yep, right now I’m a little sad, and it’s not that I’m 50…  I actually do feel like I’ve done a lot ….  I’m a farmer’s daughter that got a Master’s degree and worked through school as a computer programmer!  I’ve been certified in GIS (map making) and Floodplain management.  I have my name on a lot of published papers….. I’ve coordinated both a state robotics championship (FLL) and an international conference (Environmental Informatics). Now I have a business that isn’t doing horribly and to top it all off I have a great husband and three amazing boys.


A Visit Home for the 4th.

For the Fourth this year we decided to hang out at Oakwood.  We are getting excited about moving home and had to head up and spend the holiday checking out all the fun things we could do. Living out in the country is totally different from living in a subdivision… everything from the lack of neighbors, the lack of constant noise, and a to do list a mile long… oh and internet and services being spotty.  Groceries and food being a drive away…  Even the fact that cable is not an option.

Eating at the Old House

We started by picking up pizza on the way out and taking it to house.  We proceeded to eat at the house I grew up in.  My brother has been redoing it and it looks completely different.  If you have read my stories though, my whole childhood was my parents redoing the house, so the changes are not really anything different from the constant state of flux my parents had the house in.  My brother has done a great job so far though.  He’s doing everything himself and it looks pretty amazing.   My brother has a huge dog (St Bernard) that my youngest hasn’t adjusted to, so we are still working on that one…


We have had a swing for a while and hadn’t had a chance to hang it.  This trip my brother finally helped, and it is hung!  It holds 600 pounds and everyone kept taking turns to swing out in the yard.  It’s got a great view also, so we had a great time out on the swing – in the shade too!







I had to mention the toads though!  They were everywhere.  There favorite spot though is at the garage door. At one point we were seeing 7 or 8 toads hopping around right inside the garage….  I’m not sure what the thrill was with the garage but the toads seem to have found it.  There were also squirrels making a racket – to me they sounded like toads, but my mother was convinced it was squirrels.  We were seeing deer everywhere too. Out in the country we don’t hear the constant sound of cars, lawn mowers, and people, but the animals are always there….

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Going to the Pancakes, Parade and Fireworks

Oakwood has a pancake breakfast at the firehouse on the 4th first thing in the morning.  We HAD to head out to that.  The parking is a mess, but we did it.  We were there early enough that we were able to head back to the farm and get our wagon and ice for the parade before heading back out.  Parades in a small town include candy, people you know are on floats and kids are everywhere.  My mother’s goal is to collect as much as she could, but it was fun!  Despite the way to hot weather this year, we had a good time.

I tried to record the fireworks.  I’m still not sure how such a small town can have such a big fireworks display…. but they do.  I managed to catch all but the final set.  It was odd not having our own fireworks, but I’m sure it was much more safer.  We did make up for it, but shooting off my dad’s canon before though.

Clearing the Pond

Shooting the Canon

My father built this canon many years ago.  My brother and I have never tried to load it ourselves, but it was time to get a video of it going off.  To load it, we use a Dixie cup of gun powder (I said mix flour in like my dad did sometimes), a fuse, and some paper.  Shooting something out of it seemed a bad idea.

We loaded the canon, got it lit… and of course the first try didn’t go off. We then had to test the gunpowder, and then try to relight it.  My middle son managed to catch it all on camera.

My father had built the canon with a special order barrel and it’s now been shot many times, including at the  grand reopening of the bar the Little Nugget.  It’s been stolen and returned, and it’s a family legacy to pass on….

Driving the Tractor

Finally we got my little one to sit on the tractor with my mother. It won’t be much longer until we can get him to drive it!



Gardens, Strawberries, and Poison Ivy, oh My!

We’ve tried to make our own garden. – My favorite is strawberry plants.  Some of our plants are wild strawberries and some are domestic.

Strawberry Plants

Growing up, we would go pick wild strawberries wherever we found them.  I remember a few times even ending up with poison ivy in a few interesting places from picking strawberries.   The wild strawberries are much smaller and have less flavor.   We currently have both wild and domestic strawberry plants growing in our back yard.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is leaves of three let it be.  I don’t remember how many times I ended up with poison ivy growing up, but my dad had some inventive ways of getting rid of it.   I remember days of soaking in the pool – because the chlorine bleach water will dry out poison ivy and dad’s favorite being putting gasoline on the spots.  Being a farm we had the big gasoline tanks in the yard to fill the farm equipment, so going out to the tanks, we could just get a little gas and use it to dry up the poison ivy.  My dad seemed to be immune to poison ivy, but he would use the gas for other things – like washing grease off his hands.  He did teach us that you don’t use gasoline to start a fire though – for that you use diesel fuel!   I’ve heard stories recently about people eating poison ivy to make themselves immune… warning: this can kill you.  Apparently some animals eat poison ivy and there are some people that do.  A report in a medical journal though found that it can not be ingested for immunity and most people that try will end up with severe rashes in their mouth resulting in the need for medical care.


Kitchen Mistakes!

My mother didn’t let me cook in the kitchen much, really not at all.  Our schedule was pretty set also.  Most of the time during the spring, summer, and fall was spent in the fields if not at school.  Until my brother and I were old enough to drive on our own, we were pretty much expected to go with.  I think my parents thought that being so isolated out in the country would lead to someone breaking in and massacring us if we were left home alone.  My mother would fix hamburgers for a lot of meals out in the field, and evenings we had our big meal. Days when my dad was in the field or working outside the big meal was after dark.  I even remember days my dad would keep working with lights on the equipment to get done because rain was coming.   My mother would be responsible for taking the trucks to the elevator to dump many times, so times at home were only the few minutes between loads.  As soon as I was old enough to see over the steering wheel and reach the pedals I was responsible for driving a vehicle to the field behind my mother with strict instructions to pull over if another car came along.

My brother and I would play in the field doing everything from jumping in the trucks of corn and beans to riding motorbikes along the side of the fields and up hills.  Most of my childhood was spent outside!  My dad’s staple was a can of Pepsi between each meal and my mother would always have a spare cooler.  My dad drank so much of it, that my mom would hunt down the Pepsi truck and buy directly from the delivery driver. My favorite though was Hawaiian punch.   My brother and I also would spend time swimming, canoeing, biking, and anything else we could think to try.  – The only thing we didn’t try was camping…. My father said we lived in the woods why would we want to sleep out in it.


I do remember one time though.  Our high school had an exchange day and I needed to make lunch for my dad.  I decided pizza was the way to go.  I wasn’t really familiar with the ingredients to use and frozen pizza wasn’t a thing yet.  – Actually microwaves weren’t either.  The only thing I remember about that pizza though was that I put orange zest on it.  I’m not sure why, but it was in the kitchen and seemed a good idea at the time.  My dad ate it, and never said a word about it being good or bad!  Just came in, ate, and went back out to work again.

Science Experiment

My next try in the kitchen was a science experiment.  I had found an old science lab kit.  I did enjoy science, but I can’t say science was encouraged at home. – Though for some reason I did have this science kit.   I decided the best thing to do with it, was to mix a little of each thing in the box together and see what would happen. The kit came with glass test tubes and lots of chemicals.  I mixed everything together in my test tube (just a little) and then mixed it.  Needless to say, the top of the test tube blew off hitting the ceiling.  We do still have that kit here.  Looking at it now, I’m sure that kits can’t be bought anymore with those ingredients.  Now looking back I know I was lucky something more serious than a dent mark in the ceiling didn’t occur, but back then it didn’t even cross my mind.


Now I have my own kitchen and get to cook all the time.  My kids and I also do science experiments pretty often.  I know my mother isn’t too impressed with my food, but I don’t tend to use a lot of things like salt and fatty food, like the stuff I grew up on.   My husband does love hamburgers, so we break down and have them every few weeks.


Favorite Childhood Pets

Growing up, my parents had a lot of animals.  My favorite pets were between a dog that was a golden retriever/Irish setter mix that my father had named after my cousin’s mom and a cat.


We had a LOT of dogs.  The mix that was my favorite was around for many years.  She was mine.  For my brother we had an English Setter named Waldo that was the result of a trip to Kentucky when I was in second grade.  I remember that one a little more than when we got my dog because of the tobacco that we were given to bring back for show and tell.  It was a family road trip to pick up the dog – which was rare for our family.  Road trips included my dad singing Purple People Eater – and amusing us for hours with us questioning him about the blue light that kept going off (bright lights that used to be controlled by the foot switch).  We also had a little black and white dog called Scudder, he was another favorite was part of the three amigos with my brother’s dog and mine.  Scudder was what looked like a terrier mix.

Besides having a few other dogs, including one that had to have a CSection at one point while having puppies and a few that came and went so fast they didn’t get names – our final favorite dog was Butter.  Butter was a Dashund (weiner dog) that came in a pair with Peanut. At the time I really didn’t get the name. It wasn’t until years later when my husband pointed it out that I finally got it.  Peanut had an issue with his ear shortly after showing up and it swelled up.  My father’s solution was to pop it and get the puss out.  Of course the dog bit him….  My dad’s big rule was that none of the dog’s could bite us, so he had to find a new home.  I’m fairly certain that is what really what happened… Butter on the other hand stayed to keep us company.  The only thing she ever bit was Robby’s dog Waldo.  Waldo, even though he was a big dog, was afraid of her for the rest of time.  I remember wanting Butter to sleep with me and my mother’s rule was that I couldn’t lift her.  So I would pat the bed and call and do everything I could until she would find a way up into the bed (I had a high bed).  Somehow that dog would do it.  So she would sleep with me.  After my Grandmother lost her second husband, she was lonely though…. So Butter went to stay with her.  Butter would chew up anything not in the laundry basket and had a few quirky tendencies, but she was a fun dog!   I’ll never forget when she would go to the pond and swim how her tail was spin like a propeller…


Starting at about 2, my parents realized I was really allergic to a lot of things.  They had left me with my cousin Joellyn to babysit and I had decided to play with the cats.  My allergic reaction was so bad my parents rushed me to the doctor.  Years later I begged for a cat though.  Our cats were outdoor cats because of my allergies, but I loved having a cat. I named one Triple Trouble and called it TT..  The rest have names that have slipped my mind over the years.  I do remember a big yellow cat that must have been named something like Garfield that climbed my face one day when I insisted on carrying it out to show friends who had brought a dog over.

TT was a gray cat and for some reason I think that cat might have stayed in the house at least part of the time.  More recently we allowed our middle son to get a cat that he named Spy.  I tend to call it Evil as a nickname, but it stayed here until my little one was born.   Spy was the same gray as TT.  Spy is name living on the farm – really living on the farm in Illinois.  I take a picture every time I visit.  That cat has gotten old and seems to be king of the porch at my parents.  Spy was the oddest cat when living here.  He would play fetch with whiffle balls,  turn off and on lights, chase lasers, and only drink running water.  What got him sent to live at the farm was his desire to hunt and attack people by surprise.  With the new little one we had decided that he had to find a new home at the farm.


Sometime before second grade my dad agreed to get me a horse.  He really didn’t like horses (AT ALL), but he got one for me.  It was beautiful.  I’ve loved horses ever since, though it was the only horse I’ve ever owned.  I named it Puff… yes another thing that I didn’t really get where I got the name until recently when my husband reminded me of the song Puff the Magic Dragon.  Also didn’t get what that song was about.  For the first few years of my life we lived in a trailer by my Aunt Margaret’s.  The back part was a barn yard, so the horse stayed there.  The only day I have a vague memory of was my parents putting my brother and I on the horse and leading it around the barnyard.  Something, probably a dog, walked in front of the horse causing it to panic.  My dad grabbed the horse, my mom grabbed my brother…. I fell.

After we moved to the Illk house that my parent’s got from Ralph Goodrich it was a little while before the horse moved to follow us.  But after a while my dad did build a pin for the horse.  Puff had been broken to ride by my dad’s friend Rick Lane, but would try to rub me off whenever we were near anything.  Most of my time riding was instead at my friend Vicky’s house, whose dad had his own rodeo arena in their yard.

I remember coming home from my grandmother’s one day to just find Puff (and my brother’s horse Daisy) gone. My dad ha. d decided to load them up and send them away.  I do hope sometime I’ll be able to get a horse again.  Maybe one that’s a little better trained for riding, but I’d love to have a horse when we get back to the farm….


While living in the trailer, for a short time, my mother was given a lamb.  My mom raised it with a bottle, let it sleep at the end of my bed, and treated it like a dog.  My dad docked it’s tail and it roamed the yard like a dog for a while after it became an adult.  Somewhere there is a picture of my brother with mud on his face where the lamb had decided his hair looked like hay.  My mom has a story of a sales person being confused by the ‘dog’ that had joined the group of dogs to be petted at the door while he was trying to sell her something.  Back then people came to the door with everything from vacuum cleaners (Kirby) to encyclopedias… and yes my parents bought them sometimes – my parents even bought a TV once off the back of a truck that came to our door!

and more oh my!

Besides all the others, we also had everything from Buffalo, Fallow Deer, Ferrets, and lots more.  The bigger animals like the Buffalo and Deer were fun, but more the type of pets like you see in a zoo.  Some of the smaller ones like the ferrets were only at our house for a short visit. – I think the ferret was ours for a weekend.  We also would get everything from chickens to calves that we call pets, but would later become dinner.  One pair even became named lunch and dinner.

Deer – Venison – Hunting?

Deer – Venison – Hunting?

Visiting home it’s not unusual to see deer. – Growing up we actually had deer as pets!  The deer I see on visits now are wdeer by Oakwood Illinoishite tail deer, indigenous to the state of Illinois.  (Growing up our deer were Fallow Deer) They are kind of like large rodents as far as farmers are concerned, but are also great for a beef replacement and a lot cheaper.  Deer come into fields and eat the corn when they have a chance.  Farmers can get nuisance permits to hunt in the off season on their own property to deal with deer coming to literally eat their livelihood.  That being said, deer are cute!  Speaking as someone that has several as pets, they are a little like cute farm animals that will eat from your hand when they are comfortable with you.

From past experience though deer can also be dangerous…. I’ve seen deer throw a tire in the air with their antlers and also hit the sides of their cage and knock the person standing next to it down on the ground. Deer can jump high into the air, so we kept ours with a cage made of old corn cob sides that were raised in the air enough to keep them in. The buck was dangerous with antlers, but I was always convinced he was trying to play with us like he would with other bucks in the herd.   Now though, our deer watching amounts to watching White Tail Deer from a distance.  They come into the fields todeer by Oakwood Illinois snack on corn and bean plants at the early hours of the day and just as the sun starts to set.


I like to take pictures of the deer – I actually caught a video of a deer the other day that walked beside our car, turned to look at me as if staring me down and then just started peeing. So far the only shooting I’ve done of deer are pictures……

The deer are everywhere.  We see them crossing roads, in the fields, and even every night at the Oakwood rest stop on our last visit. Some of my pictures are quick pull out the camera there they are again, and others are thought out, they aren’t moving pictures.  When we are home for good, it will be fun to try to catch deer in all their different stages.  I’d love to catch some fawns with their spots!


I can’t bring myself to actually hunt deer.  The last hunting I did was raccoons I think with my father.  We also hunted frogs for the legs and deer by Oakwood Illinoiscaught fish.  I’ll remember the traipsing across the field, shotgun, dogs included, and off to look for raccoons.  I also remember the sound of the raccoons squealing after they fell from the tree. The frogs I could take or leave and they went with the turtles that for us kids really just meant we got to play with heads…  Fish were something my father kept stocked in the pond.  I was horned by a catfish at a pond at the farm we called the Ranch and refused to fish anything but Sunfish and Bass after that.  Totally another story….

Now even with spiders I have a hard time killing them off myself.  I once put a spider in a container and told it, if it could get out it was free to go….  I couldn’t bring myself to kill it, but I also couldn’t LIVE with it in my house…. Don’t get me wrong! I don’t have any problem with others hunting as long as they use what they kill and don’t just shoot it and leave it.  Shooting for sport is wrong.

I remember as friends of my parents coming over to hunt over the years.  Sometimes the hunt was bow, and sometimes there was drinking.  I don’t remember seeing my dad drink much, so for me it was always a little funny to see the drunks come over and stumble around with plans to go out and hunt with fatal weapons.  I’ve seen them make plans to walk down each side of the field pointed at each other with shotguns, looking for deer to hunt.  Heading out with coolers of beer….  The time I remember most though was the friend of a my parent’s friend that came over drunk with a bow and needed string it.  He tried with an arrow in the bow!  I don’t think my parents let me see the gash, but someone had to rush him to the emergency room after that.

My dad would go out each year though and get how ever many deer he had permits for and hang them up, then my parents would spend the next few days packaging all the meat.  The kitchen table would be covered with a meat grinder, freezer paper, and parts of meat. My dad would run out to the barn and cut chunks off as they were ready for more and he would cut them up inside with big knives.  The deer were always hung up out in the machine shed.

A couple times my mother decided she wanted to cure the hides and dad took the hides off also. My brother and I had some play space set up in the basement…. Basement for us meant old concrete floor unfinished over 100 year old house where the coal furnace had been that was open to the dirt in some spots.  My mother took one room of the basement, read some books on tanning hides (the internet didn’t exist yet), and gave it a try!  I think the first step was to dry the hide out with salt, so the hides were in the basement covered in salt for months.   I don’t remember them passing that stage, or even what happened to them, but I’m sure they aren’t still in the basement of the old house with my brother living there now!


I do like venison, though the thing I like most about it is that it’s free.  To me it seems I’d be hypocritical to not be a vegetarian and say I won’t eat venison.  I’ve never really been able to tell the difference in taste.  If someone showed me two cuts of meat, I am fairly certain I could tell you which is which – deer is a lot leaner meat….  But my taste buds just aren’t that refined.   There is a difference in where the deer came from.  I know some deer come from areas that make them taste gamey.  Our area makes the deer taste the same as cows in my view. When I see deer running around in the field, my first thought isn’t that they are dinner – though I do have to admit it is in the top 10.  I’d say though I have the same thoughts about a cow.

Growing up dinner almost always amounted to my mother sending us to the freezer to pull out a type of meat.  We had huge deep freezes in the garage to store all the venison and by type of meat I don’t mean cow or venison.  Type of meat was written on each white wrapped package in black permanent marker!  There were tenderloin, beef chunks, hamburger, little steaks, deer roast, and more.  All labeled in my mother’s writing and all packed into the freezer in the white paper.  – Now my mother goes to a processing plant and gets the meat in a professional looking package.  She takes in any deer they have gotten and the butcher lets her know when it has been turned into what she has listed.  We just tried some new types of deer sticks this last visit!


I have no idea what will happen when we retire and move home.  Will my husband decide to give hunting a try?  I can’t see my children deciding to shoot deer with anything but a camera…

deer by Oakwood Illinois
deer by Oakwood Illinois