Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Three Gadgets Saved My Vacation Happiness

New gadgets ROCK!  My friend Kyle at Verizon  recently sent me a fun box of toys to play with over spring break.

The first fun item was a MotorolaSonic Rider.  It’s a Bluetooth in-car speakerphone that allows you to talk hands free on your phone while driving AND listen to music!  That last part caught my attention because Tall Guy will NOT spring for Sirius or XM music in the van L  With this handy little gadget, I could connect my phone to it via Bluetooth and listen to music from Pandora.  Oh.Be.Still.My.Heart! We always drive south to Florida, and one (of my many) pet peeves is listening to a radio station as it starts to go out of range. I STRONGLY DISLIKE scratchy noises!  Then there is the added aggravation of trying to find another station that plays the music we want to listen to.  Usually we go country, but with my new hook up to Pandora, TG was rocking out to Def Leppard as we cruised over the Smokey Mountains!  BTW, the girls didn’t quite know what to think of this music station.  “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” and other hard rock tunes from that genre just didn't fit their idea of parental music... Hee hee!

The next toy Kyle included was a HUGE life-saver, a SamsungGalaxy Tab 2.  Yes, we do have an iPad, but only one, so the loner tablet meant both girls could be entertained with games when the scenery was boring, and/or they were tired of watching movies.  No one asked to play on my phone! Whew!  One less battle to settle while on an 1100 mile trip (one way!) is a check in my Happy Box!

The last goodie in the box is one that I am using as I type.  It’s called a Mophie, and it is a charger for electronic devices.  It can go Mac or PC with two outlets to use, a USB port and a micro USB (the  little thing goes in to a device).  Anywho, no matter what its name is, this little dude is charging my phone right this minute.  I forgot to plug it in last night, and our electricity went out around noon today.  The same thing, well at least the first part happened to me while we were in Orlando.  The day we went to Disney was the day I woke up to see that I had not plugged in my phone!  ACK!!!!!  I planned to use my phone as my camera (Samsung 4 phone ROCKS in so many ways!), and let Bear have the little camera to take pics potentially for her 4-H photography project.  I just slipped Mophie into my purse connected to my phone, and in a couple hours it was back to a full charge! Thanks Mophie! 

Thanks, again, to Verizon for allowing me to test drive these new gadgets.  You can find them all by clicking here.

The views I presented in this post are my own.  I did not keep these devices nor was I paid for the thoughts shared in this post.
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Part 3 Farm Life Series: Help Wanted!

Wanted:  Hired hand to work on our farm.  Should be in good health, preferably young, mechanically inclined, good with animals, hopefully with a CDL (Commercial Driver's License), experienced in driving tractors, able to quickly absorb new technology and apply when needed.  You should be able to follow instructions, and there might be some yard work and wood cutting involved during off-peak seasons.

Any takers?  That’s who we are looking for here at our farm, and a person who meets all or at least most is very hard to find.

20-30 years ago, we might not have had such trouble, but it is getting harder and harder to find someone who will commit to the strange hours, often time hot/cold/wet/dry weather conditions, and like-mindedness of my farmer.

Why are we looking?  I suppose if you know that we farm 1800 acres and feed out 130 cattle for beef production, you would think we need at least ten people to get it all done.  With today’s new, larger equipment and ground management methods, it really can be done by two people IF both are young, healthy, and have no other obligations. 

Grandpa and I are the ones looking.  The girls are getting busier, and we both are getting older.  The girls are still a bit young to drive the tractors; although I know some kids out there are sitting in the driver’s seat.  We do have a gentleman or two to help out during the crazy parts of planting and harvest, but Tall Guy carries the brunt of all the work, and this is his last year to be on the UP side of the hill.  Grandpa and I are already working our way careful down the other side of it. Remember what happened when I tried to climb up our bins? (This link includes a great view of the ground we farm around the house!)

We are lucky, though, to have one of TG’s cousin's sons come out to help and learn.  It’s fun to sit back and watch Tall Guy teach this young man, we will call him YJK  (young Jedi Knight) about the “behind the scenes” aspects of farming, like making a new hot wire fence to go around our new addition.  He’s also great at scooping out bins (Grandpa and I are especially happy about that!), and he is learning about filling semi’s and taking care of the cattle.  The only thing is he is a bit too young to have his CDL, the license needed to operate a semi.  Yeah, don’t look at me!  I can usually drive them around the barn lot and a bit down the road if we are in a pinch, but I have enough road rage driving in Lafayette and surrounding areas in my van.  I don’t think anyone wants to see me coming down US 52 from the top of the hill in West Lafayette, over the Wabash, and in to Lafayette proper!

1800 acre farms are not as big as they sound if you have the right set of work skills to cover all your needs.  So we will keep on looking for the mysterious, elusive, CDL carrying hired hand, AND continue to work with YJK.  A lot of promise he has!
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Part 2 Farm Life Series: Can Anyone Find Me a Plain Ol' Hamburger?

Ok Weight Watchers, “I’m BAAACCKKKK….;” however, I have an issue with your food tracking options.

Yep, in an attempt to get back into the good numbers on the scales and hopefully offset some health issues this extra weight maybe creating, I've re-upped to Weight Watchers, and I am taking some extra nutritional measures to try and help my poor metabolism to find its life.

I was chugging right along until yesterday, when I went to enter the hamburger I had made and eaten for lunch……NO LISTING FOR PLAIN HAMBURGER!!!!!!!!!


Oh they have listings for hamburger that include fast food, and others you can find, I guess, in the frozen food section, BUT I could not find a listing for a good ol’ hamburger patty, made by hand, and slapped onto the fire to cook.  As someone who raises beef cattle, that kind of bothers me.

My beef came from the freezer, but it was MY freezer, and MY beef.  It wasn't a pre-made hamburger on a bun.  Even in this crazy busy world there has to be others like me who make their own hamburger patties.....Right?.....Anybody?  I truly do not know how much ground beef is at the store; we get our beef by the quarter from our own cows, and many of you out there have bought your own quarter/half/ whole beef from us.  The best feeling in the world, especially if you live out in the middle of no where like we do, is knowing you just have to step over to your freezer for some outstanding grain fed, raised by someone you know, packaged beef!  Here's the process in a nutshell of three pictures.

Maybe some of you more seasoned WW veterans can steer (oh, I am so punny!) me in the right direction, but everything I typed in to the search box, every different way I could describe the hamburger I made by hand and cooked myself, came up empty.

I came up with 4 WW Points for my hamburger (no bread/bun), and I'm sticking to it!
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Part 1 Farm Life Series: Oh the things we do for our husbands!

Wednesday morning the weathermen were able to redeem themselves a bit from the miss on the last "big snow" with a royal bull's eye at our farm.

It is always hard for me to sleep when I know a big storm is coming, especially when school is not called off or delayed the night before.  Call it Momma's Worry; it is what it is, which means I can tell exactly when the rain turned to snow at our house....right around the magic hour of 4:45 a.m. (which was and still feels like the 3:45 a.m. time it was a week ago!)  Anywho....Don't even get me started on the time change!

Turned on the local news at 5:00 a.m. to see what was happening; meanwhile, Tall Guy got up, dressed, and ready to head to Lafayette with three cows scheduled to go in for processing.  I made him swear he would turn around if the roads were too bad.  Well, he did come back but just to get his phone!  Meanwhile right at 5:45 the calls started to come in announcing that school was cancelled.  We had two calls, apparently the first call had the wrong month, but SERIOUSLY PEOPLE!?!?!  You know the nice lady was calling school off for this morning!  Then the phone rang again.......

"Honey?  Can you do something for me?"

Me, groggy and almost ready to go back to sleep, "Uhm....yeah..(DANG!).... Is this going to involve me going outside?"

"Sorry Babe, but yes.  Could you go out to the cow lot and run the conveyors so that they don't freeze up as the rain turns to ice/snow?"

"......(silence).......Well, sure!  I'm guessing you are talking right now?"

"Yep!  Love you Babe!  Gotta keep going down the road."

For those of you who have not been out to the lot with me on other posts, we have a set up that is a bit older than me, so let's just say 50-something. It was built when Tall Guy had the dairy, and we still use it to feed our cows.  The whole thing is tied in to our silos, where we keep the silage, but it's basically out there, unprotected from the elements. If any of the chains freeze or break, then we cannot pull silage out of the silo or grain out of the bin and feed it in the bunkers......Big Important Stuff..... AND it's been my experience that 98% of the time there is an issue with the feeders, it's either very hot, very cold, or very wet!  I've been out there in the middle of a thunderstorm....loads of fun!

So out I went at about 6:00 a.m. taking my spoiled I-get-to-sleep-in-the-garage dog with me.  She wanted to play!?!?!  WAY TOO EARLY AND COLD FOR THAT!

Every window pretty much looked like this or worse.  Bear said she couldn't see a stinkin' thing outside because all the windows were covered.

This is the chain I had to uncover and unlock.  Hands were freezing, and I was trying not to drop my phone on any hard surface or into any organic matter.

And this is the control box with all the buttons I needed to push and few I needed to NOT push.

This is what it looks like on a nicer day.

 And here are the lovely conveyors and shuttles that needed to run and get the water out before they froze.

And on a drier day.

I quickly discovered, much to my dismay, that what looked like a big pile of snow was, in fact, a big pile of poo with about 2 inches of snow on top of it!  CRAP!  (pun intended)

And then, of course, the cats discovered me and were underfoot until I fed them.  These guys are supposed to be in the tool shed, but I think they ate all the barn cats' food.  Oy!

Feeding Frenzy!

All of this fun took a good 45 minutes to happen, and by then I was wide awake and worrying about TG getting his silly self home with the truck and trailer in tact.  He did, and off we went to greet the rest of the day.  It may seem like farmers are not so busy once the combine is put away, but there is always something to do on the farm, especially when you have livestock, and a lot of it seems to occur in the most extreme weather situations.  Hope you all enjoyed the sleeping in if you got the chance!

*All these pictures were taken with my Samsung Galaxy 4 phone that was doubling as my flashlight!  Have I told you how much I love my phone?  I did nice them up a bit with this new Lightroom program I am trying out. The options on photo editing are very cool, what I have figured out about it anyways.  The secret to a long life is to keep learning!

Stay tuned for more stories from the farm!
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: DC at Night

One of our group members shouldered the load and arranged for a group bus tour of the National Monuments at Night.  It was chilly, but I am so glad we went.  The Washington Monument is still undergoing repairs from the earthquake last year.

Here is what we saw:
The Capitol

The White House

The World War II Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial

The Martin Luther King Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

The Raising of the Flag at Iwo Jima
I think this was my favorite one!

I was also able to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the National Holocaust Museum, and the American Indian Museum.  The National Holocaust Museum was very moving, a must see when you are in Washington.  I wasn't that impressed with the American Indian Museum.... I just thought there would be more to it, BUT the restaurant was an experience because the selections were based on different areas of Native Americans, like the Northwest, the Plains, and so on.  The Air and Space Museum was fun, and I wish we had had time to go into the planetarium.  Those things fascinate me, but we were running out of time to see it all.

There is nothing quite like being in our nation's capital.  I already have the bug to plan a trip out here with the girls so we can see it all.  I think, though, we will fly and rely on the Metro and taxis.....I don't believe our marriage could stand the crazy driving in the big town.  ;-)
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Whew! Working with Indiana Farm Bureau in Washington D.C.


Yep, I decided to go to Washington D.C.

Yep, I left last Saturday afternoon in order to miss the "BIG SNOW" and make a Monday meeting in Indy before leaving very early for D.C.

NOPE!  It barely snowed here or there, but it did lay down some ice, so I feel justified in spending a lovely day and a half in Indy with my cousin and her husband who spoiled me rotten.  It was a good thing they did because I hit the ground Monday running, and it was a marathon race to the end of Thursday night at 11:35 p.m. when I finally pulled back in our garage!

I've told you I am President of Benton County Farm Bureau right?  Nope?  Well, I am, and nope, I don't sell insurance.  My group is, and you can look at us as a sibling of the insurance company.  We are the "farm" part of Farm Bureau, and one of our jobs is to lobby for good agriculture legislation at the State House and up on Capitol Hill.  This visit did put me right in the middle of my not so comfortable zone, but it was a great learning experience, and we all need a better understanding of our government.

The first day we were hit with A LOT of information on the following issues:
1. Ag Labor:  Immigration Reform
2. Clean Water Act: Definition of "Waters of the US"
3. Sound Science and Access to Biotechnology
4. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
5. Tax Reform: Cash Accounting and Section 179 Small Business Expensing

See?  Brain overload, but much of it really did start making sense to me.  So after a wonderful seafood buffet that we shared with about 200 middle school kids, (glad I decided NOT to eat dessert!), we went to bed with all sorts of laws, bills, and amendments dancing in our heads.....that and a little train music from the tracks outside our window and construction outside our rooms.

Wednesday, after a couple more speakers on our issues, we were off to The Hill.  We even hailed taxis! That is not something I do not every day, week, month, or year for that matter!

We were able to stroll around the Capitol for just a bit, then we met with Senator Dan Coats.

Next on our list was a visit with Senator Joe Donnelly.  Shelby Sigma, one of two Indiana FFA officers traveling with us, joined me in this picture.  She is a 2013 graduate of Benton Central High School.

Indiana Farm Bureau Policy Leadership Group

Then we all went out for the usual group shot.  While we were posing, the VP was zipping in and out of the Capitol just off to our right.

For lunch, we broke off into our legislative districts to meet with our House of Representative, Todd Rokita. One of his staff members took our picture, so I do not have one of those to share, but US Rep. Rokita took the time to talk with us between votes and even escorted us to the House Chambers to listen to discussions of amendments and business going on on the floor.  It was very interesting, but I am going to do you all a favor and tell you to leave all pins and metal tags/jewelry and such in your hotel room.  It was very time consuming to remove and repin every time we went through security, which was SEVERAL times!

One cool moment occurred as we ate lunch in the tunnels under the House of Representatives building.  A gentleman sat down beside us, and well, being from Indiana, we just naturally struck up a conversation with him.  He was an astrophysicist from Boulder, Colorado.  You would think once we got past the weather, we would run out of things to talk about, BUT we actually had one big topic in common.......GPS!  Part of his work involves the satalites in space that we use to communicate locations and lines in our fields!  That was very interesting.

Next post will be a big picture post on what we saw in DC, and then I am going to share a great Giveaway from a VERY WELL KNOWN company who publishes WONDERFUL cookbooks.  Stay tuned; you could win one of this books for your very own!  Have a great Tuesday!

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Junior Achievement 3rd Grade Style

Before I tell you all about my trip to Washington D.C., I have a blogging assignment I have to get in here before Monday afternoon. My last JA lesson is all about "A Place Where People Communicate," and one of the sections is about BLOGGING!  WOO!

If you ever have a chance to involve yourself in your school's Junior Achievement program, please take it!  It is so much fun to teach these kids about community, government, and money management.

I've been doing this program for the last four years, and I have taught both 2nd and 3rd graders.  It's soooo fun!

Now I will tell you that Tall Guy had a bit of a worried look in his eye when I told him I was off to teach the kiddos about money management.....Oh Yee of Little Faith!  Have you ever met a farmer who thought his wife could manage money better than he can? ;-)

Ah the dreaded credit card.   It's the one spending method you don't directly pay off but, or course, the first one you should pay off.

This lesson was all about budgeting money and paying bills in a timely manner.  We learned about paying utility bills, when to and when not to use a credit card, what it means to use a credit card, and how life likes to take your money for the darndest things.  While this entity didn't pop up, I told them to watch out for FICA; it's a nasty thing that likes to take a big chunk out of your pay check.!

One of the projects was to play a game called "Piggy Bank," which is kind of like Monopoly.  They had a lot of fun managing money and keeping track of their bank accounts.

My goal at the end of these five lessons was not to have each child understand tax withholdings and interest rates ( I'm not too sure I can explain those to myself some days!)  Our takeaway is to understand the difference between wants and needs, and know that it is hard for Mom and Dad to meet everyone's wishes after all the important bills are paid.  They also learned about sales tax, and we learned about how a city is planned out and the reasoning behind each "zone."

Yep, there's Bear at the far right.  I just love watching these kids grow up to be young adults.  They will go double digits later this year, FOUR in the month of November!  Just like our money, these years can fly through your hands before you know it.
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