Monday, October 31, 2011

I should have known ...........

I should have known it was going to be a bad day when the first things on my to-do list were ..........

1) Call Wells Fargo Bank

2) Call Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa

The first was enough to get me going.  But the second phone call had me over the top!

OK -- this is going to take a road map. Try to follow along.  Its going to get tough.

1) Honey worked for Sears Manufacturing for 6 years.  During those 6 years, we have had Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa for our insurance coverage.  We participated in the Flex program.  The Flex program is a "savings" program that we deposit $'s for medical expenses that are not covered by the insurance program such as deductibles, eye glasses, some dental work.

2) Honey changed jobs on April 1st.  We were given insurance coverage within 30 days and did not have to buy COBRA insurance.  We had Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa.  Here, too we participated in the Flex program.

(OK -- Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa in BOTH places.  Blue Priority Flex program in BOTH places.) 

Road map seems pretty simple, doesn't it????

But................... there are curves.  And twists and turns.  And I'm pretty certain I have wrecked my car!

We received two statements on Saturday, stating what balance is in what account. One balance from Sears Manufacturing and one from his new employer.

Honey is having eye surgery next week and there are several expenses not covered by our basic plan ... but we knew this was coming and had the Flex account to take care of the expenses.

Now .. with Flex .. or properly stated,  flexible spending accounts .. the dollars must be used for medical expenses by the end of the calendar year. 

Fine ... I know that.

What I did not know... when you change employers, those dollars must be used before you quit.  Not the end of the year but before you change jobs. 

So what happens to the dollars that I didn't get to use on legit medical expenses?  The dollars that were contributed to the SAME insurance company into the SAME flexible spending accounts.  Just different employers

They go to the employer.  Yep... Sears Manufacturing has sucked up $378.43 of our dollars and won't give me the courtesy of a return phone call.

How is this legal????  Well, supposedly this is IRS legislation.  I know that Sears Manufacturing had nothing to do with the legislation.... but they also did not tell us about this law and the loss of $378.43.

Now ... there is a way you can use your Flex dollars that you have contributed.  You buy COBRA insurance at 4 times the price of normal group insurance cost!!!!!

We all know the frustration I have had with the insurance system.  And I tried to work for health care reform change.  And I celebrated when the bill was signed.  But I don't know what to do.

I am frustrated.  We work hard.  We try to play by the rules.  But I feel the rules are trampling over the top of me!

I called Wellmark.

I called Sears Manufacturing.

I wrote Congressman Braley's office.  I got an automatic reply.

I called Senator Harkin's office. I got ... Some one in the office will get back to you.  Yea ... it was in that tone of voice ... that you just know it will never happen.

And I emailed the White House.  We will see on that one.

You know ... I didn't want to Occupy Wall Street.  I didn't want to work for any campaigns this year.  I am tired and I don't need/or want a fight.

But I'm there. 

I. am. there.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In the ring of Life...........

I have a reputation as being a bit of a fighter.

I love a good fight.  Fights for the under-dog ... political fights ... fights against injustice ... fights for equal rights.

I fought for health care ... I fought for hunger ... I fought for food activism and awareness of what we are eating.

But right now ... I am fought out.

Life .. at the moment ... seems to be a daily struggle.  What bill to pay?  How do I keep my egg cost as low as possible and yet, see the feed cost sky rocket?  Do I buy the flour that I love for baking my bread ... or do I look at the less-expensive yet the less desirable brand?

Do I sell a hat ... for the cost of the yarn and the time it really takes to create it .... or do I sell it for "what the market will bear"? Do I bake bread to sell ..... and see it sit unsold ... because of poor weather?

Do I stack wood ... or sew ... or clean?  Do I get the garden cleaned ... rake leaves or ..... button up the chicken coop? Do I knit ... or iron ... or do dishes?  Do I bake bread ... make noodles ... or cook down jam from the blackberries in the freezer?

Where do I find the time and energy it takes to survive .......... yet get to enjoy the life I so love?

I appreciate the political debates and what I need to do to "keep the American way of life".  I admire the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and those that are speaking out and telling many of our economic struggles. And I respect many of the battles that my friends are going through ... trying to survive the rules of an unjust system.

But right now ... I am out of training.  I am a fat lazy Rocky Balboa that can't make it up the steps.

Jousting windmills can be fun ... but today ... right now ... has to be my windmills.

I'd say I've retired from fighting ... but you know me.  Like Ali, Frazier and others ... I'll be back.  But for now ... I need a rest!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's the Bees Knees!

When the idea of Miss Eff's was hatched .... it was based on the lifestyle of a farm woman from the 1920's through the early 1950's.

A woman like Miss Eff ... would can her own jam, raise her own chickens, bake bread, spin yarn, sew quilts and enjoy tea with her friends.

And she would bath with a very special soap.

Enter Miss Effie's Bee's Knees goat milk soap.

I had been looking for a signature line of soap for sometime now.  And for poor Amanda ... this was quite the job!  Yea .... Miss Eff can be a tad picky!!!!! (OK! I'll admit it!! Real picky! I will not reveal how many scents we went through!!!)

It needed to be locally made.  It needed to be made with local product.  It had to have just the right look! The scent needed to be lightly flower-y ... gender neutral ... and have a natural scent of clean, fresh, line dried laundry!  I didn't want to come out of the shower, perfumed.... I wanted to smell clean.

Fresh, Iowa -breeze-in-the summer-with-fresh-mowed-hay clean!

And Amanda did it.


Made from the milk of her own goats and the honey from her own hive.... she has created Miss Effie's Bee's Knees  goat milk and honey soap.  The box is hand-stamped and the tag shows the first barn quilt I painted.

Its local.  Its real.  Its personal. 

And inside the tag,  is this description ....................

Miss Effies Country Flowers and Garden Stuff is a tribute to days gone by and the woman who embraces and yearns for a simpler way of life. Women of yesteryear were made of passion and grit and helped to provide for their families. They valued hard work, but treasured and longed for a bit of elegance.

Few may be aware that worker bees in a colony are female. They, like farm women, bustle from one chore to the next. Whether they are caring for their young or tending to their Honey, they have a purpose, a responsibility, a duty and they carry it out with dedication, focus and determination. They long to be in the flowers and they strive to make a difference for the greater good.

Miss Effies signature Bee's Knees Goat Milk Soap combines beautiful floral notes with the sweetness of honey. It embodies the true essence of this farm and the woman working hard to make it happen.

Whether you are a farm woman or a farm woman at heart, let the luxurious lather, gentle aromatherapy and botanicals beckon you to a simpler life, much like the hidden treasure you have found at Miss Effie's Country Flowers and Garden Stuff ~~~

after all, it is the Bee's Knees.

Miss Effie's Bee's Knees soap is available only at the Summer Kitchen.  I can't wait for you to try it!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I love an item that I can use a thousand different ways.

But who would have thunk it about a rake????

First, it spent its autumns, piling up leaves.

Then .... when it's long handle broke in half .... it became a trellis for nasturtiums in a wash tub.

And now .... as the last of its handle has rotted away,  it has been reborn as a

A Wreath!!!

You wouldn't do that with a plastic rake!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Junkin' .......................

It's a before and after post!!!  Yea.  It is really really done!

Back in July .... I bought this wicker settee for the amazing price of $55.

Yea .... it is battleship gray.

Yea ... it is a god-awful color.

No ..... it doesn't/didn't have any cushions.

And you are questioning my sanity for purchasing it, right???

But a few  four (!) cans of spray paint later, the color is looking better.

Some Ralph Lauren 100% linen fabric found on sale for 60% off a coupon!  Cha-ching!!!  I love when I get some great fabric ... cheap!

I love that it goes beautifully with these Wedgwood serving pieces that I found while thrifting!  Two pieces that now help tie a room together.

It's time for the great unveiling ................

And another for fun...................

Total cost ...... $305.00.  

Not bad.  Not bad at all!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The fat lady prepares to sing..........

Not me ......... because .........

1) I don't sing unless I am in the confines of my car or in the shower.  Yea.  The voice is that bad.

2) I have been working my butt off.  See previous post.

But the season is winding down to the end.  Tonight's weather ... besides the barely 50 degree temperatures today and the 30 mile per hour winds ......... includes a freeze warning.  Yea ... brrrrrrrrrr.

So all of you that want fresh local flowers for Thanksgiving .... again, you are out of luck!

But it has been a spectacular fall.

These flowers were picked on Saturday the 15th.

Dahlias, lisianthus, snapdragons, dianthus and statice.

Just dahlias ............

I love the red and gold dahlias in the aqua McCoy pottery.  It makes for a cheery bathroom.

But all of this is almost done for the season .... and next week, I will start to clean, mulch and fertilize the beds for next year.  I'll evaluate the blossoms for next year's garden ... eliminate some.  Add some more.  Think.  Re-do.

Yea ..... its closing time.

Now -- the Summer Kitchen will continue to be open in the fall, winter and early spring.  I am still working on the hours and the days.  We do know it will be open every Friday from 10-4 and Saturday mornings from 9-12.  I'm currently trying to decide whether to open another day or two during the week.

But for the garden ........ its closing time.

And since, I don't sing .... and I love this song and its my blog ....... here is the fabulous Leonard Cohen with "Closing Time!" 

See you all next spring!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gran used to say..............

Getting old is not for sissies!

I really want to go into old age, kicking and screaming!

So at the end of September, I was evaluated, had a training plan devised and started working out on a regular basis.  Like 3-to-4-times-a-week regular basis.

I do cardio.

I stretch.

I do strength training.

I do weight lifting.

And I exercise the core .... which I am pretty certain in a fancy term for spare tire.  Doughnut ring.  Beer belly.

All of which I have.

(And it always reminds me of this...... They told me that I need to get in shape.  The shape I chose is a circle.)

So today .......... when I finished up my workout, I was huffing and puffing and sweat was pouring down my face.

One of the physical therapists said to me, "You go at it hard."


I do.

Thank you for noticing!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Out! Out! Damn..........

possum.  OK ... opossum.


I try to have a live-and-let-live attitude.  If Mr. O had set up residency in the wood pile ... fine.  I would be OK if he lived in the willow tree, the veggie garden, even the back corner of the herb garden.

My chicken coop .... not so much!

Honey discovered Mr. O when he went  to lock up the girls for the night.  Waldo the duck came scurrying out as quickly as possible.  

Oh-oh .... something must be amiss!

Honey found Mr. O lurking behind the feed barrel.  Trust me ... with those beady eyes .... we just knew that he was up to no good!

A couple of pokes with a broom .... Mr O. showed no signs of leaving the warm confines of the coop on this rainy night.  Honey was off to think of another plan of action.

I , on the other hand ... have had way too much experience with lazy creatures with beady eyes.  Guys that sleep all day and carouse all night! 

(Have I ever told you about my two decades of singlehood before I met Honey?????)

I knew right away what could catch a guy like that .... a ho!  I mean, a hoe.  You know.... a gardening implement.  One hook around the belly ... a toss out the door ... and Mr. O was bound for different pastures. 

A girl like Liz Taylor has got to be careful, you know!!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Miss Effie and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day ..........

I apologize to Judith Viorst.  Really.  I do.

It was a bad day.  You know those days.  You feel like you lost your best friend.  But you really didn't.  But it really feels like that.  Nothing goes right.  You feel alone and lonely.  And all your plans, your to-do lists, go out the window... in one fell swoop!

Yea ... it was one of those days.

Sunday, Honey and I decided to move the 25+ chicks out of their brooder/stock tank since they were beginning to "fly the coop". They were living in the brooder house with 5 small Swedish ducklings.  The ducklings can't eat medicated feed so I made the decision that at 6-7 weeks old, the chicks would eat "all flock" feed. I bought the feed on Saturday and started feeding them.

It was warm ... too warm in the coop and we actually thought that some were overcome by the heat.

I had raised the light several days ago ... but I wasn't opening the coop up because ... its OCTOBER!  In my mind, chilly nights ... cool breezes ... sweater weather.  And these chicks were feathering out but not quite completely there.  So they needed a warm coop.  Didn't they?????

Not so much.

So I babied a few of the chicks but wasn't surprised to see that 2 were gone when I checked later in the evening.

I was surprised to see the chicks crowding in the corner.  Hmmmmmm?  Lights are raised...... not too warm.  But the first day out of the stock tank.  Maybe that is it.  Yea ... maybe that's it.

Yesterday morning ... I went out to find 6 dead chicks.  Again -- I try to see what could be wrong.  Still crowding ... not eating... not drinking ... droopy.  Butts were clean ... no runny poop ... no bloody poop.  But something is obviously wrong.

Now ... I've been raising chickens for almost 10 years.  I would hardly call myself an authority but I rarely have unexplained losses ............... until now.

It was the first time I have tried to raise meat birds.  I had ordered 25 Barred Rock roosters.  I wanted a nice, firm, slowly raised meat bird.  (And I figured I could grow to hate 25 roos!)  But you also want to limit the amount of medicated feed so there is not residual antibiotics in the meat.  So at 6-7 weeks ... I went to a non-medicated feed.

Yea ... you got it.   The warm weather --- the humid conditions of a closed coop -- and I had bred the perfect condition for coccidiosis.

I now have 6 live chicks.  I'm not sure if they will all make it.  I am forcing medicated water down them.

We will see. 

It really was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Just in time........................

Ya know Honey and I always have a project going. 


Now -- its outdoor lighting.  We want to be able to share more of the farm with you ... later and later in the evening.  We were just looking tonight at options. 

But ya know ... I've got a certain style-thing going on.  (So I think!!)  I have looked and looked and looked. I've been to all the big box stores.  We went to the farm stores.  Honey has been to the hardware stores.  I have been to the specialty light stores. We have searched ReStore and my favorite antique haunts.  And have found few lights that I like .........let alone love.

OK -- I have found ......... exactly  One.  Only one.

LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. this one.

But I also have a budget thing going on.  So I was thrilled when I read this............

Barn Light's Online Giveaway

Barn Lights Online Contest
We're launching our biggest giveaway yet! 
Beginning Wednesday, September 21, 2011 we're giving YOU the chance to win (1) $1,000.00 or (1) $500.00 Barn Light Electric Gift Certificate!
If you win, you can shop 'til you drop online, picking out lighting and everything you need to finish up your home renovation, weekend project or heck, it's never too early to start getting the house ready for the holidays, right?
So start looking around now and show everyone what you love! Follow the rules below to enter yourself, and then share it all on your blog and Facebook for fans and followers to enter. Be sure to email with your article link once your blog post is up (that's how we keep track of our entries).
How to Enter:
  1. Look around online at Barn Light Electric and pick lights you’d love to own
  2. Feature your lighting picks on your personal blog, and link to the lights if you can!
  3. Copy/Paste these rules at the bottom of your blog article so others can enter
  4. Once your personal article is up, you must email your blog link to: to be qualified to win. The contest ends Wednesday, October 12, 2011
  5. Don’t have a blog? Find out how you can enter by reading the Official Rules
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Can you imagine how thrilled I would be to buy $500 or $1000 worth of lights!!!!! Be still my beating heart!!!!  New porch lights ... pole lights ... barn lights .... wow!!!!!

And this would be totally authentic!  Cuz I think barn lights should go on  a barn!  Really.  Right up above the sign ....

Yep.  Got to light this one up!

Sunshine on a Stick..............

Late in the season, Sonya and Ashley talked me into planting sunflowers.

Now ... I'm not much on sunflowers. 

Oh yea .... they are beautiful.  No denying that.

They take up a lot of space.  They need to be cut at just the right moment. 

Birds enjoy them as do beetles.

The seeds end up in the neighbor's fields and he doesn't appreciate the blooms like I do!

And for continuous blooms, they need succession plantings. 

Which, to be honest, I am not good at. (Yea ... I know... a preposition.  There are several grammar teachers tossing in the grave now!!)

But in the fall .... when the meteorologists are predicting a cold, wet and long winter, the sunflowers are making me happy.

As my customer, Marissa said yesterday, they are sunshine on a stick.

Couldn't say it better myself!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Teaching an old dog..............

If you know me at all --- you know I am not a specimen of physical fitness. 

I have always struggled with my weight.  I am clumsy.  Slow.  Not coordinated.  And definitely not inclined to exercise. 

I hated sports.  Flunked P.E. And was appalled by sweat marks on my shirts.  There have been many times in my previous life that I have owned 100+ pairs of shoes .... and none of them would be remotely considered work-out shoes.

Now .. I am not a sit-on-my-butt-and-watch-the-soaps type of gal.  But going out for a 4 mile run for the heck of it, just doesn't sing to me. 

I have noticed some serious lack of strength in my upper arms in the last two years ... and I didn't recover it this summer.  I could shrug it off ... and say ... I am getting older.  Or I could do something about it.  And since I refuse to get on that bus to Branson ... (why don't they do buses to Woodstock???  I would soooo be there!)

So it shocked me to no end ... when I decided to do something about my aches and pains.  Yea.  I decided it.  Not my doctor.  Not my Honey.  Not my friends. Me.

But, trust me ......... gyms, trainers and 20 year-old gals with 18" waists.... scare me!  Let alone the fact that any work out clothes I wear ... will not coordinate and will feature a local/sustainable/ food theme.

My friend Judy told me about a new pilot program.  Designed for "seniors", it is a program to keep seniors active and healthy for decades.  It works on flexibility, gait speed, balance ........ along with strength training and cardio.  A local physical therapy clinic was seeing lots of  injuries from gyms that were pushing too hard ... particularly women with weight training.  So they decided to do something about it .. and have created an exercise program in their facility.

Friday .. I went in for an evaluation.  I am about the youngest in this program ... but since I have concerns and have an active lifestyle that I want to maintain... they let me join.  I did .... ok.  There were areas .. like walking speed and balance ... I did great.  Arm strength and grip strength .. not so much!!!

And honestly, the only thing I do aerobically........ is knit. (Have you ever seen my wrists??  They are soooo buff!)

Today ... I worked out for the first time.

I did not die. (Though at one point, I was certain I would!)

I am alive.

I can do it again ........ tomorrow.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Eating in Style........

Last Friday, we were lucky enough to host The Farmer's Table dinner on the farm.

Oh. My. God. Did we eat well!

I didn't do a good job of taking pictures..... maybe because I was crying too much!

This has been a dream/hope/goal for several years ... ever since I saw The Endless Feast on PBS.  I was thrilled to meet Chris and learn about his dreams of connecting consumers to the farmers that raise and grow their food.

Good food should be savored .... this dinner went slowly and comfortably.  The food was exquisite and the warm cider welcoming.  The fall breeze was cool ... so tablecloths were put to use on the corn-zebo to block the wind.

And I have to admit .... the polenta with roasted Brussels sprouts, shaved Parmesan cheese and a poached Miss Effie's egg was my favorite.  Delish!

And I was equally thrilled when Chris and Deanne asked if they could come back for another dinner next spring. 

YES!!!!!  YES!!!!!  YES!!!!!

Yes .... a good time was had by all.