Saturday, August 29, 2009

THAT’S GOING TO BE ONE EXPENSIVE PEACOCK!!!

OR When Will They Learn to Listen?
August 29, 2009

Ds, Sean, has his heart in the right place. I lost one of the remaining two peacocks this week. Without placing Precious and Piper next to each other we can’t tell which one it was. Piper was the bigger of the two hens. We aren’t sure what happened to the hen, Gary just found her dead.

So we’ve been calling the remaining one Pretty Purple Precious Piper Peacock. Sean knows how bad his mama wants a large flock of peacocks of all colors strutting all over the place. He announced he thinks we need to get Precious Piper a male so she will hang around.

In order to do that we need to repair the small pen and remove a large tree that died this year that hangs directly over the little coop there. So the male could be quarantined and acclimated to the place when it first arrives.

Sean wanted him and his father to remove that tree before we left again. The excuse was so it wouldn’t wipe out the coop this winter when it fell on its own. It’s a hollow oak tree, so a good ice storm would take it down. They are predicting a wet winter you know.

He confessed to me this evening that it was so he could start on the repairs and find a male for Precious Piper while we were gone on this next round of travels and surprise me.

Since my shops for today were local and I knew the locations well I told Gary I would go alone if he wanted to stay home and help Sean with outdoor chores. He thought it a great idea.

Some of you know me, so you know I have a little “gift”, it’s nothing I can control, but sometimes it is a very handy thing to have. You see I sometimes “know” when things are going to happen. Generally if I warn someone and they pay attention we get some indication of what we avoided. If they don’t, well they wish they had. It’s not and an all the time thing, or I’d win the lottery immediately—wait you have to buy a ticket for it first right? It’s something that just pops up when I least expect it.

Today was one of those days. I was headed for my first stop—to pick up scratch for the flock—before doing my shop. When I stopped and called home, I had an “uneasy” feeling. Gary told me they hadn’t started work yet but they had decided to remove that big tree. Boom! There it was.

Without even stopping to think I said “Both of you wear hard hats today.” He said he wasn’t sure if Sean had brought his home when he left his previous job. I said I didn’t want them out there without hard hats today. He said Okay, they’d find them.

I know they should always wear hard hats and safety goggles when cutting down limbs and trees, but they don’t. They wear the goggles and hearing protectors, but not the hard hats. So Gary KNEW I was serious when I said to wear them.

From the feed store I went to my first shop and completed it, then on to the second. As I left the second I had a very strong NEED to go home, but finances convinced me I need to do the final shop and the errand on in Tulsa. So instead of back tracking home for lunch I went and got a cheap quick meal at KFC and then headed for the final shop in Sand Springs, OK.

When I arrived at the location I automatically reached for my cell phone to turn off the ringer as I always do at shops. Only that “feeling” was still nagging at me so I left it on as I went in to do the merchandising assignment. If it had been a mystery shop I would have turned it off despite the nagging feeling of a problem, but I left it on for this assignment.

I was half way through the shop when the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and saw it was Sean, so I picked up while silently praying they wanted fast food and not what I KNEW was coming.

“Hey Mom, where you at?” he asked.

“Just finishing up that merchandising shop in Sand Springs. What happened?”

“How do you do that?” he replied.

“Never mind, whose bleeding?”

“It’s stopped now, but dad sort of dropped a pretty good sized tree limb on his head. He says he’s fine, but I think it needs stitches, I’m taking him to ER. He passed out on me once already.”

“I’ll meet you there. “

“Dad says he’s fine and for you to finish the job, he just didn’t want you to come home and find the bloody towel and… we’re in trouble aren’t we?”

“We’ll talk about it later.”

I finished up all the required steps of the merchandising shop in record time. The manager co-operated quickly and signed my paperwork so I could get to the hospital.

I drove as quickly and safely as I could legally do through the construction areas on the expressway toward the hospital while watching the gathering storm clouds. Praying that Gary was okay and that it wouldn’t rain before we got the feed home and out of the back of the truck. 30 bags of scratch ruined would not be a good thing.

The guys beat me there by less than 15 minutes.

They were just coming out of the check in part when I arrived. The left side of my husband’s beautiful silver hair and face were matted and streaked with blood. He was slurring his speech a little bit. I was too worried to be pissed at that point .

Sean told me Gary had passed out on him a second time on the way into town. Something you should know about my big gentle husband. He doesn’t do blood well, especially his own. He was passing out due to the blood, not the injury. The slurring speech and some vision troubles he was having worried me. The passing out did not.

After a while Gary was called back to see the doctor and a CT scan was ordered. I’ve been in far too many hospital emergency rooms I knew how long it was going to take. So while Gary was off getting his picture taken I went out and sent Sean and the feed home. Telling him to cover it for the night and I’d help him unload it in the daylight.

Once back in the room Gary kept drifting off to sleep and I kept waking him up. As time went on his speech improved and he told me he had seen red sparkles when the limb hit him, but they were gone now and he was seeing fine. It was a four inch in diameter limb and it fell from about 25 feet up. He’d seen it coming, but couldn’t move fast enough.

That is when I asked the golden question “Where was your hard hat?” He said he “forgot”. He got THE look, and he looked sheepish. “I thought you were being over protective.” More of THE look, “I’m in deep dog doo-doo aren’t I?” he whispered.

“Up to your hip joints Bud.” I told him. That’s all I said.

“After 36 years I should know to listen right.” He said softly. I gave no response.

After a long wait a very pregnant doctor came in to say she didn’t see a concussion on the scan, but a radiologist needed to look at it. She checked the wound and said it was maybe a one staple number, but it was already sealing up nicely so unless Gary really wanted it she wouldn’t disturb the healing that had already started. Gary said no staples.

During the discussion with her she asked him what happened. Being the joker he is he told her I hit him with a baseball bat!!! I jumped in on that one and told him I hadn’t but if he didn’t wear his hard hat in the future when I told him to I would. The doctor burst out laughing, then said “So she TOLD you to wear a hard hat and you didn’t?”

He nodded sheepishly.

She looked at me and said “Men, they never listen!” and then rubbed her 9 month belly. We both laughed.

Three hours later I was feeding my husband a cheap burger and he apologized for not listening. Sean and I have already told him he’s on litter box duty for the next 10 changes we are home for—that’s 4 boxes per time. Bet he remembers the next time I tell him to put on a hard hat.

So the freebie repair to get a cheap peacock, has now turned into an emergency room co-pay and over half the tree still needs to come down. Only Gary can’t work on it until 48 hours has passed. We are suppose to leave Wednesday. So the tree may not get finished in time.

Yep, that’s going to be one expensive peacock, Precious Piper better fall in love at first sight instead of snubbing him like she has the last two fellows.

Jan who asks the question “why didn’t he just listen?” in OK

Friday, August 21, 2009

FIRE AND ASH

Just yesterday I had told Gary I had not seen Porche, our little buff and flame colored Banty hen, in a while and wondered if she had been part of the big predator slaughter while we were gone. Little did I know I’d see her flying in fright and self preservation the very next day.

Remember me saying at the end of my last post that I was going out to burn trash? Well here’s what happened.

Gary had already filled the barrel before I had got out there. We are very careful as to what we burn. We recycle as much as we can and the rest must be burnable, nothing non-burnable is allowed in the trash burner. Especially considering Sean uses a hand held inhaler and if one of those gets in a trash burner RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! I’ve had “help” from a sil, whose family burns everything, before and she put a whole bag of non-burns in one day while here. Holy Moly it sounded like a war zone and was nearly as dangerous as those things exploded.

As the first round of goodies burned I gathered up odds and ends and fed the burner. It soon was blazing a little higher than I like so I decided to let it burn down a bit before adding more.

“Goose, Goose, Goose” I called and the geese came running. They knew that meant we were going to the pasture and they were ready. We’ve had such a predator problem lately they haven’t ventured to the green grass in a while. As we marched down the driveway I sang “I love a parade, the flap of the feet the honk of the bill it gives me a thrill” as the geese honked and squealed along. This is our pasture marching song and as long as I sing they follow. If you had ever heard me sing you would wonder why they weren’t running the other way!

Suddenly I realized it had grown quiet behind me and I turned to see why. The entire goose flock was looking at the blazing trash burner. That’s when I saw Porche sail out of the spare barrel next to the burner screeching at the top of her lungs. Her screech was followed by the pleading chirps of a just hatched chick.

I ran for all my fat body was worth, yanked the spare barrel away from the flaming burn barrel, slightly burning my hands as I did. Inside were a dozen or so eggs and two barely fluffy chicks. A rotten egg exploded as I reached in to grab the first chick, a gray one. No time to be squeamish, the netting the birds were sitting on was starting to melt. Setting it down near Porche I dug for the second, one, a red brown one, that was madly screaming not only due to the building heat but was caught up in some netting Gary had put in the barrel to haul to the dump. Finally freeing it as my hands got warmer and warmer I placed it by its mother as well. I kept expecting to be flogged by Porche but she sensed I was trying to save her young. Next I scooped and examined the eggs. One chick was dead in the shell the others I carefully laid on the ground near the cedar tree Porche was now crouched under.

The geese watched all this silently, even the rowdy dogs sat mouths open and watched.

Once I had all the eggs out of the still hot barrel I watched the two chicks closely, the second one had suffered more from the heat and was panting heavily. Ignoring my stinging hands I ran for a chick waterer Gary had just filled the hour before and brought it back sitting it near the panting chick. Then stood a distance away.

After a while Porche took both chicks to the water, then started scratching for them to eat as if nothing at all had happen. The red one, Fire as it will now be called, drank a lot of water than toddled after it’s Mama. Ash, the gray one, drank only a little and was definitely more interested in eating than drinking. After a while Porche, who was named that for the three clutches of chicks she hatched under the front porch last year, inspected the eggs. When last I checked she had both chicks and ¾’s of the eggs under her as she sat in the shade of the cedar tree. I’m sad the one died, but at least I save Fire and Ash.

My hands are not blistered, just a little stingy, like a sunburn so all is well that ends well.
Jan who says, check everything around your trash burner BEFORE you burn trash in OK

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO DO THE MATH

I for one have a love affair with numbers. Seriously, I LOVE numbers. Good solid numbers. While I was growing up I freaked my cousins out with the way I could add, subtract, divide, multiply etc so quickly in my head. Now I’m no Charlie from the tv show “Numbers” but good basic math I’m good with.

Over my lifetime this love affair has saved me from making many a financial mistake. That is when I actually stop to actually do the math. This morning is a good example.

When I went to bed last night it was with full intentions of getting up this morning and packing like crazy to leave to do shops on Sunday. We had found 17 shops at $12 + a $2 mandatory shop reimbursement each with one company in an area three hours south of home that could be done back to MAYBE. Another company had 8 at an average of $15 each, another had maybe 4 at $10 each, while a fourth one had 4 at $6 plus a $5 reimbursement each and there was one at a fifth company for $18 plus a $5 reimbursement. WOW right?

Only my lover whispered in my ear, come to me do math with me. So I rose from the bed, your best thoughts always come to you in bed right, grabbed my pad and pen and here’s what my oh so wise lover told me.

Income:

12 x 17=204

12 x 02= 24

08 x 15=120

04 x 10= 40

04 x 06= 24

04 x 05= 20

--------------

34 shops 432

Wow, not bad huh? “Or is it?” my seductive lover whispered in my ear. “What goes into doing those 34 shops? How much will you spend to do them?” Okay right off the bat let’s look at those reimbursements. The $2 ones are for a convenience store item purchase required by the employer. Sometimes you can get by under $2 and they reimburse you for the exact amount of purchase, other times you go OVER and the reimbursement is for strictly the $2. Let’s say we simply break even on average for the sake of the math. It’s the same for the four at a $5 reimbursement. They are fast food and it’s the same case scenario. So break even on those as well.

So that shows up in the math this way.

432

-24

-20

-----

388

Then there are the limitations on the number you can feasibly do a day as well as the ones the companies impose upon you. Those 17 shops, well the company will only allow you to do four of them a day. So that’s five days you require to do them. You also need to allow travel time to get to the area and then back home or to the next place to shop. So say six days. Remember the number six because it’s about to become the great multiplier.

First you have to get to the area and each of the jobs and then back home or to the next job area. I happen to know from running out of this area before that we averaged 200 miles per day driving. I know it sounds like a lot, but remember we are talking round trips. So 1,200 miles of wear and tear and fuel for my truck for six days. We get around 19 mpg on average. For the sake of easy math though we’ll say 20mpg and dream about it. So we are talking 60 gallons of diesel to do this driving. Right now diesel is hanging about $2.50 per gallon, sometimes slightly more, sometimes slightly less, but for the best case scenario let’s say $2.50 after all it makes the math simpler. So 60 X $2.50 = $150.

388

-150

-----

238

We have to park the camper somewhere those six nights we’d be camped and the lowest campground where we can disconnect the trailer we know of is $12 per night or $72.

238

-72

-----

166

Still a little profit right? Only that is 34 shops, 17 of which take an hour to do the shop, then another hour to file or 34 hours. The remaining 17 jobs take a total of another 17 hours so it’s going to take 51 hours to do those shops.

166 / 51 =3.254 per hour NOT including your driving time down the back roads and through city traffic to do these jobs. Don’t forget these are all BEST case scenario numbers too. We’ve not even included wear and tear on your vehicle, your camper and your nerves. Or the fact that you are going to have to wait 45 days to get that first $44 reimbursement back.

Of course I whispered back to my lover, “but $166 is still better than adding nothing to my small bank account. “

“Is it?” the seductress replied “or would you make more money staying home?”

Making money staying home you might ask? First there is that $44 that never leaves your checking account for 45 days. My checking account makes a miniscule amount of savings, we might make a mil of a cent interest on that $44 for the amount of time it would be gone. So that’s negligible. The amount I would have to lay out for fuel right now, however is NOT. Nor are any of the other expenses. The campground, fuel, mandatory purchases etc all gone for 45 days in my checking account that’s going to add up to a $1 or more. If God forbid it gets put on a credit card it’s much more expense depending on how long you leave those charges on your charge card, but we’ll go with the $1 for right now.

In my Princess Plan I speak about culling things from your life for not only peace of mind, but for profit. If we were to spend those same six days cleaning and listing items on the numerous free sites on the web for sale it wouldn’t take long to see a far larger profit. The amount would depend on what we actually sold. Right now I have a lot of older homesteading type magazines (Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening, Herb Companion, Backyard Poultry, Countryside and many more) already sorted and ready to list. IF all of those sold, and that is a huge IF during the next 6 days it would take less time to do, a smaller layout of cash –read NONE, and net me more money. That’s just magazines. Multiply that times the hundreds of other things I have to list for sale and you can see where the potential to do more to generate actual income is there. IF it sells.

There is that giant IF, but remember the word IF was in the first scenario too. IF we got all 17 jobs, and there is a huge chance we could get none of them or worse obligate myself to do that six days and be given six jobs or less. Then all the camping fees and the to and from the area (not the 34 shops worth of driving) is spent for very little income and we go in the hole.

Even if we sell nothing we benefit from being home by getting some much needed repairs completed on the camper, cleaning the house, mowing the acreage, cutting firewood, household repairs, truck maintenance, bulk cooking, ranch tools maintenance, spread sheet entries, budgeting, computer maintenance, menu planning, and winterizing the house.

The repairs needed and the maintenance on all those items head off big expenses in the future. Cleaning the house can be a real money saver/maker. A clean house takes less utilities to cool/heat, money saved is money earned. Cleaning house allows you to find more things to sell and sometimes you find things you forgot you had that help you on down the road. All that computer works adds to your efficiency in a household, efficiency saves money.

Firewood, winterizing, those look to the cold winter ahead and huge money saved on utilities.

Menu planning helps you make the most of what you have on hand, or what’s on sale. I have a goal of having menus eventually planned out for as much as a year. No I’m not a control freak, I said a goal. I am all too familiar with the fact that tastes, and life change daily, but a good basic menu plan broken down by the week for a year that took advantage of sale items—yes there are lists on the web of what is in season and on sale year round—would help prevent those oh so expensive runs to the grocery for “just a couple of things” or the even more expensive “let’s just buy pizza”. At age 59 I’ve never achieved that year of menu planning goal, but I’m a lot closer now than I was even a year ago. So I keep working toward it.

We just spent a small fortune on all those new programs I told you about, so taking this week or so to learn even a little of them during rest breaks would be a good idea too. Hey, there is budgeting included in the Quicken program, maybe just maybe it’s better than my current budget.

Then there is scheduling next week the available jobs for September will start coming out. They are always given on a first come first serve basis. If I’m busy doing 34 shops for $3.25 per hour I might just miss the best shops available for September and a great opportunity to string numerous higher dollar ones with all the companies I work for together to hit the $10 or more an hour we usually work for.

Then there is the big truly priceless things I’d miss by being gone next week. A week with my son and pets.

Hate to say it but Math is right. Sometimes you are better off staying home.

Jan who already has the washer humming and is off to burn the trash in OK

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ORGANIZING COMPUTER FILES AND OTHER ASPECTS OF LIFE

How to make a maggot bucket instructions included

August 18, 2009

It seems like when you least have money is when things start breaking down. My computer, you know the thing essential to doing my job, is dying. I'm still working with it today, but the ports are all IFFY, sometimes things plugged into them work, sometimes they don't.

I never know when I click enter if the computer will go out for vacation without me or simply take a coffee break. Either way it could take anywhere from a split second to 15 minutes for the next page to load.

I type very fast, and half the time I'm two paragraphs ahead of the computer monitor right now. So despite not wanting to we purchased me a new computer last night. Which in itself lead to more purchases because it is Vista, soon to be Windows 7 and well all my programs are circa 1995 or earlier–read won't work on the new system.

So as I type on the old faithful worn out laptop Gary is tweaking the new one and adding the also newly purchased programs, along with the newer of my old programs from the old computer that he thinks will work. Once he's done that it will be copy and transfer time. That is always "fun"-not, as you well know.

While looking over everything that needs backed up and transferred I realized my computer files are a disaster! Seriously, I'm months behind on my Quicken, and it at best has devolved into a mere electronic checkbook register. My spreadsheets are so far behind they are almost non-existent. If I had to file my taxes this minute I'd not be able to tell you truly what business expense was made when. My genealogy files are a mess. Photos, scans, and other electronic items are in the wrong files. I still have folders from three email providers ago. I couldn't get hacked because a hacker would come in and say "Forget it, her files have already been hit and garbaged."

Only this goes so against my nature. It's got to change. New computer, new programs, time to get organized. So be prepared to listen to me ramble on over the next several months about what I have found I can and can't do with the different programs and the electronic organizing part of my Princess Plan!

Oh that's right, a lot of you don't know what the Princess Plan is. It's something I started the first of the year. I decided at the end of last year our finances, clutter and all around lack of organization was causing us to live like paupers. So I've been evolving a plan to get organized in every aspect of our lives. Once I've accomplished the whole plan we will be living debt and clutter free as Royalty, or I will become the Princess my Papa always called me.

I was making great progress on the plan until the big "retirement" but I am slowly making my way back to where I was when I got the stunning blow of it. My house is...how do I put it...a mess right now. My computer files I've already described, and well our finances are not in the huge snowball I had planned for now, but we are still current on all the bills. Time to get back to the Princess Plan full force.

While I'm home I can do a lot on the house, but when traveling that's another thing. However, this big plan to clean up computer files will work well both home and away. So I start today. First things first.–those email files.

I can be cleaning those up while Gary works on the new computer and then there will be far less for him to transfer. Then when he needs to work on both computers at once I'll attack the house and laundry. At least the computer waited until we were home and had a little time before trying to go on permanent vacation on me.

The kitchen is my big center of attack today. It's basically tidy, but the fridge and other aspects could handle some TLC. That brings me to today's helpful hints.

I use basic cleaners for the most part. Baking Soda, white vinegar, and bleach. I also use Dr. Bonner's Eucalyptus Castile Soap. You've heard of the first three over and over as natural cleaners I am certain, but you may be wondering about the last one.

It can be purchased at natural food stores and is highly concentrated. You can use it for everything from brushing your teeth to scrubbing your floors. I use it mainly on my counter tops. It's highly concentrated, so a bottle of it will last you a very long time. I spray and wipe my counter tops with it because the eucalyptus helps keep fruit and other flies off your counters.

We always have fruit, sour dough starter and other "fruit fly magnets" around, not to mention I live in the country so flies appear out of nowhere and the eucalyptus helps prevent them. I may live in the country, but I don't tolerate bugs in my home. Nasty!

I'm starting with the fridge in there today. Science experiments will go to the maggot bucket. I've mentioned this item a few times before. I've been promising to tell more about it, so I guess now would be a good as time as any.

Any lidded bucket with a handle will do. Our current one is a detergent bucket. Near the bottom of the bucket Gary drilled about eight 1/4" holes, maybe a little larger. At the top of the bucket he put a few larger holes. Into the bucket we put anything not fit for human or animal consumption. This includes animals the dogs kill, birds that die of natural causes, chicken bones etc. The lid is latched on and then the bucket is suspended from a low tree branch near the bird night pen.

We suspend it because I have dogs I don't want to get in to it. Within just a few days the flies have located the rotting food stuffs, crawl in the upper holes and start to lay their eggs in it. These soon hatch into larvae, also known as maggots, who crawl out the lower holes to fall to the ground to my waiting birds. The adult flies generally die in the bucket making more maggot food.

It's gross I know, but the birds get a free source of natural protein they adore, the world fly population is cut down because those larvae never get to grow up and I am truly recycling otherwise inedible food stuffs. It's a win, win situation.

Anyway, back to cleaning and organizing. Most people spring clean. I tend to be a fall and winter cleaner. I love the fall and therefore want my house wide open, fresh and clean that time of year. Fall is not that far off, so today I start.

First the fridge. It will be emptied and wiped down with baking soda and warm water. What doesn't go to the maggot bucket or to our animals will be put back in an orderly fashion.

Then on to cleaning the outside of it. First the vacuuming of the coils and vent area. This part is important to extend the life of your appliance. I have four indoor cats, do you have any idea how much fur that is. The fur will block the air flow and make your fridge work harder, which puts more heat out into your kitchen, which in turn makes your air conditioner worker harder and the power company sings your praises. So clean the coils folks.

The outside of the fridge will get a good spraying and cleaning with a Dr. Bonner 10 (water) to 1(soap) ratio spray because I purchased bananas yesterday and I KNOW there will be fruit flies if I don't head it off now.

Then on to the glass top stove, where a box knife and baking soda will do the trick. Once all the cabinet tops are done and the sinks scrubbed with baking soda it will be Dr. Bonner's to mop with and a the whole house will smell of eucalyptus for the rest of the day. This, as Martha would say, is "a good thing."

So that's the plan for today, we'll how it goes.

Jan who really didn't want to purchase a new computer, but knew it was time in OK

Friday, August 14, 2009

SELF IMPOSED ISOLATION AND HOMEMADE BISCUIT MIXES

August 1-14, 2009

From August 1 to the 10th we were either at my bil (brother in laws) or here at home. Coming home from Jim's was when we had the Muscovy adventure. We did numerous shops up near his home at Vinita, OK so that made a nice central location for a very good camp fee. We generally donate to food or utilities or both while camped there.

On August 11, 2009 I swallowed a tiny capsule to take care of a thyroid problem I have. It was radioactive, this meant I needed to be very careful with who and what I came in contact with for five days. I thought about, for maybe 5 seconds, just sitting and vegging out in front of the bedroom tv for those five days, instead I've decided to take advantage of it to be very productive

So here's my grand plan on what to do.

I. Take precautions, that means following the doctor's orders and limiting the exposure I give my family and animals to my "glowing" personality. That means I have barricaded myself in the master suite of the house, away from the four house cats. All the doctors were quite clear that I could possibly endanger their health by allowing them to sit on my lap or hug me with their daily leg wrapping caresses.

It also means I am sitting on a chair covered in first plastic than blankets that I will later wash in hot soapy water. I'm sleeping on an air bed several feet away from the bed I normally share with my husband. I love him too much to be less than the recommended 7 feet from him.

As I work on the major clean out of the room I wear gloves.

All foods and the massive amount of liquid I am told to consume are taken off of disposable dishes, which will be burned.

Double and triple flushing of the toilet because the radiation will come out in body fluids.

Twice daily showers, followed by thoroughly cleaning of the shower.

These precautions were all recommended by the doctor who handed out the radioactive capsule

II. I'm not much of a tv person. So to keep from going stark raving mad I'm cleaning. Shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer. It's a slow process because of all the precautions of gloves and layers of plastic I am using. After all I don't want to radiate the room.

When Gary does come into the room I point out items he is to gather and dispose of so I do not contaminate the items.

III. Computer work. I'm so far behind on a lot of the day to day things like budgeting and such so I'm working on those items a lot.

IV. Culling magazines. We all have those–gonna get around to reading XYZ article some day. I'm reading those. Entering the wanted crafts, recipes, articles etc into the computer and adding them culls to a sack to burn. Normally I recycle them, but I'm being very cautious right now.

VI. Writing, blogs, journals, and stories.

You know I don't think five days is going to be enough!!!

Anyway that's the grand plan. So far today, day three

One of the things I've promised in my blog is to add recipes for all my bulk cooking recipes eventually so...

BISCUITS ANYONE?

One of the many things I do to stretch our limited budget is to make all my own mixes whenever possible. I like the way it cuts the expense and allows me to control what goes into them. I'm lactose intolerant, ds has numerous food allergies and dh tries to watch his salt intake. So the control is a good thing for our family.

Two of our most used homemade mixes are both a biscuit type product. One I use for biscuits of all sorts, including dumplings and the other I use like the well know major brand biscuit cooking mix to make "Impossible" pies and other goodies. Since I'm in isolation right now and can't cook I thought it would be a good time to post the recipes for both, along with various variations that will work both on the road and at home for all.

First the Stir ‘em up Roll ‘em Out biscuit mix.

STIR ‘EM UP, ROLL ‘EM OUT BISCUIT MIX WITH USES AND VARIATIONS.

Sweet Milk Biscuits
12 C all purpose flour, I used unbleached OR 6 C whole wheat + 6 C all purpose
6 TBL. Baking powder (recipe follows) (7 TBL if using whole wheat mixture)
2 TBL salt
3 ½ C powdered milk OR 4 TBL soy milk powder

Mix well. I do this in a large bowl or roaster pan with a wire whisk. Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place. Makes approximately 16 C of biscuit mix.

To use for basic biscuits, variations will follow.

2 C mix + more if needed
1/3 C cooking oil
2/3 C water

Preheat oven to 450, Spray baking sheet or cooking pan with cooking spray.

Make a well in the middle of the baking mix. Mix the oil and water together and then pour into the well. Mix the dough until well moistened, do not over mix as it will toughen the biscuits. The dough should not be sticky. If it is add a small amount of the biscuit mix. On unfloured board/wax paper roll dough out to ½ " thick (1/4" for Southern Style) and cut with a unfloured bicuit cutter or glass rim. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown Makes 16 medium biscuits.

BUTTERMILK VERSION
12 Cups all purpose flour, I used unbleached
4 TBL baking powder (recipe follows)
2 TBL salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 C powdered buttermilk OR 4 TBL soy milk powder

Mix well. Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

To use for basic biscuits, variations will follow:
2 C mix
1/3 C cooking oil
2/3 C water
1TBL vinegar–IF using the soy milk powder.

Preheat oven to 450, Spray baking sheet or cooking pan with cooking spray.

Make a well in the middle of the baking mix. Mix the oil and water (and vinegar IF doing the dairy free version) and then pour into the well. Proceed as for the sweet milk biscuits.

Variations:–measurements are for using 2 cups of mix.
CHEESE BISCUITS: add ½ C grated cheese of choice to the flour mixture before adding liquid.

BACON or SAUSAGE BISCUITS: add ½ c cooked Bacon Bits (about 4 slices) or ½ c. cooked sausage) to flour mixture

HERB BISCUITS: add 1/4 tsp dry mustard, ½ tsp crumbled dry sage and 1 1/4 tsp caraway seeds to flour mixture.

ITALIAN HERB:
Add 2 tsp of the following mixture to the dry biscuit mix

Italian Herb Seasoning mix–makes 7 tsps
Ingredients:

* 2 teaspoons dried basil
* 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
* 2 teaspoons dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon dried sage

Preparation:
Combine all ingredients; store in an airtight container.

BUTTER DIP BISCUITS
Dip the biscuits in melted butter before baking.

GARLIC BUTTER DIP BISCUITS
Dip the biscuits into your favorite melted garlic butter recipe before baking

CINNAMON BISCUITS
Dip the biscuits into melted butter and then into a mixture of cinnamon sugar before baking OR mix the cinnamon sugar with the dry mix before adding liquids.

DROP BISCUITS
Use slightly less biscuit mix and drop by tablespoons full on baking sheet

DUMPLINGS
Mix as if they were drop biscuits and drop onto the boiling mixture of whatever you want to add dumplings to. Cook 10 minutes uncovered and then 10 minutes covered on a lowered heat.

QUICKY COBBLER
Mix add 1/4 c sugar to dry mix then mix as for drop biscuits. Then drop by tablespoons full on top of fruit mixture.

SHORTCAKES
Mix 1/4 c sugar into dry ingredients and prepare as for drop biscuits, only spread it out in a cooking pan if you like thick short cake, or two pans if you prefer thin ones.

BAKING POWDER RECIPE–Aluminum free homemade version.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Ingredients:

* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
* 1 teaspoon corn starch (optional)

Preparation:

Mix the baking soda and cream of tartar together until well combined. Use immediately.

Yield: One tablespoon of baking powder.

To store baking powder: Add a teaspoon of corn starch to the mixture, and stir. This will absorb any moisture from the air, and prevent the baking powder from reacting before you need it. Store in an air-tight container.

HOMEMADE VERSION OF THE FAMOUS BISCUIT MIX
8 ½ C all purpose flour
4 tbl baking powder (recipe above)
1 tbl salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ c instant nonfat dry milk OR dry buttermilk powder OR 3 tbl soy milk powder
2 1/4 c shortening

Blend dry ingredients well then cut the shortening with a pastry blender or heavy duty mixer. Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT VERSION
use 4 1/4 c all purpose flour and 4 1/4 c whole wheat flour. Increase baking powder to 5 tablespoons.

Use like you would that famous baking mix for Impossible pies, oven fried chicken and any other recipe you would normally use. You might also try the variations for the biscuits above.

Jan who has a bunch of these biscuit mix recipes she uses on a regular basis that she will eventually post in OK

WAR EAGLE CAMPGROUND, SPRINGDALE, ARKANSAS

July 23-31, 2009

Another Corps of Engineer Campground, this one was advertised on the website as $16 a night as well, but turned out to be $18 per night. It was the cheapest thing we could find on the short notice we had for this area so we decided to stay even at the higher rate because it was central to the over 60 shops we had scheduled for the area. It was also a reasonable distance from our planned weekend outing to Eureka Springs, Arkansas

You may stay at this campground for up to two weeks it is located just outside Springdale, AR. The campground hosts are very congenial and work to keep the campground tidy. It's a small campground, on about 20 sites, no hook-ups other than electric.

However, if you have a problem with the electric it gets fixed FAST. Our breaker at the site wasn't working correctly and we reported it. It was fixed almost immediately. Potable water is available at several locations throughout the park, but again you are not allowed to hook your camper up to it. Therefore we invested in water jugs to haul water in and collected condensation water from our air conditioner for flushing the toilet–the little we used it, in buckets. Again no sewer connection at the site. The dump station is near the front gate and costs $5 if you are not a registered camper.

Now a word about their showers. SNORKLE!!

Yes I said snorkle, as in scuba diving, because they will drown anyone under 6'3" They are at a pre-set temperature, which luckily is a comfortable one. You push a button and it comes on for a pre-measured amount of time blasting pretty hard. You are not limited on the number of times you can push the button and you do not have to pay for it, but I'd really recommend a shower cap if you don't want your hair wet, especially if you are only 5'1" like me. We did all our showering at the shower house because we were there far longer than a holding will normally go for and I was very glad I had a shower cap I had saved from a hotel shop earlier in the year.

Also, the shower curtains do not cover the shower stall entirely so be VERY careful where you put your dry clothing.

The good thing about them each shower and each toilet is an individual room with a heavy door and a lock. Privacy is yours at this campground.

It also has LOTS of shade trees, considering the heat that has hit this summer that is a very good thing. However, if you don't do hills well this is not the campground for you if you are going to walk to the bath house, it's uphill both ways from most campsites.

EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS I LOVE this town, this was not our first visit there and it won't be our last. It is a quaint old town that was originally built around the healing springs that seep through the hills there. It is now an artisan town. Quaint stores, street musicians, good food, junk food, tourist trap items, fine jewelry, designer clothes and $5 t-shirts, it's all there. It also has historic buildings and a wonderful history.

To best see the town I recommend you park down at the Pine Mountain Jamboree at one end of town for free and pay either $5 each for 1 day or $8 for a 2 day pass to ride the trolley service. There are three routes that will take you all through the town, up to the Passion Play on the hill, up to the historical district, down to the artist area, and all around the town. It also stops and most hotels and at least the Wanderlust campground, where we have stayed in the past. Not a frugal campground, but a really well kept one.

As you ride keep your eyes open there are great sculptures all over the town. Let your eyes feast on the great old architecture, stop to read all the historical markers and by all means get off the trolley and walk, there is so much to see and do in Eureka Springs you'll fall in love too.

There is a reason so many weddings are staged there, historic beauty. You can spend days there and not spend a penny if you choose not to, or you can spend more than your annual budget the choice is yours.

This trip we only spent one day there this trip, but there was work to do. We will be back.

Jan who loves to just walk and look in towns like this both in and away from OK

Thursday, August 13, 2009

APPLEGATE COVE, CORPS OF ENGINEERS CAMPGROUND, SALLISAW, OK

ALSO INCLUDED, WHAT YOU TRULY NEED TO MYSTERY SHOP
July 19-23, 2009

Camping $16 per night, dump station $5 if you are not a registered camper, electric hook-ups only.

The various Corps of Engineer campgrounds across the US can provide a way to cut your camping costs IF you are willing to give up certain luxuries. Most do not have sewer or water hook ups at the sites. You'll have access to drinking water, but you cannot hook your camper to it. Some will limit you to how many gallons of that potable water you can use a day as well. At many the bathrooms are outhouses. With generally one or two shower houses elsewhere in the camping area.

Such a location is this campground. We thought we were being oh so smart camping near the bathroom and were completely settled in when we discovered it was a really fragrant outhouse we were near. Not nice at all, P.U.!

While our camper has a very well working bathroom in it if you can't dump you have to be careful how much you put into the holding tanks. This meant we did most of our "business" not at the camper or the restroom we'd camped so close to, but at the one that was a pretty good little walk from us. Oh well, we needed the exercise and we were just there for a little over 3 days. The holding tanks on the trailer will generally make it three days, but we weren't taking any chances.

Shops in the Ft. Smith area went well, and we had a reasonable internet connection most of the time thanks to my air card also known as broad brand mobile connection.

We were there for a very short time, relatively speaking, and other than purchasing some really good melons from the local Wal-mart there was not anything spectacular to post about this clean little campground (if you don't count the outhouse air pollution).

They have a nice boat ramp area, with a swimming area marked off, I'm posting photos so you can see the prettiness of the place.

So I guess I'll take up most of this post talking about the things you truly need to mystery shop on the road the way we are. It's basically the same things you'd need doing it from home, you just need to keep it compact.

First you need an internet connection. For us it's via a USB port broadband mobile device. All the major cell phone companies sell them, they average about $60 per month and are all either 4 or 5 gig in capacity. Ours is a 4 gig and we have NEVER exceeded it. They will work better than your cell phone in any given area because they are set up just slightly different. I don't know what the difference is and I certainly don't pretend to be knowledgeable about them. I just know that I can get signal on it when I can't on my cell phone with the same company.

Anyway, most mystery shopping companies require you to check your email twice a day if you accept an assignment. Most, all that I work with, use the internet to give you your assignments. So have that HIGH SPEED connection is a necessity. You can possibly get by with dial up, but you could go bald tearing your hair out waiting for some pages to load. I would not recommend trying it with dial up. I know how bad it can get when I have a low connection on the mobile broadband and it's still faster than dial up.

Second, if more than one person, or piece of equipment–see next section, is going to use this wireless service you will need a router. Ours was purchased through our cell phone provider for a one time cost of about $149. It will handle up to five pieces of wireless equipment at a time.

Third, you need a computer, of course. I use a laptop because carrying a desktop is simply not a good option in a camper for me. Plus, because we often do 8 or more shops a day I will file shops while flying down the highway from one shop to another. Gary is doing the driving of course.

Third you need a printer. Many merchandising shops require signatures on the paperwork. Therefore you MUST be able to print out the form for them to sign.

I'll explain the difference between merchandising and mystery shopping shortly. I do both.

Of course to go along with that printer you need ink and paper, LOTS of both if you do the volume of jobs I do. There are ways to cut this expense and there is a lot to consider where printing is concerned as well. You are absolutely going to have to print, so you really need to look at this cost SERIOUSLY, next to fuel and camping this is our biggest expense.

It's easy to think any printer will do, but when you consider several factors you will see the right printer can save you a ton of money and time.

First there is the cost of the printer itself. The cheapest one is not necessarily the best one. We have one that was given to us that is a nice simple little printer that we used continuously for a while, we still use it as a back up.

The ink for that machine looks to be cheap at first. That is until you realize you only get 350 pages per black cartridge and less per color cartridge–and yes you will be doing some color printing.

If you are printing 100s of pages a month that can add up really quickly. We were, in the beginning, going through three of those $16.99 cartridges a WEEK. It was a very basic machine, which meant if we wanted to print on both front and back of the paper we had to physically turn the paper ourselves–read time wasted.

Plus draft mode on it, for some unknown reason, was illegible. It also jammed easily.

During one mystery shop for an office supply company I was to evaluate the salesmanship of an employee on printers. The printer demonstrated to me, at first glance, seemed awful expensive. However as I read the brochures and did the math I discovered it would pay for itself in less than one month and would also have scanning, photo quality, make copies and a fax machine All features that are missing on the cheap machine. All features you will eventually need while doing this type of job.

It used a double cartridge, which was just slightly more expensive than two of the single cartridges for the other machine, but would print FOUR times the copies. So right there I was basically getting two cartridges of ink free every four cartridges in comparison.

It's colors were all sold separately, a huge advantage over any printer that has an all in one cartridge. It would also do double sided printing AUTOMATICALLY. Copies could be done in bulk with a self feeding feature. But that was not the biggest feature we fell in love with.

It is wireless! Even better it uses the same router my broadband mobile does. So we no longer had to jump up and down every time we printed something, or have too many things plugged into one outlet at a time in the camper.

Add to all of this well thought out information the fact I was required to make a $5 or more purchase, that I would be reimbursed for that shop, I had a discount card that would take another 15% off the purchase price, points on the rewards card for that company and a cash back bonus from my credit card–which I paid off immediately-- it took LESS than a month to come out ahead. I love my new printer. The hours it saves me monthly is well worth it.

Over the months I have taken on more and more shops, but I have also learned how to cut paper and ink expenses in other ways. It now costs me less than half of what it did to print, for twice as many jobs.

In the beginning I printed the entire instructions for every single job, even identical jobs. Now I print one master copy of the instructions and compare them to each new job to make sure nothing has changed. That step alone has saved tons of time and lowered printing costs considerably, plus it's printed in draft mode now that I can and still read it.

Also, some companies–who shall remain nameless, will actually have you print out the same form twice in two different versions–pick the version that works best for you and only print those pages. Another huge savings. One form that comes to mind I actually only need 3 pages of the 25 the company has setup for you to print out each and every time you do that shop. I recently did 28 IDENTICAL shops for that company. It doesn't take a math genius to see that saving 22 pages x 28 jobs is a big savings. Just make sure you print EVERYTHING YOU need to do the job properly. What works well for me may not work well for you.

Next you need to consider storage of your completed reports. All companies require you to keep copies of your receipts and your report for 1-18 months. I recommend you keep each company separate. I file separately, by date AND assignment number. I also keep everything on pdf. There are several good free pdf programs you can download and electronic files are soooo easy to search. They take up far less space too. So I keep the hard files for x amount of time–depending on the company and the electronic files longer–for tax purposes.

Oh dear I used the dreaded T word. Yep, you make over $650 you are going to have to pay taxes. The better records you keep, the better off you are.

That means keeping good records of all your expenses too. I'm still working on the best way to do this, but I definitely am keeping everything. This next April I will do a mystery shop for a tax service and hire my taxes done. If it's like last year it won't cost me anything to do it that way and I will feel better knowing they were done properly.

Anyway, back to mystery shopping.

You will also need a digital camera that you know how to put the photos of 1 mb or less on your computer and then upload.

A cell phone is a major plus. Because dh and I work as a team it is very, very handy to also have a blue tooth. Here's why.

One fast food company I work for requires both walk in and drive in strict timings. You must be accurate to the split second. Sometimes this is hard to do without being caught because there are three separate timings to do for each section. Ideally you can do it with a lapse timer on a good stop watch–another MANDATORY item, but it's a LOT easier if you are on a blue tooth, with a code worked out and a person with the stop watch on their phone on the other end to get the EXACT times.

Another type of shop, like one I recently did, requires you to do price comparisons, without being caught. One person goes in the store and the other person tells them the items to get prices on, the first person then tells the second the price and it is wrote down away from the store at their location. It is so much easier than concealing a list you have to write on.

A notebook, page dividers, a GOOD multipage three hole punch, reliable ink pens, post-it note flags, and a clipboard.

I put all printouts for the day in a notebook with two weeks' worth of daily dividers for each day. A good multi-page three hole punch makes life easier. You can get by with a cheaper one, but it's going to be harder to line up pages and it will only do a few pages at a time. Invest the $12 you will be glad you did.

The ink pens go without saying. I use the post-it note flags to tag each different job and make it easy to find the correct one quickly. My flags/tags have the shop type and the address on them and are color coded with the over all address sheet I have in the front of the notebook. It saves time searching for the right shop address at the last minute.

Speaking of which, traveling the way we do a GPS is a lifesaver. We call ours Fiona, she gives turn by turn instructions and as long as we truly listen to her she gets us to the exact location 99.9999% of the time easily and quickly.

The clipboard is handy when doing merchandising and revealed mystery shops to have a good firm surface to write on.

You also need to have at least two business casual outfits to wear for each season. One to wash, one to wear. Comfortable shoes are a must too, some shops, especially merchandising ones can have you on your feet for a long time.

So that's it, that's what you need to be a mystery shopper.

Now you will notice I mentioned, mystery shopping, revealed mystery shopping, and merchandising. All mystery shopping companies will sooner or later have all these types of shops offered.

Mystery shopping is just that, they NEVER know you are there checking on them, you are covert.

Revealed mystery shopping is you shop, and then you let them know you were a mystery shopper. Sometimes this is to give a reward, rarely it's to give a critique, most times it's to then do an inspection of the facilities.

Merchandising is all revealed. It is to do a job for the store, it might be re-boxing a piece of merchandise, doing an inventory, putting up signage, restocking or similar jobs. Some companies do nothing but merchandising. A few of those actually hire you as an employee, complete with a benefit package to do it.

I do very little merchandising because it means you MUST be at a certain place in a certain town, on a certain day at a certain time, every month for the length of the contract. That doesn't go with our lifestyle. However, if Gary should go back to work I'd merchandise every day of the week I could because it is generally a fair wage for the job you do and you have some flexibility with your hours.

So that's the basics, more on actual mystery shops another time. That's all you need to do a mystery shop.

What you DON'T need is to pay to mystery shop. NEVER pay to mystery shop.

Jan who hopes this helps someone in OK

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN, JIGGITY JIG

July 10-July 18, 2009

Well we stayed out longer this last time then before, but once again the lack of work forced us home to regroup. Luckily this visit was a brief one and we managed to pick up several jobs while there.

While home I took time out to make up a few things to add to our food stores for both home and on the road.

A very large pot roast was cooked with the leftovers being shredded or ground, and frozen for future meals. So that roast and the uses I could have for the leftovers are the subject of this segment.

A pot roast is a very simple thing to cook. For those who don't already have their own favorite recipe here's ours.

POT ROAST

1 large arm or chuck roast, which ever is on sale–get a big one and plan to use the leftovers

potatoes one for everyone that will be eating and one for the pot–in my case that makes 4

1 to 2 yellow onions

2-3 carrots

1 turnip if desired, I like them the guys don't.

Flour to dredge meat with

meat tenderizer

cooking oil

water.

Beef bullion, if desired.

Decision time once again. Crockpot, top of the stove, campfire or pressure cooker whichever you prefer.

The basics are the same for all versions. Only the length of time really changes.

Heat a small amount of oil in either a fry pan if you are using the crockpot, or in the cooking pan for all others.

Sprinkle the roast with meat tenderizer and pierce the meat with a fork Then dredge the meat with the flour. Brown in the hot oil on all sides.

If using a crockpot, place the browned meat in the bottom of the crockpot. If using a pressure cooker remove the meat from the pan add the pressure cooker rack and place the meat on the rack.

Peel and cube or chunk all the vegetables and add to the cooking utensil of choice. Add enough water to cover, or to the proper level for your pressure cooker. Add bullion if desired.

Cook until done. Crockpot: high 4-6 hours, low 5-8 hours; stove top or campfire on medium heat 4-6 hours; pressure cooker 1.5-2 hours–per manufacturer's instructions.

Planned leftovers:

HOT ROAST BEEF SANDWICHES, make a brown gravy with the broth and serve open faced over toast.

COLD ROAST BEEF SANDWICHES, try a variety of breads and spreads to make your lunch sandwiches with thin slices of the leftover roast.

ROAST BEEF SPREAD SANDWICHES. Grind, finely chop or shred roast beef. Add 1or2 finely minced boiled eggs, a dash of Worchestershire sauce, minced onion, a dash of prepared mustard and enough mayonnaise to moisten well. Mix well. Best if it is chilled for a while to meld the flavors.

BBQ BEEF SANDWICHES simply shred or grind the roast and add your favorite BBQ sauce to taste–my favorite BBQ sauce recipe follows.

BEEF AND BEAN BURRITOS grind or shred the cooked roast beef. Heat thoroughly. In the middle of a flour tortilla add a layer of refried beans, a layer of the roast beef, cheese, onion, pico de gallo, picante or other burrito fillers of choice.

ROAST BEEF HASH cube the cooked roast beef and any leftover roast potatoes and vegetables. Heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet then brown all the cubed ingredients along with a couple of dashes of Worchestershire Sauce, and garlic salt to taste. Heat through and serve.

QUICK BEEF SOUP OR STEW cube all the leftover vegetables and roast place in a stew pot. Add water, beef bullion to taste, any other leftover vegetables, rice, pasta, potatoes etc from the fridge or freezer, as well as a can of tomatoes.

BREAKFAST BURRITOS shred or grind the leftover roast. Chop desired vegetables for the burrito. Suggestions would be mushrooms , onions, bell pepper, jalapenos, spinach, Swiss Chard (you may saute these if you prefer).

In a skillet that will allow your flour tortilla lay flat melt 1-2 tbl of butter (or dairy free butter). While the butter is heating beat 1-2 eggs as you would for scrambled eggs.

Once the butter is melted lay your flour tortilla in the skillet and top with the vegetable, scrambled eggs and shredded cheese. Cover and cook on medium low heat until tortilla is brown and egg is set. Remove from heat and serve with picante, sour cream, guacamole or other favorite toppings. Great anytime of day.

BBQ SAUCE RECIPE–Like so many of my foods I fix this in bulk. I then can or freeze it until needed. Refrigerate any containers after opening.
1 gallon catsup
3/4 liquid smoke
3/4 c soy sauce
1 c Worchestershire sauce
2 sticks butter or non dairy butter
2# brown sugar
2 c water
½ to 1 tsp chili powder OR I usually use Williams Chili Seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp black pepper

Mix well and simmer for 1-2 hours, then either can or freeze.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

THE MISADVENTURES OF LUCKY, TROUBLE, AND CASINO

When a knock sounded at the camper door, while we were parked at my brother in laws, I climbed out from behind the computer where I had been doing the printing for that day's route of mystery shops calling "Coming. "In just a few short steps I opened the door to find my beautiful great niece holding her even prettier, if at all possible, daughter.

"Hey, girls come in." I grinned holding the door wide so Jessica could safely climb the three steps while carrying Kadence.

We chatted for a little while as Kadence joyfully crawled around the fifth wheel floor, playing with the plastic bowls and wooden spoon I'd set down for her.

"Aunt Jan I was wondering if you and Uncle Gary could take my ducks to your house since you just lost so many, I just can't afford them any more." She finally said, then rushing on to "I don't want to ask Mimi to feed them, they aren't her responsibility. If you don't want them I'll try to find another home for them. I just can't add the stress of them to Mimi, so I thought I'd see if you wanted them first."

The loss she was referring to was the carnage Sean had found the week before in our big coop, 20 or more birds had met their demise in just one night. Sean had found it the next day and was just sick at what he found. Even our beloved Muscovy hen Trudy was dead. Luckily it had only been the broody hens and everyone not in the nesting area had escaped.

I told her I'd talk to Sean, since he is now the main caregiver of the birds, but I thought it would be okay. Mimi is my sister-in-law, Vicki, and Jessie's grandmother, it was her house we were camped at. Sean of course said to bring them home with me that weekend.

Jess had never named the birds and I told her not to worry that they'd get names just like all my other birds, by something about their attitude, or an event in their life. Little did I know they'd get their names before they ever made it to my house.

Because we hadn't known ahead of time I'd be hauling full grown Muscovy drakes home we hadn't brought our usual travel cages with us. Jess said she had some cardboard boxes that were sturdy and plenty big enough if we put one per box. I told her then to be sure and tape the bottom of the box good because Muscovies were escape artists.

Three days later in the gathering darkness of twilight Jess and James chased down the three drakes while Gary put large air holes in the boxes and I stood and laughed as the one with a very white head and almost female markings gave them a run for their money. They were all over the front acreage of the place until both long legged James and his wife were near exhaustion. Just as I got herding sticks to show them how it was done James caught the bird.

The bird was added to the final cardboard box and placed in the back of my truck. As I walked away I said "Be sure and tape the flaps down good on those boxes or they'll get out and Muscovy covered windshields is not a good thing."

While Gary got the camper hooked up I was saying my good-byes and gathering up my last few scattered things as I heard Jess shout "We've got an escapee!" The white headed drake had his second wind and was determined to be free of the cardboard box. You guessed it the flaps had NOT been taped down. Gary had told James not to worry there wouldn't be a problem with them coming open.

Ten exhausting minutes went by as James and Jess chased the bird once again all over the acreage. Finally I suggested he herd it into a small pen in the barn. Once there James once again nabbed the bird, but it took two of us to get it in the box Gary had waiting as Jessie stood guard on the gate in case it got away from us.

Muscovies have long talons and all of us were scraped before it was over. "Boy are you ever a lot of trouble!" I said, as I pushed down on it's head to keep it's feathers from receiving a strip of duct tape. Then I grinned "Therefore, your name shall be Trouble from here on out." Everyone agreed it the perfect name.

This time all three boxes were securely taped shut. It was now dark, which was what we'd been waiting for. We had not wanted to travel with the ducks in boxes on the black bed liner of the dually in the heat of the day. Prior to the run all three had been given an abundance of water. It was an hour and a half to our ranch and we wanted to keep the birds as cool as possible. Therefore they were put at the tail gate area under the tongue of the fifth wheel where they would have air circulating all the way home.

I had reports to file so I worked by the light of my computer screen as we hummed down the Will Rogers Turnpike toward home. Periodically I closed my computer to check on the boxes in the back, or Gary checked his rear view mirrors to do the same. Just as we passed the Claremore, OK exit something in my mind shouted "Birds! Check the birds now!"

Slamming the lid on the computer to end the glare on my side window I looked in my outside mirror to see in horror that one of the boxes was OPEN! "OMIGD! Gary pull over we've got a bird problem!" I hollered. He exited the highway at the next exit to find we were in a construction zone. I watched in horror as the box rose further and further out of the truck bed as he frantically looked for a place to exit that we could safely turn the truck with a fifth wheel behind it into.

Finally we both saw the Hard Rock Casino and he eased through the construction into there as the trailer pushed down on the now nearly out of the truck box. Fearing the worst I jumped out of the truck before Gary even had the truck fully stopped. Rounding the hips of the dually in the dim light of the construction area at the casino all I could see was the box was crushed by the tongue of the trailer and no bird.

Just as tears welled in my eyes I saw the red masque of the male. He was calmly sitting on top of the middle box of the three. The crushed box was the one he'd came out of and it had pinned him ever so slightly, without hurting him onto the lid of the second box, which had given just enough under his weight and pressure. He was completely unharmed!! He was also getting ready to make his escape!

Now those of you who haven't met me don't know I'm a short fat round lady. I'm 5'1" on my tall days, this was not a tall day. We drive a big one ton Chevy Silverado dually. I cannot, normally, reach anything over the sides or tailgate of that truck. But just then, somehow, I managed to boost myself up and grab hold of that bird just as he was shaking his wings free to take flight and hold him firmly in place.

Hollering for Gary to come quick and that the bird was okay I hung on all the while telling the bird to be calm the bright lights and noise were just the Casino and everything was okay. At the word Casino the bird cocked his head and looked around. I swear he smiled at me. His nearly all black body shimmering in the lights he looked around and remained calm. Every time I'd say Casino, he'd react positively. So now that's his name, Casino aka: Cass.

Once Gary got there he took over holding the bird firmly to relieve my aching arms. I then put the tailgate down and loosened the mashed box from where it was penned. It seems while the top of the box had been taped the bottom had not. Someone didn't follow my instructions...

I straightened the box up. Upside down and then Gary and I worked the bird back into the box. Once it was taped firmly Gary slowly rolled it over where the bird and box were then both right side up. At that point I asked if he thought we should go ahead and tape the other two box bottoms. The answer was no. Slowly we worked our way back out to the express way and headed down to the Creek turnpike.

Two miles later Gary uttered a curse word and started exiting onto 11th Street. A second box was rolling up out of the back of the truck. This time on his side. Trouble was being troublesome again. Not thinking ahead of time Gary turned right. The wrong way to go with a big rig we discovered.

Luckily Trouble had not exited his box yet as we stopped. So that tape up job was fixed easily. The problem then was getting turned around. That particular exit, going the direction we had turned leads down to a gravel narrow road with over hanging trees. Definitely NOT the place to take a tall fifth wheel. Luckily that is a very low traffic exit. So in the late night darkness I was out on the highway with a flashlight guiding Gary as he backed UP the ramp far enough to get turned the other direction. Lots of fun I guarantee you considering there is a very DEEP bar ditch on each side of the highway there.

We had decided it was the cord for the trailer lights grabbing the cardboard boxes when we turned a certain way that was flipping them up on end because the middle box never moved an inch. So we rearranged the cord thinking we had solved the problem.

Four miles down the road Casino's box went up on end! AGAIN! It took us to the 161st street exit to find a place to get off that time with Gary crawling along to keep wind from flipping box on out of the truck bed.

Once we were at Wal-Mart I once again rushed out to make sure we didn't have a bird on the loose. Casino was still firmly in his box, but it was standing on end, his tail feathers were up and he was not amused. Muscovies don't quack, they hiss and he was silent. That worried me. As Gary and I lowered him back down to the correct position all the pent up hissing started. This was one mad bird! "Twice in one night!" he was telling me "TWICE! How dare you humans do this too me." He snarled. Soon we sounded like a viper pit as all three drakes hissed and snarled about the indignities they had suffered.

But I wasn't listening, I was trying to figure out what was going on, the cord was still exactly where it should have been. It had not flipped Casino. We'd hauled birds this way many times before and never had such a problem. Not once.

I reassessed the situation and realized what was happening was the birds were walking to the end of the box and then the wind coming through the long air slits Gary had put in the box was lifting the lighter end and turning the boxes up on end. The reason the middle box wasn't lifting was because it was under the actual neck of the hitch and thus blocked from the lifting wind.

I looked at Gary and said "Get the rope!" He made some remark about hanging the birds wouldn't help and I just gave him "the look" He got the rope. We tied it from one side of the truck bed, over the boxes and to the other side of the bed. Problem solved. There were no rising boxes after that for the remaining 45 minutes of our trip.

At home Gary asked me what the third bird's name was going to be. "Lucky." I responded. He said he thought if any bird was Lucky it would be Cass, because he survived nearly being crushed, twice. I said no the middle one that was both white and black, was Lucky because it never got turned upside down. He thought about it as we drug the garden cart carrying all three boxes to the back to release the birds into the cover of darkness and finally said. "I guess you are right, he was the lucky one."

As soon as his box was open Trouble took off for the woods, he was still pissed about being boxed in the first place. The next morning he was out eating with the other birds, so I guess he's forgiven us now.

The boys have had to fight their fair share of battles the last two days. That pecking order thing you know. Casino has already became second husband to our pretty little blue Muscovy hen Cinderella.

I saw Lucky flirting with our chocolate Muscovy hen Red Cocoa Von, yesterday. Trouble is still battling with Jeffery Dalmer, the feather eating black and white Muscovy drake, over who is going to squire one of the mallard hens. So I guess all are doing fine despite trying to literally fly down the highway Friday night.

Want to know more about Muscovies, my favorite non-duck ducks? Google the words "Muscovy Pictures" and you'll find many a web page out there. I personally think the boys a bit ugly, but the hens are beautiful.

I, in fact, prefer Muscovies over regular ducks for numerous reasons. They are much quieter, they are great mousers, they can perch in trees–at least my hens do, my drakes are too fat. They are great moms and will broody any egg given them. They also lay numerous eggs a year.

Jan who will definitely check for tape on the boxes and rope them in herself in the future in OK

Monday, August 3, 2009

CAMPING DAYS 3-, ARBUCKLE MOUNTAIN CAMPGROUND, DAVIS, OKLAHOMA

JUNE 27-JULY 9, 2009

This blog segment was started on July 4, 2009 and finished on August 3, 2009.We were glad to be back at this little campground, it is quickly becoming like a second home to us. We spent two weeks here in May and the camp host recognized us as we pulled in. She suggested we pull up under the big tree not far from her camper for evening shade, because she knew the weather was going to be hot while we were here. She wasn't wrong it's been 95 and above every day since we've been here.

I'll describe the campground now, just to get it out of the way. It's all grass sites, no sewer–more on this later, but they do have two dump stations. One bathroom building and two shower/bathroom building.

There are a few shade trees scattered about, one existing pavilion and two more being built. With over 200 campsites available.

Now about the sewer thing. You may release grey water at anytime. IF you want to break camp and use their dump stations yourself it's part of your camping fee OR you can hire their honey wagon service that comes to your RV and pumps it out for $8. This is our method of choice.

The shady location she put us at was also very close to the bathroom building. This is very handy for us. We use it like crazy and after a week of being here are just now looking at having to call the honey wagon tomorrow.

The camping fees are low. $12 a night during the Fourth of July time frame. The rest of the time it's $12 a night unless you stay over a week and then they are $10 per night for the whole time. We're here for a long time! If you need to run home and leave your camper here, they have some even lower rates for that too.

But the low camping fees are not the big draw it's what goes on here FOUR times a year. Bluegrass!! Gary and I absolutely love Bluegrass music. In May, July 4, and October it's Bluegrass Jams. In September it's a festival. The spring and fall jams are a week long. The July 4th one is that weekend. We are making plans to hit all four events this year.

We arrived on Saturday and there were already pickers here a week early, every night we have heard some of the finest Bluegrass music this nation has to offer right at our camper door! No I'm not talking big name talent, I'm talking good back porch natural God given talent with no amps, computer generated sounds or other fake things, it's all acoustic.

You will hear beginners and people who have been strumming instruments all their long lives playing together. It doesn't matter your abilities, all are welcome.

Each jam they have a potluck mid jam. July 4th featured the owners and hosts providing hot dogs and homemade ice cream for the entire camp. We all brought go withs to add to the meal. You cannot imagine the good country food that we had for supper today.

Back to coming in on Saturday. We knew arriving that we'd be staying for at least one week, probably as much as a month. So Gary set up camp to the max. Including putting his flagpole and US flag up

If you RV much you've seen these flag poles, made out of pvc pipe. The move in the wind and will hold a full size flag. He also set up our solar yard lights we use to illuminate it at night.

The next morning we found our flag surrounded by people discussing the pole and the set-up. Gary told them to measure it if they wanted to, after all we had ours because someone had told us the same thing.

Imagine our surprise when we came back from doing twelve shops on Monday to find not just our flag flying, but four more on duplicate flag poles. The next day produced more, and more. Until there were over dozen flying proudly to salute our nation and it's veterans. They were all made by one man, who GAVE them away. He even set them up for folks. All they had to do was buy their own flag, and they all did! We have a young man in the National Guard camped behind us and he has one US Flag and one National Guard Flag on his two poles.

It was something to see, something I'd planned on scrapbooking, but once again I got crossed up. Big storms moved in before I got my camera out today, and all the flags and poles, including ours, had to be yanked in quickly because we were told 50 mph winds were coming, with hailstones.

The first of the storm turned out much like one of my old rendezvous stories, which I'll post later on. The second one, the one that has been raging all evening made me glad our flags were all safe.

The weather broke just long enough for us to picnic and let me tell you it was all delicious!

I took a simple dish made from what I had in the camper. Sausage balls. the original recipe calls form making it with Bisquik, I make it with a homemade version of that product. I don't have the recipe with me right now, but I promise to post it at a future date. I do have the sausage ball recipe with me so here it is:

Sausage Balls
2 cups Bisquik or the home made equivalent
1 pound sausage
10 oz. shredded cheddar or other cheeses

Preheat oven to 350.

Now you have a decision to make. To pre-cook or not to precook the sausage. The original recipe calls for using it raw. I have done this in the past and they were very good, but a little greasy for me. However, if you pre-cook and drain the grease then you are going to have to add a little water or milk to the mix to make everything stick together well enough to form a firm ball.

So you simply mix all the ingredients together well then roll it into 1-1.5 inch balls, slightly larger if you like. Place them on a baking sheet you have sprayed with cooking spray and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Back to my story.

They tried valiantly to play a little music after dinner, but with all the awnings, and tents down they had to stop when the second wave of rain hit they had to stop.

So we, Gary and I have spent the evening in the camper. He finishing up the repair job on the closet and I catching up on emails and blogging a bit.

The explanation on the closet will be in the camping trip prep info that will follow at another time.

Something else I found special about this trip and how nice everyone is here. Gary is a Viet Nam vet, and like so many others of that era he came home to hatred and was called a baby killer. It wasn't until recent years that he has, like all the others been thanked publicly for the service they performed for this nation.

Two nights ago he was in the camper working on the closet–it is a long saga–and one of the musicians asked me to get him. I did, they wanted to salute him, the young man in the Coast Guard and two other vets. Then they sang an original song about 911 and their pride in our service men written by the same David that made all the flag poles.

My normally shy husband is becoming more self confident around this group of folks. I actually heard him sing the course of "I'll Fly Away." the other night, something I've never heard him do in public in the 36 years we've been married. It's a good camp..

Follow up to this entry, written August 3, 2009. By the fifth of July much of the camp had left. Gary an I had scared up enough work to do through the ninth. Each day we scoured theonline postings for just a few more shops to do before we moved on. We finally had to head or the house after we had been there 13 days.

camping fees for 13 days $156
one time blackwater holding tank pumping $8