Wheat Harvest Complete!

Last night the chaps finished cutting wheat for the year — just 6 days. We had hot windy days, only a sprinkle of rain, and fortunately no major breakdowns. So it was smooth sailing, that is, until they parked the truck in the shed a little too close to the wall. The front wheel sunk in the dirt and leaned the truck bed against the wall.

Here’s this year’s video recap:

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Over the past two months I’ve been learning the underworld of the self-employed. My conclusion? Get an accountant. Or a personal assistant in India. Or maybe it should be an accountant in India. Whatever.

Last October, the fact that Mr. Farmer and I didn’t have employers was quite amusing. Especially the day I went to the utility company office to put the electric bill in our name. Here I was, pretty much in my pajamas with my windblown cockeyed ponytail, answering questions posed by a deadpan government worker:

Q: What is your name?

A: Well, I have a couple. My driver’s license has my married name, so I guess you can just use that one, unless you need to use my social security number, which has my maiden name.

Q: Where do you work?

A: Well, I don’t really have a job, and we’re going on a big trip for a few months. After that I plan to be self-employed.

Q: What’s your husband’s phone number?

A: Good question. I’ll have to call you with that one.

Q: Where does he work?

A: He doesn’t have a job either right now.

Obviously she asked for our prior utility company to send her a letter stating that we paid our bills on time. (Wouldn’t you?)

Fast forward six months. Mr. Farmer has a job (hooray!). And indeed I’m self-employed — probably more employed than I intended.

And today is April 11, which means a ton of tax things are due in 4 days. I’ve been trying for a week to decipher all the federal and state estimated payments stuff. Tonight I finally wrote the checks (because they have to mail you a PIN to pay online — doesn’t this defeat the purpose?). And we filed our 2009 income taxes tonight. Finally — this one’s been going on for weeks.

Realization: income taxes are about double in Kansas as in Illinois.

To top all that off, we bought a car last weekend, which added a whole new dimension of taxes due this month. That’s not to mention getting plates for Mr. Farmer’s truck — during which he learned that Kansas has personal property tax on vehicles (doesn’t exist in Illinois).

So with all this tax goop going on, let’s hope that the most inconvenient truth about self-employment doesn’t throw a wrench in our finances: I never know when I’m getting paid. I hear the check’s in the mail…famous last words.

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Musings on American Idol

Obviously since it’s Tuesday, my butt is planted firmly on the couch, my legs numb because they’re propped up on our too-high-for-a-coffee-table-but-we-have-no-other-option-hand-me-down-from-Farmer’s-grandma cedar chest. It’s Idol night, and dang it, I’ve caught up via DVR to live TV, which means I have to suffer through all the tax software commericals. Not to mention having to listen to Randy, Ellen and Kara — usually I fast forward to Simon. (The show will surely die when he leaves, since the other three have nothing meaningful to say.)

So, as a result of Casey’s performance of “Power of Love,” Mr. Farmer and I have been chatting about the first cassettes we owned as third graders. His? Thriller. Mine? Huey Lewis & The News Sports. My second was Thriller. His second was…(drum roll please)…Culture Club. (My guess was Beastie Boys.)

[Pause to listen to Didi.]

Overall assessment tonight: dull. These people can’t pick songs worth a darn. Thank goodness for Crystal Bowersox.

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My wheels

Late this afternoon, just as I had completed getting my Chase extras points for a $50 gift card to Macys and was cruising Macys.com to find the Michael Kors pants I’m eyeing in Lucky Magazine, I heard a “vroom vroom” outside. Had to be dad on the 4-wheeler spraying for henbit in the yard. He’d been by earlier to get a start on it, but I’d stayed in the house on my conference call, and now he was back to finish.

Ding! Ding!

It occurred to me that I do actually have a vehicle (pronounced vee-HIK-il in these parts). Yes, I have Mr. Farmer’s ATV sitting in the shed across the driveway. No longer will I be stranded in my house with only my legs to carry me.

Then I realized that I had no idea how to run it.

Good thing Dad pulled up just then to the end of the sidewalk, and after a tour of the yard (to figure out where to put the garden, now that he’d just sprayed to kill every green thing except grass) and a tour of the barn to put out rat poison, we ambled over to the shed to learn me some ATV startin’.

Imagine this…it actually starts by turning a key! So I took it out for a spin in the yard, then sped with my hair wooshing behind me a half-mile up the road, half hoping that Mr. Farmer would be showing up just then to see that his wife has now comandeered his toy. Wee!

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Buried Treasure

Last Friday we got word that one of my great aunts had died, so on Tuesday I went along to her funeral. She’d lived a long and happy life, only learning a few weeks ago that leukemia was going to get the best of her. But, despite the somber occasion, it was nice to see my fringe relatives and old family friends.

All three of my dad’s sisters accompanied us to the funeral, with one of them flying in from Arizona. So Mom took the opportunity to pull out the remaining things from my grandparents to divvy up.

Most of it was junk, in my humble opinion.

But there was about $300 in coins that Grandma had once buried inside the machine shed when they were going on vacation. Why? Who knows. But there they sat on the kitchen counter, equally divided by coin type and date in four cottage cheese containers. There were a ton of silver dollars from the 1970s.

But the pennies. OMG. An entire big coffee can FULL of old pennies that hadn’t yet been touched. My aunts were in favor of sorting out the ones with wheat backs and then sending the rest through the coin counting machine.

So after the aunts had left, my parents and Mr. Farmer and I got sucked into sorting them — at 9 p.m., when we should’ve been thinking about going to bed or watching bad reality TV or something. Mom and Dad separated the wheat from the chaff, and Farmer and I sorted them by decade. Well, I sorted them by decade and Farmer diligently sorted them by year. We’re still not done.

We had tons from the 30s-50s, and the earliest one we found was 1912. They have a little bit of value, but so far we haven’t hit the motherload:
•1909-S V.D.B. ($700-$2000+)
•1909-S ($100-$500+)
•1914-D ($225-$3,500+)
•1922 no mint mark ($650-$40,000+)
•1931-S ($115-$250+)
•1955 Doubled-Die ($950-$5,000+)

Most of them are just worth, well, pennies.

P.S. Is it just me, or is it funny that there’s an article in the local paper that says the “birthday group got together this month, even though there weren’t any birthdays”?

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Dinner Party on the Farm

Long story short, we officially took up residence in the house I grew up in on January 25. Since that time, 164,508 absolutely hilarious things have happened, most centering on Mr. Farmer’s observations of life in a new dimension. Like the fact that all of the high school basketball coaches (and some of the players) are related. Or that he’s now related to most everyone in a 20-mile radius. And that I do the Jane Fonda workout in the church basement on a regular basis.

As my brother says, the meal plan isn’t bad either. We partake in Mom’s excellent cooking quite a few times a week. But we’re also hosting a lot more people these days.

In Chicago, I’m certain that in my over six years of living by myself, I hosted people no more than once a year. If that. I think we’ve had people over that many times in the last month here on the farm. And we really like it.

I’m looking forward to the day that Mom finds the Pioneer Woman Cookbooks she hid from herself before Christmas, so that my buddy Mrs. Firewife and I can start cooking our way through it. Last night Firewife made PW’s poundcake with strawberries and cream while I relied on Ming Tsai for Asian-inspired pork tenderloin (grilled by Mr. Farmer), mashed sweet potatoes, apple chutney and sesame-dressed salad. My brother and his wife joined us to make six.

Fun was had by all.

(Now we have to clean-up after the bomb that went off in the kitchen.)

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Introducing…Galloping The Globe

Holy cow, Galloping Nelly is nearly three years old. During that time I’ve gone on hiatus a few times – mostly to pursue laziness – but this time it’s with purpose!

Mr. Farmer and I have created a new blog to chronicle our trip around the world. So from now until January 20, you can read our updates at www.gallopingtheglobe.wordpress.com.

I’ve been gettin’ all wound up about the neat-o things I can write about while we’re on our voyage. Including stumping Mr. Farmer with the 8,666 trivia questions in the book in my carry on, sharing my reading list and generally reporting our observations of different countries, cultures and experiences.

While we’re away, you can also reach us via Skype. So if you have an account and would like our info, just post a comment on Galloping the Globe as such and I’ll e-mail it to you.

Other than that, fasten your recliner belts, and let’s hope the bed bugs don’t bite.

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Steak Out

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind of farm indoctrination experiences for Mr. Farmer.

Before the perpetual mist settled on central Kansas, he mastered the art of tractor-driving on grain cart duty in the soybean field.

Then it got cold. And started raining.

Though the farm work has been on hold now for over a week, we’ve had the delightful experience of getting up each morning, hopping in the pick-up for the half-mile drive to Mom and Dad’s, and joking with them and my brother over coffee and 3 square meals over the course of the day.

Yesterday around noon, my brother came in the back door, poked his head in the kitchen and said to Mom, “Call the neighbors, some calves are out by our milo field heading east.”

As my grandma used to say, the worst call you can get is the one telling you the cows are out. Depending on how many escape the confines of the fence, it can take days to get them all gathered back up. Mom said once the cows got out and it took a week to find them all.

So Mom called the neighbors, and no one claimed the lost souls.

At that point Mr. Farmer and I went to town to run last minute errands for our big trip. When we got back home at dusk, it appeared that Dad had just learned of the drama. And he knew exactly who they belonged to. So he called the owner, who was headed home after a full day’s work in town. By that time the 40 calves had made their way north, milling in the milo field about a half mile south of the farmstead.

Concerned that his milo (and ultimately the yard) would get trampled, Dad rounded up a few neighbors to help drive the herd up the road, around the corner and another quarter mile down to our feedlot, where they could be penned up for the night.  Mr. Farmer and I were the designated blockers, and we were dispatched to sit on the bridge just past the feedlot in our pick-up to keep them from going too far.

In case you’ve never experienced it, when it gets dark here on a cloudy day, it’s completely dark. Like “can’t see your hands” dark. We managed to get ourselves in the truck and make the half-mile drive and get turned around in position. With only our parking lights on, we sat in the dark looking up the road at Dad’s headlights facing us from afar. And waited for the herd to come.

After 30 seconds of incomprehensible Morse code in headlight form from Dad, I got impatient and called him, “Where’re they at?” He reported that they were out in the herd owner’s field a mile away, and our Cow Whisperer neighbor was on his ATV attempting to bring them back to the road. Then he said, “I just saw a mountain lion…oh wait, they’re calling me,” and hung up.

Great. Here we are sitting in the dark, and a cat is on the loose too. (He was kidding.)

Pretty soon we saw lights from two pick-ups heading from the crossroad to our intersection, and we knew the calves were on their way. From that distance we could barely make out the herd – occasionally we’d see some moving legs in the fog of the low beams, but that was about it.

Then they rounded the corner. They were running. Right at us. Mr. Farmer feared for his life, though they were still a quarter mile away.  

It was truly a photo-worthy sight. Running legs, bobbing heads, clouds of breath all shrouded in dark mist, lit from the back with four pick-up light beams.

“What do I do?” asked Farmer from the ditch on the other side of the pick-up.

“Just spread your arms out and act like you’re trying to scare away a bear,” I said.

I can’t say I’m a seasoned cattlewoman by any means, but I’ve done this duty enough times to know that they’re pretty scared of people. Even so, when the herd was still running and they were approaching spitting distance (25 yards), I was glad to see the 4-wheeler come whizzing around to cut them off.

“Hi, nice to meet you,” Mr. Farmer said to our next-door-neighbor-ATV-driver. Then we edged forward, hoping that the softness beneath our feet was muddy road and not a poopy patty.

The calves had stopped, and after a minute they turned around to take off the other way. But by that time we had them trapped between the lot, the pasture fence on the other side of the road, and the human/pick-up fence opposite us. Pretty soon one found the opening to the lot, and the rest filed in behind.

The troops gathered at the gate to debrief and shoot the bull. No better way than a good cattle drive for Mr. Farmer to get to know the natives.

In the end, it was a successful steak out. Less than 30 minutes start to finish. And Mom’s yard escaped unscathed.

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Feeling strange

For the past two days, I’ve been laid up. Seriously slept more than I was awake. Which is no surprise to my family — apparently I do this every time I “come home”. I think the past two weeks of insanity finally caught up with me, and my body just said, “NO!”

Today I’m feeling somewhat back to normal, though the strangeness continues around me:

1. Mr. Farmer is wearing suspenders

2. Obama won the Nobel Prize

3. I’m living in the house I grew up in. (Not sure I’ll EVER get over that one!)

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Conquering Mt. Quandary

As if packing up my office, packing up my house, driving 750 miles to Kansas, and driving 540 miles to Breckenridge weren’t enough in the past 10 days, I decided to climb a mountain yesterday. And not just a little guy with a nice view. We climbed Mt. Quandary, elevation 14,235.

For a little background, I’m spending the weekend in a 6-bedroom house south of Breckenridge with my two Colorado cousins and their 12 other friends. They’ve been doing this annual girls’ weekend for 7 years, and this is my fourth outing with them. In the past we’ve enjoyed 1-2 hour hikes out our back door, mainly through wooded areas and not very steep. And in fact I’ve come to like hiking quite a bit through these outings.

But let’s face it. Those were sissy walks in comparison to what we did yesterday.

Fortunately Mr. Farmer and I have been accumulating gear for the 4-day Milford Track hike in New Zealand, so I was dressed appropriately for the climb. It was in the 30s when we commenced, and we knew it was going to be in the 20s and windy at the summit. So thanks to Mr. Farmer’s keen hiking experience and superb outfitting skills, I had my Keen hiking boots, wool socks, a windbreaker with a fleece zip-in liner and hood, and a backpack with a load of water. And a lot of layers under that.

Our party of four (my two cousins and a friend of theirs) arrived at the trailhead at 10:45 (less than a 10-minute drive from our abode), put ourselves together, and hit the trail at 10:55.

(I don’t have a way to post pics yet, so check out another person’s photo account of the hike in a much warmer time of year by CLICKING HERE.)

Two guys in their 30s were starting out at the same time, and upon looking at the entry into the trail going up into the trees, one said, “I thought this was supposed to be a beginner one [14’er]”. Ha! Boy was he in for a surprise, as was I. Quite honestly, my heart was racing after the first 10 minutes, and though I was aware that the ascent was probably going to take four hours, it didn’t quite register. In retrospect, that part was a piece of cake.

After about an hour and a half we were above the tree line, and the misery was just about to begin. Steep loose rock, ice, wind. I didn’t freeze to death, by any means. But at times I couldn’t feel my fingers. I had to sit down about every 100 feet.

After two and a half hours we reached a flatter ridge that led us to the final ascent. The ridge was OK. But about 100 yards up the final leg, I said aloud, “This is freaking bananas.” And I repeated that phrase every 20 feet for the next 200 yards. Then my tune changed to “I don’t have to do this. I can just sit down.”

Just as I opened my mouth to say, “Uncle!” I heard voices from above yell, “COUSIN!” and I got off my bum and started up again. I somehow convinced myself that it would be a shame to come this far and not see the summit. (Meanwhile my cousins — aka mountain goats — seemed to be taking the whole thing in stride.)

At 3:15 we got to the icy, windy, tippy top of Mt. Quandary. The two guys we saw at the trailhead had passed us (but not by much), and they were up there to take pictures of us as we looked around at the AMAZING view. Truly stunning. Completely unobstructed views for 50-100 miles at the mountains all around, even out to the plains. We were on top of the world.

We only stayed about 5 minutes; the wind was brutal. I was the first to head out, and for me, the most enjoyable part of the hike was the first 30 minutes down. Finally I wasn’t panting, and though it was pretty treacherous negotiating the rocks and ice, it wasn’t the nightmare of the previous hour and a half.

I only had to stop a few times on the way down. We sat down for about 10 minutes for a snack, then I paused a few times to recover a little. What a relief to finally hit the tree line!

We arrived at the trailhead at 6:00 on the nose. 7 hours, 5 minutes after we set out. The sun was starting to slip behind the mountains, so we were glad we it didn’t take us longer. Our two vehicles were the last ones left in the lot.

When we arrived back at the house, the group was merrily cooking dinner and having cocktails. I said hello then headed down to my cave and flopped on the bed, unable to move. That hike kicked my butt. Finally around 8:30 I started to feel better.

Today I feel great! I’m sure the soreness will hit me in full force tomorrow, but for now I’m sitting in my cushy swivel rocker, drinking a cup of coffee and staring out the window at the peak I conquered yesterday. It’s truly a great sense of accomplishment. It’s the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever one. (And I will NEVER do it again.)

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