Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Best And Most Interesting Thing That Has Ever Happened To Me.

It was around twenty one years ago that I first met the woman that would wind up being married to me for 17 years, as of today, our anniversary. Unfortunately for me, I have no real recollection of that first meeting with her, most likely due, if I know the Daniel Foster of twenty one years ago, to the ingestion of a large amount of intoxicating substance, perhaps legal and perhaps not. However, sooner than later, after a real life changing encounter with Christ, I soon learned to master the ability to recollect meeting people and I do indeed recall the next time I  met her. Even that time, I wasn't just "blown- away" by her, most certainly because of my own shallowness and self interest getting in the way. We became friends quickly enough though, and "long story shortened," after a lengthy friendship we began dating, then became engaged, then married. I was so proud of her in those months prior to getting married and in retrospect, must have quite disgusted my coworkers in regaling them with the many glowing traits of my wife-to-be, not the least of these were her kindness, her work ethic, her uncommon good sense, her commitment to God, and her creativity. I thought I knew her so well.

There was just one little problem with this; in reality, I barely knew her at all. The reality is that while I wasn't wrong about any of these things, I had NO idea of the depth of this person or the depth of these character traits that she exhibited. "Herself," or more often "SMOKIN' HOT MAMA!" (she is known as either in our household) is all of those things listed above, but on a much, much deeper level than I could have ever have imagined. Those of you who know her, know that to say something like "Brynn is a creative person," is like saying "Donald Trump is a little full of himself". Now she seems the most interesting person I've ever met; how can one person be ALL of these things? Someone so sensitive to people around her, and not just sensitive to them, but a willingness to reach out and be kind to them? And sensitive enough to try REALLY HARD to be understood completely.  It is so startling to me, who is always "doing fine, thank you" and expects you to do the same, whether you are or not. And the term "common sense" doesn't begin to cut it. How many times have I been enraged at something, only to be talked off the ledge by Herself?

But it's the creative side of her that I find so enchanting. As something of a shy introvert, she spends a good deal of her days dreaming up things that are so fantastic to me (I mean that in the sense of the unreal, or unbelievable) that I am never quit to be amazed, and in diverse media, as well. There is the creation of food, bags, jewelry, clothes, wall hangings, decorating; it goes on and on. And it seems to be drawn from a well so deep that it is seemingly bottomless, and she draws from that well of creativity almost out of compulsion. She just oozes creativity; sometimes I feel like a Cro-magnon man, standing around, drooling, while she creates masterpieces all around her, and, at the risk of sound gushy, creating these astounding symphonies of food, complete with a melody and multi-part harmonization; how many times has she asked me (as if I had an opinion) "don't you think this would go well with this?" To which all I can do is scratch my bottom and reply, "I dunno, it sounds kinda weird." But upon tasting it, it isn't weird, it's amazing; who can do that, imagine up new food? I mean, that tastes good. Consistently, even! How did I ever get this girl? I'm the definition of the complete opposite of her finer senses; the things I enjoy doing are base, earthy things that peasants have done for millennia: growing food like fruits and vegetables, raising animals, butchering animals, milking animals, curing/smoking meat, just basically providing food. 

I'll do everyone a favor and not wax eloquent about all the other things that I could go on and on about.  But, without any hint of doubt, the last 17 years of my life have been the best, and Brynn, you are certainly the most interesting thing that has ever happened to me!  Thank you for making these 17 years so interesting...

First frost

After I got done milking this morning (Saturday), I walked to what we refer to as "The Low Pasture" to check up on the beasts there. I had already noticed that it was quite cool, and there was a serious frost upon the windows and the vegetation, the first "killing frost" we've had this year. As I walked through the crunchy grass, breaking off frozen blades in the bright, sharply angled, winter sunlight, I heard a gentle pop, and turned to see what it was.  But as I looked, I could see nothing; all I saw were trees and a single leaf floating to the ground. Still looking, listening intently on this almost perfectly still morning, the air just barely stirred, nearly imperceptibly.  Then just as I felt the air move I heard it again; pop... pop... and then popopopopopopopop! The sound was actually the noise the leaf makes when disconnecting from the tree.  I witnessed the very moment when all things came into place for the time to be right to start dropping leaves, and did they ever!  These Mulberry trees that have been standing over my property for most of a century prior to it becoming my property were dropping leaves like rain, covering the ground like a blanket as the very light breeze did gentle violence to the trees.  I walked closer and couldn't help but drop to my knees in the frosty grass, crushed by the beauty and splendor of the moment, to give thanks and worship the God that put me in such a place that allows me to be the intimate witness to the unhurried undressing of these trees, yet some of them for reasons unknown, seemed to shed their coverings more hurriedly than others, like a young husband anxious to slide between the sheets with his bride.

And then just in time, lest this moment be spoiled by not having anyone with which to share it, my very nearly 12-year-old son Isaiah happened along with his new bb-gun looking for something to shoot.  I beckoned him over and he knelt down patiently beside his very strange father and together we enjoyed the quiet cacophony of half a dozen trees exfoliating in this still, bright morning.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

On 'Steins and farm kids...

For those who haven't had the pleasure, be pleased to meet Buttercup (in the foreground) and her young progeny (in the aft-ground), Petunia.
I distinctly remember when my dad, a grizzled old veteran of 72 nearly continuous years of cattle ranching, first laid eyes on Buttercup.  He laughed and laughed, and smugly informed me that "You THINK you bought a cow; but you didn't.  You bought a "'STEIN!" (His diminutive name for Holstein) I didn't know what he meant exactly, and when I expressed my confusion, he just chortled into his sleeve and told me enigmatically, "You'll see... I don't know what they think they are, but they certainly don't consider themselves cows... Just you wait, you'll see."

And so I did. At first, it was cute.  If I was kneeling down, working on a piece of equipment, like a grain cart (something she is fond of), she was right there behind me, and I mean RIGHT there, with her huge white and black melon right next to mine, and I mean RIGHT next to mine, breathing heavily into my ear, whilst she endeavored to figure out what I was doing. As I said, I thought it was cute that she was interested in what I was doing. I never thought about it much but it did seem that I was going through feed faster than usual.  So I started paying attention from the house. Sure enough, there she was, working the lever with with her nose, spilling feed out all over the ground and gorging herself on it...  Uh, oh: I bought a 'Stein...

She has other tricks, as well; she apparently has some incredible bladder and bowel control; she seemingly can wait all day until you're ready to milk her before she cuts loose with both, just to let you know how she feels about you messing around with her "momma parts" back there.  But the real kicker was the other day after recently bringing them both home after spending the summer on pasture waiting to calve; it's my habit to just look for them as I go in and out of the house and reassure myself that they aren't getting into any mischief.  If I don't see them, I don't worry, but in the back of my head, I make a mental note and make sure that I can see them next time.  Well, I hadn't seen them all afternoon long, and was just a little worried about what they were up to, but I was too busy breaking plumbing parts in the basement, alternating from spraying water everywhere out of a 3/4" pipe, and making trips to the hardware store, so I didn't take the time to actually go check on them.

So, on the return home from the FOURTH trip to the hardware store, I noticed a decidedly "frosty" attitude in the kids as I saw them stomping around, carrying brooms, shovels and scoops. "Uh oh!, says I, maybe I better clear out, let whatever happened settle down a little."  So, a little while after busily breaking plumbing parts and fixing them over and over again got boring, I went out and looked at what was going on.  So apparently, my 'Stein figured out how to work the latch on the barn door and managed to not only get in, but allow her progeny to come in, AND shut the door behind them so that it didn't become obvious that something was awry at the Thistle and Lily farm/ranch.

You might ask yourself, what is the big deal? Animals in the barn? Isn't that what a barn is for? Well, yeah, technically that is true, but here at the Thistle and Lily, our barn is a milking barn, which means to us, we at least try to keep it clean to cut down on the amount of flies. But having 2 huge 'Steins in it ALL DAY LONG GORGING THEMSELVES ON GRAIN does not lend itself to a clean barn at all.  Luckily for me, I didn't even have to hardly lift a finger.  The kids were all out in the barn when I got there, spraying it down, but decidedly "huffy," and mumbling farmy/homeschooley swear words under their breath: "dad-gum, dirty, stupid polka-dot fatso Holstein, she musta not poo-ed for a week, saving that up... Why can't we have a nice little Jersey, instead of a big lardo-butt like Blubberbutt (her name whenever she's done something bad...)"

But anyway, the point is this; No, I do not have a cow. Yes, I have a 'Stein.  Again, she is not a cow; I don't know what she is, maybe a 1600 pound lapdog, is my best guess.  But what I do have, is some pretty darn good kids that help out.  Very nice!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Public Service Anouncement

Attention, fellow clueless males; think of this as a Public Service Announcement. I have a cousin who recently posted about some dumb schlep asking her friend if she was pregnant (she wasn't.) I may be clueless, but I've never done THAT. Why, you ask? Because I have a little checklist that I go through every time I wonder if someone is pregnant that I MUST have an affirmative answer to before I feel its okay to ask that question. Remember, BOTH questions must be a yes before it is okay to ask!
Number 1). Is the either the baby "crowning," or is there someone standing next to you in scrubs telling her to "push?"
Number 2). You are reasonably sure that you are the father.
Remember those two simple questions to ask yourself prior to asking a woman if she is pregnant, and I feel confident that you will never be embarrassed. Or, even better yet, DON'T EVEN ASK SUCH A STUPID QUESTION, MORON! ODDS ARE YOU WILL BE SORRY, ANYWAY! Let them tell you... Sheesh! Dudes...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

RV Vacation of 2016: last leg, Headed home

So as we were heading out California, towards Vegas, I noticed that we are headed east on a 3 lane highway and it seems we have the whole thing to ourselves.  But the perplexing thing is that the other side of the highway is also 3 lanes, but it looks like a parking lot! And as we drove and drove, for hours, it still looked like a parking lot!  Why is east bound empty, and west bound crammed completely full of cars barely moving???  Finally, I think I figured it out... It was Sunday afternoon.  The end of the weekend.  All these cars were coming home from Vegas!! It was dumbfounding to me the volume of cars.  I obviously have no real concept of how many people there really are in CA, because if that many people left Kansas for a weekend, you would just have shut Kansas down, because there wouldn't be anybody left to run it...

Anyway, we blew through Vegas as fast as we could, camped at lake Mead, drove to the Hoover dam to see it, and they wouldn't let us through the inspection/checkpoint to go across it because I had a firearm in the vehicle.  I was so bummed and disappointed!  This has been a life long dream and goal of mine; I've always been fascinated by the Hoover dam and wanted to see it. In retrospect, I should have ejected the magazine, and chucked my handgun out the window and into the ditch.  It would be a lot cheaper than buying two tickets back to Vegas just to see the Hoover Dam! Which is what will eventually happen.

But we soldiered on; we went Northeast on Highway 15 up through Utuh.  I was pretty impressed with Utah; 15 goes for a significant way up in between what appears to be two mountain ranges.  We were driving in a large valley, green grass, cattle grazing, hay country.  It was quite rainy, and once we got up to interstate 70, our elevation was around 7-8000 feet. The rain clouds seemed impossibly close.  But the real shocker for the whole trip was that part of Utah!  Sooo beautiful!  I guess it may have been just the unexpectedness of it, but I was so taken with all the buttes and mesas.  The freshness of the rain I suppose, really brought out all the coloration, but I loved seeing the heavy, dark clouds just barely scoot across the tops of the mesas, sometimes scraping off a little puff of clouds from the underside of it.  Then it just gets stuck there alongside the mesa, like a pouty little fat kid who can't quite make it over the fence like his friends just did...

As I was driving this great big RV through these canyons and valleys in between the mesas and buttes, I felt totally dwarfed by them.  I would come around a corner and see this massive, miles long butte that would split the highway and I had a sense of being a little tiny rowboat at sea, just about to be plowed over by this massy Battleship that was three-quarters of a mile high and miles long.  The whole time I was driving this, I kept thinking: "I never knew this was here; why didn't anyone tell me??!!" So now I am telling you: Utah Rocks!

This is at a scenic look out along the highway 70

So we went to our last National Park of our trip in Utah: Arches National Park.  It was well worth seeing!  Very impressive.  We drove most of it, but stopped at one place and did some hiking and climbing.

This is called "the three gossips"
Cathedral Rock
Then? We jumped back in the RV and drove all the way home!  We stopped twice in Colorado for gas, and once in Kansas, but we made it home by 1:00 AM.  I drove 16 hours that day. The best part of going away is coming home!!!

RV Vacation of 2016: Fourth leg, Coastal CA

Then when we came out of YNP, we shot over west to San Francisco.  Of course we had to go over the Golden Gate Bridge...
And then we went to the Golden Gate Park, where they had a pretty good museum, but an even better free place to view the city.  It was a pretty good illustration to show the kids population density;  San Fran has about 1.5 the population of our Wichita, but in about 25% of the space.  There is only 2 ways to get that kind of  density, and that is to either stack them on top of each other or shoe-horn in together like sardines; and San Fran does it both:

We just parked our big ol' boat (illegally, I might add) at the park and rode the bus/trolley system around; that whole overhead electrical thing is a real trip, and I don't know if it is just gimmicky or what, but it messed up several times and the driver has to get out and throw the Flopper thingy back onto the wires several times.  The local people were very helpful about getting around (if not always correct.)  We rode down to the Ferry Station where they had a lot of local restaurants and food suppliers where we all got samples of fun foods.  We even tried mushroom popsicles; they were yummy! 

Freshly baked Kalimantan Olive Bread. 

Isaiah's first taste of Oysters! He prefers beef...

Riding inside the funny trollies.  They were actually pretty cool; they were made out of real metal and seemed quite solid.

The famous Pier 39 in San Francisco.

Trying the Mushroom Popsicle. 

From San Fran we just worked our way down the coast; we took State Highway One, or the Coastal Route, or Pacific Coast Highway, or just PCH.  It just follows the coast pretty much all the way to LA.  It isn't the fastest way, but that's ok, we are on vacation; we're looking for experiences! And was it ever!  I've never seen the "Big Sur" before, and it is impressive!!  Beautiful vista after beautiful vista with cliffs, beach after beach, cliffs, lighthouses, etc, etc, ad nauseum! I don't have many pictures of this as I was driving, and we didn't really stop much.

 It was a little difficult finding a place to camp, at least finding a place that wasn't 200.00 bucks a night.  "are you serious??? for a place to park??!!" But we found a few places that were affordable, at least comparatively. We had been spoiled by several places that accepted our Half-off membership of Passport America; we stayed several places that were 15-20 bucks a night.  Anyway, this next place was the first place the kids got to get into the ocean; they loved it!, especially Emma, but it didn't love her, she developed a skin rash from it.

One of the places we stayed was close to the beach at was SeaCliff State Beach, which is near Santa Cruz.  In the picture below, you see a sunken concrete ship.  Yes, a concrete ship. It was actually built (according to locals) about a 100 years ago for service in WWI, but it and its twin was completed just as the war was over, so an entertainment company bought it and parked it here and hosted dinners and dances on it for several years prior to going out of business and just pulling the plugs and letting it sink.
Big brother telling little brother all about it.
From there we landed at the Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, CA.  As you can see in the background of the picture below, it is a real wharf, with real fishermen; albeit most of the boats below are most likely more for pleasure than for working, I suspect.  But along the Wharf, you can get some really good seafood.  We recommend the chowder at "Old Fisherman's Grotto;" it has been a standby restaurant for generations at the wharf. They have an outside "to go" restaurant right next to their very swanky "sit down" restaurant that is really nice.  I know this because I used the bathroom and saw all the pictures of the owner/manager with famous celebs and big shot politicians, etc.  Anyway, it was good.  There were lots of other outdoor restaurant along this wharf, so we just wandered and grazed as had become our wont, just buying a few things to eat and experience and sharing it around; crab cakes, oysters, fish and chips, other chowders. You get the idea...  It was fun. 

There were a lot of things to do and see (and eat) at the wharf, including a museum, but we didn't stick around too long. Our usual M.O. is breeze in, eat, and breeze back out; keep moving.

I actually had to pull over and take this shot; when I saw the cattle grazing within 25 feet of the ocean cliff, I thought, "what a life, what a view, munching grass within the sound of the ocean pounding the rocks of the Big Sur..."

As we were driving, we saw signs stating that you could see the Elephant Seals if you were in the right season.  Well, apparently, we were there in the right season; there were literally 10's of thousands of them flopped out, sunning themselves.  It was so cool getting to see these huge beasts.

Then we stayed near Prismo Beach, in Santa Barbara.  Its good to see there are idiots everywhere: Apparently money can buy you a brand new Dodge dually; money can buy you a really nice toy-hauler/RV, and money can buy you whatever toy that goes in the back of the toy-hauler, but money, unfortunately, can't buy you brains... Dude drove that rig out in the soft sand and BURIED it... 


Prismo Beach was very nice; the kids loved the ocean even though the water was still QUITE chilly.  I did not love the ocean... I'm a sissy, I guess.

As we turned our great big bus toward home, we had only one regret; that we hadn't really had the opportunity to stop at one of the many farms, vineyards, or citrus groves and kind of "nose-around" a little, because I'm so interested in the way they farm here in Cali.  I saw this vineyard on google maps, and pulled in; it was right on our way.  As I walked around and looked over their operation, it occurred to me that they not living in this privileged agrarian paradise; they live in a horrible desert, and are just making the best of it.  They have the crappiest soil imaginable, just rocks and clay, and almost zero natural rain water; they have to irrigate everything, all the time.  The only natural resource is sunshine. Now as far as natural resources go, that is a good one, especially if it never freezes.

Grape press

More Grapes

Still more Grapes
This concludes the california portion of our trip; we were headed east, back home, with just a few more stops on the way.

RV Vacation of 2016: Third leg, Eastern CA

So in addressing California, I really struggled with my approach to it.  I have such mixed feelings; I want to like it, there is just so much to not like about it.  The  politics, the arrogant attitude of the inhabitants, all the people, etc.  But in the end, I feel that I came away with a better view of California and Californians in general, and while I wouldn't want to live there, I guess I kind of get it now.  A little.  A very little, but a little.  It is magnificent in so many ways, and so stark in so many others.  Anyway, we went from the Grand Canyon to Sequoia National Park.  Talk about an eye-opener!  Everybody needs to see one of these up close.

General Sherman is said to be the largest (by mass) living thing in creation.  While it is the largest, it is not the tallest, nor the oldest.  It was still alive while Christ walked the earth, though.  Pretty impressive, I'd say!
From there we went to Yosemite National Park. YNP was great, it was awesome, but it was kind of spoiled by all the people there; it was really crowded, at least by my thinking, even though I realized that was nothing compared to their REALLY busy season.  But it was very impressive!
This was just through the big tunnel; the iconic view: the large formation to the left is El Capitan, the "broken beak" looking one behind the round one in the middle is Half Dome, and the falls are called Yosemite Falls. 

Upper Yosemite Falls.

Lower Yosemite Falls

The kids loved rock-climbing.  Here, I show them how an experienced "Rock-Sitter" makes it happen... 
That pretty much wraps up our Eastern California portion of our trip.