We love our technology, but in some ways we are taking the old road.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thing 28 - Customized Home Pages

Thing 28 in my library project is about customized home pages.

I used iGoogle to set up my page, since I have a Gmail account, my blog is on Blogger, and I use Google as my main search engine. Since I'm already oriented toward Google products, it seemed to make the most sense and be the most efficient option for me.

Getting started was quick & easy, but I found some parts of finding, installing, and organizing widgets quite challenging. I think there has to be a better way to link to some of the websites I use regularly. I thought there would be a handy way to link to Facebook, Twitter, and some other websites, but so far those are just on a list of bookmarks. I did find some Facebook-related applications, but they didn't look like anything I dared to add. Is there a security risk to adding all these little applications that ordinary people have invented? I hope to continue learning about this.

I added a Gmail reader, Google Reader for blog feeds, a to-do list (it's a cute yellow notepad), Google bookmarks, NPR news updates, time & date, local weather, a Wikipedia search box, a Google maps box, and TV listings. I actually had a hard time getting it organized. It's under two tabs by accident, which I resigned myself to. I don't need everything on that first page, I guess.

And it loads too slowly. That I don't like. It varies, but sometimes now I'm sitting there waiting for my home page to load when I open Internet Explorer. I have 3 meg DSL, so it's not like dial-up or something.

I like having Google Reader on my home page. I feel like I can branch out with following blogs, because I see new things when I open my start page, rather than having to go to so many sites. I find the themes fun - having a way to decorate my home page. And it is very handy to have Gmail just show up when I go online or go back to my home page to search. Otherwise I usually checked Gmail once a day and could miss messages, since it's not my primary e-mail.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Has Sprung!

A batch of my tulips has come up!

Last fall I put in two clusters of tulip bulbs after the ground was partially frozen. I was too busy until then. So I was out there in the cold with a bulb bit on my husband's drill, drilling holes in the ground and dropping in bulbs. That worked pretty well, actually, but it was work. I hoped they'd actually come up and not get eaten over the winter. So far, so good! We'll see if the deer find the green sprouts to be a nice salad, though.

I have two perennials coming up, too.

One was given to me by a neighbor; I think it's geranium/cranesbill. The other was given to me by my sister-in-law; it's butterfly bush or something like that. Both plants were divided from their gardens.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I've Seen Spring

It seems to be barely beginning here, but it's in full swing in Missouri:

We drove through an area in southern Iowa where there is an Amish community. We often see buggies there, and we weren't disappointed; we saw three.
Too early for the horse-drawn plows to be out, though.

We saw three museums on the University of Missouri campus. One was a room of plaster casts of ancient Greek statues:

We also saw their art museum, full of original artworks and artifacts from ancient Egypt to the current day. And we went to the department of anthropology's displays.

I really liked seeing the beautiful old buildings on the Mizzou campus:

Thomas Jefferson's original gravestone is there:

We also saw the library, which was hosting a display of rare books relating to Charles Darwin and earlier attempts to catalog and classify all of the animal species known.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cakes on the Griddle

I cook breakfast on the weekends. On Saturdays I alternate between pancakes and waffles, often accompanied by sausages or bacon. Sometimes my husband sings a bit of the John Denver song: "I've got me a fine wife, I've got my old fiddle, when the sun's comin' up I've got cakes on the griddle....Thank God I'm a country boy." (Yes, I asked him if I can tell people he does that, because no one else would ever hear him do such a thing.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Logs and Ents

My husband and his brother cut down a few dead trees today to prepare a spot for the orchard. I was looking out the window at what they'd accomplished and which trees still need to be cut down. And I noticed that those two trees in the middle look like Ents from the Lord of the Rings: arms, the trunks a little bent near the bottom like knees. They look like they're walking down the hill! Maybe I just have too much imagination.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Rash Announcement

So remember when I said I had scarlet fever, and then I said I didn't? Well, I was tested for measles (!) and German measles and so on and so forth. My tests just came back negative. Most likely I'm allergic to a medication. I'm an allergic person, so that's no surprise. And now I'm getting better!


I make homemade pizza every week. But I hadn't ever turned it into calzones before. My son spotted a picture in a cookbook and requested them, so I gave it a shot. It was my normal pizza dough divided into smaller sections and rolled out. I topped it with pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, pepperoni, and, for some, black olives and sliced mushrooms. I folded it over and pinched it like the edge of a pie crust, then brushed it with beaten egg. They take longer to bake than a pizza does, since they're thicker. But they were good. Not better than regular pizza, but a fun change.
Any kind of homemade bread is usually good!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thing 27 - Twitter

Library assignment alert!

Thing 27 was about Twitter. I signed up for Twitter after reading the huge amount of information about it first. My username is "betsytor", for "Betsy at The Old Road". At first I put my real first and last name in my profile, but I reconsidered after putting the Twitter badge on my blog. I don't want it to be that easy for someone to find me. So I changed to just my real first name.

I uploaded the picture from my blog as my avatar. I allowed it to do the search of my Gmail e-mail addresses and found one person to follow that way. Someone else I know posted her Twitter username on Facebook and invited everyone to follow her, so I did. I found another couple of people I know. I added the recommended institutions. I did a few searches (libraries, sustainable farming, and peanut allergy) to see what people were saying. And I've sent out a few tweets. I'm trying to keep my tweets focused on library/book topics, my blog and its topics, and food allergies, so that I'm not updating it with things like "betsytor is getting ready for a birthday party." I already use Facebook that way.

I can't say yet whether I like it or not. So I guess my answer is "ambivalent." Facebook grabbed me right away and kept me interested, but so far Twitter has not. If I find some interesting people to follow or find some things I can be interesting at, it could get better. Everything's just so short. If I knew someone's updates would be a good newsfeed for me, I'd be more captivated.

I can really see how Twitter would be a good PR tool for libraries. It would be a good way to advertise and remind people of events. You could post new acquisitions. You could post links to significant stories. What you post would depend on your type of library, but it could work like a brief, up-to-the-minute newsletter. It wouldn't even have to be time-consuming for the staff member doing it, because there's no layout to struggle with; type a sentence on the computer and you're done.

It could be useful to me as a blogger/writer. I would actually never have known that without the YouTube videos we watched. I could draw attention to my blog. I could become a person who posts lots of useful links on particular topics. It's another way of creating a public presence if you want to be known for something.

I've already suggested setting up a Twitter account to the leader of a group I belong to, and I think I'll make that suggestion to another. When you have a public group/organization that wants to let people know it exists, when its events are, what news stories are coming out on its main subject matter, Twitter is a new way to do that.


I do not have scarlet fever! Things have progressed and tests have come back and, no, that wasn't it. I can't yet report what it is - maybe in a couple of days. I just hope it isn't something else old-fashioned. I like Victorian houses, but not Victorian diseases, thank you very much.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Miss Scarlet

I have scarlet fever. Someone I know said to me, "How very Little House on the Prairie of you!"

You don't often hear of people having scarlet fever, but it's really just strep throat with a rash. It usually affects children, but I read that that's because 80% of children have developed immunity to those strains of strep by the time they're ten. Well, to my knowledge, I've never had strep throat, so maybe that's why I could get this as an adult. My daughter has regular strep throat right now; we seem to have contracted it the same day. She is truly miserable, but I'm mostly fine. It's like a cold that's not bad at all, but then I have these slightly itchy spots.

I decided to take a picture of my arms and hands, even though they aren't the worst of it and it's hard to see the spots in the picture. I'll spare you the sight of my belly!

Antibiotics are a wonderful thing. I shouldn't be contagious anymore by this afternoon.

Monday, March 16, 2009


You know what's not fun about living in the country? Mud. Especially when your driveway is new and your yard isn't completely seeded or sodded. The weather turns warm in the spring, the snow melts, but the ground isn't fully thawed.
Mud. I'm sure some people would say it is fun, actually. But I am not one of those people.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


It's spring, and my thoughts have turned to landscaping. I need some more flowers about the place. I want one of these:

And I need one of these:
Photo by Liz West

And, of course, one of these:

And I've never had one of these before, but I really want one:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

The weather's getting warmer; the snow's going to melt this weekend, at least for the time being. And I'm getting excited to see what my flower garden will do this spring. Right now it looks like dead weeds sticking up out of the snow, because I didn't trim down the transplanted perennials last fall. I hope, I really hope, that I'll have tulips and peonies and lilies and coneflowers and a variety of other flowers (or at least plants) coming up this spring.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rest in Peace, Sven

Sven was a Norwegian fjord horse. And, like we need to cry more...but I had to find a cowboy song, even though he was a draft horse: Gene Autry's The Last Roundup

My sister has the beautiful pictures of him. But I had to find something in tribute to my dad's gentle giant.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Venison Can Be Good

We've been eating a lot of venison this winter. My husband got a deer last fall. It was young enough and farm-field-fed enough to be quite tender and mild-tasting. I know vension can be gamey, and I can taste that this isn't beef, but this meat is good.

This was an economical way for us to get meat, too. My husband went deer hunting on our land, so there were no travel costs. And he and his brother processed the deer themselves, so we didn't have butcher shop costs. We didn't even have any sausage made. But he and I still need to thaw the bag of scraps and grind it into hamburger.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Christmas Decorations

Do you suppose I should take my Christmas lights and garland down from my porch yet?

I didn't do it right after Christmas, because it was so cold throughout January. The light strands would probably have snapped. So then it was easy to put it off to doing "some day when it's warmer." And my extension cord was frozen to the ground. I think I might be able to get that out now. It's March, for heaven's sake.

No, I haven't plugged them in since New Year's.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

My son made this strawberry shortcake. It's the biscuit variety, which we'd never tried before. I read in magazines that people in other parts of the country like biscuit-y shortcake, but after this experiment I'm still in favor of angel food cake as the base.
Can you tell I believe in teaching my children to cook?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Interesting Book

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is getting interesting. I've gotten past the introductory stuff on how they moved and how people nowadays don't understand where food comes from - all fine, but now the story is really beginning. I just finished the chapter on early spring when they began their year of eating locally.

First of all, I related to her when she talked about moving into their house before the doorknobs were put on! They renovated an old farmhouse, whereas we built new, but it's fun to be able to relate to an author's experience. They put in a small garden the first summer, but they were too busy with house-related stuff to really get going on food production. Been there, done that; we had a garden, but this year the fruit trees are going in, we're getting chickens, and we want to expand the garden.

Secondly, I'm enjoying her writing style. When she was saying that they were beginning their year in the early spring because their asparagus was ready to eat, but they were despairing of finding any locally-grown fresh fruit so early as they were heading to the farmer's market, I was thinking, "Rhubarb! She's going to find rhubarb!" I love it when a book makes me feel smart for figuring out a mystery.

She talked about how asparagus is only good the day it is picked. I have never in my life eaten truly fresh asparagus, so that intrigues me. Maybe it's like sweet corn. I wonder if people who don't live in an area where sweet corn grows have any idea how good it is. Sweet corn is not worth bothering with when you get it from the grocery store even the next day after picking, not to mention several days later. I have a vegetable gardening book that says that a developer of sweet corn varieties from the University of Illinois advised boiling your water first, then picking the corn and husking it as you run to the kitchen! I think my dad would agree with him.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I've just started reading this book. The author and her family moved to a farm and endeavored to eat only food "whose provenance we really knew." They grew their own or bought things that were locally produced. It should be interesting to read.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Good Eggs

I buy eggs from my parents, who have free-range chickens: beautiful Buff Orpingtons.

The best eggs in the world are farm-fresh from chickens that have eaten a natural, varied diet. Especially when the weather is warm and they're eating green things and insects, the eggs have so much flavor.

Two of my kids had never eaten an entire fried egg in their lives. They thought they were yucky. The first time they tried the free-range eggs with dark yellow yolks, they loved them and cleaned their plates. Fresh eggs also fry and poach much more neatly, so they look nicer, too.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


We have some great sledding hills on our farm. The great thing about the newest one we've tried is that you can go really far and not run into anything.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Thing 26

In my library project, Thing 26 is "Join the 23 Things Ning".

I joined just now in round 2 because I didn't participate in round 1. I uploaded my photo. I sent messages to two members; one is my new co-worker and one is someone I knew in my community years ago. I also joined my library system's group.

As far as seeing uses for a Ning, I imagine it's useful for networking and for discussing ideas more easily with people outside of your own library. It would depend on how much activity the Ning sees; the more often people are on it having discussions, the more value it would have. Otherwise you'd be putting a question out there and getting silence in response. It could work kind of like a meeting you could access anytime you had something to ask or share. I was really hoping it would be a way to get back in touch with people I've worked with in libraries years ago, but there are so few real photos and not even that many real names that I didn't find many people I know.

The only other Ning I've ever seen was for an alumni group, so I'm not sure I understand how a Ning could work for me in my personal life. If they work basically like discussion boards on the Internet, just a grouping of people discussing a topic, then I can see lots of potential uses for them; they would be a way to facilitate communication for any group.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


One of the things I like about living in the country again is being able to see the sunrise. In town, the sunrise and sunset were usually behind all the houses. Now we see the sun come up over the horizon many mornings when we're out waiting for the bus or when we look through our bedroom windows while we're getting ready to go. I grew up with open space around our house, so to me that feels right. I know I'm lucky, though.