Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Retaining Walls & Steep Banks

Retaining walls.....whew I need some big ones.  The back yard really slopes off.  It has a lot of trees with roots and rocks.  There were a bunch of brick stones that are used for retaining walls in front of the house, that the previous owner had put there.  Of course, I don't want them there, so I decided to move them to the back of the house.  Those things are HEAVY!  I would put 4 or 5 in the wheelbarrow at a time.

These are them. I would like another color, but these are what I have.
****OMG, I had forgotten how ugly those green shutters were (as purchased) check out the Before & After Vacation House.

OK, I have never built a retaining wall.....How hard can it be?  I got my shovel, a hoe, and a level.  Since, I can't do the whole yard.  I thought I would use them around a tree or two, in order to form a level area for flowers.

The ground is sloping, so if you just placed the block on the would be sloping too. Start your first block in the lowest area, which was below the tree.   If, I had started on the side on higher ground, things would not work out.  I had to level the dirt before placing the first block.  As, I went around the tree, I had to dig into the dirt more and more to get the block level, as I was going up hill.  Therefore, only the lower area, below the tree is done.

This was NOT a fast task....anyone can do it, it just took Patience....Then after you get your first one placed, move on to block two.  Now you have to make sure it is level from front to back AND level to the one next to it.    I am excited to add some good dirt and hostas on my next trip over.  And, do another tree.  Yep, more blocks to move from the front yard.

I need a picture of the side to show you.  But the last stone that you see on the top level on each side of the tree, 1/2 of it is resting on dirt.  If I wanted to go further around the tree, I would have to go 3-4  high on what I already have laid. I?

June 2013, I took another picture for you of the side.  Looks different from the above picture.  Plants and mulch and some rocks that I picked up to finish the circle.
Some of the rocks I have ran into.
Check back for an update on the retaining walls.  I have been busy here at home dividing hostas and grasses to take over on my next trip.  Why buy plants, when I can divide the ones that I have.  And speaking of grasses. We have a bank out in front that is steep between the front fence and road.  It is really hard to mow and a lot of it doesn't have anything growing.  I have some grass.  I call it Monkey Grass, but it may be something else.  It grows really good for me.  Matter of fact it wants to take over in some places, so I dug up two Kroger Paper sacks full up and took it to AR and planted it on that bank.  I hope it goes Crazy!

I mentioned Rocks.....We did some leveling with the tractor on one trip over and oh my, the rocks.....I started throwing them in a pile, next to trees....I don't want the lawnmower to hit them.  I guess that is why you see rock walls in peoples yards and gardens in the hills.  I made a rock garden with some grasses and Brown-eyed Susans.  Excuse the weeds, I sprayed them.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Last Racing Weekend!

Life has been a little busy around here and we haven't been able to get away to our home Arkansas as much as we would like.  We did go this past weekend thou.  It was a must!  It had been a month and it was the Last weekend of Racing at Oaklawn.  That would be Thoroughbred Horse Racing.  The Arkansas Derby was running on Saturday, which was the last chance to earn points at Oaklawn to advance to the Kentucky Derby. The Arkansas Derby is a Million dollar purse.  So we were excited that we would watch a horse run that would be at the Kentucky Derby.

We spent ten hours at the track that day.  We started out with Dawn at Oaklawn. On certain mornings, Oaklawn host this event at 8am.  They provide coffee and pastries, you get to watch the morning workouts and they have several speakers.

They also offer barn tours on one of the vans.  I was excited to get behind that fence and see the going ons.

We only saw a couple of fancy trailers.....Not what you would expect expensive race horses to traveling in.

This is nice!

All the barns are named after famous race horses.

On the tour our bus driver pointed out a log building that was just inside the fence that is for track people, but said we could eat there to.  He explained that you better be going straight to the restaurant.  He also said food in there was about half the cost of anything inside the track.  Since, we had a lot of time to kill, we decided to go have a late breakfast.  The breakfast was HUGE! For five dollars, I got scrambled eggs, hash browns, a biscuit with gravy, (YUM) and 3 pieces of bacon.  Lots of trainers and barn help filtered in and out.  Some just came in to place their wagers for the day.  Yep, they had several machines in there, so bets could be placed.
I was really glad that I got out of bed and went!  I see me making several early trips next year.  And hey, when you go that early, you get to park, Really close!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Have you fallen off the wagon?

Checking in today....How many of you are still on your New You plan?  I have to admit....I have been slacking.  I haven't been taking my vitamins like I should and I haven't been drinking enough water.  NO.....I have NOT fallen back into Diet Cokes, just to much Sweet Tea (made with sugar).  I am trying my best to stay away from any artificial sweeteners and anything that has Diet, Low Calorie.

Have I mentioned how much better I feel, since getting off the Diet Coke?  I am telling YOU, I was stiff and felt like what an eighty year old probably feels like.  Have you looked up Artificial Sweeteners, the side affects?  It is scary!  There are other things on the list that I suffered with too.... There are  many people that have been diagnosed with MS that do not have is the sweeteners.

Do You suffer from:
Fibromyalgia symptoms
Shooting pains
Numbness in your legs
Slurred Speech
Blurred Vision
Memory Loss
Mood changes (what female doesn't?)
Weight gain
Anxiety attacks
Heart palpitations
Joint Pain

ASPARTAME POISONING is escalating Alzheimer's Disease
If is says Sugar Free...stay away from it.

Here is an article:

Have a great day!  Let me know if you are suffering from your consumption of Diet Products.

"You are never a loser, until you quit trying." (Mike Ditka)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Exterior Light Fixtures

I wanted new light fixtures for our home in AR.  Something more craftsman to go with the shutters that we made.  We had a problem....The only ones that we could find...The light hung below were it attached to the wall.  This would have made the light to low on the house. 

Like, so many things, I said, "I will just paint them!"

 Of course, I didn't get a picture of the BEFORE. Before we started doing anything to it.  The fixture had a long pole on the bottom. It was at least 12" long and ugly  We just removed it and decorative piece that was on the end of the pole just screwed right into the bottom the light fixture. 

Not wanting to deal with an electric wiring, I decided to paint the fixture on the house.  I taped newspaper on the brick all around the fixture.  Taped off real good around where it mounted to the brick. We then took the top off of the fixture and slide the glass pieces out.  Since the top was off, I just put them on a table and  painted.  I used two colors, a Bronze and a Black.  First, I painted with the Bronze and lightly misted with the Black.  I was trying to achive that look that is on everything these days.  I think, I did a pretty good job.  We had also wanted lights with a motion sensor.  We couldn't find a motion sensor that would look ok in the light fixtures so, we just purchased some dusk to dawn sensors to put in them.  After everything dried, we put it all back together.  Hey, I am telling you....If I can do it, SO can you!

Now, it has some presence against the wall, before it just blended.  By painting two light fixtures, I saved at least $100 dollars.  Yeah!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What are you into?

Good Morning!  We have enjoyed a couple of Beautiful days here in TN.  Now, the rain...I think all us have gotten it or your in line to get it.  Thank goodness, we only had rain, not the huge storm that was forecasted. Over the last couple of days, I took full advantage of spending some time outdoors.  Yesterday, I went out to feed the horses and then got right into doing some gardening.  My oldest daughter called and asked what I was doing.  I said, "Gardening." She says, "It is only 7:30 in the morning."  I explain it is a beautiful morning.  In the Spring and Summer that is usually what I do.  I feed the horses, sit and drink another cup of coffee outside, (in my little Oasis, Check out the Barnominium)  watch the wildlife or I garden.  Then, I turn the horses out and do more gardening.  I think this is Funny......I have always done this, but when she was home, she was she is at work. 

The Monkey Grass had gone Crazy!  I dug up 2+ Paper Grocery bags full.  One, I am sending to the school for their FFA Spring Plant sale and other I am taking to AR to plant on a step bank.

I dug up more stuff too, it is going to the AR house.

I save my milk jugs...Anyone else do that?  I had cut several off straight across and put some cuttings in them.  Then, I was looking at it and thought, Why didn't I leave the handle on...for easy moving...Duh!
The next ones that I cut, I left the handle on the jug, sure makes things easier. :)

The other thing that I did yesterday was I hauled my recyclable things to the bin.  My parents and some of you have the benefit of having recyclables picked up on the curb.  I have to haul mine 10 miles to the closest town with a bin.  Therefore, I usually have a load!  I go that way to grocery shop, but I forget to take what I have already collected with me.  By the time, I do....It is a chore.  I have to work on that!

I save Newspaper, Cardboard, and Plastic.  The bin, I go to has compartments for each of these. If everyone would help with recycling it would help our landfills a great deal.  Plastic takes FOREVER to break down.  How many of you recycle?  Follow my blog and leave me comments.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

2013 TN FFA Convention & Gatlingburg, TN

      I know some of my readers know what FFA is.  Future Farmers of American is a National organization that High School and College Students belong to.  I was a FFA member and both of my daughters as well.  The quote at the top of my page about judging a cow thru the mud came from my FFA adviser.  This organization will teach you things that you will use through your entire life. Following all my babble about our trip and pictures is a paper that Brianna wrote about FFA for a Scholarship application.

I was the first Girl President of the Bartlett, TN Chapter

     This is my youngest daughters Senior year and her last to attend a convention. My mom and I drove up to see her receive the State Farmers Degree.  She was also competing in the Job Interview Contest in which she finished 4th in the State.

     We went up on Monday and stayed till Wednesday, but we only attended the last session on the last day.  I don't remember the actual convention being so much fun. They have added fun things into the meetings, such as some entertainment, dancing and lights flashing.  What I remember is boring meetings and just wanting to get out on the street to look at boys.....and all the blue coats running around.  And this has changed too....It use to be a majority of boys and a few girls.  Now, I think it might be 50/50, if not more girls. I know my daughters chapter took four boys and fourteen girls. And the advisers are strict on official attire. There were not a lot of blue coats on the streets.  The kids would change into regular clothes after the meetings.  We would just change out of our skirt, into a pair of jeans and comfortable shoes.  It was fun to see where everyone was from.  I missed that this time.

Waiting to get into the conference room!

Some of the Brighton Group

Finally in and getting seated.

Dancing...We didn't do this!

More dancing & fun!

I almost missed her!

2012 Officers

Retired Jackets and new officers

Brianna and one her besties!

This is how it always looked.....back when I use to attend.  Not just after a meeting.

Gatlingburg, TN has really changed too! The last time that I was in Gatlingburg was in 1983 and my last convention was in 1980.  Wow.....that was a long time ago! The town has really turned into a tourist trap like Branson, MO.   Lots of shows there and in Pigeon Forge.  The Brighton kids always attend the Dixie Stampede.  (Note: they don't give you any silverware or plastic) They have trolleys to help you to get around and will even take you over to Dollywood. This is a good thing, because the traffic is horrific.  But, with that said, it is still in the beautiful mountains with the National Park right there at the edge of town.

We stayed at the Greystone Lodge at The Aquarium at the other end of the strip.  Away from the convention.  We got a good rate, (under construction, I didn't know)  good continental breakfast and the view off of our balcony was beautiful.  But.....It was kinda weird getting to your room.  You have a certain garage to pull in and there are doors numbered with the hotel room numbers.  You park close to your door and then when you walk in, your room is right there across the hall.  I hate garages.....and anyone could have walked in, no card reader on the doors from the garage, and we were kinda secluded from the office/main building.   We were way down the hallway, so to go out walking we had to walk down that long hallway (with all those doors going out into the garage) and walk out the end of the building, which was kinda secluded.  Wish I had taken a picture which is more than a thousand words.  Point is, I wouldn't have picked this hotel to stay in with my mom.  And it was after dark when we got back the first night.....I had wanted to go on the Haunted Trail that has a guide leaving a cemetery, but after being a little creeped out.  I decided against it. 

    I am not a scaredy cat, just cautious!  I EVEN scared the pee out of one the Maintenance men.  We were coming back into the hotel.  You had to walk between buildings and down a sidewalk and then round the corner to the door.   My mom opened the door to the building and it let out a horrible screech and I screamed.  (I have no idea way!) The maint. man was coming down the stairs and thought he had scared me.  @@@@ I didn't even see him.....maybe I did.

Pictures from our balcony.  This would have been really nice if it had not been cold and snowing.  I would stay there again, IF I could book a room in the building that is under renovation.  It's room doors are right there on the front of the building and parking LOT.

You can see the snow.

My Mom

Me wishing I had a hat!

In front of a show.

The trolley that takes you up on top of the mountain.  $11 round trip

On top of the mountain

Ice Skating.
   They also have Snow skiing, tubes to slide down in, and wildlife outside.  It was very crowded in this area, so we went up to the lounge and had lunch and watched it snow. 

Some of the lifts

The ride back down. They really pack you in there. Capacity 120

She is running away, she didn't want a picture

Another picture from our room

All and all we had a good trip and it was nice spending a few days with just my mom.  I wish the weather had been just a little nicer.  We walked our legs off and couldn't take advantage of any of the many benches because they were wet and it was to cold to sit around.

Following is a paper that Brianna wrote for a Scholarship opportunity.  I hopes she wins!

          I just got home from my final trip to the Tennessee FFA Convention.  Being a member of FFA for the past four years has given me many opportunities and memories that I will carry with me for my lifetime.  A person can gain a lot of qualities from being in a club and I have definitely done this through FFA. Becoming a FFA member provides many opportunities to gain confidence, leadership abilities, and responsibility.
           Confidence is a good quality to have. There are various competitions throughout the year that FFA members can compete in that build confidence.  These competitions range from Opening and Closing Ceremonies for freshman to Prepared Speaking and Job interview for upper classmen. When competing in these events, you must keep a positive attitude and have confidence to succeed. This year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and compete in Job Interview. On competition day when I walked into that room, I knew I had the confidence that I needed for this competition. Why did I have the confidence?  Our FFA advisors work hard helping us  prepare for our events.  I got first in the preliminaries, advanced to finals the next day, and placed second in the West Tennessee Region.  At this point, I had to prepare for the state competition at State Convention. My advisor helped me get prepared for state, by having me interviewed daily by different schools administration.  I ended up placing fourth in the state and I am very proud of my accomplishment.  I would have loved to place higher, but you never know if you can reach your goals if you do not step out of your comfort zone.
            Another quality one can gain from being in the FFA is leadership abilities. There are many times when one will have to work with a team.  It is important to realize everyone’s strengths.   When each individual’s strengths are used, the team will finish the task at hand not only faster but also better.  A person must also realize that being a leader does not mean always being in charge. A leader is someone that can listen to other’s opinions and take charge when needed, but also step back and be a follower when necessary.
            Responsibility is important for everyone’s future. This organization can definitely teach a teenager just that. Whether one decides to run for office, show livestock, or compete in a Career Development Event (CDE) each of these activities require responsibility.  If a person decides to run for chapter office, they are going to have duties and responsibilities to uphold.  They will be in charge of chapter meetings, fundraisers, and other activities.  When someone decides to show livestock or compete in a CDE they have made a commitment to do their best.  Showing up to meetings and practices shows responsibility.
            As the last session of the last and final FFA Convention for me came to a close, it was bittersweet. I looked back over the last four years of being a FFA member.  I thought about the Summer Camps that we hosted and attended, contests that I competed in, serving as an officer, and I smiled.  All of these events helped to build the confidence, leadership abilities, and responsibilities needed for my next step in life.