It’s been a while since Mom has let me take over the blog. For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’m Zooma the Wonder Dog and from time to time I like to take over the blog so you have something actually interesting to read. Shhh…don’t tell Mom I said that. You can read more of my posts (you know, the good ones on this blog) here and here and even here and oh yeah..here too.
You’ll notice I’m calling Mom Mom now and not “mommy”. That’s because I’m finally a teenager and my childish ways are behind me. Mom says my childish ways are not behind me since she’s caught me in the trash more than once and chasing the cat more than once, as well, but I ignore her because, well, I’m a teenager. I don’t have to pay attention to what my parents say.
I know, I know. Some of you may claim you saw me running around the yard the other day, being silly and acting like a young pup again, but you’d be wrong. I was simply working out to keep myself young and trim and looking good for the boy dog I saw walking by the other day.
Mom is such a killjoy. She says I can’t be around boy dogs until I’ve been spayed. I don’t know if she has a lisp or what, but I can’t figure out what being spayed has to do with me liking to bark a hello at the boy dogs walking by. I mean spaying is what they do to keep you clean right? With water and a hose? I don’t know for sure but Mom says I’m going to be spayed in a couple of days so I’ll find out then.
I saw a dog get spayed on TV on one of those shows Plaything 2 watches and that dog had soap and warm water so I hope I get spayed like that. I’m not a fan of baths, or soap, but being spayed with water might be fun. I’ll let you know what I think about it all in my next post.
Since moving here I’ve grown pretty fond of – I mean, I’ve grown accustomed to living here with my human family. Mom and Dad are pretty cool. Dad is grumpy sometimes when I wake him up early to pee but then he’s even grumpier if I let him sleep and pee in the living room. It takes a lot to make him happy it seems. Mom doesn’t like when I rip toilet paper up all over the bathroom floor or the backyard and she keeps telling me to leave The Beast alone.
The Beast has started to love me. She has. Don’t let her tell you any different. She misses me when I’m gone – like when I went to Grandpa and Grandma’s for something everyone called Christmas. There was a lot of food there but Grandpa and Mom were the only ones who gave me any. Grandma kept reminding Mom of that time Mom said it was bad to feed me from the table.
Now I know where Mom gets her fun-killing attitude. I can’t imagine why it’s bad to feed me from the table.
The new human Kim was nice and if I didn’t love my current family so much I’d have gone to live with her. Of course, I decided going home with her wouldn’t be so much fun since the other new human (who Mom called Butthead, but I don’t think that’s his real name), said they live with a beast even bigger than The Beast and that it would rip my face off. I don’t want my face ripped off. Then I couldn’t sneak food from Plaything 2’s plate when she leaves it down, which is always, because she’s almost like a teenager, like me, and doesn’t listen to Mom and Dad.
Wait, did I say I love my family back there? Um…yeah..well..I know I’m a teenager, but I guess I sort of do love Mom and Dad and my human brother and human sister. And of course Grandma and Grandpa. Mom says Grandma isn’t really a “dog person” but she is now because of me. That makes me proud. I’ve clearly charmed her.
Just don’t tell my family I said I love them.
Talk to you soon.
Can’t wait to tell you about the spay and if it really makes my fur feel better or not.
After 30-days of Facebook detox I logged back on this past week and almost immediately regretted it.
From someone calling someone else they disagreed with a Nazi to fear-mongering posts about health issues my heart was pounding within a few minutes and I logged back off again and reached for my Teddy Bear.
Facebook has become a landmine of stress for this anxiety-ridden soul, which may be something I need to seek out a therapist for, or it may be simply a sign I need to stay off Facebook as much as possible.
The odd thing is that I don’t even follow any controversial people or news pages so the fact every day people are now flipping out on each other over the simplest of things seems to be a sign that we’ve lost respect and decorum. Obviously this has been happening for a long time but nowhere is it more evident than in social media where people forget there are real people behind the computer or smartphone.
This latest incident involved a thyroid expert I follow who had been featured on a show people didn’t appreciate. She wasn’t exactly called a Nazi but she was told the views of the people were Nazi views, which makes me realize that this far out from World War II some people need to read some history and remind themselves what a Nazi actually is.
Since I haven’t yet seen this particular organization call for the extermination of all Jews, but in fact supports them in many ways, I don’t see how they received the Nazi label, other than this is what certain groups seem to call people now when they don’t agree with them.
Well, anyhoo, based on of the idiocy that is modern discourse and the tendency for everyone to be offended by everything, I’ve decided Facebook may be a once a month thing where I check in on some friends and family but then log back off. My blog posts and photos on Instagram are automatically shared to the platform and luckily don’t require me to log into my timeline.
If you’re going to stay on Facebook and want to avoid stress, I highly recommend avoiding scrolling your timeline and instead visit the individual pages of friends or family members. That way you can avoid being slapped in the face by bizarre articles about girls who think they are boys because a therapist told them they were, people who think anyone who wears black shoes are racist, and politicians calling each other Nazis and immoral while they all conducting themselves in immoral ways.
You can also avoid headlines like “three foods to avoid in 2019” and “What you’re eating/wearing/drinking/thinking may give you cancer” and “New test will determine what day you’ll die” and the ever popular “The end of the world is near. Read here for the signs of the end times” (save yourself some trouble with that one and see the headlines and article topics above for those signs).
Bottom line? If you don’t have to use Facebook, avoid it. Go out and experience life. Take a walk, read a book, study God’s word, watch a comedy, write a silly blog post or two about Facebook or notice you have children and play a game or two with them.
I fell into one of those Youtube spirals the other night (like one does) and I caught an interview from last year with Ellen and Bradley Cooper. Ellen asks Bradley if he is on social media at all, although she admits she already knows he isn’t. When he says “No, I’m not.” she feigns shock and says “Oh my gosh. What do you even do with yourself?”
He laughs, shrugs and mumbles something about being able to waste a lot of time on the internet without social media. But really, a better answer, since he was there to talk about a movie he was filming, would have been, “I create.”
“A Star is Born” comes out this week and Bradley both stars in it and directed it. If he had been sitting around wasting his life on social media, getting distracted by the drama and ridiculousness that can be found on it, he might never have made the movie or made the music for it along with Lady Gaga and Luke Nelson.
Imagine all the books and paintings and songs we would never have heard if social media had existed earlier than it had. Yes, there are good things about social media for a creative. We can share our creations and our art to a wider audience and immediately. But what we lose in that immediate interaction is taking the time to really develop and plan our craft before we throw it to the world. What we lose is the time to actually create because we are distracted by looking at either the work of others or the drama of others.
We are squelching our inner voice because we can’t hear it over the shouts and creations of others. We are comparing and contrasting and then going back to our creative work, thinking we can’t create as well as the others we’ve seen. Or maybe we think can do the same, but end up disappointing because we never give ourselves time to really develop the skills we need to create, as well as, or better than, those we admire.
Bradley Cooper worked with a voice coach, musicians and others for almost a year and a half,l before creating what many are calling a masterpiece. He had a vision and he put the work in to complete and present that vision.
If he had wasted his time on the distraction that comes with social media, he may have never reached his goal of creating something he is extremely proud of.
Though I don’t know what Bradley Cooper’s personal reasons for not being on social media are I do think abstaining from it strengthens his creative voice. It’s something other creative people, or anyone with a goal they want to reach, should try as well.
One day a couple of weeks ago I was trying to convince my friend Tiffany to help me with a blog for moms in our area. “I don’t know. I’m not a good blogger,” she texted back to me. I don’t know what a good “blogger” is but I do know what a good writer is (well, I think I do anyhow) so when Tiffany sent an old blog post to me this week for “laughs” I said, “The voice in your head is a liar. You’re a good writer AND you will be a great blogger.” And then I asked her if I could share this as a guest post on my blog and she said “Do whatever you want” and I said, “awesome. I’m going to.” So, all this to explain that this is a guest post from my good friend Tiffany Kuhn, who is not a blogger, or a writer. Yeah, okay. She’s also in denial so when she starts a blog up again for fun or laughs, I’ll link to her blog. Tiffany wrote the following post in 2014, maybe right before baby number five entered the world. Yes, she’s an amazing mom of five really cool kids, six if you count her husband, which I do because he’s a fun, goofy guy with a youthful outlook on life.
Why, lipgloss, why?
By Tiffany Kuhn
Oh boy. There it goes. As I stand in front of my washer, listening to the clanking, I realize my favorite tube of lip gloss is tumbling around and around in a sea of dirty water and dirty clothes. A sight I am all too familiar with since it seems I always find something hitchhiking in there on a monthly basis at least.
Ugh. To save it, or not to save it, that is the question. Do I dare let it dry and use it after the laundry is done? Do I really want to press it up against my lips knowing that it’s been swimming and bathing in dirty water, along with soap and who knows what else while the washer does its thing? Yeah, I think not.
While I stand here I can think of a huge list of reasons that played a factor in how and why I forgot to check my pockets and grab that ever so luxurious tube of lip-awesomeness. Instead, I am choosing to focus on what can I learn from this all too common scene that I am sure takes place in just about every home at some time or another. So many times I find items at the bottom of the washer that are dirty and need a good clean wash or rinse before I put them back in their respective places. Some things, however, just can’t even be washed and used again, such as my lip gloss.
You can never get all the funk off of it. It may look all fabulous and put together on the outside, but you know on the inside it is crawling with filth and dirt that can never be taken away.
The same can be said for us. When we fill our minds with thoughts and images that are unclean, and hurtful we can never undo that. We litter our minds constantly with violent images, dirty words and envious thoughts towards others. So just as the lip gloss, on the outside, we look all inviting and great, but on the inside, in our thoughts, we are dirty and covered in funk. Do we really want our minds filled with grime or do we want our minds filled with joyous thoughts?
The Lord commands us in Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV):
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
While it is a bummer that I have forever lost my favorite tube of lip gloss, it has also been a blessing in helping me realize that not only do I have to change my laundry habits,(such as checking my pockets from now on) but that I also have to change my way of thinking. Be more like God and less like the lip gloss.
It is an awesome thought to know that God cares for us and wants the best for us. And may you ever be reminded of Philippians 4:8 when you are collecting items from the bottom of your washer.
One way to keep your marriage fun and spontaneous is to suggest a restaurant for your anniversary dinner that’s in the middle of nowhere, has no WiFi or cell service and then forget your wallet.
My husband and I usually take our children with us or eat a family meal at home because our life is void of a reliable babysitter roster. We also usually eat somewhere in the Finger Lakes region, which is lovely, but this year I decided we should travel another direction and see what the wilds of Pennsylvania might offer us.
The location I chose (also unusual because I’ve never picked the restaurant for our anniversary) was near my parents, free babysitters who don’t usually travel to our house because of my mom’s various health issues, and a diner I had been reading about through their entertaining Facebook posts. It had been a busy week with mornings full of Vacation Bible School and afternoons of traveling to zoos 2- hours away or a nearby campground pool where we spent four hours jumping in the heated pool and we left for my parents after the final VBS and a birthday party for my husband’s great aunt.
“Are you telling her you’re leaving or are sneaking out and letting us deal with the tears?” My Dad asked, referring to our rather clingy 3-year old daughter, right before we walked out the door.
I told him “good luck” and we snuck out while my daughter was falling in love with a baby toad our son and her grandfather brought her earlier in the day. We headed out into what we call the boondocks and outsiders may call simply “the middle of nowhere” of Sullivan County, Pa., twisting and winding around roads with more curves in them than Shirley Temple’s hair. Trees and mountains shot up around us almost directly against the car window until we finally arrived in the little community of Forksville, in search of the covered bridge and nationally recognized Philadelphia cheesesteaks at the Forksville General Store. In our “neck of the woods” we don’t say “cheesesteak” without Philadelphia in front of it because in our minds no one else makes cheesesteaks.
I’m sure General Store owner, Big Mike, who runs the cash register himself, understands why we feel that way since he’s originally from Philadelphia himself and the crux of his menu is their famous original cheesesteak, a recipe he brought from Philly in 1999, and recognized as one of the top ten cheesesteaks by the USA Today.
I’ve been to Forksville a couple times in my life but it had been years and I almost forgot how to find the store and bridge, which is a bit humorous considering there are only about 20 houses in the village.
It wasn’t until we parked out front of the restaurant that I realized I’d left my wallet at home. This wouldn’t have been an issue except we have two checking accounts, one was empty because of bills, and we’d forgot to move money from one checking account (which acts as our savings) to the other and my husband only had the card for the account we had forgot to move money into. The card we needed was in my wallet and my wallet was 50 miles North at our house. Though we had a gift check from my parents in my purse, we had decided not to cash it on the way through the tiny town of Dushore (which used to be the only town in the county with a stoplight) because, hey, I had a card in my wallet. Only I didn’t. Because I didn’t even have a wallet with me.
A quick inquiry inside of the man at the front counter, who we later learned was Big Mike, the owner, revealed there was no WiFi “around here” so transferring money from one account to another via our bank’s ap, wasn’t about to happen. Disappointed we almost decided to head back the 13 miles to semi-civilization where Dushore may not have had a Starbucks but it did at least have an ATM, but then I said “no! We will find a high spot somewhere in this cell service void world and transfer to that account.” This was our plan and I wasn’t about to diverge from it, no matter how high I had to hold the phone up over my head to get it.
When we passed a place that rented apartments and I saw three men outside, all looking at their phones, I knew they either had WiFi or were just sadly looking at their phones wishing they had WiFi. I urged my husband to pull in so we could hopefully steal off their WiFi and transfer the money. After a lot of lifting, tilting and shifting, mainly from my husband who was nervous the property manager was going to think we were there to rob the place, I was able to hook up to their open WiFi and — then get kicked off again and again and again until finally EUREKA! (Like the show because it was creepy cool) we struck gold and the connection worked.
Then it was back to the only tiny gas station in a 15 mile radius to utilize the ATM and hopefully get back to the diner before it’s kitchen closed. The only problem was I apparently moved the wrong amount of money but luckily this station also had open WiFi, which made me think maybe Big Mike should research more about the availability of WiFi in his small village a little better before he says it doesn’t exist there.
After all that drama, I had a sinking feeling we might get inside the diner and find out all the news of great food and atmosphere might have exaggerated, but no, the food did indeed live up to the hoopla. I should have known it would, since there was a photo of Big Mike with Dale Jr. on the wall in the front, next to a framed copy of a front page article on the restaurant in the Philadelphia Inquirer. If you’re reading this and you need a last name to go with Dale Jr.,
first, I shake my head at you in disappointment but second, I offer you the last name of Earnhardt. Seeing a photo of Dale with anyone in Sullivan County isn’t a total shock, really, since his sister is married to a Sullivan County native and they visit from time to time still.
The inside of the diner features a deli counter like you might see in a Philadelphia butcher and then a small dining room lit with fairy lights stretched across the ceiling and filled with tables and booths to sit about 50.
In the end, neither one of us actually had one of the famous Philly Cheesesteaks. Shame on us. The covered bridge hamburger sans the bun, with fries and topped with melted Mozerella cheese and the diner’s own slab bacon was my choice while the husband ordered the buffalo chicken cheesesteak. Our dinner ended in an embarrassing way when the owner came to our table with a complimentary Philadelphia style cheesecake, drizzled in plenty of chocolate, and announced to the entire dining room, with a little song, that it was our anniversary.
Only two people knew we were going to be there at that time so, of course, when we arrived back at my parents later we pretended the singing never happened, laying a trap for my mom, who I knew couldn’t resist asking “wait. The owner didn’t say anything else to you?” At that comment, the mysterious tattle teller was revealed and we knew we had her and my dad (who had actually made the call) to blame for our blushing but thank for an amazing slice of cheesecake.
The store, built in 1841, has been revamped over the years, of course, but still sits directly next to the covered bridge, one of only a three original wooden covered bridges left in the county and now a historic landmark. The bridge is one lane only and when we sat under it after dinner my husband remarked that it reminded him of the bridge in Sleepy Hollow, which wasn’t very comforting to me.
Despite stepping in a hole the size of a woodchuck while we looked at the famous bridge, we survived the adventure and our children enjoyed roasting hot dogs and marshmallows with grandpa and shooting off fireworks my Mom shook her head at the cost of. Incidentally, if a man tells you to watch your step, realize men often skip details, details like “watch your step. There is a HOLE THE SIZE OF A WOODCHUCK IN FRONT OF YOU.”
Also, if you’re going to travel to the Forksville General Store bring your appetite and a camera but leave any devices that require WiFi at home.
Even though he was using a smile to greet his visitors when he came out from the back of the barn his face showed the stress of the morning.
“Is it broken again?” his sister Melissa asked and he nodded, and shrugged.
It wasn’t anything new. Equipment had been breaking down at the Walrath family’s dairy farm for months. Scott, owner and main operator of the farm can’t seem to keep up. He is the farms mechanic, vet, accountant, milks the cows, cleans the barn and plows and plants the fields.
Scott’s shoulders dipped slightly, revealing much more than physical exhaustion.
Days off don’t exist when you’re running a family farm and most people would have given up years ago based on the pay alone.
Melissa and Scott Walrath are no strangers to the challenges farming brings. They grew up on the farm, with their father David, now retired, and their mother Gail, who passed away a few years ago.
The main farm, called Snowcrest Farm, started as one barn and several silos and has now been extended to include David’s property, Melissa and her husband Wayne’s property, and Scott and his wife Lydia’s property, located in succession about a mile apart from each other on Ballentine Road in East Smithfield. All together, the three farms, all under the umbrella name of Scowcrest, includes 542 acres and 265 head of cattle on the three properties. Out of the 265 cows, 120 are milking cows and are milked twice a day.
Scott and Melissa have been fighting to keep the family tradition alive their entire lives and they aren’t ready to give up, even though many others would have. The farm was started in 1951 with Scott and Melissa’s grandfather Albert Walrath, who was a full-time school teacher and part time farmer. David took the farm over after graduating from SRU and the farm became Snowcrest Farm in 1973 when he married Gail.
The piece of equipment that broke this day is used to feed the cows their silage of corn and hay. The feeder has been breaking down a lot lately, Melissa says. In fact, a lot of equipment has.
The siblings looked at each other thoughtfully for a few moments, both too worn to even suggest a remedy. Finally Melissa asked if Scott has called someone who has helped in the past. He said he did and the man would stop by the farm at some point that day. In most cases it’s Scott who fixes the farm equipment, but sometimes extra help is needed.
“We are stupid – Stupidly in love with farming,” Scott says with a tired grin when asked why he continues to work the farm even as the challenges grow each day. “Pride, passion, stubbornness and stupidity all play a part of why I am still farming. I have pride in my craft and ability to still make this life work even with everything working against me. I have passion for my animals and my crops.”
“Getting a heifer calf, a litter of pigs, watching my corn come up, or even at 11 at night after being up for 20 hours and stacking the last round bale in the shed before rain comes,” he continues. “The smile on my face should say it all. I have stubbornness to make this life style work for my family as well as my community. I want my family to be able to grow up on this farm and I want my community to be able to drive by and see my farm prosper. Nothing makes me sadder than to see fields that used to be in production and growing wonderful crops turn into weeds because there is no one left to tend to them.”
Scott knows other farmers are giving up, selling, and in worst cases, ending their lives from all the pressure.
“I don’t know what else I’d want to do. There is nothing else I’d want to do,” he says.
“I want to be able to provide for my family doing this but right now I’ve got Kelsey (a young girl from the local Future Farmers of America) I’ve got two other high school boys who will be here later. I don’t have any full time help. It’s me and Melissa is working herself to the bone helping out right now.”
Ten years ago the Walraths had two full time helpers, both parents and Scott.
“That was a lot of help and it still seemed like a lot of work,” Scott says.
Now Scott does the job of four people and recently when a back injury flared up the tasks on the farm fell to the rest of the family. Melissa and Wayne also work full time as elementary teachers in the Troy Area School District.
In addition to the cows, Scott houses pigs, a horse, goats, chickens and a turkey in his recently rebuilt barn at the top of the hill. The barn located at the house, where he lives with his three children and Lydia burned two years ago and took 100 animals with it. All six of the breeding pigs, all of which had just had piglets, and the family dog also died.
“Although we got insurance money it was not enough for the rebuilding, so we had to take out a loan“, Melissa says. “When we tried rebuilding the first time the barn collapsed and we had to start all over for the second time. Luckily it was summer by then and cattle could be in the pasture because we were running out of room without the barn. I think rebuilding was more of a new beginning. Scott designed the barn just the way he wanted it.”
The new barn became a more friendly place for a more modern farm. It’s available for tours by local 4-H groups or local schools and it’s also a great location for meetings and the small office even provides a place for Scott to crash when his pigs are in labor and he needs to keep an eye on mom.
Scott appreciates those who encourage people to go out and buy a gallon of milk or a block of cheese to support the dairy farmer but in the long run that won’t help much, he feels. The people who are actually benefiting from the sale of dairy are the middle men or larger corporations. The profit isn’t trickling down to the farmer.
“The biggest challenges in farming today are the big farms pushing out the little farms,” he says. “I call it the Walmart effect. There used to be a lot of little mom and pop stores especially here in the Valley. Now you go to Walmart. Same in farming. There are more 1,000-40,000 cow farms and they can make more milk, cheaper that we can at 100 cows or less.”
Dairy farming is not regulated in the United States and that lack of regulation means the people doing the hardest work are getting the least benefit, Scott feels.
“We are at the bottom of the food chain so we don’t get it. It’s always the middle man,” he said. “So if you want to go out and buy a gallon of milk I’m sure they appreciate it but it’s not helping me.”
Nothing is helping at this point, he said.
“As far as I am concerned, the dairy industry is not regulated – like, for example, Bill Gates goes out with Microsoft, they let him get so big but they don’t let him corner the market you know..he’s got to sell off or whatever,” Scott said. “The Dairy Farmers of America controls 80 percent of the farms and a couple other small farms are co-ops but Maryland and Virginia right now they are losing money because they’ve got too much milk. They’re trying to sell it at lower costs but then they don’t have operating capital. I was forced last October to sign with DFA or [I] don’t have a market. I didn’t have a choice. So they say ‘you want to sell all your cows and your livelihood or do you want to join with the DFA?'”
Scott credits the Athens Area High School Future Farmers of America with helping to not only keep area farms in the area running but keeping young people interested and up to date on the changing face of farming. In addition to learning about farming, these students are also learning a work ethic that has already shown to benefit them in future jobs. When a potential employer looks at a resume and reads that a young person has worked on a farm, they know they are a hard worker, Scott said.
“Every one of the kids that have used me as a reference has been hired at the post high school job choice,” he said.
“Pride, passion, stubbornness and stupidity all play a part of why I am still farming. I have pride in my craft and ability to still make this life work even with everything working against me. I have passion for my animals and my crops.”
– Scott Walrath, farmer, East Smithfield, Pa.
Scott doesn’t want to give up on farming. He wants his children to grow up the same way he did – getting much of their food from their backyard, climbing tress and milking cows and splashing through the mud and catching fireflies in the summer.
“I want to raise my kids here ,” he said, as he turns his tractor into an empty field to spread manure and prepare the soil for planing later in the season. “The joys of raising a family on the farm is the closeness we have. The kids can ride in the tractor with me, go to the barn with me and when there is hay or other work to be done there is nothing like all of us pitching in and getting the job done, even if it’s until the middle of the night.”
His children, like many children who grow up on a farm, will always know the value of a dollar and what hard work really is, he said.
“They get to experience so many of God’s wonders from the birth of the animals, to animal husbandry, to building things, to growing our own food,” Scott said. “My kids never say that they are bored and don’t need video games to keep them entertained. One of the biggest things I teach them is common sense, which is very lacking in society today.”
Scott knows continuing to farm doesn’t look like the wisest choice to some.
“Stupidity also plays a role – a big role,” he says about his determination to continue the farm. “My body is breaking down early, I rarely get time off, and my stress level is at an all time high. I am sure a 40 hour a week job would be better for my sanity and my health, but I am not made that way. I don’t think I would know what to do with myself if I didn’t have something to pour my mind, body and soul into.”
I rambled about various things this past week – from faith to photography to early pregnancy loss to the 13 years I worked in small town newspapers. Something for everyone? Well, almost. I didn’t ramble about cooking, guns, or politics, so not quite something for everyone.
So in case you missed it, here is a link to the posts from this past week: