Non Tax Deductible
We wives wearied of cow talk at the range tour we attended, so we scooted to the side and indulged in female conversation. One of our little group had been an interior designer in a big city in a state where it rains. I missed the story of how she got swept off her feet by a West River cowboy and transported to a dusty little zip code along the 100th Meridian, but it must be a good one.
She described how some of her clients gave her a $40,000 budget to work with. It’s not unusual for people in this area to spend $40,000 for the entire structure much less an interior design job. Moving to rural South Dakota had to have been a mega culture shock.
The rest of us marveled at the idea that there exists a land where 1) people make that kind of money and 2) they actually spend it on a coordinated “look” for their house.
One of the gals said, “My husband says the house doesn’t make money.” The rest of us thought she was quoting our man. We nodded our heads as one, the understanding rural sisterhood of frustration.
One of the first lessons a rural wife needs to learn and receives instruction on multiple times through the course of her years on the farmstead is the financial futility of making a house homey. In the city, you invest money in your house and yard. Financially, it’s the wise thing to do. In the country, you spend money on the house and yard. Very little of it is tax deductible and therefore in the farmer/rancher’s eyes, not necessary. After all, any kind of shelter is a relief from the heat/cold/wind (take your pick) that he spent his day in. The accountant and banker aid, abet and reinforce this idea on a regular basis. We country folk regularly invest more in a single piece of equipment or a couple of vehicles than in the roof over our heads. The house just isn’t worth it, unless, of course, it burns down or blows away.
The fact that household improvements are not tax deductible spawns amazing amounts of creativity and capability. We rural women learn to sew, upholster, strip old wood, paint, wallpaper, varnish and use power tools in our innate drive to make pleasant sanctuaries for our families. We know it’s not how much money is spent on the house, it’s the time together that makes a home valuable.
Heaven help me, I’ve got garden fever. The last time I had it was 8 years ago during those wet years. I plowed up half a dozen or more spots around the yard envisioning large swathes of gorgeous blooms throughout the growing season. By the middle of July I had only little clumps scattered over what seemed like an entire football field filled with creepers. The little clumps bloomed prettily and I told myself that they’d spread out next year. They did and the yard looked nice. Then the next year was drier, and so was the next year and the years after that. Only the weeds and holly hocks survived and thrived. If the definition of a weed is a plant out of place, then most of the holly hocks are weeds too.
This year I’ve got to do something with those sad, survivor perennials or I will end up mowing more yard. I hate mowing. With gas at $2 per gallon I hate it more than ever.
I dug out my gardening file, the one where I squirrel away pictures of landscape plans I like. Unfortunately, what I like and what actually grows in our climate and soil are not the same, so I’ve tried to adjust to reality. I don’t want to pour gallons of river water over flowers that are destined to look pitiful anyway. Whatever I plant must be drought and heat resistant and thrive in poor soil. Oh, and tolerate our South Dakota wind. They must also be perennial because if I’m going to put that much work into planting, the plants have to return next year. What I have is cactus, that mound thing with the renegade root system and of course, holly hocks. Finding filler plants is the challenge.
Today I finally got a man to man the tiller. (I’d do it myself, but it tends to run away with me and I would rather not add my personal bone meal to the flowerbed.) By procrastinating over my tilling requests, they allowed the fever to rage for too long. Hallucinations of a sumptuous perennial flowerbed edging the yard replaced reason. I’m off to the greenhouse feverishly clutching my list of drought tolerant plants. If they die, creepers bloom too. Consider them ground cover. After all, the whole point of my gardening effort is to eliminate grass that needs mowing.
I wrote this in 2004. Not much has changed but the gas prices!
Today is National Agriculture Day. I'm reminded of a bumpersticker from years ago that said, "If you eat, you are involved in agriculture!" To that end (eating), here's a quick, easy beef recipe that's been a favorite at Rock Hills Ranch for years:
Steak au jus (makes 6 servings, 180 calories each)
1 3/4 pound steak, about 1" thick. I've used all cuts with good results
3 oz. can mushrooms, drained (this is optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
parsley for garnish
Slice steak into 1/4. inch slices–easy to do if it's partially frozen
arrange in a 12×8 inch pan
place mushrooms on top
sprinkle with other ingredients (if using a tougher cut, marinate the meat in this for 1/2 hour)
cover with foil and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees
remove foil and bake 15 miinutes more, basting occasionally.
The meat will make it's own juice.
I serve it with potatoes and a green salad.