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 WELCOME TO MY BLOG! REFLECTIONS OF A SINGLE WOMAN'S LIFE ON AN OLD FARM.
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Monday, May 31, 2010

A storm is brewing...

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            Not just in the sky, but in the ensuing confrontations between the farm community and the animal rights community.  Note that I did not say animal welfare community, the faction of activism with which I identify.  Unfortunately the media does not distinguish between the two very different groups.

            The recent expose of inexcusable abuse and torture at a large Ohio dairy operation (Conklin) ignited an international fire storm of protest and outrage.  This was good in that it drew so much attention to the terrible situation that it will leave the courts few options but to “throw the book” at the culprits. 

            The negative impact of the outrage is that it is mobilizing some lunatics who in their own way may be inflicting more harm than good by making unfounded and sometimes totally false accusations and unrealistic demands.  These are the people who are going to show up on the evening news.  These are the people who will become the face of all who are concerned about animal welfare.  This will not result in rational discourse or logical change, but in increased animosity and probably violence.

            Protests are planned beginning today at the dairy operation that opened this can of worms.  I read some of the agendas and what I saw confirm my predictions.  Claims are being made that the Conklin incident is “typical of abuse…” that takes place at all dairy farms. One post is urging protesters to bring “vans and horse trailers” to the event because they hope to “liberate” some of the cows imprisoned at this “death camp.”  I think the lunacy in this plan is pretty obvious. 

            The cattle at Conklin have long been moved to other locations, I’m sure, but the post illustrates the potential for theft, trespassing, injuries to animals and people, sensational, but unconstructive media coverage, and worst of all, further polarization of those with differing viewpoints.  It’s going to be a lose-lose situation and I think it’s only going to get worse.

            I’ve been to many dairy farms, both very small and very large.  Even at the mega dairy in California where 4,000 cows are raised essentially in confinement, as they are milked thrice daily, I saw no signs of abuse such as that documented in the Conklin dairy attacks.  What I did see that haunts me to this day was a row of 400 calves confined to narrow, slatted pens.  The calves could not turn around, not even to confront the flies that tortured them as they stood under the blazing dessert sun.  The farm manager said, “We have to do something about this because the TV stations were out here….”

            That comment supports something T. pointed out.  He has an educational background in livestock management and years of dairy management experience, so his input has credibility.  "Yes, abuse is cruel, but it’s also just stupid from a productivity standpoint…  Those cows are ruined. 

            T.  pointed out that in spite of the negative potential of these protests, there will definitely be some positive consequences that hadn’t occurred to me.  "Every dairy farmer in the country is going to be under pressure now...." As dairies grow ever larger it is impossible for owners to personally oversee what their workers are doing 24/7, but you can bet they will now be paying closer attention to their employees, either by camera surveillance or other methods. 

            There are horrible people everywhere.  They are the losers of the world for whom hurting the helpless is empowering.  Hopefully these bums are less likely to go undetected thanks to all this increased attention.

            So what about those animal welfare advocates?  What can we do?   Sure, it makes far more sense to confront issues armed with facts, not emotional accusations, but more importantly to remember that money talks.  Find out who the good guys are and support them!  Boycott any that are questionable.  Legislators are more likely to listen and to sponsor meaningful bills when confronted with substantiated claims rather than hysteria and when they are reminded of consumer/voter power.

            As far as I’m concerned, there is no punishment harsh enough for perpetrators of animal cruelty, but what goes round, comes round.  Karmic justice.

 

 

4:32 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Good deeds.

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                 It’s no secret that animals and animal issues are at the core of my existence.  Today I received an email newsletter from St. Francis Sanctuary in LA about a situation they confronted just days ago. (http://www.stfrancisanimalsanctuary.org/ ) 

                 An auto accident that killed some guy sent the police to his home to notify next of kin.  What they found was a puppy mill which ranked among the worst of the worst.  St. Francis was called and they quickly rescued all of the dogs from the nightmare in which they existed.  I mention this because back when Hurricane Katrina hit it was St. Francis that took in thousands of homeless animals, far more than they were initially equipped to handle.

                 I, like many others who watched the horror of that disaster from the safety and comfort of my Ohio home wanted to help, so it was easy for me to make contacts and pleas to individuals, businesses and local animal rescue people who were generous and helpful.   We filled a horse trailer to capacity with all sorts of supplies, plus we were able to collect donations of about $4,000.00 for St. Francis. 

                 This sanctuary was the vision of two (extra) ordinary women, one of whom recently died from cancer.  The good work accomplished by this relatively young organization is inspiring, especially in a world where corruption and greed are rampant.

                 I’ve sent a donation to help with the puppy mill dogs for I know that every cent is prudently and wisely used.  If you want to be inspired and feel good, take a look at their website.  There are really some wonderful people in the world and some of them are at St. Francis.

 

 

3:21 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 29, 2010

More choices.

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                 It’s a beautiful day, but allergies (blooming multiflora rose) have me a bit under the weather.  I’m doing nothing but lying around, watching cooking and home repair programs on the telly and thinking about the lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself. There’s plenty of work to be done, but I’m not doing it and I don’t feel obligated to explain, nor do I feel guilty.  It’s a benefit of living alone.

                 “Do you like living alone?” people frequently ask.  The answer is, “Yes, I do.”  Living alone suits me.  I have learned through past relationships that compromise is difficult.  If I want another animal I don't want to have to consult someone else.  If I want all of my rooms to be yellow, I paint them yellow.  If I want companionship, I have some special people in my life who are but a phone call away. The solitary life is best for me.

                 I was reminded of this last night when a friend arrived unannounced.  She needed someplace to escape as she and her mate were at odds--again.  She conveyed the story and of course it was over something quite insignificant, but nevertheless, the two who have endured decades under the same roof were not speaking.  So, when I awoke this morning to the dogs’ joyous greetings (dogs find joy in every moment) I thought of her and her mute mate stumbling around their house trying to avoid encountering one another in the uncomfortable silence.  No thank you. 

                 “But aren’t you afraid?” is another inquiry.  No.  What’s to fear?  One time a young man delivered my tractor after it had been repaired.  He commented on how nice and hidden my house is.  “…But those woods are scary.  You don’t know what’s in there,” he said.  Yes, I do know what’s in the woods;  raccoons, opossum, deer, rabbits, squirrels, fox….

                 “But, what about when you get old?”  Define old.  I know some people who were “old” when they hit twenty-one.  It’s as if they were just waiting for official adult status to start acting creaky and they by-passed living along the way.  Then there’s my friend Ginny who at ninety-nine is as vibrant as most people are at twenty-one.  Ginny lives alone….

 

 

1:49 pm edt          Comments

Friday, May 28, 2010

It's all about choices.

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                 I spent a lovely day down in Amish country where the fields were lush and green and small herds of dairy cows grazed peacefully.  The operative word here is “small.”  The average Amish dairy has about sixty cows and most have fewer than that, unlike the mega dairy farms around here some of which have seven hundred cows.  It is not practical nor feasible for that many animals to be out on pasture, but this is agribusiness.  Ironically, the marketers of milk from these huge operations use advertising gimmicks that would have consumers believe the cows that produced the milk in their carton were raised like the Amish cattle to which I refer. 

                 It simply isn’t so and now that perhaps the most horrific expose of abuse on one of those big operations has come to public attention, consumers may think twice about the source of that white stuff they pour in their coffee and on their cereal.  I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone give up dairy products!  I am encouraging supporting those farmers who raise their animals responsibly and humanely.  The products may cost a little more, but it’s worth it in many ways.

                 The images in the video that captures some of the abuse haunt me. I could not even watch it in its entirety. There is no punishment harsh enough for monstrous thugs responsible for the unspeakable abuse at the Conklin Dairy Farm in Plain City, Ohio.  In addition to the inhumane treatment of animals, the “Iraq veteran” also brags in about stealing guns from the military.  In other words, this creep (...and he didn’t act  alone) has NO redeeming qualities, yet there are agribusiness lawyers defending him!!!  It defies belief and all common sense.  Just look at this cretin!   

                 Voices from all over the world are loudly demanding to see this monster behind bars forever, but with Ohio’s vague and weak animal welfare laws he will most likely get a slap on the wrist, since  animal abuse here is classified “a misdemeanor.”  Is anyone so naïve to think that a maggot like this treats dogs, cats or anything else with kindness?  Animal abusers go on to abuse humans.

                 And so, while I do try very hard not to use this blog as a soapbox, this incident begs attention from me, from you and especially from legislators.  Write to them!  Also write to Minerva Dairy (430 Radoff Ave., Minerva, Ohio) who boldly and quickly issued a public statement that they will no longer conduct any business with Conklin Dairy. Such companies deserve to be commended for their ethical and moral business code and recognized with a note of gratitude and support.

                 There is no guarantee that all other dairies are squeaky clean, but it’s hard to believe that many farmers would allow their livestock to be treated as the cattle at Conklin Dairy were.  I write for some publications whose focus is sustainable agriculture, and in general sustainability requires reasonable-size operations.  There are many wonderful farmers out there, working their butts off and getting less money for their products than the big corporate “farmers.”  I hope that every person who eats and who has an ounce of compassion will pay attention to the source of their food and will consume with a conscience!

http://www.change.org/petitions/view/shut_down_conklin_dairy_farms

 

7:50 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy feet.
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                  One time I splurged and had a professional pedicure.  It was heavenly, but being of a frugal nature I couldn’t justify spending money on this frivolous, albeit delightful luxury again.  The donkeys, however receive regular pedicures, but I wonder if they enjoy the experience as much as I did.

                 It’s not surprising that Andy behaves like a perfect gentleman for Luke, obligingly lifting each foot and standing rock still as his hoof is trimmed, filed, replaced on the cement to check the angle, then again lifting it into Luke’s hand.  Andy strives to please.  Corky does not. 

                 Waiting in the stall until it’s his turn he paws at the door, makes agonized groans suggesting his distress is unbearable, throws himself to the floor and rolls around like a spoiled brat in a grocery store.  He runs to the Dutch door which is open at the top and threatens to demonstrate how donkeys can jump from a stationary position.  Corky really IS a brat.  Finally, Andy ambles back into the stall on his cute little feet and the little huffing puffing terror immerges.

                 Unlike Andy who stands patiently, I have to hold Corky’s halter to remind him that Luke prefers him to stay in place rather than walk around the barn.  He shoves his head into my stomach and shifts his weight to make the procedure as difficult as possible for the farrier.  Luke is used to fussbudgets like Corky. He murmers softly and rubs his flank and Corky settles down.

                 The boys look so smart standing on their toes like show donkeys.  Luke pulls his six foot plus frame upright, spits a stream of tobacco juice out the barn door and gathers up his tools.  The dogs can hardly wait to run inside and grab a disgusting hunk of hoof which to dogs is better than biscuits.  Yuck.

                 Corky has been leery of all men since the vet rendered him sterile.  The gelding procedure didn’t go well and infection then set in which made a traumatic ordeal worse.  Since then the Corkster has shown deference to women which is why we now have a female vet.  Although his pre-trim shenanigans suggest he doesn’t like Luke, he actually does.  Rather than rush back into the stall where Andy quietly waits, Corky stays next to Luke, poking at his pockets and inspecting his tools as if it’s all been a new experience.   Like I always say when people ask me why I have these two, it’s because they make me smile.

 

 

6:44 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This almost peaceable kingdom.

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              At the first hint of spring all of the upstairs windows are thrown open.  Even during winter months one window in the bedroom remains open just a crack as I am a firm believer in fresh air being critical to good health.  In the icy winter months nights are quiet as a tomb, but this time of year nights are alive with sound. 

                 An enthusiastic chorus of frogs sounded like laughter coming from the east side of the pond.  A gang of bull frogs repeated, “Ha, ha, ha,” in unison, while on the west side a single croaker replied, “Heh, heh, heh.”  Not surprisingly, these songs emanate from the males who think they sound sexy.  The bachelors are trying to attract females, so this is the amphibian equivalent of, “’You come here often?”

                 Around two or three o’clock I heard Pinhead the rooster’s repeated “cockadoodledoooo.”   What was he thinking?  I could imagine the rudely-awakened hens’ response; “Are you crazy?  Go back to sleep, you moron!”   Silence returned.

                 These night sounds are like white noise. They don’t actually disrupt my sleep, but a crash in the dining room did.  I knew it had to have something to do with a cat in pursuit of a mouse.  A chair fell over on the wood floor, dog bowls skittered across the kitchen and I knew who was on the prowl.  Dawn confirmed that a murder had indeed taken place in the jaws of Sissy the serial killer. Already this week I’ve had to rescue a chipmunk, but a frog and a starling both met their early demise thanks to the sleek silver huntress.  She is relentless.

                 She also eats her prey, but as one might expect cat stomachs can’t digest all those parts, so the much-altered mouse, having been masticated, swallowed and then redeposited greeted me when I turned on the kitchen light at 5:45 AM.  It’s not the best way to begin a day, but it’s part of living with cats.  I cleaned the mess, fed the gang and poured myself a cup of coffee before going out on the porch to watch and listen to my world awaken.

                 There are some new arrivals.  The hummingbirds showed up today, zipping from one purple iris to another and a small green heron has taken up residence in a tree near the pond.  His strange call sounds like a person with a very sore throat screaming YEE-owllll.

                 Were it not for Sissy things would be far more peaceful here, but then no place is perfect, is it?

 

 

4:07 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Windfalls.

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                 A critical survey of the gardens today was sobering indeed.  I was so hopeful just weeks ago, but now it appears that all the planning, preparation and planting was in vain.  Seeds are just not germinating and the few that have produced spindly and anemic looking plants due to all the rain.  Choices are:  a) abandon the gardens.  b) start over.  I guess I’ll go with ‘b.’

                 It took longer than I expected to cut off the dead peach limb using my little hand saw and when it broke free it was far bigger on the ground than it appeared in the air.  I was pleased when T. later arrived (after I’d sawed it off…) with his chainsaw and cut it up into small usable logs.  I hauled the spindly stuff to the burn pile and added the little logs to the rest of the stacked cordwood.

                 I was already feeling good about the generous supply that will guarantee warmth this coming winter, but then neighbor Sandy arrived with the back of her truck full of freshly-cut maple.  She and her husband had cleared intruding limbs from their fence line, so he cut them into the short lengths required by my little woodstove.  These latest windfalls added another half row to the wood pile.  Sandy says, “I’m doing this because I want to be warm when I dog sit this winter.”  Who cares why she did it, it’s nice to see the firewood supply growing.

                 It’s also nice to have such helpful and thoughtful friends.  I've reached a standstill on an article in the works, so when my friend MJ called and asked if I'd give her dog it's summer haircut I was happy for the diversion.  MJ and I have been friends since college, but rarely does there seem to be enough time in either of our schedules to simply catch up and enjoy one another's company.  She's a wonderful artist and is doing a small painting of dear departed Nettie referenced from this favorite photo for me.  I'm delighted! 

 

 

7:21 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 24, 2010

An unpleasant issue.

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                 I am occasionally the reluctant recipient of political and/or religious emails that of course urge me to pass them on.  Ironically, the subject matter is always in direct opposition to my personal leanings.  Until recently I have simply hit the delete button while quietly muttering a few responses under my breath.  With the exception of a very few close friends my political and spiritual inclinations are not subjects up for discussion. 

                 While I respect and enjoy intelligent, fact-based discourse the offending emails are neither.  The presumption that I share the opinion of the sender boggles my mind!  I believe such issues are personal and while I may be aware of the extreme differences between myself and others I would never think of sending them emails espousing my beliefs or affiliations.

                 Sadly, patience and tolerance are not character assets I possess, hence my reason for addressing this in a blog intended merely to share events and joys of my small country life.  So, for anyone inclined to email videos, hate-mongering “testimonials,” or material intended to “enlighten” me, please don’t.  Cute animals, jokes or scientific reports are always welcome, but please do us both a favor and spare me the other stuff.   Subject closed.

 

 

2:34 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunny Sunday.

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            Living alone I find that rooms like “the workshop” tend to be ignored until they reach the point of chaos.  The very sight and sound of that word (workshop) almost makes me laugh.

            I have two workshops, one in the cellar and one in the barn. Due to space restrictions, the barn shop is orderly, but the cellar is not. I think of workshops as manly arenas where tools have names and are put in places that make sense.  My workshop has lots of tools, but until today it was a hodgepodge.

            There were jars, cans and boxes of screws, nuts, bolts, nails and assorted hinges, hasps and pieces parts.  You get the picture.  It was a mess. Scrutinizing and organizing this out of sight, out of mind place was not on my agenda today, but I needed a tape measure and went to the cellar to find one.         

            The trip to retrieve a simple measuring device turned into four hours of dirty work, but I must say I am delighted with the results and the found treasures I didn’t even guess were down there.  For instance, I discovered I have enough new paint roller covers to last the rest of my life.  Sandpaper of every grit are at the ready should I ever decide to sand the entire house.  Paint galore!  Oh my, it was like opening Pandora’s box. 

            The cellar is damp (to say the least) so things rust.  Rusty pliers will not open.  Rusty screw drivers are useless.  I discarded several such implements, but sanded the salvageable ones and coated them with WD-40 before assigning their new logical spots. Putting like items together, discarding useless things, creating departments and wiping down surfaces resulted in a room that actually looks like I could work down there, hence I have a workshop!

            And now when someone asks, “Do you have a 3/8” wrench I can go directly to the wrench department.  There are tidy bins with plumbing supplies, ditto on the electric gadgets and wood working tools like planes and chisels.  It’s a veritable hardware store right under my living room.  I’m so pleased, especially now since I intend to build that dream arbor all by myself.  The plan says to construct the sides and top in one’s workshop and then assemble it on site.  Sounds simple.  I have saw horses, saws, drills, and even the carriage bolts called for in the plans.  You can bet photos of this project will be posted (if it turns out…).

            I also hauled and stacked the last of the cordwood.  Even if I don’t get one more log cut before winter, there’s enough seasoned wood to ensure daily fires in the woodstove.  Booger just looked too cute perched atop the pile.  I had to take his picture.  It’s been a lovely and very productive day so far.  I think I'll got cut off that dead limb on the peach tree.

 

 

5:37 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 22, 2010

An unexpected visitor.

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            Ernie is a timid boy in spite of his size (100+ pounds), so when I saw him staring at something in the grass with his “intellectual” look, then leaping backward with all four feet in the air, I thought it best to investigate the subject of his interest.  What a surprise to find this 4 foot snake.  Ernie beat feet away from the visitor, but it politely posed for several pictures. 

            Snakes are common here, but with the exception of one very big black snake many years ago, the others have been varieties of garter snakes or milk snakes, like those that lived in the cellar when I first got the farm. The mystery is that the Ohio snake book said milk snakes only reach 27 inches.  This one was a good 4 feet long. I consulted a very experienced herpetologist for confirmation and was amazed to learn that he believes this one to be a hybrid milk snake/black snake, hence the size.

            It was my intention from the beginning that my home would also be a sanctuary for wildlife and for the most part, it is.  God knows there is so little remaining habitat even in rural settings thanks to people who cut down trees, clear brush and are afraid of anything bigger than a robin unless they can shoot it and put its mounted head on their wall.   I digress here, but intolerance for wildlife is certainly one of my pet peeves.

            Granted, there have been some unfortunate consequences in allowing nature to take its course, like the weasel killing the chickens and my house sitter killing (or almost killing) the rats, but generally speaking this is the Peaceable Kingdom.  I try not to intrude unduly on the natural world and feel honored to share my environment with visitors like this serpent whose diet is rodents, frogs, toads and smaller snakes.  According to my research on weasels, if it came to a showdown between this snake and the chicken-killing weasel (who remains at large), the weasel would win. 

            Unexpected events like this visitor are what make life exciting!

 

 

12:54 pm edt          Comments

Friday, May 21, 2010

Crop evaluation.

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             As I haul load after load of firewood past the berry bushes en route to the pile of stacked cordwood I can see that my relentless campaign against the ubiquitous multiflora rose is paying off.  Having less competition for space and sun, the blackberry and raspberry bushes are loaded!  It will definitely be a bumper crop this year. My mind races with possibilities for such bounty.  I’m not fond of blackberry pie (too seedy), so that’s off the menu, but blackberry cordial is on.  It’s messy to make, but lovely to enjoy before a fire in the wintertime.  Raspberries are best heaped in a bowl and topped with cream.  I can hardly wait. I’ve tried making jam several times, but frankly it’s never been quite as good as Smuckers.  It’s either too runny or so thick it’s impossible to get out of the jar.

            The fruit trees look as if they too will bear a heavy crop.  Perhaps this year the new peach and pear trees will produce.  When I first moved here there was one apple tree, one red haven peach tree and two plum trees between the house and barn.  The peach tree was wonderful, but one year it was so heavily-laden with fruit that it split in half.  In retrospect I see that I should have knocked some of the fruit off before it became mature, but I didn’t.  Since then I have planted three more peach trees, but one of them is dying.  I’ve consulted a professional fruit grower who advised cutting it down and planting a new tree.  That was the plan, but now I see that half of the tree will produce, so I'm going out to saw off the dead limb and see what happens with the rest. Maybe it’s salvageable. ('Wish a man with a chainsaw would drop by....)

            The plum trees were a disaster.  They each bore fruit respectably, but the little purple orbs were so bitter even the birds wouldn’t eat them. When a friend backed into one of the trees and knocked it right out of the ground, it was no great loss.  Now each spring I plant more fruit.  Not counting the old orchard south of the house I have the following:  two apple trees, three peach trees, two pear trees, ten ever-bearing red raspberry bushes, several dark red cherry trees and if my arbor becomes a reality I will plant grapes too.  There is already an ancient concord grape vine that climbs high into the trees, but only the birds eat those.  I will plant table grapes.

            An English garden magazine offered a simple plan for “an arbor that can built in a day….”  It looks ever so simple and initially I entertained the notion of trying to construct it myself, but not being mechanically inclined I decided to ask a handyman for an estimate on building the simple support.  His estimate of $450.00 (including materials) was just the encouragement I needed to reconsider trying my hand at wood working.  I have a Sawzall and I’ve scrounged up some used lumber and I already have a variety of wood screws, so how difficult can this project really be?  (The magazine says it’s simple.) If it doesn’t turn out quite like the picture I will not be out anything more than my time.  To be continued….

3:09 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why dogs stink.

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            It’s because they care more about enjoying life than about appearances. Humans could and should adopt such an attitude.  Dogs live in the moment.  The pond is a rather disgusting mess when stirred up; a combination of silt, algae, clay and who knows what else, but it’s deep enough for them to swim in and cool enough to sooth a panting beast. It’s their favorite place.  Yet, when the eau de pooch gets too bad and they are led into the shower like condemned men to the gallows they act as if being lathered up is cruel and unusual punishment.  Tomorrow it’s off to the gallows for this trio and for about a day they will all smell like lavender.

            Julie is just about six months old now and I have been bragging about what a good puppy she is, how smart and trouble free this dog is, what a contrast to naughty Nettie, etc.  Imagine my surprise to discover that while I was out this morning she was busy reshaping a wooden stair tread that has been intact since 1821.  I’m not happy.

            As I look around this house there are many “reminders” of former pets, not all of which were mine.  In the cellarway there are deep scratch marks on the door from some dog confined there long before I took ownership of this property.  The heavy original kitchen door also has deep grooves at dog level, but I have left these rather than sand them away because it gives the door character.  Again, my dogs were not responsible for this “character,” but there are plenty of embellishments for which pets past and present are responsible.

            The spindles on the Windsor chairs look as if someone took a needle and pricked tiny holes in the wood because Pudgy (a darling cat that some monster threw from a moving car and broke her jaw) liked to chew on wood.  Maybe her mouth hurt even after the vet reconstructed it. 

            A small tea table for which I paid a lot of money (by my standards…) when I was a sales rep bears one whittled leg.  Dear Schatzi did that when she was considering a career in wood working.  She lived 17 years, but every time I look at that table leg I see her as a pup.  The laundry room baseboard and the window sill also show signs of a budding wood sculptor.  That was Ernie whose appetite for painted wood was second only to the donkeys that eat the barn.  I plan to sand and paint those last two items when I repair the stair tread, but the other things serve as memorials of sorts to pets departed.  Who needs grave markers?  All I need to do is look around my house.

            Not everyone would be so complacent about such things, but life is a series of trade offs and while furniture and baseboards can be replaced if I’m so inclined, the animals that “altered” them can’t be.

 

 

7:51 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A busy day.

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         It’s been a very busy and productive day, but frankly I am absolutely knackered.  I spent the morning finishing up an article and then went outside to address the many projects at hand.  There was plenty of work to do, but I sat at the edge of the pond and took pictures of the silly dogs splashing about in muddy pond.  The puppy had a lot of fun trying to join in the stick game, but she was easily distracted.  A frog jumps and she forgets why she’s in the water in the first place.  These dogs are such a pleasure.

            I wrapped the maple tree with fencing to stop the incorrigible donkeys from stripping the bark from yet another tree and killing it.  Then I fixed the fence wires they had pulled loose before tackling the wood pile again.  My goal is to load and stack three wheelbarrows full each day, but it doesn’t look as if I’ve taken so much as one log from the pile even though I’ve taken seven loads so far.  This project is going to take forever, but it’s gratifying to see the neat rows of stacked cordwood and to know I’ll be warm as toast next winter.

            I planted more vegetables and flowers, but I am having some second thoughts about this labor.  The only gardens I really enjoy working in are those that grow edibles.  The flowers are a lot of work and the weeds always get ahead of me in spite of my early enthusiastic efforts.  I ask myself why I do this when the wildflowers in the field and along the nature trail are gorgeous.  They require absolutely nothing of me and their constantly changing palette is there for me to enjoy anytime I want to pick a bouquet or just take some pictures.  I know that in a few weeks when all the flower gardens are ablaze I’ll forget this gripe.

            The weasel trap remains untouched and the chickens are safe and relaxed.  All is quiet on the northern front. 

 

 

9:34 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What is happiness?

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            In the hardware I encountered one of the most perennially happy women I’ve ever known. She said, “Oh, I’m so happy to see you!” and I know she meant it.  I was happy to see her too. Her joyful enthusiasm and pretty smile defy the physical challenges she’s known since birth.  Her mobility is limited to a wheelchair or crutches, but she seems not to mind.  I’ve never heard her complain. She is an inspiration to everyone she meets.

            Then I came home to find an email from someone who would probably say if asked, “Sure, I’m happy…,” but that would be a lie.  The email subjects from this person are always political, always directly opposing an issue that requires tolerance, compassion or at the very least, educated, fact-based consideration.  Such characteristics are missing in painfully dull, anti-intellectual hate mongers.  The person who sent the email is not happy.

            The contrast between someone for whom every minute is physically difficult and maybe even painful, but whose spirit is so beautiful and another who has good health and tremendous wealth, but no soul is stunning.  The emails make me angry for they represent the non-thinking ugliness of far too many.  Then I think of the smiling face at the hardware and realize why I consider myself a happy person.  It’s because I’m lucky enough to know people who see beauty in the face of adversity, people who are kind and compassionate, people who care about more than themselves and their own tiny constipated worlds. 

            Cold rainy days like today make me contemplative.  Sorry….  Ted is always happy when he has a Frisbee.

“Happiness can be built only on virtue, and must of necessity have truth for its foundation.”  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Happiness sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.”  John Barrymore

 

 

7:48 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rain, rain go away!

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            After the trying events of yesterday morning T. and I took advantage of the mild weather. It was perfect for working on next year’s firewood supply.  He arrived with the log splitter and rendered all of the cut logs into cordwood. I loaded and began stacking them, but after four loads I had barely made a dent in the mountain of split wood, so I’ve got my work cut out if the rain ever stops.  Right now it’s cold and miserable, but the weather makes getting back into a disciplined work mode more palatable.  I’m not tempted to go for a walk or putter in the gardens.  Travel has a way of disrupting things, but I’m forcing myself to stick to a rigid schedule as I have a lot of writing projects underway.

            While in Wisconsin I experienced some interesting culinary traditions, one of which was a fish boil.  As this photo illustrates, it was spectacular.  Potatoes and white fish are cooked over an open wood fire.  When the fish oil  comes to the surface of the broth the boil-master tosses kerosene on the flames creating a boil over which removes any fishy flavor.  It was very tasty indeed, but not something I plan to try at home.

 

 

7:47 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This not so peaceable kingdom.

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            Out of necessity today I became a murderer.  Events of the past 24 hours have been dreadful, to put it mildly.  At 6:00 AM I hurried to the barn to check the trap which was baited for weasel.  There was no weasel, but the trap was not empty.  A pretty champagne-colored rat lay dead in the sprung trap.  It bore no sign of injury, so why was it dead I wondered as I prepared to dump the body into the wheelbarrow where Randy was supposed to be lying in state awaiting further funeral arrangements.  Randy was gone!

            A trail of feathers led up the steep stairs to the loft where I discovered Randy’s headless body amidst a flood of his beautiful plumage.  The mystery deepened.  Whatever killed him in the coop was small enough to squeeze through the tiniest of holes which until this morning I thought had been securely sealed.  That the killer was a weasel had seemed logical, but even super-weasel couldn’t have taken a big rooster out of the wheelbarrow and carried it up into the loft.  Perplexed I returned to the house. 

            Soon I heard Julie barking (for the first time since she has been here).  She was staring at something under the bench on the patio. It was another rat, a twin to the dead one in the incongruously-named “live trap,”  but this one was not dead.

            It was, however, clearly in the throes of death.  I called neighbor Sandy who arrived and confessed that she had dumped something called Trounce down the hole in the coop yesterday morning.  This was news to me.  I’ve never heard of Trounce which according to Sandy “kills in 24 hours.”  Well, not quite….  Seeing the suffering inflicted by this oddly named formula was beyond horrible.  I ran to fetch the old Iver Johnson, but could not bring myself to fire it, at least not at that moment. 

            “It’s almost dead,” said Sandy who then suggested hitting it with a hammer.  That hideous “solution” was vetoed.  Too violent.  Her next idea was to drown the poor thing.  “Where’s your sprinkling can?” she asked.  Vetoed again.  Wasn’t it bad enough the innocent creature was in agony?  To think of subjecting it to yet another horror was out of the question.  Sandy shook her head and left. Yesterday the idea of live trapping a weasel and relocating him to a lovely state park where he could continue his life was pleasant.  Snuffing out a rat in agony was not.

            I called T. who is no more a killer than I am which is why I like and respect him, but he said he’d “take care of it….”  How unfair of me to lay my ugly task upon anyone else, I thought. The poor rat twitched in pain.  Do those who say things like, “It’s just a RAT!” think for one minute that a rat experiences pain any less profoundly than does the stupid speaker?  Regardless of what most people think about rats, they are as much a part of the inter-connectedness of nature as anything else and feel pain as intensely as any human. 

            I unsnapped the leather holster and withdrew the revolver.  Standing directly over the Trounce victim I fired directly at its head.  It was spot on.  Blood poured into the rich garden soil, but incredibly the 22 long did not kill the rat.  I fired again, but the damned gun misfired and just clicked.  Again I cocked it and fired, hitting the target once more.  The rat lay motionless at last, but to be sure I cocked and fired one more time and again it just clicked.  A third shot hit the mark and the rodent was confirmed dead.  Then I called T. and told him what I’d done.

            I felt no smug superiority as some people seem to feel when blasting the life out of another sentient being.  I felt like a murderer. “Don’t think of it as murder,” he said.  “Think of it as assisted suicide.”  I hope I never have to repeat the events of today, but I know that I can and will if it means ending suffering.  I will shoot, but not without deep sadness. 

 

 

9:09 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Later...

            Over the years, out of necessity I have handled some pretty disgusting materials, but I must say that harnessing a sticky, bloody chunk of liver using a length of dental floss tops the chart.  The trap is set.

10:30 pm edt          Comments

Pop goes the weasel--I hope....

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            Cutting a hunk from the half-frozen slab of liver I couldn’t help but notice that it bore a vague resemblance to fudge but I wasn't tempted to sample it, that's for sure!  What’s a vegetarian doing with a slab of liver, you ask?  Well, even though I find the stuff disgusting I’m hoping it will be a gourmet feast for one unwelcome guest.

            Before leaving for Wisconsin one of the new chicks vanished without a trace.  Suspicions ranged from a daring cat to a brazen rat which seemed more likely in light of a new hole which had been gnawed through the ¾” plywood floor in the coop.  I dreaded even the thought of dealing with what would have to be done. This is the Peaceable Kingdom, isn’t it?  

            But, I had to choose between raising egg-producing chickens, OR raising a herd of rats for which I could think of no attractive market.  Rats never live alone.  They bring aunts, uncles, cousins, drunken friends and their brothers and sisters.   The old adage that if you see one rat you have ten rats is unfortunately true.  While I have not seen one, the evidence plainly suggested it was just a matter of time before I would.  In typical Karen fashion I decided to deal with this issue after I returned from the trip.

            My critter sitter Sandy is extremely conscientious, so she became very alarmed to find the first dead chick.  She thought the hen might have inadvertently smothered it, but then another peep vanished without a trace.  To make a long story short, the fluffy chicks which initially numbered seven quickly dwindled to two.  Sandy moved the survivors and the hens from the coop to the hay room.  The fortress she built out of hay bales, boards, bricks and anything else she could find almost prevented me from entering that room, but it wouldn’t stop a rodent.  I couldn’t bear to tell her this truth for she was very confident the hens and chicks were safe from the unseen/unidentified marauder and indeed they were when I went out to the barn last night. 

            Imagine my horror early this morning when I opened the coop and found dear Randy Rooster lying in a pool of blood.  He was dead as a mackerel.  A penny-sized hole had been chewed away from his head.  This was not the work of any rat!  While the chicks had been at floor level snuggled under the hens, Randy and the big chickens roost quite high on lofty perches.  I called Fran Kitchen, my wildlife rehabilitator friend.

            “You’ve got a weasel,” she stated with certainty and told me what needed to be done.  “Get the bloodiest piece of liver you can find and hang it in the live trap…,” she ordered.  It wasn’t easy to find liver.  Giant Eagle sold gourmet packages of the ugly stuff, but I was not about to pay their exhorbitant price. A trip to the local locker, AKA abattoir had just what I needed, albeit frozen which explains the first paragraph. 

            I’ve just finished nailing tin over the suspected rat hole and repaired some other possible entries and tonight the trap will be set with a tempting, dripping slab of some poor cow’s toxin filter.  If all goes according to plan tomorrow morning will find my wily weasel secured in the Have-A-Heart trap.  He will then enjoy a comfortable ride in the truck to his new home at Quail Hollow State Park.

            On the bright side, Pinhead, the other rooster seems happy to be the sole cock of the walk.

 

 

4:31 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 10, 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly.

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            The good news is that the electrical issue at the barn is now resolved, thank goodness.  The chickens are once again listening to NPR 24 hours a day and we are all happy, but the repairs created a barely discernable disruption to the ground near the barn.  This tiny change in the landscape was cause for the donkeys to investigate and then get to work. 

            Three wires extend from the corner of the building creating a short arc before going underground.  The bad news is that since the wire configuration is ever so slightly changed the longears decided to see if they could get rid of them.  Imagine my horror to see Corky with his teeth firmly clamped on the cluster of wires, tugging and bobbing his head in an effort to rip them loose. (And he looks so innocent in this picture....) The wires are now encased in PVC, so the Terrible Twosome will have to find another way to amuse themselves.

            I’m leaving tomorrow morning for four days in Wisconsin where the temperature is around forty degrees!  The predicted high during my stay will be “upper forties with rain….”  This forecast sounds ugly to me! Meanwhile, it’s beautiful here.  The sun is bright and the air is mild, but alas I am headed into winter conditions.  It just doesn’t feel right packing sweaters and a down jacket.  Maybe their weatherman is wrong.

            It is unlikely I will have an opportunity to post anything on this blog until Friday night, so please bear with me.  I will return.

 

 

8:06 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Lovely repasts.

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            Last night my friend Bob took me to dinner at an absolutely elegant restaurant which recently opened.  The owners had purchased a former tree farm, and then spent $5 million transforming the extensive property into a facsimile of Tuscany.  It really is lovely and the food was terrific as well.  But today I had an equally-terrific luncheon at my daughter’s.  After all, it’s Mother’s Day!

            Unlike me, my daughter does not like to cook, but when she does it's always good.  We had a tasty lunch, then went out to visit her ancient goat and -old mini-horse Weebles, but the real star of the show was Chuck the duck.  As you can see, he is adored.

 

 

6:41 pm edt          Comments

Watching Julie.

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            Julie’s vision is impaired.  Of that there is no doubt.  When I look at her crossed eyes I feel a pang of pity, but maybe it’s just remembering what it was like for me growing up with one eye that was always looking at my nose.  Kids are cruel, but aside from that, my vision was also impaired.  I saw two of everything in a flat world. I had no depth perception.  Now, I wonder if that’s how Julie sees the world.

            My pity is misplaced for this puppy is happy, adventuresome, healthy and she’s apparently unaware of what some people would consider her “flaw.”  Sissy and Poppy, the fun-loving felines tease her.  The trio is always playing and it seems the favorite game is hide and seek. The cats initiate a race with the pup in hot pursuit, but they deliberately play tricks on her.  The puppy scampers after the cats that run with that silly sideways gait, tail straight up, always just inches away from the dog before scaling a tree with the ease of a chimp. They watch from a low branch as Julie circles the tree with such a surprise and confusion on her sweet face.  She’s sure the cats have gone inside some secret door.  It never occurs to her to look up.  Instead, she sits patiently watching and waiting for the door to open.

            The kitties think all of this great fun.  They leap down, almost landing on top of the hapless puppy and the game begins again.  Those mischievous cats are the kids who called me four eyes and turned their own eyes inward, oblivious to the hurt they caused. In the animal world such meanness doesn’t exist.

 

 

10:37 am edt          Comments

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What a weekend!

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            Such a cold blustery day!  It feels more like November than May.  I’m wearing my new Happy Trails long-sleeved T-shirt, just one of the thank you gifts presented to me at last night’s volunteer recognition event which was simply wonderful.

            The auditorium was filled with just the sort of people this world needs more of.  Volunteers ranged from a thirteen year old boy to several older individuals who are all using their lives to help victims of ignorance or deliberate cruelty.  The young boy, whose photography frequently appears on HT web site is clearly a talented young man, but in his age group he’s also a rare model of compassion and service.  So many behind-the-scenes workers are what make the Sanctuary so effective.  It was moving and inspiring and I felt privileged to be included.

            A bonus of the evening was meeting people that I can connect with others in my own circle of animal lovers, like the lady who lost her beloved donkey in a horrible barn fire.  She said she desperately misses him and hopes to get another.  What a bit of luck! I just happen to know of a little jack that needs a home. Emails are now being exchanged so that donkey will soon meet his prospective new owner. 

            Another person is attempting to help someone being evicted to find homes for a boatload of cats and kittens.  While there is a full house here and I’m not interested in taking on more, I do know folks who specialize in cat rescue.  Networking works!

            The ugly weather has not deterred the guys who are trying their best to locate the damaged wire in order to restore power to the barn.  They’ve been at it for hours and while there are now several test holes, nothing has been resolved yet.  The donkeys think they are helping.  The minute the men left a test hole in the barnyard Corky was in it.  Not just looking in, but standing in it.  Donkeys love jobs, even if they aren’t the ones doing the work. They scurried out of sight just as I took this picture, but they'll be back.  They like to "help."

 

 

12:43 pm edt          Comments

Friday, May 7, 2010

Something good in the world.

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            There’s no shortage of bad news in this world, but amidst all of it there are a few wonderful people who just keep plugging along, doing what they do to make this planet a better place.  I’m fortunate to know several such people, one of whom is Annette Fisher.  A more selfless person never existed.  In my estimation, she is a saint.

            Annette is the founder and director of Happy Trails Farm Animal Santuary.  The name implies precisely what the non-profit organization is.  It is a refuge for livestock of every kind which has been rescued from unspeakable abuse, neglect and misery.  These are animals which in most cases have been confiscated by law enforcement and humane societies.  Annette not only physically collects and cares for them, but she appears in court to testify in animal cruelty cases.  Like I said, Annette Fisher and her staff of dedicated volunteers exemplify something good in the world.  I urge everyone to look at her web site:  http://www.happytrailsfarm.org/

            I mention this because I am being recognized for my work in animal welfare by Happy Trails at a special event tonight.  I am honored and humbled beyond all words for I don’t feel deserving of such recognition, especially by people whose entire lives are dedicated to confronting and intervening in situations of suffering that most people could never imagine.  Nevertheless, I am thrilled.

            Here at home things are not going well. Everyone misplaces stuff, but it usually shows up in short order and all is well.  That’s not the case here.  I have lost the telephone!  Punching the “find phone” button has been futile. No beep, beep, beep to be heard.  I’ve looked everywhere, but alas it is gone and a friend has suggested that perhaps the donkeys took it.  Considering that I’ve searched every nook and cranny of this house from attic to cellar, checked every spot in the barn and even the rhubarb patch.  I’ve scoured the ditches (maybe I drove off with it on the roof of the truck?), but the phone is gone and of course, it is the phone for the answering machine.  But all is not lost.

            My friend Bob is giving his mother a new phone system for Mother’s Day and guess who is going to be the recipient of the old system.  Yippee!  By the way, todays photo does not represent something good in the world....     

 

4:22 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It's your choice.

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            The barn is all atwitter as more chicks hatch under the three hens. Soon they will move from the nesting boxes to the “maternity ward” (which is really just a segregated portion of the coop).  After a few weeks the hens and peeps will have access to the outside pen and by mid-summer they’ll be roaming about the gardens with the rest of the flock.  This is how I believe chickens should be raised, but “experts” disagree.

            An recent article by Gregory Martin, a Penn State Cooperative Extension poultry educator appeared in Farm & Dairy newspaper and some other publications.  He states what he considers “several advantages associated with conventional cage production.”     

            For starters, he says that because caged hens are separated from manure which falls through the bottom of the cage and is collected below, the eggs will be cleaner.

            *I counter that argument by noting that free-range hens walk away from their manure which in turn fertilizes the soil. No collection is necessary.

            He states that caged hens can be inspected for health issues. 

            *I counter by noting that free-range hens rarely have health issues, but if they do develop a problem it is obvious from the way they walk or isolate themselves from the other birds.  Easy enough to observe when there is a reasonable number of birds.

            Next, he states feed efficiency.  He says there is less competition for food and water if birds are caged.

            *Well, duh….  I think the argument here is pretty obvious.  There’s plenty of food and water for all free-ranging birds. In twenty plus years of keeping layers I have never witnessed competition.  He also notes that there is less cannibalism and mortality among caged birds.  *Again, I beg to differ!

            Mr. Martin does concede in the article:  “Martin said the primary advantage of cage-free housing is that birds can roam free and engage in their full range of natural behaviors, such as nesting, perching and dust-bathing.” 

            *”Natural behaviors” equal healthy hens, better quality eggs and an enhanced the human experience, yet “advantages” of unnatural production stated by experts (?) receive far more attention from politicians who benefit financially from corporate AKA factory “farms.” 

            If my flock of birds numbered in the hundreds or thousands, of course free-ranging would be impractical, but these arguments are indirectly about sustainable agriculture versus corporate production.  Consumers can make choices to buy eggs that may be several weeks old, but “efficiently” produced by caged hens and sold at grocery stores, OR they can purchase eggs locally from a small producer.  The eggs may cost a little more, but the difference in quality will be apparent as soon as the egg is cracked.  Shells will be thicker and the yolks will be bright orange.  They will look like regal half-suns, rather than pale yellow deflated balloons.  Eggs from free-ranging birds have real flavor and they will be fresh.  I rest my case.

            I promised myself not to use this blog as a soap box, but when I read propaganda intended to persuade buyers to support factory production it angers me.  Sorry….

 

 

5:47 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Things are looking up.

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            The electrical issue at the barn was unsettling to say the least, but a few phone calls paid off.  There are some options that may not be nearly so costly as the original plan.  While nothing is settled yet, I’m hopeful.  Armed with fresh optimism I gathered the garden tools and seeds and went to work. Gardening sooths the soul.

            Things are definitely looking up.  Many flower seeds are in the ground and some have already sprouted. The vegetable garden now has tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, summer squash, acorn squash, two kinds of beets, beans, carrots, peas (not doing well), parsley, lettuce, radishes and tomorrow I shall put in the basil.  This all sounds far more ambitious than it actually is.  I’ve put in enough manageable quantities.

            Cow had a calf, so now Kenny is swimming in fresh milk.  In the past I’ve mentioned the sanitation at Kenny’s barn and especially his milk room.  It is non-existent, but neighbor Sandy said, as she handed me a gallon of Cow’s rich raw nectar, “It’s okay. He strains it....”  So, today I made custard from Cow’s milk and it was delicious.  I shall make more.

            Kenny’s fields are all meticulously groomed now.  His old farm looks as it has never looked since I have lived out here.  Farmer Chuck has ripped out trees and brush, squared off the fields painted buildings and hauled junk away.  He wants that farm in the worst way.  Poor naïve Kenny says, “Well, I think that fella that’s planting needs the wood cuz he’s been cuttin’ stuff down and taking it with him….”  Kenny says he’s having some barn repairs made too.  Things are changing.

            There are big changes at ET’s place too.  Today workers installed a cement driveway which makes it the only house on the road with such a luxury.  The rest of us have gravel.  On Saturday workers planted acres of grass seed and he told neighbor Sandy he’s having four big trees put in!!!!!  Umm, if my memory is correct, the property HAD lovely big trees.  Oh well.  We on the road are wondering if twenty-one year old ET hit the lottery.

            About the most dramatic changes here are clean, fresh-smelling dogs.  They all got bathed today.

 

 

10:01 pm edt          Comments

Off to a rocky start this week.

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           "Didn't you post anything in your blog yesterday?" I was asked by a few regular readers. My sincere apologies, but the week got off to a rough start and things aren’t looking a whole lot better at the moment. Here's a synopsis of what happened.

            I spent sixteen years working in the greater Cleveland area.  It’s a great city and I really enjoyed it, but I also enjoyed coming home to this little sanctuary at the end of the day.  Back then it seemed I had the best of both worlds.  Many years have passed and while I used to know the city like the back of my hand, things have changed.  Yesterday I had an appointment at a west side destination that should have been simple to reach, but it was not.  It was quite frustrating; Lots of construction, forgotten routes, new roads, etc. It all worked out, buttook longer than anticipated and once again I was very happy to get home.

            My intention was to sit down and relax for a few minutes before addressing the phone calls, emails, snail mail, animals, etc. There were a LOT of issues to deal with and I was tired, but the biggie was when I discovered the barn suddenly had no electricity.  Last minute chores were completed by flashlight.  I didn’t worry too much when fussing with the breaker box didn’t fix the problem for I was sure it must be something simple that my friend T. could fix (he can fix anything).  I was wrong.

            It seems the underground wiring is broken—somewhere.  Fixing it is going to require a new trench from the house to the barn, new wire, new gadgets and a whopping expense that has all come as a big surprise, and not a pleasant one.  Obviously it isn’t something that can be put off.  Phone calls to excavators have thus far been unproductive, and this phase of the project must be addressed before the rest of the work can be scheduled. 

            I have a couple of articles that need to be written ASAP, something important happening every day of this week and I’m leaving for Wisconsin on Tuesday, so fitting a costly electrical project in with everything else will be challenging, hence I did not post yesterday and I’m afraid this post must seem like a giant whine.  It will all work out, I’m sure, but right now there is just too much to do in too little time.  To be continued….

 

 

2:27 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday serendipity.

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            “…and 100% chance of precipitation…,” said the weatherman and it sure looked like he was on the money this time.  The skies were gray and ominous, but when it still hadn’t rained by noon I decided to chance it and head to the nearby State Park where a craft and herb fair was going on.  I also decided to take Julie.

            It would be a good opportunity to see how she did on her own without her big brothers to guide her and I wanted to see how she would behave in a busy public atmosphere.  She was a gem.  After a few minutes of trepidation she trotted right along, obligingly flopping down and rolling on her back to have her belly rubbed (her favorite thing) by all her admirerers.  So many people asked if she were up for adoption. Certainly not, but so many other equally-wonderful mongrels are, just as Julie once was.  

            There were so many nice animal and plant enthusiasts, so when casual chatter turned to the subject of animal rescue (as it always does) several people volunteered their products and services for our local rescue group’s next fundraiser. Wonderful!

            Before leaving the herb fair I wandered into the plant building just as they were announcing that all plants were half price.  Gorgeous healthy plants of all sorts!  I came home with peppers and tomatoes and got them in the ground just as the sky opened and the first rain drops fell.

            This morning, before going to the herb fair I launched an ambitious project intended to create more privacy, more flowers and less mowing.  It was more of a job than anticipated and only after my hand was all blistered from manually removing sod with a hoe did I remember that I still have my friend’s Mantis tiller.  Ah ha! 

            I pulled the little machine from the shed, went through all the start up procedures as directed and gave the cord a yank—again and again and again.  How utterly frustrating to know that the little tiller could do in a few minutes what had already taken me a couple of hours.  I called T. who drove over and gave the cord one pull and the tiller fired into action.  It should go without saying; T. is a man, once again proving my theory that machinery is microchiped so it only responds to a masculine touch.

            As I finished raking the newly-tilled spot that will soon host cosmos and poppies, I noticed the row of waiting poultry standing as if in line to buy movie tickets.  The minute I walked away, the chicken tractors went to work.  When I returned from the fair they were still at it and I must say that new garden (unseeded) is the texture of cornmeal.  The girls and their boyfriends did a fine job, but now they are bored with that area, so it will be safe to plant in a day or two.

            It was a wonderfully productive day in many ways and now that the weatherman’s prediction has finally materialized, it’s nice to sit and reflect on all that was accomplished.

 

 

5:38 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A single woman...

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            I wasn’t always a “single woman living alone on an old farm…,” but when I became one I immediately bought myself a chain saw and enrolled in a pistol shooting class.  Both endeavors have proved pointless. 

            I am terrified of the chain saw.  Every page of the owner’s manual contained the words “danger, hazard, warning, etc.” accompanied by drawings of accidents about to happen.  Not little scratch-type accidents, but the sorts of accidents that remove important body parts.  Not being the least bit mechanically inclined I knew that any one (or all) of those wrecks could/would happen to me if I pulled that starter cord.  Oh sure, it takes a bloody long time to saw off a limb with a hand saw, but it’s the safest way unless some kind soul competent with a chain saw comes to my aid.

            Then there’s the gun.  My father’s vintage Iver Johnson revolver does not shoot straight in spite of efforts by several “sportsmen” to “sight” it.  Even the police chief had a go at it and he had no luck.  So, when I signed up for the women’s shooting class the instructor at the pistol range took one look at my Annie Oakley style weapon and pronounced it unacceptable. 

            He handed me a lethal-looking gun of the sort used on Law & Order and other cop shows and that’s when the newspaper reporter took my picture.  There I was filling up a half page of the Sunday paper accompanied by a story about women and guns.  It makes me laugh to think readers must have figured I was quite a sharp shooter.  I was and still am a dismal marksman and remain armed only with the revolver that doesn’t shoot straight.

            Several years ago my old dog Rudy, who had a penchant for killing groundhogs if he got half a chance broke the back of one such unlucky critter.  It was horrible.  The hopelessly injured animal dragged itself by the front legs in an effort to escape, it’s entire back section dead and useless.  I ran upstairs and got the Iver Johnson, loaded it with 22 longs and walked up to the pathetic woodchuck.  I stood directly over him, sighted the revolver at his head and pulled the trigger.  The sharp retort of the gun ripped through the air, but not the bullet did not rip through the groundhog.  He looked up at me questioningly.  “What the heck are you trying to do, lady?!”

            I knew I couldn’t even try it again, so I called Neighbor Rambo who arrived on the scene with a 45 pistol. With a single pop the groundhog was dispatched.  It was a very disturbing event in several ways; 1) that Rudy had spotted the animal before I did and was able to grab it  and 2) that I was inept at doing what had to be done and 3) that Rambo killed with as casual an attitude as did Rudy.

            Rudy lived sixteen years.  No animal since (other than cats) has been a sport killer, so things remain peaceful for all.

 

 

3:02 pm edt          Comments


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