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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bon voyage!


            This will probably be the last post for about ten days unless I can get to a computer en route to or from my Canadian wilderness destination.  I and my friend H. will depart very early tomorrow morning for Oba Lake in northern Ontario, a sanctuary of mine for about twenty-five years now.  Time has stood still at this place for milennium.  Only the clear icy lake, trees and granite surround the small fish camp that will be “home” for a week. 

            The camp was originally built in the 1940’s and with the exception of a couple of additions, the old vertical log cabins are as snug as they were seventy years ago.  Black bears, moose, beaver, mink and fox are just some of the wildlife whose environment I’ll have the privilege of sharing.  Preparing for this outing is not as simple as tossing a few bits of clothing into a bag.  One must bring whatever is needed.  There’s no store for a hundred miles or more, so just think about all the foods you take for granted, then think about packing it all up in Rubbermaid totes, loading it into the truck, driving for two days to the train station, loading it all into the baggage car, then off-loading it at the lake only to re-load it onto a boat that will carry it across the lake to the camp, off-loading it once again and then unpacking it inside the little cabin. We have packed enough food to last three weeks at least (because we are women).

            If it sounds like a lot of work, it is, but it’s worth the effort.  The tiny cabin consists of a “kitchen” with an oilcloth-covered table and three folding chairs.  There’s a small woodstove because the temperatures can plummet in a matter of hours.  A three-burner propane “stove” is adequate to cook the fresh fish we expect to eat every day.  There’s a sink that dispenses lake water (pumped uphill to a holding tank and gravity fed to each cabin) and a propane fridge.  That’s the kitchen.

            Behind a curtain is the bedroom with its three horribly uncomfortable cots, a bookshelf and an up-ended wooden crate that serves as a “night stand.”  Bathroom facilities are outside and up the hill.  Stink doesn’t begin to describe the aroma emanating from the quaint little necessary building.  One does not linger.  Need a bath?  There’s the 28 mile “bathtub” AKA the lake. 

            While such a vacation may not be for everyone, it suits me and while I will miss these daily entries I should be back by the following Sunday, hopefully with tales of monster walleyes, thrilling wildlife encounters and observations of the always-colorful fellow camp mates.  Signing off for now.



9:06 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A star is born.



           Well, maybe….  Pinhead the rooster has been summoned to audition by a prominent advertising photographer.  As you might expect he’s been strutting around like the cock of the walk since I told him, but as luck would have it, the interview that was supposed to take place this morning has been postponed until my return in August.  He will be judged on his photogenic attributes which as illustrated above are superior, but the way things have been going around here lately I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s abducted by a coyote or hawk before the big day.

            Jeff, the brave chemist who collects stinging insects for pharmaceutical companies came a few days ago around midnight to set a trap for the wretched Eastern yellow-jackets that not only caused me extreme discomfort, but also ended up costing $114.00 at Stat Care!  Yesterday he came to collect the angry buggers.  It may be profitable to collect, sort and sell these creatures (by the pound), but there isn’t enough money in the world to entice me to such a profession!  He was well protected and it certainly looked as if nothing could penetrate his bee suit, but he admitted that he has indeed been stung when the net happened to touch his neck.

            He literally has this process down to a science.  The bagged bugs will be frozen, then sorted and placed in zip lock bags before being packaged in dry ice and sent to the drug firms.  There the stingers with the attached venom sac will be removed and the venom processed into serum.  There are only two companies in the US doing this work and about the same number of collectors in Ohio. 

            Since the queen never leaves the nest she will continue to lay eggs and the nest will be ready for another collection in a couple of weeks.  I have abandoned plans to work on that nature trail expansion until cold weather, so there is no reason to exterminate the colony at this time.  Better that the yellow-jackets are put to some scientific use.

            Last night I received a very disturbing email requesting help for a puppy that had been beaten, thrown down stairs and left with a leg broken in seven places.  Thankfully a kind soul rescued the dog and took it to the vet who splinted the leg for $400.00.  This was paid for by the good Samaritan.  The creep responsible for the abuse then demanded “his” dog back.  Long story short; the dog is now safe with the original rescuer, but the monster who inflicted the injury will no doubt get another dog, will abuse his children and his wife and anyone else he can.  There is no end to stories such as this one.

            Thank goodness we have a network of individuals and private organizations willing and ready to step in and help whenever and wherever they are needed.  My daughter is such a person. She works very hard and spends nearly all of her income caring for animals.  I’m delighted that she is now covered under a 501 (c) (3) umbrella and as soon as she settles on a name for her rescue I’ll post it on this blog.

            Someone else sent me the following sobering and preventable statistics.  They should cause every person who claims to care about animals to get involved one way or another.

Only 1 out of 10 dogs born ever get a home.
Only 1 out of 12 cats born ever find a home.
800 dogs & cats are killed each hour in the U.S simply because there are not enough homes for them.  For every animal that dies in a shelter, a human somewhere is responsible for its death.



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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ted's trouble.


           Ted sends thanks to Penny who suggested giving him a dose of yogurt each day for his sore ears.  He adores yogurt and actually has been getting some each morning for as long as I can remember, but it just wasn't enough to offset a nasty infection no doubt caused by his addiction to swimming.  He's now on pills  and ear ointment (which he hates).  Ted insists he just needs more yogurt.

8:42 pm edt          Comments



            For many years I had a most wonderful friend named Lynne.  She was brilliant, funny, creative, kind and an inspiration to all who knew her.  It was impossible to spend any time at all with Lynne and not learn something interesting and new.  It’s little wonder she chose teaching as her profession.  Lynne died a few years ago after losing a cruel battle with ovarian cancer.  I miss her a lot, but while my laughing friend can no longer come to dinner or go hiking with me, she is not gone from my life. 

            After the moving memorial service following her cremation I went outside to be alone, but was immediately joined by a beautiful dancing butterfly.  When the Lepidoptera appeared I experienced a full-body sensation like being electrocuted and I knew without question that it was my friend’s spirit. I’m sure others have experienced similar things.  My mother visits in the form of a cardinal.  My uncle comes in the form of cigarette smoke where there is none.  I know not everyone believes as I do, but that doesn't matter to me.

           In  the years since Lynne's death I find myself frequently honored by these butterfuly visits and they are always accompanied by the physical  sensation of an electric current passing through me.  It’s comforting to think she is free of pain and sadness and to see this  joyful reincarnation of someone who gave so much to the world when she was in a different form. 

             Today she spent time on the tiger lilies.  Lynne always liked the color orange.



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Monday, July 19, 2010

Rural delivery.


            If you live in the city you expect the postman to plod up to your door each day, usually about the same time.  Not so in the country.  It’s not at all uncommon to get a phone call from someone on the road asking, “Did you get any mail today?”  We’ve all come to know not to expect anything at all but junk on Tuesday.  ‘Might as well not bother trudging out to the mailbox, but we remain optimistic the rest of the week.  Most days the little white truck does stop to stuff our boxes with something, be it good or bad, but it has now been three days since anything at all has appeared in my post box and I am not happy.

            This delivery lapse tells me our regular carrier must be on holiday.  The last time I saw the truck stop it was being driven by a young man who threw my mail into the box, then sped down the road without even closing the little post box door.

            In addition to the now-outdated New Yorker that was supposed to arrive on Friday, I am expecting several other publications and more importantly, some checks.  My bank account is in dire straits and Ted’s visit to the vet just put a bigger dent in the measly remains of my account. 

            Ted has an ear infection; not uncommon in dogs from the lab family.  His forays into scummy pond no doubt contributed to this, so now he must get pills and ear ointment daily. 

            While a lot of people think my small country life is removed from the noise and commotion of city life, it isn’t nearly remote or quiet enough for my tastes, so I will be leaving on Friday for a remote fish camp in northern Ontario.  I’m really looking forward to the trip, but there is a lot of pre-travel preparation required as one must take everything needed.  No roads, no electricity, no plumbing, no way out once you are there.  The southbound train runs 3 days only. 

            Just think about all the incidentals you use in a typical day.  Then think about fitting all of this stuff into a few totes.  Since I’ve visited this camp for many years the packing is almost down to a science, but there are still a lot of last minute things to address.  The dogs know something is up and they’re worried.



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Sunday, July 18, 2010

a helpful hint.



1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.

5 Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!

6.. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.

13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!

Pass this along to everybody you know who is looking for better and safer ways to solve life's everyday problems

6:51 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It only takes one time...


          I take my responsibilities toward animals very seriously.  Ask anyone.  Friends with lesser menageries don’t always understand when I excuse myself from dinner saying , “I have to take care of the barn…” or “I have to put the chickens away.”  What could happen, they wonder?  Last night illustrates what could and did happen. 

            Chickens are busy creatures.  There’s always something they have to do like scratch in the garden or peck around in the compost pile or take a dust bath, or, or, or…, so going into the coop to roost at day’s end does not always coincide with my own schedule.  Chasing them around the barnyard in an attempt to get them in is aggravating and pointless under most conditions.  So when T. asked if I’d like to go for ice cream and the hens were still busy with their outside activities, I just figured that by the time I got back home, they'd be inside and I’d close the coop door then.  I forgot. There is no excuse other than that I forgot to go back up to the barn when I got home. The gruesome consequences of this brain snap met me early this morning. 

            As I always do when coming downstairs at dawn I looked out the landing window.  It was surprising to see the donkeys stationed at the gate of the outside chicken pen looking at something.  Donkeys look at things with intensity.  They do not ‘glance’ at anything.  They consideer everything with great concentration.  Since they had long since destroyed the top boards of the pen just after I rebuilt the enclosure last spring, they had lost interest in further deconstruction work, but this morning I dismissed their odd interest in the pen without much concern. 

          They're just looking for another project, I thought while getting on with the morning rituals of sending dogs out, letting cats in, feeding felines and dishing up dog kibble while the coffee brewed.  Then, with a steaming mug in hand I watched the world awaken from the sunny comfort of the porch before heading to the barn.  No sooner was I through the gate when the crime became apparent.  The barn was eerily silent. There was none of the usual morning cackling from the coop.  As I got closer I saw the feathers and knew in an instant what had happened.

            The little coop door that is religiously closed every night stood open.  It gaped as a silent invitation to the coon that had entered in the darkness and killed the little white silkie hen and one of her chicks.  Feathers were everywhere, enough to fill a bed pillow if one were so inclined.  It must have been a horrible struggle.  She probably tried frantically to protect her peeps, only to be massacred in the corner of the outside pen. 

            The other chickens remained quietly on their perches, peering down at the chirping chicks who were calling for their missing mom..  Even Pinhead the rooster was mute.  I’m sick with guilt.  It was all my fault.  As I was enjoying a chocolate cone, Rocky Raccoon was enjoying KFC. 

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Friday, July 16, 2010

What to do when it's hot? Cook!


            It was even uncomfortably-hot at 5:30 in the morning, so I hesitated to set off on our usual walk.  By the time I went to the barn it had started to rain, but not enough to do any good at all.  The day only got hotter and more unpleasant!

              Two of the best laying hens have suddenly become enchanted with whatever is growing on the opposite side of the road.  I’m sure whatever it is also grows on this side of the road!  A chicken in the road is as good as dead, so this morning I found myself wielding a lunge whip, clad in my nightie and bright yellow crocs chasing the errant girls back to the safety of the barnyard.  I only hope the sound of the whip slicing through the quiet morning air and the frantic admonitions of their bizarrely-outfitted owner was enough to discourage any future ventures off the property.  Thankfully there was no traffic to smash my hens or to witness my outlandish performance.  

            As recorded in this blog earlier in the season, many of the seeds I planted either did not germinate, were displaced by my chicken helpers or seedlings were eaten by marauding bunnies.  I replanted so many times, but failed to record what was planted where and now that the gardens are in full production I’m dealing with the consequences of my laziness.  It seems I unwittingly planted far more yellow summer squash than any one (or six) people could use! 

            They are lovely to look at and very tasty when picked before they reach bat-size, but really, how many times a week does one want to eat squash?  I’ve given them to friends.  I’ve put them in a FREE box by the roadside for strangers.  I try to check the garden daily, but if I miss a day or two they explode into what look like squash on steroids and so it was this morning.  I could not believe my eyes! 

            Since one of the dishes served at yesterdays luncheon was a casserole using zucchini and/or squash, so I am made that recipe myself.  Even so there were still several “extra” yellow clubs which I took up the road to neighbors K & L and left them in the stable for their horse boarders.  I posted the recipe along with them to encourage takers.  I really should be more judicious in my garden planning and record keeping.

            Just in case anyone else is dealing with an over-abundance of zucchini or squash, here is the basic recipe from yesterday.  It can easily be modified. Add mushrooms or spices, but it was delicious as per this version.  Enjoy!

4 cups of cubed squash/zucchini (parboil)

½ cup (more or less) chopped onion

½ cup (more or less) chopped green pepper

1 cup mayo

1 cup parmesan cheese

2 eggs

S & P to taste.

Place in greased casserole and top with crushed corn flakes (bread or cracker crumbs)

Bake at 350 degrees for about ½ hour. 

I THINK I REMEMBERED THIS RECIPE CORRECTLY!  I made it this afternoon and it was delicious, but the kitchen was hot as hell.




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Thursday, July 15, 2010

A genuine day of leisure!

            What a wonderful day!  Up at 5:30.  Then, after coffee and breakfast on the porch, the dogs and I set off for our morning walk.  Today we encountered a fat happy groundhog that has discovered living in the woods is far safer than living in Farmer Chuck’s fields.  A chorus of Phoebes accompanied by a few woodpecker percussionists serenaded us as we made our way through the morning air.  It was lovely and very unusual.  While a solitary Phoebe is common I can’t ever recall a group effort such as today.

            As we turned the corner a pair of fawns still in spot leapt from the edge of the woods and bolted into the bean field, but they didn’t venture far.  I stood watching them as they stood watching me, their big ears twitching frantically in an attempt to rid themselves of the torturous flies which to everyone’s dismay have returned.  The poor babies kept looking at one another as if to say, “Mom told us to stay right here.  What do we do now?”  And so, the dogs and I continued on our way. 

            The coon in the streambed has doubled in size since yesterday, all bloated and rank.  Tomorrow we shall have to take the alternate route until the smell dissipates.  Back home the dogs were pooped, but I still had a busy day ahead.  Thanks to some lovely friends I was invited to a most interesting luncheon at J’s spectacular home.  She is a real inspiration.  An artist in so many ways and such fun.  The luncheon included interesting people and delicious food all enjoyed in the gorgeous park-like setting she and her husband have created.

            Home for just long enough to take care of my animals before meeting MJ to celebrate her birthday at a local winery where I met more new acquaintances, ate more good food and was again reminded of what special people share my life.  It’s been such a delightful day, but now I am as pooped as the dogs were earlier.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Simple gifts.


            Now that the mosquitoes and deer flies have subsided (I'm sure they are just hiding) the dogs and I have resumed our daily walks in Ranger Rick’s woods.  This morning we kicked up a beautiful young eight point buck.  Poor little cross-eyed Julie couldn’t believe it when the cinnamon-colored deer bounded past.  It’s nice to have well-behaved dogs that remain calm and seem to enjoy these serendipitous encounters as much as I do, rather than giving chase.  Not all dogs from my past were so appreciative.

            We pushed onward.  The air smells earthy and rich and the forest floor is dotted with collapsed, now-brown May apple umbrellas.  The stream that intersects the woods is almost dry, but in the muddy streambed lay a recently-dead raccoon, cause of death unknown.  It was an exceptionally big coon and from about six feet away I could see no obvious injury, but to keep the dogs away from it, I didn’t investigate closer.

            Every special ‘place’ has at least one remarkable feature and in Rick’s woods it is a spectacular oak tree that I’m certain is several hundred years old.  The trunk diameter at breast height is wider than the span of both of my outstretched arms.  One day perhaps I’ll take a tape and measure it, but that’s not really important.  I touch this tree when I pass as a gesture of tapping its incredible strength and energy and think of it as a reassuring friend.

            On the way home a perfect butterfly lay dead in the road. ‘Amazing in that several cars had sped by before I came upon it.  I gently picked the fragile body from the pavement and cradled it against my shirt.  It is a Karner Blue, a rare native to this part of Ohio, but like so many wild things, its habitat is vanishing.  In 1992 the Karner Blue was added to the Federal list of endangered species. 

            The delicate specimen is now pressed under glass and joins the many other “found” things that clutter/accessorize my office and inspire me.



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Tuesday, July 13, 2010



            As I languish on the porch in the early morning hours, looking out at the overgrown orchard I think about my farms beginning.  It’s impossible to even imagine what the land looked like when John Grogg built this place in 1821.  One thing is certain; he and his family didn’t have time to “languish” on any porch.  They had work to do.  It’s also hard for me to imagine what Esther did when less than a decade after building this farm, John died leaving his wife to sort things out for herself.

            I don’t have any idea how old she was at the time, why she sold everything or what she did after the auction.  A  daughter and her husband bought the place, but that’s all the information I have.  Did the widow stay here with the mare and the few other things the auction record says she kept?  Did she move away?  Did she remarry?  I wonder about such things.  When someone important exits one’s life with no explanation it leaves a person adrift in a sea of emotions.  It isolates one from the rest of the world, for a while at least.

            People of the early 19th century were made of stronger stuff than modern society.  They didn’t have “grief councilors” or “therapists” or an arsenal of drugs to “get them through….”  They just got on with things.  I remind myself of this.  Living in the moment has always been my way, or at least my attempted way of dealing with loss, but it isn’t easy. I have heavy work to do now, so I'd better get to it.




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Monday, July 12, 2010

Good fences...


            To paraphrase Robert Frost; good fences make good neighbors, but to Armen Pileggi, good fences make good wine.  I spent an interesting afternoon at Armen and Frances Pileggi’s to interview them about the wine they have been making for forty-five years.  I learned a lot.  While I have no intentions of stomping any grapes myself, the traditional growing, the art and the alchemy that goes into wine making was fascinating.

            It all started when a For Sale sign appeared on the house next door. They were worried.  “We were afraid undesirables might move in,” said the spry vintner, so he built a sturdy fence and planted grape vines.  As luck would have it, nice people bought the house and the vines flourished.  He now grows twelve varieties of grapes and makes award-winning wines.

            Frances fed me delicious cookies and iced tea and as wonderful Italian music played in the background I learned that three things are essential to making wine; time (his age about a year), patience (one can not rush any part of the process) and above all else, cleanliness.

            They sent me home with five bottles and a CD of vintage Italian music.  (Armen is also an accomplished musician.)  They were such gracious people and it was a lovely day.



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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Such a Sunday!


           E.B. White said: "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."

            Truer words were never written.  Again I’m reminded that when things aren’t going quite right, when discord occurs between me and people I have trusted, the one constant is the comfort of nature, so most of today was spent in the gardens.  I’m working on a safer project than the expanded nature trail.  It’s a bit of a task, but it’s progressing well and without any yellow-jacket encounters.  When finished it will utilize the glut of Rose of Sharon starts and provide more privacy and garden interest.

            Later friend Rose came for a visit with four of her dogs which together with my own all had great fun in the remaining muck of scummy pond.  All seven dogs were quickly, but joyfully transformed to mud-caked stink bombs.  It was while bathing this gang in the basement that the water pump gave out.  Long story short; breaker kicked.  Reset it, but still no hot water. My daughter’s friend looked at it and tomorrow I’ll have to get new heating elements for the water heater.

            My daughter also stopped by for a visit and to get a sheet of plywood from the barn to use in building a holding pen for the bevy of kittens she is foster homing.  It’s been a hot, busy day.



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Saturday, July 10, 2010

The cost of my small country life..


            Okay, I’m just using my location as an excuse for a lifelong addiction—buying books.  I recently purged many, but today I added a new boatload of books to my collection and I’m trying to blame it on neighbor Ben from whom I buy produce.

            Ben always has early tomatoes, fabulous corn and since he lives only a couple of miles from here I ride my bicycle over to his place, have a nice visit, and get some exercise all at the same time.  Besides riding down to T’s, Ben’s is about the only place I go on two wheels.  I really didn’t enjoy cycling.  The problem was my bike. 

            I’d paid $15.00 for it at a garage sale a couple years ago.  The 10-speed was pretty nice for the price, but the seat was a real killer.  The new $25.00 seat looks like a big black marshmallow, but it fixed that issue.  The handlebars were another problem.  They were frozen in a most uncomfortable position, so about ¾ of the distance from Ben’s to home my hands would become numb since all of my weight rested on my wrists. 

            Anticipating regular rides for Ben’s corn and maybe even some pleasure riding to get into better condition, I loaded the imperfect bike into my truck and took it to Ernie’s Bike Shop, the place where serious cyclists go for premium bikes, accessories and service.  The guy who lifted my mountain bike out of the truck bed acted as if he might catch some contagious disease from handling it.  He didn’t even try to hide the fact that he considered my wheels JUNK.

            I explained the problem with the handlebars and he said he could fix it, but before I knew it he had convinced me to leave it for a “tune up” which I did for a mere additional $31.00.  Today I went to pick it up, but en route I came upon an allotment garage sale bonanza and it seemed each house had at least one book I needed.  I found some wonderful buys!!!  (Now I must find some shelf space.)

            So, as you see, indirectly I can blame my rural location for indulging my addiction to books.  IF I didn’t have to ride my bike to Ben’s for corn I wouldn’t have HAD to take the bike to Ernie’s and then RETURN to Ernie’s on a route chockablock with yard sales at which there were bargain-priced books that only a fool would pass up.  Living in the country comes with cost.  (Which one to read first…?)



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Friday, July 9, 2010

Rain at last!


            What a relief to awaken to a dark ominous sky.  Later, when that sky opened and rain pounded into the hard dry earth I thought this must be the best day in weeks:  Not only because it has cooled the air, but also because of a visit from Jeff, a fellow who is going to get rid of the wretched stinging insects that have made my life a living hell these past couple of days.

            Jeff is a chemist who collects venomous insects for a pharmaceutical company which then extracts the venom for serums used to treat hyper-sensitive people like myself.  I am ecstatic!  He quickly identified the buggers as Eastern yellow-jackets which are one of the most aggressive.  I could certainly confirm that reputation!!!  Only today is my hand almost back to normal (almost…) and my legs no longer hurt.  They just itch and the sting spots have become big red blotches which may take weeks to heal completely. 

            The stat care facility called to see if I’m still alive and advised calling my doctor to get a prescription for an Epi-pen since future attacks could be more severe.  Just the  thought of another attack is terrifying!

            The “season” for these stinging insects hasn’t even begun, so it may be helpful for others to understand the danger of such vicious critters.  I think I’ll propose a story to one of my favorite editors.

            The gardens are growing before my eyes! I'm harvesting lovely things to eat and beautiful bouquets for the house!



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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trail detour to Stat Care.


            Just after posting yesterdays blog the dogs and I set off for our daily walk.  I was armed with the camera and took this photo of the proposed off-shoot for the nature trail.  It seemed like an easy starting point that would ultimately weave through the orchard, down toward the tiny stream and finally reconnect near the pond.  I had only taken a few steps into this inocuous-looking grassy area when it happened.

            With the power of a diesel train an army of ground-dwelling hornets hit me.  There is no way to describe the pain, but a few comparisons might include being shot with red hot nails, fire-tipped arrows or maybe doused with gasoline and set alight.  Screaming and disoriented I ran from the area thinking I was headed toward the house, but ended up in the pasture.  The pain was unimaginable.  Inside the house I discovered one of the monsters had hitched a ride inside my knee length pants and had made its way upwards.  I tore my clothes off and ran for a cold shower, hoping frigid sudsy water would help.  It did not.  Long story short; with tears streaming down my face I drove to Tri-County Stat Care where they administered an Epi-shot, iced my hand and wiped away all of the ointments I’d smeared on my legs in a futile effort to ease the pain.

            After about an hour they sent me home with orders to take Advil which I did in great quantities, but without relief.  Neighbor Sandy brought some numbing spray which helped a little, but the pain is bone-deep running from my hand up my arm and I feel as if I have a mild case of the flu.  Needless to say, that proposed new route has been nixed. 



5:06 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, July 7, 2010



            Someone whom I consider to be a very wise person once advised, “There are only two things you should still consume if they fall on the floor; pills and chocolate.”  So when I dropped the “medicinal” Cadbury bar on the kitchen floor I picked it up, brushed it off and ate it. Chocolate is my self-prescribed antidote for heat prostration.  Probably doctors would not agree, but ‘works for me.  I feel no ill effects.

            Everyone is lamenting this miserable weather, but I’m very fortunate to be so immersed in nature here.  Every evening the dogs and I walk through the woods and along the little trail where there is always something to be discovered.  It’s interesting to see how plants are coping with this heat.  Some of the areas which are usually so dense with vegetation are sparse now, but I know that when we get a good rain (and we will eventually…) these areas will again green up and become like a tropical jungle.  Meanwhile I’m going to take advantage of the die-back and work on expanding the trail as I’d planned to do, but found the bugs and brambles too overwhelming.  Deep Woods Off and the loppers will now allow some access.

            The bird bath is kept clean and filled and the water bowl up by the pump is freshened daily for the rabbits, coons and whatever else visits during the night.  Even with fly strips and full water buckets I worry, perhaps needlessly about the barn animals.  Much to their surprise I misted the donkeys.  It was so funny to see Andy run off and then look back at me as if to ask what happened. Corkey hurried over and nosed Andy’s wet flank, then the two of them came back to where I stood with the hose.  It was a good game for all.  The boys got cooled off and I got a good laugh.

            In the barn where the two hens and the chicks are I have devised an air conditioning system of sorts; a screen door with a pan of water and a fan on the opposite side blowing into their enclosure.  Still it’s hot in there, so tomorrow I’ll allow them access to the fenced outside pen.  Poke berry plants are now huge and overhang the pen, so they will have shade, a new place to explore and they can scratch in the soil.

            Animals here are made as comfortable as possible, but I fret helplessly about the many dogs whose owners are too stupid or too lazy to provide them with shade, water and some basic comfort.  I fear many will die during this hot spell.  My own dogs are happy to lie in front of the fan and when the heat gets to be too much, there’s always scummy pond for a quick cool off.  For myself, I’m loading up the kayak and going to the lake this evening.



5:22 pm edt          Comments


            After the athletic feat of climbing onto my “new” bed last night, I slept like a baby, but sadly this was not the case for everyone.  This morning I received a mea culpa email from the garden party guest who had written his reflections on the party which I posted the day after the big event.  He said he could not sleep because he discovered that (thanks to spell check) a word intended to be complimentary had appeared as something quite different.

            It’s happened to all of us at one time or another.  Contrary to what we intend to say/write something else is conveyed.  Here’s what my poor friend said: "The blogger...does not reveal fully her charm, her viciousness..." He meant to say vivaciousness!  He was so upset, but I've assured him that most likely no one even noticed.  It's pretty funny when you stop to think about it; maybe it was a Freudian slip.  ha ha

10:15 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Shut down due to weather.


            This relentless heat has a way of squelching any creative impulses, even when there are projects that should be tackled.  Today I succumbed to the heat-induced lethargy and like Scarlett O’Hara told myself I’d think about it tomorrow.  Tomorrow I think I will put the rattle-trap air conditioner in my office.  It's the only way I’ll be able to work.

            So instead of sweltering in front of the computer I bought a new mattress.  A prominent sign in the store noted the $45.00 delivery fee was for local deliveries only.  My location was not local, so I had the new bedding loaded into the bed of the truck.  It was all nicely encased in plastic, so it was safe to transport.  Back home I was amazed at how much bigger the new mattress looked than the existing one that has been responsible for predictable morning back aches.  Oh well, I’d figure out how to get it in place after I wrestled the old one down the stairs.  Such silly optimism….

            Of course I could always call T. as he is very strong and very capable, but he’s also very busy and since I was already slacking on work I felt obligated to deal with this hefty issue on my own.  I called neighbor Sandy instead.

            Picture Sandy:  She is no more than five feet tall, older than I am, but a very sturdy little creature with a ‘can-do’ attitude.  We pulled the behemoth bedding from the truck bed and onto the wheelbarrow which I pushed toward the back door as Sandy steadied the load.  It was a dicey trip, but we made it.  Pinching the heavy plastic protective cover to create little ‘handles’ we pushed, pulled and shoved the mattress through the kitchen, into the dining room and then leaned it against the table.  We needed to take a breather.

            After downing big glasses of lemonade we re-assessed the challenge and decided it might be best to wait until T. could help.  The stairs are narrow and there are two landings/turns.  It looked impossible, but then, as if that lemonade had super-charged us we looked at one another and said, “We can do this!”  And we did! It wasn’t easy, but my new gigantic mattress is in place and I can hardly wait for bedtime! 

            My bed was originally a rope bed from the mid-19th century, but for all practical purposes the ropes have been replaced with plywood sheeting.  As the bed itself is quite high, a box spring is out of the question.  Even with the old mattress and a featherbed atop that, it was much higher than average beds.  With the new mattress the distance from the floor to the sleeping surface is now 36”.  I hope I never fall out of this bed!

            Over the weekend a fellow about two miles from here had a huge yard sale.  Mr. & Mrs. W. are African American and they are most certainly a minority in this township.  People refer to them as “that old black couple on the corner….”  Everyone who has lived around here likes them, but it never occurs to them that their reference is politically incorrect.  Everyone also looks forward to their predictable holiday yard sales because there is always a surprising inventory.  This latest sale took the prize.

            Guinea fowl casually strolled around the huge yard which was filled with the most amazing array of old rusty horse-drawn farm implements I’ve seen outside of a museum.  I don’t even know what some of the stuff was for, but a walking plow for $50.00 was very tempting.  I could just picture Andy turning my garden next year, but I could also picture myself being dragged helplessly behind a freaked out donkey, so I passed on the plow.

            The sale ended and it didn’t look as if many (if any) of the implements had been sold, but when I told my friend Ralph, a horse farmer about the stuff he was ecstatic!  Phone numbers have now been exchanged and I suspect that Mr. W. is going to have a big equipment sale when Ralph comes down to see the historical relics. 



8:13 pm edt          Comments

Monday, July 5, 2010

Taking chances.


          It’s been quite a weekend, in many wonderful ways.  Today I reflected upon choices I’ve made, chances I’ve taken and in retrospect I am again aware of what a special life I lead. 

            Yesterday’s party included people who have been friends for decades as well as people I had never met until Sunday.  Some people would say it was stupid to invite absolute strangers to my home.  I think not.  I think this is what makes life interesting.  I have no regrets at all.  They are no longer strangers. 

            Today was spent with my dear friends Tony and Linda.  Tony and I have been friends since we were 14 years old.  Linda and I have been friends since she and Tony married—a very long time.  We spent the day catching up, reminiscing, and talking about our mutual futures.  It was comforting to be with such longtime chums.  Tony and Linda think I live in the boondocks.  I laugh since my biggest concern is the encroachment of too much civilization.  I only WISH I lived in the boondocks.

            Later another friend called, one who is trying to garner the courage to move from the city into the country.  We talked about priorities and in listening to her concerns I realized that the life I’ve carved out for myself, the one I take for granted is actually exotic, romantic, and foreign to a lot of people.  This weekend forced/enabled me to look at life from a different perspective.

            Now, alone in the waning hours and dead tired, I think about how fortunate I am in so many ways.  There are many wonderful, talented and interesting people involved in varying degrees in my life and it’s their choice to be so.  I’m honored and I’m grateful.  My animals are as tired as I am, as if they were the ones to do all the party preparations and clean up.  I laugh at their “fatigue.”   

            Tomorrow life returns to normal.  I’ll begin working on an article that will soon be due.  The donkeys can eat all the paint they want from their newly painted stall.  The dogs can go swimming in scummy pond without threats of another bath and at some point I will become complacent about how nice my small country life is, but tonight I’m just very thankful for it.

9:14 pm edt          Comments

The party's over...



It was indeed a lot of work, but well worth the trouble.  I even invited one of my faithful blog readers who sent this appraisal of the event.  I am flattered beyond words.  I am also pooped.

Reading, the  blog of "MY SMALLL COUNTRY LIFE" , daily, I grew devoted to the descriptive writing of the blogger and charm of the place of which she writes, aptly named, THE KINGDOM OF PEACE.  Imagine my excitement and honor when I received an invite to attend a garden party there!
Departing to attend, I had high expectations for my visit, both of the blogger and place.  Shortly, into my visit, my expectations were greatly exceeded.
The natural setting, the clapboard, renovated country home, tastefully decorated and comfortable interior,  with its beautiful back porches, the red barn,  two  donkeys milling about in its yard, the vegetable garden, the beds of beautiful flowers, all surrounded by woods, with pathways to walk, magnificent trees (a haven for birds) hiding a pond, for animals to swim and drink, gentle pets constantly moving about, stopping only to be petted, all lent a particular charm and peaceable atmosphere to it all.  The blogger does a commendable job in depicting THE KINGDOM OF PEACE in word and photos but, to rephrase the Chinese proverb, "A visit to THE KINGDOM OF PEACE is worth more than a thousand words and pictures"!  
The people in attendance, friends of one another for years, were each unique with a special talent in writing, music, or painting. All interesting in conversation. Warm to each other, they were quick to embrace others new to them. The blogger, a lovely and classy lady, a most gracious host, I discovered, perhaps, because of her modesty,  does not reveal fully her charm, her viciousness, her grace in her writing about herself!  She and the others, all peaceable people! Further, mention of delicious food and toe-tapping music is not to be omitted.
Thich Nhat Hanh in his book, FINDING OUR TRUE HOME;Living in the Pure Land Here and Now, writes: "As human beings our deepest desire is to find an environment which is secure and where there is love and understanding.  If you live in surroundings where you feel there is security, understanding, and love and where people have the capacity to transform their suffering, fear, and attachment,  then you live in the Pure LAND."     
   Is living in THE KINGDOM OF PEACE not living in the Pure Land?        


6:37 pm edt          Comments

Friday, July 2, 2010

Party prep.


            Bathing three large dogs is time and shampoo consuming, but considering the transition from stink to lovely flower-scented mutts, it’s worth the effort.  All dogs were party-ready.  They looked so sleek and smelled so good, I should have known it couldn’t possibly last for two days!  Ted and Ernie seem happy to be fresh and clean, but Julie apparently prefers the stench of rotting vegetation, duckweed and funky pond water.  My heart sank as the happy puppy bounded across the porch, drenched from nose to tail after a quick dip in scummy pond. 

            Ted is feeling much better since the injection to relieve inflammation in his leg.  He’s also on pills for a week, but while his being pain free is great, it makes him more determined than ever to play Frisbee, sticks, ball or anything else he can find.  He is not easily dissuaded, but if indulged the exercise will aggravate his stretched ligament even more.  Try keeping a lab quiet.  It’s impossible!

            Ginny’s incubator is not working properly and I fear that the wildly fluctuating temperature inside has arrested the development of the eggs inside.  I think I will put the eggs out for the raccoons and leave well enough alone, since the adoptive mother hen that seemed happy with the introduced chick abandoned the peep.  She literally flew the coop.

            I watched as the poor peep wandered about chirping pitifully, but then the pumpkin-colored chick approached it as if to say, “You can come and live with us.” The newcomer followed Pumpkin and joined the existing trio.  Fluffy took the orphan under her wing and is now raising four peeps instead of three.  All is well.  Unless there is some miraculous event in the incubator overnight, the eggs are getting the heave ho.



7:08 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I'm outraged!

            Someone I consider reasonably intelligent pulled into my drive one day with a bumper sticker for a well-known animal rights organization on the car.  I couldn’t help but question why anyone would support this well-known national “non-profit” organization.  As expected the person expressed concern over how animals are treated and naturally presumed this organization shared that concern and was actively working toward improving animal welfare. 

            Well, on paper perhaps and certainly in their misleading television spots, but in reality the facts suggest a more self-serving agenda.  This recent announcement concerning the compromised welfare of Ohio livestock illustrates this point.

            Over the weekend I attended a showing of Peaceable Kingdom, the journey home, a very moving documentary.  The intention of the filmmakers is to promote a vegan culture, an extreme expectation for sure, but this in no way diminished the flat out facts about how American livestock is regarded, raised, and killed. It’s all standard operating procedure and it’s all legal and it's all hidden from consumers.

            If, as industry and government proclaim these practices are humane, then one must ask himself why advertising shows sleek beef cattle grazing in lush pastures under a benign blue sky instead of showing prospective customers feedlot cattle, milling about in manure laden pens.  That happy cow that just can’t wait to become a steak on your plate is shot full of antibiotics and hormones during its lifetime and you ultimately ingest them.  That steer is fed the renderings of other animals instead of herbaceous feed that nature intended.  Advertising is great, isn’t it?

            That grinning piggy on the package of sausage actually has the intellect of a three year old child, but never mind.  It probably doesn’t mind having its teeth cut, its tail docked or its testicles lopped off without anesthetic while it’s being held upside down by a back leg, so that later when it’s bumping around in a concrete-floored pen with a gazillion of its own kind there will be less collateral damage from cannibalism. 

            Meanwhile, in another “barn” its mom, the sow is in a farrowing crate which prevents her from even turning around.  That’s so she won’t crush her piglets because that would diminish the “farmer’s” profits.  If she becomes lame from confinement and can’t make it out to the feedlot to be fattened up for your pork roast the “farmer” is legally permitted to put a chain around her neck and strangle her to death.  That’s efficiency.  That’s money.

            I suggest animals killed as per religious ritual be shown hog-tied on the package having their throats slit while fully conscious.  Maybe accompanying sounds of bleating goats or lambs should be played in the meat department.

            The company that stamps its eggs with a little mark reassuring the consumer that they are about to eat one of the “best” eggs on the market should actually picture the featherless, crap-covered, mutilated hens that produced those eggs in their tiny wire prisons.  Honesty in advertising is all I’m suggesting.

            This is never going to happen.  Farming is no longer about that charming lane leading to a pristine 19th century bank barn where contented cows graze under clear blue skies.  A growing number (thank God!) of small farmers committed to sustainable agriculture might be doing so, but for the most part meat is produced in factory “farms” that bear little or no resemblance in appearance nor practice to what the industry would have consumers believe.  It’s all lies and it’s all condoned by the government and it is not condemned by that big non-profit animal “welfare” (???) organization that is now taking undeserved bows for "compromising" genuine animal welfare reform. 

            I am furious and in a rage, in case that isn’t obvious.  IF there were truth in advertising and IF the buying public were aware of the facts would there be a demand for change?  Maybe, maybe not, but we as individuals can make choices.  This rant is to encourage others to at least be informed about facts and to act accordingly.  Just saying that one cares about animal welfare doesn’t do squat.  And sending money to organizations that say one thing and do another (or worse still, do nothing) doesn’t make the world a kinder, more humane place.  It only buys that pompous spokesman another expensive suit.  BTW, this organization reported net assets of $162 million in 2008, their latest reported financial information.

            I must stop now before I lose all my faithful readers.

8:20 pm edt          Comments

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