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Thursday, March 31, 2011

a day of rest?


            Neighbor Butch and his big John Deere tractor pulled my truck from its quagmire this morning.  What a relief to be back on solid ground as I had many errands to run.  Back home at last I built a fire, made some soup and then headed to the barn for evening chores and that's where I found the grumpy mother-to-be.

            Little Red Hen III is setting on a clutch of eggs and she was not at all happy to have me mark them.  Her head feathers stood on end and she pecked my hand as I made an X on each egg, then replaced it under the little firebrand.  If all goes according to Nature's plan we'll have chicks in a few weeks.  It has been my experience that small red hens are usually the broodiest of the flock.  At least those that have lived here have proved to be the best moms.  This right of spring (chicks) is even more exciting than the first daffodils.

            But will spring ever really come?  Snow still covers the ground and the temperatures remain uncomfortably cold, so work on the flagstone terrace is on hold.  I'm happily using this down time to recuperate.


8:15 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cancelled due to winter storm...


            Since yesterday I have unloaded and moved 1 ½ tons of crushed limestone.  I have handled enough rock to build another Stonehenge.  My truck is now hopelessly stuck next to the fence at the lower pasture, not because I wanted it there, but because it slid there on the blanket of snow that is getting deeper by the minute.  I am chilled to the bone and there is an intense pain in my right side.  I wonder what a hernia feels like.... 

            Now, about my partner in this ambitious paving project; she was reluctant to stop even as a spring blizzard buried our tools and materials.  This woman is not human!  I don't think I had her strength and stamina when I was twenty!  The project is looking great and it's all thanks to her vision, not to mention her muscle.  I myself am pooped, but would like to think I'm getting fit, thanks to this "personal trainer."


4:59 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, March 29, 2011



            Big Red, the dumped dog has seemingly vanished into thin air.  There is no sign of him anywhere and more worrisome is the fact that the food deposits remain untouched.  I thought surely scavengers would have enjoyed the meal delivery, but only one pile of kibble is gone.  The canned food, the dog biscuits and other food is still there.   I worry about helpless victims like this dog, the first of many that will appear over the summer, just as they do every year.  It seems there are more creeps responsible for abandoning animals than there are Good Samaritans to rescue them.  In my opinion it's a sign of the times.  So this morning I returned the traps which will now be set in an attempt to catch another renegade dog. 

            Superwoman Sue (SS) was eager to begin laying the flagstones, so I picked up ¾ ton of crushed limestone and thanks to a dandy little cart SS brought over, off-loading and hauling to the construction site was easy.  While I'm not too bad at grunt labor, it is SS who has the patience to set the jigsaw puzzle of stones.  This photo shows their tentative placement.  A tremendous amount was accomplished today and as I write this blog T. is outside building steps which will be greatly appreciated by the dogs who are not able to jump up onto the deck.

            As for myself, I am utterly exhausted.  My head is pounding and it feels as if I'm coming down with something.  In spite of this, it thrills me to look out the door and see such a wonderful transition from woogly, old, deck leading to ankle-breaking, weed-infested flagstones to handsome, well-designed deck leading (well, almost...) to a handsome terrace that will soon sport glorious gardens.  I'm very happy and very grateful to SS!


7:42 pm edt          Comments

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sad news.


            I worked building three stone steps yesterday.  It took the entire afternoon and once again I appreciated the genuine skill stonework requires (a skill I do not have).  I was finally somewhat satisfied with my effort, but it's far from perfect and certainly not up to Sue's stonework!  Friends came to dinner that evening and all in all it was a good day--until I checked my email just before going to bed. 

            The subject line said "sad news" and indeed it was.  My friend Erika had died.  Her death was not unexpected, but nevertheless it doesn't seem possible that this person who had such an influence upon my life is forever gone.  In restless sleep I dreamed bits and pieces of the serendipitous friendship we shared for many years.

            We met many years ago when a magazine sent me to Nova Scotia to write about a horse farm located there.  The story subject (who has also become a cherished friend) introduced me to Erika.  I recall that first meeting as if it were yesterday; driving through the beautiful countryside, turning down a long lane toward a huge yellow farmhouse and being greeted by a soft-spoken woman who looked sort of like Jane Goodall.  I was welcomed into her home, served the first of many delicious meals and a long friendship was born.

            She and her husband were brilliant, Ivy-league educated, from upper class wealthy families, totally unlike my own background.  But they chose to leave their privileged lifestyle and moved to Cape Breton where they raised five children whom Erika home-schooled back before this was a popular option.  They farmed and grew all their food and truly did live the good life. 

         "We existed on eggs, apples and deer meat," she once told me of their early years there.  While I'm sure such frugality wasn't a necessity, it fit with their commitment to live simply and it was how my friend lived right up to the end.

            She wove willow ‘cages' to contain tomatoes and other plants that had tendencies to sprawl. She made cheese, quark, wine and even her own dish towels.  She wrote magazine articles about old barns and together we explored the abandoned buildings of Cape Breton. I shall never forget the early morning phone call telling me of her husband's death. It was delivered unhysterically in the same soft voice that told funny stories about the characters of her nearby village. I remember the day she told me of her terminal diagnosis.  "They just sent me home to die," she'd said. 

             I shall miss turning down that long lane leading to the big yellow farmhouse next summer. I learned a lot from Erika and while there were certainly things about which we disagreed, I am grateful to have had this unusual friend.  Her loss has had a profound impact, not only on me, but on all who knew her.  RIP my friend.


5:55 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, March 26, 2011



            Sue (a devoted blog reader) had extended an invitation to see her gardens and the place did sound interesting, so Rose and I stopped by for a peek this morning.  Oh my! We certainly weren't expecting the incredible haven we found!  On three acres Sue and her husband Bud have created winding paths, delightful arbors and sitting spots (although I don't believe this woman EVER sits down!!!), water features, gates, assorted buildings (all charming) with unique sculptures at every turn.  It was nothing short of amazing!  The gardens seemed far more extensive than a mere three acres because Sue and Bud have vision.  Cleverly contoured islands of rhododendron, hemlock and other evergreen vegetation make it was easy to forget there were any neighbors within a mile.  Rose and I left simply flabbergasted as well as inspired.

            So why was I surprised when this pint-sized powerhouse appeared utterly nonplussed at my terrace project?  To me it looked like a lumpy, rock-laden expanse and one hell of a lot of work!  "Oh, this will be easy," said Sue grabbing a shovel and explaining to clueless Karen her "easy" design suggestions.  In one afternoon working with this dynamo, more was accomplished than I expected to accomplish in a month!

            Some people work smart while others simply work hard and exhaust themselves (I fall into the second category).  I would have moved three times the necessary amount of soil.  I would have fretted and floundered with no  idea of what the finished project would/could/should look like. Then I would have collapsed in frustration.  While I am really pooped (Sue is not...) I am now very excited and while I was blind, now I can actually "see" the flagstone walk, the raised mounds of glorious flowers, the logical transition between the porch and the deck and more importantly, I can "see" the finished project.

            "We'll have this done in no time," she says and thanks to my new friend I believe we will!  Even Ted is impressed.


6:32 pm edt          Comments

Friday, March 25, 2011

1:56 pm edt          Comments

...And a good time was had by all.


Southern fiction writer Flannery O'Connor didn't want a biography written about her because as she said, "Lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy."   I could say the same about this blog.  More often than not what goes on between the house and the chicken yard is not terribly exciting or even worth noting.  However, the non-humans living here might disagree for whenever things seem a bit dull they instigate something.

Yesterday the farrier trimmed the donkeys feet.  This always seems to throw the bad asses into high gear, but since Andy is still a bit lethargic Corky looked to his other playmate.  While he and Ernie (and more recently Julie) frequently play ‘tag,' Ernie didn't suspect what the Corkster had in mind.

As the dog stood quietly sniffing the spring air, gazing absentmindedly skyward, I could see that Corky wanted to have some fun.  He'd already unsuccessfully tried to engage Andy, but his best friend whirled and kicked at him, so Ernie came in second place. 


Head down, ears back, the gauntlet was thrown.  Ernie bounced to attention, butt in the air briefly before racing full steam ahead of his pursuer.  Watching these two animals who by nature should not be pals it occurred to me that we humans have lost such spontaneity.  A good time was had by all, even myself as I caught some of the fun in pictures.


1:50 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oh no...


            Sunny, but cold today.  Like Andy, I'm not feeling all that great, but hopefully the ‘pedicure' Andy got will make him feel a lot better.  Maybe a pedicure would make me feel better too, but I doubt it.  I'm achy, chilled and tired.  Not a such a good day.


5:30 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What happened to spring?.


Now that I'm well equipped with two huge live traps intended to catch Big Red, permission to set the traps from the head honcho at the model airplane field where the dog has been hanging out, Big Red has vanished.  Food I've left for him is untouched.  In spite of the dreary weather a  friend and I walked the vast acreage looking for any sign of him, but we found nothing.  He seems to have disappeared as dramatically as he appeared on Saturday.  Since none of the concerned neighbors have been able to get anywhere near this enormous dog, it's unlikely he's been captured.  Word would certainly have spread.  It's all a mystery, but we shall continue our vigil.  I hope he has not been shot.

Rain, cold temperatures and hail today stalled any landscaping notions, but during one respite the dogs and I went for a walk.  It was a joy to see old Kenny's bull out grazing with Cow and the crippled Hereford; released from the hell hole of Kenny's barn at last.

Julie produced yet another ‘trophy ‘this evening.  Apparently the fun of tossing around the rack of deer antlers has worn off.  Today I was greeted by a half-eaten muskrat left on the back patio.  My cross-eyed little girl is quite a hunter gatherer.  She hunts for stuff in neighbor Bill's compost pile, gathers up her prize and brings it home.  She has also decided that chasing hens is big fun.  Her intention is not to actually catch or hurt them, but just to make them scurry along.  That game has been nixed.


8:30 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A busy day.


"I'm not going in there! YOU go in," says the rooster to his harem.  One by one the hens traipse up the ramp, peek into the squeaky clean coop and then retreat.  A conference ensues. 

"I liked it better the way it was.  I liked the smell, didn't you?" says Henny Penny, the little red girl.  The others cluck in agreement.  This was not the reaction I expected, nor one that I appreciated.  When it's time to go in at the end of the day, they are expected to GO IN.

After spending an entire afternoon at this most-dreaded chore; cleaning their coop, sweeping every nook and cranny and replacing the litter with fresh pine chips I was tired and not in any mood for a poultry revolt. 

Coop cleaning is a spring ritual.  Allowing their bedding to build up over the winter months is insulating.  Rather than stripping it I just add fresh top dressings and clean straw in the laying boxes until spring rolls around.  Then the place is thoroughly cleaned and fresh litter goes down.

Usually after feigning surprise, the flock struts about, then launches a poop-a-thon to initiate their clean digs.  Not so this year.  They all refused to enter through the little chicken door at the top of their ramp.  Instead they insisted on marching through the feed room to enter via the people door.  Chickens are such picky ungrateful critters.

Now, about the deck project.  It is almost finished and while I'm quite pleased with the construction, just thinking about the rest of the project is overwhelming.  There are still many big rocks to be moved, soil and crushed limestone to haul in to level and pave the flagstone terrace, planting pockets to be defined (not to mention being planted) and steps off either end of the deck to be built (by Mister T.).  Oh my, so much to do, but admittedly it is all rather exciting.

The abandoned dog dilemma continues.  In the back of my truck is a live trap big enough to hold a bear.  As soon as permission is granted from the airplane club the trap will be placed and baited in an attempt to save this poor dog from becoming road kill.  While I and several others have attempted to lure him to us using tempting foods and crooning pleas, he remains extremely fearful and retreats into the woods or worse still, he darts across a busy state road.

Catching the orphan will only be step #1.  What to do with a dog the size of a calf once he's caught has not yet been decided although we who worry about Big Red are working on this issue.  He's a very pretty and unusual looking dog.  The dumped dog drama will be continued....


7:06 pm edt          Comments

Monday, March 21, 2011

9:21 pm edt          Comments

Events of the day.


The changing seasons bring more than daffodils.  Spring also brings the inevitable new stream of dumped animals.  Sometime on Saturday a big red dog was discarded about a mile down the road.  Several people attempted to capture it as it ran out to check each passing vehicle, as if he were expecting his owner's return.  All weekend we watched for it and unsuccessfully tried to coax it within capture distance.  I've just tried once again.  I can think of no fate ugly enough for the cretins who abandon trusting animals such as this one. 

Workers arrived early this morning and thankfully the predicted thunderstorms held off, so the guys made great progress on the new deck.  It's coming along well.  It would be nice to think that when their labor is finished that the project will be complete, but unfortunately I will still have a ton of work to complete myself; literally a ton, in the way of hard-scaping with rocks and field stone. After investigating the workmanship Buddy the cat has issued her approval.


6:19 pm edt          Comments

Gratitude for friends new and old.


Days here begin with coffee and World News, not the obnoxious, fearmongering, half-truths fostered by commercial morning "news" shows.  While the coffee is predictably good, the news is predictably bad and getting worse by the day.  It's disturbing to acknowledge that we as individuals are impotent to stop the killing, the destruction and the horrors inflicted under the guise of "peace keeping."   I believe this reality intensifies every individuals obligation to live a life of purpose; not one of words, but of honorable actions.  It seemed especially poignant that Garrison Keelor chose this poem for todays Writers' Almanac. It can be interpreted beyond the obvious.

"Ode on Intimations of Immorality from Recollections of Early Childhood" by William Wordsworth.

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
             To me did seem
            Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
          Turn wheresoe'er I may,
          By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

            The rainbow comes and goes,
            And lovely is the rose;
            The moon doth with delight
     Look round her when the heavens are bare;
            Waters on a starry night
            Are beautiful and fair;
     The sunshine is a glorious birth;
     But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
      Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
    We will grieve not, rather find
    Strength in what remains behind;
    In the primal sympathy
    Which having been must ever be;
    In the soothing thoughts that spring
    Out of human suffering;
    In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

Aside from sober pondering of the world beyond my gate, I am happy to report that work on this side of the gate, while utterly exhausting is progressing beautifully.  This is due in large part to several wonderful friends who have voluntarily come to my aid.  I am so grateful and fortunate!

I've remarked that this blog has introduced me to some who have become new friends.  Yesterday, as I was struggling and removing the big rocks that paved the construction site, a car driven by one of these blog readers pulled into the driveway.  She said, "I feel I know this place..." and with that this tiny woman whose diminutive size belied her strength pitched right in and started helping.  She worked like a beaver and what would have taken me two days to accomplish was done in an afternoon.

Then she showed me photos of landscaping that she and her husband have created with salvaged materials and clever ingenuity.  Their work is outstanding.  I was not only impressed, but inspired and I'm now looking forward to visiting their park-like haven. 

How does one thank such kindness?  Once this project is finished I will host a ‘dedication dinner' for all the good friends who have helped make it a reality.  I've been blessed with a lot of good people in my life who help offset the ugliness of those set on destroying peace, tranquility and lives in other parts of the world.

Progress pictures later today. 

1:20 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What is 'tired?'


            I have a new understanding of this word.  I used to think I knew what tired felt like, but now that this deck demolition project is underway I see that I didn't really have a clue what tired really is. 

            Rose and I began the project yesterday afternoon, knocking off the railings and spindles, hauling the debris to the burn pile and feeling ever so productive-for a while.  Then T. and R. arrived on the scene.  Men with heavy tools and big muscles.  They pried the decking free and tossed the long boards on a pile.  C. and I hauled load after load to the burn pile which had become a huge blaze.  We worked until I could barely lift one foot ahead of the other.  I was amazed at the strength and stamina of the two men who continued dismantling the old deck while I fixed dinner.

            Today the phone rang.  It was T.   "I'm afraid I overdid it yesterday.  I can hardly move.  I don't feel well...."  I've not heard from C. & R. the other two helpers, so I'm assuming they are still alive. 

            Removing the old deck was just the beginning!  I have spent the entire day preparing the site for the construction crew that will arrive next week to transform this mess into a wonderful new entertainment and relaxation spot.  Truth is I am too tired to peck out one more word on this computer. 



9:07 pm edt          Comments

Friday, March 18, 2011

Things that make me happy.


            Beyond the obvious things like getting a check in the mail, the first daffodils of the season or friends who rally round to help with dirty work projects, there are a lot of other things that really delight me.  My daughter is at the top of the list.  This morning she told me that in the past month she and her cat rescue friends have trapped, vetted and spayed or neutered 58 cats.  Her dedication is literally changing the world by preventing untold numbers of future unwanted cats.   My kid makes me very happy.  Google Cripple Creek Ferals & Friends.  You may find a new kitty you didn't know you needed.

            On a simpler level, fire makes me happy.  As my friends will attest, I love a big blaze and the fact that this one is fueled by the old deck and the two dead peach trees makes it even more satisfying.  Unfortunately the flames are so intense that my hair has been slightly altered.  While no facial hair is a good thing, no eye lashes is not.  Oh well, I'm sure they will grow back....

            And something else that always makes me happy is the color red; in this case, my new red Keds.  Happiness isn't all that hard to find when we keep life simple.




4:39 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A blogger bore.


            Last night I received a phone survey regarding blogs. The caller asked if I read, write or comment on them.  Yes to all three questions.  There are some that I read because they are informative and enlightening, others because they make me laugh, some just because they are so incredibly original and clever and one because it makes me grateful that I do not live with the tiresome, self-absorbed man who writes it!

            This guy makes a lot of money writing books about dogs, but as any true "dog person" can tell by reading a few pages of one of them or a few paragraphs of his blog, he is not a "dog person."  Like me he posts a lot of photos of his dogs, but often his are shown in the middle of a road or a parking lot.  This alone speaks volumes!  My dogs (and those of other "dog people") are never ever in the road unless safely on lead.  No one who cares about any animal willingly puts it in jeopardy. 

            The man also talks incessantly about his "fears" and "living his life." Ho hum.... It all makes me want to spew.  I'm sure that by now you must wonder why I read the damned thing if it is so aggravating.  Well, aside from reminding me that living alone while having a social entourage of interesting people is preferable to living with a conceited bore, the truth is that like compulsive eating, drinking, smoking, doping, whatever I am addicted to this braggart.  Sick, isn't it?

            Posting my own blog each day is a self-imposed discipline.  I started it as an incentive to write something, anything unconnected to the writing I do professionally.  Sharing bits of my small country life has presented some very nice personal surprises. Most obviously, it has forced awareness of not just the big daily events here like those of last Friday or Monday, but of the smaller, seemingly inconsequential things like the blooming snow drops or which birds have taken up housing here.  Blogging has made me observe and appreciate my life from a different perspective.  It's been a good thing.  I hope that should I become tiresome or redundant that someone will tell me--I think....


4:30 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My excuse...


            You know those days that leave you so utterly exhausted both physically and emotionally that it's hard to put one foot in front of the other?  Well, yesterday was such a day which explains the lack of a blog post.  I just couldn't muster the mental energy and after only a couple of hours sleep, this morning isn't much better, but I shall try....

            Monday got off to a glorious start.  The sun was shining.  The birds were twittering and scouting housing opportunities at all the recently-repaired lodgings here.  The miserable snow is almost a thing of the past although a few dirty little piles persist in sheltered nooks.  It promised to be a wonderful day.

            The vet was scheduled for 1:30 to administer vaccinations, but I had to run to the clinic prior to her visit to pick up a sedative that was to render Corky manageable.  When I returned J. was already here ready to address the fencing issue.  Heading up to the barnyard to halter and stall the donkeys I noticed that Andy was very lame.  He had been fine only a few hours earlier, but there he stood on three legs and when he moved it was with great difficulty.  In the stall I examined the dodgy leg, but could find no obvious injury, no heat, no sign of abscess, but Andy was clearly in a lot of pain.  Thank goodness the vet would be arriving in a few hours.

            The fencing project was coming along beautifully.  I cut limbs and the ubiquitous multi-flora rose from the perimeter, raked winter debris and in the bright sunshine things began looking quite nice.  All was well (except for Andy, of course).  At the advised hour I administered the sedative to Corky and about the time J. finished the fencing the vet and her assistant were pulling into the drive.  From the barn I heard the sound of Corky banging on the door as he does when he wants to be noticed.  He didn't sound sleepy.

            Ted, Ernie and Julie were all due for their rabies shots and Julie needed her one year 5 in 1 booster.  Shots were given at the truck, then the three of us headed up to the barn.  As Ernie retreated toward the house after his shot I saw that he too was on three legs!  What the heck could have happened, I wondered aloud?  That issue would have to wait until the donkeys had been dealt with. 

            We entered the barn followed by Ted and Julie who were eager to ‘help.'  I led Andy from the stall and he stood patiently for the barrage of needle jabs; four in all.  Just as the vet was examining his bad leg Julie heaved her entire breakfast followed by more gut spasms and then she collapsed on the barn floor!  She had gone into anaphylactic shock.  The vet snatched her up in her arms (good that this had not happened to Ted or Ernie who each top 100 pounds) and raced back to the truck where an IV was started along with all the other treatments.  Julie looked nearly lifeless, but Dr. Trish is an excellent vet and soon had the situation under control.  It was an hour before we could return to the donkeys by which time Corky's sedative had worn off. 

            Continued examination of Andy determined that his lameness is most likely an abscess that has not yet blown.  He was given antibiotics and pain meds.  Such a good donkey, in spite of his pain he tolerated everything like a gentleman while in the stall Corky was working himself into a hissy fit.

            With a couple lead ropes tightly winched around a post Dr. T. managed to get the first shot into the little hellion, but now he was in full-fledged vet-hating mode.  Corky was ready to kick the good doctor into next week as soon as the chance presented itself.  I could tell the vet was not at all comfortable with that prospect, so rather than risk injury she cleverly administered the remaining injections by hanging over the stall wall.  At last the bad ass was free to go.  Andy limped after him and they headed out to inspect the new fencing that will guarantee that there will be no future escapes.  I strongly suspect that Andy's injury was incurred during last Friday's rodeo.

            By then the sun had retreated and the temperature dropped.  An appointment that should have taken about half an hour had already run into two hours and Ernie was still waiting for his exam. He was diagnosed as having arthritis and possibly a torn ligament.  He's now on pain meds, but seems to have made a miraculous overnight recovery, thank goodness!  Julie too is back to her happy energetic self.  Andy is on meds and treatment as we await the inevitable abscess blow-out. 

            As one might expect, yesterday was not inexpensive, but in light of everything I feel that both the fencing and the vet call were great bargains and well worth every nickel.   I came into the house chilled to the bone.  Writing projects that are in the works are stalled due to issues beyond my control, so I built up a fire, wrapped myself in a down coverlet and tried to get enthused about a guitar concert I'd been looking forward to.  It was hard, but after another trip to the barn, followed by a long hot shower it was worth the effort.  Music really does sooth the savage beast in all of us if we give it a chance. 

            I returned home exhausted, but sleep was elusive.   Instead of drifting off to dreamland thoughts and images of the nightmare in Japan raced through my brain.  I continue to fret about the poor bull still confined in Kenny's hell hole of a barn.  The person who tried to reason with Kenny regarding the continued imprisonment and inhumane condition of the poor beast has given up.  I thought about my own animals and how cherished they are, then I fretted about all those who aren't so lucky. I thought about relationships. I thought about my mortality and my limitations to ‘fix' all that's wrong in the world.  I thought and thought and thought and did not sleep.  Today I am a zombie.


10:48 am edt          Comments

Sunday, March 13, 2011

9:55 pm edt          Comments

The party's over...


            And a great time was had by all.  Last night I hosted our monthly music-potluck and as usual, it was a wonderful evening.  At one point someone noted that we've been doing this for over thirty years!  Suddenly we all seemed old-- chronologically anyway.  It was stunning to think back to how it all began. Last night reminded me and I believe all of the others as well, the unique value of our friendships.

            Shortly after my husband and I amicably parted ways he said, "There's a place in Uniontown that plays that kind of music you like...."  He meant traditional, while he himself preferred heavy metal.  And so I decided to check out the small now defunct coffee house called Boulder Junction.  In addition to hosting local folk musicians on the weekend, the place made and sold instruments.  I bought a lap dulcimer which was later replaced by a guitar.  On Thursday nights anyone and everyone, regardless of talent, skill or total lack of either was invited to a jam session where he/she would learn one new song per week until everyone could play it proficiently.  There were many (way too many!) lap dulcimer players, banjos, fiddles, guitars, mandolins and even flutes and penny whistles.

            After a while we strangers who gathered together one night a week had established a respectable repertoire. We began playing together as a nameless  group for a monthly Contra Dance at a Community Center.  Our relationships intensified.  We came to know who had kids, who was or was not a couple, who had a doctorate and who was unemployed.  None of that mattered because old time music was our common thread. 

            Somewhere along the line (who remembers just when?) we added potluck dinners to our monthly gigs as the Contra Dance band.  At some point things changed and we quit playing for the dances, but monthly get-togethers of our select group continued and our friendships grew.  We've weathered a lot of storms over the years, but what we now just call "the music group" has consistently been there to see each member through whatever crisis arose. 

            And so after these many years we still get together the second Saturday of each month to stuff ourselves with delicious foods, drink sometimes more than we should and to fill someone's home with music, be it tunes of the British Isles, French Canada, Appalachia or Cajun country.  Some of the group were accomplished musicians from the get-go, some have become accomplished over time, and some (like myself) remain mediocre, but are politely tolerated as we plinkety-plunk our way through the songs. Not everyone plays.  Some just visit and listen, but we all have a great time.


8:10 pm edt          Comments

Friday, March 11, 2011

The good life.


            There is no denying that the snow is blindingly beautiful.  All the trees are flocked and everything looks so clean and fresh.  I'm concentrating on the beauty rather than the inconvenience.  In light of those affected or killed by todays earthquake and Tsunami, how could anyone justify griping about a little snow and flooding?

            The dogs love it.  Julie produced half a rack of deer antlers for everyone to play with.  Who knows where she found this, but it is definitely the favorite toy du jour.

            It occurred to me when I entered the warm house after doing barn chores that quite a long time had passed since fuel oil had been delivered and the furnace has been gulping the liquid gold.  I already had my boots on, so I slogged through the river that's running through the cellar to check the tank. Less than two inches of fuel remained.  The furnace was running on borrowed time and I'm having a party tomorrow night!  I called the company.  Today's price of heating oil was $3.69 per gallon.  The tank holds 250 gallons and there is a 150 gallon minimum delivery.  I ordered the minimum to see me through the remaining cold months.  $568.00 was the total amount. 

            But like I said, no complaining.  All morning long that old Carter Family song called Keep on the Sunny Side ran through my head.  So, regarding the river in the cellar, I'm thinking maybe I should stock it with trout. I could start a hatchery.  I imagine that in 1821 when John Grogg built this house over a spring he thought himself quite clever; built in cooling, yes, but I wish he'd built a separate spring house like others in the area and built this house somewhere dry.  A gentle gurgling spring is one thing, but it's like Niagara down there!  The old part of the cellar is completely flooded as it always is when we have a lot of rain.  The water surges through the trough worn in the bedrock floor, ‘then cascades down into the new part of the basement where there are several drains resulting in a noisy dramatic waterfall that is piped underground to the pond.

            The bad asses escape efforts have been thwarted thanks to the snow and all the crap (lawn chairs, wheelbarrows, hoola hoop, etc.) I've piled along the fence line until the new woven wire is installed.  Things are quiet out there for now, but they have no idea the vet is coming on Monday to vaccinate them.  This will certainly be cause for excitement.  Andy is an angel, but the little one is a predictable terror.  This will be the third farm vet.  Corky was so bad with the first vet that he had to bring two strong young guys with him to wrestle the bad ass into submission.  It was a traumatic circus not enjoyed by anyone-especially the vet and his assistants. 

            Then I switched to a female farm vet used her head rather than muscle who (not surprisingly since she was after all a woman...).  Corky likes women, so before he knew what happened he was tightly cinched up to the wall and stabbed with the necessary hypodermic needles. The procedure was over before he had time to react. When released he went berserk, but nobody cared then.  I liked vet #2, but her practice was very far away.  It was a pleasant surprise when the sister of Dr. Costsalot (the dogs' vet) opened a large animal practice almost within spitting distance.  She's reputed to be very good and she's very nearby, so I have switched to Dr. Trish. Monday will be her first time here, so fingers are crossed.

            In all fairness I had to warn her about Corky.  She just phoned to tell me she had some sample sedatives from one of the drug companies and she thinks Corky will be a perfect guinea pig.  This will definitely be an interesting experiment.  I'm hoping for the best.      

            So, in spite of the weather, things seem to be progressing smoothly toward tomorrow nights party.  The donkeys are confined in their paddock, the oil tank is full and the flooding situation in the cellar is as under control as possible.  Life is good, especially when you're a dog and you've just stolen the new 'toy' from your little sister.



6:38 pm est          Comments

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rain, rain, go away!!!!


            This weather is getting to me.  It's cold and the rains have reached Biblical proportions.  The house now sits upon a small island.  The music potluck is here on Saturday which means I will have to have someone plow the driveway since the predicted 10" of snow will begin falling tonight and continue through the weekend.  Everyone is at wits end thanks to this endless winter, so since misery loves company, the party should be great fun. PS: Those little white spots are flags marking young pine trees.  Not likely they will survive this deluge.


8:44 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A crappy day!


Everything is on hold.  Even the chickens were reluctant to go outside.  Relentless rain, icy temperatures, mud and gloomy skies were not conducive to putting up fencing.  It felt like I was under house arrest, so I worked on some writing projects, but it was hard to concentrate.  So much for that....  I made banana bread instead and it was the best recipe I've tried so far.  Here it is.

Grease a loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together:

1 ½ C. flour

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

In a large bowl beat on high speed until light in color:

6 TBSP. butter

2/3 C. sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 C. mashed ripe bananas (I keep several in the freezer for this purpose)

Mix the dry and wet ingredients and add ¾ C. of chopped nuts (pecans).

Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before unmolding on a rack.  Eat and get fat.



6:22 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

...And then it happened.


            In the truck is 100' of new fencing.  The tentative plan is for J. to install it tomorrow, but if the forecast is on target this might be postponed.  I really, really, really hope the weatherman is wrong!     

            The day was so pleasant and sunny I spent the afternoon outside cleaning and repairing birdhouses, then I removed all the remaining old rusty fencing.  ‘Always good to have a construction site ready for the workman.  The donkeys were delighted.  They love a barnyard project-especially one that suggests a possible escape.

            I'd just finished rolling up the old fence and came in to the house to fix a bit of lunch.  I'd gotten a lot done, and planned to spend the rest of the afternoon working in my office, but you know what they say about the "best laid plans..." I glanced out the back door and saw that what I was sure couldn't happen had happened. 

            There they stood, not twenty feet from the kitchen.  The bad asses were on the loose.  Lunch would have to wait.  I calmly walked out to the yard trying my best to look nonchalant, but they were not fooled.  With unrestrained glee they raced off as if their tails were on fire, bucking and farting and clearly having a fantastic time.  I wanted to cry.

            The brush barrier I'd hoped would be a deterrent along the property line  "if the donkeys ever escaped..." proved to be utterly useless.  They could have been at a steeplechase as they effortlessly flew over the flimsy hurdles, right into neighbor Bill's manicured back yard.  Bill wasn't home to see what happened, but I should note that Bill is a yard Nazi who rolls his lawn with some big contraption before aerating and fertilizing to ensure it's golf course condition.  Now there are divots from west to east and it won't take a genius to figure out how they got there.  

            I opened the gates to the barnyard on the off chance the bad boys might tire and decide to come home.  HA!  I called neighbor Karen to ask her to send riders (from her stable) down here to help with the round up.  I called neighbor Sandy who arrived post haste armed with a bucket of donkey goodies, but who wants goodies when freedom is yours?  They ignored Sandy.

            Next, friend Rose arrived with three of her dogs who all said they would be happy to help.  Dogs like rounding up loose livestock, but as herders all six dogs were pretty useless. They only added to the chaos.  At last, being pursued from all directions the donkeys decided it might be best if they headed for home.  I think they knew it was about time for the school bus that barrels down the road like a rocket and they didn't want to chance getting in its way.

            With the rotten longears safely back where they belonged we set about looking for their escape route.  That search took about thirty seconds.  With the old woven wire fencing down and the earth soft and mushy, it was easy as pie to squirm under a low spot between the bottom wire and the earth. Voila!  Freedom!  In a flash they headed right back to the escape spot.  We added a temporary wire, but it doesn't look very effective to me.  They had tasted freedom and it was obvious they were determined that it would again be theirs as soon I turned my back. The instigator was the innocent-looking, doe-eyed Corky, as usual.  They are now confined to the barn until the new woven wire fencing is in place. 

            Meanwhile the dogs decided it was time for the first pool party of the season.  By this time Rose's dogs had all rolled in chicken poop, so she was happy to see them plunge into the chilly pond.  Julie acted as life guard.  A good time was had by all-- except for us humans.


6:14 pm est          Comments

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hard labor.


            A man may work from dusk ‘til dawn, but a woman's work is never done.  How true, especially when the work includes what might be generalized as man's work.  In this case it's a fencing project.  My role is merely taking down the old stuff, but I can't imagine that putting up the new could be more difficult than removing what seems like a mile (not really...) of rusty woven wire. 

            The bad asses have taken a special interest in this project because now the distance between the bottom high tensile wire and the ground just might be big enough for an escape.  I overheard their conversation.

            "Hey, remember that summer when we wiggled under the fence and headed south?  We got pretty far from home before anyone even noticed we were gone?"

            "Yeh, that was fun, especially since no one could figure out how we were getting out in the first place.  Maybe we can do it again.  I'm tired of this paddock!"

            Hearing this I knew that leaving the new void would be inviting trouble, so I've cobbled an extra "wire" out of baling twine to close the gap until the new fencing is up.  How does anyone live without baling twine, WD-40 and Duct Tape?



8:54 pm est          Comments

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Brrr, it's cold!


            It's a good thing I'd marked the calendar or the possibly-hibernating bat in the attic might easily have been forgotten, but there it was in big red letters when I turned the page to March; BAT.

            You may recall this was the mysterious little brown visitor who had appeared seemingly from nowhere several months ago, but looked quite dead lying on the kitchen counter.  As per my wildlife rehabilitator friend's advice I had put the "sleeper" into a plastic container along with a twig and tissue paper, perforated the lid and carried it up to the icy attic just in case it was actually in hibernation.

            Thanks to the reminder (whew) today I trudged up to the attic and retrieved the plastic lodge and very cautiously opened the lid, not quite sure what to expect.  Alas, the little fellow was not hibernating after all.  The bat was quiet dead and more than slightly odiferous.  Waste Management (AKA the garbage man) will conduct funeral services.  As for how the bat initially wound up on the kitchen counter that will forever remain a mystery. 

            Another blanket of snow today, but the animals and I too have cabin fever in spite of having had a lovely dinner party last night with some good friends.  Dogs and cats love dinner parties for all the obvious reasons; scraps doled out to them by generous guests, lots of attention and adoration the night of the party and kibble top-dressed with leftovers the morning after.  What's NOT to like about a party?  Even so, all of us were getting antsy, so we went for a long walk.  The biting wind made it feel a lot colder than the thermometer was registering, but it felt good to be outside.

            Much of the trail through Ranger Rick's woods and even Kenny's field was under water, but the dogs didn't seem to care and tall boots kept my feet dry.


5:39 pm est          Comments

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An ugly scene.


            The local Mennonite thrift store has a unique ambiance.  Pleasant music drifts throughout the store.  The place is spotless and the prices are outrageously inexpensive.  Shoppers are also pleasant, or at least I've never encountered anyone who was not-until yesterday.

            The quietly-cheery atmosphere was typical.  Shoppers shuffled about perusing the merchandise and making small talk among themselves.  Two older women, each wearing those little yarmulke-shaped nets that remind me of milk strainers checked out the customers' purchases and commented on their nice clothing selections or that some appliance or tool was a "really good buy...," or they just fell back on that old standby, the weather; "Looks like we might get some more rain...."  Like I said, it's a pleasant and friendly place appreciated by those who shop there, so yesterday's drama was astounding.

            The couple responsible for the excitement looked to be in their thirties with a baby of perhaps two or three years.  The woman was overweight and dumpy and her haggard face bore a distinct look of resignation, despair and general unhappiness.  I also sensed a hint of fear.  With her drab hair, colorless complexion and a dreary wardrobe she might have disappeared in the store carpeting, but her mate's sudden outburst made her the center of attention. 

            The mate was a hideous creature of inflated size, both in physique and ego.  His big head with its red face looked like a giant boil about to burst. There were tattoos on his neck and he wore one of those garish sport jackets with a big number on the back.  I'm not a sports fan so I don't know what game it represented, but the puffy coat only added to his imposing bulk.   In the crook of his arm he clutched the clearly-frightened child.

            The big-headed guy was storming through the store, stomping and moving at such a pace that the baby whipped about like a flag in the wind.  It didn't make a peep.  "We are NOT going to the basement!" he yelled over and over again, his ugly voice booming and overpowering the synthesized version of Michael Row the Boat Ashore that was emanating from the speakers.  The net-capped ladies at the checkout stopped bagging merchandise and punching cash register keys.  Customers waiting in line froze and all eyes turned in the direction of the unhappy trio as it made a hasty retreat toward the door.

            In silence we all watched through the big glass windows as the parking lot scene unfolded.  It was terrifying for we all knew the loud accusations were intensifying and the man's anger was irrational.  Their brown car impatiently cut into traffic and God only knows what fury was unleashed within that vehicle.  I felt, as I imagine many of the others in the store felt, sadness and concern for the woman and the baby and outrage toward the bloated beast who was intimidating them. 

            What makes a person feel entitled to abuse others like this?  Worse still, what makes others accept such cruel dominance as mindlessly as an animal being led to slaughter?  I wonder if someone should have intervened.  Now I wonder if that hapless woman and the child are okay. 




11:13 am est          Comments

Friday, March 4, 2011

The project du jour.


            I can't believe it, but there are new flood warnings posted!  Will springtime never come?  Just a couple days ago the dogs and I were busy collecting small diameter trees that had come down in the last storm, limbs large and small and piling them along the east and north property lines with the intention that the barrier will serve a couple purposes.  Should the donkeys manage one of their annual escapes, the improvised ‘fence' may keep them on this property or at least slow them down.  The brush will also serve as cover for wildlife.  And finally, it's an easy way to tidy things up and an excuse to be outside in the brisk air.  I love projects like this which require no real skilsl as I am not good at things requiring them as proven once again this afternoon.

            Why Booger was behind the clothes drier in the first place is a mystery, but the nosy cat had gotten himself stuck in the tight space between the wall and the appliance.  I wouldn't even have known he was back there had it not been for a loud rustling noise which turned out to be the old flexible vent to the outside breaking up as Booger tried to back out of his predicament.  Being old the old tubing literally fell apart in my hands when I tried to reattach it after I'd rescued the dumb cat from his predicament.

            Surely replacing drier vent tubing shouldn't be a big deal, I foolishly thought while driving to the hardware. "This aluminum will be much better than that plastic venting," advised the helpful guy there.  I believed him and bought the stiff metal stuff.  In retrospect I should have gone with the cheap plastic stuff!

            The things one finds behind appliances are like toys in a box of Cracker Jacks.  There was that sock that seemed vanished in the ether.  Now that the mate has been discarded for who knows how long I still have one sock.  Cat toys are behind and under every piece of furniture, so it wasn't surprising  to discover a couple between the wall and the drier, but the biggest discovery was all the rusty flakes that were formerly part of the machine itself.  I digress....

            As per the hardware fellow's advice I should have been able to simply slip the new tubing into place, right?  Wrong.  It was too long and the tiny pipe protruding from the back of the machine didn't seem nearly enough to hold it in place.  I cut and replaced, cut and replaced..., and discovered that I am fatter than previously thought.  It was very difficult to fit myself in that teensy space, not to mention trying to retrieve the tools I'd thoughtlessly placed just out of reach.  Then I had to drill a hole to hold the tubing on, but the drill bits were up at the barn....

            Long story short; it took a very long time to "fix" the drier that had been perfectly fine until Booger decided to investigate the space between the wall and the machine.  I feel quite inept as a handyman, but after squirming in and out of that recess more times than I care to recall, the job is done.  I finished just as the carpenter arrived.     

            The new deck is definitely not a do-it-myself job, so I'm hiring professionals and getting several estimates.  Today's pro was the third. While I won't be doing any construction work on the new deck, to save money I have to have the site construction ready

            Consider this an invitation to the demolition party which will get underway when/if the weather breaks.  Daffodils are poking their green leaves  through the half-frozen mud, so certainly spring is just around the corner.  Looking out the window at Ohio's gray gloomy skies it's hard to believe that just about a week ago I was enjoying New Mexico's beautiful weather.  Oh well, choices....


5:52 pm est          Comments

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beauty is dead.


           A sad day, but not unexpected.  I found Black Beauty lying dead in the coop this morning.  I'd known the Black Australorp was at the end of her rope as she'd been exhibiting the classic dying chicken signs for about a week; blueish comb and wattle, cloudy eyes, self-imposed isolation.  Even so, I was sorry to see the old girl die, but she was indeed an OLD hen.  Having culled the two roosters and now losing my favorite hen leaves me with a rapidly-dwindling flock of only five birds.  I'm going bird shopping ASAP and will choose another old type breed for I've found them to be the longest-lived and the most pleasant to have around.  The Black Australorps in particular are really lovely birds. One record holder hen in Australia actually laid 364 eggs in a single year.  Who could begrudge the poor dear taking a day off!



8:05 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Living with wildlife--or, living a wild life.


            It's true that I often prefer the company of animals over that of many people, but even I am finding it difficult to co-exist with Pepe le Pew who has possibly taken up residence under the deck.  Several nights ago as I slept soundly an anguished YEEEEOOOOWWWW issued from the porch below.  It was Tom, the formerly -feral cat who is now the farm police chief.  Seconds later the room filled with sinus-burning fumes sprayed by an agitated skunk.  The smell was so intense the critter could have been right there next to the bed.  The dogs all started sneezing and with their super sense of smell it's little wonder!  I pulled the covers over my face and hoped the odor would dissipate.  Sleep returned, but only briefly.

            In the bedroom corner cupboard, next to the telly is a tiny cube of a clock; the Sony Dream Machine.  ‘Doubtful they still make it.  It's actually a clock radio with big lighted digital time readout which is the only reason I have the thing.  I've never ever used the radio or the alarm, so it was a huge shock when the radio came blasting on full volume.  As if that were not enough to give a sleeping person a heart attack, the AM station was tuned to a political talk show with a screaming lunatic of a host.  Needless to say his rant directly opposed my own political leanings.  I leapt from the bed and hit the ‘off' button.

            In the morning I looked to see how this could have happened and concluded that my critter sitter must have set the damned thing while I was in New Mexico.  As a precaution I tuned the radio to WKSU-FM and turned the volume to the lowest setting-just in case....  All was quiet that night, but two nights later the lunatic on the AM station was back again and at full volume.  I called the sitter the next morning.

            "No! I had nothing to do with it," she said.  "It came blasting on while I was there and scared the crap out of me."  Considering that this clock has been in the exact same place for no less than ten years and this had never happened in all that time, we both agreed that the situation was creepy.  Last night the radio again turned itself on, but this time it was WKSU at low volume.  It was almost (but not quite) like a dream.  I did not get up and after about ten minutes the radio went off. That was also about the time Pepe went off again.  Today the house smells terrible!

            I'm not suggesting anything paranormal.  If there were a spirit in this old house it certainly would have revealed itself long ago, but there has never been the slightest hint of any haunting.  Regardless of the reason I'm in the market for a new clock and am hoping that Mister le Pew finds a new home very soon.


7:32 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How I spent the day.


            I've mentioned the quarry in past blog posts; things dumped there, animals rescued from there, things I wish I had not seen there....  Today I drove through my old stomping grounds and I knew before the truck had even come to a halt that what was in the recently-dumped garbage bag with the red pull tie would not be good.

            The bag contained a dog, but not just any old dog.  It contained a young purebred Bull Terrier (a Spuds McKenzie dog).  It was young, maybe ten months, a handsome creature, but quite dead.  After so many such gruesome discoveries I don't know why they still bother me.  I think about the person who drove to that uninhabited, far end of the wide dirt road, opened the door and threw out a dog in a plastic bag as casually as throwing out a cigarette butt.  It only reminded me how cruel and insensitive modern American society has become. 

            The reason I was passing through the quarry in the first place was because it's a short cut to Ginny's.  I went to drop off the photo album I'd made for her of the 100th birthday bash.  (She was thrilled.)  Her old dog Mitzi would probably be about the same age in dog years.  Mitzi has no teeth at all, is fairly deaf and judging from her cataracts it's doubtful she sees very well either, but like Ginny Mitzi is full of pep and happy as a clam.  Unfortunately she was very itchy and had scratched herself raw in some places. 

            Ginny wisely gave up driving a couple years ago because she felt her reflexes may not be sharp enough, so I loaded the two old girls into Ginny's big, leather-seated Lincoln for a trip to the vet.  Ginny got in the back seat because, "...Mitzi likes the front seat.  She can see better," explained my friend.  And the dog really did seem to enjoy the ride watching the passing scenery as if she were on some senior citizen tour bus.

            Ginny is adored at the vet clinic too.  The entire staff had sent her a lovely birthday card and Ginny thanked them profusely.  Then the doctor trimmed Mitzi's nails, did a skin scraping, dispensed antibiotics as well as prednisone and recommended a diet change and a bath.  So, after a trip to the grocery for new dog food I gave the dog a bath.  By the time I was ready to leave Mitzi was chowing down on her fancy new kibble dressed with fancy new canned stuff, followed by fancy new dog cookies.  Ginny was plunked down in her favorite chair.  Both of the old girls were pretty tired. 

            I got little to no work done today, but with the exception of the quarry discovery I don't regret how I spent the afternoon.


8:04 pm est          Comments

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