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Saturday, April 30, 2011



This lovely sunny day began with a trip to the vet.  Portly Booger obligingly stepped into the pet carrier, lolled about on his back during the trip to the clinic (obviously enjoying the ride) and then put on his best performance to show the staff just how adorable he is.  A nagging cough was the reason for the visit.  He told the vet he'd given up smoking years ago (I'm not so sure I believe him), petulantly sat for his exam and listened intently as he was diagnosed as having allergy-related asthma.  He was given an injection of steroids and pronounced in tip-top health for an eleven year old fatso.

It hardly seems possible that so many years have passed since Booger was found sitting at the edge of the pavement on the interstate.  The little black and white kitten looked as if he were waiting for a bus, so when I pulled over and my friend opened the passenger door to scoop him up, he acted as if it were just what he expected.  He sat on the seat between us like a little gentleman and since finding a "good home" for a wayward kitten was as difficult then as it is now I had no choice but to add him to the family. Although Tiny looks like a "little me" the similarities end there.  She is a good girl.  He is spoiled rotten boy.



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Friday, April 29, 2011





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Thursday, April 28, 2011



            It's no secret; I hate mowing more than any other task.  Each year I encourage the spread of existing ground covers, pave paths or otherwise minimize what some would consider "lawn."  Rest assured that this place is nothing like neighbor ET up the road whose lawn looks like a Robert Trent Jones golf course.  Mine would be more accurately described as a meadow periodically clipped as short as possible.

            I do, however enjoy mowing the pasture.  ‘Just back and forth, missed spots don't really matter, sort of a meditation time, admiring all the beautiful spring flowers  and regretting that they too must get whacked off along with the burdock, dandelions, multiflora roses and other weeds the donkeys won't eat.  Left unmowed these undesirables take over and choke out the good forage, so once a month I climb aboard the old kidney-shaker and cut the pasture.  The donkeys think it's big fun as they race around pretending I'm chasing them.

            And so it was today that I was mindlessly mowing along the fence line when the donkeys' big ball suddenly blew across my path.  Being ever so careful to avoid running over it I failed to note that the mower deck had suddenly become hopelessly entangled in the bottom high tensile fence wire.  Few things are more aggravating to me than mechanical issues, especially those resulting from my own carelessness.  But I could simply loosen the bottom wire and then drive the tractor over it.  Easy peasy, right?  Wrong.

            I went to the barn and got the tool that adjusts the wire tension.  Releasing it shouldn't be a problem, I naively thought, but it was a big problem!  Every attempt only tightened the wire more.  I went inside and called three neighbors, none of whom knew what to do.  I called the Elevator where Ed said, "Gee Karen, I don't know how the heck you release those things."  I looked on line for a solution, but only found a plethora of installers and material sellers.  Ah ha, I'd just call the company that installed the fence and ask them how to loosen it.  A recording informed me that they had closed shop 15 minutes earlier.  Meanwhile, the bad asses were busy inspecting the tractor, tasting various parts and hoping to find something removable.

            A good handyman is worth his weight in gold.  John would certainly be unaffordable, but since he's such a nice guy he stopped by and literally lifted the tractor off the wire while I held it down with my foot.  The tractor was free!  Problem solved.  Then he showed me how to release the tension should this ever happen again.  You can bet that it's not going to happen again!  Next time I'll just run over the darned ball!


7:07 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, April 27, 2011



Enough trees! 

            Directly through this blog I have made the acquaintance of some very interesting people; folks I might never have met under other circumstances.  One such person is Dick Drake.  He is the Certified Arborist who trimmed the huge Norway maple outside my kitchen.  He did a wonderful job and explained what he was doing and why he was doing it.  I became aware of the distinct difference between a "Certified Arborist" and a mere "tree service" (which more often than not mutilates trees).  Arborists understand how trees propagate, grow and die.  They understand and more importantly, they respect these natural treasures that are too casually cut down.

            Dick is a humble man, but one who is passionate about educating the general public and he is trying his best to reinstate the observation of Arbor Day in the public school system.  I wish him luck on this!  I remember being in grade school when Arbor Day was indeed a big deal.  Every student got a tree and instructions about planting and caring for it.  The tulip tree I planted in the side yard of my Fifth Street home grew tall and healthy until my mother for some hare-brained reason insisted the tree had to go.  Maybe that single act launched my own obsession with woodland conservation.

            But, back to Dick Drake.  In his relentless effort to draw public attention to the critical role trees play in our increasingly-imperiled environment, Dick writes frequent letters to the editor of our local newspaper.  He has graciously granted me permission to copy his latest submission.  I hope politicians and school officials take notice and use Arbor Day as a way to get kids out of the house and back in touch with Nature.


Arbor Day ( Friday ) is one of the most important, but least celebrated days of the year. Why? Because it has been taken for granted.  Julius Sterling Morton was the founder of Arbor Day  In 1872, Nebraska State Board of Agriculture adopted Morton's resolution to create Arbor Day.  This day set aside to plant trees is the last Friday in April. More than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. Why don't we continue this very important event and keep our planet green?

The most important are the trees and vegetation that are to be planted and cared for every year to keep the annual growth and replacement of our urban forest, both in private and municipal areas. As the years have gone by we have less green space to provide shelter for wildlife, humans and energy- savings to the people who benefit from their assets.  Nothing compares to a shade tree on a picnic or a walk through the park, checking out the birds and other life forms that live in the trees. Like fresh water, we don't miss it until it's gone.  We need to be aware of what Arbor Day means and stands for.    

Dick Drake, Certified Arborist     


5:43 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Royal thoughts.


            With one eye on her counter customers and the other furtively cast on the wall-mounted television, Judy (identified by the name stitched on her pocket) remarked to no one in particular.  "'You gonna watch that Royal wedding?  I'm not!  I got disgusted when Charles cheated on Diana, having an affair with that other woman."  Her voice faded to a whisper, "Boy, that just ain't right. I really liked Diana."

            Since no one else seemed to have heard Judy I responded by noting that the wedding of Charles and the now-dead Diana had been an arranged matter, not one based upon genuine romance.  I said I liked Camilla.  She harumphed and frowned.  Affairs of the Monarchy (formally-sanctioned or otherwise) seemed rather incongruous with Judy's position as service station cashier and with her own less-than-regal appearance;  a prematurely-aged muddy complexion, lank colorless hair and a mouth devoid of all teeth.

            A surge of sympathy, perhaps misdirected shot through me.  While Princess dreams for insipid, spoiled young girls might not be all that unusual, that such matters should even register with aging women of Judy's status seemed suddenly very sad to me.  I guess everyone has dreams.

             A big surprise awaited me at the barn this evening.  The little black hen actually managed to hatch one darling chick!  The little red hen is also still setting on one peeping egg.  I've put the hen and her peep in with the hatchery kids.  Maybe they will learn by watching. She isn't real keen on adopting the six orphans, but they are curious as you can see in this photo.  Hopefully I'll get some images of the "baby" tomorrow.


2:41 pm edt          Comments

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday, Monday...


            Will the woods ever be dry again?  I'm doubtful!  Between todays rain showers I planted beets in the garden, but my mud-caked shoes soon weighed about five pounds each.  Then neighbor Sandy stopped down and since it actually looked as if the sun might peek through (it didn't...) we decided to walk the quarry road and pick up cans.  If nothing else it would be good exercise.  There were cans aplenty along with lots of other rubbish, but there was also a bonanza of wildlife. 

            In spite of that land having been quarried for limestone, then abandoned for Nature to reclaim only to once again be raped by developers, many pockets of undisturbed habitat remain.  In addition to several nesting ducks and Canada geese I encountered a very big snake that quickly retreated to a pond.  He was as startled as I was. Later a second snake surprised me just as I bent to pick up a can.  There were turtles and frogs galore, signs of deer, both living and dead along with coyote scat.  Until the rains began to pelt us it was fun to be back in those old stomping grounds. 

            We collected enough cans to fill the "charity bin" so it's ready to redeem at the scrap yard and some animal charity will get an unexpected donation.  ‘A win, win, win clean-up, but someone else is going to have to pick up all the glass and plastic.  There's enough to fill a box car! 

            Back home, feeling rejuvenated and ready to get down to work I found myself  distracted by the built-up winter mess in the garden shed.  Really I just went out there to get a tool and one thing led to another.  T. came over to pull off a couple of boards that seemed to be welded in intrusive useless places.  My own attempts to pry them off only resulted in a bloody hand, but he easily pried off the unwanted lumber, then put up a shelf for me.  Ultimately I got the shed emptied, discarded a ton of useless clutter, organized and cleaned and enjoyed an unexpected sense of accomplishment.

            In the mailbox was yet another nice surprise.  A friend in Colorado sent a package of wildflower seeds with a note designating them "for the terrace."  Thanks to many thoughtful friends that place is going to be beautiful--if the sun ever shines again on this part of Ohio.  By the time the next shower hit I finally forced myself to sit down at this the computer and get to work on an oft-procrastinated article.  Progress was made!

            So, in spite of the dreary weather that has everyone lamenting, it's been a productive day.  Aside from Julie rolling in something vile and having to get scrubbed up for the third time today and the fact that major storms are heading this way, there's not much to report.


7:12 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Another one bites the dust.


            I wasn't terribly surprised to discover the starling laying dead as a mackerel this morning.  A vet once told me, "A sick bird is a dead bird."  What he meant was that by the time a bird begins displaying signs of ill health it's usually too late to help it.  The chicks did not seem concerned over the death of the stranger until I stooped to retrieve the corpse.  Then frantic peeping and scurrying ensued.

            Naturally-hatched chicks are shown how to scratch and seek food within just a few days of hatching.  The hen is vigilant in this lesson and under such circumstances I dig up clumps of sod to put in the nursery with mom and children.  The hen always seems ecstatic over this offering, but not so with hatchery peeps.  After removing the dead starling I gave the chicks some lovely fresh grass clippings.  You would have thought I'd put a snake or a cat in there with them. They were terrified of it. 

            After a chorus of startled squawks they stretched their necks so long they looked like little giraffes instead of chickens, then cautiously approached the green stuff.   After a quick look they all hastily retreated back under the heat lamp in the corner. Finally one brave white chick again ventured forth, pecked at a single blade and pronounced it "safe" to the others.  Even so, they seemed more interested in pecking at spots on the wall than trying some healthy greens.  Their culinary curiosity is dim.

            While I'm sure these six birds will suffice so far as egg producers, as friendly yard birds, I'm doubtful they will ever measure up to those hatched and raised by hens.  When approached they scatter like a handfull of marbles dropped on the floor.  When held in hand they seem on the verge of passing out from fright.  I've always contended that much can be learned by observing the behavior of chickens and my observations of these factory-produced chicks confirm my belief that nothing takes the place of naturally-raised livestock. If these were humans, they'd all have to be on 'mood' medication.  I wonder if they make Prozac for poultry.


3:19 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New family members...


            ...Or maybe just some visiting guests.  The new chicks are doing well, but having been hatched at a hatchery rather than under a hen, they are skittish.  I've noticed this in other birds.  Hen-hatched chicks are more social. 

            When I went into the hay room tonight I heard a strange rustle and inside a wire cage that was stored out there was a young starling.  Who knows how long the poor thing had been there without food or water.  I picked it up and tried to get some water into it.  It resisted and seemed uninjured, so I put him in the outside chicken pen with some food.  He floundered about and I feared that with the coming storm he would not survive the night.  What to do.  I put him in the coop with the chicks who seem mildly amused by the newcomer.

            The dogs and I went for a walk on the Nature trail to survey the latest storm damage. More trees have come down and it's a mess out there, but that's when I met another new resident; the biggest fattest groundhog I've ever seen!  He looks like a child's stuffed toy, but cuter.  I hope he realizes that this is a safe haven and that he doesn't venture over to neighbor Bill's as he would not be so welcoming. I once had to call 911 at about three in the morning.  Bullets were whizzing past my windows.  The police came and discovered that my neighbor (Bill) was shooting from his bathroom window with a high-power rifle at a skunk!  No, Mr. Woodchuck would not fare well at Bill's.

         New photos tomorrow.


7:58 pm edt          Comments

Friday, April 22, 2011



            Earth Day is celebrated by a billion people, making it the world's largest secular holiday.  I include myself in this celebration, but far too many ignore the fact that now more than ever, every day should be Earth Day.  Just think of the impact if each of the billion people "celebrating" today would simply plant a tree.  Thus far this spring I have planted twenty-five with seven left, but finding suitable sites is proving difficult, at least until the ditching project is done.

            Handyman John is bringing some big earth mover to create a drainage ditch that will divert the current flow of runoff from its self-created course which currently parallels the pond (from a distance) and then dumps into the woods behind it.  This has caused a major problem.  The standing water in the woods behind the pond will kill the trees.  Diverting the flow will in turn dry up the woods and somewhat mitigate the leak in the pond.  We've finally discovered that leak, but have not yet come up with a fix.

            Trouble at the barn continues.  This morning I caught the odd black hen involved in another act of cannibalism!  Apparently after invading and dislodging the setting hen from her nest, the marauder knocked an egg to the floor where she pecked a hole in it and began her macabre breakfast.  I'm going to look at some new pullets today for at the current rate there will soon be no viable eggs under the two setting hens.  In all the many years of keeping chickens, this egg-eating phenomenon is something I've never before encountered.  It's disgusting!  Moving the setting hens is not an option.  They seem hard-wired to set wherever their original nest is/was.  Moving them along with their eggs to another safer location only causes them to abandon the nest entirely in an effort to return to the (empty) original spot. Either way the eggs are in jeopardy.

            Keeping chickens is not without the occasional challenge, but I think it's worth the effort.


9:34 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ernie's worried.


          Recent evidence suggests that I've had a prowler here.  While this is disturbing, it is more maddening.  Of course the local police have been notified, but other precautions have also been taken.  I've never felt afraid living alone and I'm sure as hell not going to start living in fear now.  Any thief or burglar would find pickings here very meager indeed.  I don't even own a DVD player.  There's no elaborate sound system and just an itty bitty telly (no cable either...).  I don't wear jewelry, so there's no stash of gems or gold.  All I really have are books and who ever heard of thieves hauling off hundreds of books?  My life is simple and almost monastic, so burglars beware.  There's nothing here worth stealing.  ‘Enough on that subject.

            Storms rumbled throughout the night, causing this old house to literally convulse and shudder on its stone foundation.  Poor dear Ernie who always reminds me of a canine Don Knotts (although far more fleshed out...) was a nervous wreck and since the winds are still howling he has only gotten worse.  His stomach is upset.  His doggie eyebrows are knitted in that sky-is-falling expression.  He paces, wants to go outside (to relieve his recurrent indigestion), but once he's out the door he becomes even more worried.  I think he heard the forecast and saw the films of towns ravaged by tornadoes and now he's expecting the worse.  Poor Ernie.

            The weekend winds that aborted my tree planting agenda took down an enormous rotted oak at the entrance to Ranger Rick's woods.  Broken off right at ground level the spongy stump revealed the punky condition.  It's a miracle it had stood as long as it did.  I called RR and left a message, but here it is Wednesday and the tree remains just where it fell.  There's no way to get into the woods now, but Ernie and I agree it wouldn't be wise to go there anyway, at least not until these winds die down.

            I'm eager to get some photos of Freedom. Each time I remember to take the camera along with that intention, the little bull always seems to be behind a tank, inside the barn, obscured by trees and brush or something that prevents getting him in the view finder.  There are some things that offset the wretched condition of this world and seeing that bull free from his prison is one of them.  Being safe inside this drafty old house while the winds threaten to blow away everything not anchored down is another. My own life is pretty nice.

            I'd almost forgotten what a cute puppy Ernie was.Who would have guessed he'd grow up to be such a worry wart!


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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April showers?


            As I perused the tempting trees and other plants in town today it began to snow.  Incredible!  Not surprisingly, everyone in the grocery store was chattering and complaining about the weather.  It's about the only thing on which people unanimously agree; we hate this cold, gray non-spring.  I did not buy one of the bargain-priced trees which were all leafed out and almost guaranteed to croak. 

            The nasty weather was  just the incentive I needed to buckle down to work on a story with a looming deadline. Between this and trying to get a fire going in the woodstove (marginal luck at that...) I've been making preparations for the deck-dedication-thank-you dinner I'm hosting on Friday evening.  I'm looking forward to sharing time with all those good friends who made the project such a success.  Dinner is scant compensation for all the ideas, inspiration and most of all, the hard competent labor!  Even so, I hope they will all enjoy a relaxing evening. We probably won't be able to sit on the new terrace unless we all don down jackets and rain gear.

            At the barn the conflict continues.  The stressed out red hen abandoned her nest and today was found sitting on top of the setting black hen (much to her annoyance). Red hen's eggs were icy cold, thus no longer viable.  If even one chick hatches from this coop fiasco it will be a miracle!  I'll be happy to get some new birds.


7:21 pm edt          Comments

Monday, April 18, 2011

Just another pretty face.


            She knows she's special. You can see it in the way she struts around, sticking to her guy like arm-candy, except he doesn't have any arms.  Even so it's obvious that the speckled hen is the big rooster's chick.  You know what they say about birds of a feather sticking together....  Meanwhile the little black girl hangs back or pokes about the property off by herself, all alone since her gal pals are setting on nests.  The beauty queen, like some human beauty queens considers herself exempt from polite behavior and this morning I caught her in the act of bullying the setting hens.  Bullying is too nice a word.  She had knocked eggs from one of the nests, pecked a hole in it and ate the contents!  The poor little red hen was beside herself.  A stressed broody hen does not easily recover.

            I shooed the troublemaker from the coop and the ousted little hen, flustered to be sure, but still determined returned to her post on a slightly smaller clutch of eggs.  The beauty queen returned to the barn via the donkey stall and was still loudly protesting as she made her way into the hay room.  Ever so quietly I followed her.  She seemed not to notice.  Her clucking intensified as she stood on the floor looking toward the uppermost bale of hay.  That's when I saw it.

            Peeking just above the hay was one of 22 eggs the beauty queen had already deposited there and was preparing to plunk out #23.  I climbed up and retrieved them,  finally grateful for Nature's refrigeration.  The eggs are fine.


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

If you go out in the woods today...


            It would be very foolish.  The winds were racing and tree limbs were falling all around as I set out to plant more evergreens around the edge of the woods.  I managed to get about eight more in the ground before deciding  it was not a good idea to be in that hard hat area.  Ted kept looking skyward with that funny worried-dog expression, so we retreated to open land. 

            Planting almost seemed like a tie-game as I found several trees which have come down in these latest gusts.  It was sad to find broken limbs from the big white pines, some of which were twenty feet long and as big as my leg in diameter.  ‘All the more reason to plant, I guess.

            Friends brought Ted several new Frisbees last evening, but in a matter of minutes he had crunched one of them in half (those hard plastic Frisbees are not designed for dogs), but this didn't stop today's games.  The lid he found in Kenny's field is holding up well. He doesn't care if it doesn't sail through the air as it should, so long as I kept throwing it he was happy. Julie and Ernie took advantage of the sunshine and went for a swim.


4:21 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, April 16, 2011

One of those days.


            It's gray, windy and rainy.  I wouldn't mind if anything else were going well, but since yesterday when this computer took on a mind of its own, (well, AOL did anyway...) things have been, shall we say stressful?  That would be an understatement.

            It would be a lie to say the computer is not an integral part of my life and when suddenly something goes haywire it throws everything else into disarray.  Perhaps a computer savvy reader will have a solution to what remains of a bigger problem. 

            Yesterday AOL decided (for no apparent reason) that I was no longer signed on, but when I attempted to do so I was informed my password was invalid.  I lost track of how many times I went through the ‘set new password' rigmarole before calling AOL. I was reassigned a password, permitted to sign in to my account once again, but suddenly everything was tiny; letters so small I had to put on glasses to read the text.  Not one of the logical procedures to ‘fix' this issue has worked although some pages have returned to a legible size, but not all.

            Calls to the computer geeks were met with recordings or orders to "bring it in...$"  This should not be rocket science.  The aggravating problem remains unresolved.  My standard approach to stressful situations is to cook something, so considering the gloomy weather I decided to make a favorite comfort soup, but alas I burned all the basic ingredients thus stinking up the house and nearly ruining a very good pot.  The cats also seem to suddenly be at odds with each other and I've had to break up several altercations.  Let me just say that as I sat cursing this computer the blood-curdling screams from Sissy the drama queen as Buddy the bully leapt upon her were not conducive to regaining any state of tranquility. 

            So, consequently I have no interesting news of the road to share, no funny animal antics, no projects pending or anything worth posting today.  My one remaining nerve is frayed, but I'm hopeful that dinner with friends tonight at a favorite restaurant will reverse the course of unfortunate events.  Until then visitors are advised to stay away.


1:50 pm edt          Comments

Friday, April 15, 2011



"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot."
- Aldo Leopold

            It was lovely to be out working in the gardens, planting trees and bushes and feeling good about creating beauty and shelter and enhancing food sources  for the natural world.  Then I heard it; the sound of destruction.  Most of the people living on this road are friendly.  Some are truly friendly friends, while others are merely politely friendly.  There are two who are neither.  One thinks she is to the manor born and far above the rest of us, so she neither speaks nor waves to anyone.  None of us care as this woman is surely one of the dullest creatures to ever draw breath.  The other non-friendly resident is the guy who, while I was planting, was destroying.  Now another entire hedgerow is gone and destined to become grass. 

            As wildlife habitat shrinks, making survival of "country creatures" ever more imperiled I find it difficult to remain calm in the face of such stupid indifference from the likes of the guy I never liked in the first place.  I ask myself why people do these things, but I come up without a logical answer.  Such mindlessness simply infuriates me. Obviously he is one who can live without wild things.  I can not.


8:38 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The king of bling.


            After a determined three years toughing it out on his own and resisting all attempts to ‘tame' him, Tom the formerly-feral cat surrendered and he has now been part of the feline family for several years.  Of course, he paid a price for his current comfortable lifestyle in that he was immediately rendered an UN-Tom cat. 

            Prior to his minor surgical procedure I believe Tom had been quite a local Lothario.  I can't recall exactly when Poppy, the little black kitten showed up here, but as she matured a very distinct resemblance to Tom surfaced and as she grew older and bigger that resemblance intensified until it became difficult to tell them apart.  I strongly suspect Tom is Poppy's poppa.

            While this might not be a problem if both kitties had the same house privileges, that is not the case.  Poppy and the other well-mannered cats have the option of being house cats or going outside whenever they wish.  Tom's house privileges are limited to a very nice basement apartment with a kitty door to the outside.  He is NOT permitted upstairs due to a particular unacceptable social behavior.  He never exhibits this behavior in his subterranean accommodations. There he is a perfect gentleman.  Sadly that is not the case if he manages to sneak in, masquerading as Poppy. 

            The obvious solution was to make it easier to identify Mister Tom at a glance.  I bought a bright yellow collar with a tinkly little bell and put it on Poppy's neck.  She hated it and in a matter of hours her friend Julie chewed the collar off.  It was ruined.  I bought a pretty red collar which Poppy reluctantly wore for a couple of days before that too vanished.  It has never been found.  These special ‘quick release' kitty collars are not cheap!

            Considering Poppy's obvious distain for collars and since the only reason for it in the first place is to simplify differentiating Tom from Poppy for the sake of keeping the former from sneaking into the house, I placed the third collar, a smart chartreuse number on Tom.  He loves it!

            The King of Bling now wants something flashier.  He complains that the cloth collar is beginning to fray and he's requesting something with jewels or at least sequins, claiming it would be durable and more fitting with his personality.  You just know he'll get what he wants.


2:38 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fun is where you find it.


            Over the past few years I've been on many press trips.  They're always interesting and fun, but one of the most memorable and certainly most impressive places I've visited was a big cat (as in lions, tigers, leopards, etc.) refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Today the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge newsletter arrived and again I was reminded of the amazing work that goes on at this place.

            I wish the Ohio legislators/governor who were dithering about passing laws regulating wildlife ownership would visit this Refuge and hear the stories of the animals there (which also include bears and other inappropriate and potentially dangerous "pets").  The rescued wildlife at Turpentine Creek were all victims of individuals who for whatever reason thought having them was a great idea.  God knows it was easy enough for people to acquire them, but when that cute cub turned into a 300 pound sex-crazed adolescent, they changed their minds.  The lucky ones wound up at this wonderful sanctuary where they will live out their natural lives.

            Ernie's brothers came over this afternoon for a walk followed by a pool party.  While on the walk Ted discovered a large plastic lid laying in Kenny's field.  If you're a Lab anything round and flat will suffice for a Frisbee if you don't happen to have the real thing.  He carried his new ‘toy' all the way home and then the gang took turns trying to retrieve it from the pond, but Ted always won.  Dogs know how to have a good time. 


3:25 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Get with the program.


            More rain!  Will it never end?  Nasty weather aside, the holly trees needed to get into the ground, so that was the landscaping fete du jour.  This property is peppered with black walnut trees, pines and spruce, lovely maples of several varieties, wild cherry, apple and various new fruit trees which I've planted in an effort to establish a young orchard, but these holly trees will provide additional wildlife food and as evergreens they will eventually block out the view of a couple neighboring houses, plus they're very pretty.  Planting is exciting!

           At the barn there will also be some excitement.  In addition to whatever the two setting hens hatch in a couple of weeks, some other new chickens (hens only) should be arriving any day now thanks to my friend Mark.  I've ordered Delawares, but he couldn't be certain they'd be available.  I'm keeping fingers crossed.

            Delaware chickens are one of what is considered a "heritage breed."  There are many reasons to raise these birds, but I'll spare you all the conservation facts other than one astounding feature that birds here at this vegetarian farm need not worry about.

            There's a lot of moaning and groaning these days about the demise of small family farms and it is indeed a legitimate lament, but for those willing to abandon their atavistic ways and to evolve in today's marketplace, there are rewarding opportunities.  One such company that is playing an important role in fostering sustainable agriculture is Heritage Foods USA.

            The company sells "humanely produced" meat products including processed heritage breed chickens.  The cost of two 3 pound chickens (six pounds total...) is $45.00.  Yep, you read that correctly.  I applaud the success of this company and of those farmers who are providing the products.  I believe that when consumers pay a substantial price for their food they respect it more.  Customers willing and able to purchase products from this company are making a loud socio-economic statement that should resonate with anyone concerned with sustainability, animal welfare, food quality, and more importantly quality of life. 

            BTW, the chickens in this photo are NOT Delawares, but some handsome chooks at my friends' back yard in England.


5:36 pm edt          Comments

Monday, April 11, 2011

April showers.


            The dogs and I went for a walk.  It's been a while since we've gone for our daily outing as the terrace project has taken priority, so it was nice to be in the woods again although much of it was under water.  The dogs thought that was the best part.  As we ramble along I clear large windfalls from the trail. It makes it safer for those who ride horses in Ranger Rick's forest as well as for me.

            When Ranger Rick bought the woods his initial obsession was to "clean it up."  He's a roly-poly sort of fellow, pink faced and round enough to bounce like a basket ball.  Dressed in what has since become his ‘uniform' (a blue coverall) he'd arrive in an old blue truck early Saturday mornings.  In the back he'd have his chainsaw and sometimes a chipper in tow, but this weekly "clean up" didn't last long.  He soon realized that keeping up with Mother Nature was quite impossible.  Now he rarely shows up and when he does his time is spent piling limbs and branches into huge brush piles which are quickly utilized by assorted wildlife.  Occasionally he brings his ‘management tools' and distributes a thick layer of fresh wood chips on the trail.  ‘Very nice footing for me and for the horses.

            Today the woods were all atwitter with busy nest builders.  Some of the trees are hinting of buds and the stream is overflowing its low banks.  It was lovely.  From the woods we circled old Kenny's field, now planted in wheat which is up about four inches and pocked with deer tracks, some of which are tiny.  It seems early for fawns, but the tracks prove otherwise.  The highlight of our walk was certainly watching the little liberated bull grazing in Kenny's pastures.  I'm calling him Freedom.

            After ten long months of miserable confinement in that dreary barn the little fellow (about 800 pounds or so...) still sticks close to Cow, his mom.  The lame Hereford seems to be moving more comfortably these days, but I'm sure this is due more to luck than from any veterinary attention from Kenny.  The three bovine have free access to the barn as well as about ten acres of rough pasture.  Rusty barbed wire surrounds the field. When Farmer Chuck began working Kenny's land he gave Kenny the old Hereford and erected one hot wire which is really about the only deterrent to the cattle.  Now the hot wire is down on the ground, probably knocked loose by deer.  It's unlikely the three contented cows are aware of this potential escape route.  I've never seen them venture so far south in the pasture, so I'm keeping quiet about it. We could use some excitement on the road....


7:12 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mission accomplished!


            Where I looked at the terrace and saw a summers worth of labor, SS looked at it and said, "Oh heck, that's a couple weekends...."  I'm delighted to report that I was wrong and she was right.  Two weeks and the project is finished!  It looks wonderful and when the time comes for planting it will be gorgeous. 

            While I'm ecstatic over the end product, I've also learned a great deal about how to approach such projects.  SS is the proverbial optimist, but she's also extremely efficient and working with her, although utterly exhausting, has been very insightful.  How does one repay such kindness, such generosity, such inspiration?  SS and her husband are unique, especially in todays self-absorbed culture.  I shall be forever indebted and grateful for their friendship.

            These images of the final weekend illustrate my point.  In one photo you will see a roughed-out pathway.  I went in the house for a cup of coffee and when I returned it was paved!  The gate has since been reset and the extra stones removed from the wall. She brought new tennis balls for Ted, rawhide chews for all three dogs (who adore Sue and Bud...) and if all this were not quite enough, she brought me two holly trees which I shall plant tomorrow.  Like I said, I'm overwhelmed!





7:03 pm edt          Comments

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ah, a day of rest.


            I never thought I'd be so happy to look out the window and see a steady rain and to read the forecast for rain through tomorrow.  Oh, yippee.  Maybe by sunny Sunday my body will have recovered.  While there was no labor on the project, I hoped to pick up (and unload) more bricks and more crushed limestone, so it wasn't going to exactly be a day of rest, but finding a place that would sell less than a pallet of bricks proved to be next to impossible.  The last place I stopped had what I think is needed.  I plan to get all of this tomorrow when I hope conditions will be more pleasant. 

            In spite of feeling as if a truck has run over me several times in succession, each peek at the south side of the house fills me with delight.  There is no way I could have imagined how things could look, let alone execute this plan myself.  It would have been a mess, but thanks entirely to a serendipitous meeting with a blog reader who just happens to also be an avid (no, make that crazed...) landscaper the view that greets my eye is glorious.  Work will resume tomorrow. 

            The two broody hens have reached a truce and each girl has an equal number of eggs now.  The bickering and egg tossing have ceased, thank goodness.  The rhubarb is up and growing inches by the day and the peepers serenaded me to sleep last night.  I was getting worried, but these harbingers of spring have finally arrived, so this must mean nice weather is just around the corner.


4:30 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, April 7, 2011



There are no words to convey how exhausted I am.  Even pecking out this brief post requires my last teensy bit of strength.  SS and husband arrived early this morning.  Husband quickly and accurately figured out what needed to be done, drilled holes created a level starting point and then left to play what was probably 36 holes of golf.  These people never get tired!  SS grabbed tools and never stopped working; not for a moment.  I had to force her to sit for lunch.  I've never seen such energy.  I am the unskilled laborer.  I hauled bricks.  I hauled limestone.  I hauled fill.  I hauled rocks.  Sue created a masterpiece!  I could not be happier, but I also could not be more tired.  As for SS, were it not for darkness falling, she'd still be working.  The project projected to take all summer is nearly finished.   I must collapse now....


7:41 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Looking for some inspiration!


            It's snowing again.  I'm not happy.  Oh sure, I could/should don my down jacket and work on the terrace, but frankly the prospect isn't appealing right now; maybe later today....  A couple of weeks ago I moved the log rack from the porch back to its summer position behind the stacked cordwood.  Now it seems I'm traipsing out there daily and hauling in firewood to feed the woodstove.  It keeps the living room enticingly toasty, so yesterday after baking something called "Delicious Breakfast Muffins" from a recipe that called for about twenty ingredients (I'll spare you that tedious recipe) I spent much of the afternoon reading by the fire.  It was heavenly, but real work beckoned.

            I'm been researching rare and heritage breeds of chickens which is pleasant since my office is also comfortably warm thanks to a space heater.  This is dual-purpose research; partly for an article, but also because I want to add Delaware hens to my inbred flock.  It's down to only five birds, one of which is a rooster, two of which are setting hens and the remaining two seem to think their job is simply to create ambiance here and contribute the occasional egg. 

            To be a genuine conservation-breed farmer would require getting rid of, or at the very least isolating my Favorite Five from the heritage breed birds.  I know myself well enough to admit that I won't do either of the above, so while I may introduce some of the special girls to my flock, they will mingle at will with the mongrels.  I've never pretended to be a genuine farmer.


9:12 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Let your voice be heard!


            If you live in Ohio you may have missed the brief announcement on NPR that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on legislation regarding "dangerous wildlife" regulations.  The comment period ends on April 6th.  It was not easy to find information regarding this issue, even on the ODNR web site.  The legislation is extremely vague and as written it is a damned if you do and damned if you don't proposal.

            Most people would agree that keeping a lion or a bear as a "pet" is inappropriate for a variety of reasons, the most obvious being that these animals are wild and as such their needs and instincts are distinctly different from dogs or cats.  Animals suffer because it is impossible for individuals to adequately provide habitat or food.  The risk to public safety goes without saying.

            However, as this legislation currently is written it does NOT address the potential negative impact on wildlife rehabilitators who use confiscated or rescued animals which cannot be reintroduced to natural habitats for educational presentations.  It does not address the real problems of those who propagate these mammals, reptiles, etc., or those who exploit the animals for profit. 

            Currently any knuckle-dragger can attend one of the "exotic wildlife" sales common in Ohio's Amish country where for a mere couple hundred dollars he can load up a lion or a bear in a makeshift pen in the back of his pickup truck.  Common sense should tell our Governor that these practices should be/need to be outlawed.  But, this is not what the proposed legislation addresses.

            I urge readers to respond to ODNR stating the need for clarification of this issue.  As it is presented it will not regulate the cretins who use and abuse wild animals for profit, but it could negatively affect those hardworking, knowledgeable and caring people who rescue, rehabilitate and use wildlife to educate the public.    

            ODNR needs to be specific and to present this issue for public debate in a clear and timely manner.  Here is the website.  I hope you will take the time to comment.  Protect those who are responsible wildlife caregivers and prohibit the slugs of society from currently legal practices of breeding, buying, selling and exploiting wildlife.


9:58 am edt          Comments

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The show must go on.


            While it may not look like much, a good bit was accomplished today in spite of dreary skies, cold and even a brief sleet shower.  A modification of the original step plan required some disassembly before things could progress.  I finished off the bottom row of cedar shakes and learned how to use one of T.'s power tools which made the job easier than I ever could have guessed.  More loads of nice compost have been hauled from the barnyard to enhance the soil in the planting pockets, but many more loads are needed.  Were the threat not looming of getting the truck stuck again I'd just load it up and make one trip, but I'm not going to risk it.  Exercise is good.  A small portion of what is now an ill-placed yucca has been relocated, but the rest will have to wait until the step is finished.  Experience has taught me that getting in T's way when he is working on a project (the step) is ill advised.

            SS and her husband have now engineered the step that leads down to the grassy area.  This is what had us stumped the other day, but they have even drawn up what looks like a blueprint, so things are moving along.  I think my real job in this project is that of Go-fer, but that's fine with me.  Big storms are predicted, so terrace work is not likely until the forecast improves.


7:06 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A dreary day.

Today my friend Erika's ashes were scattered over the farm she loved. A memorial service was held for her friends in Mabou Cape Breton. I wish I could have been there. This poem, written by Erika reflects the person she was. 

Let the wealthy and great
Live in splendor and state,
I envy them not, I declare it!
I have my own lamb, my own chicken and ham,
I shear my own fleece and I wear it.

I have fruit; I have flowers
I have lawns; I have bowers.
The cock is my daily alarmer,
So jolly boys now, Here's God Speed the Plough!
Good luck and success to the farmer. 

6:14 pm edt          Comments

Friday, April 1, 2011

Do you believe in magic?


            Or fate?  I do and today exemplified the belief that things happen for a reason.  We just have to be willing and open to recognize and accept what might seem a coincidence at the time.

             Because of this blog I met Superwoman Sue.  Because she "felt as if she knew this place...," volunteering her skills, time and energy (I mean ENERGY!) seemed a natural thing for her to do. Because of this assumed familiarity the terrace that would have taken me months to complete on my own is now nearly finished.  Because Sue extended an invitation to tour her own gardens and because I impulsively extended Sue's invitation to my friend (who was duly impressed) who has been house hunting for five long years, Sue casually mentioned that her neighbor's house was up for sale, but wasn't listed yet.  My friend made arrangedments to visit the charming cottage and she liked it.  She asked me to take a look and I liked it too.  Today she decided that the charming cottage will become her new home!  It's perfect!

            So, had it not been for this blog my terrace would be a mess and my friend would still be searching for the perfect place to relocate.  I do think things happen for a reason, but when I started this website I never guessed its life-changing potential.

            There is still a bit of snow on the ground and it's still just a wee bit chilly to work on the terrace, but we had hit a snag anyway.  Stepping back for a few days has allowed a solution to come to light.  Ironically, when Sue emailed "her" idea today, it was exactly the same idea I had come up with to address the problem.  Voila!  Problem will be solved as soon as the weather cooperates.

            Things do happen for a reason and usually it's all for the best!


6:29 pm edt          Comments

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