My Small Country Life

Home
Published Works
Favorite Photos
Useful Links
Contact Karen
 WELCOME TO MY BLOG! REFLECTIONS OF A SINGLE WOMAN'S LIFE ON AN OLD FARM.
Archive Newer | Older

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A SAD DAY.

 photos/MAY31.JPG

            The heat is insufferable.  My dogs have the luxury of running down to the pond to cool off whenever they wish, but through the trees I hear the neglected beagle on the corner who has never known, nor will it ever know such freedom.

             He knows but a single bright spot each day.  At 4:30 the woman of the house feeds him.  Maybe she even pats him on the head.  It's heartbreaking.  Since I've lived here I've seen three unfortunate canines meet this same sorry fate;  chained to a lousy dog house where the only attention they ever receive is the delivery of a bowl of food.  That's it.  No cuddling, no walks, no running in the vast meadow that surrounds the owner's property.  Somehow the pathetic creatures cling to life for about ten years.  Then they vanish and are replaced by another one doomed to life at the end of a chain. It's very sad, especially while there are those who love their animals so much that illness and death devastate them.

            The adult son of a friend is suffering this inconsolable sadness.  The dog that has been his beloved companion for many years has met the same horrible fate as did my Nettie.  There is no cure for the cruel disease and the end is not kind.  We who love them are forced to make that dreaded final call to the vet.  I've never met this man, but I can honestly say that I do feel his pain.  A year and a half has passed since I had to make the call to have Nettie "put to sleep" and still not a day passes that I don't miss her.  I still choke back tears when I look at her picture or recall some of her naughty antics. That feeling never goes away.

            And so my friend is taking her son's dog for its last car ride.  Her son just can't do it himself.  She says he can't stop crying.  I understand all too well.  She questioned whether men are supposed to cry.  Is it a manly thing to do?  Sadness and heartbreak are not gender specific emotions.  Crying is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of human-ess.  I pity the man (or woman) who doesn't allow himself to cry and grieve. I know that Nettie rests in peace just as I know my friend's son's dog will soon do the same, but for those of us still here peace is elusive.

           

 

6:03 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 30, 2011

TO WORK, OR NOT TO WORK...

photos/MAY30.jpg

           My favorite times of the day are very early mornings and late evenings, time spent sitting on the porch watching my small country life awaken and retire.  These are the times when the air is mercifully free of the racket from lawn mowers, leaf blowers, dirt bikes, traffic and distant voices. 

            Mornings are best.  About 6:30 am, armed with the first cup of good strong coffee I watch the birds flit down to get a drink and take a quick bath at the ponds edge.  The cats and dogs seem to enjoy this fleeting tranquility as much as I do.  They all lie contentedly on the bricks until one of the cats (usually Sissy the sport killer) decides to mosey down to the water.  Her delight as frogs leap from the shore and splash into the water as she approaches is obvious. 

            At night, after the birds have all quieted down, only croaking bull frogs pierce the silence. At times like these I think of the Grogg family who built this house and lived here in the very early 19th century.  Doubtful they ever had the luxury of welcoming any day  sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee or lounging in the darkness with a glass of wine.  They had serious work to do.

            The old orchard is a constant reminder of earlier times when this was a real working farm although I'm sure the existing orchard is not a remnant of the Grogg family.  These apple trees couldn't possibly be that old, but they were probably planted in the early 20th century.  Each spring when the long rows of overgrown trees explode with blossoms I give a fleeting thought to "pruning" them.  Only once did I actually follow through with that hare-brained notion.  It was challenging and unsuccessful.  Later cconsultation with my professional orchard friend confirmed that restoring old fruit trees just isn't feasible.  Better to graft cuttings from the old to young stock.  But, that too is just another item on my "to do" list.  I've come to the sad conclusion that I am hopelessly lazy and unwilling to sacrifice any time that might be a quiet morning or evening on the porch.

I also wish to apologize for the last post which I didn't realize I had shared once before.  Sorry.

 

10:07 am edt          Comments

Saturday, May 28, 2011

THINKING ABOUT MY UNCLE BILL.

photos/MAY28.jpg

            "...And you'll need to bring whatever you want him to be buried in," concluded the funeral director as he stood to bid me and my mother goodbye.  My mother's tear-stained face was suddenly panic-stricken.  She was of the school that believed dead people should go out looking grand, but her bachelor brother, my Uncle Bill had never owned anything remotely grand in all his 78 years. 

           He was an unpretentious man who never believed in fancy airs and cared little about his appearance. He liked to go fishing, work in his garden or walk in the woods and his dull durable wardrobe was suitable for all such activities. Up until his final years he wore that functional nondescript garb commonly known as ‘work clothes'-heavy cotton khaki or dark green matching pants and shirt, the sort of thing repairmen wear.  His pigeon-toed feet were shod in brown oxfords that never seemed to wear out, but when they did they were replaced with the same style and color.

          Only on the hottest summer day would he be seen-and only in his own back yard wearing a sleeveless undershirt with the aforementioned work pants and oxfords.  His hair was ginger colored and his fair freckled skin burned to a crisp if exposed to the sun for long which may be why the red ball cap was also a wardrobe staple.  Uncle Bill was never without that cap.  Like the shoes, it must have worn out and been replaced over the years, but it was always the same style and it was always red.  His clothes reflected the simple uncomplicated person he was.

          When his health declined and his sight failed my mother took charge of his life.  Frugal to a fault she began enhancing her brother's closet with selections from the church rag bag. These were clothes intended for the church ladies to transform into garish lap robes which they presented with hubris to helpless nursing home residents.  But my mother saw those slinky disco shirts and plaid golf pants as her brother's new wardrobe.

          "This material feels funny," he'd complain fingering the front of a shirt or rubbing his hand along his thigh. 

"It doesn't wrinkle and it looks nice," my mother assured him and thus colorful, but less than fashionable new clothes replaced the familiar apparel in Uncle Bill's closet.  During this transition, even though he could no longer see, the tired old red cap stayed in place.  He said it soothed his watery eyes and he refused to give it up despite my mother's protests. Given free rein she would have had him in a porkpie or some other sporty chapeau.

            So there he sat in his wheel chair unknowingly decked out in yellow plaid polyester pants that rode two inches above his shoes, a shiny shirt printed with lightning bolts and if the weather happened to be chilly, a striped Perry Como sweater. Dear plain old Uncle Bill with his cloudy unseeing eyes quietly morphed into an uncomplaining clown.  It was a blessing when he died.

            "What are we gonna bury Bill in," my frenzied mother wondered aloud as we drove home from the funeral parlor.  At the very least, going away clothes meant a suit and she hadn't thought far enough ahead to salvage one from the rag bag. 

            A desperate search in the recesses of my uncle's closet yielded a vintage brown serge suit.  He'd had it since returning from the war in 1946, back when he was a strapping young man. Now he was a shriveled hint of that person, but since funeral directors are adept at making adjustments half of the problem was solved. 

            Although there were plenty in his closet, disco shirts just didn't seem to go with the brown serge.  Even she had to admit that, but the notion of buying a new shirt that would only be worn once was unthinkable to my parsimonious mother. My friend offered one of his expensive pale blue dress shirts and an elegant silk tie to go with it and the incongruous going away costume was delivered to the funeral home. 

            The day of the funeral arrived, but who was that person in the quilted- satin lined casket?  Certainly not Uncle Bill.  The art director of the funeral home had parted and pomaded his thin fluff of faded pink hair and asked me if I'd like him to trim the wiry eyebrows that stuck out like awnings.  I said, "No thank you," and stared at the nicely dressed stranger in the mahogany box.

              Uncle Bill couldn't have tied that Windsor knot if his life had depended on it.  The old suit with its big lapels had been tucked and pinned to fit, but it still looked like it had been stolen from Edward G. Robinson and I knew that the laundry had indelibly marked another man's name inside the collar of the pale blue shirt. 

            Soon neighbors and friends began to file into the flower-filled room.  As they approached the casket the looks on their faces expressed what they were too polite to say.  This was not the Bill they knew and loved.  Mercifully not one person uttered those absurd remarks about him looking like he "was sleeping" or more ridiculously that he looked "natural."

            If anyone noticed when I left the room, it really didn't matter.  I couldn't allow my dear uncle to leave this world looking like he'd soon be meeting Bette Davis for drinks.  I drove back to the house where his faded red cap still lay next to the recliner chair, right where he was sitting when he drew his last breath.  I stuffed the hat in my pocket and returned to the funeral home.

            It's not easy to lift a dead person's head; sort of like trying to lift a car, but as his friends watched I hoisted my poor uncle's head from the satin pillow and pulled the cap down just the way he'd always worn it.  It covered the silly hair do the funeral director had given him and shielded his combed bushy eyebrows.      

            "Now that's our Bill," said someone. "That's the Bill we know," others agreed as they returned to the casket to bid a final goodbye.  Suddenly things didn't seem quite so sad. My mother feigned shock, but I knew that in spite of her tears she was comforted to see her brother's familiar face. Who said clothes don't make the man? 

 

8:08 pm edt          Comments

Friday, May 27, 2011

SIGNS OF THE TIMES.

 photos/may27.jpg

            Some signs of spring are more subtle than colorful gardens, fresh furrows or the return of migratory feathered friends.  Here, I officially welcome the change of seasons by changing my bed linens from winter white to springtime yellow.  Linens are special. Good linens are as important to me as good coffee.  ‘None of those no-wrinkle polyester sheets and pillowcases; only heavy 100% cotton.  I love the crisp feel of linens that were hung to dry on a clothesline rather than tumbled in a clothes drier and I love waking in a bed of sunshine yellow as birdsong welcomes the morning outside my window.  People who live alone are strange.  I admit it.  Indulging such silly luxuries is crucial to our survival.

            While garage sale signs are ubiquitous in early spring, rural folks have the unique advantage of posting barn sale signs.  I think it's the subconscious image of a huge bank barn loaded with salt-glazed pottery, cob-webby cupboards and dusty blanket chests all with give-away price tags that draws customers like flies to candy.  Those items rarely crop up.  Barn sales usually have the same junk as garage sales, but the lure of the imagined is  irresistible.

             Yet another sign of spring is the Bounce bow-ties sprouting from my hat brim and from my dogs' collars.  Anyone who enjoys the woods can benefit from these little fabric softener sheets that smell like over-perfumed church ladies.  Bugs hate them.  They hover, but rarely land or bite.  (Ted models, but reluctantly....)

 

6:50 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 26, 2011

DON'T WORRY. BE HAPPY...

 photos/may26.jpg

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."  Goethe

            Wisdom from the 18th century as true today as it was then; maybe more so. Bad stuff happens when a naive society does not question what corporations tell them, but worse still when they do question and are told lies.

            Just prior to the release of the documentary ‘Gasland' which confronts environmental risks caused by fracking shale for natural gas,neighbors just up the road  were approached by one of the notorious oil and gas companies featured in the film.  The company representatives informed my neighbors that they would be putting a well on their property.  It was not a request; it was a statement.  My neighbors said they were worried, but the company assured them there was nothing at all to worry about.  To date, drilling hasn't begun,so the issue has been quietly ignored. 

           I contacted our township trustees to tell them the movie is available at no cost and suggested that since our township has more signed leases than any other, this would be an excellent opportunity to enlighten residents about the process and the risks.  The trustees said that if I wanted to put it all together they wouldn't mind, but they didn't want to pursue it themselves. Part of me felt angry because as elected officials I felt it is their job. Part of me felt obligated.  I'm ashamed to admit that so far I have not done anything to organize a showing.  I'm ashamed to admit that I'd rather just live my small country life than to put myself in any political spotlight.  'Been there, done that and don't like it!

            But today I received email from friends Sue of BBB fame.  The notorious company featured in the documentary (Chesapeake) is putting a fracking well in near their home.  The company claims to have sent a registered letter to them several weeks ago, but they never received any such letter.  That fact alone suggests something is amiss.  This company just paid record fines for their pollution in PA and to put it mildly, their name is mud across the eastern border, but apparently they are finding it easier to mislead folks in the Buckeye state.

            Looking at the company's website regarding fracking, they glibly point out that they are using this high-tech method in order to eliminate American dependency on foreign oil.  Fracking is done to release natural gas, not oil.  This has nothing at all to do with eliminating dependency on foreign oil!  This assumes public stupidity.

            My friends are worried and rightfully so.  The company says it's going to "test" their well water before and after the fracking, but they don't say when.  Are they going to test it immediately after the drill, before the toxins have migrated to my friends' well, to area streams and soils?  My friends are helpless in this situation because someone somewhere signed a lease with the oil company in order to gain a few dollars.  Never mind that the health and well-being of all those in the surrounding area could be in jeopardy.  I think I would be researching who signed that lease.

            For thirty years these friends have worked to create a beautiful home surrounded by tranquil gardens, a sanctuary where they felt safe and secure.  How well do you think they will sleep at night now, knowing that irreversible damage could possibly be taking place and that their sanctuary could become a toxic wasteland? 

            Although ordered to produce relevant information following this company's most recent incident in Pennsylvania, the company has instead requested a delay in providing the statistics that could allay public concerns-or exacerbate them.  This is scary stuff.                 http://www.naturalgaswatch.org/?p=461

 

6:41 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE STINKY.

           The ponds latest incarnation has much to recommend it.  It's clear and fresh and now more than just hardy frogs can live happily in it.  It's pretty and it's the culmination of a quest that has been dragging on for years.

            The bad bit is that the dogs are in the pond every day, several times a day and while they are shiny and clean, not to mention almost svelt from all that swimming, dogs take a long time to dry-at least Ted does. That thick Labrador coat holds not just wetness.  It holds bad smells.

            When I opened the back door an unpleasant odor nearly knocked me out.  My animals do not mess in the house, so I knew that wasn't the source.  Had something spoiled in the wall cupboard where spices and canned goods are kept?  Nope.  A-Okay there too.  Then it dawned on me as I looked into the big brown eyes of my favorite dog who . 

            "You need a bath," I said and as if he couldn't have agreed more he got to his feet and proceeded toward the bathroom where he gingerly stepped into the shower. 

            Must abort this blog as a huge storm is bearing down upon us right now!!!!

8:19 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TODAY.

 photos/may24.jpg

"When that rooster crows at the break of dawn

Look out your window and I'll be gone.  You're the reason I'm travelin' on..."

            Yes, I might have liked to travel elsewhere this morning because for the past couple of days my rooster has not waited until the break of dawn to crow.  Last night he seemed to think that 2:45 a.m. was a good time for a wake-up call.  I can just imagine the inside of the chicken coop when Mister Big Mouth blasted off at this ungodly hour:

            "Agghh, mama what's happening?" screams the little chick as it tumbles away from the little red hen and falls to the floor.

            "You friggin' idiot! It's the middle of the night," admonishes a rudely-awakened hen.  I doubt that his announcement was appreciated any more by fellow coop dwellers than it was by me.

            He continued celebrating the day that had not yet broken while the hens probably tried to comfort the little ones and cussed out the big stupid one.  In the house my clock told me that his repeated crowing lasted for a full half hour.  Hopefully his circadian rhythm was just temporarily off beat and that tonight he will sleep until tomorrow actually dawns.

            Near the fence line the baby bird is still safe and squawking, but it resists my surrogate mother attempts to feed him yummy worms.  The parents remain hidden, but they've issued angry reprimands each time I've approached their fallen offspring, so I'm presuming/hoping that they are feeding the foundling.  I still don't know what kind of bird this is.  More importantly I don't know if I should attempt to "help" it.

            To prepare for a hay delivery next week I removed the remaining bales from the hay room and uncovered some squatters in the process.  Sitting on one bale, casting a very critical eye my direction was a big green frog.  Not a toad, but a very large, very green frog.  He beat a hasty retreat as I approached him and disappeared under the pallets on the floor.

            As I pulled at the next bale I saw just the tail-end of a tail, but curiosity won over safety and its owner soon appeared to see what was going on.  "Hey, leave that alone," yelled the little gray mouse. "I've been living there.  Where am I gonna go now?" He sat on a block of wood and watched without fear as I cleaned up the room, although I imagine he preferred it just as it was.

            In previous years spring hay room cleanup I have discovered a big snake, a rat and once a kitten that appeared to be asleep, but was actually quite dead.  I prefer discoveries like those of today.

 

1:49 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 23, 2011

WORK CONTINUES.

photos/MAY23.jpg

            It was almost too good to be true; two full days of sunny skies.  Wonderful!  Brave souls that they are, the BBB decided to risk getting stuck once again and arrived Saturday morning with more clay and rock fill to reinforce the pond levee.  Fortunately they did not get stuck and ended up delivering four more big loads of fill.  Now, I await John with the Bobcat to distribute this much-appreciated mountain of dirt.  The pond project exceeds any hopes that I've ever had for this watering hole.  I waded into the icy pond and pulled aquatic weeds from the shoreline.  It now seems enormous and I'm eager to add more fish.  The dogs are doing daily laps and consequently they stink, but they are happy pups, so that's all that matters to me. 

            The vegetable garden seems to be in suspended animation.  While tomatoes and peppers and beets are all in or up, they are not growing.  The radishes are as disappointing, as the lettuce and beans.  A few of the neighboring farmers bravely plowed and/or planted their fields this weekend, but the news at the feed mill is not encouraging at all.  "Yep, you're gonna be payin' a whole lot more fer feed this year," said Ed as he ran my Discover card through the reader.  I shudder to think of how much more!

            Only minutes ago I found a gape-mouthed baby bird, species unknown sitting helplessly at the edge of the road just north of the driveway.  I collected it from harms way and placed it safely under the plants along the fence line in hopes that mom will be down to feed it, but I'll have to keep a close watch on the situation as a storm is blowing in from the west.  My bird rescue expertise is next to nil, so I sincerely hope the parents reclaim this pitiful fledgling.

            Tomorrow more storms are predicted, so it will be just the needed incentive to work on the current writing project although I'd rather be outside.

7:29 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 21, 2011

BODY ALL ACHIN' AND WRACKED WITH PAIN!

 photos/may21.jpg

            The Busy Beaver Builders arrived this morning with their dump truck heaped with a clay and rock mixture.  The original plan was to dump the load as near to the pond as practical so John the handyman could distribute it with his BobCat.  The intention was to shore up the south end of the levee which has been the cause of many problems.

            Unfortunately the ground was a bit less firm than we thought and the heavy truck sank like a stone into the soft earth.  There was no choice but to dump as much of the load as possible and then shovel the rest from the truck bed.  Even after it was empty the truck remained mired and once again neighbor Butch and his John Deere came to the rescue.  I've lost count of the times he and that tractor have hauled me and my truck or my tractor out of similar messes.  What in the world would I do without such great neighbors!  He says all he wants as payment is a pumpkin pie, but I think he's at least entitled to a pie a month for the rest of the year.

            Since John wasn't available we set about hauling the heavy material in carts and wheelbarrows.  It has made an incredible difference already and yet another leak is sealed. Yippee!!!  Then Sue began constructing a natural-looking waterfall where the stream feeds into the pond.  She's a genius and a remarkable visionary.  It isn't 100% finished, but it looks grand. 

            This transformation of the south side of this property is nothing short of breath-taking.  The pond water is clear and cold now that it's being fed by the spring.  The shoreline is still a work in progress, but that too is a vast improvement already.  I chopped down a walnut tree at the waters edge and accomplished feat with a hatchet.  Too much was made over George Washington chopping down that cherry tree.  It wasn't difficult at all. I am utterly exhausted, but I'll bet the BBB are at home building a lake or a barn or planting a forest or undertaking some other superhuman effort.Those two never tire. Maybe it's their coffee?   Julie looks moredead than alive lying on the remaining pile.  This is how I feel!

photos/may21xx.jpg

 photos/may21xxx.jpg

6:44 pm edt          Comments

Friday, May 20, 2011

SAFE FOR NOW.

 photos/may20.jpg

            "SIZZZ-EEEE!" I screamed as the silver bullet raced past me, the helpless bunny impaled on her sharp feline teeth.  I was just about to plant the first petunia in the window box, so I threw my trowel in her direction and she dropped Bugsy.  Amazingly he took off like a rocket, but he was no match for Sissy who was speedier still. She snatched him up once again as I sprinted after her in hot pursuit, going faster than I ever thought possible in my too-big crocs.

            Damned cat, I thought as she dropped the poor rabbit a second time and again he tore off like his ears were on fire, but there was nowhere to hide and again she had him in her lethal grip.  But, the third time was a charm.  As I raced after her I grabbed a stick and much to the cats surprise I poked her rear end, thus distracting her enough to loosen her  death grip allowing me to save the baby.

            His little heart pounded in my palm, but unbelievably he was unharmed; not so much as a pin prick in his delicate skin.  The cat (less than a Mensa candidate) searched the bushes, the rocks, the tree trunks and everywhere else for her lost prize, totally oblivious to the trembling rescue in my hands. 

            I snapped this portrait before releasing him in a place with plenty of cover and no cats.  I can only hope he's able to avoid future capture, but you know rabbits aren't called "dumb bunnies" for no reason. 

 

5:45 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 19, 2011

MAN KIND?

 photos/MAY19.jpg

            The tank wasn't all that big; maybe 20 gallons at the most and about 20 fish were swimming around in all that water.  "Gee, you don't have many...," I said to the fellow with the net as he prepared to fish out the 10 I requested.  "Oh, just a few days ago we had 3,000 in this tank," he said scooping out some flashy brightly-colored ones and returning the duller swimmers to the tank. "You want to be able to see them," he explained when I questioned his rejects.

            3,000 "feeder goldfish" in that little tank!  Doubtless the other 2,980 met the happy fate that my 10 fish did. I'm pretty sure the dull rejects are destined for someone's lunch.  I looked at my bag of bright orange fish and told them how lucky they were as they rode home in the truck. Now that the pond is full and has a steady supply of fresh water it can handle fish.  I opened the plastic bag and watched as the carrot-colored fingerlings swam to freedom.  It felt good.

            Buddy the cat is ill and can't seem to keep anything down, so she and I made an emergency trip to our wonderful vet.  Hopefully she'll soon be back to her old self.  At the vet was one of the cutest puppies I've ever seen.  He was appropriately named Blue and that's about the color he was-a velvety blue-gray with a white chest and four white paws.  He was darling and as I petted him I said so.

            "He was in a plastic garbage bag that was tied shut.  His four sisters were already dead and he was pretty close to death himself," said his doting owner, but her face was sad.  He'd been found several weeks earlier. Blue looks great now and he is clearly adored, but like his owner I can't stop thinking about him suffocating in that plastic garbage bag as his litter mates expired one by one.  What a terrible world we live in.

 

7:33 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A WALK IN THE WOODS.

 photos/MAY18.jpg

            While all the exploration, excavation and cultivation of the pond project has been pleasant the dogs and I have missed our daily walk through Ranger Rick's woods and Kenny's fields. So today in spite of ominous skies (what's new?) we set off at a brisk pace up the road to visit our old stomping grounds.

            I knew the big oak tree would present a problem, but figured one way or another we'd get past the road block. I was happy to see that someone has begun a very feeble attempt at clearing the fallen monster, but the few limbs that have been cut were insignificant and the pathway remained as impassable as when the tree first came down over a month ago.

            Crawling over the soggy, snag-laden trunk that's nearly as high as I am tall wasn't an option.  My old nemesis multi-flora rose completely snarled the one bit of stream I could have hopped over and beyond that the water was too deep and wide to ford.  Try as we might, there was no way over, under or around the big fallen oak, so we continued along the paved road until we got to Kenny's unplowed front field. 

            The dogs were confused by this diversion and while they normally walk in a quiet orderly formation, the route change sent them into a frenzy while still on lead.  I found myself entangled in leashes, sinking in mud and finally ensnared in brush, but we mangaed to fight our way into the woods.

            Not surprisingly the forest, like everything else was under water.  Ponds glistened where there had been no ponds.  Trees listed and some had already crashed to the ground when their root balls became water-logged. The May apples looked flimsy and anemic and there was no sign of fruit.  It was apparent that no one else had ventured into this tranquil spot since the entry had become blocked. Only a few deer tracks marked the mud.  The stillness was deafening and eerie and the dogs seemed uncomfortable.  Then it started to rain.

            Being in any woodland is a meditative experience under most circumstances, but today was an exception.  We slogged along our normal trail, then rather than trying to fight our way back out to the road, we headed down the once-magical oil road.  We hurried past the home of the people responsible for destroying the hedgerows and cutting down what they deemed "junk trees."  Unlike the days when this lane was only used by me and the oil truck that serviced the pump jack near the woods, the days when every venture along the weed-choked path meant wildlife encounters, today I saw nothing but a couple of plastic bags caught on some tree snags.  The reminders of what used to be, but what is forever gone saddened me. 

            At last, wet and muddy the dogs and I slipped into my own woods. By the time the house came into view the sun had come out and the dogs raced for the pond.  I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat on the deck watching the pool party, glad to be home. 

 

3:43 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SEEING A NEW WORLD.

photos/blog591.jpg

            One of my favorite books was Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.  Lots of other people liked it too.  It won the Pulitzer Prize.  It's essentially a collection of essays about the author's observations of the natural world just outside her door.  It's beautiful in its honesty and lack of pretense.

            Sometimes we overlook the magic and awesomeness of the familiar and when we do ‘awaken' it's like discovering a brand new place.  That's what I've been experiencing this spring in spite of the relentless rain and cold that's keeping me inside more than I want.  It took a dramatic event (the recent excavation work) to wake me up. The most exciting and dare I say thrilling discovery has been the spring-fed stream.  Like a lot of things, it was always there, but I just couldn't see it.

            The path leading to the stream is the same path that I've walked for years, but too often I only noticed more multiflora rose that should be lopped off or the nettles that clung to my clothes and the dogs' fur.  Those things are still there, but so what.  Now that the water has been released from it's hidden place I can see incredible potential for new plants, expanded wildlife habitat, clean flowing water and beauty too. 

            With that thought in mind today I set off for a place called Lily of the Valley Herb Farm to purchase watercress plants.  What a great place!  The selection was terrific, the prices reasonable and the plants robust and hearty.  I bought two pots of watercress which are substantial enough to divide and plant segments on either side of the stream.  If all goes well I'll soon be harvesting that peppery herb for salads and sandwiches.  ‘Can't wait!

            Again I tried to coax the chickens into posing for some pictures to accompany my article.  Again they were uncooperative, but I did catch the two moms with their spoiled child. Today the orphans ventured all the way down to the house. They're getting very brave and confident.

            The ratty feral cat had taken shelter from the weather inside the chicken coop, much to the disapproval of the hens and to my surprise when I opened the coop door.  He shot out the little hatch faster than a bullet and vanished across the road.  What a dreadful mess he is!  I'm keeping a bowl of food in the loft and there's a soft kitty bed up there too, but I fear capturing him isn't going to be easy even with the proffered lodging and meals. 

 photos/chicksx.jpg

7:37 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 16, 2011

MONDAY, MONDAY....

 photos/may16.jpg

            The newly-renovated pond seems to be drawing new activity.  Mr. & Mrs. MaLard' (AKA mallards) have decided to take up what looks like it may be permanent residence.  In previous years they have arrived, spent a day or two bobbing around and then decided to look elsewhere for nesting grounds.  So far this couple seems content.  They ignore Sissy the cat who sits on the bank for hours watching them.

            Frogs have never been scarce here even when the water level ebbed, but this year there are literally hundreds of all sizes, shapes and colors which may explain the visitor that surprised me yesterday.  As I sat on the porch a shoreline movement to the south  caught my eye as it snapped at the waters edge.  It was large and traveled in sort of a herky-jerky manner, so I got the field glasses and saw that it was a sandpiper! 

            Roger Tory Peterson lists many different varieties of sandpipers, but the larger than average size of this one narrowed down the possibilities.  It was appropriately identified as a "Solitary Sandpiper."   The field guide said this bird likes swampy woods (got that...), small ponds (that too...) and that it does not travel in flocks (nope, it was all alone...).    Unfortunately it was too far off and too well camouflaged to get a good photo.

            Today was too cold to work outside, but I had writing obligations to wrap up anyway, so I switched on the office space heater, enjoyed a bit of warmth and buckled down to work.  After finishing an article about the increasing popularity of raising traditional breeds of chickens, I grabbed my camera and went out to see if my girls were feeling photogenic today.  They were not, but it was fun to watch the fluffy chick with its two moms. 

            The little red hen and the small black hen had each become broody about the same time.  Interference from the big speckled hen disrupted what should have been a 21 day vigil.  Broken eggs and almost daily laying box intrusions by the big pest finally forced the little red hen to abandon her quest for motherhood.  When at last the black hen hatched a single chick, then left the nest to raise her only child the little red hen decided to kidnap the fluff ball.  There were a few altercations between the two hens before they came to a shared parenting truce.  Now the chick has two moms, each of which is devoted to the care, feeding and protection of the spoiled only child.

            Another hen is still setting on eggs which should be hatching soon, barring any further interference from the big speckled troublemaker.  The six rapidly-growing purchased orphans stick together and come when I beckon, "Come on you babies.  Get in here."  They're always good for a giggle at the end of the day.  How does anyone live without the companionship of animals?  I couldn't do it.

 

8:34 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 15, 2011

KARMA

 photos/may14.jpg

 photos/may14x.jpg

 photos/may14xx.jpg

 

There is a destiny that makes us brothers: none goes his way alone,
All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.
~Edwin Markham  

            Yesterday morning the phone rang.  "Open the gate," said the cheery voice on the other end of the line.  It was Superwoman Sue.  She and Superhuman Bud were on their way to my place in their big dump truck and it was loaded with bridge building supplies.  I've renamed this pair Busy Beaver Builders (BBB).

            In the truck were two enormous barn beams, pre-cut footing boards, tools and a chainsaw.  "How in the world are you going to move those?" I questioned looking at the beams each of which must have weighed several hundred pounds. 

            "Oh, don't worry.  We've got this down to a science," said Bud as he looped a rope around an end and pulled one of the monsters from the truck.  Sue already had the handy cart ready and waiting.  Bud lifted Sue's end of the beam onto the cart, shoved it forward and off they went transporting the behemoth as if it were a soda straw down toward the stream.  I really think this pair should have a television show.  They work ergonomically, efficiently and economically.  All of the building materials had been salvaged. 

            These two are proof that living the ‘good life' and creating beauty is not a matter of money, but of vision, logic and common sense.  I watched in amazement as in a matter of less than one hour the BBB had spanned the stream with the beams, beveled the ends to create a graceful approach, screwed in the boards and were in the process of loading up their tools.  Had someone simply said, "Abracadabra!" it could not have happened any faster.

            The new span blends into the natural setting beautifully and once the wildflower seeds I've planted on the raw banks take hold it will be even more charming.  I love it!  There is no way that on my own I ever could have conceived much less executed the landscape transformation that has taken place here.  It all feels brand new.  This couple whose friendship came about simply because of this blog has literally changed my life. 

            I now look at projects through different eyes and have even accomplished a few things independently without hurting myself or creating a disaster as has been the outcome of past projects (recall barn repair fall from fence resulting in cracked rib, smashed thumb repairing gate, wrecked truck fender due to not measuring gate opening versus new truck width..., the list could go on forever).  Now I say to myself, "What would Sue do?"

            For the life of me I cannot imagine what I have ever done to deserve the wonderful things that have recently befallen me.  I'm very aware of and extremely grateful for all of it, but I feel an intense obligation to give in kind to someone else.  This is a huge responsibility, but one that makes life worthwhile.

 

11:03 am edt          Comments

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT.

 photos/may12.jpg

            Well, not exactly, but I'm ever hopeful.  Here is the rivulet heading from the spring to leaky pond.  After spending a good bit of time on the phone and on line researching pond leakage and discovering that the standard technologies that ATTEMPT to fix such problems are not only costly, but they are not foolproof, hence they are not viable options here.  I'm thinking sandbags!  If they hold back major flood waters, why wouldn't they hold back or stay a small levee leak?  Stay tuned for further developments on this project and try to imagine these banks covered in wildflowers.        

            I'm happy to report that Chuck the Duck is making an incredible recovery from his mysterious malady.  Whew, what a relief.  And it only cost a few hundred dollars.  If only Chuck could lay golden eggs....

 

4:48 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

FLEETING JOYS.

 photos/MAY11.jpg

            I've often mentioned leaky pond, the money pit, the seemingly endless attempts to stem the fluid and the financial hemorrhage.  Today marked yet another excavation effort and for a brief time it seemed as if I'd hit the lottery.  Tray arrived with his mini-backhoe and a good plan for the diversion ditch.  We discussed it and agreed the proposed ditch should solve the problem of too much water in the woods and not enough in the pond every time it rains.  His excavator took the first bite of soil and hit pay dirt, so to speak.  A beautiful gurgling spring burst forth.  We were both ecstatic.

            Work continued.  Tray was very mindful not to disturb any trees and to incorporate this new rivulet into the landscape in a naturalistic way.  My mind raced, thinking about stocking the pond with coy, imagining a body of clear water all year long, and picturing the animals happily splashing around even during the dog days of summer.  After all these years, all the expenditures, all the disappointments, now it finally appeared to be on its way to becoming the pond I'd always dreamed of.  Then T. arrived to look over the project and to point out that while the water was indeed flowing into the north end of the pond, it was leaking out a new spot at the south end just as fast.

            It was a very short-lived joy.  I'm too dismayed to think about it anymore today.

 

8:47 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ONE LUCKY DUCK.

photos/may10x.jpg

            Her plea was desperate.  "Will you do me a HUGE favor?"  (I knew it wasn't really a question.)  "Will you take Chuck to the vet in Wadsworth for a 3:40 appointment?"  The vet in question was an hour's drive away.  Chuck is the Muscovy duck my daughter had found frozen to the ice on a busy road last winter.  This would not be Chuck's first trip to a veterinary clinic.  His feet had been frost-bitten and he'd lost the toes on one foot. What could I say but a reluctant, "Okay."  It would certainly postpone my gardening plans.

            Chuck had been losing weight and seemed unsteady on his feet (but then who wouldn't be with a toeless foot?).  I collected the big protesting duck and off we went to see Dr. Gary who is a very likeable fellow.  He has an easy rapport with his patients and Chuck was no exception.  He thoroughly examined him while sharing the history of the breed.  Chuck obliged by making a giant splat on the floor; just what was needed to run a fecal.

            "He's showing some difficulty breathing.  I want to check his blood," said the good doctor and he whisked Chuck into another room for the procedure which I learned involved tapping the jugular vein on the right side of his neck as the vein is bigger on the right side and there is a featherless channel which makes the blood draw easier.  Meanwhile I visited some hedgehogs in the adjoining room.

            Soon Chuck and the doc returned.  "Well, his liver and kidney functions look pretty good, but his white cell count...," he continued and then announced that he'd like to keep the big guy overnight and do some chest x-rays. By now I was doing some mental calculating and asked the question I didn't really want to hear answered.  "How much is this costing?"

            I almost fainted!  To make a long story short I will just say that Chuck did not get approval for his chest x-rays.  He got a bottle of antibiotics instead and I got a bill for $286.00!!!!  I'm trying to rationalize all of this. 

            I guess the vet figured that anyone who cared enough about a rescued duck with one toeless foot would not be concerned with costs.  On the other hand I think any doctor should be obligated to say to the client, "This may be costly...." And allow the client to take these costs into consideration before proceeding further.

            It was a lesson learned.  Unfortunately it was a very expensive one.  I've told my daughter it was her early birthday present.  The good news is that Chuck seems to be on the mend.  Condition updates as required.

 

9:26 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 8, 2011

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL.

 photos/may8.jpg

           It's been a lovely Mother's Day. I have a great kid, so how much better can things get. There's an apple kuchen in the oven and later I'll take some of it up to old Kenny since it appears that Kenny was here last night while T. and I were out to dinner.  I arrived home to find two of his signature bags of goodies on the patio bench. 

            One bag contained a sizable mesh sack of very-sprouted garlic globes. If I plant them I'll have enough garlic for the township.  The other more mysterious bag bore five small ominously-dark bottles of something called Goya malta.  God only knows what this brew tastes like, but considering Kenny's appetite for spelt bread (tastes like sawdust), chickweed (plucked directly from a fresh cow patty and popped into his almost-toothless mouth) and raw milk bereft of any refrigeration, I suspect the Goya malt isn't going to become a favorite beverage of mine, but I'll try it later when I'm feeling adventuresome .

            Friend Rose stopped by for a visit.  I took a break from mowing and we sat on the deck and enjoyed the rare beautiful weather.  After a while she left, but was soon back and this time with another turtle in hand!  It was also a red-eared slider, so now yesterdays rescue has a companion.

 

8:04 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A BAD IDEA.

photos/MAY7X.jpg

            She wasn't going to make it. Traffic was speeding heedlessly from both directions.  I pulled over, hit the emergency flasher and hopped out to rescue the red-eared slider.  The unappreciative turtle hissed at me and tucked herself snugly back inside her shell where she remained for the ride home.  I knew what kind of turtle it was,but I only think it is a female.  She is now a resident at the pond which is currently undergoing a necessary repair--again.

            It would be difficult to convey what a major undertaking this has become.  The project was launched because of the unusually high volume of water pouring into this ill-conceived watering hole.  An overflow pipe that is supposed to regulate water depth was plugged, so the pond had breached the dam which was contributing to the flooded woods.  The fellow who is coming on Wednesday to dig a diversion ditch intended to dry up the woods while at the same time replenishing leaky pond said the overflow pipe must be cleared before he could begin excavation through the woods on the west side.

            Handyman John arrived early this morning to confront the problem. We tried ramming a pole in from the exposed end that was barely dripping water.  About twenty feet in, the clog stopped any further progress.  Perhaps he could clear the pipe by reaching down the elbow that was supposed to be level with the water, but which was submerged due to the clog.  While the dogs don't mind the icy water, John didn't seem to be having nearly as much fun as Ted as he waded in.  He could feel the blockage, but barely.

            One thing led to another.  If only we had a longer sturdier pipe and a sledge hammer.  Ah ha, I always knew the old well housing up by the fallen-down milk house would come in handy one day, so we headed north of the barn to retrieve it.  That's when I fell in a hole and twisted my ankle.  While I feared it was broken, after thrashing about in excruciating pain for a while as handyman John watched, I determined it to be just badly sprained (an understatement).  Unfortunately now I would not be doing any shoveling or much of anything else on one leg.

            To make a very long story of repeated attempts to clear the pipe we discovered the underground pipe was crushed.  This apparently happened when the latest inept excavator drove heavy equipment over the "2,500 pound crush" green pipe.  What to do?  Did up the crushed pipe back to an uncrushed portion, thus releasing the backed up water which instantly gushed from the exposed end into the former-rivulet that flows through the woods.  The rivulet instantly became a torrent of muddy water and the pond level began to drop.  It's still dropping.

            The plan now is to splice new pipe and elbow onto the undamaged portion, then refill the dam breach and hope for the best.  On Wednesday the ditcher will arrive to create a swale that he says may require a small bridge!  OMG!  When I think back to the day this sometimes-lovely, but too often-ugly depression was conceived it all seemed so simple.

            "Just a place for the dogs and the wildlife...," I said to the guy on the big backhoe. 
"Oh, no problem," he said as his yellow monster took the first bite of earth and he began digging what ended up looking like a pit.  It filled with water, but then it began to leak.  A call to the "pond master" was met with, "Well, it takes a year or two for a pond to seal," he assured me.  I was naïve and waited.  The pond failed to seal, but the "pond master" was no longer in business.

            Pond master #2 looked at the pit and said, "Well it's no wonder!  The sides need to be contoured and blah, blah, blah.  It will cost $1,000.00.  I paid it.  The newly-c0ntoured "pond" looked great for a while, but then it too leaked.  "You just need benonite clay.  That'll seal it right up," he promised.  Endless bags of benonite were dumped into the leaky hole and the center did securely seal, but the sides still leaked.  Pond master #3 to the rescue-or so I hoped. 

            "Whatever you do, don't mess with the center, "I advised.  It held about four feet of water, murky and green, but liquid nevertheless.  Their brand new backhoe and bull dozer worked like big shiny beavers.  The men hauled truckloads of blue clay to the site, drove over it repeatedly to pack it, but apparently they were driving over the buried overflow pipe as well. 

            "Now remember, don't mess with the center," I reminded the eager beavers.  "Oh, you want it deeper than that," said the guy on the dozer as he messed with the clay-sealed bottom, thus sinking his giant earthmover like a stone.  The mud was just entering the cab by the time the other men hooked the dozer with the backhoe bucket and dragged it from the mire.  It was as if they had pulled the plug in a bathtub and ever since the pond has leaked worse than ever before.  If ever there was a money pit, this is it! 

            Because so much water is diverted from the downspouts, the spring in the cellar and come Wednesday, the additional runoff, there is no way to not have a pond, seasonal though it will be.  It's all very sad, really.  The dogs love to swim in it.  Each spring the ducks paddle around and consider nesting on its banks, but wisely abandon the idea.  The great blue heron frequents for a meal of frogs and a variety of smaller birds bathe and drink daily along with rabbits, the occasional groundhog and deer.  When it's full, it's lovely, but I always know it's temporary.  I guess I should just be happy that it will always be adequate for the frogs and for the newest resident, Ms. Turtle.         

photos/MAY7.jpg

 

4:48 pm edt          Comments

Friday, May 6, 2011

BREAKFAST.

 photos/may6.jpg

            What a rare treat to awaken to sunshine!  Sitting on the new deck this morning enjoying a just-made corn muffin, coffee and the New Yorker I paused to look over my small country life.  It's so peaceful here early in the day.  No traffic.  No noise.  I marveled as I do every spring at the beauty of the old overgrown orchard just coming into blossom.  The pond is still over-flowing and the unmown lawn splashed with sunny dandelions, regal violets and other wildflowers looked prettier to my eye than any of the golf course lawns on this road. 

            Julie was stretched out full length soaking up her daily dose of Vitamin D. Tiny was rolling around on top of the warm stone wall. The other cats came and went doing whatever it is they do.  Who really knows?  Ernie was meditating as he does most mornings (Ohmmmm...) staring vacantly off into the distance. Ted's big head was resting on my knee  silently pleading for the last bite of muffin.  It was all so idyllic.  I should have known it wouldn't last.

            The sound came ever so softly at first from somewhere in the orchard, growing louder as it exited the trees.  Not a wail, not a cry exactly, but more of a satisfied moan.  Within a couple of minutes Poppy appeared with her trophy, the limp body drooping from the sides of her mouth.  I guess that would explain the softness of her announcement.  It's hard to make much noise with a mouth full of death.

            Tiny immediately shot to attention.  Ernie, who enjoys eating disgusting things if given the opportunity saw a meal delivery if he got lucky.  Enough meditating.  He perked his ears and got to his feet.  Julie, never one to be shy leapt from the deck to see if Poppy needed some help with her parcel.  Ted looked dismayed.  Dead things distress him and he certainly would never lower himself to eating carrion.  ‘Much more dignified to beg for a muffin. 

            He and I looked toward the parade that was fast developing behind Poppy, all of them eager to see, eat or at least play with the flaccid furry thing still securely clamped in Poppy's jaws as she headed toward me with her prize.  It was a vole.  Poor thing.  Dead as a mackerel.  She dropped it proudly.  Julie snatched it up almost before it hit the deck.

            "Drop that!" I commanded and she did.  Instant remorse. The dog party adjourned to the house as Poppy reclaimed her victim, tossing it in the air and reliving the thrill of the hunt as several other cats sat waiting. 

            I later saw Buddy devouring the kill.  Waste not, want not. Cat philosophy.

 

3:26 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 5, 2011

APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS...

 photos/may5.jpg

            And pollen and allergies.  I'm sick as a dog, but alas the sun shone brightly all day and the breeze was soft as a sigh, so as promised, no complaints.  I planted zinnias and beans today and was delighted to see that the lettuce, endive and radishes are growing nicely in spite of significant frost this morning.

            The no show show girls are now scheduled to arrive next week.  Due to bad weather the fellow who was delivering them to Mark did not keep his appointment, hence Mark could not keep his appointment here.  No problem.  The six orphan peeps as well as the little black hen and her darling chick spent the day in the outside pen scratching, sunning and having a wonderful time.  I could almost see them growing right before my eyes.

            Spring here is always heralded by a bevy of bugs and so it was not much of a surprise to be met by what sounded like a helicopter whirling around my bedroom.  But, no helicopter, just a big fat bumblebee that didn't seem to enjoy being sucked up by the vacuum cleaner in order to be safely released outside.  His fate could have been worse at a less tolerant house.

            The King of Bling got his wish; a bright new collar.  He's now sporting royal blue (what else would a king wear?) and showing off for his feline friends.

            When the sun is shining life is good in spite of a runny nose, burning eyes, pounding headache and not being able to breath. Ah, springtime.

 

7:44 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

BRRRR...

photos/MAY4.jpg

            I regret to report that the new show girl hens were a no-show.  While disappointing, the absence of my friend with the birds is worrisome as Mark is a very dependable fellow.  I've not even had a response to my inquiring phone call, so this is troubling.

            On the other hand, while the eagerly-anticipated fancy fowl have not arrived I seem to have acquired a new cat.  This is NOT something I wanted!  I had heard caterwauling in the night, but was surprised to find the squatter curled comfortably in the garden shed kitty bed this morning.  The poor creature is a mess.  I'm quite sure it is a male, certainly unneutered, big and ragged-looking. 

            Knowing he would bolt the second the shed door opened I slipped a bowl of cat food for him through the mouse hole at the bottom of the door.  He certainly looks as if he hasn't had a good meal in some time.  I shall attempt to trap him after which he'll go straight to the vet for some "minor surgery...."

            No, I most certainly do not want cat #8, but what are my options?  If I do nothing he will hang around, pick fights with my nice healthy kitties and impregnate any and all unspayed females in the area, thus making a bad situation worse.  There is no option other than to do the responsible thing. I guess he can be a barn cat.

            My daughter's non-profit (what an understatement that is!!!) Cripple Creek Ferals & Friends cat rescue has trapped and ‘fixed' almost 90 cats in the past couple of months and there is no end in sight.  Many of these cats came from elderly people who were unable to capture, transport or pay for the vet visits on their own.  My daughter and her associates came to their aid. Some of the rescues, like this little 10 day old fellow will still need homes.

            While I'm very proud of Jill's work, I am infuriated that in this county exists an extremely well-funded "humane society" (what a misnomer!!!) that has a paid-for facility and literally millions of dollars invested and in savings as per their public record tax forms, yet they do nothing to address the problem of too many animals, not enough homes. 

            Yes, I'm angry about the duplicitous and misleading behavior of that organization which begs the naïve public for money and even for toilet paper, but Karma rules. What goes round eventually comes round.  Meanwhile, small independent rescue groups like my daughter's and several others in this area struggle financially and work their butts off, but they are the ones that are making the world a better place, not just for the animals, but for the people who may have wanted to do the right thing, but couldn't and had nowhere to turn.

            Far too many humans simply spend their entire lives taking up air and space and feeling no responsibility to address problems.  Being part of a solution never enters their little pea brains.  It's maddening! 

            I can only presume that this endless winter-type weather is adversely affecting my attitude in spite of serious attempts to think spring. I am admittedly grumpy!  I'm trying to be cheery and bright, but when being outside requires a heavy jacket, gloves and even a hat to comfortably work in the garden or to haul in more firewood, grumpiness gets the upper hand.  I'm sick of being cold and wet, but promise that if/when the sun does shine there will be no more carping on this blog.

 

5:00 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A potential celebrity in the house.

photos/may3.jpg

            In the hen house, that is 

            Such a gloomy day again, but something exciting is about to occur.  My friend Mark is bringing two more hens tonight.  (Must wait until dark to move chickens.) These are some rare breed whose name I've forgotten, but which I'm sure I'll learn all about when he arrives.  Here's the catch.  Mark is giving me the birds with the stipulation that the better of the two will be available for him to enter in poultry shows this summer.  How exciting.  A show girl living right here, hob-nobbing with my motley crew of chickens.

            Suddenly it seems the dwindling flock is exploding.  The six orphans are growing rapidly and the little black hen with her one darling peep are also healthy and happy.  The other two hens continue to set on eggs that may or may not hatch.  They remain vigilant.

            I spoke with the co-owner of Murray McMurray Hatcheries today and learned that the black orphan chicks are "sex-linked" meaning they are a cross between Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks.  This cross creates chicks that can be gender identified.  The cockerels will have a yellow spot on their heads, while the pullets will not.  As for the white ones that the local seller assured me are also pullets, the Hatchery says they are a French breed, but that they are not "sex-linked," so I am hoping that there will be no surprises when they mature!  One rooster is adequate.

            The rains continue.  It's so cold the furnace is humming away and there's a fire in the woodstove.  I look out at the lush vegetation and long to be outside in the gardens, but the forecast is not promising.  More rain and more chilly temperatures are predicted. I took this picture of Julie trying to provoke a game of chase with Andy on one of the few dry days we've had in the past month.  We want more days like this!

 

7:51 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 2, 2011

NOT ALL BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER.

 photos/MAY2.jpg

            I've kept chickens for over twenty years.  I do so for a lot of reasons: I like knowing the source of my food (eggs only).  My birds delight me in many ways and they are environmentally important to my chosen lifestyle. They are picturesque and some of them have funny personalities.  They keep my gardens healthy.  And I keep them because I believe that important lessons can be learned by observing them.  For instance, I believe that every pregnant woman should be forced to watch a hen from the time she becomes broody and begins her incubation vigil until the eggs hatch three short weeks later.

            As she confronts this serious responsibility her little chicken brain is not cluttered with thoughts about cute maternity clothes, silly baby showers, endless debates regarding natural birth or C-section by appointment.  No, of course none of this nonsense exists in the bird world. 

            The hen simply feels compelled to propagate her species and she approaches this duty with conviction.  She will not be lured from the nest, not by the Lothario who had his way with her, not by temptingly mild weather or even by tasty treats in the feed trough.  Once she's made up her mind, that's that.

            Finally the eggs begin to peep, then crack and eventually out pops wet, wobbly little versions of herself or perhaps some of her friends as hens obligingly hatch all eggs that are deposited in the chosen nest.  Her "adoptive" chicks are equally dear to her as the ones hatched from her own eggs.  She will defend them with her life right up until the hen firmly announces, "I've taught you how to take care of yourself.  You know how to find food and you should know to hide when the shadow of the hawk passes over. Now you are on your own.  Get lost! No more freeloading."  Human mothers should do the same in my opinion.

            Keeping chickens is not rocket science, nor is it a novel undertaking (poultry has been an American diet staple for five centuries), but suddenly it seems everyone is talking about raising poultry as if it's a daring and extremely spiritual mission.  Frankly, it makes me want to spew.  Today on the Diane Ream Show (NPR) her guest was none other than Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple and many other great books).  Ms. Walker also keeps chickens and so she has written a book about them. 

            At first I thought it a good idea that someone of her literary stature was promoting backyard poultry, but then as I listened to the hour long dissertation complete with an almost tearful description of the demise of a hen (with a nun-like name) that was abducted by a hawk, I began to have second thoughts.

            The phone lines opened so listeners could respond to what they'd heard from the guest.  This led to more details about names, lap-sitting chickens, confessions about not knowing the difference between a cockerel and a pullet, and so on.  Much of the conversation sounded as though they were talking about children.  Then, as should have been expected there were choked (no pun intended...) painful sermons about respecting the lives of the birds the callers were about to dispatch. 

            Lest I sound cynical, I am happy for the current trend to take control of foods.  This society seems to think food simply comes from the supermarket.  Grinning pigs, robust black and white cows (always Holsteins as if they are the only breed in existence) and silly-looking chickens are common label images, so why should it be surprising that so many don't know the reality of what they eat?  But, that's another subject....

            Ironically I'm currently doing a magazine article relating to raising chickens, but it is focused on a trend toward raising traditional breeds.  Research has been very interesting, but today I was amused by the contrasts in discussing essentially the same subject.  One logical, one emotional, both concerned with animal welfare, but from very different perspectives.

            I put myself in the logical category.  Yes, I like my chickens.  A few even have names.  Over the years some have had unique personalities and most have lived long healthy lives.  My concern is that the latter category of nouveau poultry enthusiasts may foster unrealistic expectations, inappropriate care for the chickens, and worse still, more books about this "new" trend.

 

7:01 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Going, going, almost gone...

 photos/may1x.jpg

            Yesterday was so lovely.  I actually thought (silly me...) that things were going to dry up enough to work in the garden.  I planted some gladiola bulbs, dug some weeds, built the new raised bed frame and took a break by the pond while the dogs swam and chased sticks. Then, right before my eyes disaster struck. 

            The pool party came to an abrupt halt.  Dogs splashed from the water, their eyes focused on the woods behind where they'd been having such a fun time.  We all watched. First, the distinct sickening sound of splitting wood, then the whispering brush as the falling tree's limbs caught in a second tree and dragged it along on its unhurried descent toward the soggy forest floor.  Two more trees joined the jumble of others already littering what has become a graveyard just as sad as any other cemetery.

            I was awakened in the night by thunder and it's been lightly raining ever since.  The excavators I've called to see about ‘fixing' this drainage issue can't do anything until/unless things dry up.  It's a Catch-22 situation and much to my dismay the wooded barrier between me and the neighbor on the corner is literally vanishing before my eyes.

 

1:59 pm edt          Comments

PRAYER TO SPRING BY ROBERT FROST

 photos/MAY1.jpg

 

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,

Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird

That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,

The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

1:18 pm edt          Comments


Archive Newer | Older

This site  The Web 

You are visitor:

Archives
© 2009 Karen L. Kirsch