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 WELCOME TO MY BLOG! REFLECTIONS OF A SINGLE WOMAN'S LIFE ON AN OLD FARM.
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

NO PICTURE TODAY!

            Yes, it's true that I am a woman living alone on an old farm, but that should not suggest that I don't indulge some degree of vanity, hence my current dilemma.  I refuse to ever become one of those colorless women whose hair has faded to the color of her complexion which has faded to the color of highway pavement and whose amber rodent teeth might look good on a chipmunk, but not on a person.  No, never! Not while there are OTC products that promise to save me from such a horrendous fate.

            I'm having a party on Sunday and so it seemed a good time to perk up my hair color a bit.  It's naturally auburn, but over the years it has faded, so periodically I visit the hair color aisle at the drug store and purchase a certain brand promoted by flawless celebrities flaunting luxurious locks who assure me that I am indeed "worth it." 

            The product is reasonably priced, easy to use and until today, I always thought fool-proof.  As usual and according to the package directions I mixed bottle #1 with bottle #2, shook vigorously and applied the froth to my hair.  Wait the prescribed time and rinse until the water runs clean. I've done this dozens of times, but when I opened the shower doors and saw myself in the mirror it was enough to make me gasp.  My hair was not the warm auburn the box promised, but almost black! I look like an aging gypsy and it is not a good look at all.  "Oh crap!" I cried.

            I called the famous company's customer relations department to relate my problem.  Obviously what was inside the box was something quite different from what was supposed to be.  Chantilly, or some such insipidly named person essentially told me I was screwed and advised, "Wash your hair a lot."  I've washed my hair four times since the unfortunate transformation, so now it feels and looks like moldy straw.  I may have to resort to a big hat. 

9:27 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ERNIE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

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            Ernie's always been a big boy.  In fact, he was by far the largest in the litter of eleven, but now that he's five years old I can no longer excuse his size as "baby fat" or "big bones." About a week ago he began favoring his left front leg. Examination revealed no obvious injury and he didn't respond when his joints were flexed, but something was certainly wrong, so today we set off for the vet.  Loading the big guy into the truck was a challenge.

            "Come on.  Let's go for a ride," I cooed in one of those sing-song voices that silly dog owners use when trying to cajole an animal (as if the dog won't catch on).  Ernie was not about to be tricked by baby talk. 

            "Cookies!" I teased in a high-pitched, falsely excited-sounding voice, but that didn't work either.  He eats like a bird anyway, which was another clue that something was physically amiss. 

            "Get in the truck!" I ordered in my firmest most-authoritative manner, but he wasn't buying any of it. Sensitive fellow that he is, harsh words only upset him.  As a last resort I crawled into the jump seat area all the while cooing, coaxing and gently tugging on his lead until at last he squeezed himself in between the front and back seat of his own free will. I quickly exited on the opposite side, closing the door before he could turn himself around and leave.  Once inside he resigned himself to the ten mile journey, but unlike Ted or Julie, he refused to enjoy the ride.

            At the vet he tipped the scale at 120 pounds.  Even Ernie seemed embarrassed when the vet tech noted that hefty figure in a loud surprised voice and scribbled it on his chart.  His doggy eyebrows knitted in worry.  His tail tucked between his chubby legs and then he peed on the floor which apparently made him feel ashamed although no one scolded him.  Ernie was not having a good day.

            Blood was drawn to test for thyroid issues and the verdict was not good.  A normal reading is 1-4.  Ernie's was 0.  Twice daily pills were prescribed and he'll have to return in a month for a recheck.  Hypothyroidism can cause joint/cartilage problems as well which may explain the recent limp.

            I paid the bill and then we repeated the truck-loading ordeal and drove home where he beat a hasty retreat to his favorite spot under the bed leaving me to explain things to his worried comrades.  Poor Ern....

 

7:33 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

BIG SIGH...

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"John Wesley's Rule"

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

            Another birthday is sneaking up on me and as always, this begs disappointing and depressing introspection and retrospection.  I think that John Wesley's Rule is a good rule for anyone's life, but as I look back on the past year it seems I've not done nearly enough although I do try.  The problem is that forces far beyond my control make my own efforts seem futile. 

            I plant ten trees and the guy across the road cuts down thirty.  In twenty years I've yet to find anything redeeming about this man. He's never liked me and that's been obvious, but the feeling I admit is mutual. Now he has retired and I suspect he is in the midst of a belated mid-life crisis.  He's showing all the signs; got himself a big tractor with a mower that made desecration of a long-established, dense hedgerow little more than an afternoon pastime.  I curse him, but he can't hear me over the roar of his tractor or chainsaw.   I wonder if he's also gotten a tattoo on his butt or his ankle.  ‘Wouldn't surprise me.

            The exquisite wildlife habitat that used to flourish along the oil road to the east has been gone for a few years now, annihilated when young people unconcerned with the natural world bought the corn field and erected their handsome house at the summit.  Why it seemed necessary to destroy the trees, vines, bushes and such that graced the approach to their showpiece was a mystery.  The explanation was that they "only took out the junk trees...."  With this "clean-up" went a plethora of all things wild that depended on what no longer exists.

            To the south, just beyond the woods live some grass-Nazis.  Never mind that acres of former meadow provided seeds and shelter for birds and small mammals.  This year the occupants of the house acquired a super duper mower and dutifully spend three days each week mowing; burning fossil fuels, polluting the air with fumes and noise, destroying habitat. Why?  Does anyone need five acres of grass?  It boggles my mind.  I curse them also, but they don't know it, nor would they care.  I am referred to as "the radical" around here. I consider this a compliment.

            These are just examples of what's happening in my immediate world.  Beyond the horizon there are more and worse assualts taking place.  Things like this make my own efforts to save an increasingly-imperiled natural world seem utterly pointless.  Since nature conservation is the core of my reason for living, seeing the disrespect, destruction and indifference of others on a daily basis as it relates to my passion leads to a boiling point of frustration that peaks every August.  I try to remain optimistic, but the summer months preceding the big day make optimism challenging, to say the least.  Can I ever plant enough trees?  Can I ever build enough brush piles or rock walls where the wild things can live?  I fear I can't.  So, what's the answer?  John Wesley's 18th century rule is somewhat encouraging. I've posted it where I can read it every day.  Maybe it will pull me out of my current trough of woe.

 

3:19 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 27, 2011

A TISKET, A TASKET, A KITTY IN THE BASKET.

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            I found this nice old market basket at my favorite thrift store.  It was filthy, so I scrubbed it up and sat it on the porch to dry.  Any new container is an invitation to cats and all day long they vied for it, but Buddy the elder won out.  She slept the entire afternoon crammed in an uncomfortable-looking position, but the important thing was that she had claimed the basket. No wonder she looks so relieved after her nap.

            The garden is thriving, so the donkeys are happy as 'gardening' is one of their favorite pastimes.  After having new woven wire fencing erected this spring between the proposed planting strip and the pasture I felt pretty certain the tomato plants (a donkey favorite) would be safe.  I was wrong.  All it took was a leaf or two pushing against the woven wire.  The double trouble team apparently spent the morning carefully coaxing more of the plant to their side of the fence.  Fortunately I discovered their ‘handiwork' in time to salvage half of the tomato plant.  It and all others are now securely staked, much to the bad asses' dismay.  What would I do without those two?  Sometimes I'd like to find out!

 

8:33 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 25, 2011

...AND DON'T COME BACK!

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            Ever since T.'s big Hereford heifer chased me several years ago I've had an irrational fear of bovine.  Following that scary incident I had many close up and personal encounters with cattle relating to writing assignments, all of which were harmless and even pleasant.  Some of these were with traditional Texas Longhorns.  Standing in front of a cow with a six foot horn spread, feeding her cow cookies I felt no fear, but then the owner was with me, so I had a false sense of security.  And of course there have been friendly exchanges with old Kenny's Milking Shorthorn named Cow, but I still feel very apprehensive in the company of cattle.  I am however fascinated with their physical beauty.

            On a nearby long gravel road five cattle languish in the vast fields surrounding a chicken manure storage building.  There's no house, so I don't know who owns the cows,  calf and steer, but they looked so picturesque as I drove by I just had to hurry home and grab the camera.  I wanted to catch the light on the swaying grasses and the grazing cattle.

            Armed with my camera I parked the truck by the pipe gate and set off on foot along the fence line with the intention of catching the pastoral scene as the group milled about in the tall grass about twenty feet off.  I quickly discovered this group hates paparazzi.  The big white one was especially unhappy about being photographed and suddenly I had a déjà vu moment.

            Crop fields and the rarely-traveled gravel road offered no refuge, so when the big white girl came charging toward the fence, eyes bulging, nostrils flaring my truck seemed very distant and even knowing that the six strand high tensile fence was more than adequate to confine the little herd, that old fear gripped my gut like a giant claw. My pace quickened and so did that of the cattle.  Back at the truck the fly-tormented group bade me farewell, but the white one warned, "Don't come back!"   I probably won't.

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12:44 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 24, 2011

PAR-TAY, YAHOO!!!

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            Although I may be under the weather the merrymakers are not.  While I was fast asleep an obviously rowdy party took place at the barn last night.  I could hardly believe my eyes when I stumbled out there early this morning.

            "If you can open it, they can open it," said my wildlife rehabber friend Fran. She was referring to raccoons and of course she was right.  I thought the ear corn was safe in the big plastic bin with a snap on lid.  Wrong.  No fewer than 30 ears were strewn about the feed room and the big part of the barn.  Even more had been hauled up the stairs into the loft for later noshing.  Oddly, only some had been consumed.  The rest were just stripped.  Corn littered the barn like gravel in a driveway.

            "Oh wow, you should have seen those guys," said Andy shaking his big head. 

            "Yeh, we kept telling them to throw some of that corn to us, but they wouldn't do it," added the little gluton Corky. 

            So,the chickens got an extra treat for breakfast.  I moved the bin to a (hopefully) more secure area and so my day began.

            This event was followed by the news that I have been dumped, jilted, discarded by my not-so-secret admirer, old Kenny.  I thought the absence of garbage bags full of stale spelt bread or mysterious bottles of Malta suggested something might be wrong and sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed.  Kenny told Butch (Sandy's husband) that, "Kirsch let my bull loose.  I know she did it...."  Butch said it was hard to tell if he was mad or not, but I've had not surprise prezzies hung on my gate since the liberation a couple months ago.

            While I may have been instrumental in the act, I did not actually release the imprisoned bovine myself.  In all honesty I would have been too afraid, but old Kenny will never believe this, so I guess I'll just lick my wounded ego and accept the fact that my almost-90 year old admirer has dumped me.  A pity really, because Corky liked drinking that vile Malta and while the chickens weren't really keen on old spelt bread it was the thought that counted.

 

9:22 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, June 23, 2011

THURSDAY.

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           Like Sissy the cat I have frittered away much of today.  Intermittent storms all afternoon.  So much for gardening.  I have writing projects I should have worked on, but just couldn't seem to concentrate.  Not feeling well at all (allergies?), so I baked this new cookie recipe. In all honesty, they are just okay; nothing very special about them. 

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt more or less

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Add the dry ingredients, then stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts.

Chill the dough in the fridge and then scoop onto a sheet two inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove when golden at the edges. Leave them on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

6:50 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

GOING, GOING...

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            A real estate auction, especially one close by is always cause for speculation, excitement and worry and so it was this week when two parcels fell under the auctioneer's gavel. The first sale went to a neighboring third generation dairy farmer who is well-known and respected in the community.  The purchase just extends his already-sizable farm, so we all breathed a sigh of relief.

            The second "parcel" was bigger and it did not sell to anyone with farming in mind.  It sold to Chesapeake Oil and Gas, the notorious fracking operation that currently has significant lawsuits pending in Pennsylvania and has been scouring Ohio to buy up leases.  We in this township are not breathing easy these days at all.  This land is a few miles to the southeast. To the northwest is yet another site with the same worrisome fracking destiny scheduled to get underway very soon.  Those in favor of this practice have bought into the promises of safety, new technology, etc.  In my opinion they have sold out their integrity to pad their pockets.

            I'm angry not only because of the duplicity of the oil and gas industry, the spinelessness of politicians, and what I consider the lack of environmental ethics of the signers who only saw fast money for doing nothing, but I am most angry that my personal commitment to environmental protection could all be for nothing. 

            Maybe nothing will go wrong.  Maybe the company will do their ugly business, get what they are after and move on.  But on the other hand, maybe something will go wrong; then what?  Those of us who did not get a check from the company could end up stuck in a toxic wasteland that we had no part in creating.  I don't know a lot of people who are so well-heeled that they could simply abandon their farms/homes and move away because if something goes wrong and the wells and land become polluted, the air laden with invisible toxins, we will not have the option of selling.  No sane person will want to buy our property.  We will simply become victims of collateral damage (to coin a popular government term).

            When I bought this farm and named it The Peaceable Kingdom it seemed that it was up to me alone to keep it pure and peaceful.  I've always felt it was a way of honoring the hard work and tenacity of John Grogg who built it in 1821.  I was naïve enough to believe that I could protect this land from harm.  Now I see that I am powerless and this really makes me angry.

            Tiny returned home from the clinic yesterday afternoon, but she left her tail there.  The patient is doing well.

 

6:06 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

INTERIORS BY FUNKY'S.

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            I stopped by my favorite thrift store yesterday. The place was abuzz with preparations for a "once-in-a-lifetime sale" later this week.  You can bet I'm going to that sale.  Looking around my home I see that it is almost entirely outfitted with things from thrift stores and garage sales; like this $40.00 sideboard (and probably whatever that is peeking out of the drawer too...). But, more than the excitement of finding something wonderful and useful at affordable prices, there's another reason I like shopping the second hand shops, especially this one.  It's the people. 

            The workers are there not because they are making a lot of money or because the environment is luxurious or prestigious, but because it gives them a "place" when they have nowhere else to go and it's a safe place where they can escape whatever demons destroyed their lives.  It's a turning point for many of them and for the most part they seem happy and it shows.  I love these people and think of them as friends even though they aren't going to invite me to their social functions, nor do I invite them to mine.  We would all feel out of place in either situation, but at the store we are all the same.

            Yesterday Judy told me about the upcoming family reunion that she's hosting.  She's so excited she was practically giddy.  "And I'm makin' a big terky with stuffin' and green beans, baked beans, potato salit, makroni salit, a cake and some pies, and my brothers bringin' a ham an' we're gonna git some cold slaw from Boston Markit...."  The proposed menu went on and on and I was glad I wouldn't be cooking for this fete. 

            I could almost see the groaning board, overweight people lining up and heaping paper plates to the point of collapsing, dumped dinners being lapped up by hungry dogs, kids running and screaming.  I'd love to be a fly on the wall at this shindig.  That's the thing about this store; the people there still find supreme joy in things like a "family reunion" and they share the events of their lives without giving it a second thought.  Judy has introduced me to her husband (a big bearded fellow who seems to adore her), to her tiny genteel mother (it's hard to believe they are related) and to a grandchild that may or may not be the one who set Judy's house on fire--twice.

            I've given rides to strangers who after buying something couldn't figure out how they'd get it home; folks like Jim.  Jim is blind and he had bought an ugly set of glass canisters for his kitchen. There must have been eight or nine jars.  Judy put them in a cardboard box and Jim was about to set off on foot with his unwieldy purchas to his  apartment at a low-income housing community. Judy whispered to me that Jim lived more than seventeen blocks away.  Carrying that box he wouldn't be able to use his red-tipped walking stick. 

            "Let me put those in the back of the truck and you climb in. I'll give you a ride.  It's on my way," I lied. 

 

11:14 am edt          Comments

Monday, June 20, 2011

TINY IS GETTING TINIER.

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            After a lengthy and very frustrating chase around and around my office, one that lasted a full half hour, Tiny was finally captured and popped into the kitty carrier to be delivered to the vet.  The fact that this dear kitty had to be chased in order to be caught  confirmed that something was very wrong, something even worse than the raw spot on her tail that I discovered on Saturday.

            At the vet she seemed resigned and subdued, but as it turns out, that behavior was in part because she had a fever from infection.  The amputation spot that looked so well-healed looked that way because it was dead!  Infection had spread up the remaining tail and she is once again hospitalized, on antibiotics and scheduled for a more drastic amputation.  I just want her to be well and pain free.  She doesn't really need that tail anyway, does she?

            On the way home from the clinic I stopped at a place where literally hundreds of chickens free-range.  A car was in the driveway and a light was on in the front room of the old farmhouse.  As I opened the truck door a creepy feeling spread like molten lava through my body.  All of the mature maple trees that used to shade the big house had recently been cut down leaving it perched upon the knoll like a pimple on someone's forehead.  Chickens milled everywhere, but ignored my presence.  A stainless steel commercial refridgerator sat on the back porch, presumably to cool the eggs from the hodge podge collection of hens.  The place was devoid of the "welcome" feeling common at most old farmsteads.  I should have heeded my initial apprehension.

             My thought was that perhaps this enormous flock included a few roosters, so I could purchase a dozen fertilized eggs to place under my setting hens.  I mounted the newly-constructed porch steps and rapped on the new wooden screen door.  Then I nearly self-launched backwards off that porch when a huge Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) with every tooth in its enormous head barred and ready to chomp down on whatever happened to be waiting on the opposite side flew at the door.  My daughter has two of this breed of dog.  Hers weigh about 125 pounds each, but are well-behaved friendly girls.  This dog appeared to be neither and also appeared to be even bigger.  Thank God the inside door was closed or I might not be typing this blog right now.  I'd be mincemeat for all those chickens (who will eat about anything...).

            No one answered the door.  I beat feet to my truck, lest the glass in the door broke and abandoned the notion of buying eggs from this place. 

 

10:03 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, June 19, 2011

BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE.

 

            Now, the final chapter (I hope) regarding the trailer park person (TPP):  Thanks to the generosity of so many people, some of which were friends, some who were strangers I acquired a boatload of stuff to enhance TPP's abode such as it is. Today a dear old pal that I always know I can count on helped me schlep the truckload of goodies, including a bed that turned out to be missing a critical part of the frame (we improvised) over to a place where I'm happy I do not live. It was hot as Hades, but we got the new bed set up, hauled in, but did not unpack many boxes and left TPP feeling like it was Christmas in June.

            The place is a disaster, but clean and TPP was very grateful for all the new things.  On projects like this it would be very easy to devote the next ten months or so, plus a whole lot of money and energy, but I've learned from past experiences when it is time to say, "Farewell, lovely to meet you.  Hope you enjoy your new things...," and then drive off into the sunset.

            It wasn't all that long ago that K. was just such a teaching project.  Helping him with his animals morphed into a total house make-over that I won't soon forget.  For starters, there were no walls, only insulation, I (admittedly) conned T. into dry walling the place.  Being a perfectionist he had those walls looking good enough for a House Beautiful photo shoot.  I mixed a lot of partial cans of paint to create a pleasing pale yellow and painted the place. 

            Donations to K. included new lighting fixtures (installed by T.), bedding, several nice pieces of furniture, curtains and even carpeting and a clothes drier!  K. was suddenly thrust into the lap of luxury by comparison to his old digs.  My concern for this odd character might (I said MIGHT...) not have waned, but K. forgot the one thing that in my book is an inexcusable omission;  "thank you."  It doesn't even take a full breath to utter those two important words to people who worked their butts off for two weeks.  I was very disappointed.  T. was very pissed!  Incredibly K. continued to phone for a couple of years to request additional items!

            However, TPP was gracious and kind and helping this needy soul was worth the effort although the place needs far more than I can ever provide.

 

7:08 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 18, 2011

PTS.

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            Tiny's arrival to this household brought joy and harmony to the animal kingdom. The little kitten forced herself on all of the dogs and even the most stuck-up cat (Little Ivy) finally gave in to Tiny's demands.  I've no doubt that it was her extreme friendliness that led to the traumatic tail injury.  Almost two weeks have passed since something (coon?) nearly bit completely through her tail which led to the amputation--and to her Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

            My affectionate, playful, inquisitive kitty began exhibiting personality changes soon after her return from the vet.  At first I wrote it off to post-surgical discomfort, but then she became nervous and aloof, a behavior that has intensified. Now I can't get near her and  she doesn't spend the night curled up with Julie.  Sometimes she even skips breakfast!  Oddly, her stump appears to be well-healed and the time has come to remove the stitches, but due to her uncharacteristically wild behavior I decided that rather than remove them myself as I always do with other animals, I'd just take her to the vet and let him be the bad guy. 

            This afternoon quite by accident I discovered the likely cause of Tiny's flightiness and reluctance to be around the rest of her family, including me.  She was rolling around on the brick porch when suddenly she sat bolt upright and began furiously licking the underside of the tail about an inch from the shaved end.  Only then did I see the large raw spot.  While the site of the amputation has healed, the rest of the tail is apparently infected despite antibiotics.  I hate thinking that she has been in pain while I thought she was well on the road to recovery when obviously she was not, but of course this discovery wasn't made until 12:15 P.M.  The clinic closes at noon on Saturday.  Tiny will be at the vet early Monday morning!   We want the happy little cat in this picture back; our pre-trauma Tiny.

 

12:57 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 17, 2011

SIMPLE THINGS ARE THE BEST.

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            Not everyone (well, probably no one!) would find my dinner tonight satisfying, but I feel wonderfully satiated.  The garden lettuce is picture perfect, so I cut enough to fill a colander, dumped it into a sink full of icy water, then gently put the pale yellow-green leaves on a freshly laundered dish towel and gathered the four corners to create a pouch.  On the porch I swung it from my shoulder making great water-spewing circles and in a few seconds the leaves were nearly dry.

            I have no use for silly kitchen gadgets like salad spinners that just take up valuable cupboard space.  I tore the beautiful leaves into a big wooden bowl, added good olive oil and red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and relived a memory of when my Uncle Bill and I celebrated summers first lettuce back on Fifth Street.  For dessert I shall have a bowl of just-picked strawberries.  I can't imagine anything better.

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6:46 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, June 16, 2011

AND THEN ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.

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            A gentle wind rustled the leaves and just enough sun filtered through the blue sky to create a perfectly-comfortable day.  I sat on the deck with my yogurt and leafed through a new cookbook as the dogs napped near my feet.  Then, high in a tree just south of this peaceful scene all hell broke loose.

            An absolute riot of screaming starlings erupted within the bower.  Their frantic cries brought distant relatives, seemingly from out of nowhere to assist in the mayhem.  A kidnapping was in progress!  Leaves broke loose and fluttered to the ground.  Still more troops flew in to help thwart the abduction and as suspected the villain was a crow.  It was madness and just like rubber-necking human spectators gather at wrecks or crimes in progress, a few robins hurried to the scene to watch.  Of course they weren't interested in helping; they were mere gawkers.

            Finally one thoroughly annoyed starling flew at the spectators yelling, "What are you lookin' at?  Get the bleep out'a here!"  The cowardly robins left just about the same time the crow flew off toward the west without his hostage.  Starlings 1, crow 0.  Robins, useless.

           Meanwhile Andy was giving slight consideration to using his Suzanne Summers Thigh Master.

 

2:09 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

KINDNESS.

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Anne Frank

"How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway. ... And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness!"

            Each June Pegasus (a riding facility for handicapped folks) presents a huge porch sale as a fundraiser and I help with the set-up and selling.  It's not only fun, but gratifying to know the money is going to such a worthy cause.  I always look forward to this event, but today was especially rewarding because I was able to buy (very reasonably!) some items for someone who has almost nothing.

            Imagine living in a dilapidated mobile home from the 1970's.  There are holes in the flooring, no plumbing at all in the kitchen, no bathroom; only a tub and a toilet at the end of a hallway.  The tub provides the only running water in the place.  There is not even a real bed; just a broken down daybed, a sofa, a TV and a plastic trunk.  That's it.

            The occupant of this place did not ask for help other than for assistance in finding homes for a colony of feral cats the person has been caring for.  My daughter responded to the request for help with the animals, discovered the other dismal issues and immediately went into action.  Careful not to impose or intrude, she simply told the person that some people would like to help improve the conditions. The offer was met with sincere gratitude and overwhelming emotion to think that strangers would be so kind.

            The cats are all being vetted tomorrow and will then be placed in foster care.  At the porch sale I was able to obtain a decent bed and some linens as well as a few supplies for the ‘keeper cat.'  We still need to find a full size mattress at least.  A box spring would be nice, but if nothing else we can make do with plywood on the slats.  We are also seeking someone to connect the kitchen plumbing as neither my daughter nor I have a clue in this department.  I've no doubt that someone will step forward. 

            Just think of what it would be like to have running water and a bed in which to sleep if you haven't known such ‘luxuries' in years.  What makes this good deed most rewarding is the fact that the party in need didn't expect anything at all.  Finding and helping  someone less fortunate is so easy, it's a mystery why more people don't do it. The world would be a much nicer place.  I've been the recipient of acts of kindness from (formerly) total strangers.  Super Sue and her husband appeared from nowhere and most certainly enhanced my life.  Now it's my turn to enhance someone elses.

 

5:36 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

UNFIT FOR HABITATION.

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            Years ago a pair of wood ducks considered setting up housekeeping here.  In a fit of naïve optimism I immediately hired a man to build a wood duck box.  This guy professed to be an expert on just about everything and assured me he knew how to build a suitable wood duck box.  His finished product was so enormous I could have used it for a guest house.  Even so I erected the monstrosity on a post set in leaky pond.  No wood ducks ever used the awkward construction. It ultimately fell over into the water, was salvaged and relocated on an old walnut tree where for many years it was inhabited by squirrels and owls.  Eventually the box deteriorated to the point of no return and was relegated to the burn pile.  Wood ducks still drop by in early spring, but they never stick around.  ‘Too much commotion here I guess.

            Last night I was jolted from a sound sleep by the coyotes that were carrying on in the field directly across the road.  They were especially active and much closer than usual.  At 5:00 AM I leapt from my bed and peered into the darkness and while I couldn't see them out there their presence was undeniable.  My dogs fearfully looked at me as if to plead, "Oh, please don't make us go out there!!!! We don't have to pee right now.  We can wait.  Honest!"  I did not send them out.

            When I did set off for the barn this morning an unusual movement across the road caught my eye.  I ran for the binoculars and was stunned to see a pair of wood ducks and one large baby milling about in the open stubble field looking as surprised to be there as I was to see them there.  By the time I got my camera the misplaced family had vanished, presumably to more appropriate habitat.  Did they not realize that just across the road were woods and water?

            It grieves me beyond all words to report that in spite of promising signs, the pond is still leaking.  The water is crystal clear, but disappearing at an alarming rate.  Worse still, the spring is no longer flowing, but rather seeping into a sluggish puddle at the source.  Each year I swear that I will not invest one more penny, nor exert any further energy in this futile project, but I can't seem to stop myself.  It's become an obsession; one that will probably drive me mad. 

            Some day when I'm a creaky old lady out there still shoveling clay into the hole, men in white coats will wrestle me into a straight jacket and haul me off to some nice "facility" where I'll be forced to sit with other deluded characters on a lovely porch that overlooks a vast lake teaming with wildlife.  Oh, I really hope this won't be my fate!

 

9:51 am edt          Comments

Monday, June 13, 2011

FEAST OR FAMINE.

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While being "a writer" may sound exciting, romantic or even glamorous, in all honesty it is none of the above.  The truth is it is a job that requires vigilant and aggressive pursuit of markets for whatever it is we happen to write.  It's a solitary life. It's a lot of time spent doing research and more often than not it is a feast or famine profession.  It's not a job for everyone, but for those of us who have chosen this life it is wonderful and rewarding.  I love my work and I'm delighted to be in the midst of a feast.  This means I'm very busy.  The bad news is that this means a lot of time at the computer rather than outside having mini adventures, but I will not complain.  I feel ever so fortunate to be doing something that I love.  Sadly this means that I am so focused on current research that by days ends when I write this blog, sometimes I can think of nothing to share.  This is the case tonight. 

8:37 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, June 12, 2011

BARNS.

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            Barns old or new tend to become repositories for things we "might need someday..." and mine was no different.  In fact it was bordering on looking like old Kenny's barn, so I spent the day intending to tidy up the entire place.  What a joke!  I worked like a beaver for seven hours straight in just the feed room.

            I managed to haul two heaping wheelbarrows of utterly useless stuff to the trash, put two beach chairs next to the road with FREE signs on them (I hope they are gone by morning) and still have an ancient steel shelving unit to wrestle into the truck destined for the scrap yard.  How did all that junk accumulate?  The feed room is so tidy and spacious now, but I am pooped!

            Not surprisingly I came across some surprises; some useful like the dozen or so plug adaptors, and others not so useful, but darned cute like this little rodent family.  The mom ran off like her tail was on fire when I uncovered this nest, but I know she'll be back so I left her a big hunk of stale bread.  She'll need her strength to care for this brood who will undoubtedly set about messing upeverything I worked so hard to organize.  Oh well, it's a barn.

 

8:57 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 11, 2011

DEATH.

When I Am Dead, My Dearest

 

When I am dead, my dearest,

Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

Nor shady cypress tree:

Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet;

And if thou wilt, remember,

And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,

I shall not feel the rain;

I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on, as if in pain:

And dreaming through the twilight

That doth not rise nor set,

Haply I may remember,

And haply may forget.

 

~Christina Rossetti

 

            Lately I've been thinking about death.  Several friends have just recently lost loved ones and yet another learned that someone close does not have much longer on this earth.  Sure, death is inevitable, but it still seems remote and abstract.  As I mowed the pasture today I drove over the graves of Wildfire and Joe Pye, my two old ponies. Pain the goat is buried in the corner. Buddy and Katie two favorite dogs are also at rest in that field.  Under the lilac bush are more cats than I can recall and at the newest "memorial garden" lie Rudy, Schatzi and my dear Nettie.  Margie and Dorothy are down where the grape arbor used to be.  So many beloved animals....  Although most lived long happy lives except Margie who was only six, but a cancer victim and Buddy who was a hit and run victim, each passing seemed way too soon, even thirty year old Joe Pye.

            My friend Ralph just lost his Border Collie to the same horrible disease that took my Border Collie, Nettie.  While losing his companion of twelve years was horrible, when the end came and he buried her near the garden my friend said he would not mourn anymore, but would celebrate her wonderful life.  I think such an attitude, difficult though it might be to engage softens deaths hard reality.

            As I thought about the many loved ones buried here it made me more aware of all the new life flourishing around me.  I saw a young snake today and a big fat groundhog feels safe enough to waddle around the yard fearless of the dog and donkeys.  A volunteer crab apple tree is loaded with little apples in the pasture and the peach tree that appeared to be dead as a mackerel has sprouted lots of new growth.  Blue birds and wrens have babies in several of the birdhouses.  The seed I planted around the pond less than a week ago is up and thriving and each day the gardens surprise me new flowers. Even the weeds are pretty.  Like my friend Ralph, I refuse to be sad, but will celebrate lives past and present.

3:41 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 10, 2011

WHAT'S WRONG WITH PEOPLE???

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            Yesterday as I set off to pick up the part for my damaged truck I saw a platter-sized snapping turtle on the south side of the road.  It was obvious that the big fellow had intentions of crossing that busy state county highway.  I knew this was risky business, but admittedly I am terrified of snapping turtles.

            Snakes don't bother me, nor do bears, but snappers give me nightmares, so regrettably I did not assist him in his proposed venture.  Today, traveling that same road I saw that he had managed to make it to the north berm, but not intact.  His shell looked like a jigsaw puzzle, but I doubt that he was dead.  Turtles resist death which is probably why they remain so prehistoric looking. 

            When I was a kid the guy down the road caught one and planned to make turtle soup out of the unfortunate creature.  The image of ugly Ivan taunting the snapper with a broom handle until the turtle grabbed it, then slitting it's throat still haunts me.  He continued his torment as the turtle suffered and it took days for it to die.  I don't remember seeing ugly Ivan butcher it, but I hope he choked on the soup. 

            As for the snapper on State street I have no doubt that someone deliberately ran over it.  It's pretty hard to not to see a gaint green platter moving across the pavement. It would have been easy to avoid.  ‘One more example of an increasingly cruel and depraved society.  As for myself, I am ashamed for not doing something that might have averted the tragedy.

 

10:11 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, June 9, 2011

THE TASTE OF SUMMER.

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            Mmm, what tastes better than freshly-picked fruit, strawberries in this case?  Of course I could have made shortcake, but it's been in the 90's all day and the notion of heating up the oven wasn't very appealing.  I wanted something quick, refreshing and different.  The Joy of Cooking cookbook never disappoints.  I'd never heard of Trembleque, but it sounded good, so that's what I chose to make for the berry accompaniment.  Easy peasy!

¼ c. milk

¼ c. sugar

¼ c. cornstarch

¼ tsp. salt.

Mix these ingredients (use a small whisk) to form a smooth paste and then add

1 can of coconut milk (14 oz.)

Cook until thick.  You can pour it into a mold and refrigerate overnight, then invert the mold and top with fresh fruit OR you can cover the pudding, oops I mean the Trembleque with plastic wrap to prevent a film and refrigerate until your friends arrive.  Put the berries in pretty crystal bowls, top with the mixture and serve.  (They're sure to be impressed with the name.)

Not too sweet and the combination of coconut and strawberries is very nice. (I taste tested it, and it's good.)

 

6:21 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

THE COST OF FOOD.

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            The weather stalled crop planting this year.  When things finally dried up enough for farmers to get into the fields they worked from dawn almost until dawn of the following day.  The farmer across the road was still working at midnight the day I took this picture. 

            While I'm happy that crops surround my place rather than houses, I am indirectly affected by how those acres of soy beans and corn are produced.  Sometimes I think myself foolish and naïve for putting such importance on growing my own food without chemicals because like it or not (and I don't like it) the myriad herbicides and pesticides applied to the fields to the north and to the west certainly migrate here.

            The tractor that cost more than my property is worth first pulls a tanker that sprays the fields with an herbicide. It doesn't take long for the farmer to zip around the cropland  across the road.  His machinery moves at the speed of a race car.  The air is unbreathable during this process, but the innocuous-looking haze soon dissipates and the big green tractor roars off to the next field.  Very soon everything that was green turns yellow, then brown and the field is ready for disking. 

            Bags of genetically engineered seed are just as efficiently planted and soon the barren soil will come alive with the intended crop.  The fields will be picturesque and promising.  At some point more petrochemicals will dose the young crops to fertilize, kill non-crop vegetation or to protect it from pests and in the fall pristine ears of corn or tons of soybeans will be harvested.  In a perfect world the fields surrounding me would be farmed by people like old Kenny who probably never got a profitable crop in his entire life, but who managed to survive and who stewarded the land as he believed was right. Kenny kept his land chemical-free. He practiced sustainable agriculture before "sustainable" became the buzz word it is today.

            Kenny doesn't even bother climbing up on his old tractor anymore.  Doubtful that he could even reach it or get it out of the barn, but Farmer Chuck is working Kenny's land.  He has transformed the fields from labor-intensive sustainable cropland into tidy plots of profitable production as old Kenny just watches.

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12:36 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?

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            Things that squeak, scream, croak, yip or howl in the dark are common country sounds, but after the terrible attack on Tiny my ears were super sensitive for hints of any unwelcome visitors last night.  I was just dozing off when I heard it.  From south of the woods came the distinctive song of coyotes, specifically the children who were apparently having a good night hunting thanks to this year's bumper crop of bunnies.  The singing seemed to be growing closer, so I leapt from bed, threw open the window and waited. 

            On the deck just below my window Tom, Poppy and Booger were also watching, but with no sign of concern.  The bull frogs croaked.  A big splash echoed through the trees.  Twigs snapped and I could tell something was making its careful way toward the house.  It's surprising how heightened one's senses become in the not quite still of the night.

            The coyotes had faded off to the west, but waddling up the trail leading from the new bridge was a very big opossum. He wandered around the yard a bit,nodded hello to the cats on the deck, then headed toward the barn. I returned to bed.  Morning came all too soon, but there was much to be done today; foremost, collecting Tiny from her ordeal at the vet.

            As per doctor's orders the patient has been taking it easy, but she does not appear to be in any pain.  Her cat and dog friends were all so happy to see her and to inspect her new bobbed tail.  As you can see in the first photo her assailant also bit her face near her nose and eye.  Tiny will not be going outside at night anytime soon!

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6:54 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 6, 2011

MONDAY MONDAY...

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            Never do just one thing at a time is my motto, so after raking and seeding the raw shoreline I stripped the donkeys stall iso I could use the dry broken-down straw to sift over the freshly-seeded area.  It was an utterly exhausting job that took most of the sweltering hot day.  While sitting on the porch taking a break from the heat I saw a movement high in a tree near the water.  My first thought was that one of the cats was feeling terribly adventuresome, but looking closer I saw that it was not a cat, but a young raccoon.  He was watching me and the dogs and Ernie was watching him.  The coon climbed ever higher in the tree, nearly to the top.  Odd that he was out so early, but not odd that he was in a tree, so I didn't give Rocky Raccoon another thought.  The dogs and I returned to the barn for another load and upon our return the coon was nowhere to be seen.  It was no big deal--at the time....

            Later T. and I took the kayaks to the lake and enjoyed an evening meal on the water.  It was a nice way to end a day of hard labor.  When I finally went to bed I slept the sleep of the dead, but a blood-curdling scream in the wee hours rudely awakened me.  Then, just as abruptly all was quiet and I quickly fell back asleep.  Only at 6:00 am did I discover the source of that scream.

            Tiny the cat had chosen not to come inside before I retired, but since she had access to the basement through the kitty door I wasn't concerned.  She was curled up on one of the cat beds in the cellar landing this morning and I thought she was asleep.  Only when I picked her up did I find the blood.  A full third of her tail was nearly severed. It hung by a mere thread of flesh and tendon.  Something had attacked this sweet cat who is a friend to all creatures great and small.  My suspicion is that she had encountered the raccoon who was not interested in making friends with her.  The damage was severe.

            "Bring her right in," said my wonderful vet.  She is still in hospital having undergone surgery to remove the damaged portion of tail, but will hopefully come home tomorrow.  She is of course vaccinated, but I'm worried about future encounters. 

            I thought the rest of the day would be productive, but tonight I backed my truck into an iron mailbox and smashed up the entire tail light assembly.  I've no one to blame but myself.  It will be expensive to fix.  I've also put scratches and nicks in the finish.  I am not happy.  Sorry for such a dreary blog, but things just are not going well today.

 

8:37 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 4, 2011

THE ENDLESS QUEST FOR A NON-LEAKY POND!

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            Will the quest for a non-leaky pond ever end?  I CERTAINLY hope so.  Tray spent most of the day distributing clay after the source of the leak was (hopefully) discovered.  At last the job was finished, the landscape graded and now I've raked the raw earth and cast wildflower seeds.  Keep your fingers crossed.  It certainly looks like a different place, but I'll be happy when all this mud is covered in vegetation.

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6:47 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 3, 2011

THE PRETTIEST FLOWER.

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            In early spring I think nothing could be prettier than the pale yellow jonquils, but then before I know it the Japanese purple iris catch my eye and I have to reconsider. Yes, they are even prettier.  But now the peonies are starting to bloom and not only are they beautiful, they smell wonderful too, so they grace my garden and the fireplace mantle in the living room where their sweet aroma competes with stinky Ted.

 

8:10 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, June 2, 2011

LIFE AT THE EDGE OF THE POND.

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            One of Ginny's airplane hangers was severely damaged during a recent storm, so she had the building disassembled.  Yes, my 100 year old friend has several hangers and an airstrip on her farm.  Her late husband used to fly planes, but now the buildings are just used for storage, but Ginny thought I might like the barn beams that had been salvaged from the wrecked hanger.  While I don't need the beams myself, I knew that the BBB would add them to their ‘stock pile' for future use.  I called Sue.

            We drove over to look at the lumber pile and she said they will surely find uses for the wood and that they will collect it later today.  Off to one side was what is now slated to become my pond-side deck!  Oh sure, it requires a minor repair, but nothing I can't fix.  Then it will be leveled, chairs and table added and voila, I shall have a nice place to sit and watch my new fish explore their new home. New fish? 

            "...And he says there are about 300 big goldfish in the pond and that we can just come over and take as many as we want," gushed an excited Sue.  Her neighbor did exaggerate a bit.  I would guess there were not 300, but I will say there were a lot of nice big goldfish in his small murky backyard pond.  They moved like a dense orange cloud, surfacing and languishing near the rip-rap edges.  Catching them should have been a piece of cake, but alas it was not.

            We were well-equipped with a long-handled net, but fish are smarter than one might expect and they deftly avoided getting caught even though we assured them they would be moving to a place far nicer than their current crowded pool.  After what seemed like an eternity of netting NO fish, the homeowner arrived and in a matter of minutes scooped up five nice fish which are now exploring their new aquatic home. 

            Life at the edge of the pond continues to evolve.  Tray is coming early Saturday morning with his earth-moving equipment. The giant pile of clay and rock will be redistributed to reinforce the levee, the proposed "deck" area will be leveled and planting all the raw new contours can begin in earnest.  Here is the "before" site.

 

4:48 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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I bumped into an old friend at a thrift store recently.  We'd both grown up on infamous Fifth Street and had gone from kindergarten through high school together, but decades had passed since we had seen one another.  After gasps and hugs the friend remarked, "Oh, I always thought your house (on Fifth Street) was the perfect house."  The incongruity of those words stuck with me for days, nagging like a pebble in a shoe until I simply had to call her and beg for an explanation.

"Well, I meant everything was just so perfect in it, but there was, I hope you won't be upset, a feeling of loneliness, like everyone was sad.  It wasn't a happy place," she apologetically explained. Boy, she hit the nail on the head. 

Ours was the only brick house within several blocks. It sat on an impossible little knoll just a few yards from the sidewalk imperiously overlooking the rest of the neighborhood. My father tended the lawn as if it were a championship golf course. It was the one place where he had any influence at all, and that was basically as custodian.  With a mint green push mower, polished as if it were a Mercedes Benz he sheared off each blade of grass to precisely the same length.   Alien weeds or dandelions were immediately excised like cancers using a vicious tool he had custom-designed for just that purpose. Non-grass invaders were uprooted and banished to the compost pile behind the garage.

Ivy climbed the bricks all the way to the third story. The glossy leaves softened the cold hardness and insulated the house from Ohio's scorching summer heat. This my father immaculately trimmed snipping away like a mad barber with a hand clipper.  He was in another world while at his yard work. 

After reading that tiny ivy tentacles would worm their way into the mortar and jeopardize the integrity of the entire house my mother demanded its removal.  She would not risk the mortar, so down came the ivy, leaving the big fortress bleak and foreboding.  Nothing remained for my father to do but cut the grass and sharpen the mower blades. 

Inside, the house reflected my mother's singular taste.  We all lived there, but in an environment dictated by the matriarch of 1929-Fifth Street. My friend was right. Everything  looked like those perfect rooms in magazines.  My mother collected antiques before it was the ‘in' thing to do.  The living room with it's beige walls, beige carpet and draperies that were not-quite elegant was a tidy compilation of lovely Victorian chairs, loveseats, tables and precious things, all arranged as if a photographer might arrive at any moment.  

My home is quite different.  No photographer is expected and it pleases me that visitors say this feels like a happy place.

9:29 pm edt          Comments


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