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 WELCOME TO MY BLOG! REFLECTIONS OF A SINGLE WOMAN'S LIFE ON AN OLD FARM.
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

THE WOODS ARE LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP...

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            But for how long?  Fracking: stage one.  It's disturbing to see the pristine natural places that I've taken for granted now threatened.  The people who have signed permits would argue, "'Nothing to worry about. This is just to map the area...," and that's true.  It's what comes next that is worrisome.  I followed the familiar trail not in my usual meditative state, but in a troubled state.  Today's walk did not produce the peace I'd expected.

            Back home I entered the barn just in time to hear an NPR Fresh Air interview (http://www.npr.org/2011/09/29/140872251/the-trouble-with-health-problems-near-gas-fracking ) regarding frackings associated health risks and the secretiveness of the oil and gas industry which is conveniently exempted from critical environmental protections for our air, water and soil.  Hundreds of undisclosed chemicals used in the process remain undisclosed.  But hey, those who signed permits got $5.00 an acre!  They can take the whole family out for Happy Meals.  Ignorance is bliss and I'm surrounded by a blissful lot.

            I love the show Without a Trace.  It seems there's an episode on anytime of the day or night that you switch on the telly.  It's basically always the same; a successful comely woman or drop dead handsome guy is reported missing.  Immediately the entire staff of an FBI office abandons whatever they had been doing to find that missing person.  (I'm waiting for them to be so concerned over a ragtag loser with missing teeth and a big gut.)  The agents never leave the office to go home and shower or eat a meal or go to the grocery or have any kind of social life.  They are on the job 24/7.

            About 45 minutes into the show they get the lead they hoped for and are hot on the trail of the perp, still looking as fresh as if they had just jumped out of the shower and put on brand new clothes.  They take off like athletes clad in suits, ties and high heels in pursuit of the no-good creep who has abducted the victim.  Just when things look bleakest, the entire well-dressed staff bursts upon the scene, guns drawn and hopping around in an awkward manner and all is well.  I need these dedicated agents here because one of the orphans has vanished without a trace.

            It's no secret I am enchanted with the chicken ‘babies' who race across the yard toward the house every time they hear the back door.  One of them is determined to come inside.  She stands peering through the glass storm door with the most pleading look on her cute little hen face, but I draw the line at dogs and cats as house pets.  No chickens allowed!

            Each evening when the flock goes to roost I do a headcount before closing up the coop.  Two nights ago one of the white hens was not in the barn.  I searched the trees, the fields and even the porches, but she was nowhere to be found.  It stormed that night.  The next morning a soaking wet hen was waiting at the back door.  I was delighted to see her, but mystified as to where she had spent the stormy night.  Again last night she was not in the coop.  Again I cast the intense beam of the flashlight into the pine trees, along the roadside, across the fields and even the barn loft.  She is gone without a trace.  There's not a feather to be found.

 

4:42 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BUDDY: 1998-2011

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            End stage renal failure and a very serious heart issue.  With another subcutaneous hydration she might have lasted two more days. If the heart rather than the failing kidneys took her the vet said it would not be peaceful.  Buddy now rests next to Nettie.

            Digging a grave is not easy, but this is the sort of thing that people who live alone must do. Rain began to fall as I threw in the first shovel full of dirt.  My head hurts, my back hurts and my heart hurts. 

 

7:41 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

WATCHING BUDDY DIE.

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            After a lifetime of physical and emotional remoteness, my father gave me a wonderful gift.  He dropped dead, suddenly and without warning while I was miles away, blissfully unaware of his passing.  I cherish this gift because it left me guilt free, unlike the deaths of other family members and loved ones both human and otherwise. 

            I'm no one the terminally ill want to have hanging around during their final hours because I'm useless.  Owning up to this character flaw saddens and disturbs me for I don't really know how to ‘fix' it.  Now Buddy the cat is dying. I'm trying my best to change and to be a comfort this time.  I hope that I am.

            Buddy has been on thyroid medication for about a year and follow-up vet visits confirmed that she was responding exactly as the clinic hoped.  She was just there two weeks ago and got a thumbs-up health report. Buddy was an enthusiastic eater, she played with the other cats and slept on my bed each night until this past Friday. She stayed downstairs and she threw up.  That was the beginning of the unexpected, but inevitable end.  She has eaten nothing since then although I've forced syringes of Pedialite, water and a gruel of canned cat food and broth into her resistant mouth. 

            She has chosen to isolate herself on the rug in the landing and has refused to be relocated to a more comfortable place.  Instead, she struggled to her feet and wobbled weakly back to the landing.  She was back at the vet first thing yesterday morning, but the vet who saw her seemed unconcerned that she had lost nearly a pound in the two week interim, nor that she was limp as a rag, nor that her breath had a peculiar and unhealthy odor.  The vet administered subcutaneous fluids, gave her a shot of steroids and sent her home with some oral antibiotics.  There was no improvement, just a rapid downward spiral.

            Today she continues to sleep.  The cat that liked nothing better than to sit on my lap does not want to be held.  Her breathing is shallow and rapid.  Her eyes are sunken and the third eyelid covers half.  It's obvious that my thirteen year old Buddy has reached the end of her life, but in spite of the obvious she does not seem in any pain.  I called the vet and conveyed all of the dismal symptoms and my desire that she should not be stressed or subjected to anything but a natural passing if at all possible.  He advised not to force any more of the gruel into her as she could aspirate it, but to continue to hydrate her to keep her comfortable and to call him tomorrow.

            I really do want to be a comfort to Buddy and to others leaving this world.  I'm trying, but it isn't easy.  I don't know what to do.  I don't want to sign another death warrant for a beloved pet.  I don't want Buddy to be ‘put down' as Nettie was in the company of strangers.  I want to make amends for all the times I have not been there for those leaving; for sitting as still and distant as a rock simply watching from afar as my mother died. 

            And, as a resolute believer in Karma I imagine that when I myself pass into the ether it won't be a warm peaceful departure surrounded by friends and family.  I'll probably be alone except for loyal dogs that need to go outside to pee or maybe some cats vomiting on a table.  But, it will be just what I deserve. 

            Today is a sad day.

 

4:22 pm edt          Comments

Monday, September 26, 2011

OMNI.

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            The sound awakened me long before the skies were light.  As I lay awake listening and wondering what it might be the actual source of the muffled roar that escalated, then subsided never occurred to me.  I should have put two and two together.

            The pink ribbons that dot the township should have been a clue.  This summer, the fields that grew soybeans, corn and alfalfa also sprouted pink plastic ‘flags' as did the woodlands and even roadside weeds.  In addition to the pink markers there are wooden stakes ominously numbered and lettered and topped with blue and white plastic streamers.  All of these indicators are the work of Omni--stage one of the fracking frenzy.

            Maybe Omni stands for omnipresent for the white trucks with the  innocuously sounding ‘Omni' name seem to be everywhere. Perhaps Omni stands for omnipotent for this morning I saw that pink markers now hang from trees at the very edge of my woods.  I was one of the few around here who did not grant permission for the seismic imaging company to set foot on our land.  But, as the representative who visited seeking my signature said when I refused, "We'll get what we want with or without your permission...."

            In all honesty I think the flagged trees are not on my property, but on those of the people whose land adjoins mine.  These are the people who signed the permission papers, then actually said, "What is fracking anyway?"

            The sound that begins before dawn and goes on past dusk is generated by the odd looking apparatus that efficiently drills thirty foot deep holes in which explosives will be placed and then simultaneously set off.  Monitors (yet unplaced) will collect data which will be used to determine where the fracking wells will be located.  So the omni-noise is just the start of what could be my worst omni-nightmare.  To be continued.

            This morning the donkeys were introduced to their new cement ramp.  After all their complaining yesterday about early stall confinement, when the door was opened they were afraid to step outside.  Corky who is forever immortalized in the cement thanks to his rampage yesterday was the first to inspect our work.  He stood cautiously in the doorway stretching his neck longer than I thought possible to sniff the new footing, but rather than treading on the now-firm cement he jumped from his stall to the surrounding soil.  He wasn't taking any chances, lest this new footing be some kind of trick.

            Andy waited in the stall until his partner in crime gave him the heads-up, then he tip-toed down the walkway as if he were walking on eggshells.  In typical donkey ‘we're bored with it now' fashion after a few test runs they are jauntily plodding up and down the new ramp, so I guess this means they approve of the job we did. 

 

1:48 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, September 25, 2011

THE BUSY BEAVERS STRIKE AGAIN!

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            I'm one of those people who prefers to start and finish a project with no dithering around, but for a single person this isn't always possible.  Enter Sue and Bud, AKA Busy Beavers.  They knew I planned to make a cement ramp for the bad asses and I think they had a much better idea of just what a whopping big job this was going to be.

            "You go get the cement and call me when you get home," said Sue.  I was at Lowes shortly after their doors opened, bought what was figured to be enough bags of concrete and called Sue as directed.  "We'll be there in fifteen minutes..., "she said, and they were-thank goodness!!!

            With a bowl of grain I teased the bad asses down to the lower pasture and secured the gate.  I dumped the grain in the grass to prolong the diversion, but when they finished noshing and realized there were trucks and cars and wheelbarrows and lots of activity right by their stall door, escaping their confinement became an obsession.  Fortunately, there was no escape.  We happily and efficiently worked without donkey intervention.

            The weatherman promised mild temperatures today, but mixing concrete is hard work and the air certainly felt a lot warmer than the thermometer read.  I'm so very grateful that these friends volunteered because they knew tricks that I would not have been aware of and when we ran discovered that the concrete supply was not adequate Bud just happened to have 2 ½ additional bags.  The project went smoothly and it looks great, but just about the time the tools were cleaned and put away, the sky began to rumble.  A big storm was brewing and I couldn't leave the donkeys with no shelter.

            The plan was to halter and lead them up to their barn and enter the stall via the big north doors.  I really should have haltered them when I first put them in the lower paddock, but I didn't and not surprisingly there was trouble.  Andy, always a perfect gentleman stood politely until the gate opened, but Corky declined all efforts to be caught and haltered.  He raced around bucking and snorting like a wild man.  "Fine, stay down here by yourself," I threatened as I pulled the gate shut, but not before the little monster broke past me and raced right toward the new cement job.

            Andy was already secure in his stall, but the hellion tore around the field as if his tail were on fire as Sue and I headed him away from the barn.  I knew he'd eventually tire and since he hates being separated from Andy I figured he'd soon run into barn via the north side.  He did, but not before making one last valiant pass by the new ramp, just close enough to jam one little hoof into the fresh cement.  What a brat! 

            Now sad donkey faces hang over the lower half of the Dutch stall door, braying and complaining as if they had been banished to Sugarcreek (the weekly killer livestock sale).  I threw a few extra flakes of hay into their stall and walked away from their pitiful pleas. The rains finally came, but the project is safely covered and should be set enough by tomorrow for the currently imprisoned to test the new handicap accessible ramp.  No thanks to these two longeared pests, a huge project was started and finished in one day and I am delighted with the results.  I think the boys are going to appreciate it too.

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8:21 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, September 24, 2011

SO MANY PROJECTS. SO LITTLE TIME.

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            When someone tells you that a plant will (not could) become invasive and that it will "take over," pay attention!  I am paying the price for not heeding that warning.  A couple of years ago my daughter gave me a plant called ‘gooseneck' saying as she loaded a big bucket of the stuff into my truck, "You'll be sorry...."  Truer words were never spoken!

            Granted it is a pretty plant and the first year it was a nice addition to one of the gardens, but after that it spread like wildfire.  I have labored all day digging a root system that went half way to China and something tells me that come springtime I will find that I'm still not rid of it.  I've dumped several loads of the enthusiastic grower in places where I truly don't care how far it spreads, but I want it gone from all planned gardens. That was todays project.  Now I'm planning for tomorrow.

            Originally there was a narrow steep set of cement steps leading into the barn.  For decades I've tried in vain to fill them in, so Sunday's project du jour should take care of the problem once and for all--I hope....  It will involve stone, reinforcement wire and cement.  It will also involve confining the bad asses to the lower field while Sue and I make a corrugated cement ramp leading into the barn.  The boys will thank me for an easier access to their stall when the job is done, but I know from experience to expect a lot of loud complaining while they are restricted from their usual stomping ground. 

            Corky insists that he'd like to help, but I don't believe him for a minute.  As I look at the barn that only two years ago had new trim and fresh paint that he and his chum destroyed within a week  I question my sanity for even considering this improvement.

 

4:31 pm edt          Comments

Friday, September 23, 2011

IS IT LOVE?

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            It appears that Lonely Boy has (or is at least trying to) put together his own little family.  Here he is with the Little Red Hen and her geeky teenager (gender still a mystery).  I'm happy for him and hope it works out. What a nice way to welcome the autumnal equinox!  In case anyone is wondering, yes, he is still available to a good home, minus his adopted family.

 

7:50 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, September 22, 2011

WHAT?

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            The caller sounded elderly.  "Ahhm, I'm trying to find the cheerleader with bad feet.  Does she live there?" 

            "The what?" was all I could say!  The caller said he couldn't remember her name, but he thought it might be Kirsch.  I assured him that there was no cheerleader with bad feet living here.  This morning I learned that he'd also called my daughter and my ex-husband.  I suspect my former brother in law got a call too.  There are no cheerleaders crippled or otherwise at any of our homes.

            After hanging up it occurred to me that I should have asked him why he was looking for this person and maybe even noted that he sounded old enough to be a cheerleader's grandpa unless of course the cheerleader is a senior citizen, but that's rather doubtful.

            I must admit that his call was more entertaining than the political calls that seem to be increasing in frequency with each passing day.  Given the opportunity to respond to those calls I always do.  I like to imgine the person on the other end of the line making a mark next to my name indicating that it wouldn't be wise to call this number again.

 

2:41 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

FALL IS FALLING.

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            I love this weather! Leaves rained down like snowflakes in a blizzard as I sat on the porch with a mug of coffee early this morning. I cherished every minute for I know days like this will be rare. 

            After the past two months of seemingly endless ‘incidents' it finally feels as if I'm catching up and getting back into my old work schedule. For a while I doubted that this time would ever come, so after productively toiling away at this computer for many hours the dogs and I set off for our daily walk, another part of my old schedule.  All in all much was accomplished, but without any nagging pressure.  After enjoying yet another pleasure whose time is limited (fresh corn and tomatoes) I coaxed the bad asses into their stall and shut them in because the farrier was coming.

             "Oh, I can't believe these boys are bad," says Lori when I relate any of their naughty antics.  They like her and behave like little angels for their trims.  Lori is an amazing person.  She has a kind gentle nature with animals and she's reliable. I don't know how she manages this because she also has five kids under the age of nine!  She also recently earned American Farrier Association certification.  And as an added bonus, she's married to Tray the excavator who helped with the pond.

            This has been a very good day.

 

7:03 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

HE'S JUST A LONELY BOY...

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            Lonely and blue....  That would describe the beautiful, black, iridescent chicken who stood at the side of the road today announcing his manhood.  It was pathetic.  Had he just kept his mouth shut, maybe none of the other birds would have scorned him, but like all young studs, he had to show off.  Now he's looking for a home.  The other birds are ignoring him or running away from him except for the two chicks whose mothers seem to feel they have taught the young birds all they can.  I think their casual dismissal of mothering responsibilities is premature, but then, who am I to say?  Chickens know best.  But, back to the Lonely Boy....

            From a purely conformational perspective, this guy is more handsome than Lothario, but the big guy has been here for a long time and his gentle nature can't be beat, so he's the keeper.  Even considering his recent gender identity crisis (trying to make a nest), I think it's best to find a new flock for Lonely Boy.  He's really handsome.  Photos to follow...  Meanwhile, Lothario rules the roost.

           

 

9:45 pm edt          Comments

Monday, September 19, 2011

LITTLE IVY'S BIG (BAD) ADVENTURE.

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            Little Ivy is a big dog trapped in a tiny cat's body.  She weighs less than seven pounds, but has never considered herself a light-weight.  Each night she pushes 115 pound Ted off his dog bed and ensconces her tiny self right in the center while poor Ted has to sleep on the floor.  Of course he could choose to sleep on one of the other dog beds, but then he wouldn't be right next to ‘mommy.'  While Ivy tolerates all of the other cats, she prefers the dogs and spends her time with them, whether it's going for a walk around the property, snoozing or eating.  They tolerate her, but Ted does find her somewhat annoying, especially at bedtime.

            The one feline activity that engages Ivy is hunting mice.  It's her favorite sport.  Birds don't interest her, but rodents beware!  The barn is home to countless mice, especially in the chicken coop where there's always of meal of spilled grain to be had and Ivy appreciates this ‘canned hunt' opportunity.  She spends a lot of time in the coop. It's easy for her to enter and exit by way of the outside chicken ramp, then spend hours lying in wait for some unsuspecting mouse.  When she tires of 'hunting' she can leave. The chickens don't seem to mind and casually accept her presence.  It's that attitude of tolerance that explains why I call this place The Peaceable Kingdom.  Everyone gets along--under most circumstances. 

            Last night Ted was snoring away in the middle of the bedroom.  Typically he comes upstairs, plunks himself down on his dog bed which is directly next to my bed, then grumbles a bit until Ivy pushes him off to make a spot for herself.  Since he was asleep I assumed Ivy was on the dog bed.  I was wrong. 

            I thought it strange that she wasn't at the breakfast club this morning and when I went to the barn the reason was obvious.  Poor Little Ivy had spent the entire night with her feathered friends!  I hadn't seen her when I closed things up last night, but when I opened the door to the coop this morning, there sat a very bedraggled little cat crouched under the perch surrounded by a flock of annoyed clucking birds.

           She ignored my sympathetic cooing, "Ohhh, poor Eye-veee...."  She just stomped past me and headed toward the house for a late breakfast. 

           As you can see, Ivy is bushed!  I think all barn mice can frolic safely today and I'm pretty sure that in the future Ivy will be sure to exit the coop before that little door to the ramp closes at the end of the day.

 

12:23 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, September 18, 2011

NIGHT NOISES.

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            Such a beautiful weekend, but 2/3 of mine was wasted.  Thanks to allergies I spent most of it on the sofa, but 'much better today, thank goodness.  Big excitement in the neighborhood; another robbery and this one just a few doors to the east, but it's actually quite a distance since crop fields intersect.  Nevertheless, it's worrisome.

            I'm a fresh air fanatic, so my upstairs windows stay open until the snow flies. Regardless of how soundly I'm sleeping I am always aware of night noises, most of which are familiar and comforting like the screech owls.  Anyone not familiar with these little guys might be alarmed by their haunting tremelo calls, but I love hearing them as they hunt along the edges of the woods, interrupting the frogs and cricket songs with their eery sound.

            A not so pleasant night sound is a dog or cat with indigestion.  The threat of up-chucking is a very effective wake-up, jump out of bed and run the sicky outside alarm.  Cat races, minor crashes emanating from downstairs or snoring dogs, these are all okay sounds that I basically sleep through.  They are what I call half-expected or normal noises. 

            Troublesome sounds are cars that stop before they reach the stop sign or don't continue up the road.  That's another sure-fire wake up.  Now that we've had another break in I'll be extra alert just like everyone else around here.  The victim is a very strange dude who lives alone on what was his family's farm. He spent the weekend cutting down all the vegetation around his house which has not enhanced the property, but probably makes him feel safer.  Methinks he should just get a dog or two!

 

6:40 pm edt          Comments

Friday, September 16, 2011

AH CHOO!

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         It's an absolutely beautiful fall day, but unfortunately it is what the weatherman called "a high pollen day." I did not plant the bucket full of forsythias, nor the yellow iris rhizomes, nor did I mow the pasture or haul compost. I am sick as a dog and have spent most of the day flat on my back on the sofa, sneezing, blowing my big red nose and nursing a pounding headache.  Not such a perfect day in my little world.

7:44 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A WALK IN THE WOODS.

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            Lothario the rooster is experiencing a gender identity crisis.  He is acting like a broody hen. Today I came upon him in a corner of the donkeys' stall clucking softlyto himself and making a nest.  I stood closely by watching this odd behavior, but he seemed oblivious to my presence.  He fussed until things met with his approval and then settled himself down, still clucking.  While he may have mastered nest building I'm pretty sure he's going to have tough time laying any eggs.  Hopefully he will abandon his adopted new role or he will be looking for a new home.

            The air was nippy, but the sun was bright today, so the dogs and I took a break; I from my work and they from their napping.  Friend Rose donated new leashes to replace those abandoned during the yellow jacket attack, so we went for a walk.  All was well as we covered the familiar path through the woods, but when we reached the corner where we usually enter old Kenny's field all canine enthusiasm died.  Rather than bounding off like the deer we might encounter, all three dogs froze in place.  Ernie looked pleadingly over his shoulder at me.  "Oh please don't make us go into that field," he seemed to say.

            The dogs were all stung in last weeks attack and the painful event must be as fresh in their minds as it is in my own.  Just looking at the field sent a chill down my spine.  The field has been mowed, probably in preparation for the seismic explosives that will be set off at each of the pink flags.  I can't help but wonder if the fracking crew found my dog leads and if the yellow jackets found them.

            BTW:  Harnessing Hope, Terry Davis' inspiring story can now be read by clicking that link on My Published Works. 

 

5:17 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

FRIENDS

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            The first thing anyone driving down the road or pulling into my driveway sees is the west side of the house and it's not a pretty sight.  In fact, it's ugly.  Since I bought this place in 1987 I have done nothing to improve it and have remained blind to the eyesore.

            A big Norway maple heavily shades the west lawn, so little in the way of grass grows under the tree.  For several years I've been coaxing a blanket of ivy to cover the bareness and it's doing well, but even this vigorous grower has its work cut out for a long time to come.  All utility monitors  are located on this side of the house too.  In addition to the concrete well cover, there is the electric meter, the outside faucet and hose complete with a reel that refuses to haul in the attached green snake unless prompted by a few profanities.  The clothes drier vent and two pipes for filling the cellar oil tank complete the west side adornments. 

            Due to the proximity of the water faucet there's also a large metal pot which serves as the outside thirst quencher for chickens, dogs and cats.  It sits on a seemingly-indestructible beam that someone laid (who knows when?) about 20" from the foundation with the apparent intention of creating what might have been a planting pocket if anything other than ivy could thrive there. 

            Like I said, I have been blind to this ugliness since the day I signed the papers for this old farm.  Two days ago my eyes were opened.  Good grief!  After acknowledging that it sure didn't enhance the landscape I was clueless about how to "fix" it, especially since I have no extra money right now.  I called Sue, the visionary.

            Her red SUV pulled in and out popped the woman responsible for my wonderful terrace.  "Oh sure, we can fix this up in about five minutes," said the eternal optimist.  I couldn't help but notice her choice of the pronoun "we."  In this team she is the idea person and I'm the mule and that's perfectly fine with me.  Not only did she have ideas, but they would cost not a penny for everything needed for the transformation was already somewhere on the property.  Sue loves rocks and she can 'see' walls,borders and pathways where I only see barren spaces. 

            I scouted for stones while my chirping ‘boss' tossed the boulders around as if they are ping pong balls.  While the project did take a bit more than her predicted "five minutes," she had it laid out in an afternoon and the difference is stunning. There's a nice brick pad on which the uncooperative hose reel sits, a clay trough to direct downspout water away from the foundation, stepping stones that lead to the oil pipes and the water faucet and even a place for the animals' water bowl.  The cats and the chickens think this new project was done just for them.  While I still have to haul more backfill and plant more ivy, Sue easily transformed an ugly spot that will only grow more attractive with time.  All the necessary pipes and meters already are hardly noticeable and soon ivy will creep over the new stone border, softening and filling in the gaps while creating a lush evergreen groundcover.

            I'm certainly happy that Sue became a blog reader.  She (and Bud too...) are genuinely nice people; thoughtful, helpful and generous to a fault.  As much as I love my solitary life here there are times when all the work and repairs seem overwhelming.  These friends have shown me how to work smarter instead of harder, and inspired me just when I needed it most.  They probably think nothing of it. I think it's all pretty amazing.

 

9:31 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

THE TRASH MAN COMETH.

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            But not before the rubbish bin bandits absconded with T.'s trash can.  He was expected home from his father's funeral on Monday and I wanted everything to be in order when he returned.  Since Monday morning is trash day I had pulled the big wheeled bin roadside Sunday evening after letting his dogs out for final pee.  Somewhere between 9:00 PM and 6:30 AM the can disappeared. 

            I've frequently mentioned that dear neighbor Sandy is "unusual," but in a very good way, so I shouldn't have been surprised when she burst into my kitchen at 8:00 AM to tell me she had found T.'s can about two miles away from his house! 

            "It's way over on the corner of Tyro and Immel," she said, but she hadn't been able retrieve it because her truck bed has a canvas cover, not to mention that lifting the behemoth is really a two-person job and Sandy is only about as big as a mouse.  We jumped into my truck and raced off to collect the stolen rubbish bin and return it to its rightful location before the trash men arrived.

            "How could you possibly have known that was T.'s can," I questioned as we drove. 

            "I recognized the trash you had put in it yesterday," she answered as if it were the most normal thing in the world to recognize someone else's trash.  Like I said, neighbor Sandy is very unusual.

            The can had been dragged and had suffered some serious damage in transit, so I called our local police department to report the theft.  "Oh, I'm so glad you called because now we know they're (the vandals) expanding their territory," said Linda the dispatcher. She was as excited as if I'd just reported a bank heist.  "They were concentrating on Smith Kramer, throwing the trash all over the road and on peoples' lawns.  I'll tell Dave to step up the patrols out there," she promised.

            As I hung up the phone I had to smile.  Displaced trash bins are big news in this rural setting, but it's comforting to know that our township police are on the job and are working to thwart the mischievous activity.  When the no-good scoundrels responsible for this naughty business are caught (and of course they will be caught), news of the apprehension will spread like wildfire and then we'll all be able to sleep more soundly on Sunday nights knowing that our roadside rubbish bins are safe until the trash men cometh.

 

12:28 pm edt          Comments

Monday, September 12, 2011

OOPS.
The link to Harnessing Hope has been lost in my Published Works link.  This happened when Draft Horse Journal changed their web site, but I shall work on reinstating this article because I believe Terry Davis' efforts as well as the plight of Third World animals should be recognized.  To be continued...
2:14 pm edt          Comments

THE REAL WORKERS.

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            I recently received email from my friend Terry Davis, one of only three in Great Britain with the distinction of being a Master Harness Maker.  Rather than sit on his laurels, Terry devotes his time, effort and knowledge to teaching indigenous people in developing countries where donkeys and mules are the key transportation animals how to create humane effective harnessing systems using materials that are locally available.  You can learn about more his work by clicking my Published Works link and reading Harnessing Hope.

            Terry just returned from a trip to Egypt.  I think this picture is worth a thousand words.  One must wonder what kind of person allows such an injury to occur in the first place.  Thankfully this poor creature received care, but thousands more will not. Why?

            Terry frequently expresses his dismay over the fact that his volunteer offers to so-called animal welfare organizations have been ignored.  Why would well-funded groups turn down proffered free expertise?  The answer is pretty obvious; it's political.  So long as the "problem"  exists, funds to such organizations continue to flow in.  Most will send donors some return address labels or a recycling bag with their name on it as a ‘thank you.'  This is precisely the case in this country. 

            My point in sharing this is to urge anyone who genuinely cares about animal welfare to thoroughly investigate (and demand proof of!) the work being done (or not) by potential recipients of your charitable donations.  I know from personal experience that the real work is not being done by the big name organizations that always seem to have their hand out begging for money, but by individuals and small volunteer groups.  These are the people really working for improved animal welfare. 

            I'd be remiss not to mention my daughter's cat rescue as such an example; Cripple Creek Ferals & Friends.  http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/OH915.html

 

12:37 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SPECIAL CHILDREN.

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            Just as it is in the human world, some children are "special" and so it is with the orphans.  Hatched not under a mother hen, but in a hatchery in a far-off state, shipped in a box via the postal service and left to learn the ropes of life on their own, the six ‘babies' (as I call them) have proved to be very special kids.

            "Come on, babies," is all I have to say and they race across the lawn from wherever they might be to heed the call.  They look like armless people.  Chickens are always hungry, so I don't fool myself into thinking there is any other reason for their eager compliance.  It doesn't matter.  I adore this troupe.  They make me laugh and they crank out eggs faster than I can whip an omelet.

            When they aren't eating or laying eggs or trying to outrun Lothario the rooster, the babies like to lounge on furniture intended for humans.  This patio bench is their current favorite spot.

 

10:40 am edt          Comments

Friday, September 9, 2011

9:19 pm edt          Comments

A BETTER DAY...

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            Each morning upon awakening I tell myself that it's going to be a better day than the day before, and so was my affirmation this morning, but alas, it was not to be so.  Sleep had been drug-induced due to the pain and itching from the yellow jacket stings, but after serving breakfast to the house gang and having a good cup of coffee myself I headed to the barn.

            I should have suspected something was wrong because Andy hadn't brayed as he usually does when he heard the back door open.  I hurried toward the barn and found him down in his stall.  He stumbled to his feet, but only to three of the four.  His front left hoof was hot and after cleaning it I saw what looked like a small hole-an absess.  I called Dr. Trish.

            Dr. Trish is a gem!  She's young, very competent and most of all, genuinely concerned about the welfare of all animals entrusted to her care.  She said she'd be here by noon which left me enough time to run to the pharmacy to pick up the Epi-Pen refill.  Imagine my shock when the cashier said $85.00!  (The last one was $60.00 and I thought that was a lot!)  Considering what was at stake when/if another swarm of yellow jackets targets me, I paid the $85.00.

            "Gee, I get a big bottle of epinephrine for $20.00," said Dr. Trish as she dug away at Andy's abscessed foot, smeared it with Ichthemol and created a lavish padded shoe for him, then gave him a shot of antibiotics and left me with pain meds for the poorguy .  He was a dear and could not have behaved any better.  Now, had it been Corky, this story would certainly read differently.

            This evening Andy is feeling much better.  My yellow jacket stings are now walnut-sized, painful, itchy, red spots, but tomorrow will be a better day, I'm sure.

 

9:16 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, September 8, 2011

RECOVERY UNDERWAY--I HOPE....

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            Yesterday had not been without event starting with a tear-choked call from T. who is in Texas to tell me his dad had died only minutes earlier.  He had made it down there with only a few hours to spare before his father passed.  Neighbor Sandy and I are sharing the task of caring for T.'s animals while he's gone.  I'd just returned from T.'s place and decided to take my own dogs for a walk, so I grabbed their leads and we headed up the road.  Things went downhill from that point on.

            The wildflowers in old Kenny's field are currently dominated by red clover which covers the vast meadow in a knee-deep tangle.  We had crossed to the north side of the field passing the many flags marking sites where explosives will be set off by the frackers.  There was a short trail of crushed vegetation from the fracker's trucks which made walking a little easier.  Standing next to the pasture where I was happy to see four cows, the ground suddenly erupted with what felt like a volcano of blazing arrows.  In an instant yellow jackets covered me and the dogs.

            If you've never experienced such an attack, thank your lucky stars and hope that it never happens!  Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets can and do sting repeatedly and that's exactly what they were doing.  Poor Ted's muzzle was covered with the evil creatures just as I was.  They were under my t-shirt faster than a horny teenager and even in my hair.  It's impossible to outrun such an attack even on flat terrain.  It was far more difficult trying to exit the tangle of weeds in Kenny's field.  We were a half mile from home and it was the longest half mile I've ever traveled, flailing and crying and terrified that I might pass out before we reached safety.  I'm very allergic to these stings.

            Across the field, through the woods and down the oil road we headed.  I had dropped the dog leashes somewhere in the field.  All the while the yellow jackets were on us.  Their numbers were diminishing, but even one stinging monster is one too many.  At home I tore off my clothes and ran for the shower, but no amount of cold water dulled the pain.  I had just pulled on some clothes when neighbor Sandy walked in, thank goodness. 

            What a wonderful friend and neighbor.  She slammed the Epi Pen into my leg as I downed the first Benadryl capsules.  That's when we both spotted the yellow jacket in the kitchen!  The dogs and I had not made the trip home unaccompanied.  I'm ashamed to admit a feeling of supreme satisfaction when I smashed that buzzing terrorist.

            While all three dogs had been stung, only Ted seemed to be suffering, so he also got a dose of Benadril.  It was a long miserable night.  I will not return to Kenny's field to retrieve the dropped dog leads, at least not until the ground is white with snow and today I'll pick up another $60.00 Epi-Pen to keep on hand. Thank goodness for this antidote as it saved me another trip to the ER.  That was the good news du jour.

 

11:14 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

PAIN.
Very short post.  Was attacked by nest of yellow jackets while on walk.  Intense pain.  Epi-pen and benadril are now kicking in.  More tomorrow.
7:40 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

DESPAIR.

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            "When I get up in the morning I think, what's the point?  I just want to kill myself," he said.  I countered with what I hoped were words of strength and encouragement and wondered how anyone's life could possibly reach such a level of despair.  I've always considered my own life to be just a big bowl of cherries.  But my Labor Day post revealed a barely-suppressed anger and frustration which I hadn't even been aware of until I read my own words.  Lying awake in the early morning hours it occurred to me that the past several weeks have taken a toll of me.  Many issues that seemed beyond my control have slowly been consuming my joie de vivre.

            I felt the cool air from the open windows waft across my face and realized that it has been some time since I've listened to the crickets' song or found comfort in the companionship and loyalty of my animals.  I've hardly laughed at the antics of the two bad asses or stopped to smell the proverbial roses.  What happened to the contentment of my small country life?   It was eroding and I hadn't even seen it happening-until  my own cynical comments posted for the entire world to read stared back at me.  Maybe it was a big price to pay for "enlightenment," but then again, maybe it was a bargain.  I'll never really know, but for someone who preaches ‘live in the moment, count your blessings, use your life to make the world a better, kinder place, etc.' reading it was an awakening.

            I will deal with all of the issues that are currently making some unique demands of me and things will get better, but only if I take my own advice.  Life is too short to spend it being angry and unhappy.  This blog was never intended to be a therapy session for myself, but yesterday and this morning have been just that.  Enough already!  It's far more satisfying and much more fun to write about hatching chicks, marauding raccoons and two bad asses.

 

7:14 am edt          Comments

Monday, September 5, 2011

LABOR DAY

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            My personal feeling is that every day a person draws a breath should be "celebrated" as a holiday.  Watch the world news and it's obvious that this is not the case.  I for one am admittedly disappointed, discouraged and dismayed by a "celebrating" culture which is motivated and dominated by the lowest common denominators; greed, violence and sex.  It is the reason my gate is kept closed.

            Now that Nettie is gone, the real purpose of the gate (which previously was to keep my dogs from running into the road) is a symbolic statement of my chosen isolation from most societal values.  So, what has provoked this latest wave of disillusionment, you ask?  It's Labor Day.

            Call me a cynic if you will, but I hate holidays of all kinds and today is no exception.  Most federally-declared holidays have little or no relevance to today's world, and perhaps none are more illustrative of this than Labor Day.

            Touted by the U. S. Department of Labor as a national "tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country...," it was historically instated as an act of appeasement by President Grover Cleveland following the deaths of many workers at the hands of thousands of U.S military and U.S Marshals who were sent in to break up the Pullman Strike.

            Personal observations regarding the current state of affairs only reinforce my support of and involvement with those rare workers whose labors are not driven by a quest for wealth, glamour, or recognition, but merely by moral backbone and convictions for justice and sustainability.  On any given day these special people struggle for survival, but their struggles have a noble quality not found in many places and most certainly not in government. 

            So, while the plethora of back-patting politicians and insipid revelers "celebrate" today and other now-meaningless "holidays" it seems a perfect time to re-evaluate the causes, the missions and the individuals that we mindlessly take for granted.  Really think about the unquestioned and unchallenged exploitation going on around you!  Purge the duplicitous, support the noble and strive toward sustainability on a personal daily level!

            Bah-humbug to "holidays!"  Sorry if today's post pisses anyone off, but it's how I feel. 

 

11:22 am edt          Comments

Sunday, September 4, 2011

ADRIFT IN THE DARK.

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            With the return of the miserable heat and humidity I seemed to forget that the days are getting shorter.  "Don't you think 7:30 is a little late to go kayaking?" asked T.  "Oh no, we'll have plenty of time...," I countered.  As usual he was right. 

            We pulled into the parking area just in time to see the bride and groom cavorting next to the murky shoreline.  The husky, shaved-head groom was in a white tux, minus the jacket and his nosegay-carrying bride wore a strapless gown and no head dress.  He held her aloft and she gazed down at his adoring face while another young woman ran around snapping photos.  Considering the litter on the shoreline I hope she was framing the images above ankle-height.  Apparently we had arrived just in time to catch the conclusion of the photo shoot.  The trio left when we began to unload the kayaks.

            Following the departure of the wedding party there was neither a boat nor a person in sight anywhere at the lake.  No sooner were we afloat on the mirror-like water when darkness began to fall.  It was really very beautiful.  The air was still and only jumping fish disturbed the lakes flat surface.  We paddled out to the middle, pulled the kayaks side by side and ate watermelon wedges, then deposited the rinds along a distant shore for wandering nocturnal wildlife.

            Then we parted ways.  I like to sneak into a particular bay and sit quietly watching for deer or for the resident beaver.  Judging from the whittled trees he has been very busy.  I didn't pay any attention to where T. headed, so that's how I suddenly found myself alone in the dark.  With only a quarter moon, the night was as black as the inside of a cow. 

            In the middle of the lake there were no bothersome bugs and the stillness of the night was intoxicating.  I presumed T. was somewhere out there enjoying the solitude just as I was.  It's easy to become disoriented in the darkness and our put-in spot near the parking area was quite invisible, but after what seemed like hours I thought it best to get to shore.  I was getting worried about T.  Where the heck was he?  My thought was to train the truck lights over the water to help guide him in.  I need not have worried.

            As I glided silently toward shoreline I heard, "Did you finally decide to come in?"  He'd been sitting on the tailgate waiting for me.  He's never without his cell phone, but I'm never with mine.  It was in the truck.  I think a lesson was learned last night.  Next time I'll take the phone with me.

 

12:17 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, September 3, 2011

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

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            Well, sometimes you do, but not always and this isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Take trees, for example.

            Each spring a bargain store in town gets a huge shipment of trees which they sell for $15.00 each.  There are shade trees, ornamental trees and fruit trees;  all healthy, robust and about six feet tall.  Each spring I purchase two fruit trees.  The dwarf Red Delicious  is actually a Red Delicious apple tree, but it's about fifty feet tall; not quite a dwarf.  Oh well, the fruit is good, so no complaints.

            For the past several years I've been purchasing trees identified as Red Haven Peach and Bartlett Pear.  Each spring I find that I have planted two more trees that while they are indeed peach trees and pear tree are not Red Haven Peach nor Bartlett Pear.

            The tent worms totally destroyed this year's peach crop, but they were white peaches.  I'm sure they would have been delicious, but alas, they weren't Red Havens.  The other peach tree which appeared to be completely dead, but then came back to life like Lazarus late in the summer remains a mystery.  I won't know what it is until next year.  Maybe it will be a Red Haven-or not....

            The pear tree (labeled as Barlett) which I planted a few years ago is a prodigious producer-of Keefer pears.  They are lovely and tasty, but they are not Bartletts.  This year's tree (also labeled as Bartlett) is loaded with beautiful fruit.  Really now, don't these look like something you've seen in a nursery catalog?  I don't know what they are, but I do know they are not Bartlett pears.

            So, you might be wondering why I continue to purchase $15.00 trees at this store.  It's because I like surprises!  Anyone know what kind of pears these are?

 

7:08 pm edt          Comments

Friday, September 2, 2011

HURRY AUTUMN!

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            After a challenging August I promised myself that September would be better, more productive, less stressful, yadda, yadda, yadda.  In spite of that promise things did not get off to a good start.  In addition to various problematic issues the temperature has again hit 95 degrees.  I was admittedly feeling somewhat down in the dumps; but, note the past-tense; "was."  Things have turned around and although I have only had a few hours sleep, I'm optimistic that my September agenda has merely suffered a minor setback.

            While I don't think any of the animals here, regardless of the species, enjoy this heat they are all dealing with it by resting.  I'd like to do the same, but that's not an option right now.  I have a lot to do before heading off to a Doo-Whop party later this evening and I am excited.  I'm not a ‘party animal,' but this affair will be hosting a lot of people I haven't seen since growing up on Fifth Street!!!  Who knows, I may find additional fodder for the Leaving Fifth Street collection of short stories.

            Yes, I love my simple life here on the farm, but tonight I'm ready to PAR-TAY!

 

 

3:11 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, September 1, 2011

WHAT TO DO WITH SWISS CHARD.

What to do with Swiss chard? 

Put 2 TBSP. of good olive oil in a skillet

Add 1 chopped shallot

1 clove of chopped garlic and about 3 green onions chopped or an equal amount of sweet onion.

Cook for about 3- 5 minutes.  Stir in a can of drained garbanzo beans and season with salt and pepper.  Wash, dry and chop a bunch of Swiss chard and add to the pan. Squeeze half a lemon over the chard and cook until wilted.  Add some chopped fresh peeled tomato and some crumbled feta cheese.

Eat as a side dish or serve over pasta.  Yum.

8:29 pm edt          Comments


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