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Wednesday, October 26, 2011



             Two hens are setting on clutches of eggs and surprisingly one of them is a young white orphan, possibly the one with the missing wing.  I have never before had such a testy hen!  She will probably be one of those abusive mothers that confront us daily on the news....  I'm trying very hard to excuse her unpleasant attitude as temporary hormonal imbalance, but what used to be a pleasant part of the day has become hazardous.

            When hens become broody I mark a chosen number of eggs with a colored slash and collect any other eggs her gal pals might lay in that box, so this requires lifting the expectant mother each afternoon.  My hand now bears witness to her nasty disposition.  Meanwhile, her little red friend in the adjoining box is polite and cooperative.  I wish the little red hen would explain that such violent behavior is unacceptable. Wearing a leather glove to collect eggs should not be necessary.

            For the past hour a helicopter has been making wide circles overhead.  While this event is odd, what this chopper is trailing is even more peculiar.  Behind the red, white and blue, fast-flying vehicle streams a very long tail of rope, chain or cable of some sort.  On the end were what appeared to be three balls or balloons.  It just made yet another pass still trailing the long tail, but minus the three appendages. Is this related to the fracking frenzy?  To be continued....

            Call me paranoid if you will, but considering the intrusions to our privacy which have become all too common, things like helicopters trailing weird-looking orbs and making repeated passes over this innocuous farm concern me.  It also annoys me.

            Tomorrow this time I will be dining in Roanoke, Virginia.  Neighbor Sandy will be in charge here, much to the critters' delight as she spoils them shamelessly.  While I look forward to rediscovering the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it may not be possible to keep up with this blog.  I will try to post if/when time permits. 


5:43 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 25, 2011



            I know it's a British comedy, but it seems a fitting description of my gardens too.  What was so beautiful just a couple of months ago had become just a gigantic withering mess. It seemed to happen overnight.  But, here' the real problem.  Plant one dahlia, enjoy the blooms, then dig up six dahlia tubers.  They multiply like rabbits. 

            Since I had many tubers thanks to the previous years multiplication, I planted a lot of dahlias this past spring. Yes, I had indeed enjoyed glorious blossoms and bouquets all season, but now I am faced with digging up hundreds more tubers.  I've hardly made a dent in the project although I've been working at it for days. This is just one little garden!  There are three more.

           Once they're out of the ground they still must be packed in damp peat moss and hauled into the cellar for the winter.  I've decided to offer some for sale in the spring (after all the hard work is finished...).  Watch for my Craigslist posting. 

            It would be nice to think this will be the end of the labor, but not so. There are still gladiolas and countless cannas lilies.  Planting is so much easier than fall clean up!


7:07 pm edt          Comments

Monday, October 24, 2011



            Today began as any other; stumble down the stairs, let the dogs out, feed the cats, fill the dog bowls, let them in, pour coffee.... But enjoying that first cup was short-lived because Andy stood at the fence screaming that he wanted his breakfast (he speaks for himself and his little partner in crime Corky...) and he wanted it NOW, so it was off to the barn a little earlier than I'd have liked. 

            There, the routine is unvaried; open the chicken coop, dump a scoop of grain in their feed trough, feed the donkeys and clean the stall.  All was going according to schedule when a great commotion arose from the barnyard.  As I've often remarked, we who keep chickens understand "poultry talk" and the cries that pierced the quiet morning meant one thing-hawk!!!! 

            Lothario was in a frenzy.  He's good at protecting his harem and his message was clear; "Take cover ASAP," so all the girls huddled under the spruce as their mighty protector (who is as big as Ted) made noisy skyward threats. 

            Dear visually-impaired Julie was also in a tizzy.  Apparently her overhead vision is much better than her peripheral sight.  She ran the fenceline, the hair on her back standing on end making her look like a Rhodesian Ridgeback rather than my meek little cartoon dog. 

            The redtail swooped low as if hoping to find a straggler.  I ran from the barn brandishing a broom and finally the aerial marauder seemed to give up.  He lit atop another pine tree for a brief rest, then headed north.  But he had not given up.  He had merely gone for the rest of the family.

            "Come with me.  We'll all go to KFC (Karen's Fresh Chicken) for brunch."  Before I was finished with morning chores two juveniles and one adult arrived. They spent the next several hours patrolling the barnyard while the poor chooks nervously raced from one cover to another.  The redtails should stick to catching rodents.  Sissy the cat certainly has no trouble.  She brings at least one poor victim home each day.

            So far, all birds remain safe, but Julie and I can't be out there helping Lothario patrol the barnyard.  We have work to do, so it will have to be survival of the fittest.  I wish my girls the best of luck.


3:51 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, October 22, 2011


            On Tuesday a dear friend is coming to visit. She's bringing her two dogs with her, so it should be party time for the animals here.  Later in the week I'm heading for the Blue Ridge Mountains on a press trip.  It's been such a long time since I've visited this area that all I can remember is that it's quite beautiful, so I'm looking forward to the trip.

            Of course, all of this means crunch time here at home.  Making the place presentable for my house guest while addressing all the other things I've put off must now be finished before departure.  As usual I am easily distracted.  Today I worked in the gardens.

            Knowing my love of words a friend gave me a word-a-day calendar.  While many of the words are familiar, many are not-like todays word; bricolage.  It's a nice word that feels good rolling off one's tongue and one that could certainly be used in describing projects undertaken by people in my social circle.  Bricolage means construction achieved by using whatever is at hand.  Hmm.... Since my home is an assemblage of thrift store finds it is unlikely I will be able to get it guest-worthy by Tuesday.


5:20 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 21, 2011



            I've avoided mentioning the heartbreaking event in Zanesville, something that could have/should have been prevented.  But thanks to Ohio's archaic animal welfare laws and an effete governor a the lives of innocent animals ended badly.  A lot of people would be surprised to know how common situations like this are.  I know because several years ago I was involved in a similar nightmare.

            "...And there's a deer living in a cage the size of a desk," said the caller.  The location was less than ten miles away.  I jumped in my truck and went to see for myself.  His description of the cage was exaggerated, but what he didn't see was far worse than the Sitka deer confined to a chainlink pen that was knee deep in mud and manure.  There was no place for the poor animal to escape the water and muck, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.  In a shack the size of a garden shed was a whitetail doe named Lorraine. 

            Countless plastic sky kennels held exotic birds so restricted that their tail feathers were broken off. Moldy wet grain covered the floor.  A corn crib was filled with quail and wild turkeys.  Another shed (I use the term loosely) housed several wild boars, also imprisoned in a swamp of muck with no escape.  Two bears languished in a windowless concrete garage with nothing but a tire and a bare lightbulb for "comfort."  One was sitting on his haunches holding a birthday cake in his paw the first time I saw them. 

            In a dark back stall of another building an enraged bull bison slammed at the rotting boards of his prison while a Scottish Highland bull stood tethered to a truck axel outside.  Each discovery was worse than the previous one, but the one that ripped my heart out was the metal shipping container that held two foxes; one Arctic and one Silver.  The owner had hoped they would breed.  Thank God they didn't.  The two animals had never set foot on anything but metal grating their entire lives.  They were crowded onto deteriorating flakeboard shelves eating spaghetti, not exactly a natural vulpine diet.

            Most bizarre of all was the fact that all of these creatures were on a property where no one lived, but it didn't take much effort to discover the owner, another eccentric man who claimed to love the animals.  After politely pointing out that he seemed to be in over his head I asked if he would accept some help to which he agreed. 

            A crew of volunteers was recruited and we spent the next several weeks putting up fencing, persuading the sickly man to part with releasable birds and to sell the bison. We released the boars into their newly fenced habitat and someone took Lorraine and promised to release her in a safe place, but my biggest coup was getting the man to sell the two foxes to me.  I wasn't entirely sure what their fate would be, but it would certainly be better than they'd known up to that point.  I began making phone calls.

            At last a sanctuary in New Jersey agreed to take them and so one a blustery December day my daughter and I loaded the caged foxes into the enclosed back of my truck and we set off for Popcorn Park.  They must have thought they had died and gone to heaven as they had dry bedding and food.  They traveled well, but our journey became treacherous when we encountered the blizzard of all blizzards in eastern Pennsylvania.  At one point the storm was so intense we couldn't see the road.  We spent the night at a mom and pop motel that had only sporadic heat, but we were grateful anyway. 

            The sanctuary with the odd-sounding name was a wonderful place!  They were expecting "Ebony" and "Ivory" (as they dubbed them) and had a quarantine pen ready and waiting.  The 10' x 10' enclosure had a dog house and even a small pond and best of all, appropriate food. To see those animals set foot on solid ground and to explore their new housing was one of the most gratifying efforts of my life.  They were vaccinated, their long nails were trimmed and after a thorough examination they were released into a huge enclosed natural habitat where they lived out their lives.  The sanctuary sent annual updates and photos and notified me when one of them died about ten years later. 

            Back at "the ranch" an ongoing relationship was established with the man whose "love" of exotics had gotten out of control.  Ultimately he relinquished all of the animals and birds except for the pitiful bears that remained imprisoned in their concrete hell.  He died several years later, but from the Zanesville incident it is obvious that situations like the one I knew are all too common and often times far worse for the animals.


6:46 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, October 20, 2011



            In 1999 in preparation for several articles about the impending Y-2 K "crisis" I interviewed the owners of Lehman's Old-Fashioned Hardware, a quaint place which has been supplying the n0n-electric community for nearly seven decades.  At that time the owners were overwhelmed with a flood of new customers who were preparing for a feared life without electricity.  While the store enjoyed a boom in business, the stupidity of the new customers drove some of their employees who had worked there for thirty years to resign.

            "People were buying a dozen oil lamps...," said the sort-of, but-no-longer-Amish owner.  He was perplexed because they just didn't get it when he tried to tell them you only need a lamp in the room you are using, so theoretically one or two lamps would be adequate.  Now that the first real blast of cold weather has hit I am reminded of Galen Lehman's words, but as it applies to heat. 

            Having just spent $635.00 for the first tank of heating oil I am reluctant to turn on the furnace, especially since it doesn't really warm the house anyway and it's only October.  It just sucks up the liquid gold, so depending upon it to stay warm would cost a bloody fortune!  I'm just one person who can only be in one place at a time, so a fire in the woodstove keeps the living room toasty and a small space heater next to my desk keeps the office toasty.  I move between these two rooms, one of which is my work space, the other my relaxing space, and it's really all I need.

            The effort involved in staying comfortable and saving money changes ones entire perspective on life.  The warmth feels luxurious.  The generous supply of firewood I see stacked on the porch and behind the tractor shed provides a satisfying sense of security.  This cold wet day reminds me there is still more winterizing to be done, but I think uncomfortable reality checks are important.  How else can we know what really matters and what's really necessary?


9:46 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 18, 2011



      Just don't say it around me! I freely admit that the ‘art' of cheese making is not within my realm. Unless the finished product (which won't be finished for at least another 24 hours...) is utterly fantastic, I will not be making any more and I will tell old Kenny to stop his twice-weekly milk deliveries.

      After reading many cheese making web sites and consulting two books on the subject (all of which assured me the process would be fun and easy) and sterilizing every pot, whisk, spoon and sieve in my kitchen I began making what one authority called Beginner's Cheese. I call it One Shot Cheese.  The cheese making process requires concentration, dedication and precision timing and temperatures.  No matter how careful I tried to be, there were spills.  It was a mess.  The dogs and cats and chickens all had whey with their food this morning and I don't think any of them were keen on the stuff.

     I shall spare you readers all of the boring details, but suffice it to say that I have a renewed appreciation of the finely-crafted stuff available at the grocery. The next time I say "cheese" it will be to place an order at the deli. "...and some Stilton, please...."

7:12 pm edt          Comments

Monday, October 17, 2011



            Admittedly I have a soft spot in my heart for the orphans, especially the white ones since I've rarely had anything but colored breeds. But now it seems I've created chickens who consider themselves special and more privileged than the rest of the flock.  They prefer to hang around the house rather than scratch around the gardens like their compatriots.  They frequently sit on the patio bench.  They hurry toward the house whenever they hear the door open and when my truck pulls into the driveway they race across the yard as if they've just won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.  Now they have discovered that by coming up on the deck they can peer directly into the kitchen.  I know this is a ploy to make me think they are starving--especially if I happen to be cooking.  I think that given half a chance they'd march right inside.  It seems that even a small amount of favoritism directed toward poultry can get out of control. 

            Birds need to be birds, but you've got to admit, these girls are pretty cute, aren't they?


3:35 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, October 16, 2011



            When I was a kid I spent a good bit of time on a dairy farm in Carroll County.  My uncle liked to help with haying and other farm work and he also put in a huge garden there which supplied a lot of our family's food.  The farm family rarely came into our town, and when they did it was usually for a funeral or some other formal occasion. They would be all cleaned up; no muck boots, no coveralls, no engineers' caps (husband and wife dressed alike).  While they might have been wearing their city clothes they still smelled like milk.  The back door would open and they'd enter my mother's tidy kitchen and regardless of what she'd been cooking the room instantly took on the aroma of their milk house.  I fear I may be heading for that same fate.

            Friends will soon dread seeing me coming up their walkway and they'll run for the Air Wick or Oust.  The reason is because thanks to old Kenny I am drowning in the white stuff.  The first thing I saw this morning when I looked out the kitchen window was the black Volvo station wagon at the end of the drive and old Kenny unloading two gallons of Cow's morning output.  The dogs and I went out to the gate to meet him. 

            "Kenny, what in the world am I supposed to do with all this milk?" I questioned. Never one to mince words he replied, "Drink it!"  He then went on to suggest that if I leave it outside for a few days it would turn to cottage cheese.  "Then you just drain off the whey and drink that.  Go to the health food store and get some flax seed oil and mix that with the curds.  If you've got cancer, this will cure it."  Hmm, I wonder if he's shared this secret with the Cleveland Clinic.

            As you see the chickens have taken the lacto-ova dietary designation one step beyond.  As an experiment I offered them a bowl of milk this morning.  They clustered around the unfamiliar stuff, clucking quietly among themselves; "I'm not tasting it.  You taste it...."   No one wanted to be the first, but all were curious.  Enter the odd little red hen, the rebel of the flock.  "Ah, I've been dying for some milk," she said and began to drink with chicken gusto.  That's all it took. 

            While this may augment their scratch feed and all of the other things poultry enjoy eating, it will hardly make a dent in the continuous milk supply, so tomorrow I'm picking up a cheese-making cookbook and other supplies.  Waste not, want not.


5:09 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, October 15, 2011



            Today was the first really cold and blustery day of the season.  The morning skies were dark and ominous and the wind bit at my face as I trudged up to the barn.  I wanted to hurry back to the house, pour another steaming cup of coffee , curl up on the sofa and watch This Old House.  That's what I wanted to do, but that isn't what I did do.  The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations which have made their way across the country had scheduled a noon protest in a nearby town.  After all my complaining about societal apathy I could hardly ignore this opportunity.  Outside the winds were howling.  Inside the phone was ringing.

            "So, are you going?" asked T.  I hedged and carped about the cold and the threat of rain until he replied, "I guess you're just a fair weather activist, right?"  That did it.  I hung up the phone and headed to the cellar ‘sign shop' and hastily whipped out my succinct message:  TAX THE GREEDY, HELP THE NEEDY and hoped the paint would be dry by the time I had to leave.

            Driving to the site I wondered what the crowd would look like.  Would they all be twenty-somethings?  Would there even be a crowd?  I was pleased to be met by a milling group of about one hundred other disgruntled citizens.  Yes, there were some twenty-somethings.  In fact the event had been organized by a dedicated and confident young man, but it was gratifying to note that most of those in attendance were of my generation.  These were people who had marched for Civil Rights and demanded the end to wars. This was not their first demonstration.

           Everyone was cold and the raging wind threatened to rip signs from frigid fingers, but as an endless stream of traffic passed us, tooting their horns and offering thumbs up, the cold seemed not to matter.

            Will these demonstrations change anything?  Probably not, but I'm glad I went.  I wish I had handed my sign to someone to hold so that I might have gotten a photo of the crowd instead of just a few butts.


4:42 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 14, 2011



            Shortly after I acquired this old farm I also acquired two old ponies; Wildfire and Joe Pye.  They were sweethearts who did not whittle away at the barn. They respected their home.  They only ran away from home a couple of times during the many years they lived  here and even then it was just to turf neighbor Bill's pristine lawn.  Then they came home.  Those ponies were wonderful. They were happy to give rides to little kids. They walked  in parades and they caused me no grief. Life seemed so much simpler back then. Who could have guessed their successors (the bad asses) would be so bad!

            The barnyard used to have many trees, but Corky and Andy immediately set out to remove as many as possible. One might have thought they were being paid for their demolition work. They managed to kill nearly all of the trees which were ultimately cut down and turned into firewood.  Encircling the sugar maple with wire fencing saved that one. Thankfully it remains robust. 

           In the middle of the paddock stands a southern pitch pine tree--or at least what remains of it.  The bad asses girdled the exotic looking evergreen and the missing bark quickly took a toll.  It's now more dead than alive, so when the winds pick up, the limbs fall down.  And so it was this week.  A couple of big boughs came down during the night, much to the troublemakers' delight.  Suddenly they found themselves with an all-you-can-eat buffet plus a new toy.  In the course of an afternoon they consumed more than half of what nature had brought down.  Today they hauled some of the limbs into their stall.  ‘Late night snacks perhaps? Yesterday someone asked me why I have these two. "Do you just love them or do they work for you?"  I really had to stop and think about how to answer that question.



7:00 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, October 13, 2011



"I love fall! Fall is exciting.
It's apples and cider.
It's an airborne spider.
It's pumpkins in bins.
It's burrs on dog's chins.
It's wind blowing leaves.
It's chilly red knees.
It's nuts on the ground.
It's a crisp dry sound.
It's green leaves turning
And the smell of them burning.
It's clouds in the sky.
It's fall. That's why...
I love fall."
-   Author Unknown

            I know this is really a corny poem, but I too love fall. 

            The recipe du jour utilizing old Kenny's milk was café crème brulee and I must admit it's quite good.  This is from an old Joy of Cooking book. 

5 large eggs slightly beaten (thank you my lovely hens...)

¾ C. sugar (I use raw sugar which I believe to be tastier)

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla (not called for, but I added it)

¾ C. strong brewed coffee

2 ¼ C. milk or cream (Kenny's milk is very rich)

Ramekins lightly coated with caramel.

Pour the well-blended mixture into the ramekins and place them in a shallow pan of water.  Bake at 350 degrees for an hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy.


4:32 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, October 12, 2011



         In the gray drizzly morning light it was easy to spot the two jugs of milk sitting next to the gate. Kenny had delivered Cow's morning production. I scurried out to collect it, then read about pasteurization and decided this milk would not go to waste.  After employing sanitation measures old Kenny had not employed I used some of it to make the following recipe. Note my modifications in parenthesis.  While making this quiche required a lot of messing around, the finished product tasted good enough to share.

1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach  (I used fresh Swiss Chard, chopped, steamed & drained)
4 eggs
3/4 c. cream (I used 2 cups of Kenny's fresh milk which I had pasteurized)
1 1/4 c. milk (xxxx)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. parsley, chopped  (I also added about 1/3 C. of chopped onion)
1/4 lb. Feta cheese, crumbled
1 quiche crust (pie crust) unbaked
3 tbsp. fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Drain spinach (chard) and squeeze out (drain) as much moisture as possible; it should be fairly dry. Mix the eggs, cream and milk. Add the salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Stir in spinach and Feta cheese. Fill quiche crust and place the grated cheese on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out dry. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Also good at room temperature.


5:29 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 11, 2011



            I was preoccupied as I drove down the road toward home.  Then I saw the black Volvo station wagon ahead of me.

            By the time I'd parked my truck and walked out to the mail box the Volvo had turned around and was drawing to a stop.  In the driver seat was none other than my not-so-secret admirer, Kenny.  I put on my happy face and said, "Hi neighbor, did you find the cookies I left for you?" He nodded and thanked me, but somehow I knew what was coming.

            "Hey, can you use some more milk?" he asked.  Thank goodness he didn't have another barrel of the stuff in his car, but he had a little of everything else.  Like all of his vehicles the Volvo is like a variety store on wheels.

            He sometimes drives his dead sister's Hornet,out of nostalgia I suspect.  It's a miracle it still runs. His two-tone blue truck with the cap seems to be his "farm truck" and the Volvo is without a doubt his luxury car, but Kenny's preferred mode of transportation is his  bright red truck with matching cap; his chick magnet. Neighbor Sandy says he uses it to court his alleged Amish girlfriend.

            He's been cleaning out his barn and I suspect that what he has taken from that "storage area" has been stuffed into the aforementioned cars and trucks. They are all jam packed;  'no room for passengers that I could see!  There are dented cans of tuna, soup and salmon, vacuum cleaners (one per vehicle), great piles of newspapers and magazines, most of which are yellowed and dry (fire starters perhaps?), assorted clothing, plastic jugs and buckets and who knows what else is hidden under the visible top layers?

            I explain that five gallons of milk is simply far more than I could ever hope to use, but I mention that I'm thinking about making cheese and when I get the required equipment I will be grateful for a small amount of milk.  His round face punctuated by the bluest eyes brightened and the mouth with only a few teeth spread into a big smile.  "Well, all you have to do is let it get sour and then you've got cottage cheese," he said.  I don't think so!!!  I have something a bit more artisanal in mind.

            Kenny is about 90 years old, give or take a year either way and he's still living independently on his family's farm, keeping cows and keeping busy.  He pulls chickweed from the manure paddies and pops it into his almost-toothless mouth and he says he's never drank anything but raw milk his entire life.  Maybe there's something to Kenny's diet, but I just can't bring myself to adopt it. 


7:50 pm edt          Comments

Monday, October 10, 2011



            The little gray house is as nondescript as its color.  It sits back from the roadway sheltered by a few nice trees on the south side of the creek.  Sometimes a man on a John Deere tractor would be seen mowing the grass, but other than that there was no sign of life at the odd little property.  Then one night sirens screamed down the road and terminated at the dull gray house.  After that the grass grew tall.

            Branches fell from the trees and one time this summer the township mowed the lawn.  No one  knew the name of the gray-haired man on the green mower and now he is gone.  We all speculated that the ambulance had carried him away, but the truth has come out.  Rural people love gossip.

            The nameless man didn't die.  His wife, the one no one knew existed did die.  When the widower discovered that the house (which was in the name of the dead woman) had not been left to him, but to a son (not his) who lives in California, he abandoned his green John Deere and the dreary gray house and vanished like the wind.  Now the house sits empty amidst a sea of grass that has again grown tall and wild.  The man none of us knew is as gone as the wife we never knew. 


8:35 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, October 9, 2011



Kenny finds a use for everything.  Here you see he has repurposed an old washing machine agitator. It now serves as a unique fence post finial.  Clever Kenny.

7:20 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, October 8, 2011



Peggy has fit right in.  Tiny told her the plants needed to be pruned, so here she is investigating the situation.  Last night I was awakened from a sound sleep when a man's voice loudly announced, "To delete all old messages, hit delete again."  Peggy had discovered the answering machine.  Tomorrow she will have her first critter sitter experience as I will be kayaking and biking at Preque Isle. Neighbor Sandy will be in charge. I need a break!

5:51 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 7, 2011



            It sounded like a combine in the soybean field to the north, but I soon realized the sound was stationary, so with my entourage of cats and dogs I set off on the nature trail to investigate.  It was not a combine. It was the OMNI seismic drillers and they were about one hundred feet directly north of the well that supplies the barn water.  Will this well be affected when they set off the charges? Only time will tell.   I will concede that when they finished the thirty foot drill there was no sign they'd been there other than new pink markers amidst the beans.

            It's hard to describe the tension in the air around here now that we have confirmation that a fracking well will definitely be drilled just up the road at the farm of my hay man.  Hay man has boatloads of money and a lot of land which already hosts a couple of oil wells.  Rumor has it that he plans to be conveniently absent during the process in order to avoid any unpleasant confrontation with township residents.  He'll be on a two month holiday.  How nice for him.... 

            None of us want to say what we all know; that the quiet country life we've long taken for granted is now threatened.  The fleet of white trucks, the huge spools of cable, the inevitable fracking that will forever change life as we've known it; it's all too frightening to acknowledge, so we watch in impotent silence.  All of our early concerns and objections fell on deaf ears and the powers that be gave a hearty okay to the drillers. Now we just wait and worry.

            I'm not quite sure just how I stumbled upon Erin Silva's blog, but it is certainly worth sharing.  Ms. Silva's scholarly site focuses on sustainability, a word and a concept glaringly absent in all the political blabbing these days.  She articulately echoes my own thoughts about how and why our planet has become so imperiled.  Her blog is compelling and intelligent.

            Oh, to be as oblivious as Sissy on this beautiful fall day.


4:52 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, October 6, 2011



            Even knowing the unsanitary conditions at old Kenny's (especially in the barn), allowing the five gallons of raw milk which he delivered on Sunday to go to waste disturbed me.  I bottled and refrigerated four containers and the cats have been having cream for breakfast. I also took some to TPP to feed to the feral cats at the trailer park, but even so, there were still a couple of gallons left in the big bucket and the milk had gone sour.  I had no choice but to dump it.

            The taste and health benefits of raw milk can't be beat, but only if the cow is grass fed and production conditions are hygienic. By such standards Kenny gets just a 50% rating.  An excellent web site detailing the facts about raw milk answered a lot of questions, but I emailed the director regarding Kenny's milk and got an understanding and encouraging response.  He said it's a pity the milk is tainted because five gallons of raw milk has a value of $80.00!  ( )

            I know that Kenny would gladly trade more milk for eggs, cookies, soup, etc., so I'm now looking into the possibility of making cheese.  I know nothing about this procedure, but it may provide a use for the abundance of Cow's milk and it would give me a chance to clean up old Kenny's milk house.  This project is still in the "thinking about" stage.  To be continued.

            It's crunch time for the garden.  I've taken down the fence that kept the chickens at bay.  They are welcome to all that remain on the tomato vines.  I picked all that were turning and those are ripening in the garden shed while sauce is simmering on the stove.  Beets are also cooking and I've processed the pumpkin and squash.  The freezer full of pureed orange stuff will be great for soups and pies this winter.  I'm eager to pull out all of the plants and ready the garden for winter, but instead I'll use the rest of this sunny afternoon to fill the wood box with dry kindling and to begin loading the log rack on the porch. 

            I love to be outside working.  Yes, there is a boatload of work on my desk that calls to me, but one just can't afford to ignore weather like this.  Manual labor is just as satisfying as mental efforts.  In my opinion, a balance of the two make for a very satisfying life.


2:25 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, October 5, 2011



            "Well hell yes it hurts!  And you know how cheap she is, so I probably won't get a prosthesis and it's hard to get around with just one wing," said the ravaged white hen.  Her gal pals listened anxiously, hoping she'd tell just where she'd been for four days and who had ripped off her wing.  Her story would be a best seller for sure and who knows, maybe even a made for telly kid flick. 

            She's safe now, but her former friendly demeanor is gone along with the wing.  When I reached up to pet her she pecked the heck out of my hand, but who could blame her.  I'd probably be testy too if someone had ripped off my arm.  Chickens are very resilient!  Aside from a grumpy attitude she has resumed her place in the flock as if nothing much had happened.


            Trailer Park Person's place isn't likely to make the pages of House Beautiful, but compared to just a few days ago, it's downright elegant.  All the windows are cleaned and secured with glass storm windows which I got from the local hardware dumpster or heavy plastic.  Matching draperies (formerly from my bedroom) were retrofitted and hung to complete the remodel.  My friend Diana was an invaluable helper and we were both pleased with our accomplishment, but really happy to be out of there.  What a hell hole!

            I did not leave TPP empty-handed.  Meet Peggy Sue.  TPP says someone dumped this kitten and that's probably the case.  The baby is no more than 7-8 weeks old and too cute for words.  In the past couple of years my daughter has trapped and vetted twelve cats from this trailer park.  There are three new feral adult cats that will have to be fixed, but Peggy has been saved from such a fate.  The following story about Jill's cat rescue group ran in our local newspaper over the weekend.  I'm very proud of her.


9:35 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



            Several days ago I bemoaned the mysterious disappearance of one of the white hens.  The orphan had vanished ‘without a trace.'  Now she is back leaving me ‘without a clue.'

            This morning I looked out the kitchen window to see what appeared to be white paint all over the road in front of the mailbox.  Clad in my robe and slippers I trudged out to investigate.  It was not paint, but thousands of white feathers-clearly the plumage of the missing hen.

            A path led from the road through the dense weeds and into the soybean field.  In the ditch was a clutch of more feathers and each side of the road for about fifty feet in either direction bore a white dusting.  It seemed the hen had met with disaster, but why was the evidence only showing up now?  She vanished four days ago and my searches had produced not a single feather-clue.  Dismayed I returned to the house where the breakfast club had congregated to await their morning oatmeal.  I was talking to T. on the phone, telling him what I'd just discovered as I was dispensing treats to the flock.  "...And I really was fond of those white hens," I was saying just as the third white chicken came around the corner.  I could not believe my eyes! 

            She's thin and her pretty plumage is smeared with blood.  She has a limp, but her most critical injury is the missing wing, evidently the result of the mailbox massacre.  Chickens are rather stupid creatures.  While I'm amazed at the resourcefulness of the hen who survived out on her own for several days, I'm repulsed at the reaction of her comrades.  Instead of a hearty ‘welcome home' greeting, she was met with vicious pecks.  Injuries that produce blood trigger cannibalism in poultry.  It's a disgusting behavior.

            The hen had to be cleaned up.  Still in my night clothes and slippers I hurried to the barn to get the landing net, an invaluable tool for poultry people.  By the time I returned the hen had taken refuge in the shoulder-high branches of the big blue spruce. She sat next to the trunk making it impossible for me to get near enough to grab her and rendering the landing net useless.  Even my near-perfect chicken chatter failed to sooth the traumatized hen.  People who keep poultry become bilingual without even trying.  She hopped down from the tree and joined one of her white sisters who urged the patient into the donkey stall, safely away from her feathered tormenters. 

            Twice last evening the dogs leapt to attention, upset and barking as if something or someone was at the door.  Although I saw nothing, the events of the morning suggest that this was probably when the predator was ripping my poor little hen's wing from her ragged body just on the other side of the gate.  I suspect a fox or coyote.

            She is now eating and drinking and has told me she is very happy to be home. An updated portrait will be taken tonight when she is safely roosting in the coop.  While few of my birds have names, I think this hen is deserving of a moniker.  Submit suggestions!  I don't have a clue.


10:06 am edt          Comments

Sunday, October 2, 2011



           I'm at a loss for words and for me that's unusual, but here is a synopsis of the events du jour.  My back has been killing me since digging Buddy's grave, but T. called and suggested that this might be a good time to see about weather-proofing Trailer Park Person's (TPP) place.  T. can fix anything.  He's a genius, so while I might have liked to loaf by the woodstove I could not ignore his generous offer.  He had no idea what to expect for all he had to go on was my inadequate description of the deteriorated trailer.  He loaded up his tools and we drove to the dismal "neighborhood."  Things were worse than I remembered from my previous visits there!

            T. did a remarkable job of screwing several plywood plates on the rotted doors that didn't even shut. Daylight beamed through places that were supposed to be solid.  He patched a huge hole in the floor and then jacked up the doors so they can be more or less secured.  Five of the windows are jalousies with no interior glass, so the louvers that don't close allow the frigid air to blast through the ratty rotten trailer.   

            Early this summer I recruited a lot of donations for TPP, but I couldn't help but notice the absence of all of the furnishings, dishes, linens, lamps and the whole truckload of goods intended to make life a bit more comfortable for this person.  When questioned about the vanished good the reply was, "Well, the cats kept jumping on the table, so I gave the things to someone who really needed them...."  I was speechless.  Not only were all of the above items gone, but so was the refrigerator!  There was no sign of food and the home-baked muffin I'd taken over was immediately consumed with gusto.

            TPP clearly has some serious mental issues and fears being evicted from the hell hole that serves as little more than the most basic shelter.  My barn animals have more comfortable accommodations.  Tomorrow I will return to staple plastic over the windows and to hang some heavy draperies that will help keep out the weather, but the situation is pretty hopeless.

            TPP's existence came to light when my daughter was called to help capture some feral cats. I wonder how many poor souls like this exist just under the radar.  I hope the monster landlord who exploits TPP and others in this ghetto meets his Karma soon! As I said, cats were the introduction to this place and not surprisingly I met Buddy's replacement there today.  The kitten was allegedly dumped.  It's no more than eight weeks old and of course it's darling, but when T. and I prepared to depart the kitten had vanished or it would be here right now.  It is somewhere in that trailer, so hopefully I will get it tomorrow.

            T. and I were discussing the pathetic plight of TPP and other such vulnerable victims of greed as we pulled into my driveway.  On the walkway sat a big, white, lidded bucket.  T. lifted the lid to reveal what sort of looked like beige paint, but also sort of looked like milk.  I touched a drop to my tongue (yes, I do stuff like this...) and confirmed that while we were being Good Samaritans I had been the lucky recipient of a giant bucket of milk from old Kenny.  I guess I've been forgiven for liberating the bull.... 

            What to do with more than five gallons of questionable milk!!!  I've bottled about half of it and put that in the fridge for the cats.  I'll deliver some to TPP tomorrow for the countless cats roaming that trailer park, but the rest is still on the patio.

            It's been quite a day and I'll be glad to wrap this one up. 


7:04 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, October 1, 2011



            Personally I am not the marrying type (although I was ‘Mrs.' a long, long time ago...), but now that winter is pushing in I can see some advantages to being half of a pair; you can blame someone else for procrastinating.  Darn.  I have no one to blame but myself for the wet firewood.  For weeks I've been trying to remember to buy a couple of tarps to cover the beautiful stack of nice cordwood.  Now it's raining and it's cold and it would be lovely to have a cozy fire in the woodstove, but....  Today I'm definitely heading to the hardware to get what I should have gotten weeks earlier.  But, back to reasons to be married....  That's the only one I've come up with so far, but I'll think about this.  Surely there are other  bonuses.  Right?

            The deluge of tomatoes is finally slowing down.  Those I'm currently picking aren't nearly as nice as earlier harvests, but they aren't bad, so weekly sauce production continues.  I've found a simple short cut and the result is very good. 'Wish I'd thought of this months ago.

            Blanch the thoroughly ripened tomatoes (allow to deepen in color on the windowsill) for about 30 seconds, then peel and core and cut into big wedges.  Toss them into a kettle along with coarse salt, garlic cloves, full leaves of basil and parsley and allow the concoction to simmer over low heat for a few hours.  Stir occasionally, taste and adjust spices before putting the entire contents of the kettle into the blender.  Hit puree.  It couldn't be easier.  No need to chop and dice because the finished product is smooth and thick and delicious.

I will use the latest batch of sauce for eggplant parmesan. 


10:10 am edt          Comments

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