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

WHEN GOOD GIRLS TURN BAD.

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            From her first day here cross-eyed little Julie aimed to please.  ‘Such a good girl!  I couldn't have asked for more.  So what made this perfect pup turn bad almost overnight?  In just the past few days she has become a doggie delinquent.

            It all started out quite subtly; vanishing like smoke when sent out to pee, then returning with pieces parts of dead rabbits or sometimes not coming when called, but she always exhibited the appropriate remorse at the slightest reprimand, so I didn't give it much thought. Now my good girl has turned bad.

            I couldn't imagine how the white toss pillows on the sofa got those big dirty spots, but it never crossed my mind that Julie might be responsible.  But last night I came downstairs to toss a few more logs into the woodstove and found her blissfully snoring on the living room sofa.  Mystery solved!  While some people think a dog on the furniture is an okay thing, I'm not one of them.  I don't sleep on their comfy dog beds and I don't expect any of them to sleep on my furniture.  Those are the rules.  Julie was reminded of this around 2:00 a.m. and reluctantly moved to her doggie bed. 

            Upon returning from yoga today I found the upstairs littered with shredded papers from my office trash bin and a bumper sticker that had been affixed to the guitar case partially ripped off.  While I was "breathing" at yoga a rowdy party was underway at home.

            "What happened up here?" Her hasty retreat with tail tucked between her legs spoke volumes.  Later in the day a visitor arrived. Without hesitation Julie hopped up on the chair as if to push my guest out of the way, obviously forgetting that furniture is for people, not dogs.  But then maybe she thought I just meant the sofa....  Since she had just come in from rolling in something stinky her antics were not appreciated by my guest.

            She's also taken to chasing chickens. She has no intention of hurting them.  She just likes to see how fast they can run or fly.  Julie is becoming a rebel without a cause!  She just ‘celebrated' her second birthday, so maybe it's just the terrible two's?  In spite of getting on the forbidden furniture, terrorizing the hens, scavenging body parts of small animals, stinking up the house and shredding the contents of the rubbish bin, I remain besotted by this funny-looking little dog's utter joy at being alive.  How could I be angry?

6:49 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

...AND NO PLAYING!

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            "Absolutely no running or playing for TWO weeks," said Ted's post-surgical orders.  Tell that to a Lab, even one that's just a half breed.  That plastic baggie on his foot didn't deter Frisbee games or any other activities. 

            Ernie told him he'd better be careful.  "You know what the doctor said...," but Ted said, "Surgery?  What surgery?"  The bag came off yesterday as per the vet's instructions and the foot looks good. His eye is still a bit watery, but the surgical site has healed well.

            A lot of dogs (and some people too) would have used this as an opportunity to get lots of attention and pity, but not Ted.  I think his ancestry puts ‘fun' at the top of his priority list. Dogs know how to live.  Too bad so many people don't.

 

9:10 pm est          Comments

Monday, November 28, 2011

ANYONE UP FOR A GAME OF HOOPS?

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            It's raining now, but the bad asses had a rip-roaring good time before the weather turned ugly.  Donkeys need work, and in its absence they need play.  Since this pair does not perform any useful task other than providing endless raw materials for garden fertilizer they spend a lot of time playing. 

            I'm repeatedly asked why I have these guys and the answer is always the same; they make me smile.

 

4:48 pm est          Comments

Sunday, November 27, 2011

REGRETS.

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I regret not learning proper German from my mother when she was alive.  As an adult I'm fascinated with the culture.  I love listening to the language, but my attempts to learn it have had rather pathetic results.  I suppose it would be possible to politely greet and thank hosts, stave off starvation and thirst and in a pinch, utter a few other mispronounced words. 

But as a child reciting a German bedtime prayer was mandatory, although my mother never bothered to tell me what I was saying, nor to correct my pronunciation, hence I learned to spew out in record time what sounded like:

Meeda bendix, gates arew, shleezy mine dee eye glanz soo.

Hikey uric, hikey ton,

Seedus leeber gut mik ton.

Fodder lost the owgen dine,

Oopper mine is bet iz sine...

Mercifully I've forgotten my mutilated closing, but was recently delighted to find the actual prayer and translation:

Muede bin ich, geh' zur Ruh,
Schliesse beide Aeuglein zu:
Vater, lass die Augen Dein
Ueber meinem Bette sein!

Hab' ich unrecht heut gethan,
Sieh es, lieber Gott, nicht an!
Deine Gnad' und Jesu Blut
Macht ja allen Schaden gut.

Alle, die mir sind verwandt,
Gott, lass ruhn in Deiner Hand:
Alle Menschen, gross und klein,
Sollen Dir befohlen sein.

Kranken Herzen sende Ruh,
Nasse Augen schliesse zu;
Lass den Mond am Himmel stehn
Und die stille Welt besehn.


English translation:


When I'm tired, it's time for bed,
I will close my eyes to rest.
Father, your own eyes will be
Watching my bed and keeping me.

Loving God, look not upon
Where today I have been wrong;
By your mercy and Jesus' blood
Turn my failings into good.

Everything that troubles me
I give to you and let it be,
Everything, both great and small.
You alone are Lord of all.

To my troubled heart send rest,
I close my eyes for I am blest,
Let the moon in the heavens rise,
And all the world be still besides.  Amen.

(Bold because I like this verse.)

This one was said before meals, by my mother in German on rare occasions, by me in English every single day.

My mother's German version:

Komm Herr Jesus! Sei unser Gast,

und segne, was du uns bescheret hast! Amen.

My English version:

Come Lord Jesus! Be our Guest,

And let this food, to us be blessed! Amen.

 

11:53 am est          Comments

Saturday, November 26, 2011

SATURDAY.

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            The days are so short it's nearly dark by 5:00 P.M., but thanks to unseasonably warm weather this was a wonderfully productive day.  Over the years the brick walkway had developed some definite dips; something I've been meaning to address for years.  The entire walk needed to be reset, but yesterday I actually went to the gravel pit and got the base material.  I unloaded all 700 pounds of it into several wheelbarrows, so I would be forced to confront that project as wheelbarrows are critical tools here.  As you can see from the photo, all I really did was remove the bricks and get the gravel.  T. did the rest. In all honesty, had I laid the bricks the path probably would have been worse than it already was.  T. did a nice job and now it's level. It will be wonderful not to have to swim through the lakes that used to form after a rain or ice skate this winter to reach the back door.

 

5:05 pm est          Comments

Friday, November 25, 2011

AND HELP WAS DELIVERED IN THE BACK OF A TOYOTA.

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            Thoughts of the two dogs tethered with no shelter and no obvious signs of food or water haunted me throughout the night as my own dogs snored peacefully on their dog beds, safe and secure in my bedroom as outside the winds blew cold.  Sleep was elusive as I pictured them helplessly huddled and shivering in the frigid air. I knew I had to do something, so on Thanksgiving day I returned to the house and boldly knocked on the front door.

            The entire neighborhood was enveloped in delicious smells of the holiday and when the door opened I was met by a sizable entourage of puzzled dinner guests.  It was pretty obvious that I was not on the guest list.

            "I couldn't help but notice that your dogs don't have houses, so I'd like to donate a couple," I said with what I hoped would be received as non-judgmental benevolence, but inside I was seething.  Not only were there two dogs chained in the back, but a third dog next to the side door and a pit bull puppy was part of the ruckus inside the house.  The happy diners seemed oblivious to the most basic needs of the tethered outside canines.

            "Okay, sure," they said, so I said I'd drop the houses off "tomorrow."  The next step was to actually come up with two houses.  A wonderful friend whom I can always count on offered one ready-made dog house and Super Sue had given me a huge heavy wooden box that she just knew there would be a use for somedaySomeday had arrived.  T. cut a dog door in the box and roofed it.  I slapped on a coat of historically-correct taupe paint. 

            This morning the two, straw-stuffed houses were loaded into the back of the truck and I stuffed my jacket pockets with dog biscuits.  Another good friend who has accompanied me on other questionable forays graciously consented to help with the delivery as there was no way I could handle the doggie condos alone. 

            Back in the neighborhood that bore no resemblance to my small country life we pulled up to the house and dropped the tailgate.  The dog chained by the side door of the house announced our arrival and let us know in no uncertain terms that we were not welcome, so we decided to take the far route to the unfortunate victims in the rear.  That's when another kind soul appeared on the scene and offered to help. 

            Does anyone remember the Little Rascals?  This was Buckwheat all grown up.  The poor fellow was missing most of his upper front teeth.  His hair was like nothing I'd ever seen and his clothes were ragged and over-sized, but I was ever so grateful for his offer.  He and I toted the unwieldy box/house around to the back where we were ‘met' by an enraged Kujo straining at the end of a tow chain, teeth barred and with murder in his eyes. He was not interested in the peanut butter dog cookies my friend tossed his way as a diversion tactic.

            How could such a skinny dog (make that a huge skinny dog) exert such power and fury I wondered.  Buckwheat knew the dog and shouted its theatrical name (which was something like Shawnawa, not Kujo which was really far more appropriate...), but after the merest flicker of acknowledgement, Kujo resumed his forthright attempt to kill us.  It was impossible to get the house within the dogs reach.

            The smaller dog tethered at the rear was a young pit bull type.  It cowered and seemed as nervous and frightened as I was, but it offered no threat as we placed the second house.  Then the owner appeared.  I explained my fear of Kujo and suggested that perhaps he could move the mansion within the dogs reach and he assured me he would.  In his arms he held the fourth dog, a pit puppy.  I gave Buckwheat a dollar for his help and bade my new ‘friends' a cheery farewell,  happier than I can express to be finished with this Good Samaritan venture.

            It's a small comfort to know that the two dogs now have shelter, but my anger at the indifference of the owner has not subsided at all.  I'm sure those dogs were just the tip of an ugly iceberg, but I tell myself that every little bit helps and I know this is true.

 

7:17 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MASS MEDIA BREEDS MASS DECEPTION.

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            Thanksgiving.  Soup, salad, fresh bread, Virginia's delicious cranberry relish and Sue's delicious pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.  That's the menu here for tomorrow. T. and I will be quite satiated.  Well, I will be anyway..., so unless he gets a better invitation he'll just have to make do with my simple offering.

            There were plenty of years when I prepared feasts for family and friends just like the Thanksgivings featured on telly commercials and admittedly I enjoyed all the hoopla, but that was then.  Like everything else in my life these days I believe less is more, and that includes holiday meals.

           Media presentations of holidays as physically beautiful, harmonious familial love-fests make me giggle.  The lighting in the tastefully appointed homes is always soft.  (You'll never see that gigantic pleather furniture illuminated by a blaring 52" telly.)  A smartly-dressed, trim Mom is always smiling as if shopping and cooking and cleaning for days in preparation for the big event was just so much fun that she can't wait to do it all again. (They should really show her swearing and drinking.) Dad and the kids are always well-groomed, ever so helpful and reasonably attractive (Ha!)  The door bell chimes to alert the family that more people just like themselves have come to share the bounty. The cheery handsome guests enter and present the hostess withkisses and a bottle of good wine. (I suspect it's more likely to be loud, chubby friends with six packs of Bud Lite). 

            My sarcasm is based on recent observations at the grocery store and eavesdropping on conversations of folks who don't resemble those on the Butterball commercials, or the Hallmark movie of the week either.  Wouldn't it be fun if there were truth in advertising? 

 

5:26 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

YIKES, WHAT A DAY!

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              Ted was suspicious when he found his water bowl gone from its regular spot and his food bowl empty this morning.  And why was I all dressed by 6:30?  Animals like routine and our normal one was disrupted.

              "Come on.  We're going to the vet," I announced in as cheery a voice as anyone could muster at 7:15 A.M.  Julie and Ernie looked worried.  Why weren't they going in the truck too?  Were they remembering when Nettie went in the truck one early morning a couple of years ago and returned in a black plastic body bag?  Their doggie eyebrows knitted in concern.

            At the vet Ted and I were coldly greeted (?) by Morticia, a most sullen young woman who somehow found herself in the highly-unsuitable position of receptionist.  What an unpleasant young shrew!  After I signed the necessary paperwork Ted was led away to the recesses of the clinic and I drove home in a slightly-worried trance. The truck cut through a cold dense fog.

            After attempting to reassure Julie and Ernie that all was well I made a call to arrange pickup of a mini-fridge I'd found for Trailer Park Person.  You may recall that a refrigerator was one of many things lacking at that dismal abode.  I collected the fridge purchased from Craigslist (another worry...) and pushed on to my next stop.

            "No, no, don't turn around.  Sit down.  SIT DOWN," came the nurse's firm loud order.  Through a crack in the door leading to the bathroom I saw my old (96 year old) friend Dorothy trying to get herself situated in a wheelchair following her morning ablutions.  Yesterday was her birthday and she was delighted by the visit and loved the bag full of silly gifts I'd brought. 

            She'd had her hair colored to commemorate the big day that apparently no one else remembered.  It was the color of mercurochrome, somewhere between orange and pink.  I told her she looked lovely.  We visited and laughed about the days when she danced and sang in local theater and threw lavish parties at the once-beautiful home she will never see again now that she's imprisoned in the nursing home. 

            I dread visiting that place although it's one of the best around.  Even so, nothing really covers the smell of lonely old people waiting to die.  Going there makes me sad, but hearing Dorothy laugh always makes it worth the effort.

            Next stop, the trailer park.  The mini-fridge was received with delight.  Another visit I was eager to end, but glad to have made.  TPP forced an embroidered fire screen upon me, having decided it really wasn't suitable for stripped out trailer décor after all.  I tried to gracefully decline, but in a flash TPP loaded it in the bed of the truck.  Since I wasn't far from Funky's (my favorite thrift store) I decided to donate it there.  As I deposited the screen at the desk a customer said it was just what she wanted and the screen moved out the door and on to its next home. 

            The fog hadn't lifted and the cold rain was pelting the truck.  I just wanted to get home, but as I drove away from the store something made me glance to the right.  There, in the middle of a grassless, treeless, shelterless field stood two tethered dogs helplessly shivering in the icy rain.  I circled the block and got the address of the house, furious that anyone could be so lazy, callous or indifferent to inflict such cruelty upon an Airedale and a small terrier-like dog. 

            Attempts to find a phone number for the occupant of the house were futile.  I plan to acquire two dog houses and donate them to the cretin who is too stupid to provide this most basic need.  Then I called the local "humane society" and reported the situation, noting that I am willing to donate shelter for these two dogs that are most likely still freezing as I type this blog.  "

            Humane Society" is certainly a misnomer for the agency notorious for doing nothing to help animals, although public records reveal it has several million dollars and an overly-compensated, effete director.  I shall indeed follow up on this report, but I know from decades of past experience that it is very unlikely the animals' suffering will be addressed unless I do it myself.  It's a dicey situation as the neighborhood isn't inviting, to say the least....

            Home at last, hungry and cold.  Phone messages, emails and snail mail were waiting, but then came yet another call. It was from an old neighbor announcing she was coming by.  "I have something for you...."  I knew it would be her fabulous cranberry sauce.  She knows I adore it.

            Virginia is a firebrand who has been feuding with her next door neighbors for the past seven years.  "...And you should see the stuff they send me in the mail!" announced the octogenarian.  "Foldouts of naked men with their you-know-whats up to here!" she said with supreme indignation.  "They send me pornography!"  What could I say?  I laughed and suggested she place it in an envelope along with a note stating that it must have been delivered to her mailbox by mistake.  It was a pleasant visit, but the time had come to return to the vet.

            Again I was greeted (?) by Morticia whose demeanor had not improved.  At last Ted was led into the exam room. His left eye was red and puffy and he was wearing a plastic bag on his rear foot.  After receiving his post-surgery orders, paying his ransom and finally heaving his 115 pound bulk  into the front seat of the truck we drove home through fog that seemed hardly-diminished since our early morning drive.

            He's happy to be home.  His dog and cat pals are relieved that he's okay and I am happy this long day is over.  I got no writing done, but hey, tomorrow's another day, right?

 

9:25 pm est          Comments

Monday, November 21, 2011

TOO MUCH TO DO, TOO LITTLE TIME!

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Tomorrow Ted will go under the knife.  While that may sound dramatic, it's really only to remove some cysts, one of which is on his eyelid.  Since Ted is such a special boy the surgery will be performed by Dr. Costsalot$$$  No problems are anticipated and a full recovery is expected, but I worry anyway.  Tom the cat has a sore foot and next week Tiny and Peggy will see their special doctor for booster shots.  'No frillilous expenditures at this household. I must continue contributing to my veterinarians' retirement funds.

 

9:32 pm est          Comments

Saturday, November 19, 2011

WHAT ARE YOUR SHOES SAYING ABOUT YOU?

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             "Eww, what's that smell?"  I wrinkled my nose in agreement with the commentator as we both looked around the store expecting to find something nasty hiding in a corner, but no.  Nothing. We parted company.  She headed for the cheese while I set off for the bananas, but when I hopped in my truck the source of the stink was all too apparent.  It was coming from my beloved black sneakers and I was nowhere near home, nor finished with the errands of the day. 

            I checked the soles, but they were clean.  Nevertheless I kicked at the next available grass hoping to neutralize the smell, but to no avail. It crept up from the truck floor like noxious gas.  How embarrassing! If I'd had two cow paddies on my feet it wouldn't have smelled much worse.

            Back home I couldn't get the odiferous footwear off fast enough. Did I really think I could wear the comfy shoes to muck out a stall, work in the garden and then go to the grocery store?  The soles may have been clean and the black top side looked harmless enough, but smells can be invisible-and so this one was. 

            They're soaking in a bucket of detergent as I type and it looks like I'm going to have to wear something else from my Imelda Marcos collection until the black sneakers are restored to a condition suitable for public appearances.          

 

6:18 pm est          Comments

Thursday, November 17, 2011

TURKEY DAY--OR NOT...

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            While a lot of people are busy planning their ‘eat till you bust' dinner, AKA Thanksgiving, around 250 million turkeys are about to meet or have already met their executioners.  ‘A dismal thought for vegetarians like me, but considering that the alternative for these genetically engineered birds with breasts bigger than nature ever intended would be tooling around on motorized scooters because their legs can't support their misshapen bodies, I guess having their teeny heads lopped off is more humane.  Thanksgiving dinner is a nice tradition if one thinks of it as just that; a meal of thanks with friends and family.  In my opinion a big dead creature in the center of the table is simply not necessary. 

            I can't forget one particular past Thanksgiving gala which I prepared sans gobbler. It featured instead the late Linda McCartney's Brazil nut faux turkey roast.  The house was abuzz with people, all anxious to feast on the traditional fixings, bar that one item that comes with drumsticks and wings. Brazil nuts are not inexpensive and Linda's recipe called for a boatload of them$$$  In retrospect it would have been cheaper for the holiday party to go to a good restaurant! 

            The late Mrs. McCartney was also a vegan, so the recipe called for no eggs, the usual ingredient binder.  I followed her directions to the letter and then with great difficulty shaped the dry,crumbly mass into something that I hoped resembled a token bird.  When at last it was pulled from the oven, transferred to a serving platter and given center stage on the dining table my guests' faces clouded with doubt although they smiled unconvincingly and politely loaded a heap of the ‘turkey' onto their plates. 

            Since only wishful thinking held the Brazil nuts and other sorry components together, slicing was not an option. The globs on their plates looked like a combination of dog kibble and laying mash. An equally-unconvincing vegan gravy was passed around and each guest ladled generous dollops onto the gray mush. Of course there were potatoes, cranberries and all the other tasty traditional accoutrements, but if I had served sawdust rather than Brazil nuts the main dish could not have been any worse.  Suffice it to say, Linda McCartney's ‘turkey' was a costly disaster that those guests have never let me forget. It was never made again.

*          Last night Booger enjoyed a PBS documentary about a Florida man who incubated and raised sixteen wild turkeys.  The cat sat glued to the telly for the entire hour.

 

3:53 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

YOU SEE FLAWS. I SEE CHARACTER.

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            Few things enliven a household more than a baby animal and Peggy Sue is living proof.  She found the transition from dismal trailer park to home in the country not the least bit challenging or difficult.  Unlike Tiny who immediately appointed herself peace ambassador, demanding an immediate end to any existing conflicts or disputes among her fellow four-legged sisters and brothers, Peggy quietly, but solidly established her place within the hierarchy.  Now she is in like Flynn and not surprisingly, Tiny is her favorite ‘sibling.'  They race through the house, slide across the wood floors and wrestle on the furniture. 

            When she finally exhausts the interest and energy of Tiny or the other animals Peggy sets about entertaining herself.  I shot this photo as she was inspecting books on the lowest shelf in the dining room.  She was considering the pre-frayed covers on a formerly-pristine collection of classics that had been shredded by Ernie during his destructive youth.

            Just about everything in this house bears the mark of animals past and present.  Some of the spindles on the Windsor dining chairs have pin-like perforations compliments of Pudgy, a long-gone cat who used them as teething aids just after I'd purchased the expensive seating.  The corner of one stair step is chewed off thanks to the late (and still very-missed) Nettie.  I won't even mention the corner of the corduroy sofa in my bedroom that quickly became a ‘scratching post' for most of the cats here (and exemplifies why all the other furniture is either wood or leather...).  The back door which is original to this 1821 house is deeply grooved, clawed by some early occupant's dog/s.  I think it just adds character and I've never even considered sanding the wood smooth.  Vintage mouse holes accentuate doors, wooden walls and floors; still more character....  It's part of living in an old farm house.

            A lot of people might go berserk, but I don't care about any of these flaws.  So, should Peggy decide to ‘modify' the books that are already ruined thanks to Ernie it won't send me into a frenzy.  It's a small price to pay for the pleasure, loyalty, entertainment and companionship all my critters provide.  I love them more than I love perfection.

 

3:37 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SNOW ON THURSDAY!

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            As the thermometer plummets and the skies darken it's hard to remember the warmth and color of just a few weeks ago when flowers were still putting forth blooms.  But, to enjoy that same beauty next year there are bulbs and tubers that must be dug up and stored in the root cellar through the winter.  With the exception of a few more dahlias I'm in good shape, but many more canna lilies than I could possibly use remain.

            Rather than let these beauties freeze and rot in the ground I placed a ‘free' ad on Craigslist and the response in one day has been amazing.  For all practical purposes I had to state that the freebees are offered on a first come, first served basis .  One hardy soul arrived after dark and took many and more eager beavers are arriving tomorrow, so I'm delighted that they won't go to waste.  Their red glory will brighten other gardens next year.  Sharing is good.

           When I pulled out of T.'s driveway last night my headlights caught the eyes of three coyotes on the prowl in the field across the road from his place.  Always neat to see wildlife, especially such elusive wildlife in its natural habitat. While I may relish such sightings, Lonely Boy looks worried.  He's still in need of a new home, just in case anyone has a spot for one pretty rooster (and I don't mean in their oven).

10:26 pm est          Comments

Monday, November 14, 2011

NOT QUITE A MENSA CANDIDATE.

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            When Ernie was a babyI thought he was ever so smart and frequently referred to him as my Mensa puppy.  But, with each passing year Ernie's chances of getting into that elite society withered.  He has since turned into a nervous Nellie as demonstrated when we set off for our walk.

            Ernie looked at me with his anxious brown eyes and said, "I really don't think it's a good idea to go into the woods with these high winds," but he reluctantly trudged up the road, casting doubtful looks over his shoulder the entire way.  Admittedly the winds were worrisome, but Julie and Ted didn't seem too concerned so as we pushed deep into Ranger Rick's woodland it was obvious that I should have heeded Ernie's warning. 

            The trees were creaking and bending in ways big maples and oaks really should not bend.  Worse still were the recent windfalls that littered our trail.  By the time we reached the half-way point at the corner of Kenny's field it seemed prudent to get the heck out of there as fast as possible.  This presented a new worry for Ernie; a change in our normal route.  In order to avoid re-entering the woods we had to cross a small creek and struggle through sections of dense riparian brambles.  Ern did not like this at all.  By the time we were on the opposite side and in the middle of a cleared bean field he was ready for an Adavan or a stiff drink.

            The winds intensified and as we pushed southward the blustery blasts were so strong it made Ernie squint.  By the time we reached home the look on his face spoke volumes, but the general message was, "Don't you wish you'd listened to me?" 

            Maybe Ernie is smarter than I thought.  He was right.  A walk in the woods during a wind storm is not a good idea.

 

6:07 pm est          Comments

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MEMORIES OF THINGS SLITHERY.

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I've just finished an article about keeping snakes as pets and it reminded me of one of the earliest adventures on this farm.  It's as clear as if it were yesterday.

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If it had been daylight and if I'd been wearing my glasses I probably would have seen the snake on the bathroom tiles.  However, it was the middle of the night when I stumbled blindly into the night-lighted room and sat down on the commode.  Only then did I notice a dark blur on the white floor in front of me.  Leaning forward I saw that what looked like a forgotten sock was moving. Springing from the toilet like a jack in the box I hit the light switch just in time to see the serpent disappear under the cellar door which is incongruously located in the bathroom. 

It's not that I'm afraid of snakes. Quite the contrary, they fascinate me and I'm happy to share this place with them, but it would be a lie to say that I don't prefer visiting them outside in the daylight rather than a midnight rendezvous.  The nocturnal visitor really shouldn't have been a surprise since it's just a short trip up from the stone walls of the cellar into the rest of the house and I was aware that there were snakes down there.  Snakes had been the first wildlife to welcome me to my new home. 

The cellar is a gloomy place.  The floor is dirt except where the furnace and the water heater sit.  When I bought the place the only light came from two badly-deteriorated windows down there.  It was springtime. I'd removed the rotted casings and had new ones made to fit the openings.  My daughter and I were in the process of installing the one in the darkest recess behind the furnace and the job was moving along without a hitch.

Suddenly she let out a shriek, dropped her hammer and headed for the stairs with me in hot pursuit echoing her cries although at that point I didn't know why we were screaming and running.  "Didn't you see the size of that snake," she wheezed from the safety of the bathroom. 

Cowardly I crept behind my former mate C., back down the rotting stairs where we found a very large snake retreating into a gap in the stone wall, its head concealed in the rocks.  "No, I will not pull it out," said C. emphatically when I suggested that maneuver.  The markings on the creature were oddly similar to a diamond back rattler, but of course that couldn't be.  There are no diamond back rattlers in northeastern Ohio, right? We all decided we'd done quite enough cellar work for the day and headed to the relative safety of our city homes.

 The next morning we discovered our visitor had returned and had brought along a friend. Both were comfortably curled atop the water heater.  A field guide consultation confirmed they were milk snakes; beneficial constrictors that eat rodents.  Had we only known that at the time we would have left them and thanked them for their extermination service.  Instead we laid out the welcome mat for some other dubious guests. 

With obvious trepidation C. grabbed the first snake behind the head as he'd seen done on nature programs. Supporting the rest of the big body with his other hand he dropped each writhing reptile into the pillowcase I held with shaking hands.  We tied the top of the wriggling bag shut and loaded it into the truck.  Those were the first of five big snakes we relocated to the abandoned log house at the end of the road.

Since we weren't living at the farm, just working there evenings and weekends, there was plenty going on while we were away.  No sooner had we moved the snakes out when rats the size of small cats moved into the usually-empty house.  We knew the barn was full of them, but since it sat a ways from the house we ignored them.  There was no electricity at the barn and the times I went out in search of some odd piece of wood I was greeted by the "livestock."  I was unwittingly a rat farmer.  Sure I knew what needed to be done, but it didn't seem urgent at the time.  In retrospect it became obvious that the snakes had kept a similar rat colony from invading the house.

As autumn turned to winter an army of field rats moved into the cellar.  Entry was easy through gaps between the big stones, but the rats soon figured things were nicer upstairs.  Arriving for a few hours of labor it wasn't unusual to be met by a scurrying shadow or a pair of beady eyes in a cupboard.  It was a bit like walking into an Alfred Hitchcock film.  Being of the live and let live philosophy, it was with much reluctance that I bought nasty, spring-loaded traps and lethal Blue Death pellets.  The army of rats began to drop like soldiers at Antietam, but it didn't feel like a victory.  I was sick with guilt.  My dream house had become a grisly nightmare. 

PS:  The snake and rat population is now under control.  They all live outside where nature intended.

 

2:35 pm est          Comments

Saturday, November 12, 2011

RECOVERED!

 

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            Thank goodness!  It really would have been a shame to waste such a beautiful day.

            Each year I purchase fruit trees from Big Lots.  While the trees are always very robust and healthy, they have yet to be true to the identification tags.  Hence I have two pear trees that I (foolishly) expected to be Bartlett pears as per the tags, neither of which was.  Both trees produce abundant crops, one early and one late.  The latter pears are the size of shoes!  Pears on steroids!  They are quite big, quite hard, but tasty and juicy.  This years crop was even bigger than previous years.  The donkeys eat them, the chickens eat them, my neighbors and I eat them and still there is a muck bucket full of these mystery pears stored at the barn, so what to do with this bumper crop?  I made a pear crisp to take to a party tonight.  While this photo does not do it justice, trust me when I say it is delicious and easy to make.  Here's the recipe.

6 pears (unpeeled), but cored and sliced in 1/2" thickness

1 TBSP. fresh lemon juice

1/3 c. sugar

1 TBSP. corn starch

1 tsp. cinnamon

Toss all of the above to mix thoroughly.  Top with the following.  Mix this to a crumbly texture before topping the pears.

1/3 c. flour

½ c. packed brown sugar

½ tsp. salt

3 TBSP. butter (work this in with a pastry cutter)

1/3 c. oats

¼ c. chopped walnuts

1 tsp. cinnamon

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

 

5:36 pm est          Comments

Friday, November 11, 2011

A LEAF TREADER

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I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn-tired,

God knows all the color and form of leaves I have trodden on and mired.

Perhaps I have put forth too much strength and been too fierce from fear,

I have safely trodden underfoot the leaves of another year.

That first verse of Robert Frost's poem perfectly describes yesterday in the woods.  It was lovely, but by mid-afternoon I was not feeling well at all and have been more horizontal than vertical ever since.  I'm hoping that what I have diagnosed as allergies will be short-lived and that tomorrow I will be back to normal.  Being ill is no fun at all.

 

5:03 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

THE HARVESTERS.

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            Each day from early morning until late at night combines the size (and probably about the same cost) of small houses rumble up the road and into the fields where they strip them clean of the beans and corn now ready for harvest.  As efficient as these behemoths are they still leave behind plenty of feed for the wildlife much to our local coyotes' delight.

            As hapless rodents glean the fields, so do the coyotes.  They're in an absolute feeding frenzy, often singing their gratitude as early as 8 P.M.  This causes great anxiety amongst the dogs.  Ernie especially is reluctant to venture out in the darkness when his distant relatives are so nearby.  He doesn't believe me when I tell him that a forty pound coyote has no interest in taking on his hundred and fifteen pound bulk.  But then again, size doesn't always matter.

            For the past several days I've been watching a hairy woodpecker follow and torment one of the white hens.  The poor chicken has done nothing to provoke the angry woodpecker, but it seems to have a vendetta against this one particular hen.  She seems confused and always be on guard against the bird's swoops and noisy reprimands. 

          Hmm, maybe Ernie's nervous concern is justified after all....

 

12:35 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

EXCITEMENT DU JOUR.

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            Rural life is usually pretty quiet.  That's why some of us prefer it to urban scenes which rarely lack  excitement.  Rural excitement is sporadic and usually announced by wailing sirens.  And so it was today.  This golden tranquil afternoon was rudely disrupted by the screaming alarms from fire trucks, police and maybe even an ambulance.  Judging from the cessation of the noise, the scene of the incident was quite near.  My truck was at the repair shop, so I could only guess that another accident had occurred at a notoriously dangerous intersection.

            A short time later neighbor Sandy arrived to give me a lift to the repair shop to collect my truck. At the stop sign two of our township policemen swung around the corner, obviously returning from whatever had happened.  Having chased enough sirens over the years Sandy and I didn't have to discuss whether or not to go investigate.  She turned east instead of west, not the direction of the auto shop.  The next road cuts through vast crop fields and that's where we saw a great cloud of dust rising from the gravel.  About a mile further we spotted the fire trucks.  It seemed odd since there aren't any buildings nearby, but more than just structures can catch fire.

            The blackened baler sat in the middle of the picked cornfield.  Apparently something had jammed as J. was round baling corn stalks for his cattle.  It looked as if most of our volunteer fire department was on the scene, but it sure didn't look as if the remaining stalks were going to get baled anytime soon.

            Big excitement for the first responders, a minor diversion for Sandy and me, but a major headache for J.  Thankfully no one was hurt. 

 

7:38 pm est          Comments

Monday, November 7, 2011

BAD ASS BUDDIES.

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          When the two bad asses see something they find interesting they strike a distinctive pose characterized by a look of sheer boredom.  And so it was early this morning as I headed toward the barn.  They stood shoulder to shoulder about ten feet from the barn, eyes glued to the fence on the north side.

            "Ho hum, would you look at that...," says Andy.  "Yeh, do you think we should go and say ‘hi'?" answers Corky.  "Eh, no, let's just stand here and stare and maybe they'll come closer."

            I've seen this behavior and heard that conversation before; once when a fox was trying to gain entry to the chicken pen, another time when a hawk was swooping down in an attempted abduction.  About the only thing that ever provokes action from this team is a strange dog in their paddock.  They do enjoy giving chase to non-resident canines that might haplessly stumble into their territory.  This morning's ‘intruders' were three deer standing nervously looking at the two longears from the opposite side of the fence.  Only when the dogs and I opened the gate did the trio bound away.  The useless bad boys looked at me, then at one another, turned and shuffled into the barn for breakfast.I was thrilled.  Wildlife sightings are always special, regardless of how familiar the species. 

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

          Yesterday in Ranger Rick's woods the Great Horned Owl that I've occasionally seen silently sweeping through the trees graciously hesitated long enough and near enough for my friend and me to really get a good look at this beautiful bird of prey.  ‘Wish I'd had the camera.

            You know that feeling that you've written or said something that you knew at the time wasn't correct, but you were too lazy to do anything about it?  Well that was me last night. I was tired when I pecked out the blog post.  Thanks to my buddy Mike in Canada for pointing out that "shown" should have been "shone."  I knew something wasn't right!

7:00 pm est          Comments

Sunday, November 6, 2011

FRIENDSHIP.

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            My houseguests, both two-legged and four-legged just left.  The place seems empty and far too quiet now.  The dogs all had a great time as did my friend and I, but the visit was over too soon.  How many people are so fortunate to have relationships like our's that span half of our lives?  What a sobering realization, but such friendships are comforting and cherished. 

            My friend and her two dogs slept in the small guest room.  Three of the walls and the ceiling in that room are wood and there's a small crown molding.  The attic which has no electricity extends above that and my own bedroom, so the small bright square of light that shown on the crown molding is a mystery yet to be solved.  All upstairs and downstairs lamps were turned off.  There are no ‘security' lights outside, nor were there any porch lights turned on.  Only a dim half moon shown in the cloudy night sky.  There was no logical explanation for the postage stamp-sized illumination. 

          This mystery is the first event since I bought this place in 1987 that could even remotely be considered paranormal.  Could it have been some friendship-related omen?

 

5:54 pm est          Comments

Thursday, November 3, 2011

WHAT???

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            I haven't seen forty-five in a while, but with the arrival of each birthday women, and probably men too become a little more sensitive about their appearance.  I know that every August I willingly spend a few dollars more on moisturizer that promises outrageous results so people will think I'm ten years younger.  But then the big day passes and life returns to normal.  Most of us just accept the fact that we are never going to look thirty ever again (or even forty-five...) regardless of how much costly cream we slather on our faces.

            So when the mail came with an envelope addressed in what appeared to be a personal script I tore it open and was surprised to see it was from a cosmetic surgeon!!!  The letter of introduction included a credit-type card for $500.00 on any "procedure" this doctor performs!!! $500.00 off!!!  How much do his "procedures" cost anyway?  I was/am stunned  The letter says the credit is transferable to anyone I choose, so if one of you blog readers feels that your super duper moisturizer just isn't doing the trick, let me know and I'll send you this $500.00-off card since I won't be using it myself.

 

4:34 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A TREASURE TROVE!

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            There's nothing quite like an impending houseguest to provoke awareness of the mess in which I live and my guest is arriving tomorrow.  How could it be that I hadn't  noticed the cobwebs draped from the dining room beams? It looks as if this place is decorated for Halloween!  And what about all those dog nose smudges on the windows?  There are so many leaves on the wood floors that it looks as if I have deciduous trees inside rather than house plants.  It's all quite hopeless.  I'll never get this place in order by tomorrow, but fortunately my friend is very forgiving and besides, she is bringing her two dogs along, so all this cleaning may be for naught.  Things were moving along fairly well until I dumped a jar of salsa down the toilet.

            I don't buy salsa.  I don't like salsa, but it seems to appear inthe refrigerator in multiple versions. I blame the critter sitter.  She likes the stuff, but forgets to take it home with her when the critter sitting job is finished.  I find it tucked away in the rear, behind the yogurt and milk and by the time I discover it there's usually a fuzzy layer of mold covering the red stuff.  I didn't want to put food products in the glass recycle bin, so I took the quick and easy route via the bathroom and dumped it down the commode.  This was not a good idea.

            After some vigorous plunging I did finally make my way to the kitchen, but there I was distracted.  It was that mouse hole.  Rather than wait to see what treasure Peggy Sue might fish out of the mystery spot I did some digging myself.  In addition to the bounty pictured here I also dug out a lot of rotted wood which if I were not already accustomed to a less-than-perfect structure might be worrisome, but I'm pretty certain I won't fall through to the cellar, so I'll not fret about a little rot.

            Most of the items were easily identified, but the small piece in the lower left corner was a mystery until examined under a magnifying glass.  It is in fact a tiny bisque doll's arm.  At last I forced myself to put away all of the miniature tools I'd been using and turned instead to the real tasks at hand.  Maybe I'll get things in order by tomorrow, but at the rate I'm going this may be a very long day.

 

4:39 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

HOME SWEET HOME.

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            It was a great trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Roanoke Valley (more on that later...), but it's always nice to come home.    Driving home from the airport five deer meandered across the road ahead of the truck, obviously oblivious to the fast-approaching hunting season.  Here at home it's always rodent season, so the brick porch bore an array of Sissy's trophies.  Of course, the dogs, cats and donkeys were as happy to see me as I was to see them.

            Neighbor Sandy, AKA the critter sitter reported that nothing noteworthy had occurred while I was away and said that no one on the road knows whether the "most wanted" bank robber has been caught, so everyone's assuming he's still at large.  The ‘wanted' posters with his mug shot are still stapled to utility poles, withered, but still posted. 

            The fracking activity is picking up momentum.  The mysterious orbs I had seen being trailed from the helicopter prior to my departure were actually large orange bags that have been dropped at strategic locations.  The convoy of white Omni trucks has grown considerably, but they are now accompanied by flatbed semis loaded with huge strange-looking machinery.  We can do nothing but wait and wonder what's to come next.  Things are progressing faster than anyone expected.

            In front of the wall cupboardin the kitchen is an ancient mouse hole in the floor. This has become Peggy Sue's ‘toy chest.'  Considering that this is the original 1821 floor which was covered by seven layers of other flooring it is safe to assume that the ‘toys' the cat has been fishing out of the inch diameter escape hatch for errant mousies are quite old indeed.

            Peggy's first prize was a jack.  Not the flimsy sort one might find in a toy store today (if such a game is even played anymore...), nor even the sort that I had as a child, this jack is very sturdy and heavy.  I like to imagine children huddled near the wood stove that once sat on the west wall of the kitchen, bouncing a ball and picking up jacks.  Images like this of life as it might have been nearly two centuries ago please me.  I put the toy in a special spot for safe keeping. 

            Today Peggy extracted another treasure; a cameo ring!  I wish I could report that it's band is gold rather than some corroded unidentifiable metal and that the cameo is the delicate work of an exceptional artist, but sadly that is not the case.  The ring is junk, but it now shares space with the jack.  Maybe one of these days the kitten will ‘discover' some of the rumored riches hidden by an earlier resident?  Not likely, but I'm having more fun than Peggy Sue in her archeological ‘dig.'  Like I said, it's good to be home.

 

7:53 pm edt          Comments


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