My Small Country Life

Published Works
Favorite Photos
Useful Links
Contact Karen
Archive Newer | Older

Tuesday, January 31, 2012



Since the new furnace was scheduled for installation today, ill or not ill I had to get off my sick bed (AKA the sofa), get dressed and hope for the best.  It does seem the worst of my malady has passed, but it has left me weak as a kitten.  Speaking of kittens, as you can see they greatly enjoyed my convalescence, but they made resting on the sofa more than a little uncomfortable.

The heating installers arrived around 9:00 am.  I showed them the cellar entry and wished them luck since nothing about the cellar including the entry is conventional or without challenge.  Coming up the outside stairs I came face to face with a curious buck!  He stood no more than forty feet away on the nature trail.  While I often see tracks, I have never seen deer this close to the house before.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  He looked like one of those awful cement lawn fawns.  Suddenly there were two deer, then three deer and finally four, all standing at attention like workers on a road crew (one guy works while five guys watch...). The dogs were right next to me, but the deer seemed utterly unperturbed.  This was my treat of the day.  Deer are safe here.

While the new furnace has heated up this old house as it has never been heated before, the work is only half finished.  The men will return tomorrow to remove the old 275 gallon fuel oil tank and install the new one.  This project is certainly a filthy mess, but I keep reminding myself what a luxury it will be to have affordable heat if/when winter ever really arrives.


6:16 pm est          Comments

Monday, January 30, 2012



After hauling firewood and enjoying the early sunny skies and gentle breezes yesterday morning I came inside and was hit as dramatically as if by a sledgehammer with the worst flu I can recall.  I've been flat on my back ever since.  Thank goodness for neighbor Sandy who has been caring for the animals and who arrived with her signature cups of jello.  When I'm able to be vertical for longer than ten minutes blogging will resume.  For now it's back to the sofa. 

7:25 pm est          Comments

Saturday, January 28, 2012



The computer has been resuscitated--for now.  How long this will last is anyone's guess, but currently it's working and that's what matters.  I got a second chance. The near death experience provoked me to back up stuff I should have backed up long ago. 

For the past few days I've been haunted by the death of a person I scarcely knew.  I think about this woman and imagine how tragic her life must have been; far more so than it seemed when our paths actually did cross. 

Several years ago on a sunny August morning as I sat at a traffic light mindlessly lost in the loveliness of the day I was jolted from my reverie when a car slammed into the rear of my truck.  I and the other driver both leapt from our vehicles.  The woman responsible was younger than I, but looked ‘rode hard and put away wet.'  Her stomach bulged at the middle, popped out and straining against a white t-shirt.

"Are you alright," we asked simultaneously.  "Yes, yes, but what about your baby." I said. 

"I'm not pregnant." 

It was one of those awkward moments made even more awkward by the presumption.  Of course the police were called and names and phone numbers were exchanged.  The damage to my truck was moderate, but it was fixable.  I later learned that she had no license, no insurance and an outstanding warrant.  My insurance company said I'd be responsible for the $500.00 deductible of the repair bill.  In court we greeted one another amiably.  She wore way too much makeup and cheap gaudy clothes. I felt sorry for her and agreed that she could repay her $500.00 responsibility at $20.00 per month.

Months passed, but no payment came.  I had been sympathetic and had tried to be reasonable, but she'd not even made an effort.  I contacted small claims court and they sent forms for her to complete, then notified me that she had no income beyond welfare and I should not expect any payment.  I was not happy.  My truck was wrecked and I was out several hundred dollars and the person responsible for it all I learned had an extensive criminal record, yet had never been forced to compensate any of her assorted victims.  Life seemed very unfair.

So, when I saw her obituary last week the name rang a bell.  I read the death notice and found she was only about the age of my daughter although she looked closer to my age.  The obit said she had been preceded in death by her son who had died the week before.  There were no details as to the cause of her death. 

Last night over dinner with someone in the know I learned that her son had been killed by a train.  He was only fifteen.  Fifteen is a tough age. "She never had much of a relationship with her son," said my friend.  "She never really wanted him."

I wonder if the boy had committed suicide on those railroad tracks.  No one will ever know for sure.  There were suggestions that the mother, the woman who smashed my truck and didn't pay for the repair probably had committed suicide.  Her body had been discovered in a car not her own.  Drugs were involved.

It's been many years since her life and mine collided.  My truck was repaired and later sold and my life moved on without any major disruptions.  Her life had apparently been nothing but a series of disruptions far more serious than anything I could imagine.  I can still see her protruding belly in that white t-shirt and wonder why I feel such sadness for this person I didn't really know.


6:04 pm est          Comments

Friday, January 27, 2012


Is there no end to it all???  This computer is apparently on its last leg thus making the creation of any document an all day affair.  It heaves and wheezes and sometimes sounds like a jet about to take off.  As I type, no letters appear on the page. Then abruptly half of what I wrote shows up just before  the screen goes blank and whatever it was that I was working on vanishes, never to be seen again.  Messages from Microsoft and from Mozzilla say things like, "Oops, sorry..., problem encountered..., you may have lost what you were doing..."  AAUUGGHH!!! 

I hope to have a computer guru diagnose the ailing machine that is my livelihood and decide if a trip to Best Buy for a new ‘puter will be necessary.  And so, since I do not plan to stay up until midnight attempting to post this blog, today's entry must, by necessity be brief.  With a bit of luck (something very elusive of late) production will be back to ‘normal' (?) tomorrow.  Keep fingers crossed!

5:16 pm est          Comments

Thursday, January 26, 2012



A frantic email arrived last night from a distant pal I'll refer to as QLY.  My friend admittedly is not an "animal person," so the squirrel that decided to take up residence in her home was not met with open arms, so to speak although she expressed great fear that her unwanted guest might indeed leap upon her given half a chance.  The daring little fellow (or lady) had the audacity to race past her as she was working in her office.  The desperation in her communiqués might have led one to believe she had discovered a grizzly bear in her house.  From afar I chuckled.

After indulging a quiet giggle I offered suggestions for encouraging the squatter to vacate, but the little critter seems to be enjoying his new digs.  After making tempting peanut butter sandwiches for him my friend laid awake all night "listening" for his departure which did not happen, so she's not in the best humor today.   She says she has the only squirrel in the world that does not like peanut butter.  Maybe he's one of those with a nut allergy?  Anyway, at last report her houseguest was spotted gnawing away at the basement rafters and QLY was planning a trip to Lowes to purchase a Hav-A-Hart trap.  I eagerly await the next installment on this dilemma.

If such an event happened here it wouldn't be a big deal, so it was easy for me to forget that not everyone is capable of casually dealing with such issues and now I feel guilty for being so insensitive! 

I really do hope the intruder leaves post haste because his continued occupancy means that my friends will have to cancel their already-booked two week holiday as leaving him to "house sit" could spell real disaster.  They could return to a pile of cinders where once a stately home stood as squirrels are known to chew the insulation on wires.  Not good. 

Worse still, the longer the sky rat ransacks my friends' home and terrorizes QLY, the less patient she and her kindly husband will be employing the humane trap and release program. Oh dear, is it apparent that my greater concern in this situation is the fate of the poor little squirrel who should be scampering from tree to tree rather than from table to table?  If this scenario weren't taking place so many miles away I'd do my best to help, but meanwhile I'll look forward to the next installment from QLY and Company.


4:49 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, January 25, 2012



I still had a lot to do, but as I drove home from an appointment I was overtaken by a strange urge to stop and see some friends I hadn't visited with for far too long.  It almost felt as if the truck were driving itself and I allowed it to pull in behind the old station wagon that looked as if it had taken root in the driveway.  The house looked as if it were slowly being consumed by ivy and trees and mold.  It hadn't seen paint in a long time and I thought to myself that it wasn't likely to see it in the near future either.

I rapped hard on the glass door and heard Missy's barking followed by heavy footsteps on the stairs.  The locks rattled and finally M. opened the door.  A smile crawled across his deeply-lined face revealing the funny teeth that always reminded me of a rabbit's.  It was good to see each other for too much time had passed.  As we climbed the dusty steps to the second floor it was obvious the place I knew so well hadn't felt the sweep of a dust cloth or vacuum cleaner in years. 

"Where's T?" I asked. 

"Sitting in the dark like he does every day," answered M. nodding toward the shadowy living room.  That room like all of the others was filled with elegant things; fabulous paintings and art, lavish draperies, ornate furniture, sculptures and prismed chandeliers.  But it was grandeur gone seedy.  My friend sat bolt upright like a mannequin on a small tapestry-covered loveseat, staring blankly into the dimly lighted space.  The shock of walking into this scene haunts me still.

We've been friends for many decades and the three of us have weathered a lot of storms, had great fun and shared laughter and tears, but now T. seemed to have given up on life and M. had fallen into the role of caregiver.  I doubted the room would ever again reverberate with gaiety, but I was wrong.

T.'s face transformed from its waxen stare to a broad smile as he stood and grabbed me, hugging me so hard and long that I thought my ribs might break.  M. pulled back the heavy draperies and the room lit up. 

"How about some coffee?" said M.  That sounded like a good idea and he disappeared into the tiny kitchen.  While I had only intended to stay a few minutes the time flew and minutes grew to hours.  The dust-laden rooms again sparkled with laughter just as they did before T. began to slip into that sad place politely referred to as "dementia."   

This afternoon he escaped from that prison and revisited the happy place from not so long ago.  I'm glad I ignored the silly tasks on my ‘to do' list and allowed the truck to pull in behind the old station wagon instead.


7:46 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, January 24, 2012



It's no secret.  Of my three dogs Ted is the favorite.  Irregularities of any kind on any of the animals are worrisome, but discovering a walnut-sized lump between Ted's ribs was cause for alarm. Peggy Sue, the kitten was also sporting a sizable lump on her back.  Needless to say, they both went to the vet this afternoon. 

In the truck Peggy protested loudly from her kitty carrier, but once at the clinic she put on an impressive acrobatic display for anyone who cared to watch.  She enjoyed all the attention, but Ted was worried.  After carrying his leash around, he knitted his funny eyebrows, plunked his big head on my knee and stared pleadingly at me.  "Oh, please, I'm sure this lump is nothing.  Can't we just get back in the truck and go home?"

When it was our turn to enter the exam room he began to pant while Peggy continued her award-worthy performance trying to impress the vet and his assistant.  Her lump was as I'd thought/hoped nothing more than the result of her recent rabies vaccine.  It will soon dissipate.  Ted watched nervously.

The good doctor knelt beside Ted on the floor as he doesn't have one of the elevating tables like Dr. Costsalot has and at 108 pounds (Ted's lost a bit of weight since his last visit) lifting him onto the exam table wasn't really an option.  I watched as Dr. Affordablegoodvet probed the worrisome lump on my big baby. 

"Probably nothing at all to worry about," he said as he prepared to aspirate the unwanted protuberance.  Amazingly, Ted didn't even flinch as fluid was withdrawn.  I had dreaded that moment.  A milky fluid is something to worry about, but clear is a good sign.  The fluid in the syringe was clear and microscopic examination confirmed what we had all hoped.  Ted's lump is a benign fatty tumor.  Whew.

My animals are all so important to me that the recent announcement from a nearby city to hire a reputed thug to trap and kill cats that are alleged to be stray, feral or problematic is incomprehensible to me.  This hare-brained governmental approach to "animal control" has enraged me and a lot of other progressive-thinking, intelligent people.  The buffoons who were elected to look after their constituents have no idea what a can of worms they've opened.  I plan to be at their next meeting and expect there will be a good bit of drama and confrontation.  To be continued.


8:08 pm est          Comments

Monday, January 23, 2012



            ‘Still not feeling quite back to normal, so I'm writing off the seemingly endless bad choices I've made lately to my compromised health.  The latest should be considered a cautionary tale to other conscientious recyclers like myself.  I can't throw anything away.  If it doesn't go to the recycle center, get burned in the woodstove, eaten by the chickens, composted for garden use or given to someone else I can usually think of some innovative use for the refuse.  That's what I did with Jim's Organic Coffee Beans.  It was a bad idea.

            I love good coffee, but the bag of Jim's just wasn't to my taste.  I'd used only about ¼ of the bag before it got shoved to the rear of the cupboard to be rediscovered yesterday.  What to do with the beans?  In retrospect I should have tossed them on the compost pile, but you know what they say about hindsight....

            I know!  I'll dump them in the house plants as a sort of organic mulch.  Brilliant!  Later, as I sat engrossed in Downton Abbey an unpleasant smell wafted from the jade plant next to the sofa.  You guessed it; those damned coffee beans!  Not only did Jim's ground and carefully brewed beans stink in their liquid form, they were worse in their beans-turned-mulch form.  Imagine trying to pick hundreds of little tiny coffee beans out of the soil without damaging the delicate plant.  Not easy!

            So, my advice is not to buy Jim's Organic Coffee Beans unless you like coffee with a strong tannin aftertaste (I don't) and never ever use any coffee beans for houseplant mulch.  Stay tuned for Karen's bad ideas du jour.  I'm sure this won't be the last one.


6:40 pm est          Comments

Sunday, January 22, 2012



            I've been under the weather for the past couple of days.  While not feeling well is never any fun, it's especially annoying when the weather is so perfect (in my opinion).  I love the heavy blanket of snow that mutes the sound of others and allows me to fantasize that my small country life is far more isolated and remote than it actually is.  Unfortunately, rather than tramping the woods or hauling firewood or addressing any other tasks that would have called me outside I was supine on the sofa, bored and miserable.  Thankfully I'm back on track today.

            There's always something to do at the barn. I even shoveled a clearing for the chickens, since they're reluctant to walk in the cold snow.  Poor Lonely Boy leaves the coop regardless of the weather as he doesn't want to risk antagonizing Lothario.  As he sat on the fence looking ever so forlorn I noticed a scrape on his great scaly leg and made a mental note to put ointment on it later.

            Tonight as he sat in the darkened coop, unsuspecting and contentedly snuggled next to his tiny hen harem I gently pushed his girlfriend aside and picked him up, much to his surprise.  I knew he was a big bird, but not until he was in my arms did I realize just how big he is.  He must be fifteen pounds at least. 

            My medical tray was ready.  The iodine ointment jar was open and a towel lay next to it.  I really expected some kind of protest from the super-sized rooster who could have hurt me if he'd had a mind to, but he quietly allowed me massage the soothing balm into his leg wound.  I think Lonely Boy really is so lonely that he welcomes any and all attention, other than the angry threats he occasionally gets from Lothario.  Poor fellow....

6:41 pm est          Comments

Friday, January 20, 2012



‘Good thing I do my food preparation on the counter and not at the kitchen table.  It's cold outside, so all three dogs wore their ‘barn coats' this morning and when they came inside I tossed the coats on the table where they have been occupied the entire day by three kitties who apparently think this might be a permanent fixture put there for their comfort.  Wrong.

I am in a great deal of pain today.  After spending two hours in the dentist chair yesterday with my mouth open as far as possible and after several shots of novacaine I can hardly swallow.  The underside of my jaw all the way back to my ear is extremely painful, so I've not been terribly tempted to eat.  But, let's face it, pain or no pain one must eat something, right?  Here's a recipe my friend in Cincinnati made during my visit last weekend.  Easy and delicious!

Cut a butternut squash in half and place cut side down in a baking dish lightly coated with olive oil.  Bake until fork tender (350 F. for about 30-45 min.).  Allow to cool enough to comfortably handle, then peel the squash and cut into chunks.  Place these in a baking dish and add pine nuts and crumbled gorgonzola cheese.  I also drizzled a small amount of olive oil over this.  Place in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.  Remove and shave parmesan over the squash.  Yum yum!


6:36 pm est          Comments

Thursday, January 19, 2012



 While cleaning out some files today I came across a true story written many years ago. That will be obvious by the mention of sticking address labels on the back side of photos!  'Such low-tech stuff seems centuries old since now everything is transmitted electronically (thank goodness).  And so, before I trash this story, I'll share the cautionary tale about the consequences when companies sell your information. 


            My mailbox bulged with bills and postcards wondering if I've seen kids who vanished 25 years ago, but all the really good stuff was addressed to my dog Rudy and to think it all began with a simple magazine subscription! 

            For years I'd subscribed to a pricey literary journal I'll call Starshine. I devoured the monthly offering of angst-laden stories and thinly-disguised confessions of things better divulged to the authors' therapists or to the authorities. I liked the provocative themes, liberal editorials and confrontational black and white photography that punctuated the magazines poetry and prose. Just as all good literature should do, Starshine offered escape from the mundane. And so, grudgingly I paid their fat subscriber fee.

            The special half-price offer was a welcomed surprise indeed since my subscription was soon to expire, but when I removed the response card I noticed the small print: "Not valid for existing subscriptions. New gift orders only...."

            Rudy was a big yellow mongrel with mournful black eyes and a luxurious flag of a tail that arched over his back. His right ear stood at attention while the left one flopped over that eye lending a rakish panache. I loved that old boy, so who better to receive the gift of good reading than my favorite canine companion. I filled out the gift card and sent off a check for half the usual subscription cost and in no time at all Mr. Rudy Kazootie received a card notifying him that his first issue would arrive in January.  And so it did along with a plethora of curious solicitations, some of which were simply too tempting to ignore.        

            Rudy's first piece of mail was a personal message from the Dalai Lama, who I might add has never sent anything to me! Rudy was unimpressed. The next day brought a desperate plea to help paraplegic Indians. Rudy sent them a small donation.  Then the catalogues began arriving and they were not for doggie items. 

            Sexual paraphernalia promising to awaken my--I mean Rudy's--suppressed libido could be discreetly ordered and would shipped in a plain brown wrapper. (Rudy ordered a couple of little things.) I began to look forward to the chirr of the little white mail truck. Then Rudy and I would hurry out the lane to collect the day's enticing offers.

            There were boxes of unordered Christmas cards (presumably Mr. Kazootie was a Christian who celebrated that holiday) and bumper stickers galore which I used to cobble together my tattered guitar case. And always, predictably sandwiched between bills and reminders from NPR to renew my membership were thick envelopes of personalized return address labels for Mr. Rudy Kazootie.

            One batch was from the Save the Pigs Foundation. Lacking a thumb Mr. Kazootie was unable to fill out the convenient donation forms, so I responded for him writing in neat red letters: ‘Please be advised that Mr. Kazootie is elderly, unemployed and unable to make a donation.  Kindly remove him from your mailing list.'  This was tucked into the postage paid envelope, mailed and yet another batch of ‘free' return address labels joined the hundreds of others already in my desk drawer.

            They came from places like Trees for Tundras, obviously an environmental organization, Big Witted Women, a feminist group, Let's Talk Trash, a recycling coalition and dozens more. Who knew there were so many obscure charities! And why did they think Rudy would be sympathetic to their cause?  A profile of my dog was taking shape.

            How could Rudy and I have lived together for twelve years, yet I knew so little about him! It seems that Rudy was a highly-educated political liberal.  In fact he was very left wing.  If he had pockets he'd have been a card-carrying member of the ACLU, since he now had his own official membership card which arrived with an anticipatory letter of thanks for his future support. I put it in the drawer with the labels. Rudy was also an environmentalist and one who cares deeply about the underdogs of the world (well, that figures...) and while intensely spiritual, he was a sexual adventurer.  And to think all these assumptions resulted from a gift subscription to Starshine. Clearly the publisher had sold his mailing list.

            Maybe it was Rudy's response to some of the solicitations that provoked yet another assumption; that being that he was also a professional--a doctor in fact. As such he was entitled to perks like an almost-free subscription to the New Yorker (my all-time favorite magazine). Needless to say, Dr. Kazootie subscribed, and presumably this prompted the offers for exotic cruises, extravagant jewelry and chocolates costing $90.00 a pound. The amount of mail became so copious that my mail carrier asked if I had a boyfriend living with me. I introduced her to Rudy.

            Return address labels continued to pour in.  Since I admit to being frugal, I threw none of the labels away, not even the ones with a sad looking hog's picture next to Mr. Kazootie's name and address. My own label supply was about exhausted as I often stuck them on the reverse side of illustrations sent out with my articles.  Since Rudy and I shared the same address it only made sense to use the drawer full of freebees, right? Waste not, want not....  I blacked out his name and stuck the labels on submitted materials.  The one time I forgot made Rudy famous.

            A magazine to which I was a regular contributor arrived sporting my cover photo (always nice for ego and bank account). Flipping to the story I discovered credits reading, "Photos by Mr. Rudy Kazootie."  Who knew he was so talented!  I howled with laughter.  Rudy lifted a sleepy eyelid and yawned; my dog, the photojournalist.



7:33 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, January 18, 2012



Hen #1:  What the heck is this stuff?  I just hate it when she cleans out the refrigerator!  Why can't she just give us some oatmeal or bread?

Hen #2:  The container says it's hummus.

A small crowd gathers.  Stunned hens in unison:  Hummus??? 

Black hen: What is that?  I'm not going to eat it. It looks like plumbers' putty.

Enter Little Red Hen, an avowed gourmand with more sophisticated tastes:  Hummus is a very tasty condiment made with chickpeas and other good stuff.  I myself happen to like it.

Small gathering of skeptics gather round to watch LRH enjoy the post sell-by dated ‘treat.'


6:10 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, January 17, 2012



            Blustery winds and a very ominous sky didn't keep the dogs and me from our daily walk, although most of the trail was under water.  We trudged onward.  My feet got soaked and the dogs got muddy, but we didn't care. Trees creaked and a couple had already bitten the dust (or the mud...), taken down by the raging gusts.  One limb that was the diameter of my waist had broken free, but remained tenuously suspended in the crook of an old tree.  Ernie peered nervously skyward and we hurried past the wavering danger.

            On the way home a stranger stopped her car to comment on how big, yet well-behaved my four-legged friends appeared, then asked, "You don't keep them in the house, do you?"   When I assured her that indeed I do I could see by the look on her face that she was envisioning a filthy dump.  "It must keep you so busy cleaning up after them...," her voice trailed off.  Her pitying look made me laugh. 

            Slogging through the mud and bracing against the zephrsI thought about the misfortunes and disappointments that have recently beset me.  Then I thought about all the good fortune, good friends and good life that remains and realized that my inventory is certainly on the plus side.  No more moping about.  Life is too short to be unhappy.

            After working for several hours on an article with a rapidly-approaching deadline I decided to take a break and visit Funky's, my favorite thrift store.  If I had thought for a moment that there were any real troubles in my life I was reminded of just how lucky I am when I saw a face from the past.

            "Yeh, I was married for five years, but now we're separated.  I got so depressed I cut my wrists again," said Chuck, a former Funky employee who had fallen in love and married a co-worker, then vanished from the area.  Back then he looked exactly like the comic strip character Charlie Brown and he was always so jolly and friendly.  Today's Chuck looked haggard, old and miserable.  He said he was hoping his sister would come and rescue him.  I assured him that he was in the company of friends and that life would get better, but from the sad look on his face I doubt that he believed me.

            The regular employees P. and L. were in a furious tizzy because they had just been informed by ‘management' that their hours/pay were to be cut dramatically.  The store would only be open a few days each week and merchandise would be limited to furniture with outrageously spiked new pricing.  P. and L. said they believe this is really just a plan to shut the store down completely.  What a shame.  While I enjoy perusing the wares and chatting with the genuinely nice people I encounter there, for many this store is their sole access to affordable goods.

            "We are not here to serve the community," admonished ‘management.'  If not that, then what is the purpose of any thrift store???  Some to whom I spoke surmised that the infamous 1% which is the target of the ‘Occupy' movement also exists in charitable (?) operations that publically profess in their pleas for donations to help the underprivileged--or the 99%.  It appears their mission statement should be: Wealth for the greedy and screw the needy.  How sad.


4:55 pm est          Comments

Monday, January 16, 2012



            One of my pet peeves (dare I admit I have a few...) is the plethora of ugly lighted ‘message' boards in front of churches; like theater marquees selling what's inside.   These eye-sores which waste money that would certainly be better spent helping the unfortunate confront passersby with insipid notions (Ex: CH  CH, What's missing?) or with something intended to make the reader think.  Hmm... Frankly, I think these energy-wasting contraptions are offensive and I try to ignore them, but as I drove home today one of these illuminated irritations caught my eye.

            The sign said, "To be content is a great gift."  Since I am currently not content the message seemed timely indeed and it is stuck in my brain like some dumb song impossible to stop singing over and over and over....  "To be content is a great gift."

            It is very true and I am usually content with my life and also grateful, but as a firm believer in karma (You reap what you sow, etc.), I'm currently confused.  What does it mean when after consciously trying to be kind, generous, charitable and "good" it all whirls around to bite you on the ass?  Then what?  No need for details here, but I'm left pondering a harvest of discontent rather than contentment.

            Maybe the underlying message of sign was that one should not take contentment for granted?  If so, I'd have to agree that doing so would be a mistake.  Maybe the message of the sign was that contentment isn't necessarily something one earns or deserves, but that it's a gift like the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes?  I don't think so.  Maybe the message is to simply stop whatever it is that one is doing, take inventory and then redefine what takes to be "content?"  I think that's the message I'll choose and so that's my plan.

            If in the next few days (‘can't afford to waste more time than that regaining my previous contentment...) this blog seems utterly unrelated to "Reflections of a Single Woman's Life On An Old Farm," please bear with me for this is precisely what it will be.  I'm taking inventory and reflecting.  To be continued....


4:21 pm est          Comments

Friday, January 13, 2012



            I'm choosing not to believe in the superstition that today bodes bad luck as I set off on a road trip. The winds howled and roared all night long and this old house trembled. The temperature this morning is biting, but I am going anyway for today marks a new phase of my life; a transition and I need time to consider this change.  I shall return on Sunday.


7:11 am est          Comments

Thursday, January 12, 2012



            Regardless of how much time a person spends pushing a vacuum cleaner or mopping and dusting, if that person lives in a very old house that she shares with seven cats and three big dogs it is never going to be squeaky clean.  All those critter feet drag in lots of mud and all those furry bodies deposit hair.  Dirt that has accumulated in the exposed beams for nearly two hundred years can never be totally wiped or vacuumed away.

            If that person does not spend a great deal of time with the vacuum or the mop it will definitely show and I fall into that latter category.  There are too many interesting, productive, fun or necessary things to do besides chasing dirt.  This place is clean enough for me and my animals and for most of those who come here to visit. Clean freaks stay away! 

            However, in preparation for the critter sitter who will be staying here while I'm away for a few days I've been cleaning like a mad woman; wiping things that rarely get wiped just in case she gives the place a white glove test (it will still fail...).  I did not expect ‘help' with my cleaning rampage from Ernie.

            If Ernie were human he would never be considered a ‘gifted child.'  He's big (well, actually he's huge), very clumsy, nervous and dare I say, not terribly bright as compared to his canine companions Ted and Julie.  Even so, he's got a noble profile, good intentions (I think...) and I love him.  In light of these shortcomings I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that Ernie's intervention in my housekeeping created a small disaster.

            The scrub bucket full of water destined to clean the upstairs sat in the landing while I went downstairs to retrieve the vacuum cleaner; the very cleaner that Ernie has seen and heard for years, but for some reason suddenly became a scary monster from which he had to escape ASAP.  As I carried the vacuum to the top of the stairs Ernie bolted as if I'd set his tail on fire, fleeing from the bedroom and toppling two gallons of water on his way down the steps. 

            Two gallons is a lot of water on a flight of wooden stairs! I will admit that they have never been cleaner thanks to Ern.  While the rest of the house won't pass muster, the staircase now invites anyone's white glove test.


1:01 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


            The simple truth is that being independent requires being fit and that takes more effort with each passing year.  My independence is critical to me, so I've joined the local ‘Y' and today marked my second day of pumping iron.  I'm hopeful, but not delusionary that I'll ever be Spandex-fit like some of the people I see at the gym, but my goal is to become stronger and I'm sure that will happen.  Unfortunately, tonight I am just too darned tired to blog, but tomorrow I'll share some interesting stuff uncovered while researching an article I'm currently working on.  Night, night for now.

9:46 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, January 10, 2012



            "Boy, it's been a long time since those donkeys have escaped, hasn't it...," said neighbor Sandy just last week.  After the last Houdini act as performed by the two bad asses I doubled security measures on every gate--just in case.  As usual I have only myself (and that rotten Corky) to blame for the event du jour.

            Both donkeys were in the barn when I went to pump water, so I foolishly (emphasis on foolishly!) just pulled the gate closed without latching it while I filled the buckets.  Maybe it's the spring-like weather that distracted me or maybe I was daydreaming, but I never saw the little gray terrorist until it was too late.  The gate had drifted open about two inches, just enough for one deft donkey to open it further and in a flash the little bugger was on the wrong side of the fence.  

            Immediately realizing his good fortune he took off like a Kentucky Derby contender expecting his buddy to follow, but Andy was slow on the uptake and I got the gate latched before he too got out.   Sure he was in a panic because Corky was out and he wasn't, but even so he heeded "whoa" and allowed me to slip a halter on him. (He's such a good boy....) With Andy secured in the barn I opened two gates, got a bucket of oats and some cellophane (candy being the ultimate temptation) and set off in an effort to trick the bad-ass-turned-h0t-blood into returning to the barnyard. 

            Andy brayed pathetically, but Corky only nodded as he sped around the garden, along the roadside fence, down the barnyard fence, around the house, around the pond, over to neighbor Bill's and then repeated the circuit, all the while with his head thrown back, bucking and tooting as he passed by.  When he finally stopped near the back door to nibble some pine greenery the paper rattling and the sound of oats in a bucket got his attention. 

            Experience has taught me that if there's one thing donkeys can't stand it's to be ignored, so as nonchalantly as possible I strolled up to the open gate promising, "Treats Corky, come get some treats...."  He fell for it!

            Picking up my own pace I reached the second gate and secured it as the bad ass stretched his neck toward me.  I tempted him further with a hunk of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I'd been eating and it worked like a dream.  He was hooked!  It's now his new favorite; food-peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat!  I threw a second chunk of sandwich in the opposite direction and he was on it in a heartbeat giving me time to secure the second gate.

            I wanted to be angry, but admittedly it was my own fault and besides, he's just so darned cute.


9:22 pm est          Comments

Monday, January 9, 2012



            My daughter found her pacing up and down the center of a busy road.  She exhibited all the signs of having been dumped or at least of being very lost.  What could Jill do but slip a collar and lead on the foundling and secure her in a stall at her stables. That was several days ago.  She's been caring for the nameless pooch while making every effort to locate an owner, but with no luck.

             Ironically the purebred Lab is in good condition; nails recently trimmed, teeth clean, weight healthy.  She is not a puppy by any means, but she is housebroken and clearly has had obedience training.  She's inquisitive about the cats and chickens, but not aggressive and quickly responds to, "No!"  Someone should be looking for this dog, but calls to all of the appropriate animal control shelters, canvassing the area where she was found, posting signs and calling breed rescues have all been futile.

            I'd hoped she might fit in here and brought her home for a trial, but that is not happening.  She and Ted quickly had a face-off and I've not allowed confrontation with Julie or Ernie.  And so, she is currently confined to the basement workshop where she is loudly protesting her accommodations (who could blame her?), but they are warmer than her previous stable apartment. I suspect this dog is accustomed to lying next to a warm fireplace, close to her master's slippers.  She just wants to go "home," but where is home?  Why is no one searching for her? 

            I've provided her with a fluffy dog bed, toys, bones, food and water and will continue to take her outside periodically to relieve herself. Just after this photo shoot we went for a lengthy moonlit walk (hence the leash), but now that she's alone, back in her dreary room I can tell it's going to be a long, noisy night. 

           Thankfully a wonderful veterinarian has offered to foster and rehome her, so she will only have to spend tonight here.  I hope she will soon find a loving new owner. She deserves it. 



9:30 pm est          Comments

Sunday, January 8, 2012



Eggs, eggs everywhere

Oh how the bales did leak.

Eggs, eggs everywhere

Far more than I can eat.

            I thought it strange that the eggs in the laying boxes were from the same few hens.  It's fairly easy to tell which eggs were laid by the small white hens and which were laid by the big black girls, but the eggs in the coop were not from the big hens.  Surely they weren't sneaking into the hay room again, were they? I'd stopped closing the door after the setting hen gave up on motherhood, but perhaps her gal pals had other ideas.

            Crawling up the stepped bales I swept my hand across the hay and sure enough my searching fingers met several big brown eggs which I stuffed into my pocket. From below Ted's big brown eyes watched hopefully as I pulled down the top bale.  He wasn't disappointed.  Another avalanche of edibles tumbled down. Labs (and lab mixes) are very adept at catching and retrieving, so this surprise made Ted a very happy boy. 

            The eggs I caught before Ted claimed them are in a specially-marked box to go into breakfast kibble and three dogs will soon have very shiny coats.  As for the others, later this week I'm going to visit a friend who I know will appreciate some farm-fresh eggs.  The perfect hostess gift! 


5:33 pm est          Comments

Saturday, January 7, 2012



            I went to the flea market this morning to buy some locally grown apples. I refuse to purchase apples from Washington state when lovely apples grow right here in Ohio. 

            The junk sellers who brave chilly January weather are a special breed.  They hawk their wares from dropped tailgates or on rickety card tables; rusty tools, Barbie dolls and assorted gun parts are popular.  I didn't see many buyers, just a few rough-hewn geezers  killing time.

            "Hell, ya can't git no good guns here no more," I overheard while hurrying to my apple vendor.  Some of the trucks backed into the seller stalls looked okay at a glance, but upon closer inspection they were as rough as their Carhart-clad drivers.  One with rust bubbling around the wheel wells showed some innovative body work.  The dark green truck had its holes and rusty creases ‘fixed' with Kelly green duct tape.

            There was also music. Hymns blasted from the back of the two tone green truck.  A cigarette dangled from the seller's mouth, seemingly glued to his lower lip, but it stayed in place as he touted the bargain hand saws and other tools spread out on his tailgate.  Two stalls down old time mountain music blared from a boom box and competed with the hymns. 

            I hurried to find my favorite fruit vendor and left with a bag full of Jonagold apples.


5:56 pm est          Comments

Friday, January 6, 2012



            It's a dreaded sound; one that no lacto-ovo vegetarian chicken keeper wants to hear.  I'm referring to the new cock-a-doodle-dooooo that echoed from the barn this morning.  Were I not a vegetarian of thirty-plus years the announcement of yet another rooster would be no problem at all.  In fact, it might be the answer to, "What's for dinner?"  But, that is not the case here. 

            Usually there are hints that a young bird is a cockerel rather than a pullet.  Just as adolescent boys' voices crack and warble, young birds also make silly-sounding trial noises before letting loose with a full-fledged crow.  There were no hints that the cute little speckled guy was/is a rooster-until today.

            Roosters have distinctive calls.  Lothario is full-voiced and ever so virile.  I think of him as Pavarotti while young Lonely Boy greets the dawn with his own unique announcement.  He's Josh Grogan.  These two roosters have developed an understanding of which one is cock of the walk.  It's Lothario and Lonely Boy defers to him in every way.   Although feeding two roosters is economically foolish since scratch feed is now topping $15.00 for fifty pounds, I don't have the heart to send either of these boys away so long as they peacefully coexist. 

            But, the throaty call from the young cockerel just after dawn was an unwelcome surprise; one that requires immediate action.  The unnamed crooner must go.  I long ago gave up seeking "good homes" for excess roosters.  The "good homes" in which I've placed birds don't want multiple roosters any more than I do. With reasonable care they live a very long time. This leaves one option.

            My friend Mark manages two rural livestock sales.  It will sadden me when I sneak into the darkened coop and grab the young singer by his legs, up-end him and tuck him into a travel cage.  He will protest greatly when dawn arrives and will spend the hours waiting for Mark pooping and crowing from behind his prison bars.  My friend will assure me as he has in the past, "Now Karen, just because he's going to a sale does not mean that someone is going to eat him.  He's a handsome young cockerel and there's every chance someone will want to add him to their flock...." 

            Right....  Mark tries to sound convincing, but in my heart I know that speckled boy is more likely to end up in someone's freezer or on a dinner table.  There's still time for any reader interested in adding a docile, handsome, young rooster to the family homestead.  Delivery available!  Such a deal.  Don't hesitate.  Email now, before it's too late!


7:47 pm est          Comments

Thursday, January 5, 2012



            "Hey, your bird herd is out here and they say they want something to eat," said my houseguest this morning.  Sure enough, there they were hanging at the back door looking as if they'd just traveled several long hard miles.  Never mind the breakfast they'd eaten at the barn about a half an hour earlier.   Still in a bit of a daze I stumbled outside and tossed the demanding gang several handfuls of Cheerios. 

            Granted the snow cover has taken all the fun out of foraging, but their demands were not appreciated after the sleepless night I'd just endured.  The reason for my insomnia was not systemic, but due to four-legged, furry merrymakers. 

            I'm used to the snoring snuffling dogs.  They don't bother me (much...), but the cats were quite another story.  In the past few weeks Poppy has made it her mission to check every cupboard in the house.  She's become very adept at opening any and all doors regardless of the closing mechanism.  When she's satisfied that no boogie man is within she makes loud puffing noises.  I think this is her way of telling her friends that all is well and if they care to poke around and see for themselves, well the doors are open.  While this might not be a huge problem in itself one of the doors she opened was the cupboard with the bedroom telly.  Once inside she disconnected cords that had been plugged into the wall socket or connected to the set.

            While Poppy was busy with her electrical work Little Ivy was shredding the corner of the corduroy sofa in the room.  Downstairs Tiny and Peggy were engaged in races that sent dining chairs skidding across the wood floors.  Since Sissy is low cat in the pecking order she was subject to abuse from any other cat that might have passed by.  Always the drama queen even though no one has ever really attacked her, her blood-curdling screams were enough to raise the dead.  Tom and Booger spend nights in the basement, so they're exempt from nocturnal trouble like that which went on last night. 

            My houseguest wisely kept the door to her room closed.  She said she slept well, but she's a very polite and uncomplaining friend.  I got no sleep and all day I've been trying to remember just what it is that I always claim makes living with animals so joyful.


4:21 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, January 4, 2012



            I like to think I'm independent, but the truth is that I'm not.  I depend upon this computer and until noon today this heavily-relied-upon instrument was on the fritz.  The feeling of vulnerability was unsettling.

            I was reduced to a bundle of nerves as I talked for hours with techies who assumed I understood their lingo.  I did not.  It would have been easier trying to talk to someone speaking Russian.  At last one extremely patient fellow managed to diagnose the problem and prescribe a cure that will entail yet another expense.  But, the good news is that I'm back online.

            This interruption to work and a normal routine has been frustrating to say the least. The New Year is off to a shaky start.  Oh, wouldn't I love to be back in Wales drifting down the Montgomery canal again..., but I'm not.  There's comfort in food, so here's a recipe for a tasty broccoli-cheese soup instead of a rant or a farm tale.

1 TBSP. melted butter

½ medium onion, chopped

¼ c. melted butter

¼ c. flour

2 c. half & half (I use milk)

2 c. stock (vegetable or chicken)

½ pound fresh broccoli cleaned and cut up

1 c. carrots chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

¼ tsp. nutmeg

8 oz. grated cheddar (I've used gouda with excellent results)

Saute the onion in butter and set it aside.  Make a roux of the melted butter and flour, then add half & half or milk.  Whisking the mixture, add the stock and then simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli, carrots and onions and cook over low heat until tender (about ½ hour).  The mixture should be thick.  Season and puree in small batches.  Return to the pot and add the grated cheese.  Stir until well blended, then sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.  Yum yum!     


7:37 pm est          Comments

Monday, January 2, 2012



            Enlightenment should/must be as relevant in the 21st century as it was in the 18th century; a simplified definition being an intellectual movement emphasizing reason and science in philosophy and in the study of human culture and the natural world.

            I'm constantly amazed that anyone would find my lifestyle and the things that matter to me of interest.  Sure it's flattering, but more importantly such interest illustrates how distant much of today's society is from both science and the natural world and that is disturbing.  I'm not capable nor qualified to "enlighten" those who deny things like global warming, the risks of fracking for natural gas and other scientifically-proven facts, but I am capable and qualified to share what I know about the natural world I observe on a daily basis.

            People (and there have been many) have asked, "Do you have to have a rooster for chickens to lay eggs?"  It's an innocent query, but to think that a rooster is necessary for egg production indicates a lack of awareness of how most of the eggs sold in super markets are produced.  Clearly the inquirer hasn't visited nor even seen images of battery operations where hens live their brief, but miserable lives (after having their beaks burned off) confined to wire cages about 12" square where they do nothing but eat drug-laced mash and lay eggs.  It suggests that the inquirer may think that all eggs are produced by happy hens like the free-range flock they see pecking around here.  I hope that learning the reality of egg production will encourage them to buy eggs from small producers whose hens are not caged.  The eggs will cost a little more, but it's true; you get what you pay for and peace of mind is just a 'gift with purchase.'

            The teacher who asked how hens "nurse" their chicks really got my attention!  When I pointed out the difference between birds and mammals, she seemed embarrassed not because of her ignorance, but because of the reference to breasts.  It's been years since that exchange, but I'm still reeling.  This teacher also thought that horns were the feature that identified bulls from cows.  Pity her students (and her husband)!!!

            "Are those mules or ponies?"  I've heard that one in reference to the bad asses.  I consider it an honor to "enlighten" those who simply don't know.  I'm happy they ask and of course the bad asses are happy for any and all attention they generate. All of my animals are ambassadors for enlightenment.

           I think of all the kids who are denied access to dogs or cats or horses because their parents have bought into the "allergy" nonsense.  In my opinion it's far better to sneeze than to not experience the joys and the responsibilities of pet ownership.  Is it better for their kids to take prescription drugs than to sneeze because of pet dander?  I think not.  Bathe the animals and enjoy life.

            I am passionate about my connection with the natural world and wish others were only half as concerned about how food is raised, how the environment is (mis) treated and especially how where the wild things are is quickly becoming where the wild things were, but we can all make a difference by making enlightened decisions. Patronize those who are not ruining the environment or raising animals inhumanely for the sake of profits. Co-exist peacefully with snakes, opossums and other wildlife instead of banishing them.  In my opinion the answers to all of lifes questions can be found in nature. 

         Sorry for this somewhat disconnected rant, but I just heard one too many excuses today and it set me off.  



5:16 pm est          Comments

Sunday, January 1, 2012



            Will the weather this first day of the New Year portend conditions for the next twelve months?  I certainly hope not!  The skies were dark and ominous, but the air was relatively calm when the dogs and I set off for our morning walk.  By the time we had reached Kenny's field the winds had picked up a bit. Then with little warning icy rain began pelting my face and soaking the dogs fur.  We hurried toward home, arriving cold and wet and miserable.

            A fire in the wood stove and some lunch offset our discomfort, but now the winds are ferocious and frightening.  ‘No gentle tinkling wind chimes on the porch. Instead, a furious clanging that will probably break the wires and silence the chimes completely.  As the trees bend and sway I try not to think about two enormous spruce trees that list menacingly toward the house.

            I used to jokingly say that I hoped they would fall down and crush the deck and kitchen so the insurance company would replace them, but now I sincerely hope no such disaster occurs!  I love the deck that replaced the old ratty one (at my personal expense) and after spending weeks tearing up the old kitchen floor to reveal and refurbish the original 1821 boards the existing kitchen is just fine.  I like it.  I don't want the trees to fall and I surely don't want any part of this old house damaged! 

            I hope these threatening winds settle down and I hope the rest of 2012 will not be as angry and violent as today's weather!


2:58 pm est          Comments

Archive Newer | Older

This site  The Web 

You are visitor:

© 2009 Karen L. Kirsch