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Saturday, March 31, 2012



"Frisbees are not digestible, not even the really nice ones from Petsmart.  I speak from experience.  Your stomach will reject all particles, even those minced to the size of tiny peas.  This indigestion may require you to waken your mistress in the middle of the night, an act that will not please her-guaranteed!  And unless your home is carpeted with the exact color of the minced Frisbee you will not be able to camouflage the unfortunate results."

...And so my day began.


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Friday, March 30, 2012



My latest gift from Kenny made me a bit ill.  While Kenny is a dedicated consumer of spelt bread and an enthusiastic purveyor of countless dry tasteless loaves that even the chickens eat reluctantly, I do not share his appetite for this stuff.  I'm in the chicken camp when it comes to spelt bread. 

The white plastic bag hanging on the fence post contained several egg boxes which I appreciated along with a loaf of the ubiquitous bread; but this timeit was  raisin spelt breakfast bread.  Okay, I thought, maybe this variety wouldn't be so bad if I toasted it and slathered it with butter.  Wrong!

I doubt that a pound of butter could have made it palatable, but worse still, Kenny's health bread gave me a terrible stomach ache.  I'll continue to take cookies, soup and eggs up to my old beau, but the remaining raisin spelt bread and all future loaves, regardless of additives intended to enhance the un-enhanceable blandness will be fed to the chickens and the bad asses.  Those two like anything that comes through the barnyard gate in a bag that rattles-even if it's spelt bread.  Yuck!


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Thursday, March 29, 2012



Why should anyone keep chickens?  Aside from the obvious answer (eggs), entertainment and devoted 'friendship' there is still another reason. While I do benefit from this extra ‘service' they provide, it really wasn't something I consciously thought about, but just imagine how much nicer the world would be if everyone kept a few chooks!


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Wednesday, March 28, 2012



I look forward to and enjoy end of the day barn chores, but admittedly oiling the rooster is not a pleasant task; not like brushing the bad asses (who wonder just what the heck is going on with that chicken) or sweeping the barn while listening to classical music.  Rooster rehab is dirty work although LB is certainly more than cooperative.  While I don't look forward to the ‘treatment' the rooster actually seems to enjoy the attention.

The chickens have several choices of places to roost, some being at waist level, others being nearly at the roof level which would make collecting LB quite impossible, but he and Honey conveniently perch at chest level. 

Unlike other birds that have required catching for one reason or another, I don't have to sneak out to the barn in the dark with a flashlight tucked under my chin.  There is none of that blood-curdling screaming from the bird snatched from slumber.  I simply walk into the coop where LB waits, then securely place my hands on either side of his bulky body and lift him down, all the while telling him what a good fellow he is.  He doesn't fuss at all as I haul him to the work station.  I'm trying to look at this nightly ritual as weight lifting; something that will build up my biceps for LB is no featherweight! 

With the Crisco pure vegetable oil in a deep heavy crock I awkwardly lower one big foot (his, not mine) into the crock which unfortunately is not quite deep enough to allow total submersion.  This requires ‘sloshing' to cover the entire leg up into the feathers.  As you might guess, it's a messy ordeal that's then repeated with the other leg.  Tonight I shall use a paint brush as I think this will ensure greater coverage on him and less on me.  Only 4 more days to go....


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012



Cow is a Milking Shorthorn.  She and her pasture pals all thought it was a beautiful day to be out in the sunshine. We bade each other 'hello' and they stared thoughtfully at me and the dogs as we passed by.  Since I knew nothing about this breed I did a little research when I got home. It's no wonder that Kenny chose this breed.  Its natural attributes have allowed Cow to thrive in spite of Kenny's casual approach to farming and animal husbandry.

Milking Shorthorns are alleged to be the most versatile of all breeds.  They are docile (good, because only a single hot wire separated her and her friends from me) and they produce lots and lots of milk (as evidenced by the five gallon buckets delivered here and to anyone else Kenny thinks might have a need for such copious amounts).  They're disease-resistant (important because Kenny doesn't believe in conventional health care for humans or animals) and they live a long time (Cow's been at Kenny's for at least six years). They calve easily (but then her poor offspring is imprisoned in the dark dirty barn) and make efficient use of forage (another plus since Kenny's pastures are ‘unmaintained').

Although I am admittedly skittish of cattle I can't help but like Cow with her pretty  expressive face.  Turning her head to look at Kenny, then at me, she seems to say, "Poor old fellow...."

She's a good bovine ambassador.


4:21 pm edt          Comments

Monday, March 26, 2012



People aren't the only ones affected by spring allergies.  Dogs get itchy and cats sneeze, but in rare cases even chickens suffer.  I've only ever known of one allergy-prone bird, but it figures that this oddball lives here.  It's Lonely Boy, AKA LB.

Last year around this time his legs became scaly and ugly.  I consulted every poultry book and website I could find and subjected the poor young rooster to assorted ‘cures' for the symptoms he exhibited.  These included warm bath salt soaks (he seemed to enjoy thiat treatment), WD-40 (advised by a show chicken expert), various powders and creams, none of which had much effect.  Ultimately I used an iodine salve which apparently did the trick, but in retrospect I believe his funky leg syndrome would have disappeared on its own as the season progressed.  He was fine until about a week ago.

Now LB's legs again look like tree bark.  It's hard to know if the condition is painful or bothersome, but occasionally I find him standing on one leg (not a good sign). Last night began what may become an annual spring ritual, but over the winter the rooster has grown substantially bigger and he's now the size of a small turkey.  Fortunately he is still docile and very cooperative. 

As he and Honey sat side by side, not quite asleep for the night I plucked him from his perch.  Needless to say he was surprised, but not terribly upset.  He  looked questioningly at me as I smeared the gooey mess on his super-sized legs, "What is that stuff anyway?" 

I explained that it is the same salve that cleared up his problem last year.  He said to hurry up because he was tired, but seemed resigned and stood quietly for the treatment.

Today I found a new poultry advice site.  The author seems quite familiar with LB's issue and says it is caused by a type of mite.  None of the other birds are or ever have been affected, so I'm not sure if this diagnosis is correct, but a week of daily vegetable oil soaks has been prescribed as a 100% cure.  This new treatment will be considerably easier than massaging a rooster, so tonight LB will have to briefly stand in a pot of Crisco pure vegetable oil.  I'll remind him that I'm a vegetarian so he won't think he's being pre-basted for the grill.


4:09 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, March 24, 2012



Julie is a fun-loving partygirl, or should I say she was a fun-loving partygirl until a few days ago.  That's when just the prospect of going outside filled my happy dog with terror.  "Come on, let's go out," were words she dreaded.

Trembling as if suddenly afflicted with a violent palsy she'd stand inside the door with a pleading look, "No, no, please don't make me go out there!!!"  It took a lot of cajoling to get her over the threshold and I just couldn't imagine what had provoked the sudden fear--until today.

My cross-eyed Julie has always found it highly entertaining to race into an unsuspecting group of chickens as they mindlessly pecked around, clucking and gossiping among themselves.  She'd appear from seemingly nowhere and bound through the center and the hens would scatter in all directions as she continued on her merry way.  If a rooster happened to be standing guard he would swear and issue an angry reproach, but that's as far as things ever progressed.

Today the cause of Julie's sudden fear of the out of doors was revealed.  Working in the garden with the trembling dog velcroed to my leg I discovered that she has become the pursued rather than the pursuer.  Lothario has become her worst enemy and since he is big and she is not, the rooster apparently decided to take her on, proving once again that what goes round comes round.  (He's quite a sprinter, that Lothario.)


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

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Each day I collect eight lovely eggs from the barn, box them up and put them in the fridge.  Although there are ten hens, just like human work crews there's always a slacker or two, so I gave the hen to egg ratio discrepancy little thought.

As I rounded the east side of the house I easily might have missed the neatly-camouflaged hen tucked in the corner of chimney.  It was Lonely Boy's nameless honey (who has now been christened Honey). 

"What are you doing there?" I asked the hen with the vacant stare on her silly chicken face.

"Oh, this heat has got me down. Maybe I'm having hot flashes, who knows, but I'm just sitting here where it's nice and cool," Honey replied.

I continued on my way toward the wheelbarrow which I needed to collect the corpse of the raccoon that had not outrun one of the mid-night lunatic drivers. ‘Poor thing had made it just to the end of my driveway.  He'd probably been on his way to ransack the garden shed. By the time I'd shoveled the dearly departed into the hearse and laid the little masked bandit to rest in the field across the road I had forgotten all about Honey.

It wasn't until much later in the day when Ernie appeared with an unconvincing look of nonchalance that did not disguise the egg-in-mouth truth that I recalled Honey the hen.  "...sitting here where it's nice and cool," indeed!  Apparently Honey has been cooling off while making daily deposits for some time.  I should have been collecting nine eggs each day instead of just eight. 

Obviously these eggs will not be offered for sale although technically they are still okay.  Ernie was rewarded with his ‘discovery' and Ted also got an egg just because he wanted one.  Julie said she prefers her eggs scrambled, so she declined the proffered treat from Honey's stash.  I took the remainder into the house, washed them and they will be doled out to the egg-static boys (Ted and Ernie) as kibble top dressing for the next few days.

As for Honey, she will be more closely monitored and discouraged from making further deposits outside of the barn.


7:34 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, March 21, 2012



Where to begin?  I should have tried to get the old kidney-shaker tractor started so I could mow the garden area and mulch the straw.  And I should have finished the travel piece and sent it to the publisher (last week...).  I certainly should have started the outline for another story.  And Ted really should have gotten a bath today.  He smells like a cesspool. 

I should have and could have done all of the above and more, but I didn't.  I told myself that all of those tasks (except for the tractor...) could and would be dealt with after the sun sets and the deck chairs next to leaky pond no longer beckon me to come and sit.

Oh, I would have gotten so much accomplished if I hadn't taken the dogs for a walk, and then poured a tall iced coffee, grabbed the can't-put-down book I'm reading and sat enjoying the beautiful day.  The sun shone so brightly.  The frogs croaked and the wind chimes serenaded.  The tall grasses around the pond waved in the breeze as my best friends, the dogs, tired from their walk and swim rolled around like puppies and then fell into contented sleep. 

I thought not about all of the work that should'a, would'a, could'a been accomplished.  Instead I thought about what a pleasant life I lead and how very lucky I am.  I don't regret a minute of it. 


8:40 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, March 20, 2012



About once a week I clear the ‘stream' of leaves, sticks and other debris to ensure the free flow of spring water into leaky pond and until this morning the inflow seemed to be keeping up with the leak, but today as I sat on the porch with a cup of coffee I noticed that no less than two inches of overflow pipe were exposed indicating that the leak is winning.  I hurried down to investigate and found that water is literally gushing from a low point on the east side, thus creating a second ‘pond' amidst multiflora brambles, down trees and other prickly vegetation.  My heart sank.

Had there ever been even a hint that this pond would be the money pit that it is I would have reconsidered the entire idea, but after three major excavations, plus last years effort to reinforce the sieve with several truckloads of clay and rock, things have only gone from bad to worse.  At one point someone suggested a rubber liner, but the cost was prohibitive.  In retrospect an expensive liner would have been a bargain for since its inception this mud hole has cost far more than any liner.  I am now totally disillusioned and clueless about how to ‘fix' this latest disappointment.  Even Ernie is sad.  Only the frogs are happy. 


9:21 am edt          Comments

Monday, March 19, 2012



It all began when Patty expressed her outrage over a proposal to reopen equine slaughterhouses.  She told me how she regularly sends money to some well-known (and well-heeled) animal charities who vow to stop this from happening.  That launched our conversation about why it makes sense to donate to local organizations where one can see firsthand just how money is being used.

I told her about Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary located just about a half hour away and this afternoon I took her for a visit.  Patty had her eyes opened.  Every turkey,cow, duck, chicken, goat, pig, sheep, goose and horse there has a story and none of them are pretty, but at Happy Trails their lives were changed.  Their health is restored, they learn to trust and they are cherished for the unique creatures they are before being offered for adoption.

I've been an advocate of this wonderful organization for many years and every visit is more inspiring than the one before.  All of the farm animals came from animal cruelty investigations, neglect or abuse. Some of the draft and buggy horses were relinquished through an innovative effort called the Amish Horse Retirement Program. 

Annette Fisher, the founder and director of Happy Trails is one of the most amazing people I've ever met. She has chosen to use her life to make the world a kinder, more humane place while far too many people merely use up space and air.  Look at their website and read a newsletter and I'm sure you will be impressed too. 


9:18 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, March 17, 2012



'Dinner guests tonight all the way from France!  Well, one of them came all that way, but the others are local.  Impending company is a great impetus for tidying things up, but I;'ve had help.  The animals have been doing their part.  Julie rolled in some poop to make herself especially aromatic.  One of the cats killed a mouse and deposited it on the patio to enhance an otherwise-dull door mat.  Even the chickens have been involved.  Gladys and the Pips, who had stationed themselves on the bench to watch as I cleared away the rodent corpse made their distinctive big white splats; so much more interesting than just plain old red brick.  What would I do without my helpers?

(I might have time to enjoy a glass of wine before my guests arrive.)


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Friday, March 16, 2012



At first glance I thought it was part of a trumpet vine stuck between the cedar shake shingles by the back door, but then I noticed that the ‘vine' had a head with a desperate gaping mouth.  Poor snake had somehow gotten himself trapped trying to scale the south side of the house.  ‘Lucky that I passed by when I did and released him or he surely would have perished. 

Eastern Garter snakes are the first to appear in the spring and I suspect this one was basking in the sunlight, soaking up the warmth.  Maybe a cat disturbed him/her and it tried a vertical rather than horizontal escape.  These snakes breed in March, but this must have been a spinster or a bachelor for I found no love interest nearby.  Females Eastern Garter snakes can birth up to fifty offspring which will range from 5"-9". They can  live up to ten years. This ones maturity was marked by a 24" length.  While not poisonous and ecologically beneficial, garter snakes will bite if provoked.  Although the gaping mouth looked scary it was not threatening. 

Snakes are familiar residents around here.  They languish in the stone wall and reproduce in the stacked cordwood. Occasionally I find one in the cellar.  That's fine by me and the cats, but the dogs give them a wide berth.  Snakes have many enemies (hawks, opossum, other snakes), but like most wildlife man is at the top of the list, senselessly killing whatever he doesn't take the time to learn about and appreciate.

This photo of Booger communing with a garter snake a couple of years ago made the pages of Wild Ohio.  Today's entrapped visitor was probably a relative of that celebrity serpent.


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Thursday, March 15, 2012



Rattycat is establishing a pattern, coming to the garden shed for dinner just around dusk, so tonight I was able to snap a couple of pictures, but he's still rather camera-shy.  I was also able pet his head this evening, so maybe he's forgiven me.  Already signs of improved health are evident.  With the exception of the large scab on his nose (a result of trying to escape from the live trap) he's looking better, and I'm sure he's feeling like a new man--or a new something....

Intoxicated by the glorious weather I purchased another peach tree that will require digging a large hole, which will in turn jeopardize the back issue I've been babying all week.  This may not have been a wise purchase, but I was drunk on spring air and couldn't resist. Slowly I'm establishing a new productive orchard.  The old one is just eye candy for me when it's in blossom and lots of gnarly apples for the wildlife later on. 

Each year about this time I promise myself not to let any of the gardens get out of control.  It's an easy promise to make when weeds are tiny and non-threatening, but in my entire life I have not succeeded in keeping them as tidy as intended, so who am I kidding?  Springtime always brings out good intentions that always seem to shrivel up in the heat of summer.

I've always been someone who sees the beauty and potential in abandoned or rundown properties.  I love the challenge of restoration which is precisely why I bought this place.  It was a dump and I did a fair job of restoration, but now after all these years I'm finding myself adopting a "good enough" attitude.  Someday someone will drive by this farm and say, "Oh, that place could be so nice if it were fixed up!"  I think I said that very thing myself.


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Wednesday, March 14, 2012



What a welcome surprise to meet Rattycat as I was returning from the barn last evening.  He's been in hiding under the tractor shed since his return from the vet and subsequent escape from the convalescent ward, AKA the hay room, but there he was slowly ambling toward the garden shed to see what was on the dinner menu.

It was almost dark, so a photo update wasn't possible.  It's just as well since he still looks pretty ragged.  I reached out to pat his head, but he took a quick swipe at me and the look on his face spoke volumes: "Thanks to you, now I'm only half the man I was just a week ago!  Thanks to you, I've got achy spots all over my body from being poked with all those shots and vaccinations!  Thanks to you, I feel like crap!"

I scurried into the house to fix a deluxe bowl of canned food as an appeasement. Although he ate with enthusiasm, he looked up from the bowl and muttered, "Damn you!" 

Who could blame the poor guy at this point, but I'm sure that in a couple of weeks, once any remnants of testosterone have faded away and his scruffy fur begins to grow back, he'll thank me, don't you think?  Soon he will be as handsome as Tom, who I might add is not happy about this newcomer.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2012



My back problem did not improve.  In fact it got much worse and after Monday's yoga practice it was all I could do to drag myself to the truck.  No working out in the gym, that was a given!  The whole purpose in this thrice weekly yoga and gym discipline is to become stronger.  Sadly, I found myself utterly incapacitated. I ended up getting a massage (which is usually a luxury, but this one was therapeutic), then limped home to collapse on the sofa weak as a kitten. What a bummer!

I've concluded that lifting a 4' long wooden window box filled with soil (approximate weight: 1,000 pounds or so it felt...) was how I damaged my back in the first place and one of the yoga positions only aggravated it.  I crippled myself and lost an entire day!  My back is still quite sore, but no longer in spasms.  Despite this distraction today arrived with a couple of favorite "firsts;" the first spring peepers and the first coltsfoot of the year.

Nothing is lovelier than falling asleep to the song of peepers as they frantically mate down by the pond.  Soon the chorus frogs will join them.  I even saw a bullfrog today, brave fellow that he was sitting on the bank at the waters edge.

On todays walk, just where Ranger Rick's woods joins Kenny's field I came upon the first coltsfoot of the season!  These pretty yellow flowers that look like small dandelions grow in wastelands, along roadsides or other undisturbed habitats.  The flowers appear at the end of leafless stems in early spring.  Leaves won't appear until the flowers go to seed.  I've learned that coltsfoot tea used to be brewed to cure coughs and lung ailments. The plant could also be crushed to treat skin problems, but as science advanced it was found to be quite toxic if ingested, causing severe liver problems and even death if given to babies.  Fortunately just  enjoying these harbingers of spring is not dangerous to one's health.  In fact, it's very beneficial.  My back feels better already.


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Monday, March 12, 2012



Anyone with a dodgy back will understand the absence of a blog post.  The beautiful weather beckoned and I heeded the call to spend most of the weekend outside working.  There is no shortage of stuff to be done, but as enjoyable as the labor was I am now paying the price with terrible back spasms.

I was attempting to salvage a damaged birdhouse when the Lincoln Town Car pulled up to the gate.   It was Ginny and her niece Janice who was driving since my old friend has wisely given up her driving privileges. I opened the gate and could immediately tell that Janice was upset.  "Oh Karen, I'm so mad my mouth is as dry as a stone!"  Indeed she was furious and rightly so.

She and Ginny had been out for a drive and decided to stop by, but they couldn't recall the name of my road.  Understandably Janice was driving slowly, reading the road signs and looking for landmarks when she noticed she was being followed by a white car.  When she turned, it turned.  When she backed up to retrace a direction, so did the white car.  There was no question that the driver was deliberately trailing her every move.  This continued until Janice finally pulled over and the white car did the same.  A tall, skinny, un-uniformed man disembarked and slithered up to the Lincoln, identifying himself as one of our local policemen although he showed nothing to prove this claim.

He accused Janice of driving erratically and began to insult her, claiming she was drunk or that she must have "some kind of a health issue" and ordered her to, "Go home!"  She informed him that she was not drunk, nor did was she physically impaired and that she had a flawless driving record. Then she told him whose farm she was trying to find (mine).  Had this guy been one of our local policemen, all of whom are helpful and friendly, he would have known me (...not that I'm notorious) or he would have looked up the address and directed her accordingly.  No wonder poor Janice's mouth was "dry as a stone." 

It should be noted that Janice is not old and that she is genteel, intelligent and polite. She was driving an elegant vehicle and had her trembling old aunt in the car with her.  This rude impersonator behaved in an inexcusable manner.  As I listened to her I became nearly  as angry as she and immediately called the Chief who assured me that he would find out just who the person was.  While I haven't had a follow-up report I suspect that someone is in big trouble today.

I'm sorry that Janice and Ginny had such a disturbing interruption to their Sunday outing, but I was happy to see them nevertheless.  Although she now walks with the aid of a cane Ginny says she's been planning her garden.  Then, shaking her head as if very disappointed in herself, my 101 year old friend continued, "Oh, but I can only work two or three hours out there and then I have to come in and rest...." 

What can I say?


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Saturday, March 10, 2012



What a glorious day as Ted's expression shows.  He had comfortably wedged himself between his two bad ass pals and begged to have his photo taken.  No one seems to have told the donkeys or my dogs that asses and canines are supposed to be incompatible, but not here. Everyone gets along. I was almost grateful for the truck ruts because filling them in was the impetus for spending most of the day outside.  One thing led to another and much was accomplished, but it was a day of discovery as well.

One might think that after so many years living at this old farm there would be nothing left to discover, but not so.  Near the pond a strange orange color caught my eye.  It turned out to be one of four red clay tiles that surfaced during the winter.  Their odd location doesn't make much sense.  They are too near the house to suggest field drainage and nowhere near the septic system, so what was their purpose?  I pulled them out of the moist soil and added them to my ‘materials in waiting' pile.

The red tail hawk is a regular visitor now which keeps the chickens on their toes, so to speak.  Today I discovered why this beautiful bird of prey is such a presence lately. While admiring the carpet of moss on the nature trail I looked up and was surprised to see what I'm quite sure is a hawk nest at the top of one of the tallest trees.  This does not bode well for the chickens, but I'm excited about it!

Further on I saw a bright spot of purple near where the original barn once stood.  Crocus in full bloom!  Beautiful.  Eventually the dogs and I made our way to the barn where the shaggy donkeys got curried and brushed.  Julie taunted Andy who dutifully gave chase and a good time was had by all.

It seemed cats, dogs and donkeys were all in a joyous mood today.  The only thing that could have made the afternoon brighter would have been the reappearance of Rattycat.  I've called and searched for him, but he is reluctant to show himself and that's understandable considering the events he has endured the past two days.  He'll return I'm sure, happier and certainly healthier than he has ever been. I think he'll soon be a beautiful cat.



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Friday, March 9, 2012



After my father's first heart attack my mother bought him a self-propelled power mower to replace his reel type push model.  He took great pride in that old mint green beauty and was reluctant to abandon it.  Its blades were honed to surgical sharpness and the painted body was kept polished as if it were a Rolls Royce, but to placate my mother he fired up the new mower that was intended to ease the strain on his heart and set off to attack the grass that might have been a half inch longer than his exacting standards.  It should be noted that my father was not mechanically-inclined, so when the mower with a mind of its own began to dig great ruts in his previously perfect lawn he went ballistic.  It was probably the stress of trying to conquer that self-propelled mower that gave him heart attack #2.  Today I relived my father's dilemma, but with bigger consequences.

I had far more obligations than I had time, so I'd hoped to confront each task as efficiently as possible starting with a antique cherry chest of drawers that was stored in the garden shed until I could deliver it to the antique mall to sell.  A solid cherry piece of furniture is heavy, so rather than lug the monster further than necessary it seemed like a good idea to drive the truck as near to the shed as possible.  I hadn't factored into this plan the water-logged lawn and in a flash the truck was stuck.  The more I tried to free it the more stuck it became.  Great chunks of mud flew all over the place, including all over neighbor Sandy who had come to help me load the chest.  Soon the lawn looked as if I were trying to recreate the Erie canal and still I was stuck.  Neighbor John came to the rescue with his huge truck and tow chain and took two dozen eggs in payment for liberating the Nissan. 

After the chest was delivered it was time to pick up Rattycat from the vet located forty minutes to the north where he had gotten an extreme makeover and a new lease on life.  The doctor ordered 5-7 days of rest for RC, so I had outfitted the hay room as a recuperation center, complete with fluffy beds, temptingly delicious food, water and litter box.  He was safely and comfortably ensconced when I left to attend an art show in the town thirty minutes to the south.

Home at last I went to the barn to check on the patient only to discover he had dug his way to freedom!  Even with a full moon and a flashlight I could find no sign of RC.  I'm worried, but helpless until morning.  He has probably retreated to his old haunt so he will have shelter, but not nearly so luxurious as that which he left.  Tomorrow I'll search for the new improved kitty, fill the giant ruts left from the stuck truck and try to recover from the events du jour in time to make something tasty for the monthly music potluck tomorrow evening.  Whew, it's been a long day....


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Wednesday, March 7, 2012


The weatherman promised warm sunny skies yesterday, but he was wrong.  It was cold and windy when the dogs and I headed up to Kenny's to deliver some cookies and a magazine.  Even so, the walk was invigorating and magical as visits to Kenny's usually are.

Most farmers would agree that Kenny's fencing is casual at best.  A single hot wire that works some of the time, but not always is all that keeps his cattle confined. Fortunately they have an enormous pasture and seem to be thriving on their daily allocation of spelt bread (he's got a truck full of the stuff...), so they're pretty content.  Occasionally Cow apparently tires of her companions and leaves home just for a bit of solitude.  She's pretty familiar with the territory and always returns, so Kenny sees no reason for worry.

Karen from the stable up the road called to tell me that she encountered, "...that big red and white cow..." while she and some friends were out riding a few days ago.  Not surprisingly it was Cow and she was out wandering around the field to the south, but high-tailed it back home after meeting the horses.  I easily followed her adventure by the hoof prints she left in the muddy field.

As the dogs and I meandered down the old back lane leading to the house and barn I saw that Kenny had been clearing the fence line using his (and my) favorite method; fire.  He doesn't employ a trash service.  When he acquires a pile of rubbish, regardless of the combination (cans, paper, glass, etc.) he simply dumps it along the fence and sets it alight.  Quite a long section had been charred, but the ubiquitous multi-flora rose brambles were unaffected and already showing signs of life.  They can now spread with no competition other than the non-combustible cans and bottles.

As we approached the barn I saw Kenny breaking ice from the water trough.  He was using an antique hay fork that would have fetched a pretty penny at an antique shop, but it was serving his purpose and I'm sure he has no interest in selling it or any of the other old tools that litter the farm. 

"Hey neighbor," I called so as not to startle him.  He hadn't even noticed the dogs that had reached him before I did.  In typical Kenny fashion his face lit up, especially when I presented the bag of cookies. I had intended to place them on the fence post since he was working, but he quickly leaned his hay fork against the barn and snatched them from my hand.  It was cold and his nose was running.  A crystaline drop hung tenaciously from the beak-like tip and he made no effort to wipe it away. 

"Sooooo, did you go vote for Santorum today," he asked.  I learned a long time ago not to become engaged in political or religious discussions in these parts, so ignoring his query I changed the subject, all the while keeping a close watch on the big Hereford-cross bull who was keeping a close watch on me and the dogs. 

"Say, can you use some more of that chicken like I brought you," he wondered. "My Amish friends killed a bunch of young roosters and canned the meat. Boy, it's good, isn't it?  Ethel used to do that too, but...."  He stopped. 

It's been several years since his sister's death, but he still tears up when he talks about her.  I recently learned that Ethel had once been married.  This news came as a real shocker as the whole neighborhood had assumed that like Kenny, she had never married.  She always went by her maiden name, but at one time there had been a very brief union.  It lasted three weeks.  My source wasn't sure which spouse became disillusioned and bolted, but my guess is that it was Ethel.

We chatted a bit longer and Kenny promised to dig out some old photos to show me.  I hope he remembers.  The dogs and I turned to head for home and Kenny reached for the hay fork and resumed pitching ice chunks from the water trough. 


11:33 am est          Comments

Tuesday, March 6, 2012



Working the night shift leaves a girl knackered, but my carelessly tossed barn coat served as a comfy cat bed this morning.  "Oh, can't you hang it up later?" plead Poppy.

There are seven cats here (eight if I count Rattycat, the feral who remains at large...), so there are assorted toys, inside-outside privileges and plenty of other amusements intended to keep the feline crowd entertained and out of trouble. At nightime most of them sleep. But Poppy is a serious girl with little interest in ‘play' or nocturnal rest. Instead, she has appointed herself ‘security guard.'  Her shift begins shortly after I retire for the night and ends only after she has opened every cupboard door and drawer in the house.  She's very adept at this self-imposed task.  Upon completion of her work she quietly hops up on the bed, tip-toes next to my face and with a wispy "Pfewt, pfewt, pfewt...,"announces that her shift is over. 

It wasn't really a big deal.  People who live with animals subconsciously grow accustomed to what others would consider annoying.  But, recently Poppy decided that in addition to the dozen or so inspections she dutifully conducts every bloody night of the week, she would add TV maintenance. 

A bedroom corner cupboard conceals a television when the doors are closed, but doors are never a problem for Poppy.  In order to assure that no marauder is lurking within that space she has begun inserting herself in the tangle of wires at the back of the telly and systematically unplugging them.  Even in a semi-conscious state this sound is annoying and unmistakable leaving me with few options: (A) Leap from bed and toss the cat from the cupboard, (B) Ignore her and re-plug and reset everything in the morning, or (C) Shoot her with a stream of cold water.  I've opted for ‘C.' 

A squirt gun would be great, but lacking such a weapon I've had to improvise, hence next to my bed where others might place a candle or hand lotion or a book are two large, water-filled hypodermic syringes (needles removed).  Admittedly they don't enhance the décor, but it's a small compromise.  I think/hope that I have convinced her to abandon TV maintenance.


10:39 am est          Comments

Monday, March 5, 2012



"EEWW!  Is that a real squirrel on your bookshelf?" she squealed.

It wasn't the first time I'd heard such a remark and I'm sure it won't be the last.  What could I say?  "Yes, it was a real squirrel...."

"Well I never thought I'd see a dead animal in your house!" came the next indignant reproach, and once again I found myself forced to explain just how this ‘trophy' came to its current resting place.

Had someone given it to my Uncle Bill or had he been responsible for the snuff and stuff?  I'll never know, but according to the card on the underside, "Canton Taxidermy" had preserved the hickory nut-bearing bushy tail on a piece of bark-covered oak. "Standard Museum Mount," says the card which also indicates that preservation took place in 1940. It remains in amazingly fine condition.  "R. M. Emery, Manager" was a master of his craft.

One of my earliest memories is this squirrel on my uncle's dresser, so when it came time to clear out the family home I didn't think twice about whether it would join the other auction items or not.  It came home with me.  Now, in its perpetually-alert pose, nut securely  clenched between yellow teeth, eyes bright and cautious, it will continue to surprise guests who spot it nestled among the books.


6:44 pm est          Comments

Sunday, March 4, 2012



My nature trail is more than half covered in beautiful moss.  I love it, so I was pretty excited when I found this easy ‘recipe' for creating a moss carpet where none currently exists.  I intend to do this as soon as the weather breaks (it's currently snowing again...). 

Simply place a hunk of existing moss (about a 2" piece) into a blender and add a can or bottle of beer.  (Another recipe calls for 2 c. of buttermilk and 2 c. of water in place of beer.  I guess it just depends what happens to be in your fridge or if you are a teetotaler.)

Puree either mixture and then dribble it wherever you wish to grow moss.  Acidic soil is best.  Remove debris from the area and tamp the ground firmly.  No compost and no loose soil!  Ideally the location should be cool and moist, but moss is very hardy and survives droughts.  I'm hoping it will do well between the flagstones on the terrace.

Moss feels wonderful underfoot, requires no weeding and best of all, no mowing because it thrives where grass does not!  It even seems to be chicken proof. How perfect is that!

I adore P. Allen Smith's Garden Home on PBS and always find his ideas and advice to be practical and easy, so this YouTube video using moss to add an interesting patina to clay pots is also something I plan to try.


1:46 pm est          Comments

Saturday, March 3, 2012



Just when least expected something nice always seems to happen around here and so it was today.  Only minutes after posting my last dreary lament, the phone rang.  It was Patty whom I haven't seen or heard from in many months.  Busy with her jewelry business she's been traveling, but called to say she was coming for a visit.  I scurried around like a squirrel tidying things up and in no time at all she pulled into the driveway.  She was wearing her pajamas.

In addition to her unconventional mode of attire Patty possesses that rare ability to make others look at life through very different eyes.  She's also a terrific story teller who soon had me in tears--of laughter.  In spite of the gray gloomy skies and blustery winds outside, the house was warm and filled with a joy unique to old friendships. Thank goodness for oddballs like Patty!  

4:05 pm est          Comments



Things are not so peaceable here at the Peaceable Kingdom and admittedly, I've been in a funk for the past couple of days and not just a minor funk, but a deep funk. Here are a few of the causes.

Another friend has died.  This makes three in as many weeks.  Two of these friends had lived long meaningful lives, but the latest was far too young to leave.  I'm sad for the family he leaves behind and for all the lives he had touched and more importantly, for all the lives that will not be touched in his absence.

A young woman who was like a second daughter to me when she and my own child were growing up is in a fight for her life.  She is loved by many, including me and my daughter, but she is geographically far away.  I know that fears which accompany any serious illness are only slightly lessened by knowing that many care and hope for a complete recovery.  In the end one must face these fears alone.  I worry about her and feel helpless.

The battle so many of us have fought to abort the contract renewal of a trap and kill city employee has apparently been for naught.  Not only was this sadistic creature's contract renewed, but it was extended to match the terms of the arrogant city councilmen.  He was also given a raise.  This travesty has drawn the attention of media far and wide, making the city a laughing stock.  The pity is that there is nothing funny about the countless animals that will be tortured and killed thanks to this decision by some ego-driven elected goons. 

I've always believed that if one followed whatever the driving passion of one's youth, before society had a chance to squelch, smother or redirect it, one would lead a satisfying and meaningful existence.  That passion, to promote tolerance and compassion and basic humane treatment of non-human creatures has been the driving force for so many behind this battle, including me.  Great pains were taken to come up with alternatives to the atrocities that have quietly gone unaddressed for years.  Not only were the alternative programs proven effective in communities where implemented, but they were also more economical.  This illustrates that the motives behind city council's inane decision were not based upon anything other than arrogance and perhaps a fear that the trapper/killer has information on these decision-makers that could prove embarrassing.  Regardless of the reason, cruelty, torture and essential evil has apparently prevailed.  Yet another sad event to ponder....

Damaging winds tore through the region last night.  No damage was done here, but many places were not so lucky.  It seems that those who had the least lost it. 

A couple of days ago I restrung the damaged wind chimes that have been silent for several months.  Unbeknownst to me I had grown contentedly comfortable with the silence.  I made this discovery last night as those damned chimes clanged noisily beneath my bedroom window further interrupting my nightmare-filled sleep.  This morning I took them down and they will be relocated far from the house, but not until the winds die down. 

And so, dear readers I confess that finding anything funny or entertaining to post on this blog has been challenging, so I have not done so.  I've instead taken a couple of days to regather my normal optimism.  Things will improve--won't they?


10:47 am est          Comments

Thursday, March 1, 2012



Yesterday was lovely and I'd spent a good bit of time at the barn early in the day cleaning, playing with bad asses and hauling compost to the garden, but I'd finished these chores before the chickens were inside for the day, so I had to return later to close things up.  By that time it was raining and almost dark.  An anxious Andy was waiting for me at the gate matching his pace to mine as we headed for the barn. 

"I told him you would be mad, but he wouldn't listen and he went in there anyway," explained my long-eared companion casting his gaze toward the chicken pen where an imprisoned Corky stood trying his best to be inconspicuous. 


‘No response, but then donkeys are famous for feigning innocence as well as deafness.  Approaching the chicken impersonator I was surprised to find the gate still securely locked and all fencing seemingly intact.  I unlatched the gate and he scurried out leaving me to wonder just how he'd managed this feat. Surely he hadn't jumped the fence.  Both of the bad asses hurried into their stall as if nothing were amiss.  I tossed them a couple flakes of hay, grabbed a flashlight and went back outside to investigate. 

Apparently while I was busy loading and hauling nice black compost from the manure dump which is north of the barn, unbeknownst to me Corky was checking out the nearby chicken pen which is scheduled to be rebuilt, but not just yet!  Corky decided to get the project underway by tearing the chicken wire loose from the bottom 2" x 4" and then slithering into the small enclosure. 

For anyone who hasn't witnessed donkey slithering I can tell you it's quite impressive.  These sturdy little beasts can become as agile and limber as the most athletic cat and squeeze through unimaginable places; in this case a small opening through chicken wire.  Why?  Oh, just for the heck of it.

Equine IQ tests have shown donkeys to score the highest of all test subjects.  Their intelligence is legendary.  Unlike horses that will do their handlers' bidding, a donkey's biggest concern is self-preservation.  This has led to their undeserved reputation for stubbornness.  However, Corky's chicken pen invasion had nothing at all to do with survival, but more to do with boredom. 

I'm writing this latest naughtiness off to early spring fever although today is far from spring-like.  It's cold, wet and blustery, but thanks to my bad ass whiz-kid I must brave the cold and make a temporary repair to the chicken pen or he will take advantage of the opening and return to do more damage. 

Someone tell me again just why I have these two clowns....

11:17 am est          Comments

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