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 WELCOME TO MY BLOG! REFLECTIONS OF A SINGLE WOMAN'S LIFE ON AN OLD FARM.
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Thursday, May 31, 2012

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Farmer Chuck dropped by today.  "I need to hide from Kenny for a while," he said.  He'd hired someone to spray herbicide on the fields he leases and Kenny strongly objects to anything non-organic.  Chuck was hoping that the sprayer finished the task before Kenny got home.

Kenny's fields had been fallow for more than a decade before he leased them.  Had Chuck not used commercial fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides initially the land would have passed muster for certified organic production, but not now.  Even so, Kenny has convinced Chuck to use only natural products from Ohio Earth Foods next year.  Kenny may have a convert and that would be nice.

The changes affecting my small country life have become painfully obvious in the past week. Daily shooting and  killing every animal that should and does live in the country has been very upsetting.  Not one of the "new" people on this road shows any respect for nature or wildlife.Those of us who do care and who cherish the natural world have become the minority and I think that given half a chance the trigger happy shooters would snuff us out too.  'Pretty scary.

Into My Own

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as 'twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that someday

into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e'er turn back,

Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew--

Only more sure of all I thought was true.

Robert Frost

 

9:16 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

THE UGLY AMERICAN.

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A long-overdue rain mercifully cooled things down, so taking advantage of the milder temperature I set off for an after dinner walk, sans dogs.  As I clipped along enjoying the wildflowers and the tranquility of dusk I approached my half-way point. From the toy-laden yard of the house where new people moved in last summer came repeated shots from a 22 rifle.  As I got closer I saw an animal desperately thrashing about as two ‘great white hunters' stood directly over it watching it's agony.

I could hardly believe such deliberate cruelty.  My stomach lurched.  The bwanna with the rifle then turned and walked toward the house. The remaining ‘sportsman' stood next to the tortured animal, then placed a pitch fork on it and leaned into it.  The victim continued to thrash about, but less vigorously.  Apparently bored with his evening entertainment, Vlad the impaler repeatedly jabbed at the helpless creature until it lay quiet.

As I turned from the corner mile post and headed south the smarmy creature  was marching from his driveway with the dead raccoon on his ‘weapon.'  He crossed the road and threw the carcass into the corn field, then headed back toward his house.  As our paths crossed he said, "Hi, how ya doin?"

While I really would have liked to confiscate the pitch fork and ram it into his gut, I instead replied, "I would have thought that with all those shots at point blank range you could have killed the poor thing."  His face colored and he actually said, "Thanks."

Thanks?!!!  Obviously this cretin is not only cruel, but stupid!  Did he think I was complimenting him?  To clarify any such misunderstanding I added, "JERK!" and stomped past him. 

The killing was senseless.  The house has no garden, only grass, not so much as a flowering plant. The raccoon presented no threat to the thrill killer.  Back home I closed the gate, wishing with all my being that I could shut out such ugly Americans.  If only it were so.  A seemingly burgeoning population (around here) of heartless goons like these two men (???) confirm that having committed this property to a wildlife conservation trust was the right thing to do.  The image of tonight's debauchery is burned into my mind.  Worse still is knowing that this macho man will pass on his 'compassionate' nature to offspring.  Our's is not a kind society.

 

9:38 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 27, 2012

GOT CORN?

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While kneeling by the row of beans, pulling weeds that continue to thrive in spite of the insufferable heat and drought I felt a pair of eyes burning into my back.  Just over my shoulder sat this baby groundhog who squeaked, "My mom sent me to find out what you've planted.  She hopes you've put in some corn because that's our favorite." 

While safe here, should this fellow or any of his family venture beyond these borders the moron on the corner will blast him to smitherines.  I have observed that people who find some sick delight in killing just for the sake of killing are generally all-around losers.

And finally a bit of sad news: I regret to report that Stuart Little II lost his brave struggle for survival.  He fought valiantly for three days, but alas like baby mice before him I was unable to save the little guy.

 

1:43 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 26, 2012

GOODNESS SNAKES ALIVE!

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When Little Ivy appeared here (uninvited like most of the other animals), she immediately announced that she would be taking over as Matron of All Things Furry.  She refused to divulge her age, saying it was no one's business, so ten years later it remains a mystery. 

She still looks as she did that first day; like a half-grown pregnant kitten, but the vet confirmed she was no kitten. "She's at least two years old and not pregnant," he said after spaying her.

True to her word Ivy has taken her role of family matriarch very seriously.  Her self-imposed duties are many.  She monitors the continuous feeder and lets me know when the cat chow is getting low.  In the evening she sits in front of the cookie cupboard and demands kitty treats. Her concern is mostly for herself, but the other cats come running when they hear Ivy's call for cookies.  When visitors come Ivy installs herself on their laps whether they are cat people or not and she will not get down no matter how much they  protest.  She is proof that perseverance pays off.  She has insisted on sleeping with Ted although he rejected her for years, only recently conceding.  Ivy knows how to get her way.

So, when I walked out to the brick porch and found her perched on the top step with a look of such intensity on her dear little face, utterly absorbed in something close by I took a look.  Only inches away the latest resident reptile lay sprawled on the bricks.  I'd not seen this one before and I'm not sure what kind it is.

 Ivy really isn't a trouble maker, so I was surprised when she took the first swat at the snake. She paid no attentio to my reprimand, "Ivy, stop that!"   Like a boxer she whomped the snake on its head repeatedly-pop, pop, pop!  The poor creature finally responded by pulling his bulging body into a semi-coil and striking back at the belligerent cat.  This really angered Ivy who apparently had decided that snakes have no business near the porch; an area reserved strictly for humans, cats and dogs.  Her assault continued and soon Tom arrived to watch the match.  The snake finally made his escape into the rock wall and both cats hopped down to continue the pursuit. 

Considering the size of the reptile (about 3') their diligence was impressive.  It had obviously had a recent meal as evidenced by the mid-section bulge which I hope was not Stuart Little's mother or father.  It had probably intended to simply soak up the late afternoon warmth of the bricks while digesting dinner.  This morning I saw a portion of him secluded in between some of the rocks, so it seems he's decided to stick around in spite of Ivy's eviction order.photos/MAY26X.jpg

This is the fifth snake I've encountered already this year; one ribbon snake, one garter snake, two different rat snakes and whatever this pretty fellow is.

2:20 pm edt          Comments

Friday, May 25, 2012

MEET STUART LITTLE II

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...Or is it the III, or the IV...?  I've lost track of the baby mice I've rescued.  Some rescue and rehabilitation efforts have been successful, others not so.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but thus far he's doing well. 

Stuart was discovered on the porch at six o'clock this morning, the obvious victim of one of the cats.  He appeared quite dead until I saw a tiny foot twitch.  He was icy cold, but after greeting this lovely morning with a cup of coffee in one hand and a baby mouse in the other he became slightly more active and was transferred to the rodent ICU. 

His little eyes aren't open yet, but it looks as if it won't be long.  Mouse eyes open at about two weeks.  I've made wildlife formula for him and have gotten some of it into the patient, but even the smallest syringe is too big for his tiny mouth.  When his eyes open he will move on to toddler food in the form of cereals.  Finding a safe release spot for the little fellow will be challenging and will probably require relocation.  Meanwhile, I'm playing nursemaid to Stuart and hoping for the best. What appears to be blood is just the cameras relection.  He has no wounds.

Is he darling or is he darling!

 

4:55 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 24, 2012

EMERGENCY!

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The eight cats in residence here live the good life; tasty chow, in-out privileges, birds to harass, moles unlimited to kill, trees to climb..., life is good.  They do their thing and I do mine, so after working in my office all day, when Booger crawled up on my lap after meandering out of the tall weeds this evening  I immediately noticed an abnormal heat.  He felt as if he were on fire.  He shook his head.  His eyes were squinty and his nose was running.  When he meowed his breath was unpleasant.  Something was clearly wrong!

A call to my daughter (the cat expert) suggested that he;  1) had been stung, 2) had an allergic reaction to the weeds in which he was lying.  While checking to see if Benadryl is advised for felines (it is) it occurred to me that Dr. Costsalot is open on Thursday evening.  I called.

"Bring him right in," said the cheery receptionist.  It was 7:00 p.m.  Booger enjoys climbing into the kitty carrier and he especially enjoys going for a ride, so once secured I lugged his 12 pound hulk to the truck and off we went. 

A thorough check confirmed an elevated temperature, congestion and bloodshot eyes.  Diaganosis:  Sinusitis.  He was given the magic 14 day antibiotic shot and for a mere $87.00 (!!!!!) we were on our way back home.  He said he feels better already.

 

9:05 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ANIMAL PEOPLE.

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Most of the people in my life are in one way or another "animal people."  For some, animals are their business. For others, animals are their family.  Sadly, for some, pretending to care about animals is just an easy exploitation. (These people are not included in my animal friends directory, but rather they serve as reminders that there are bottom feeders in every facet of life.)

Something that goes unnoticed by non-animal people is the trickle-down impact of genuine animal people.  This was exemplified again today when my daughter called to ask, "Do you think your friend Dick Drake knows anyone who could get a kitten out of a tree...." 

Apparently the tree was very big, extremely tall and quite impossible for anyone to climb.  The kitten had been in the upper branches since yesterday.  I called my arborist friend (who is also an animal person) and not surprisingly Dick sped to the feline's rescue with his company cherry picker truck. 

Dick is one of those people too kind and generous for his own good.  As a certified arborist he frequently offers his expertise and service gratis to the city which of course takes advantage of his generosity, often without so much as a ‘thank you.'  He never complains since his concern is for the welfare of the trees, but I personally have no tolerance for thankless entities like city government.

By rescuing today's kitten from its lofty predicament Dick not only helped the animal, but made a family very happy.  He also educated them about the trees age and ecological importance, thus proving that helping animals has far-reaching benefits (beyond those of the cherry picker). 

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7:11 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

FACELIFT.

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What a pity my own face couldn't be so easily refurbished as that of this old kitchen table.  When I bought the piece many years ago at an antique market the seller said it had come from West Virginia.  Maybe so, maybe not.  I didn't care.  I just liked it.  The legs were dark and scarred and the top bore burn marks, scratches and an alligatored finish. 

I brought it home, sanded it and slapped on a satin finish and the table looked pretty good--until the day I accidentally tossed an ammonia-soaked rag on it.  In seconds the corrosive ammonia ate through the satin finish leaving it with leprous spots that no amount of polish could hide.  Every time I looked at what my carelessness had done I cringed, but I lived with the mess for years. 

On Sunday I could stand it no longer!  Who would have guessed how simple it was to ‘fix' it.  In no time at all I had it sanded, sealed and finished and I am pleased with the result.  And what prettier garnish than the first peonies of the summer!

 

6:10 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 21, 2012

CHRISTMAS IN MAY?

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The beautiful Christmas cactus in my office pays no heed to the seasons.  Its bright red flowers surprised me this morning when I glanced toward the window, but that wasn't the only surprise of the day.  Another less pleasant one was in the mailbox.  It was from the IRS and it informed me that my 2010 return had a major discrepancy.  The nit-picking Internal Revenue says that I owe them more than $3,000.00 and that if I don't cough up the cash by June 20th it will be even more!

Needless to say, I was taken aback and immediately placed a call to my accountant who informed me that a certain important document that I had neglected to provide was the reason and that this notice wouldn't be the end of it.  My over-sight would have a domino effect and he says I should expect to hear from the state also.  Oh dear....  It really isn't Christmas in May!

 

6:44 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 20, 2012

KEEPING THE BAD ASSES ON THEIR TOES.

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This is Lori.  The bad asses and I agree that she's pretty remarkable.  Lori is their farrier and in spite of Corky's theatrics when it's time for the pair to get a pedicure, both donkeys adore her. 

On the scheduled trim day I close them in their stall with just the top of the Dutch door open.  "Uh oh....  This can't be good," says Corky. Either Lori is coming OR the vet.  Lori=good.  Vet=bad.  The possibility of the latter causes Corky great anxiety and he begins pacing and gnawing madly on any and all bits of wood within his reach.  Extra hay tossed in to keep them busy is quickly consumed and the pacing and gnawing resumes until Lori arrives and puts his mind at ease. Andy meanders out of the stall and stands perfectly still for his trim, then politely thanks Lori before re-entering the stall. Meanwhile Corky is throwing a tantrum like a spoiled three year old in the grocery store, slamming himself to the stall floor and making pathetic grunts and groans that would have any stranger believe he's in the throes of death.  Gentleman Andy apologizes for his companion's bad behavior, but the show is over. Corky (having given his best performance to an unappreciative audience) suddenly morphs from spoiled brat to sweet, doe-eyed donkey and steps out to greet Lori. 

Unlike some (not all...) male farriers who depend upon brute strength to get the job done, Lori finesses her four-legged clients  with a soft, but firm voice and lots of pats.  She works smarter, not harder.  In addition to keeping my boys and myriad other equine feet trimmed and healthy, Lori is the mother of five kids! Amazing!

 

10:15 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A PERFECT DAY.

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A rare and perfect day!  It began with making a "to do" list, followed by briefly perusing the wares at a garage sale which netted three books by some of my favorite authors.  The seller and I had very similar literary tastes as there were many books that are already taking up shelf space here, but there's no such thing as too many good books.

Back home I confronted the tasks on the "to do" list and steadily ticked them off. One of the chores involved bathing all three dogs, but this tested last weeks plumbing venture and it pleases me to report success. Not being blasted with uncontrolled spray from the former malfunctioning system, the job was a snap and was completed in record time. Now all three hounds smell lovely and although I did all the work, they are all exhausted.

Other chores went equally well, so I felt no guilt lying on the porch with E. Annie Proulx's Bird Cloud.  She is without question my favorite contemporary author.  We are alike in many ways and her uncompromising observations resonate.  On the guest list for my fantasy dinner party Ms. Proulx is at the top of the list.

Lying on the porch I was suddenly aware of the absence of noise.  No one was mowing.  No one was target practicing.  Best of all no one on the other side of the hill to the west was riding motor bikes or 4-wheelers.  Only the breeze tinkling the wind chimes and a choir of diverse bird songs pierced the air.  Blue jays and cardinals stopped by for a snack on the refilled corn feeder, oblivious to the cats snoozing right below them.  The jays practiced their hawk imitations and dutifully responded to my imitation of their imitation.  Wrens twittered and one flew under the porch roof, surprising Peggy Sue who had ventured outside to join all the other dogs and cats.

Occasionally noisy trucks thundered up the road, but I couldn't really see them through the dense foliage and for just a little while it felt the way this old farm used to feel--isolated and peaceful.  To the east came a call I've heard frequently, but couldn't identify until last weeks visit by H. who is an avid birder and naturalist.  When I asked her what it was she told me it was a wild turkey.  How exciting!  Equestrians have been reporting turkey sightings in Ranger Rick's woods, but I haven't seen any yet, not there anyway, but it pleases me to think they might be visiting here.

Years ago I put this place into a legally-binding wildlife conservation trust. Hopefully it will remain a sanctuary long after I'm dead and my powdery ashes have been sifted over Oba Lake.  No doubt the restrictions imposed by this decision diminish the market value of the property, but I don't care.  I don't have plans to sell it anyway.  In relation to the habitat destruction that's rampant around here, this plot is a postage stamp, but it's a safe haven for so much wildlife; everything from the Eastern garter snake that got himself caught between the shingles, to the deer that stood watching the furnace installers a few months ago.  The leaking scummy pond is certainly a disappointment, but the frogs manage to survive there and birds still land at the edge to drink and bathe in the green goo, so I guess it still serves a purpose, even if it isn't a visual pleasure.

The fleeting minutes just at dawn and at the edge of dusk offer the kind of ambiance I've enjoyed all day, but to have the gift of quiet for an entire day has been almost too good to be real.  Life is good.

 

5:14 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 17, 2012

ONE MORE VISITOR.

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It wasn't even dark when I finished yesterdays evening barn chores. As I approached the house Rattycat was patiently waiting as he usually does, ready for his evening meal, so I went inside for cat food to refill his bowl in the garden shed.  Just as the Meow Mix hit the plastic dish I heard a noise.  Rattycat was standing in the open doorway with a nervous look on his face.  "‘Better watch out. He's right behind you," he warned.

Sure enough, effortlessly scaling the wooden wall was the Meow Mix bandit.  I knew a nocturnal visitor had been taking advantage of Rattycat's lodging because each morning his water bowl was a mess, but I wasn't quite sure if a coon or an opossum was responsible.  Mystery solved. 

Clambering up into the rafters, he knocked down skis and poles, an old floor mop and several pieces of lumber, but the fat raccoon that looked to be about half as big as Ernie was trying his best to be inconspicuous. He probably thought that since his fur was the same color as the wall boards I might not notice him.   

Oblivious to the avalanche he'd created he finally teetered on the 4" ledge at the top of the wall just above my head.  I ran for the camera, thinking he'd surely take advantage of my departure to beat feet, but he obligingly clung to his precarious perch.  He agreed to pose if I promised to post his picture on this blog, so here he is.

Rattycat will now be dining about the same time as senior citizens at Cracker Barrel.  Maybe an empty bowl will dissuade the uninvited evening guest.  RC does not like sharing and I'm not keen on feeding eight cats plus a big fat raccoon.

 

1:51 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

OLD FARMERS.

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It's been an interesting day.  While working on an article about a pasture-raised egg farm in Kentucky Farmer Chuck stopped by to purchase some of my pasture-raised eggs.  He was getting them for Kenny's friend Wilson who is also an old eccentric farmer.  I requested that he tell Wilson to save the boxes for me because I never seem to have enough.   Eggs and money were exchanged, Chuck left and I returned to my writing.

A few hours later the dogs alerted that I had more visitors.  At the end of the drive sat an unfamiliar Mercedes station wagon and two men were just coming through the gate.  It was Chuck and Wilson, whom I'd never met before, but rumor had it that he's quite a character.  The rumors were right!

 "I'm Kenny's friend," said Wilson extending a hand.  A slightly-too-big bill cap hovered just above his bright blue eyes. He wore a plaid shirt and in his other hand he held a plastic bag of egg boxes (presumably the reason for the visit). He wanted to meet the "jack asses" and delighted in seeing the hen with her peeps. "That's how chickens should be raised," he said watching as the rest of the flock put on a show for him.  

Lamenting about his "bad knees," he said Kenny had given him some pills and they seemed to be helping.  God only knows what kind of pills Dr. Kenny gave him.  Considering Kenny's failed efforts to cure his sister's gangrenous leg or his poor old beagle that had heartworm, I'd be a little suspicious of his medical advice or potions.

Wilson is not a man to mince words.  He told me who he likes and especially who he doesn't like in the township and he had no kind words for the zoning inspector who got on his case because of "some stuff I had in my yard.... I don't like clutter inside my house," he explained. "So, I put it all outside."  (Currently there is a tractor parked under his porch along with some other peculiar items.)  He asked if I knew Charlie G. and when I said that I sometimes bought sweet corn from him Wilson offered.  "Well, he's a jerk!" Jerk or no jerk, it seems that Charlie has 200 chickens housed somewhere on Wilson's property.  That arrangement wasn't explained.

When my visitors left it was Wilson who crawled behind the wheel of the shiny newish Mercedes.  He turned the key and the engine ticked like very loud clock and then limped down the road at about 5 mph.  I enjoyed today's interlude with yet another of the townships old oddballs. 

 

7:03 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NEW RESIDENTS.

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New residents here at the Peaceable Kingdom are creating great excitement for the cats in particular.  The dogs have only displayed a mild interest in Chuck and Rita, the two groundhogs that are very busy in the lower pasture.  The cats are working in shifts, sitting in the middle of the field not quite sure what to make of the chubby new creatures.

Groundhogs are usually solitary critters that mate in March and April followed by a gestation period of just 30 days. The pairing of Chuck and Rita suggests that children are probably in the burrow that exists beyond the wild raspberry bushes.  I've found no information regarding parenting, but doubt that the male plays much of a role other than sperm donor.  This seems to be an unusual situation, but the cats are enjoying watching them.  I'm looking forward to seeing the babies for in my opinion nothing is cuter.

Groundhogs suffer the ire of farmers, but their ecological benefits go unnoticed and are certainly unappreciated.  Because they burrow and create multi-room warrens they provide shelter for other animals like foxes and skunks and the soil benefits by the aeration from their excavation.  I just hope they won't find my garden too tempting.

A few of the cats who are not on groundhog watch duty like to spend time at what might have been "the beach" if the pond actually held water.  As it is, it looks more like a meadow with an ever-diminishing puddle in the center.  I'm forced to admit defeat.There is no pond.

9:25 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 14, 2012

TOOLS.

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I try to ignore the roar, the buzz and all the other irritating power tool noises  that echo through the trees and disturb the peace around here.  But beyond the chain saws, the mowers and the leaf blowers is the seductive sound of gas-powered weed whackers and I admit it; I used to covet that tool. I wanted one of those gadgets that could make short work of cleaning up hard to mow places, so I finally bought one.  Unfortunately, it never made short work of anything for me.

For years I fought with the awkward and unwieldy thing.  I'd lay it on the ground as per the instructions with the choke pulled out just so and then yank the damned cord until it felt as if my arm might fall off.  Oh sure, occasionally it made a few teasing grunts, but it never started.  Frustrated, I'd call T. and he'd come over and with a single pull the engine would roar into an ear-splitting purr. He'd look at me as if I were insane and say something like, "So, what's the problem?"  I finally gave that weed whacker to the thrift store where some man was probably thrilled to find it at such an affordable price.  Ever since I have resorted to a simple, human-powered version; a long handle with a double-serrated blade.  Just like the hand saw I prefer to the dangerous circular saw, this simple tool gets the job done quietly, reliably and it doesn't provoke anger or personal injury.

No more spilled gasoline, no more swearing at the obstinate machine, no more calls to T. to come over and get it working, no more feelings of ineptitude.  All I have to do is swing the man-powered whacker and voila, weeds are gone.  Today I purchased a brand new one for a mere $15.00 and am happy to report that many multi-flora rose bushes and hardy stinging nettles bit the dust this evening.  It was an intensely gratifying feeling, but Poppy and Sissy were unimpressed.

 

9:36 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 13, 2012

PEACEABLE KINGDOM B&B

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"Boy, these muffins are hearty," said my houseguest.  She's right.  A while ago I stumbled upon a banana nut recipe that was almost, but not quite right.  I made some alterations and liked the result, so it has become a breakfast staple whenever I have visitors.  Here is my version. 

1/3 c. melted butter

1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla

1 egg (slightly beaten)

2-3 ripe bananas (whatever you have on hand) mashed with a pastry cutter

2 TBSP of strong coffee

3 TBSP plain yogurt (guess you could use flavored if that's what you have...)

Add to:

1 ½ C. flour

¾ C.. sugar

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

1 TBSP. cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg

1 C. chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Spoon into 6 LARGE muffin tins that have been sprayed with Pam.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

I have yet to find anyone who doesn't like them.  They are good plain, with butter or with cream cheese andthey freeze well.

 

3:28 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 12, 2012

WORK WELL DONE.

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It's not even 8:00 pm, but I am pooped.  It's been a busy, but inspiring and productive week and only now do I have the luxury of relaxing.  Part of this week was spent in Kentucky with E. whom I met several years ago when I did an article about his work with criollo cattle and their role in rangeland restoration.  I was impressed with him then and am even more so now.  E.'s life is devoted to the promotion of sustainable agriculture. He's one of those rare people making a difference (a positive one, that is) in the world.

Through E. I was introduced to a 19 and 20 year old brother and sister whom I have no doubt will be millionaires by the time they are 30, if not before.  The business acumen of these siblings is incredible, but their humility and commitment to farming in a humane and sustainable manner while building wealth and reputation was even more impressive.

There were other remarkable individuals on the Kentucky trip, each living his or her passion and each dedicated to leaving a gentle footprint on the earth.  Driving home from the Bluegrass state and thinking about those I'd interviewed and would write about I felt a sense of hope; something that is so elusive these days.  But I'd been in the company of people of all ages who shared a common distinction; none were motivated by ego, greed or status.  They were people who genuinely care about contributing rather than draining the earth of its resources.  Like I said, it was an inspiring trip.

Back home there was barely enough time to unpack before the arrival of my wonderful friend H. who had come to spend a couple of days.  I value H.'s friendship more than she realizes. She is kind, generous, interesting and accomplished.  As such, H. is the perfect houseguest.  She was eager (or at least she seemed eager...) to assist with several projects that required more than just my two hands. 

Among other tasks we repaired the damage the bad asses had inflicted upon the chicken pen, and then liberated the little speckled hen with her two peeps that have been sequestered in the hay room for the past few weeks.  The bad asses (still deterred by the hot-wired pen) gazed longingly at all the fresh cedar boards; so close, yet so far.... 

Next to the actual hatching of chicks, introducing them to the big world beyond the barn is exciting.  We stood back, admired our handiwork on the repaired pen, watched the hen and her offspring explore the great out of doors and then to reward ourselves for hard work well done we set off for some garage sales.  Upon our return we were greeted by the free-ranging mom and kids who had somehow mysteriously escaped what we thought was a secure transition pen.

H. left mid-day in order to spend Mother's Day with her family.  I mowed, replanted the chicken-excavated cannas lilies and completed several other chores. In my current exhausted state it's wonderfully satisfying to reflect upon what has been an inspiring and productive week.  I'd like to share stories about some of these good people, but not tonight.  I'm just too tired.

7:50 pm edt          Comments

Friday, May 11, 2012

ON THE ROAD.

 

I pull into the parking lot under the familiar Waffle House sign. "Good food, Real Fast" claims the banner inside.  I love WH, but I only eat there when I'm in Kentucky.  It's part of my Bluegrass  ritual, not because the food is great (it's just okay...), but because it's like nowhere else for people watching and eavesdropping.  With no annoying background music, WH offers an uncommon, but most welcome atmosphere these days that's popular with the ‘horsey' crowd, mostly the haulers and trainers. ‘Probably not the owners...

My waitress is portly and tattooed.  Her arm says "ICH" in fancy script and each lacquered fingernail is adorned with a miniature painting. Such manicures don't come cheaply, but maybe tips are good.  She's a pro and dances through her job with the grace of a ballerina, albeit a sizable one. 

"What'll ya have, hon?" 

I order a pecan waffle and coffee and before I can unwrap the cheap flatware from its paper napkin shroud a thick mug of mediocre brew is in front of me.  ICH tosses a few mini-containers of half & half on the counter and glides over to the two truckers a few seats down.  I hear them talking.  "...get her in before she drops that foal..."  Ich interrupts their conversation, greeting them with the same, "What'll ya have," but omits the "hon."

The efficient choreography of the staff fascinates me.  None of them smile or chat among themselves.  None seem to enjoy their work, but each server approaches the customer in a friendly, yet remote manner.  I imagine that a job at WH is a last resort that any of them would leave without a backward glance, but they're stuck there.

I suspect the Lilliputian cook is a former jockey.  His sleeves are rolled up and his sinewy forearms and strong hands didn't get that way from making waffles.  His stride is distinctly different too.  His youth is gone. He's maybe in his late 40's; too old to ride the ponies these days, but I wonder how many winners he took across the finish line before embarking on what can't possibly be a promising career as head chef at Waffle House.

He tosses a handful of shredded potatoes on the grill, steps to the right and pours just the right amount of batter onto several steaming waffle irons, then breaks a few eggs into a bowl and whips them into froth destined to become an omelet.  Without missing a beat he opens the iron and pulls out one perfect golden waffle and tosses it onto a plate that is instantly collected by ICH who adds a container of fake butter, then pirouettes and plunks it in front of me, automatically inquiring, "Sugar-free or regular syrup, hon?"  I take the regular.

The dance of food continues with clock-like precision. After eating my perfect golden waffle and drinking half of the mediocre coffee I leave a generous tip and gratefully step out of the curious world of "Good food, Real fast." 

10:51 am edt          Comments

Monday, May 7, 2012

A BUSY WEEKEND.

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            I hate to mow, but when the tractor engine issued little explosions that sounded like ‘bah, bah, bah, BAM, bah, bah, bah BAM'I knew that it meant a dreaded job was going to be even more hated than usual.  Under the hood bright red fabric shreds and grass clippings stuck out of what I assumed was the carburetor.   In the few days that had passed since mowing the pasture a mouse had gone to a great deal of trouble to build a cozy nest inside that most inaccessible part of the tractor.  It took an equal amount of trouble for me to extricate all that stuff with needle-nosed pliers.  Fortunately the expectant mother had not yet delivered any pink bean-sized babies.  Mowing resumed.

            As I roared around the yard on the bone-shattering tractor I discovered that the chickens had dug up all of the cannas lilies which I'd planted in front of the big spruce tree.  The tubers were scattered around as if I'd just tossed them in the air rather than planted them in a tidy conformation.  As if there weren't already quite enough to do I now have to replant lilies. 

            The hotwired chicken pen is serving its purpose although I still have to replace the cedar boards eaten by the bad asses before the pen was electrified.   "Oh, woe is we or us or whoever," said Andy as he cast his most forlorn look my way and picked up a pine cone.  Their craving for pine seems insatiable in spite of the pine logs I got just for them.  With their most pathetic expressions the pair nose around for the few pine cones the girdled pitch pine still manages to produce and munch them like cocktail peanuts trying to make me feel guilty, but I don't.

            In the road an athletic blue jay hopped around what appeared to be a long stick, but I knew it was no stick.  The jay seemed to be dancing or deliberately trying to aggravate the big snake stretched out in the sun.  This called for intervention before one of the local road crazies ran over the unsuspecting sun worshiper.  This rat snake was smaller than the one encountered in the yard a couple weeks ago, but did his best to appear intimidating as I nudged him toward safety.  He coiled and spat and rattled his noiseless tail, then finally relented and slithered off into the woods.  Considering this was the third snake encountered so far this spring it appears reptiles are thriving around here.

            The phone rang and the message from the caller was not unfamiliar; "Someone dumped two dogs...."  In this case the two spotted less than a mile down the road were pit bulls and they were eating something they found in the ditch, a deer most likely.  The caller had pups in her car, so she wasn't able to stop, but her alert set the dog lovers on this road in gear.  Admittedly, none of us felt comfortable with the notion of catching the poor canines who are undeservedly (in most cases) cursed with a vicious reputation.  Several of us made repeated forays to search for them, but they seemed to have vanished into thin air and haven't been spotted since.

            I'm leaving tomorrow for a business trip to Kentucky and am looking forward to the mini-escape from the little dramas around here.  I shall be meeting with real farmers (I don't pretend to be one) who are making some impressive strides in agriculture.  Time permitting I'll try to post updates from the road.  Meanwhile I am being trailed everywhere by three sad looking dogs who know that the appearance of luggage means that I'm going somewhere and they aren't.  The critter sitter will shamelessly spoil them, so again, I don't feel guilty.

 

10:31 am edt          Comments

Friday, May 4, 2012

HOLY SHIT!

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            I bought some nice tomato plants at the flea market and added them to the garden last evening.  It's coming along nicely and by next week this time I hope to have all the remaining plants and seeds in.

            Working my garden soil I'm always amazed at how fertile and loamy it is.  It's no accident.  For all my griping about the bad asses and the pesky chickens my soil is rich because of their contributions.  All year I compost donkey and chicken poo along with the donkeys' straw bedding and the wood shaving litter from the coop.  As a result the soil is alive with microbes and nutrients needed to produce vigorous healthy plants and vegetables. 

            I never gave much thought to this sensible process, nor did I ever consider buying commercial fertilizers, but a trip to any nursery illustrates that not everyone gardens this way.  God knows there is no shortage of poop!  I'm happy to share the bounty from my critters with friends, but most of them prefer stuff that comes from the garden center done up in colorful bags. 

            Today as I hopped in the truck and set off on a lot of errands the radio was tuned as usual to NPR.  Here and Now was on and the hostess was interviewing a book author. She pretended the title of the work was just too risqué or edgy to say on public radio (how utterly absurd).  Gene Logsdon, the author of Holy Shit, was expounding on the unappreciated value and benefits of manure. 

            He and I write for some of the same publications.  He is funny, articulate and conscientious.  Gene walks the talk and while I haven't yet read the book I am certain it is a good read.  Replacing soil nutrients using manure (and we're not just talking about the excrement from typical livestock...) makes economic sense, but also connects us with the natural world as no bagged petro-chemical fertilizer ever will. 

            Check out Gene and Holy Shit: http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/holy_shit:paperback%20with%20french%20flaps

 

7:47 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MORE TROUBLE IN PARADISE.

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About a mile to the south is a skeet range which has existed for many decades.  The gentle ‘pop, pop' of the shotguns, muffled by the trees is hardly noticeable.  No one ever complains.  To the west is a pistol range used by police departments and others.  While that gunfire is a little sharper than the shotguns, it is not annoying either.  The only other sounds around these parts are those of animals and farm equipment-or at least that's how it used to be.

A couple of years ago someone to the southwest decided to make a track for dirt bikes and ATV's on his farm.  Now each spring, along with the arrival of peepers and bullfrogs comes the incessant, ear-splitting roar of these miserable vehicles.  When I say incessant, that is no exaggeration for the racket begins as early as 10:00 am and continues until 9:00 pm.  Imagine having a revving chainsaw 3" from your head every day from dawn till dusk.

"I want to go over there and shoot them," screamed one neighbor who phoned this afternoon.  "It's making me and the horses crazy!" she said.

Neighbor Sandy doesn't have a clothes drier, so she hangs her laundry on a line, but the dust from said aggravation turns her freshly-laundered clothes to mud.  "I had to run outside and pull everything from the line!" she complained.

So, what to do?  We've called our township trustees who "...don't think they are breaking any laws...."  We've called our worthless zoning inspector, but that was pointless.  We've called our police department only to discover that since our township has no noise ordinance and since the daily races are taking place on private land, it looks like we who desperately crave peace and quiet are screwed.

It's only the beginning of summer and the thought of listening to this every bloody day (they do not remember any Sabbath to keep things holy...) is simply unacceptable.  We will be making an appeal en masse at an upcoming township meeting.  Things are not so peaceable here at the peaceable kingdom and surrounding area.

 

8:21 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

6:30 pm edt          Comments

LIFE AND DEATH ON THE ROAD.

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The past few days have been murder on the local groundhog community.  Several on this road became the unsuspecting innocent victims of reckless speeders.  The latest was the poor little crippled guy that lived in the bank across the road.  Although these senseless deaths sadden me, the turkey vultures think they have died and gone to heaven.  The road has become an all you can eat buffet, but even they have to keep a sharp eye lest they too become road kill.

These great birds soar over the barnyard casting dark shadows not much different from that of the much-feared hawk, but the chickens ignore the vultures leaving me to wonder how they know friend from foe at such great heights.  One more thing to ponder....

It took a while, but Rattycat has finally relinquished his rancorous nature and become part of the friendly feline crowd.  Sadly this fellow will never be very handsome, nor will he ever have house privileges, but he seems more than content with his subsidized private condo (AKA the garden shed) which comes with reliable meal deliveries, grooming services, cooing adoration from the lady whose hand he shredded just a few weeks ago (mine...) and even friendly morning visits from the big dogs that once frightened him.  He enjoys lounging on the bench outside his door, strolling the gardens and he has even ventured onto the south porches.  Yes, for Rattycat the involuntary sacrifice of his family jewels was a small price to pay for all of these comforts and security.  Life is good.

 

2:37 pm edt          Comments


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