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

THE STORM HAS PASSED.

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It seems the storm has passed, both literally and figuratively:  Almost-hurricane Sandy has moved up to Canada and Brian has fixed my computer.   I am happy!

Everyone had ways of dealing with the approaching storm, but I think my friend S. had the best idea.  Fearful that the power would go out and items in her fridge might go bad she prioritized them and set about eating all of the Klondike bars in her refrigerator.  What a great idea!  Following her lead I rushed to my own fridge and lo and behold, there in the freezer amidst the bags of frozen corn, pesto, tomato sauce and pumpkin was one last Klondike bar!  I ate it and just the thought that it might have melted and gone to waste gave me even more joy than usual.  Klondike Bars: One of life's little pleasures.

Farmer Chuck dropped by to ask if I've seen old Kenny lately.  No, but the cookies I left for him disappeared from the blue deposit box.  Kenny has been in a remodeling frenzy.  He has had some buildings repaired and resided.  These were outbuildings that a couple of neighbors said should have been torn down or fallen down years ago.  Kenny apparently follows my own line of thinking that if a color makes you happy, you should surround yourself with it. I personally have lots of buttery yellow in my house, but Kenny likes blue. Now in addition to his blue-roofed house and blue machinery shed there are two more small totally-blue buildings.  It's quite a striking compound up there....  I wonder if any of the recently renovated buildings leak.

Being without the computer for a couple of days eliminated any excuse I might have had for not addressing some annual barn chores, one of which was tarping the hay.  One might not think such measures necessary considering that a costly new roof was put on the barn just a few years ago.  It has leaked since day one.

When I was shopping for a roofer the man ultimately hired for the job spent a good bit of time here impressing me with his years of experience and competency.  He was polite, articulate and I was sold, assuming of course that he would be doing the work.  Wrong.

Work didn't begin until snow blanketed the ground.  The workers that appeared in an unlettered truck, tools in hand happened to be the salesman's son and a co-worker.  The son too was polite and I felt confident that the pair skittering around on the rafters in the snow knew what they were doing.  It was too cold to spend any time out there ‘supervising.'  They worked like beavers and in a couple of days the metal roof shone like a new nickel.  I wrote a check and thought the barn was secure.  Wrong again.

The snow melted. The roof leaked.  But worse still was what littered the barnyard; hundreds of roofing nails!  I was furious and called to inform the polite father and continued picking up nails every time I went to the barn.  Over 250 potential hoof or tire puncture-inflictors filled a dishpan.  With each nail I added to the collection while waiting for the roofers' return my anger intensified.  How could anyone be so careless I wondered? 

When the elder fellow saw the dishpan full of roofing nails he was not happy and I suspect his son was thoroughly upbraided.  He assured me that the problems would be fixed and he took the pan full of nails with him when he left.  Spring arrived and so did the son armed with a drag-along magnet that grabbed up even more nails.  Then he crawled onto the slippery leaky roof and did something intended to staunch all leaks.  As an additional consolation he promised to return to install some sort of flashing and to coat the old tin roof of the garden shed with some magic paint that would spruce it up and make it look like new.

True to his word he returned with all the supplies and set about making the promised repairs.  It was warm that day, so he stripped off his shirt to reveal the biggest crucifix I've ever seen tattooed on his back; from his hairline to the nether regions below his belt.  In addition to some scripture there was a girl's name in fancy letters on his arm.  His teeth were as green as the spring grass and speckled with decay and I could not help but think that the money invested on inky religious symbols and his girlfriend's name would certainly have been better spent at the dentist.  But, who was I to offer investment advice?  I said nothing. 

He assured me the roof would not leak again.  The garden shed looked dandy and the new flashing was very neatly installed.  It seemed all was well-for a while.  But now the roof in the hay room leaks.  The father and son enterprise has flown the coop and so in addition to a plastic ‘ceiling' stapled to the interior rafters I tarp the hay bales.  Ironically, while the old roof didn't look very nice, it didn't leak.

6:36 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I THOUGHT IT COULDN'T HAPPEN TO ME!

Yesterdays storms prompted me to shut down my computer early, hence no blog post, but alas the power didn't go off and all was well.  I was happy -- until researching something at the official Library of Congress site.  I needed an historic photo of some oxen and that's when it happened. 

A little box popped up in the lower right corner that said I didn't have the 'plug in' to view images and to click here to download it.  I was on a government site, so it never occurred to me that danger could be lurking just one damned click away, but it was.  I clicked and suddenly my world changed and not for the better. 

Long story short; I had downloaded 'malware' and it was something called a browser hi-jacker, but of course I didn't know this until after several hours of trying to get rid of hundreds of talking pop-ups and not being able to search anything as I always do on that PC I resorted to calling Brian, the computer guru. 

Brian uttered those dreaded sounds no one ever wants to hear; "Tsk, tsk, that's a bad one..." and so now I will be delivering the tower to him first thing in the morning.  He didn't sound optimistic about a quick fix either. I'm very upset about this turn of events. 

Thank goodness for this laptop which is unaffected, but there will be no photos and no stories about Walter, the bad asses or much of anything else until I'm back on track.  I have a lot of writing to do and was making such progress, but now I'm treading water.  Consider this a cautionary tale.  Do not download from government sites which are just as corrupt as anything else.  Why does this surprise me?

4:42 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A RAINY DAY.

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Pulling myself away from the toasty fire and Masterpiece Theater I headed to the barn where the bad asses met me at the gate.  They were of course full of complaints about the weather.

"Just look at my hair.  I can't do anything with it in this rain," griped Andy.  I told him I'd see what I could do about it, but maybe a clean stall would make him happier.  All of the animals love it when I'm working at the barn.

As I mucked out the stall the bad asses took advantage of having access to the big part of the barn where they began pulling things from the lumber storage shelf. 

"Stop that right now," I order and they look at me as if to question what they had done wrong.  It's a game; the same one we play every week.  They pull on a small board (always the same one) until it clatters to the cement floor.  I tell them to stop it and they try to look innocent.

After raking the stall I toss down several flakes of fresh oat straw, not bothering to fluff it with the hay fork because that's their favorite job.  They hurry away from their mischief, back into the stall and begin shoving the flakes about and eating the coarse dry stuff as if it's caviar. 

Bedraggled-looking chickens, all soaked to the skin meander into the barn clucking softly and trying to be inconspicuous as they too begin poking about the fresh bedding.  Walter watches patiently and waits for me to pick him up as the three dogs chase one another around in the rain. 

While this may not sound like ‘fun' to a lot of people, time spent tidying up the barn, just being with all the animals that create a lot of work and expense for me is very enjoyable.  I love their smells, their curiosity and even their naughtiness.  I also like the feeling of isolation.  No phone, no computer, just rain on the metal roof, the animals and me.

When I finally leave to return to the warm house Walter is busy gumming away at his dinner, the bad asses are chomping the straw they are supposed to sleep upon, but the chickens hurry to follow me through the barnyard gate as if I just might invite them into the kitchen for a little snack.

Unless knocking down cobwebs, shoveling manure and sweeping the barn floor can be considered productive, I've pretty much frittered the day away and enjoyed every minute of it.

5:01 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, October 27, 2012

SATURDAY.

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So much for rustling leaves and blue skies.  Clouds are heavy with rain and the temperatures have dropped enough to trigger the furnace on.  No digging dahlias this weekend and certainly no walks through golden woods, much to the disappointment of Julie in particular.  This dog should really be called Joyful Julie for no one enjoys life as much as my visually-impaired pup. Her enthusiasm always makes me smile.

6:13 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 26, 2012

WELCOME HOME WALTER!

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Walter has returned from his overnight ordeal at the clinic.  He sailed through his dental surgery and the vet was amazed at his transformation from almost dead just a month ago to not-quite-perfect-but-much-improved current condition.  He has gained two pounds in four weeks which the doctor said is almost unheard of in cats.  Back home, minus a few teeth his feline friends welcomed him with inquiring sniffs.

When I bought this place in 1987 I christened it the Peaceable Kingdom, inspired by the Hicks paintings of that same name.  It was to be a sanctuary and it has proven to be a perfect moniker for the animal kingdom here really does get along in a peaceable manner.

Visitors often remark about the tranquil coexistence of the critters and they ask how I "trained" them.  Introducing new animals to an existing community does not require "training," but merely some common sense.  You don't just dump a new animal into a  situation and expect immediate acceptance.  You introduce it in a safe environment.  ‘Amazing, but that's a new concept to some people. My daughter has a cat rescue and when she adopts a cat out to a new home she always includes an instruction sheet on how to introduce it to other animals in residence.  She tells me how surprised some people are at how well they are accepted.

Equine should have a fence between them until they become acquainted.  Dogs and cats also need a temporary safety zone until friendship is established.  Even new chickens are left in a cage in the coop overnight so that the flock "meets" the newcomer in the morning.  The trick is for the human to be at the top of the hierarchy to establish the rules.  Animals want to know what's expected of them.

At one time a woman brought a lovely small horse here to board.  He was a nice animal, but he was young and full of spunk.  I never had a problem handling him and even rode him without a saddle or bridle (or permission), but the owner was in no way a horsewoman although she presented herself as such.  She was afraid of him and she hit him about his head.  I wanted to hit her about her big fat head.  She quickly made the animal fearful and probably ruined him for life.  I was happy to see her go, but I still wonder and worry about the poor horse.  Hopefully someone with genuine horse sense owns him now.

Walter has racked up another sizable vet bill in his brief tenure here, so he is officially part of the Peaceable Kingdom.  I imagine the animals have boasting conversations about whose care has been the most expensive.  As for myself, I prefer not to even think about such things.  They are all worth whatever it costs.

5:38 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

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When any of my animals are ill I don't hesitate to call the vet, but unless I feel as if I'm at deaths door I don't call a doctor for myself.  Since the horrible event in Canada that did make me think the grim reaper might be hot on my tail I just haven't felt fully recovered.  I can't afford to be unhealthy.  Too many critters depend upon me!  Today was my appointment with a specialist.  More tests are scheduled starting with an ultrasound next Tuesday. 

Health scares are for others.  I have way too much to do, but just no energy to get much of anything doneHowever, with the help of friends Sandy and Sue about half of the needed bricks for the pergola floor were brought home and stacked today.  It might get finished this year after all!

Walter is blissfully unaware that he too has health issues.  Tomorrow he will be going to the vet to have several teeth pulled. I think ignorance is bliss.

7:38 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

HOW COULD I SAY NO?

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"Oh puleez, puleez, puleez!  I wanna go too.  Puleez let me goooo."

"I don't think it's a good idea, but..., well okay,"I said and snapped the yellow lead on the happiest dog in the township.  For some time Ted has had to remain at home when Julie, Ernie and I go for our daily walk. I tried to convince him that our evening stroll around the nature trail here at home was just as much fun, but he has never bought that line. His bum back leg is the reason for the restriction, but since he had a bath yesterday Ted has been acting like a pup, assuring me with his big brown eyes that his leg didn't hurt at all.  He lied.

It was obvious by the time we reached Ranger Rick's woods that the old guy was pooped.  I sat down on a log so he could rest, but in no time at all he was trotting about inspecting his old haunts albeit with a gimpy gait.  The walk was aborted about a third of the way through the woods.  I could tell he had reached his limit, but just like he always used to do, he picked up an oversized hunk of windfall to carry home.  He was so happy I was glad I gave in to his pleading.  Back home I gave him a pre-emptive pain pill and he's been dozing comfortably ever since.

It's very hard to watch a much-loved dog being overtaken by the ravages of old age.  Ted is ten now, considered old for a dog of his size (115 pounds at the last weigh-in).  Some people vow never to get another dog after an old friend passes. 

"I just couldn't go through this again," they say.  ‘Such a selfish excuse considering how many unwanted dogs there are in the world.  My heart still aches for dogs I've loved and lost, but when one of the current canine family comes to the end of its life I will most certainly open my heart and home to another. 

Dogs live in the moment.  Unlike humans they don't worry about what's nextThe world would be a much happier and kinder place if people were more like dogs.

6:27 pm edt          Comments

Monday, October 22, 2012

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While in Kentucky I met with the land manager at Shaker Village to discuss wildlife habitat restoration and the important role of fire.  While it may seem incongruous to restore aquatic habitat with fire, that's what I did today. 

Several weeks ago Lee weed-whacked all of the vegetation in the money pit, AKA the pond.  Then a thick blanket of leaves fell on top of the mostly-dry weeds, so today the area was transformed into a very big fire pit.  Of course I first made a fire break, then watched as the flames consumed most of the debris. 

Admittedly I enjoy cleaning things up with fire, but in this case it was really the only option since the tractor would surely sink in the muck.  This is step #1 in next year's ongoing quest for a real pond (one that holds water).  When will I learn?

7:21 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, October 21, 2012

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

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Words cannot express my joy in being able to report that the pergola is painted!  What a monumental task.  Just when it seemed I was finished another green spot screamed, "Hey, you missed me."  I am 99.99% sure that they are all covered now, but I think that bricking the floor of this newest landscaping feature may have to wait until spring.

Walter's road to recovery delights me.  He has gained a bit of weight and the other cats have politely accepted him as the wise old sage he is.  He will have dental work sometime this week which should make him feel much better.  His ragged old mouth is full of infected teeth, but dentures are not in his future.

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5:21 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS?

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I'm afraid the last delicious red raspberry has been picked and eaten.  There are still plenty of beets and the most recent crop of lettuce is doing well, but essentially the garden is kaput.  In a way it's a relief, but of course it's sad too.  Not being able to walk out the door and harvest wholesome organic edibles makes me feel vulnerable.  Maybe that's why I succumbed to the ‘bargain' I discovered at the local thrift store; the reason my ‘seed drawer' is so crammed I can hardly get it closed. 

Holmes Seed is a wholesale supplier to large producers.  As such they package fresh seeds each season, so this year they donated all their unsold seeds to the Mennonite Thrift Store who put a 25 cent price tag on each and every packet.  How could I resist?  I couldn't!  The only problem is that without a Holmes catalog (unavailable) seed specifics are unknown.  For instance, a packet might say ‘tomato #3124' which leaves one guessing if the 100 seeds inside the little paper package are a beefsteak variety or a plum type.  But, that 25 cent price tag hooked me and now my drawer is full of mystery tomatoes, gourds, squash, pumpkins, and more.  There's even a big bag of Indian corn!  Enter friend L.

My friend is an overachiever, to put it mildly.  She grows an amazing amount of beautiful produce within the confines of a city backyard, then preserves, dries, cans or freezes enough to feed several dozen families throughout the winter and all of it is perfection.  I have proposed that she and I share a new yet-to-be-plowed plot here since I have lots of space.  She liked the idea, but then apologized in advance for possibly not being able to spend a lot of time tending it.  I laughed!

Only in the past two years has my own garden been somewhat manageable.  In spite of my best intentions the strip garden will never be perfect, but it has been productive.  I thought about L's standards as compared to my own and immediately realized there is no comparison.  She is meticulous.  I am not.  She has a meticulous husband.  I do not.  I'm using that last difference to excuse all of my shortcomings-and there are lots of them!

My house could be in better condition.  My gardens could be better tended.  I could be a more prolific writer.  I could be more creative.  The list is endless, but the truth is it's all about time, or the lack thereof.  One person simply can't do everything, but it's the lifestyle I've chosen, so I make no excuses and comfortably accept things as they are.  This acknowledgement brings me back to those bargain seeds. 

Will they really be such a good deal if I double or triple the size of the cultivated space here and then let weeds and guilt overtake it?  No.  Maybe I'll just choose a few seeds from each packet for my manageable strip garden and give all the rest to L. along with the offer of a plowed plot of any size she wishes.  Then, as she and her tireless husband toil away in that plot I will sit on the porch with a glass of wine and gaze over their perfectly-tended garden.  Yes, that sounds like a plan.

5:06 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 19, 2012

WELCOME HOME.

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Ah, it's good to be home, but I do love road trips and this one was especially beautiful. I sailed through a glorious landscape, anonymous and free as a bird. New England has nothing on Ohio when it comes to fall colors. Pardon the cliché, but the countryside was simply ablaze in fall foliage and it was breath-taking.  The Kentucky trip was work-related, but productive, interesting and very inspiring. I have a lot to do and I was eager to begin organizing my projects, but homecomings here are never without incident and this one was no exception.

After the long drive I slid from the truck and the first thing I saw was the patio bench loaded with pumpkins from neighbor Sandy's garden.  ‘Might as well start processing some of them, I thought. I should note right here that processing pumpkins is a messy time-consuming task, but one worth the effort because the finished product is far better than the goop that comes in a can. 

I unloaded the truck, scanned the mail and messages and then with the oven filled with baking pumpkins I finally sat down to relax and leaf through one of those magazines promising lots of "great ideas" inside.  That's just about the time Ted upchucked his dinner.  ‘So much for relaxing....  After cleaning the rug I returned to the magazine and as luck would have it there was a recipe for pumpkin soup accompanied by a mouth-watering picture of a steaming bowl. I frequently make pumpkin soup and I like my own recipe quite well, but what the heck, for some reason it seemed a good idea to try this new one.  Maybe it was the photo....

The new recipe called for a lot of tiresome chopping, roasting, toasting and pureeing ingredients.  I was ultimately rewarded with a huge cauldron of utterly tasteless, thick, orange porridge.  No amount of seasoning could salvage the slop and not even the toasted pecan garnish helped.  Here again I interject that executing this recipe (unlike my established and well-liked recipe) turned the entire kitchen and most of my pots, pans and bowls into a smeary, sticky mess requiring yet another clean-up. What to do?  I'm far too frugal to throw out even disappointing stuff, so the dogs had their kibble top-dressed with pumpkin soup this morning and considering the copious amount remaining they'll be ‘enjoying' similar meals for the rest of the week. 

Later this morning I discovered that Kenny had made another secretive delivery; more spelt bread (with raisins) and about twenty egg cartons.  He obviously thinks the hens are more productive than they actually are, especially now that the days are shorter (egg production is influenced by daylight hours).  My critter sitter said he'd brought a jug of milk while I was away, but she had dumped it down the drain. 

It was soon apparent that writing projects would not be launched today, so I decided to process the remaining pumpkins, make pies for neighbor Sandy and for Kenny, take the dogs for a walk and forget about everything else until next week.  It may take that long to restore order to the kitchen. At some point I still hope to relax unless the animals and the neighbors have more surprises in store for me.

4:20 pm edt          Comments

Monday, October 15, 2012

FARM FASHIONS BY STEPHANIE.

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Feline Fashionista, Walter Kirsch debuts his winter line of cashmere sweaters.  Designed for rugged farm kitties with a sense of style this hand-sewn number by friend Stephanie will be warm and comfortable when winter winds blow.

Walter, whose condition was so fragile upon rescue was unsuccessfully fitted with two previous outfits; a hand-crocheted cape from the thrift store that proved utterly useless and a smart quilted parka from the pet store which came in one size only-- ‘too small.' 

Since his arrival three weeks ago Walter's health and well-being have improved tremendously.  He has put on some weight, been purged of any and all possible parasites and has established a comfortable existence for himself at the barn where he is safe and secure.  The old fellow is not a house cat candidate as he doesn't always hit his litter box, an issue that is no big deal in a barn, but would be a big deal in the house.  He is content and will live out his remaining days here at the Peaceable Kingdom.

I'm leaving today for Kentucky. Part of my trip will be spent at Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill where I'll be researching a couple of magazine articles. More than two centuries since the Shakers were founded by an illiterate woman from England, the Shaker mystique remains strong and I love writing about it. For anyone who hasn't been to this outstanding living history museum, I heartily recommend a visit.

This particular Shaker settlement is unique in many ways.  All visitor services are provided in beautifully-restored original buildings, but beyond the obvious attention to historical details, today's Pleasant Hill is kept alive through innovative projects, one of which is a 1,000 acre quail habitat restoration.  The Shaker tradition is alive and well at this historic landmark. www.shakervillageky.org

10:29 am edt          Comments

Saturday, October 13, 2012

POINTLESS PROJECTS.

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The weatherman predicted rain today, so painting the pergola was postponed until tomorrow.  Of course there are plenty of other tasks that must be dealt with before winter, but after completing just a couple of them I found myself engrossed in something akin to last year's effort to clear all the multiflora roses from around the old manure spreader in order to make a sitting spot within what I fancifully call the ‘sculpture garden.' 

That project moved along nicely until the brambles got a second breath and grew even more vigorously and overnight (or so it seemed) the ‘sculpture garden' was again clad in a thorny coat of multiflora rose.  Then it was time to work on the vegetable garden, the flower gardens, the barn and a dozen other practical jobs, so now it's impossible to tell that for ever so brief a time the old farm relics were show pieces.  Now they are no-show pieces.  Today's project was equally pointless, but very pleasurable.

Over the summer many large limbs and even some trees have fallen throughout the woods.  Some are quite long, but not great in diameter, hence manageable for me to carry.  These are being piled along all accessible property lines to create something between a split rail and wattle barrier.  Defined boundaries are important to me, both physical and emotional.  

This project is one that will never be finished as limbs and trees will continue to fall.  As the bottom limbs rot I shall add the new windfalls to the top.  It's just this sort of mindless labor that appeals to me.  What fun.  The dogs and four of the cats joined in, not exactly helping, but all enjoyed prowling around territory off our beaten trail.  Ernie supervised the work. It was a lovely day.

5:05 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 12, 2012

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.

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"Just wait until you see the mess in there," said Rattycat this morning as he ran toward the garden shed.  Tom, who was sitting on the bench nodded in agreement.  Both cats waited with those ‘told ya so' looks on their faces as I opened the shed door.  We've got another squatter, most likely a relative of this visitor from a couple of years ago who, as you can see was just a little camera shy.

It didn't take CSI to determine who was responsible for the garden tools that littered the floor, the muddy water bowl, the dirty blanket half-pulled from the pillow that serves as Tom's day bed.  The empty food bowl lay upside down on the floor, not a morsel of food to be found, but the culprit had left his ‘fingerprints' everywhere. 

Opossums are normally nomadic, but this guy seems to like it here. There has been evidence of his visits before, but today's mess was the worst.  He's a no-show during the day; probably snoozing under the tractor shed or up in one of the tree hollows, but when darkness falls he hits the Garden Shed Café. Why bother looking for carrion when there's a nice clean bowl of Little Friskies?  Tom and Rattycat will be dining from the early bird menu from now on and Mister Possum will find nothing but a bowl of water tonight.

The hawk caused quite a stir again this afternoon when he stopped by for some more KFC (Karen's Fresh Chicken).  Such a racket ensued and I ran from the house just in time to see the flock race under a thorny multiflora rose bush as the hawk swept low through the trees.  Once every bird was safely sheltered they became absolutely silent.  Did they know the hawk was sitting in the tree right next to them?  It was a waiting game and after what must have seemed an eternity to the nervous chickens the hawk flew off, but I've no doubt that like the opossum, he'll be back.  It's survival of the fittest and while I hate to lose a hen, I'm enthralled with the hunting skill and perservence of the hawk.

Nature is so much more honest and interesting than all the current political hoopla.

4:20 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, October 11, 2012

TINY TATERS.

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‘Feeling much better today, thank goodness! A skin of ice covered the bird bath early this morning, but the sun burst through and warmed the day.  I accomplished quite a bit, including digging the potato crop.  What a joke!  Mine were surely the smallest potatoes in the county.  Now I know how the Irish must have felt (19th century potato famine).  Even so, digging them was fun if not hugely productive.  It was wonderful to be outside working in the crisp air instead of languishing on the sofa!  Ted, Ernie and Julie were especially happy.

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Later, as the dogs and I trod through the Ranger Rick's woods it suddenly dawned on me that today would have been my mother's birthday.  If she were alive she would be 103 years old.  (I was a late in life baby.)  Birthdays and holidays rarely register with me, but I thought about how in years past I would have made a pie for her (her choice rather than a cake), presented her with a gift that she would probably never use or wear and we would pretend that our relationship was untroubled.  What triggers such memories?  Potatoes?  I was helping my father dig potatoes the day before he died.

5:19 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

STILL ILL.

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Illness takes many tolls beyond the obvious.  It is emotionally costly, especially for someone usually healthy like me. Lying around bundled under sweaters and blankets, but still shivering and unable to concentrate negates even sitting at the computer preparing notes for next week's trip.  Thinking about all that is not getting done only makes me feel worse.

The animals are suffering too.  The bad asses don't understand why they weren't brushed after their dinner.  Grain was tossed into their feed boxes, the stall was haphazardly mucked, water buckets filled and hay tossed their way, but then I left.  They followed me to the gate bumping my legs as if begging me not to go and when I entered the house Andy issued brays pitiful enough to make me consider dragging back to the barn. Guilt.

The dogs have wanted to go for a walk all day and I'd have loved to have gone, but there was just no energy. They rummaged around in their toy basket, dropped squeaky playthings in my lap and demanded to go outside a dozen times just to get me off the sofa.

I went outside to bring in firewood for the woodstove, but I wanted to be out  digging up cannas lilies and dahlias, even though the sky was ominous and a cold wind bit at my face.  I wanted to stand under the old dead pitch pine and watch the downy woodpecker's progress.  For days he's been drilling a tidy round hole into which he slips to check for size, then exits and fine tunes his winter cavity.  He peeks out as if to say hello, but takes off like a gust of wind when the camera appears. I feel as decrepit as that tree looks.

Only the cats enjoyed me being under the weather.  It pretty much guaranteed them a warm lap most of the day.

And so while I'm missing all the wonderful things going on outside and the silly animal antics that I'd normally have shared, I remain isolated, indolent and infirm on the sofa.  ‘Only two more days of this medication with its debilitating side effects.  My health has been up and down since the event in Canada.  Too long.  I just want to be well!

Neighbor Sandy brought me some tasty soup and Kenny surreptitiously left more spelt bread and a curious plate on the patio bench.  Maybe I should eat some of that ubiquitous bread.  Kenny is never ill.

7:22 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

THERE'S STILL HOPE.

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As people suffer and die all over the world, victims of stupid, senseless wars, greed and corruption, here are a few choice bits of ‘news' that made today's headlines:

In a Florida contest, a 32 year old ‘man' (I question that distinction...) died after eating dozens of worms and cockroaches in order to ‘win' (another dubious distinction) first prize of a python.  Looks like the runner-up will now get the snake.

In New Mexico a guy plans to jump out of a hot air balloon 23 miles high (Is this even possible?) in an attempt to break the sound barrier without a vehicle.  ‘Sounds like an excellent use of time, effort and money. NOT!

Then there's the 27 year old mother of five who glued her two year old to a wall and beat her into a coma.  No comment.

And as if there aren't quite enough people crammed onto this planet already scientists have found a way to manufacture sperm!!! 

For anyone who has ever wondered why I choose to live behind a closed gate on an old farm with n0n-human companions ‘news' such as this suggests the answer.  But, rather than concentrate on such madness I took the day off and spent it with my retired priest friend.  Tony now spends his time working for world peace and helping the downtrodden and underprivileged in his own town. 

Walking the sun-speckled trail at Millcreek Park and sharing ideas with someone who has devoted his life to helping others lifted my spirits immensely.  Even the hate and fear-mongering NRA propaganda I later found in my mail box didn't send me into an angry fit because I know there are still some intelligent compassionate people in the world.

6:38 pm edt          Comments

Monday, October 8, 2012

MIGHTY OAKS FROM LITTLE ACORNS GROW.

 

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While preparing the soil to plant some garlic this morning I discovered that R. Squirrel Tree Service has been busy ensuring that future generations will not want for acorns.  Upon finding this inconveniently sprouted acorn in my garden I transplanted it near a dying walnut tree where it will hopefully thrive.

Squirrels here have been especially busy this year, scampering across the lawn teasing and challenging the murderous Sissy to just try to climb as high in the trees as they do.  They were also busy constructing plush arboreal homes for their second litter of young which were probably born a couple of weeks ago.  They won't be weaned for about ten weeks and will most likely remain with mom throughout the winter. 

Squirrels always plan for the unexpected. They pack away more nuts than they'll likely need during the long cold winter and unlike their human counterparts who build second homes just because they can, squirrels build second homes in preparation for unseen disasters so that in the likelihood of wind damage or actions by thoughtless humans who senselessly cut down trees thus depriving wildlife of shelter and food, they can move their young family to the stand-by nest.  Squirrels, like most wildlife live sustainably, not ostentatiously.  Too bad people refuse to learn from Nature.

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5:55 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 5, 2012

NIGHT.

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            At ten o'clock I trudge up the stairs. The treads are cupped with nearly two hundred years of weary footsteps, but even after all this time they are silent; no squeaks.  I'm tired and I look forward to crawling into my antique bed.  It's a lovely thing, handmade and simple in design. I bought it on a whim at an antique shop in upstate New York on my way home from a ski trip. The crisp linens are spritzed with lavender it feels good to sink into the featherbed that covers the memory foam mattress. It's a comfortable bed.  The room is dark as the inside of a pocket and silent as a tomb.  I close my eyes and wait to drift into unconsciousness, but sleep does not come.

            I toss and turn, get up for a drink of water.  Maybe I'm thirsty?  Back in bed I wait, eyes closed, listening to the stillness.  At 12:55 AM I'm still awake.  Again I get up and throw a couple of windows open wide.  Maybe the room is stuffy although that's unlikely as my windows are almost never completely closed.  Stale air is unhealthy.  I shuffle downstairs and into the kitchen to drink some milk, Nature's sleeping aid. 

            Back in bed  waiting to drift off I think about the pergola.  Too bad it's so dark.  I could probably finish painting it by dawn.  I think about the cellar and decide the windows and the kitty door should be scrubbed.  And maybe I'll re-carpet the cat ramp, but that should be a daytime job, shouldn't it?  At 2:30 AM I hear a distant train and wonder where it's  headed wishing I were on it.  Surely the gentle rocking on the rails would lull me to sleep.  I love train travel.

             My body is so tired.  Why can't I sleep?  Again I get up, this time to go to the computer and look up possible side effects of the antibiotic I'm taking.  There it is!  Insomnia.  Great.  Now I know why I'm writing this blog at 3:45 AM, having slept not a wink, but the site does not say how to counter this "adverse reaction." 

            Certainly I can't take a sleeping pill, not even one of the OTC cheapies guaranteed to knock my socks off if taken at a reasonable hour "allowing 7-8 hours of sleep...." Taking it just a few hours before dawn would be foolish, so I'm wide awake and although the cats and dogs are all snoring softly it is unlikely I will join them in dreamland when I return to my bed.  Another train is blowing its whistle for anyone who is awake to hear.

            It seems that would be only the coyotes and me, but they are hunting in the just-harvested fields, eating mice and singing songs of gratitude for such bounty. But for me this night is very long and I don't feel much like singing.

2:32 am edt          Comments

Thursday, October 4, 2012

TRANSITIONS.

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            Sunshine, a light breeze and no rain in sight.  A beautiful autumn day, perfect for painting the pergola.  It will probably only take a few hours....

           It seemed like such a good idea early this morning, but now I ask myself:  Was anti-freeze green really such a bad color?  Wouldn't winter mellow its intensity?  And weren't grape vines going to cover most of the pergola by next year this time anyway?  I should have pondered these thoughts before embarking on the job that isn't even half finished.  By early-afternoon I was totally exhausted.  It is a bigger project than I anticipated, but the good news is that it's really easy to see any missed spots like that one on the third top rail.

            Note to self:  Wear long sleeved shirt, hat and consider rubber gloves before filling that paint pan again.

6:34 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

OFF TO A BAD START.

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            I was quite ill last night and knew beyond a doubt that a trip to the doctor was in order.  Very rarely do I myself go. My medical expenses are nearly all vet-related, but today it was my turn.

            I called her first thing and was told to be there at 11:00 because she was only in until noon on Wednesday.  With no time to dally I set off for the barn and rushed through morning chores, but heading back toward the house I noticed the truck seemed oddly pitched.  This picture explains why.

             T. said he'd bring his compressor over and blow up the tire so that I could get it to the repair garage.  A large metal shard protruded from the center tread.  I called the garage (these are new tires with road hazard coverage) and explained my plight.  They said they would "try" to work me in, but they had several 10:00 appointments.  I flew into town as the air hissed out of the tire and arrived there at 9:45.  They fixed it and I was off to the doctor.

            No need to go into details other than to say I am now on drugs that make me very tired.  Even so, the dogs and I couldn't ignore this beautiful day.

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7:38 pm edt          Comments

Monday, October 1, 2012

WALTER'S WORLD.

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            "Check Big Lots.  They have cat clothes for $3.00," advised my daughter, so I added that shopping Mecca to my morning ‘to-do' list.  Word must have leaked out that functional feline fashions could be had for a reasonable price.  Not anymore.  I wasn't looking for a tee shirt with a sports logo emblazoned on it.  I was simply looking for a warm little sweater for a frail old cat.  It didn't matter.  All kitty clothes were one outrageous price; $12.00!  Walter remains naked, but something will turn up I'm sure.

            The hay room remains the warmest part of the barn and that's where the old fellow spends the night and has his breakfast.  After I've finished morning chores he follows me down to the house and claims his position on the porch loveseat where he sleeps until lunch time.  After a bowl of warm rice laced with assorted nutrients and tasty canned cat food and brief ‘hello, how are you today' exchanges with the other curious cats it's time for his siesta.  Then, a short stroll around the yard, longing gazes into the kitchen through the glass door and if time permits, a bit of grooming before dinner and a return trip to the barn for the night.  This is Walter's world.

            Lately this place seems like a nursing home for critters.  Ernie gets thyroid medication morning and evening.  Julie gets a fish oil capsule morning only.  Ted's regimen is a bit more complicated and expensive:  Two different heart pills morning and evening, one half Lasix morning and evening, one anti-inflamatory morning only.  Now Walter's special vitamin-enhanced diet has been added to the daily routine.  I can't complain.  I voluntarily took on these responsibilities and when I look at other salvaged animals like Tiny or more recently, Rattycat it's all worth the cost.

            Too bad none of my charges are capable of returning the favor and caring for me.  Last night I was blindsided by the same health issue that ruined my fish camp vacation.  I'm better today, but the attack left me exhausted and weak.  It's been an unproductive day other than caring for the four-legged invalids here.  Health is a fragile and priceless thing.


 

5:06 pm edt          Comments


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