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Thursday, November 29, 2012



Dear Santa,

Please bring me some new toys.  I lied to my mom and told her that Julie and Ernie did this, but I really did it myself because I just want some new stuff. 

‘Sorry about being a bad boy, but please bring me some fresh toys.  Tearing them to shreds and pulling out their stuffing is a lot of fun even if it doesn't make my mom happy.

Your naughty friend,


12:46 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



Everyone is gushing about the spectacular moon of the past two nights.  I initially thought this was the proverbial ‘Hunter's Moon,' but not so.  (Last month was the ‘Hunter's Moon.')  Tonight's beauty is in fact the ‘Beaver Moon,' also known as the Frosty Moon.  Here's what I learned about it.  It's not pretty for animal lovers like me.

Beaver families stay together in their lodges throughout the winter.  They don't hibernate and being nocturnal nightime is when they are busy fixing up their winter lodging.  They are also growing a lush coat to get them through the cold weather as they have venture out to obtain food throughout the year.  But, now when the moon is bright is the time hunters set traps to kill the beavers because a late autumn pelt is worth more than those "harvested" at any other time of the year. 

So, there you have the connection between the poor beaver and the pretty November moon. While the sky may be lovely for us humans to gaze at, it bodes nothing good for our buck-toothed aquatic friend the beaver.

8:12 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, November 27, 2012



Clouds of smoke billowing above one of Kenny's blue buildings were cause for concern.  Weaving my way cautiously down the pot-holed lane I spotted Kenny watching the pyrotechnics and pulled up beside him.

"I saw the smoke and was worried that your building was on fire," I explained.

"No, I'm just burnin' bread wrappers cuz you have to get rid of them before the cows eat them.  It really plugs them up," he said.  Well, no kidding!  Spelt bread, good.  Spelt wrappers, bad.

I reminded him that I'd be back to set some live traps to collect the three cats which I'd be taking to have neutered.  In a flash his face changed and he nixed the whole plan.

"I just want to leave the cats alone.  I don't want them to go to the vet.  They're fine just the way they are," he said with conviction and I knew he would not be swayed by my logic; they will breed creating an explosion of kittens that will also breed, etc.

He was unmoved.  I've been forbidden to set traps, catch cats, have them altered, vaccinated or anything else.  This guarantee of future inbred feral kittens is very disheartening.  Attitudes like Kenny's are the reason there are so many homeless animals.  "Maybe they're already neutered," he added.  Right....

He seems to harbor a fear of any and all conventional medical interventions.  When I told him his beagle was displaying advanced symptoms of heartworm and that she needed to see a vet, his response was, "Oh, I think she's just got something stuck in her throat that makes her cough like that...."  A few weeks later Cookie the dog was dead.

On a happier note, Penny Jane has adapted without incident to her new home.  She even went into the coop on her own at the end of the day and no one is picking on her.  She agreed to pose for this portrait, but apologized for her unkempt appearance.

8:04 pm est          Comments

Monday, November 26, 2012



Yesterday Toby and Val delivered Penny the hen.  Penny was the target of a gang of chicken thugs at the riding stable where Val keeps her horse.  The abuse was more than Val could stand and being that she and husband Toby are animal lovers they desperately sought a safe haven for Penny, so here she is.

Penny really should be re-christened Plain Jane for under the best of circumstances she's no beauty, and with her battered head she's bordering on being downright homely. But, already she has become a gal pal with one of the Pointer Sisters, so Penny-Jane will easily find her place in the pecking order.  Perhaps she will pose for a blog photo tomorrow. These handsome cows on the next road over were happy to have their pictures taken.

My Monday morning ‘to do' list was coming along nicely.  I was checking off tasks and even found time to go for a walk.  The skies were sunny, but it was cold; so cold I needed  a down parka and gloves. It figures that the hand pump chose today to break rather than last week when it was warm and balmy.  I'm afraid to look at the forecast because tomorrow I must embark on Pump Repair 101.  I am not looking forward to this since I am not mechanically inclined, but it must be fixed ASAP as it's the only water source for the barn. 

The dogs didn't enjoy their walk and couldn't wait to get home and hurry into the house. They didn't even want to go to the barn for evening chores and that's usually the grand fun finale of any day.  Even the bad asses are nervous wrecks.  Only the chickens seem oblivious to the barrage of rifle shots that begin before dawn and continue even after darkness falls (illegal).  The chooks were however concerned about the red tail hawk who while not pursuing deer is hunting and he's got his sights set on them.  I've chased him off twice, but he'll be back.

And so another week begins....

7:20 pm est          Comments

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Those fleeting moments just at dawn on a Sunday morning are the best part of the week.  Nothing is stirring; ‘no hunters, the church-goers aren't racing down the road yet and the calm is enchanting-unless you happen to be the dog thrown out last night by some cowardly cretin. 

A message from neighbor Sandy last night said that someone had thrown out an orange dog at the end of Kenny's lane.  She had tried to coax it to her, but it was frightened and had growled at her before bolting into the field.  For that dog dawn just meant the end of a cold night, scared, shivering and hungry in a strange place.  But, this story has a happy ending!

As we on the road do when any animal has been dumped, I sent phone calls and emails to alert the rest of the neighbors and planned to go in search of the orphan after the arrival of Penny, a hen rescued from flock abuse by some friends.  There could not have been better news than the email telling me that an equestrian had spotted the dog in Ranger Rick's woods. The rider said she would adopt it if she could catch it.  The dog wasn't keen on horses, but when she returned with her car it hopped right in.  The skinny, ginger-colored curr got a new home within 24 hours.  How wonderful is that! 

The road breathed a collective sigh of relief, but we know this won't be the last one.  Ted knows this story too well.  He was one of the lucky ones too, ten short years ago....

6:09 pm est          Comments

Saturday, November 24, 2012



The air is cold as a corpse and just as still--until the stillness is shattered by rifle blasts.  It's deer season.  I understand and even respect ethical hunters, but rifle fire so close to my barn and animals is unsettling.  Even more unsettling is the periodic cannon fire. 

A guy about a mile down the road has an actual cannon which he fires off when least expected, but then, in the 21st century one is never really expecting to hear a cannon.  This same guy also has a fleet of military vehicles (ten, by his own admission) and he sometimes flies a Confederate flag.  I do my best to stay on his good side; smiling and flashing a friendly wave when we pass on the road, but really, what is he thinking?

Last night the winds were wicked and periodically I'd hear a thud from somewhere on the north side of the house.  "It's probably just a tree limb hitting the house," suggested T.  Not likely since there are no trees on the north side.  This morning I discovered the source of the thud when I ascended the attic stairs to staple plastic over the windows up there.  One window was flung wide open and icy air was  whipping through the rafters. 

It had apparently blown open during winter's arrival last evening, hence the thuds as the storm ebbed and rose again.  Now, after spending the day with heavy plastic and a staple gun the attic, the garden shed and the barn are all snug and sort-of air tight.  I've even ordered a heated bed for Walter who refuses to wear the nice cashmere sweater custom made for him by S.  How he extricates himself from the garment is a mystery, but he does. I often wonder about Walter's past. 

I've long suspected that he once had a loving home since he is neutered, very affectionate and polite and he sometimes peers longingly into the kitchen through the glass door.  Judging from his emaciated condition when I discovered him teetering along the roadside someone tossed him out when he became an inconvenience. 

My imagined scenario is that he was granny or grampa's kitty, but then the senior citizen either died or was relegated to a home and uncaring off-spring didn't want to be bothered with a deaf old cat whose litter box etiquette is unreliable.  Easier to drive the old fellow to the country and toss him out to fend for himself.

Walter loves riding in the truck, sitting like gentry watching the passing scenery.  He's been to the local auction and up to Kenny's. Back home he hops out and thanks me for the lift.   

He's adjusted well to his new rural life and seems quite content.  Unless he falls victim to a stray cannon ball he will live out his years here at the Peaceable Kingdom along with all the other cast-offs.

5:42 pm est          Comments

Friday, November 23, 2012



"Oh man!  I should'a stayed under the dish washer where it was safe!"  I could almost hear Michael Mouse's thoughts as he cowered under the dog dish while the tag team of Tiny and Peggy played the shell game.

Lucky for Mike the cats finally tired of fishing around under the dog bowls and left the kitchen to snooze by the fire.  Mike made a hasty retreat for the multi-mouse trap where I found him in the morning, nervously waiting for relocation to the barn.  It's cold up there, but at least Walter has no interest in mice.

9:19 pm est          Comments

Thursday, November 22, 2012



Thanksgiving Day and one of the things for which I'm thankful is old Kenny. 

I made a cherry pie for him, thinking that surely he and Wilson would be spending the day together one of their mutual friend's home, but not so.  As I bounced along the badly rutted lane I spotted Kenny sitting in his old Volvo station wagon with the door flung wide.  He was reading the paper and enjoying the warm sunshine, but he was happy to see me and the pie.

"Aren't you and Wilson having Thanksgiving together?" I questioned. 

"No, he's goin' to his niece's or someplace," he said. "I'll just be here by myself trying to eat up all the food people are bringin' me," he said stashing the pie inside the Volvo.

"That sure is a bumpy ride down your lane," I said. 

"I'm leavin' those pot holes so the birds have a place to drink," he reasoned.  We chatted about the three cats that have recently adopted him and I told him I'll trap and fix them to prevent an explosion of kittens.  Then he said, "Say, could you use some sheet music?"

Before I could utter anything more than, "Wellllll...," he continued to tell me that his red truck has "a lot of stuff in the back..."  (What an understatement!!!) and in it he had "found" some old sheet music. 

This led to his confession that he always wished he could play the piano like his sister Ethel, but when he was in the 6th grade his father came to the school and pulled him from his music class because he needed help on the farm.  He still resents that intrusion. It wasn't clear if that permanently aborted Kenny's formal schooling or just interrupted it. Regardless, he is a well-read intelligent old fellow.

We chatted a bit more and then someone else arrived with still more food. I left to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner at the home of friends, but apparently Kenny spent the afternoon cleaning his truck.  This is what I found on the patio bench when I returned. 

There's last weeks issue of the Amish newspaper, lots and lots of sheet music, a piece of fabric that's too small for any practical purpose, a book on vocalization from 1907, 2 slightly-soiled holiday trays and last, but not least the straw hat with nickle-sized rhinestones, not all of which are there.  I just don't think that hat looks like 'me.'   

9:06 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 21, 2012



This morning as I looked out the landing window at the sun-bathed scene before me it was hard to believe this is late November. Walter basked on the bench by the garden shed while Tiny tormented a squirrel that sat chattering in the cherry tree. Rattycat snoozed in the leaves, perhaps remembering when he was feral and didn't have the luxury of a down bed or his own snug shed.  The chickens pecked about, scattering the leaves I rake back into the gardens each morning.  Even the bad asses enjoyed a morning nap in the warm sunshine.  It was a peaceful scene, but the past two nights have not been so.

This time of the year when dusk falls in the country it's usually as quiet as a tomb.  Maybe there's a dog barking in the distance or celebrating coyotes, but in the wee hours it is dead still, so the sound of voices at 4:00 am two nights ago jolted me from sleep. I leapt from bed and threw open the window to see the yard looking like a strobe-lit disco. The voices were coming from the end of my drive, just outside the gate and the lights were from a truck with a worker in a cherry picker. He was working on the power lines and talking to his co-worker who was standing in the street.  ‘Mystery solved, so I closed the window and returned to my toasty bed.

Last night the stillness was again broken, this time by rifle shots from poachers shooting deer on the next road over.  ‘Real sportsmen....  I briefly considered crawling from my cocoon and driving over there to get a license plate, but at 1:00 am a possible confrontation with armed men on a lonely road made me reconsider.  I wonder what tonight will bring.

As tomorrow officially kicks off the ‘holiday season' it seems to me that every day one does not go hungry, every night that one crawls into a warm dry bed in a secure house, every day that one simply draws a breath should be Thanksgiving. Holidays should not be about gluttony and excess, especially when so many have so little.

Here is some extra ‘food for thought:' In 2010 the poverty line for a family of four was set at $22,314.00.  46.2 million people currently live in poverty in this country.  These figures are stunning and in my opinion totally unacceptable, especially considering that $6 billion was spent on the recent election.

So tomorrow tables will groan under mountains of food while incredible amounts of food will go to waste.  My college professor friend presented this video (quite short) to his class for discussion. It's worth watching.

Be thankful, not wasteful.

7:52 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, November 20, 2012



There are a few blogs that I read, most of which are far more substantive than this silly thing.  The most interesting ones are perhaps not coincidentally written by women.  There is another blog I used to read regularly, but had to stop because the author was so tiresome.  Recently I checked in on that ‘deleted' blog again.  It's written by a man.

This fellow is still painfully tiresome, perhaps even more so than when I stopped reading him.  While the women writers, even those who are simply sharing their observations of life rarely use the word ‘I' the tiresome guy uses it in just about every sentence.  It's all about him.  

He congratulates himself for not labeling himself as this or that, but in thinking about such a claim it just seems cowardly.  No one is genuinely neutral about life. To be so is to be gray and gray is colorless and dull.  I am not afraid to admit that I am a liberal and a fighter for the underdog. I'm a pacifist and an environmentalist who believes that simple sustainable lifestyles are the only way civilizations survive. I like the company of thinkers who are passionate about something, even if it's something I disagree with, for learning about the opposition is how passions are either strengthened or dispelled. I am not a gray person.

As I reviewed the interesting blogs and compared them to the tiresome one there was one glaring contrast; the interesting ones are all written by people who are doing something to make the world a better place.  The tiresome blog never mentions an altruistic act or even concern about anything but himself.  Nothing has changed. The poor devil is still trying to ‘find himself' (yawn...).

A friend says she thinks all blogs are just the attempts of people desperate to get attention.  I don't agree.  The blogs I enjoy teach or inspire and often they make me laugh.  I started this blog as self discipline, a way to write something less formal than the magazine articles I write.  It's been helpful in that respect and I'm flattered by reader feedback, but my favorite blogs are tough acts to follow.

5:58 pm est          Comments

Saturday, November 17, 2012



I'm worried about old Kenny.  When I stopped by to drop off some pie for him and his pal Wilson he didn't look well. Clad in his customary overalls, signature cap that seems an organic part of his head and Wellingtons, the costume was topped with what remains of a quilted jacket. Most of it no longer exists.  To say it was threadbare would be an understatement.  It looked like a jacket made from cotton batting, for with the exception of cuffs and collar that's about all that remained.

"'Looks like you could use a new jacket," I opined. 

In his measured, parsimonious manner he agreed, then said, "Say, I've got somethin' here for you," and opened the back hatch of his red truck.  It was filled to the top of the cap with stuff.  I use that vague word "stuff" because it would be impossible to even guess the contents other than the most recent additions, some of which were destined to be mine.

Of course there was bread--boxes and boxes of bread.  I declined an entire box, but accepted two enormous loaves of indefinite vintage. The chickens aren't fussy about ‘sell-by' dates. 

"Here," he said digging deeper into the rubble.  "Somebody made this.  It's got their name and date on it," he noted, pushing a nice basket into my hands before turning to dig something else out of the jumble. 

"Here's a book too," he said.  The World of Parrots had not been on my reading list, but I graciously accepted the enormous tome with the rodent-chewed corners.  The illustrations are lovely and for any parrot aficionado the book would be a gem.  My wildlife rehab friend Fran will be the appreciative recipient of the book.  The gnawed corners won't bother her.

I thanked Kenny for his generosity and watched with worry as he slowly closed the truck cap and headed for the house.  His gait was slow and he looked frail.  Farmer Chuck says he's worried too and that he's noticed an increasing weakness in our old friend.

The placid cows in the pasture watched as their keeper disappeared in the side door of the house.  His herd has grown to six and possibly seven beautiful beasts.  The census is vague because he may have something else tethered in the barn.  As for the cattle in the field it would be hard to find better looking specimens.  Their coats shine like show cattle and they are calm and healthy.  Spelt bread apparently agrees with them and there is no stress in the gentle life they share with the old man.

I crossed the yard and headed for my own truck.  The yard, like the barn and the truck is cluttered with a bizarre assortment of oddities; plastic buckets, enamel pans, broken bowls, pillows and even a giant exercise ball. I know some of this conglomeration has been plucked from the leavings of the Friday auction that he and Wilson attend. 

Kenny still grieves for Ethel, his dead sister and maybe his reluctance to part with things that can only be described as junk is a distraction from sadness.  Ethel would never have allowed things to become so untidy. I could have taken pictures of the mess, but that would seem disrespectful and I admire and respect Kenny's independence.  Later I'll take some soup up the road for my old friend. 

4:21 pm est          Comments

Friday, November 16, 2012



Just as Thanksgiving officially marks the beginning of the ‘holiday season' hauling the log rack up onto the porch followed by endless trips with wheelbarrows full of firewood marks the beginning of winter for me.  The goal is to haul three loads per day.  At this rate it takes quite a while to fill the rack, but it's easy labor.  Having a rack full of dry cordwood just outside the door is a luxury.

Later I crammed the dogs into the truck-and I do mean crammed, all 290 pounds of them and we headed for Kenny's to glean the fields.  It was a big adventure for them.  I tossed the yellow ears into the bucket and then unloaded them into a bin in the truck bed, all the while thinking that there really was nowhere else I'd rather have been.  In the middle of that quiet expanse of sun-drenched stubble with my dogs it was so silent, so peaceful, so easy to forget all the turmoil in the world. 

It was a perfect way to spend a couple of hours.  When the bin was full I sat on the tailgate and thought how special and how vulnerable that land is.  What will become of it when Kenny is gone?  I worry.

Back home I hauled the endless buckets of the corn gleaned thus far up into the loft to dry.  That's when I discovered the remains of the hen murdered several months ago by a renegade raccoon.  Only her desiccated wings and feet remained, hidden behind an old door propped against a wall.  Meanwhile in the stall below us, Gladys the adventurous hen with an overload of personality was riding around on Andy's back.  It wasn't the first time I've seen her standing on a donkey, but I thought it was a single accidental event.  Apparently I was wrong.  Gladys has her own private chauffer and Andy doesn't seem to mind a bit. 

7:02 pm est          Comments

Thursday, November 15, 2012



I don't have the heart to put the tarp away.  The bad asses are still having too much fun with it.

Each morning I make a ‘to do' list.  Marking a check by a completed task gives me a nice sense of satisfaction.  Lists vary, but I always allow what I call ‘outside time.'  For me it's critical, sort of like meditation.  Maybe it's a long walk with the dogs, hauling firewood or some other necessary work, but lately it's been gleaning the corn fields. 

I was stunned to learn that the guy with the combine charged $1,800.00 to harvest the crop from one big field, yet so much remains on the ground.  In just the past couple of days I've collected several bins of corn that would have gone to waste, but will now feed the chickens, the wild birds and squirrels for several months.  I'll continue gleaning for two reasons; I enjoy the labor and I can't tolerate waste. 

Today while tramping the broken rows, filling buckets and hauling them to the truck I thought about Scott and Helen Nearing, two people that have inspired and influenced my own life, although I've never been, nor will I ever hope to be nearly as industrious as they were.  They lived a simple sustainable lifestyle, a concept most of modern society doesn't ‘get.' 

The Nearings were pacifists and refused to pay taxes that were going to fund the Viet Nam war.  I would withhold my taxes that are funding the current shameful wars, but my accountant has assured me that I'd be sent to jail, so grudgingly I pay them.  The Nearings were vegetarians and socialists.  When they moved from the Vermont farm which they had bought for a couple thousand dollars the property was worth several million dollars due to nearby resort development, a factor that drove them to seek a more remote place in Maine.  They didn't sell it and pocket the money.  Instead, in keeping with their convictions they donated the property to be used for the common good of the community. 

I have incorporated some of the lessons learned from Living The Good Life (their first book)  like their diet for instance.  Their diets were basically variations on a theme, eaten from bowls they made with utensils they had also made.

I don't eat from hand-made dishes anymore, although during my pottery-making days I did eat from the plates, bowls and mugs I'd made, but I'm past that (they were heavy and not especially pretty).  However, today it occurred to me that my diet is much the same as theirs, although admittedly polluted with some things Scott and Helen would never have put in their mouths, I'm sure (chocolate bars, gin & tonic, etc.), but starting each day with fruit, yogurt and coffee never seems boring.  It feels necessary.  And lately, unless dining out I eat a simple rice dish late afternoon that's equally satisfying.  I have it at least four times a week and now I can't imagine not eating it.  Try it, you might like it as much as I do.

1 c. Basmati rice (rinse 3x) cooked in 2 ¼ c. water with salt and olive oil added

In a skillet sautee chopped carrots, onions, celery, red and green peppers and sometimes mushrooms in olive oil until al dente.  Mix with the cooked rice and drizzle more olive oil and seasonings over the dish.  Delicious and healthy and satisfying.  (It looks like confetti, so it's also pretty.)

Less really is more, or as my bumper sticker says, "The best things in life aren't things."

5:10 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 14, 2012



Neighbor Sandy stopped by for a visit last evening.  She looked tired and said she hasn't been sleeping well, but her insomnia is not health-related.  It's dog-related.

She says that Scarlett, a sizeable, ginger-colored creature named after the infamous, self-centered Scarlett O'Hara races  into the bedroom before she and Butch are even up the stairs.  When they enter the room Scarlett is already faking sleep, dead center with her head on pillows.  This leaves Sandy and Butch to fend for themselves. All three settle in for the night (Scarlett comfy, Sandy & Butch not so comfy). Sandy continued in her weary voice, "...And she pushes us out of the way and hogs all the covers!"

I'm happy that Scarlett is so adored, but I've suggested a nice doggie bed on the floor.  Furniture is for people, especially beds. "Oh, she'd never go for that," Sandy assured me.

Scarlett fell into her current life of luxury via a county fair where an animal shelter had a booth.  The not-particularly-pretty mongrel had been adopted out three times, but always returned to the shelter for undisclosed reasons.  Ever hopeful to find her a home the shelter took the delinquent dog to the county fair. 

Butch just happened to walk past and stopped to pet the poor pooch and listen to her sad tale as related by one of the volunteers.  "Well, she seems like a nice dog...," he casually opined before heading off to visit other fair venues.

After a day of eating bad fair food and comparing his sheep to the others on display he headed for his truck,again passing the animal shelter booth where forlorn Scarlett sat still homeless.

"Here's your dog," said the worker who had spotted Butch  as a softie in spite of his macho name.  She handed him the leash and medical records indicating  vaccinations and spayed condition and before he knew it Scarlett was sitting in the passenger seat of his truck en route to her fourth and final home where the princess is loved and spoiled beyond all common sense. 

Two years have passed since she took over Sandy and Butch's bed.  This year they took photos of their pampered pooch to show the animal shelter folks who were trying to place other homeless dogs.  In all honesty they probably didn't remember the fortuitous encounter that landed Scarlett her forever home, but anyone involved in animal rescue is always glad to hear a happy ending. It  makes their day.

Scarlett is not permitted to communicate with Ted, Ernie and Julie about her sleeping arrangements,so they remain perfectly content on their doggie beds-on the floor!

11:01 am est          Comments

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


First the good news: Yesterday was the medical ‘procedure' I'd been dreading, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd anticipated (thank you valium...) and now I know that my left kidney has a stone lodged in it, a big mother (as in Rock of Gibraltar) and the related problems are manageable.  This is a huge load off my mind.  So long as the stone/rock/boulder stays lodged in the kidney there's no cause for worry.  I'm no stranger to kidney stones, so I know that if this one decides to move on there will be big cause for concern.  For now, all is well.

My tolerance for the cute bewhiskered visitor who popped his little head through the hole in the kitchen floor has expired.  I didn't mind him living in the cellar and just popping in to say hello. I found ‘evidence' that he has been in the lower cupboard.  The time has come to engage the multi-mouse tumble gym.

This clever live trap has a spring loaded trip bar that propels unsuspecting peanut butter-eaters into a clear plastic chamber.  The packaging claims that as many as nine mice can be contained, but I've only ever caught two.  Prisoners will be relocated to the barn.

 "Why do you have them?"  I've heard that question a hundred times.  The inquisitor is referring to the bad asses of course.  The answer is always the same; "Because they make me smile."  Today they made me laugh out loud.

For bad asses, nothing is more fun than stealing.  Today the silly pair ‘stole' a heavy tarp I was returning to the barn.  I could sense Andy as he sneaked up on me, but I pretended not to notice and dragged the tarp noisily across the barnyard.  I knew what he had in mind, but allowed him to snatch it.  He did and then raced off with his head held high and his sidekick Corky in hot pursuit.

Andy tried repeatedly to drape the tarp over his buddy's back, but Corky wasn't keen on that plan.  The two flew around the barnyard, rearing up on their hind legs like mustang stallions and putting on quite a show that lasted all afternoon stopping only to go inside for dinner.  Animals know how to enjoy life.  They live in the moment.

9:11 pm est          Comments

Sunday, November 11, 2012



photos/blogx.jpgSuch a beautiful weekend!  ‘The calm before the storm?  I hope not.  I hope for a few more glorious days like the last few for great progress was made on several long-procrastinated projects. 

The land south of the old orchard is a jungle of twisted saplings, briars, unidentified shrubs and bushes and of course, the ubiquitous multiflora rose, but for many years I've longed to extend the nature trail into this area.  'Not an intrusive trail; just a footpath.  This weekend that became a reality thanks to the help of friend L.  It isn't complete, but the remaining section will be a piece of cake and already it's fun to explore the plants that grow in this boggy area, the deer scrapings and finding the places where they bed down, the mysterious holes and other oddities that have gone undetected for so many years.  It's like a new world.

Another long-desired project was a simple arbor on which the out-of-control grape vines could be trained. Just a basic structure would have made me deliriously happy, but the recently acquired pergola far exceeds what I ever could have envisioned.  It was wonderful to obtain it for such a reasonable cost, but then Sue and Bud delivered it and plunked it into the perfect spot.  Obliterating the ugly green paint wasn't fun, but certainly necessary.  The project went from good to better and now even the under-lying area is ready to pave. I didn't expect to get this far until next year. Two months ago the spot was just a tangle of weeds and wildflowers.  Now it's a dream come true!

Some flowers outdo themselves in providing garden color, beauty and pollen for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.  Such are the cannas lilies.  Glorious exotic foliage topped with bright red flowers that burst into bloom early and don't stop until after a heavy frost. But this beauty comes with a price.  The tubers must be dug and stored through the winter.  Plant one in the spring, dig six or eight in the fall.  They multiply like mosquitoes!

Last year, against the warnings of several fear-monger friends I put a ‘free' ad on Craigslist.  "Oh, you don't know what trouble you're asking for!" they warned. I ignored them.  Garden people are usually pretty nice folks and not surprisingly nice people responded.  They came, they dug, they were happy and so was I.  This year I dug all of the tubers myself, as well as a muck bucket full of dahlias.  I planted flat-leaf parsley and began turning the soil in the rest of the vegetable garden.  So much has been accomplished in just a couple of days it makes me dizzy, but although the balmy weather was certainly a factor, there was also nervous energy at work.  Keeping busy was my way of not thinking about tomorrow.

Unless a doctor has DVM after his/her name I rarely see one, but the persistent malady that hit me this past summer has forced visits to one with MD after her name and tomorrow I must undergo another diagnostic procedure that has me very nervous.  Maybe finally confronting the issue came with a hidden bonus; long-postponed projects were also confronted!  I hope tomorrow will be my last visit because I'm on a roll and there's still a lot to do.

4:54 pm est          Comments

Friday, November 9, 2012



Everyone who knows me knows that I love fire.  It's such an efficient way of tidying things up and since it adds ash to the soil it's beneficial too.  Yes, I like fire, but when the tractor I was driving suddenly burst into flames it was not a good thing.  It was terrifying.

Unlike those lawn Nazis that chase leaves around with noisy, polluting leaf blowers I mulch them and add them to the gardens. This is what led to the blaze du jour.  The Norway maple puts out a tremendous crop, so I've been trying to run the tractor over them every few days to chop them up.  Even so the blanket of gold was very heavy.  Apparently the accumulated combustibles somehow got pushed up into the engine and in a flash (literally!) smoke and flames shot skyward.  It was as if that tractor had a built in ejector seat. It shot me off and sent me racing for the hose.

Of course the hose refused to unfurl from its reel and when it did it was kinked and tangled.  Meanwhile the flames intensified and I thoroughly expected the gas tank to explode at any minute. 

At last water spat from the nozzle and hit the flames. Loud hissing ensued, but the fire refused to be extinguished.  I couldn't help but think of how difficult it often is to get a brush pile or even the woodstove to catch, yet a tractor with a little cache of leaves became an instant inferno! 

Neighbor Micki slowed down to peer past the gate as she drove up the road.  I was hoping she recognized the seriousness of the situation and that she would call 911, but she didn't. At last the pitiful stream of water that I was shooting into the engine ended the drama, but I don't think engine hissing was a good sound....

The entire event probably only lasted minutes, but it seemed an eternity.  Satisfied that all danger had passed I went inside and called T. to ask advice.  "Don't try to start it!  You don't know what all burned up," he said in his all-knowing manner, so now the tractor sits abandoned under the maple tree until T. inspects the damage, but I don't think I'll be chopping leaves this weekend.

5:13 pm est          Comments

Thursday, November 8, 2012



In the past few years I have lost several friends who died long before their time.  While their passing was sad for those of us who cared for/about them, their demise was sudden.  I issued what I hoped were consoling words to their families and carried my own grief quietly within. 

Now another friend who was diagnosed a few months ago just learned that all of the treatments have been in vain.  'Time's almost up.  What does one say to a doomed person?  I fumble about and blubber, not knowing  appropriate words of consolation.  Indulging my own sadness before the actual end feels selfish and useless. Books on this subject all seem to fall short of providing any real answers. 

How does one help a friend prepare to depart for the unknown?  I wish I knew.

9:01 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 7, 2012



‘After all these years living on this farm, another discoveryFriend L. came over to discuss our plans for an extended garden (she lives in the city, so her space is limited).  She is the miracle grower, so hopefully I will be inspired to tend my plants more conscientiously. 

After tentatively mapping out our agricultural plan we set off to explore the almost-never explored overgrown woods and bramble field south of the old orchard.  It's barely passable, quite untamed and a sanctuary for much wildlife.  While picking our way through the multiflora rose and piling windfall along the property line to create some semblance of a path we discovered an odd pipe sticking out of the ground about 15". 

It's packed full of debris, but surrounding this remnant of the past were rocks that appear to have been deliberately placed.  T. suggested this may have been an artesian well and then suggested that I "dig down a few feet..." to see if I hit water.  He did not offer to assist because he doesn't find such relics exciting, so I shall do it myself--eventually.

Just as in life, when you think you know what you have there's always something new to discover.

7:12 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, November 6, 2012



Oh, thank god it's over!  No more phone calls, no more junk mail, just the wait that could drag on for weeks.  The polls in this rural community were abuzz this morning and the wait to cast votes was long, but visiting with seldom-seen neighbors is always nice. My daughter, who votes in another precinct reported that at her polling place with six machines, three of which were not working at all.  Then another once ran out of paper and no one knew how to install a new roll.  Upon reviewing their ballots several people were reporting that the candidate for whom they had voted did not register, but a vote for his opponent did.  This, from rural Ohio is very troubling.  I for one do not believe this will be a fair election.  Wouldn't it be nice to be a donkey?

6:46 pm est          Comments

Monday, November 5, 2012



I really needed to escape the daily onslaught of political calls, telly pundits and election speculation, so I spent Saturday evening at the book store and was surprised at the number of new dog-theme books.  It really shouldn't have been surprising since dogs and horses have always been popular subjects, but it seems there's a flood of stuff out there written by people for whom the subject (dogs) isn't really heartfelt, just profitable.  Some of it is just plain crap, but one author I like a lot is Jacqueline Sheehan, a real honest dog lover and a darned good story teller. Her novels are engaging, original and intelligent and the author's sincere devotion and understanding of the species is obvious. So, if you too are sick of political stuff (also crap) and looking for a nice escape, check out any of her books. You won't be disappointed.

The annual fall mouse migration is underway as evidenced by this morning's migrant.  Judging from the well-worn entrances some of the portals might even date back to when John Grogg built this house nearly two centuries ago.  I'd never consider plugging these special ‘doors' because seeing a little bewhiskered face pop out, peer around the room to see if the cat cops are around amuses me.  It seems the cops are too lazy to bother any new lodgers.  Lucky for them that even Sissy, the serial killer finds the pursuit of a house mouse boring. Maybe it's not enough of a challenge.  Who knows, but the squatters are relatively safe in here.

I recall leaving a big chocolate bar on the guestroom table next to the bed as a welcome gesture for friend C. who was coming to visit from New Mexico.  After settling into her room C. appeared in the kitchen laughing and holding what remained of the candy.  "The room is cozy," she said, "but what about this?"   Half of the chocolate was gone, the wrapper clearly gnawed, not opened by human hands.  C.'s cool.  She wasn't alarmed and we both had a good laugh, but that night as she sat in bed reading her little friend appeared on the night table.

"I felt someone staring at me," she said. "I turned my head and he was just sitting on the table watching me."  ‘Guess he just wanted to know where the rest of his midnight snack was.

I'm having computer issues that are affecting this blog.  Odd words are highlighted as links, but not by me!  Ignore them.  I'm trying to exorcise the demon that seems to have invaded my blog.



8:26 pm est          Comments

Saturday, November 3, 2012



An election year defines more than the direction of the country.  It defines and divides personal relationships for better or worse.  The phone rings and I answer it because I don't subscribe to any of the communication options that cater to society's rampant plague of paranoia.  No caller ID, no call waiting, none of that stuff.  It rings, I answer.

At least once a day  my neutral, "Hello" is met with screaming recordings of politicians or their appointed paid mouthpieces.  It's not possible to respond to a recording, a fact which speaks louder than the screaming ‘messenger.'  I'm disgusted beyond all words, not just by the lies and the inability to counter them by speaking to an actual living person, but because there are a lot of people who believe the vitriol spewed by these ugly messengers. 

Taking the time and using the intellectual capabilities to look up facts is too bothersome for most people.  They turn on Fox news or listen to one of the fat loudmouths on talk radio and consider themselves ‘informed' voters.  It's pathetic and it's the reason unjust wars, racism, bigotry, environmental destruction, corruption at all levels of government flourish and thrive.  Knowledge is power, but lazy minds are easily manipulated. We are in big trouble. 

I think Mr. Sandburg's message rings true today.

The Liars by Carl Sandburg

(March, 1919)

A liar goes in fine clothes.
A liar goes in rags.
A liar is a liar, clothes or no clothes.
A liar is a liar and lives on the lies he tells and dies in a life of lies.
And the stonecutters earn a living-with lies-on the tombs of liars.

A liar looks 'em in the eye
And lies to a woman,
Lies to a man, a pal, a child, a fool.
And he is an old liar; we know him many years back.

A liar lies to nations.
A liar lies to the people.
A liar takes the blood of the people
And drinks this blood with a laugh and a lie,
A laugh in his neck,
A lie in his mouth.
And this liar is an old one; we know him many years.
He is straight as a dog's hind leg.
He is straight as a corkscrew.
He is white as a black cat's foot at midnight.

The tongue of a man is tied on this,
On the liar who lies to nations,
The liar who lies to the people.
The tongue of a man is tied on this
And ends: To hell with 'em all.
To hell with 'em all.

It's a song hard as a riveter's hammer,
Hard as the sleep of a crummy hobo,
Hard as the sleep of a lousy doughboy,
Twisted as a shell-shock idiot's gibber.

The liars met where the doors were locked.
They said to each other: Now for war.
The liars fixed it and told 'em: Go.

Across their tables they fixed it up,
Behind their doors away from the mob.
And the guns did a job that nicked off millions.
The guns blew seven million off the map,
The guns sent seven million west.
Seven million shoving up the daisies.
Across their tables they fixed it up,
The liars who lie to nations.

And now
Out of the butcher's job
And the boneyard junk the maggots have cleaned,
Where the jaws of skulls tell the jokes of war ghosts,
Out of this they are calling now: Let'
s go back where we were.
Let us run the world again, us, us.

Where the doors are locked the liars say: Wait and we'll cash in again.

So I hear The People talk.
I hear them tell each other
Let the strong men be ready.
Let the strong men watch.
Let your wrists be cool and your head clear.
Let the liars get their finish,
The liars and their waiting game, waiting a day again
To open the doors and tell us: War! get out to your war again.

So I hear The People tell each other:
Look at to-day and to-morrow.
Fix this clock that nicks off millions
When The Liars say it's time.
Take things in your own hands.
To hell with 'em all,
The liars who lie to nations,
The liars who lie to The People.


10:54 am edt          Comments

Thursday, November 1, 2012



D. was already nearly 70 years old. He stood no more than 5' 2" tall, wore thick glasses and had a pronounced limp, but every evening he donned almost-cop style crisp black pants, buttoned-up black shirt,tie and badge that identified him as an official "security guard."  An over-size hat that looked like a skillet completed the uniform. On his belt was a radio and pepper spray.  Around 8 o'clock he drove his old wreck of a station wagon to the auto parts store where he kept the business safe from would-be marauders.  For staying up all night, checking doors and listening for things that might go bump he was paid minimum wage.  I always felt sorry for the poor fellow. One shove from any reasonably healthy person would have put him out of commission, but I don't think he was ever threatened.  I too have a black-clad security guard.  Mine works for food. 

Poppy the cat was about half grown when she appeared here eight years ago.  Judging from her very strong resemblance to Tom I suspect a relationship.  Perhaps he sired her prior to his giving up his feral life and his manhood.  Poppy's a lovely thing with  jewel-green eyes that stare from thick black fur that feels like mink.  She's gentle and gets on well with everyone, but some time ago Poppy appointed herself home security guard.  Her shift begins around 2:00 am. 

That's when she rouses herself from sleep, thumps down the stair and heads for the kitchen. There she opens all of the lower cupboard doors and drawers, including those of the antique wall cupboard.  Finding nothing there it's on to the dining room to repeat the investigation.  She's quite amazing. Having the strength and dexterity of a raccoon she can open anything.  The bathrooms spring-loaded vanity doors do present a teensy challenge, but she is persistent since one can never be sure what might be lurking between the Ajax and the toilet cleaner.  The repeated banging of those doors lets me know she is on the job and that she'll be heading upstairs after a quick check of the living room.

Bedroom, guest room and office offer lots of places to be noisily checked. After making certain an area is burglar-free she issues the all-clear: FWET, FWET, FWET, she loudly snorts.  It wakes me up.  Her favorite and most-challenging security check is the corner cupboard where the telly, clock radio and a few other wired appliances are housed.  She has turned on the radio, unplugged the telly and screwed up the remote antenna.

Someone suggested that I just open all the doors and drawers before I go to bed, but then what would she do all night?  Animals like to work.  Poppy has requisitioned for one of those tiny LED headlamps to make her job easier.

8:03 pm edt          Comments

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