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Thursday, May 30, 2013



It's me again.  Please be advised that I am no longer at the Byers road address.  As feared, I was deported this morning.  Oh, it's probably my own fault.  If I had just ignored that peanut butter-baited trap I'd still be at my old happy home, but here's what happened.

I was making my usual nocturnal rounds up at the barn and thought I'd check to see that the chicken coop door was closed. That's how I happened to find myself inside the exterior pen and the smell of Jif was just too tempting to ignore.  I thought I could outsmart the trap, but 'next thing I knew-BANG!  The trap door slammed shut.  I yelled loudly, then spent the rest of the miserable night wondering and worrying about my fate.  Even worse, there was hardly enough Jif to satiate my hunger!

Dawn broke and I saw her heading my way still clad in her pajamas. She tried to calm me down, whispering how I had no one to blame but myself.  "If you hadn't killed that hen...."  Then she threw a sheet over the cage and went to get the truck.  Neighbor Sandy came down to help.  I ran from end to end of the trap and it was like a see-saw teetering back and forth, but they put me in the truck bed and away we went.

I know that those two tried to make the trip as comfortable as possible, but believe me Kenny, it was a hellish journey bumping along the road to my new digs.  When we finally got there they pulled the trap out of the truck and hoisted the escape door.  Man oh man, I shot out of that thing like my tail was on fire!

It's really nice here.  This is what I call a real pond, not that mud hole on Byers, but I'm not sure where I'll sleep tonight and I'm pretty certain that I'm going to have to forage for my meals.  I'll probably lose a lot of weight.  So, should you find yourself with excess spelt bread and feel like taking a short drive over to Jim's place look me up.        

Your friend, R. C. Coon



4:32 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 29, 2013



Dear Kenny,

I want to offer my sincere thanks for your frequent and generous spelt bread donations.  Your latest contribution in the huge black garbage bag plus the smaller bag were most appreciated (by me), but caused a bit of a storage dilemma for the woman that lives here.  Since the copious bread supply would not fit in her fridge she put it in the tractor shed for safe keeping, doling it out to the chickens and donkeys daily, but good grief that was a lot of bread!  

Because the doors of the tractor shed no longer line up properly they can't be locked which has proven very beneficial to myself and to the very large opossum who sometimes dines with me.  As you can see in this picture I am very physically fit, so even though the closed doors are heavy and admittedly awkward, due to my demanding work-out regimen (opening garbage cans, climbing trees, running when necessary) I am able to open the shed without too much trouble. I've eaten so much of the stuff I'm getting fat!

Now, as nutritious and tasty (by my standards) as spelt bread is, it does get monotonous when eaten without accompaniment, but  seeking a dietary diversion has gotten me into some real trouble.  Yesterday I just couldn't stomach one more slice of stale spelt bread, so I headed up to the barn for a few eggs and what did I find setting on a nest but a plump red hen.  I couldn't help myself.  The temptation was just too great and before I knew it the coop was covered in so many feathers it looked as if someone had slit open a down parka.  Oh yes, the hen protested, but like I said, I'm very fit, so it was no contest.  She was mine and she was indeed delish!

My feast went undetected until the lady of the house went to the barn for afternoon chores.  That's when the proverbial shit hit the fan.  After finding what remained of the hen she dragged out a big have-a-heart trap baited with peanut butter (ha ha, who wants that when there's chicken!), but today when she caught me having a mid-morning snack I heard rumblings about relocating me to Jim's place which I guess is pretty nice, but I know for a fact there are no spelt bread deliveries or eggs or chicken for that matter. 

Now she's cleaned out the tractor shed and put a new latch on the door and that trap is where I'd have to pass it to get into the coop.  I hope don't fall prey to her peanut butter hor d'oerves. Anyway, I'm rambling, but I did want to acknowledge your generosity because thank you notes are important. 

Very sincerely,

R. C. Coon

5:33 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, May 25, 2013



I've often touted the benefits of the bartering system.  Over the years I've bartered fresh eggs for fish fillets, bricks, yard work, critter sitting and more, but until recently I had never bartered for drugs.  This week's trade of two dozen eggs for a package of Monostat past its sell-by date may be my best trade yet. 

'Doubtful that there's a woman alive who isn't familiar with this product, but for clueless men I'll simply note that this is used for ‘female issues.' That should be sufficient.  It's somewhat ironic that the eggs for drugs deal was made for Gladys (who else?).  Various web-based advice for her vent gleet have not been effective, so I've been forced to resort to big pharma.

I should explain that the very last thing I want to do at the end of a busy day is tote a bucket of warm water from the house to the barn and prepare a sitz bath for a chicken.  This unpleasant task can't be rushed as trying to catch her before she has gone to roost would be futile, but once settled in for the night I simply grab her by the legs, up-end her and plunk her funky butt into the warm water to soften the hard as cement glop.  Not surprisingly Gladys seems to enjoy the spa treatment, even the part that involves getting scrubbed with a soft shower brush.  The whole process makes me gag and if it were anyone other than this very special hen I might not bother, but it goes without saying that Gladys is deserving of my best doctoring efforts.  She is indeed unique.

I heard her trying to convince her gal pals to put together a synchronized swim team since she had shown them just a few weeks ago that chickens can easily engage in water sports, but they declined.  She also tried to get them to join in some equestrian activities; vaulting perhaps, but they just blinked as she effortlessly rode around on Andy's butt.  As for meals, the rest of the flock would probably be content with scratch feed and the occasional garden bug, but thanks to their intrepid ambassador who pecks on the kitchen door demanding treats they all enjoy a diverse and gourmet diet. 

So, you see I can not ignore Gladys' problem.  I wonder if Monostat would be interested in launching a commercial featuring a chicken cured by their product of a nasty yeast infection.  Probably not....

8:03 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 23, 2013


In the barn is a small exercise trampoline to encourage (what else...) exercise, but admittedly I rarely use it.  This is not to say it is not being jumped upon for there is no signage noting that it is for human-use only.  Telltale footprints reveal that after stuffing himself with stolen eggs that the silly hens have taken to depositing in the hay room, downing an ear of corn or two from the bin in the loft and washing up in OJ, the cat's water bowl Mr. R. A. Coon does a bit of jogging on the trampoline.

He used to wait until darkness fell, but the brazen fellow was just here and it's not even dinner time, unless he's a senior and he's come hoping for early bird specials.  He thinks I don't see him as he runs along the fenceline trying to look like one of the dogs. 

"Beat it!" I order and he obediently scurries up a tree, then freezes, pretending to be a branch, but tree limbs don't have cute little bandit faces.  I go into the house knowing full well that he isn't leaving until he checks out the compost pile and Rattycat's food bowl in the garden shed.

The mama groundhog had her brood out in the field this afternoon.  Like last year she has three or four little ones who I fear may not be deterred by the plastic fencing around Lynn's tidy ‘lasagna' garden.

It's probably wishful thinking, but I'm hoping that the riot of seeds planted in the demo zone north of the barn will distract these pesky prowlers.  There should be plenty for everyone, but why forage when you can dine inside, away from elements like today's storms? 

Some of the neighbors around here would be out with their rifles, but I find peaceful co-existence with wildlife more rewarding than a few ears of corn or a couple of tomatoes.  After all, this is the Peaceable Kingdom, right?  I sometimes have to remind myself of this commitment.

7:24 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 15, 2013



It's always great when a treasure is discovered in one's proverbial "back yard" and so it was when I visited the Feline Historical Museum in Alliance, Ohio.  What a gem! (They donated this Japanese beckoning cat bank for the upcoming Stray Cat Strut fundraiser.)

The Cat Fanciers' Association Foundation (CFA) museum is an absolute gold mine of original art that has been bequeathed by international collectors.  As if the expansive collection were not enough, there is also a non-lending library with rare reference materials and a rotating exhibit (currently featuring the Manx breed), all displayed in the simple elegance of a former bank building.  The sophistication of the CFA museum belies it surroundings. 

The old downtown section of the city is practically a ghost town although some beautiful architecture (much of it ‘remuddled') now houses about a dozen second-hand shops.  Parking is no problem! 

CAF is North America's first cat museum and it's definitely worth visiting even for those who aren't cat fanciers.  The refined décor and the incredible collection of art work, the warm knowledgeable director and the overall sophistication offers a surprising retreat from the ordinary.  Check out their website for a peak into this jewel.  Oh BTW, admission is free although donations are always welcome.


11:28 am edt          Comments

Monday, May 13, 2013



Frankly I find phrases like "owning" a behavior or "giving permission" tiresome, but guess what?  I have "given myself permission" to take some writing time off and having done so I feel wonderfully liberated.

Don't get me wrong, I love my work!  How many people are lucky enough to say that?  There is nothing in the world I'd rather do than write for a living, but events of the past few months have taken a lot out of me including my enthusiasm for research and interviews and hours at this computer and all the rest of what's involved in freelancing, so as annoying as the phrase is, I have given myself permission to take off for several weeks.  But what to do with all this new-found spare time?

Maybe I'll languish in the gardens.  Maybe I'll pour over more of the books on the ‘to read' shelf.  Maybe the dogs and I will extend our walking route.  Maybe I'll sketch or paint. Maybe I'll visit some museums.  ‘So many options....  I've never done this before and I suspect that I'll soon miss the daily grind, but for right now I'm on sabbatical.

2:59 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 9, 2013




Things seemed to be improving after the winter of my discontent (deaths of friends, health issues, loss of favorite dog Ted, law suit, etc.), but it has transitioned into my spring of great expense, pain and stress.

Enormous hematomas on Tess' ears puzzled the vet as she had not experienced any trauma, nor ear infections, nor head shaking, nor any of the other things that typically cause ear hematomas.  Nevertheless surgery was required.  Both ears were drained of the accumulated blood and then stitched to prevent future hemorrhaging leaving her little ears looking as if a mad quilter had gone at them.  At not even four months, my little $18.00 pound puppy is already worth a fortune.


Tess is also indirectly responsible for the fencing project which turned into an avalanche of ever-escalating costs, labor and pain.  Her adventurous spirit and initially- small size made slipping between the fence rails and getting onto the road too dangerous to risk and since the fence was long overdue for maintenance the puppy was the impetus for addressing repairs.  One thing led to another.

The original plan to put welded wire along the lower two feet of the existing fence revealed several rotted posts needing replacement.  Warped or damaged boards also needed to be replaced.  T. fixed it all.  Four hundred feet of fence may not seem like much until you start working on it.  Then friend Rose helped me secure all but about seventy feet of it with the originally-intended welded wire.  While far from being rocket science, it was back breaking labor complicated by brambles, bugs and other unseen troubles and the job literally took weeks to almost complete.

"Oh that remaining part will be easy," I heard myself say to Rose.  "I'll just do it myself in the morning."  It didn't seem urgent when I uttered those words because until then the pup had not ventured near that particular section, but things can change in the blink of an eye.    

Demolition of the old yellow tile milk house foundation started by Farmer Chuck and his backhoe several weeks ago uncovered a bigger mess than ever could have been anticipated.  Tile shards punctured the tire on Chuck's backhoe, so progress had come to a hissing halt. Calls to a half dozen heavy equipment operators to come and finish the job were either ignored, not returned, or the ‘professionals' simply didn't show up, but this week Little Kenny  arrived with his Cat track hoe.  This Kenny is not to be confused with Old Kenny.  Little Kenny, who is 6'4" tall and weighs in excess of 225 pounds finessed the Cat with the delicate precision of a brain surgeon.  He smashed the ugly tiles, heaped the rubble into a ridge and then covered it with topsoil.  I was so excited and eager to plant the ten pine trees and other things that would transform that area from eye sore to wildlife food plot that I decided to work on the fence project later in the day.  Like I said, things can change in the blink of an eye. 

I had just pushed the green garden cart loaded with tools, pine saplings, seeds and other gardening supplies into the barnyard when Tess ‘discovered' the section of board fence that was still without welded wire.  In a flash she was through the board rails and trotting up the middle of the road.  My frantic command "COME!" was ignored as I gave chase.  To the dog, this was a great game and she ran even faster eventually vanishing in the ditch on the opposite side of the road. 

Since the township had recently dredged the ditch, it was quite deep.  I leapt into the trench, grabbed the protesting pup and then realized that getting out of the deep trough wasn't going to be easy.  My back already hurt, the 21 pound pup was wriggling and my legs aren't as strong as they used to be.  It wasn't a pretty sight, but I and the dog did exit without being observed by any passerby.

With Tess secured on a cable it was clear that the much-anticipated planting project would have to wait.  Installing the welded wire was critical.  It was also not easy without Rose's help!  The beautiful Stella Dora lilies that used to grace that section were trampled and ruined in the process.  And who planted poison ivy in with the raspberry bushes anyway?  Tree limbs poked and scratched my arms and face.  Fence staples jumped away from the hammer blows and vanished in the grass where I will undoubtedly find them with the tractor tires when I mow.  Things were not going well at all when from the barnyard I heard a worrisome thumping sound.  I pushed away the tree limbs and saw that the bad asses had discovered the garden cart.  In my panic to catch the runaway dog I  had forgotten all about it!

Extricating myself from the brambles, ivy and tree limbs I ran into the barnyard just in time to see white pine needles vanish into Corky's mouth.  Andy had found a sack of onion sets and was flinging them through the air since he intended to eat the paper bag.  I salvaged seven trees and collected onion sets that were scattered like hail stones in the tall grass.  The good news (if there is any...) is that Corky didn't care for the root system; hence he spat out several ‘stumps' with roots intact.  Will they grow?  Who knows? 

I wanted to weep, but such luxury wasn't an option.  I finished the fence and planted the mutilated pine saplings.  My back screamed in pain as I limped back to the house just as guests arrived.  It was nice to finally sit on the porch and relax.  When my friends left I just wanted to stay there and watch the sun set, but that was not to be.

Where Tess and Julie found the black sludge they wallowed in is anybody's guess, but when the two stinking dogs appeared I knew that my labors were not over.  Since Tess had jumped onto my lap I too was covered in the vile goo.  I grabbed their collars and all three of us piled into the shower.  My aching back protested violently as scrubbed the suddenly sedate dogs.  What else could happen I asked myself opening the shower door to let them out?  I'd towel them off after I had showered. 

 This was Tess' first shower and I guess that in puppy logic the best place to dry off was in the litter box.  I could hardly believe my eyes when I opened the shower door!  Julie said, "I told her not to go in there...", but Tess had gone into the bathroom closet where the cat box is kept and rolled in it.  Wet clay covered the white tile floor as well as the dog.  At this point I did cry.

This morning the bathroom and two dogs are clean, the fence is secure and the pine trees (such as they are) are planted and I am taking the day off!


11:28 am edt          Comments

Monday, May 6, 2013



Gladys has always marched to the beat of a different drummer.  The equestrian hen questions why her coop mates don't enjoy riding around on a donkey's butt as much as she does.  She sometimes complains that she's tired of being sent by her lazy buddies to peck on the kitchen door to remind me that they would like something special for a snack.  And it's always Gladys the party-planner who initiates garden get-togethers on the patio bench to discuss world events, fashions, etc., but yesterday my very special hen really outdid herself.  This chicken version of Martha Stewart revealed yet another talent--water sports.

Poppy the cat was patrolling the shoreline scaring frogs just for the heck of it.  It's cat fun to see them leap into the water and make a big splash. The flock was clucking away as usual, pecking at the moist banks of leaky pond looking for bugs or anything else that might look tasty.  Suddenly, without warning or provocation Gladys leapt into the air and landed right in the middle of the murky mini-lake.  My first thought at seeing the white bird in the pond was that I'd somehow acquired a wandering Pekin duck, but no!  It was Gladys.  With casual ease the unlikely waterfowl calmly swam to shore (yes, SWAM!), shook her feathers and joined her prowling pals along the waters edge. "So what's the big deal?" she asked as I and the dogs stared in disbelief.  I won't be surprised if she takes up skateboarding next. 

All this and the over-achiever still finds time to deposit a big brown egg every day!  I nominate Gladys for outstanding chicken of the year!


11:20 am edt          Comments

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Vent what?


Vent gleet.  It sounds like it could be a feature on a high end car or maybe an air conditioning option, but no.  Vent gleet is a disgusting poultry affliction.  When I first noticed the messy butt on one of the hens I consulted M., the poultry PhD. who diagnosed the problem and recommended a cure.  Further internet research said that the pasty posterior was a yeast infection caused by "unsanitary conditions, moldy food and over-crowding."  My birds are not subjected to any of the above!

Nevertheless each night the patient is subjected to a sitz bath in Epson salts and scrub with a relatively-soft brush.  I gag during this procedure.  The bird acts perfectly fine.  She exhibits no other sign of ill health other than the crappy cloaca.  Additional research advises daily doses of yogurt, vinegar-laced drinking water and a customized mash containing acidophilus.  No name hen is now confined and began this dietary regimen today.

The birds in my small flock have been hatched on site except for six birds purchased from a well-known hatchery.  Of these six one has died (I suspect a stoke or heart attack as she had not shown any symptoms) and now this one with the exotically-named malady.  I will not purchase any additional birds from a commercial hatchery.

Bad ass Andy is slowly recovering from his abscess.  Things at the barnyard are quiet these past several days, much to Corky's dismay.  His partner in crime is grumpy and spends a lot of time resting.  Thankfully for Corky there is a diversion; the board fence repair and paint job which is being done by ‘outsiders' is providing a distraction to the bad one.

Tess has developed a hematoma on her right ear which the vet says will have to be surgically addressed.  She goes in Monday morning.  The swollen ear is most likely from rough-housing with her chums as she has not suffered any injuries.  The puffy ear doesn't seem to bother her at all, but without intervention her ‘modeling' career could be in jeopardy.

Rattycat's coat was one solid mat covering most of his torso in spite of regular grooming.  During the winter his rear quarters were so badly afflicted that he went to Dr. Costsalot to have a mini-cut which cost $60.00!  I myself have never paid $60.00 for any beauty treatment.  Each morning I was carefully snipping away the felted fur, combing him with the Furminator and trying to rid him of the tangles that surely must have been uncomfortable.  In spite of daily grooming the matting got worse.  Yesterday I boldly attacked the problem with the electic dog clippers and to my surprise mister RC seemed to enjoy the procedure!  The carpet of mats that covered his torso are now history and all that remains to be done is a very matted rear leg.  He has not been cooperative regarding this and with laser precision he has inflicted a couple of nasty scratches on my hand.  His mood determines how much can be accomplished in a single sitting, so while he still looks quite ratty I think/hope he will be uniquely coiffed by the weekend, just in case he has any party plans.

There are unending springtime tasks that I'm slowly addressing between doctoring Andy's sore foot, scrubbing the messy chicken butt and preparing a poultry menu that is more time-consuming than any meal I personally eat and clipping a temperamental feline.  I tell myself that these things are just temporary glitches and soon I'll have the luxury of fussing in the gardens I've been planning all winter, but will this ever really happen?

9:01 pm edt          Comments

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