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Saturday, June 29, 2013




Not if you are the one who just purchased that roll of paper towels.  ‘Stealing' is just one of Tess' not-so-cute idiosyncrasies.  She's 5 ½ months old now and a verified juvenile delinquent who has proven her prowess at counter surfing, ‘helping' to unpack groceries even before they are out of the truck, picking raspberries from the bushes or eating cherries from the basket foolishly left within her reach.  Shoes vanish as soon as they leave my feet.  A cupboard door left ajar is an invitation to scour the trash bin under the sink.  She also likes to ‘do' laundry as in taking clothing items from the washer or drier if either is left open.  In her spare time she chases cats and chickens and helps in the gardens.  A puppy seemed like such a good idea....

9:04 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 26, 2013



I had just let the chickens out from their coop and was mucking out the stall that memorable morning several years ago.  The birds were busy pecking around the barnyard when one of them ventured to the opposite side of the fence.  That's how I came to witness the miserable creep who deliberately swerved off the road onto the grass right next to the barn in order to run over the little black hen.  She exploded in a flurry of feathers and the hit-run perpetrator sped on down the road. 

I was furious at the outright cruelty and incivility of the madman and immediately began to plot my revenge.  After hurrying through morning chores, I retrieved the dead bird and headed for the cellar workshop

Reassembling a small chicken that has suffered "severe trauma" (as the medical profession would describe the cause of death...) was not easy.  She had been reduced to a scantily-feathered jelly roll, but a tennis ball stuffed into the body cavity created an almost-convincing bulk.  An armature of a few bent coat hangers held the dead bird upright although her head lolled to one side.  The finished product wasn't going to win any taxidermy awards, but I figured it would serve my intended purpose, that being to catch the thug in a repeat act of violence. 

As I studded a board with 3" nails and spray painted it green I was almost giddy anticipating the perp seeing what he would (hopefully) perceive as another chicken that he could blast to oblivion.  Of course he would hit the nail-studded board and blow out at least one tire.

The next morning the trap was set.  With camera in hand (‘figured I'd need proof of his trespassing when he called the cops), I secreted myself in the shrubbery and waited, but after about 45 minutes shivering in the bushes it was apparent my intended target was a no-show.  Crap! 

Even if he had, it's unlikely he would have been tricked by the rapidly-deteriorating hen that by this time looked like what she was; a dead chicken stuffed with a tennis ball and propped up on coat hangers.  I heaved the disappointing mess (minus tennis ball and coat hangers) across the road into the field, put the board away for future use and retreated to the house-defeated and disappointed.  

I thought about this industrious, but futile act of revenge two days ago when Dot, a big white hen with a black spot on her side was killed in a similar incident. ‘The same cruel person perhaps? 

Unlike the days of creating chicken decoys and nail-studded boards, putting outsized zucchini in the road as speed bumps and posting polite, but ignored ‘Slow Down, Please' signs on utility poles, I just heaved Dot's lifeless form into the field across the road-- food for the scavengers.  It's not that I felt any less angry or disgusted, but these days I know that anyone mean-spirited enough to do this to a helpless creature would probably have no qualms about smashing me to smithereens as well. 

So much for my Peaceable Kingdom.


10:02 am edt          Comments

Monday, June 17, 2013



Each spring the local Big Lots store (formerly called Odd Lots) offers an amazing selection of trees, both ornamental and fruiting.  The trees are always enticingly large and robust and priced at just $15.00 each.  As if this were not quite tempting enough, they are unconditionally guaranteed for one full year.  Should they die, your $15.00 will be politely refunded, but I have never had a tree perish.  It is from this source that I have been building my new orchard.

While each tree is labeled I have learned that one should not expect the tree to match the label.  Oh yes, it will be of the species, but not necessarily the type.  So far I have purchased and planted two "Bartlett" pear trees and while I do have two pear trees, neither of them is a Bartlett.  Oh well, the prolific producers are very hardy and they do produce tasty pears;  just not Bartlett pears.

The "dwarf" Red Delicious apple tree is now about 50' tall and incredibly it is a Red Delicious; just not a dwarf Red Delicious.

The first peach tree, labeled as "Red Haven" bears a lovely crop (in good years) of juicy white peaches.  The next year I purchased an "Elberta" peach tree.  While it was initially loaded with fruit, none of it matured.  All of the ping-pong ball sized fruit hit the ground before reaching any identifiable size.  This year the tree is again loaded and the crop looks promising, but I'll be surprised if it's actually the Elbera variety.

Again this year I purchased another alleged "Red Haven."  I didn't expect it to put on any fruit its first year, but it has and the foliage looks just like that of the other two peach trees.  However, whatever these things might be, I think it is safe to say they are NOT peaches of any sort.  Friends have guessed plums or nectarines, either of which I like, but.... The fruit is hard and smooth-skinned and it has no smell.

And so each year the number of trees in my Odd Lot orchard iof healthy productive trees increases, but none are quite what I expected.  Anyone want to venture a guess on what this mystery  fruit might be?



10:08 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 14, 2013



I like surprises and so deliveries from Kenny are never disappointing.  Earlier in the week, along with a baggie of cookies I left a note inviting him and his pal Wilson to my annual July garden party.

Today I returned from town to find my latest Kenny surprise; 14 loaves of bread and literally hundreds of disposable cups.  There are Styrofoam cups, plastic cups and even paper cups.  Looks like I'm all set for the party.

For weeks I've been enjoying watching the antics of the juvenile groundhogs in the field across the road, but driving home I found one of them fooling around in the middle of the road.  Of course I stopped and laid on the horn.  It ran back to the safety of the field and all was well--for a while.

The car I heard as I sat reading on the porch wasn't going fast at all, but then I heard the unmistakable SQUWA-OP!  That's the sound a car makes when it runs over a small animal.  There was no other sound like brakes, horn or change in speed.  The driver just continued on his/her mindless way up the road.  I ran for the gate and saw the little fellow in just about the same place he was when I chased him out of harms way, but now he was quite dead.  This is not a kind, nor caring world.


6:32 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 11, 2013



This place is a birder's paradise!  I love to sit on the porch with a big mug of coffee in the morning and watch the busy aerial world around me as the day begins.

To the south a Cooper hawk makes frequent forays through the woods.  Bluebirds are everywhere and have taken up occupancy in all of the houses specifically designated for them.  A family of noisy crows with a big nest near what remains of leaky pond are teaching their kids to fly and while it's not surprising that my mud puddle (AKA pond) is being ignored, a spectacular osprey has been seen circling the neighbor's pond in search of fish.  And of course there are finches galore and all the less exotic feathered friends, but without question the most exciting avian attraction is the hummingbird that chose to build her nest right over the back entrance to the house.

My friend Hazel Freeman visited for a few days and being a nature writer and photographer extraordinaire she took many pictures of this tiny resident.  Hazel has the patience of Job which is necessary when trying to capture wildlife images.  She graciously shared this one of mama hummer on her tiny nest, but you'll soon be able to see more images on her interesting and highly-recommended blog.

And to think such natural wonder exists just outside my door simply because I allow Nature to rule rather than mowers, chainsaws and chemicals.  Those lawn Nazis who prefer grass to wildflowers and silly sculpted ewes to woods-gone-wild just don't know what they are missing. The best things in life really are free!

10:11 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 4, 2013



It's 1:30 on a beautiful sunny afternoon.  I'm standing at the barnyard gate shucking corn when I see a familiar face exit through the ‘mouse hole' in the barn door.

"Oh, hi Karen.  Say, did you realize the hatch door on the chicken coop is closed?  I couldn't get in and I usually have my lunch about now.  Could you open it, please?" 

"YOU AGAIN!  Get out of here," I order, but she (I must think of a name.  Suggestions welcome...) just takes a few steps toward me, her adorable face looking hurt and sad from the admonishment.  Then she ambles back into the exterior pen to check the hatch one more time.  Of course it is still closed, so she re-enters the barn through the ‘mouse hole,' turns around and sticks her face out to watch me toss corn husks to the bad asses.  They have no answers to the dilemma and no solution to offer.

The good news is that the mystery thief is now known.  The bad news is that I have no plan other than keeping the hens confined until noon by which time they've laid their eggs, then releasing them to free range and closing up the coop until bed time.

 I'm hoping that Mrs. Coon will get discouraged and perhaps move herself and kids up to Sandy's to feast at the bountiful cat food bowls in her barn, but this is probably just wishful thinking.  Already she acts as if she's part of this family.


4:08 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 3, 2013



After trapping and relocating Mr. R. C. Coon the chicken coop egg thefts continued.  These aren't night time raids, but flagrant mid-morning or early afternoon invasions, always announced by hysterical cackling from the egg producers and their somewhat useless ‘man of the coop.'  Lots of noise would beckon me to the barn only to find freshly-cleaned empty shells, but no sign of the thief. 

The culprit was outsmarting the big trap that had captured R. C.  The bait would be gone while the trap remained untripped.  It was a mystery.  Suspecting a weasel I borrowed T.'s trail cam and set it opposite the small hatch door hoping to photograph the brazen burglar.  I dusted the area around the trap with talcum powder thinking to identify the thief that way, but it seemed I was dealing with a real Houdini.  I was flummoxed-until today.

As usual a loud commotion ensued at the barn and as usual I beat feet in that direction.  One very distressed black hen was putting up an angry fuss from within the coop while her gal pals (and stud muffin) stood clustered in the barnyard like rubber-neckers at an auto crash.  I opened the coop door and was met by non-other than Mrs. R. C. Coon. She was sitting on the ledge above the laying boxes and she was a beauty.  Her coat was so shiny it looked as if she used cream rinse and her teeth were white as Joe Biden's.  One egg had already been consumed and several others awaited the glamour girl who glared down at me and said, "What did you do with my husband!"

After grabbing the protesting hen by her legs and tossing her safely out the barn door to join her friends I re-entered the coop and closed the hatch, then the door to the feed room while I retrieved the big trap which had been replaced by the next smaller weasel-sized version.  Now Mrs. Coon was literally trapped, but just inside the coop, not inside a cage. 


She was enjoying another egg when I re-entered the coop with the trap enticingly baited with spelt bread heavily laden with canned dog food.  How could she resist?

I couldn't help but be impressed with how cleverly she retrieved an egg from a laying box and then deftly turned the egg round and round in her lovely little pianist-type hands before biting the end off her prize.  With an almost-orgasmic expression on her pretty face she licked the shell clean and then repeated the process with the remaining eggs.  When finished she tossed her head back as if to say, "Ah, delicious!"  But then that pointy little nose caught the perfume of Alpo-spread spelt bread and really, what's better with eggs than bread (toast...) and meat (bacon would have been nice, but dog food would suffice...). 

All the while she nonchalantly watched as I snapped photos through the window and the trail cam blinked like a strobe at a disco.


After carefully inspecting the open trap door and casting a look my way announcing that she had no intention of stepping inside, she moved to the outside rear, reached in through the wire grid and easily broke off and ate the entire bait. Then she stood on her back legs to look me squarely in the face and laugh.  That's when I saw the tell-tale signs of motherhood. 

Mrs. R. C. is a recent mom as evidenced by signs of a nursing brood.  How could I even think of trapping and relocating her, even to join her husband!  I'd be creating a litter of orphans and that would be unconscionable.  The black hen that I'd rescued from the hungry invader was outside the hatch door still protesting because she wanted inside to make her daily egg deposit, but to let her in would be like assisting a suicide.  Instead I opened the exterior people door used to clean out the coop and sent Mrs. R. C. back to her children. 

This dilemma is only beginning.  From her condition it's clear that the kids are too small to join her at the all the eggs you can eat café, but I know it's just a matter of time.  Something tells me that I'll be trapping and relocating all summer--or I could simply get out of the chicken business.  Hmmm, now there's an idea....

5:20 pm edt          Comments

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