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Friday, May 30, 2014



Dear little Julie is almost blind due to a congenital issue called a vertical nystagmus which causes her eyes to involuntarily rapidly move up and down.  As if this were not enough, she's also cross-eyed, but despite her visual impairment Julie is a very good watchdog.  When she alerts, I pay attention.

This morning she announced that Kenny (old Kenny, that is) was here, but by the time I got outside he was gone. A box of spelt bread, plus a few extra loaves sat next to the gate.  Spelt bread is a special treat for Julie in particular.  She loves the stuff as do the bad asses, but the chickens are less than enthusiastic about health food.  They politely peck at the torn pieces tossed to them, but make it clear they'd prefer something tastier.  Too bad, because they will be eating spelt bread for some time. The freezer is packed to capacity and the loaves that couldn't be squeezed in crowd the lower shelves of the fridge while yet another loaf will go up to the barn for donkey treats.  I'll also toss a slice or two over the fence in what will probably be a futile effort to deter Rochelle.

Rochelle Raccoon was the clever girl so adept at stealing bait without tripping the live trap last year.  When caught in the act, after consuming a tempting slice of spelt bread spread with Pedigree dog food she stood up on her hind legs to show me that she was a nursing mom.  What could I do?  I stopped setting the trap since relocating her and leaving a litter of orphans would have been cruel. 

Judging from the recent activity at the barn I feel certain that Rochelle is back and is no doubt again with children.  Coons don't normally forage during the early afternoon hours, but that's probably when her kids are napping.  Rochelle enters through the chicken coop door, climbs atop the nesting boxes so she can reach down and grab a wholesome egg or two for lunch.  Not wanting to incite retribution she politely leaves some for me.  I've recently taken to closing the coop door after the hens leave in the morning, so now they lay their eggs in the corner of the donkeys' stall.  I'm sure it's just a matter of time before Rochelle discovers the new 'diner.'  For the past several days I've been watching a cavorting family of foxes as they hunt for mice and other volpine diet staples, but it won't surprise me if they notice that KFC (Karen's Fresh Chicken) is just a short jaunt away.

I may have to resort to a tactic that worked several years ago when a fox family nearly wiped out the entire flock.  Each night I'd take a pan of Dad's Econo-Bits and leave it about 30' from their den, then I'd sit in the field and watch them.  It was a pleasant way to end the day and chicken thefts stopped--for a while.  But then, all life is nothing but a series of trade-offs, isn't it?


8:05 pm edt          Comments

Monday, May 26, 2014



The winter of my discontent (the understatement of the year!!!) was followed by the spring of major undertakings, but also by a brighter outlook--literally and figuratively.  The time had come to stop wallowing in the trough of depression that has kept me isolated, even from people I normally enjoy, but I needed to be alone.  Now, thankfully there are things to look forward to and a plethora of projects to tackle.  And then there are ‘the Bettys.' 

The Bettys arrived about a month ago, acquired from Craigslist.  The urban hens former home pampered them and children handled them daily. I could tell they were very spoiled. "What are their names," I asked as the owner bent down and picked up the unsuspecting birds. 

"Oh, one of them is Sunflower and the other one is Betty, but I don't remember which is which," she said plunking them into my carrier without so much as shedding a tear.  ('Must have been the kids pets.) Here they are simply called ‘the Bettys.'

Just like some human females, the hens were being replaced by younger chicks.  The owner said she thought they were "too old to lay eggs..." but I knew this wasn't likely since they were only two.  The new girls quickly captured LB's (rooster) attention and their egg producing hormones kicked right back into gear. Until yesterday I found them charming additions to the flock.

"What are those chickens doing?  It looks like they're eating lettuce," said neighbor Sandy gazing from her porch chair toward the lettuce patch and sure enough that's what they were doing! Only hours earlier I'd harvested the first tender greens to thin a robust crop of Black Seeded Simpson, marveling at how it was thriving in some old window boxes.  I raced toward the marauders, broom in hand, issuing threats that chickens don't comprehend.  The beautiful lettuce is now a row of little green stumps.   Oh well, it will grow back--I hope.

Excavating the rock wall took on a life of its own.  Over the years one side of the retaining wall leading to the cellar had shifted and was threatening to collapse and possibly crush some unsuspecting legs (mine, most likely). 

"Oh sure, I can reset that wall.  No problem," said Little Kenny (not to be confused with old Kenny...)  The following week he and his hefty backhoe carefully dismantled the wall, but upon seeing the full size of the boulders, Kenny's look of alarm betrayed his earlier confidence.  The rocks were huge!  "Um, I'm gonna have to come back with the Bobcat and a strong helper.  How about next Sunday?"

Sunday came and went, but neither Kenny nor a strong helper showed up to work on the wall.  I called him and he apologized saying he was having trouble finding anyone strong.  When he and the Bobcat did show up they were accompanied by a young fellow so thin he looked as if he were made of spaghetti, but indeed he was strong and the wall is finally reset.  I'm pleased.  No more worries about crushed legs.


New windows and a new door are replacing the ratty deteriorated ones.  Faded, blistered paint has been scraped and covered with fresh new color.  A long-standing problem on the brick porch has been remedied and the place will soon be all spruced up in time for the arrival of a dear friend from England and for the annual garden party.  I'm feeling ready to greet the world I've shut out for so many dreary months.  'Good that Tess is helping.











4:43 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 18, 2014



I look out the window and marvel at how pleasant my little world is--to me anyway.  Inside I am comfortable and I want for nothing.  It could be easy to forget the troubles that face others  less fortunate than myself until the phone rings. 

It's trailer park person (TPP), the individual I wrote about last year.  It was from that hell hole that I took Peggy Sue, the kitten who was hiding in a heating shaft while my friend and I attempted to winterize TPP's decrepit lodging. 

It was hard to imagine that some parasite was actually charging TPP several hundred dollars each month for the ‘privilege' of living in the shabby 1960's trailer with missing windows, rotted holes in the floor so big that a person fell through one of them, a roof that leaked non-stop, even when it wasn't raining for the insulation (such as it is) was totally saturated.  A bucket caught the endless drips and the smell of mold permeated the place.  I was stunned by the conditions and implored friends to help.

T. patched several of the floor holes and plated the doors so they could at least close and not need to be held shut by the trunk TPP had shoved against it.  Friend D. helped plasticize the windows and hang heavy draperies to keep the winter winds at bay.  We did what we could and TPP was grateful. 

TPP clearly has some mental issues and such people are prime targets for low-life cretins that prey upon their hardship.  Today the phone rang.  It was TPP telling me the ‘landlord' has threatened eviction and has initiated legal action.  TPP readily admits that the only reason for remaining in this ‘estate' of ramshackle trailers is because of concern for the colony of cats on site.  Most of these felines have been trapped, vetted and fixed by my daughter's feral cat program along with another such program.  The cats could not do damage to any of these ‘dwellings' even if they tried.

"Could you go to court on Friday morning?" was TPP's desperate plea followed by an attempt to explain what was happening.  How could the bloated slug who owns this trailer park have the audacity to threaten a person who willingly pays rent simply because of concern for a few cats which the slumlord claims are "causing damage to surrounding trailers..."?  The guy gives slumlord a whole new meaning!  He should be in jail and if my efforts succeed, he will be.

TPP's calls to other agencies for assistance have fallen on deaf ears.  People don't want to get involved with individuals who may not be as on top of things as they are. I don't want to be like those people, so I  grabbed a camera and drove to a place no sane person would ever want to call home. My photo documentation will be provided not only to the lawyers involved, but also to the health department.   I've emailed the attorney representing TPP and will call hia office in the morning and barring a miracle I will be at the courthouse on Friday morning.

Thank your lucky stars if your ‘home' is better than this and try not to turn a blind eye or deaf ear when someone asks for help.

photos/023.jpg photos/008.jpg

6:19 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mother Nature--Master Gardener

Obscenely green and too pretty for words.  I take no credit for any of this.  Mother Nature creates such beauty, but so few people take the time to notice. 




7:42 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 7, 2014



"You should have known this would happen," say Ernie and Tiny.  I ignore their pessimism for I am/was the eternal optimist!

The ivy is dead, or at least it's pretending to have succumbed to the vicious winter. It will revive I'm sure, but for now the dried up leaves look messy.  Everything else is gloriously green and so, like every other year about this time my garden plans actually seem viable. Fool that I am, I approach ambitious projects with great hope and enthusiasm.

Last week I carefully edged the long vegetable garden and looked upon the finished job with pleasure, but almost immediately the equally-hopeful and enthusiastic chickens displaced the dense compost and straw in their insatiable quest for worms.  I'll fix it later with an inconspicuous layer of (appropriately-named) chicken wire.

And this was the year I vowed to replace the scrawny rose bushes next to the brick porch with ‘guaranteed to grow' Knock Out roses.  That project began yesterday.  Being a frugal woman I could not justify discarding the spindly old rose bushes.  Instead, I tediously prepared a corner plot adjacent to the pasture in which to relocate them.  I knew that the transplants might not survive, but if they did it would really look nice I thought as I dug and raked and amended the rocky soil.

Digging up the old bushes was not nearly as easy as I'd expected it to be, but finally all of the banished plants were in the wheelbarrow and I headed to the newly-prepared corner spot.  As I approached the area the bad asses meandered down the fence line looking like county employees planning to supervise the job.  They stood quietly (which should have been cause for concern) and innocently watched as I tamped the soil around the bushes and then headed for the house. 

I'm not certain just when they refashioned the new garden, but as I set off to the barn for evening chores I spotted Corky standing in the middle of the lower pasture, head low, eyes dreamy. He was doing a remarkable imitation of a cow chewing its cud, but from his mouth was what remained of a rose bush he'd uprooted.  My old nemesis multiflora rose grows all around the fence line and the bad asses never touch it, so it hadn't occurred to me that thorny domestic roses would even be a temptation.  Obviously I was wrong.

The garden department at Lowe's is enough to make one giddy and that's just how I felt this morning as I loaded the cart with buckets of Knock Out Roses. I'd spent a great deal of time and effort preparing the area next to the porch, turning the soil, adding compost and peat, removing any volunteer greenery that might distract from the cherry red roses and raking the plot to receive the new blooming bushes. Planting them was pure joy!  Looking upon the tidy area all nicely mulched with a thick layer of chopped leaves I was ever so pleased.  Ah, mission accomplished I thought, but no sooner had I gone inside when I heard LB's unmistakable crowing as he summoned his harem to the spot where he was certain worms would be theirs for the picking.  Like a lunatic I raced from the house waving a plastic bag and issuing threats to the feathered looters.  They hurried off issuing their own profanities.

As I stood there looking at the already-displaced mulch in the rose bed, watching one bad ass in the lower field eating another rose bush from that garden, and at Tess who was burying something in the cold frame I'd propped open to receive a drink of rain, suddenly it all seemed so pointless.  How can hope still spring eternal after so many years on this old farm, living with menageries that have their own garden agendas?

5:59 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, May 1, 2014



I decided that after decades of journaling I would force myself to read the records of my life thus far.  It was and remains an intimidating undertaking, but after chronologically organizing the books I finally began the reading process.  The earliest journal is filled with joyful observations of the natural world as well as an amazing inventory of ambitious projects that I undertook without second thoughts.  I was much younger then....

The journal I am currently struggling with covers an extremely difficult period of my life, but as seen through an optimist's eyes, or at the very least, a realist's eyes.  It's so easy to relive every moment, both good and bad, but some of the early critter-related entries make current events seem barely worth mentioning.  I've decided to share some parts of these.

Upon taking up residence here I immediately and naively acquired chickens which of course included a rooster named Mister Peeper.  Little did I know that not all roosters were of such rancorous nature as this miserable creature.

From March 7, 1990

Mister Peeper has become a formidable enemy. I hope it's only a phase he is going through, but this isn't likely.  I now have to use the lid from a garbage can as a shield and wield the broom with the other hand just to go into the coop to open their hatch door or to collect eggs and I can never ever turn my back on him.  He puffs up his chest and really does look magnificent..., then leaps to about knee level and attacks with both spurs and beak.  More than once I have been saved by my long ratty bathrobe. 

A later entry records Mister Peeper attacking guests and finally there is mention of Mister Peeper's relocation to another farm.  I believe that he was the last nasty rooster ever tolerated here. Todays chickens are docile, entertaining and when not digging up my gardens, they are delightful companions like Gladys seen here appraising the damage done to the barn this winter by her bad ass friend.

2:14 pm edt          Comments

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