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Monday, October 27, 2014



            A crescent moon hangs high over the mostly-dead pine tree at the end of the driveway.  Night hasn't quite fallen and it's that ‘special' time of the day when barn chores are finished. It's nice to just 'be' in the barnyard where Tess is playing with the red stall ball that the bad asses ignore.  They are demanding attention, and of course they get it.  I kiss their velvety noses and smell their peppermint breaths.  They've had their favorite snack; candy canes.  People ask," Why do you have them?"  I ask myself that question often. 

            Why indeed?  I think back to the day Corky was discovered imprisoned in a tiny  stockade fenced quagmire of mud and manure.  No sign of hay or grain; just a pink bucket with about 2" of green slimy water.  He was still a baby and the thought that he should remain in that hell-hole was out of the question. 

            I bought him from the greedy stupid man whose wife had purchased the little jack at a fundraiser.  Politely pointing out that it looked as if the donkey was not getting the attention he required and that perhaps he might want to re-home him, my proposal was met by a rude price followed by a declaration that he was thinking about "getting a girl donkey and breeding the two...."  I bought Corky for more money than he was worth.

            After having him gelded, vaccinated, etc. it was obvious that the little guy was lonely despite the attention lavished upon him.  Enter Andy.  More money, more work, more bad ass love.  What can I say?  Why do I have them?  I guess the answer is because they have velvety noses, peppermint breaths and they needed me.

8:32 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 24, 2014



Willa has had a name change.  She is now Mimi and here she is with her best friend Tess.  Of all the animals she might have chosen for a mentor, she has chosen the worst of the lot.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed....

6:30 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, October 23, 2014



          The golden days of autumn tranquility are shattered by the sound of high-powered rifle fire emanating from locals preparing to snuff out Bambi and friends.  The deer are on edge and rightly so.  I see them each morning meandering the tree line that intersects the soybean field north of the barn.  Sometimes they're on my nature trail  and I wish I could tell them this is the place to hang out because it's safe here, but since we don't speak one another's language some of this group of six will undoubtedly soon bite the dust.

            I'm not opposed to hunting when fair chase is practiced, but that's rarely how it's done these days.  I'm repulsed when I see photos of some camo-clad ‘sportsman' posed next to a buck he's been feeding donuts, carrots and corn for weeks on end.  At last the season opens and wearing his bark-patterned suit he sits securely perched in the tree stand positioned just above the Big Buck Smorgasbord, rifle at the ready.  His prey comes in for a bite to eat and the ‘sportsman' blasts him to eternity.  I'm sorry, but this is not ‘sport' in my book.

            Just down the road is an even worse offender.  This guy who will remain nameless revels in gut shots.  Even I know where one should aim for a quick clean kill, but year after year this bozo shoots the hapless creature in the belly. It's his signature. Being a lazy lout he doesn't bother to track the stricken animal if it happens to travel very far.  I have followed the easy to see blood trail in the snow and ultimately came across a buck dying a slow agonizing death. Another of his victims was on posted land and the lazy lout was standing over the mercifully-dead doe when I confronted him, noting that the land was clearly posted NO HUNTING. He stared menacingly at me and said nothing, but then went home to tell his daddy.  The lout himself was in his late 50's and daddy already had one foot in the grave, but the father called me on the phone and after some unpleasant name-calling (from him) he demanded that I stop harassing his "boy."  No doubt "his boy" will be out again this year.  Pity the animals.

            Here at The Peaceable Kingdom, hunting season has already been underway for several days and this year Sissy the Serial Killer has taken on some apprentices.  Each morning the porch sports at least three rodent corpses, neatly laid in front of the door.  Almost as fast as I heave the lifeless bodies out to the fields, new ones take their place.  Three nights ago friends and survivors of the victims decided to move into the house, foolishly presuming that the murderer would be prowling outside.  Alas, they were wrong.  Sissy knows how to use the kitty door and her relentless pursuit of the darling deer mice now takes place throughout the house with Sergeant Sissy in command of a small army of apprentice hunters.

            Their first kill was in the kitchen.  The body was intact when found (which is not always the case as indicated by the photo). The next night one of her crew brought the deceased up to my bedroom (seeking praise, I suppose), but last night the hunted and the hunters ramped things up considerably. 

            I was awakened when Tess leapt from a sound sleep, barked and thundered down the wooden stairs.  I could hear large pieces of furniture skidding across the floor.  More animals, feline and canine joined the ruckus.  Clearly a massacre was taking place just one floor beneath my comfy bedroom.

          Intervening would have been futile, so I drifted back to sleep knowing I'd find the spoils at daybreak and indeed I did.  The body count was four.  Last nights victims were juveniles and I suspect they had siblings.  It's dark now and pre-hunt tension is mounting.  If animals drank I suspect they would be passing around bourbons about now.  Knowing what lays ahead tonight, I think maybe I'll go have a drink myself.

7:38 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, October 15, 2014



            How many times I drove past Easton Street, making selfish excuses for not stopping to visit my old friend Ginny.  Weeks turned into months and even knowing that at 103 years of age there would not be many more opportunities to sit and chat with her, I drove on by and did not stop.  Ginny died on Saturday.

            "She was ready," said the priest at the Resurrection Mass, something I'd never experienced before since I am not a religious person.  A relative of Ginny's, a man I didn't know gave a poignant eulogy and told about his last visit a week earlier with the woman everyone called ‘Aunt Ginny.'

            "Why don't you just take me out back and shoot me," she'd said to the man at the podium trying to choke back his tears.  His reminiscence brought tears to many of  us who'd come to say goodbye to their friend lying in the unpretentious, but quietly elegant casket.

            It was just the sort of thing Ginny would have wanted for she was that way herself. She never lost her sharp intellect or her sense of fun.  I thought about a summer day when I delivered an excess rooster to her.  We were in the driveway when a blue car started up her long lane.  Ginny grabbed my arm and said, "Oh no, it's that Jehovah's Witness again.  We have to hide!"  We ducked into the machine shed and hid next to her red ATV.  The rooster escaped his delivery box and was flinging himself against the window drawing the Witness' attention to our hiding place.  We crouched even lower and finally the persistent crusader got in her car and left.  There were lots of times I'll remember. 

            "Wolf took off his corn," said the familiar voice on the phone.  "Let's go glean his field."  As I stumbled around in the corn stubble seeking ears the picker had missed Ginny was filling bucket after bucket and dumping them into my truck bed.  She could outwork me any day of the week.  At 100 years of age she was still changing the oil in her tractor.  One day as she ripped down her long lane on the ATV to collect the mail, a newspaper reporter spotted her and took her photo.  What an ad for Honda!  "I can get that thing up to 85 mph," she once confided to me.

            I looked at my friend one last time before the casket was closed.  Her hardworking hands had been manicured and in her fingers a lovely rosary was entwined.  Resting forever on quilted white satin she looked like a bride.  Even after 103 years of living Ginny was still pretty.  I, like everyone else wished we could see her sparkling blue eyes just one more time.

            I was honored to have had Ginny as my friend. She was smart, kind and an inspiration and she will be missed by many. 

4:32 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 14, 2014



           I suppose a single woman living on an old farm sounds romantic, but while rambling about in a drafty structure almost 200 years old wouldn't really suit many women I know, it suits me just fine.  However, plenty of the tasks necessary to make this chosen lifestyle comfortable are very labor-intensive, not to mention costly! 

            Keeping warm throughout the long Ohio winter is always a challenge. This old house isn't well-insulated.  There is no heat on the second floor, but it's not healthy to sleep in an overheated bedroom, is it?   No problem here!  Until this spring when four new windows were installed in the kitchen and dining room, icy air blasted through those rooms.  Hopefully that won't be the case this winter.  In the living room the woodstove keeps only that room toasty warm.  It's nice to end the day with a crackling fire, but for the first time ever firewood has been as rare as hen's teeth.  Last night I bought a truckload of stove-sized slab wood and stacked it on the porch.  Cordwood would be better and that quest continues, but this will do for now.  Like a barn full of hay, a porch filled with dry wood fills me with a satisfying sense of security and independence. 

            At the barn little Willa is still recovering.  She's had her first vet visit and while I was assured that once her upper respiratory condition is resolved her appetite will perk up.  Meanwhile she continues to require multiple feedings with a syringe and she is still on antibiotics.  When she is given a clean bill of health she can move down to the house which I'm sure will not sit well with Princess Peggy Sue who is very spoiled and extremely possessive.

            Rattycat also went to the vet where he remains, recovering from dental surgery.  He's now minus six teeth and I suppose he'll be expecting/demanding dentures or implants, he's just going to have to make do. 


            Today the upholsterer came to see about repairing the damage some dog did to the leather sofa.  While I can't be sure which dog was responsible for the hole in the seat and the pulled out stuffing, I strongly suspect the culprit in this act of vandalism is black and has a curly pig-like tail. She's taken to napping on the upstairs sofa whilst repairs are being made to the damaged one.


            I have friends who live in condominiums, or who have husbands or boatloads of money and while their lifestyles may be warmer, less labor-intensive and certainly much cleaner than my own, I wouldn't trade places with any of them.  Truth be known, I enjoy mucking out the bad asses' stall, pumping and hauling water to the barn, stacking firewood and sharing the house with a crew of muddy-footed critters, even the one who made a hole in the sofa. 


2:37 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, October 11, 2014



            No sooner was the white hen dead when something else appeared to take her spot in the barn.  It never fails....  No, ‘not another chicken, but an almost-dead kitten; a homely little calico-sort, dumped and discovered in Wilson's barn. 

            How this came to be?  Several months ago my daughter (Cripple Creek Ferals & Friends, Inc.)  rescued six feral cats that she had fixed and vaccinated, but the poor felines had to be removed from the place where they'd lived for years. The property had been sold to some trigger-happy lunatics who threatened to shoot them.  Jill was in a panic, but Wilson (Kenny's eccentric friend) said the cats could be relocated in the barn he had recently purchased a few miles from my place. The cats were all wild as hares and definitely not pet candidates.

              The big old bank barn was empty, surrounded by a few out buildings, but no house.  Wilson's home is about a mile away as the crow flies.  Somehow I was delegated to make sure this group of cats had daily food and water available.  In the several months that I've been tending to this task I have only spotted two of the phantom cats and they took off as if their tails were on fire.Most days the food and water were untouched and my ‘job' seemed pretty pointless.  I believe all of those cats moved on to greener pastures shortly after their release, but I have caught someone's rooster eating from the bowl of cat food. 

            Since this barn has been unused for years the lower part is a treasure trove of nicely-composted manure, thanks to the cattle who once lived there.  Never ones to overlook a garden windfall, my friend Lynn and I have been bagging the moo poo and hauling it to our respective gardens.

            A couple of weeks ago as we worked in the lower section I swore I heard a kitten, but could find no sign of anything.  Four days ago while tending to my feeding duties I discovered the 10-12 week old feline huddled in a corner.  It immediately ran off and wasn't even tempted by a smelly can of Fancy Feast. Each day I'd see it, but it had just enough strength to avoid capture-until yesterday.  The poor thing was so weak I was able to grab it.

            Its body temperature was extremely low.  It's eyes were glued shut with goo and a nasty discharge oozed from its nose.  It was more dead than alive and it smelled terrible!  I immediately set up an ICU in the barn, sponged its eyes and nose clean before hurrying off to the vet for meds, then began very small feedings of a special formula designed for baby wildlife.  In just a few hours I could see a small improvement and knew it would be a keeper.    .

            If it were a male I would have named it Wilson, but since it's a girl she has been christened Willa.  Here she is less than 24 hours after rescue-a remarkable transformation!  She's responding beautifully and while she isn't eating on her own just yet, I expect that by tomorrow it won't be necessary to feed her with a syringe.  Welcome little Willa.


12:51 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 7, 2014



            I keep a loaded gun next to my bed and while I hoped never to be forced to use it, one must be prepared.  And so, when I was awakened last night by a noise in the room and sensed a presence near the corner cupboard I grabbed my gun, pointed and fired as fast as I could pull the trigger.  Even without my glasses or contacts I nailed the intruder who took off like a bullet.  I laid the gun on the dresser and drifted back to sleep.          

            No, I didn't plug anyone with my old Iver Johnson revolver and the intruder was not the two-legged sort.  My target was Poppy the self-appointed feline security guard who prowls the house nightly opening all drawers and doors upstairs and down.  Her shift starts about 3:00 AM and while her strength and determination are impressive, until she extended her territory to include the bedroom cupboard where the television is kept, her 'work' was benign, although somewhat disruptive. 

            The television and a DVR and a remote antenna control and of course a digital clock are all plugged into a power strip on the lower shelf, so it's not surprising that the furry security guard got herself entangled in all those wires and unplugged several things including the clock, the antenna and another telly cable.

            While Protection by Poppy, Inc. is still under contract, her assigned territory does not include the corner cupboard and since she herself is unarmed, I doubt she will risk being ‘shot' again by this disgruntled homeowner. No one wants to be the target of this weapon!



3:58 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, October 2, 2014



           Oh dear, I'm sorry to report that one of the hens has officially entered Hospice care.  A sister of infamous Gladys began exhibiting the unmistakable signs of terminal illness a couple of days ago. Chickens, like a lot of animals seem to know when something is wrong and the end is near, but unlike humans they appear to prefer a solitary passing.  I've seen it many times before.

            At first they segregate themselves from flock festivities, preferring instead to slowly wander about on their own.  Their eyes become dull and while there are no obvious signs of ill health (fever, runny nose or discharge from another orifice) it's clear that something is amiss. They just don't look 'right.'

            I've kept chickens for over twenty years and my unscientific observations note this consistent pattern of approaching death.  By the third day the stricken bird moves about less and less and does not get on the roost at days end.  I suspect Gladys' unnamed sibling will be dead by tomorrow this time.

            Another unscientific observation is that birds purchased from large breeders, regardless of how reputable they may be, are not as hardy as birds hatched and reared on site.  I've had such hens live more than ten years and still be producing an occasional egg.  I've had two roosters who have also lived more than a decade each. 

              This currently doomed bird was obtained along with five others from one of the aforementioned reputable breeders.  She will be the second hen in three years to call it quits.  Since none of the other hens has ever shown broody inclinations I'll have to resort to purchasing replacements.   I hope to add a couple of heritage breed girls to the flock following the funeral of the hospice patient.  Her friends prefer to remember her as she was during happier days as in this memorial photo.

              There will be no calling hours and the extended family of the soon-to-be-deceased request food donations rather than flowers. 



8:18 pm edt          Comments

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