Search this Blog

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dirty birds move out; alas, chicks move in

            How many folks buy wading pools for their chickens? We do. Chicks live under heat lamps until they feather out. A pool controls them and their mess. I called a discount store and spoke to a helpful cashier who sang the praises of a deluxe model with built in steps and a slide. I assured her chickens didn’t need a deluxe model. “What does a chicken need with stairs or a slide?” I asked? Her reply consisted of silence. I imagined her wondering if she heard correctly.

            New pool installed in the porch bathroom (remember the evil messy ducks’ pool resides in my office) we drove to Cameron to pick up fifty darlin’ chicks. On the way home I lifted the lid repeatedly to view the peeping mass. The thrill of new babies vied with the dread of the weather to come. Thirty-nine degrees this evening. Why does the temperature always drop when we fetch new birds home?

            Two lamps and a space heater warmed the bathroom into the 90’s. The chicks sipped water and tilted their heads back to swallow. So endearing, I thought. Not like those demanding, smelly ducks ensconced in my office. Chicks bumbled into the feeders and set to with voracious appetites. Day one ended with contented chicks settling down on the fragrant hay for their first nap. We checked on them throughout the night from the warm vantage point of the inside doorway. I love chicks.

            Early on day two I raced to the bathroom to view the babies. Still sweet-smelling with dry bedding (unlike the teen-aged ducks) they puttered around like clockwork toys.  I supplied more feed and water and I noticed wing feathers sprouting on several babies. I gazed fondly upon my little dears, then went to feed the disgusting ducks and complete morning chores.

            Day three saw chicks learning to leap. With practice and flapping their altitude improved to double their height. A large mahogany-colored Einstein considered the top edge of the pool. I felt a chill. I saw the gears whirring in its chicken-brain. Another noticed it and joined its contemplation of the pool top. More joined the fowl think tank; I knew it was time for a higher barrier. Food and water distracted them while I went to find the hubby, a roll of cage wire and the wire cutters.

            Border secured, I went to feed the ducks. Six escapees scuttled around the outside of the pool.”I’ve had it with you!” I shrieked. “I’m tired of the mess and I want my office back, you dirty birds!” Remember when I thought ducklings were adorable? Their outdoor pen ready, Art carried them in covered buckets to their new digs. I stood in the door of my office and contemplated the wreckage. Tomorrow, I told myself, I’ll deal with this tomorrow. I shut the door and returned to watch the chicks for a few minutes. Chicken therapy calms me.

            Day four brought bad news. “I want my bathroom back, “Art grumbled. “I need a long hot soak after all the duck toting.” I wanted to cry. Visions of working in my office evaporated. I must keep my assistant happy for the times I can’t carry out my wonderful new ideas. I agreed to move the chicks into my office. What’s another six weeks of birds blocking my desk? After all, chicks are adorable.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chickens and Woman Play Games

Day One
She has them and I want them… henfruit , otherwise known as eggs. The basic conflict between womankind and chickenkind plays out every day at HomePlace.
            The day’s offering rests in the nest box, but some seem to be missing. The chickens’ opening gambit is to hide eggs in a corner of the pen. The pen is only three-and-a-half feet tall. I can’t go in after the eggs, so I need to use a “grabber”, one of those sticks with pinchers on one end  to reach through the fence. Cantankerous chickens lay as close to the fence as they can. The finer wire close to the ground blocks the “grabber’s” reach. While I manipulate grabber  around, the rooster lines up for a cheap shot at my hand. His favorite bite is the spot between my index finger and thumb—oh, so very tender! Shaking my hand in pain, one eye on the rooster, I find a stick and use it like a pool cue to knock the egg away from the fence. Finally I close the pincers around the egg, lift and… “plop!” The egg falls from the pincers. “Oh, hot ham!” I shout. Or something similar. Repeat the process until I get the egg threaded through the fence. Helene—1, chickens— 0.
            While I’m angling for eggs, another hen plants herself over the clutch of eggs in the box. Her beak is facing out, and murder shines in her beady orange eyes. I have to open the pen door to get her off the nest. She growls in warning (yes, chickens growl), and the rooster rushes up to help. Already wounded, I wave the grabber menacingly in his face. He strikes at it with spurs, so I give him a mighty shove while I knock the top off the nest box. Glove on one hand I reach toward the hen to dislodge her. She pecks me smartly on the wrist just above the glove. “Ow! Schmidt!” I squeal. Helene—1, chickens —1.
I retreat to the house, arm myself with tasty kitchen scraps, and return to battle. I push the scraps through the fence into a far corner, open the gate again, and snatch up the eggs before the foul creatures finish their snack. I think I deserve a point for each egg, which would net me seven points. Hubby says that’s cheating.  Helene—2, chickens —1.  I am the winner for the day! I cheer myself loudly and go for a band-aid.
Day Two
Toting the egg basket, I return to the arena. I look into the nest box and shriek,” Ham, ham, ham!” Defiant chickens glare as I look at shards of eggshells in the box. They ate them!!! They ate my eggs!” Chickens get a penalty for unsportsmanlike behavior. I clean out the remains and stomp to the house.
I select an egg from the fridge, tap a hole in each end, and blow the contents out into a bowl. I apply a waterproof  band-­aid adhesive to the larger hole, and grab a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce I fill the egg, and apply the other half of adhesive to seal the egg bomb.  Back to the pen I go. I wear a malicious smile as I place the egg into the nest box.” Go ahead girls, eat my egg!” I say.
I retreat to my lawn chair to watch and wait. I wanna know, do I get points or a penalty ? What do you think?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Deer Season Equals Lost Sleep

As my son and friends readied for deer hunting season, I dreaded my upcoming loss of sleep. I don’t hunt, but I do have several important functions to help stock both family freezers with venison.
The first day of the season, the phone rings at 4:00 a.m. “Mom, we’re on our way!” My son carols when I pick up.

       “Urf?” I whimper.

“Mom? Mom, are you awake?” he asks. Silly boy, I think. I’m vertical and clutching the phone two hours earlier than usual and haven’t had my coffee.

“Yeah,” I sigh. ”I’m up. C’mon out.”
I start the coffee and grab some dog snacks. My first job is to keep Bear-Dog quiet. I see the lights of the truck turn into the drive and I leap (stumble) to the door with snacks. I’m astounded at the decibels Bear can produce; deep, booming barks that originate from his toenails.
The deer will scatter if he gets started, so I stand next to him on the porch, garbed in my ratty sleep shirt, stuffing him with treats. Truck parked, the boys and grandkid of the day check in, exchange the news, and steal off to the deer blind. I stuff seventy pounds of protesting dog into his crate. He thinks our morning walk is starting early, rateand takes the hunkered down stance of dog-stubborn. He follows the handful of treats I toss into the crate and I slam the door shut. I drape an army blanket over it and tell Bear to hush, wishing I had my own crate and blanket; yearning to retreat back to bed.
Coffee is ready, so I pour an extra-large cup and search for something besides infomercials on TV at 4:30 in the a.m. Yeah, right! I can’t go back to bed; my work is not done. Cats draped over my legs and shoulder, I sip java in my recliner while I wait for the flash of light from the deer blind. The light signals a grandchild on the way to the house.  Back out to the porch to silence the dog again.

Grandson “Spud” is an active child, and the hunters need a break from what my husband refers to as a reprise of “Sponge Bob’s Greatest Hits.” Bless a talker. We select a movie and Spud entertains me with family tales his father wishes he’d left untold. Always infothe child; he’s quite rmative and very entertaining!

When Spud gets bored with his Nana, I call his dad’s cell phone to tell him Spud is on the way back to the deer blind. Later in the morning after the deer bed down, the hunters return to the house to share leftover baggie omelets and blow by blow descriptions of the day’s “hunt.” By this point I’m totally awake.

We repeat every weekend as necessary, until someone gets a deer.  Earlier would be best, or I’ll have to drag myself from the bed every weekend for the rest of the season. I’ve found nothing is as determined as a deer-less hunter, but Momma needs her sleep!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Whew! It's sweltering out, but a cool front is on the way, then we'll only be in the 90's! The garden is slowed,but planted some chard seeds this A.M. Next to seed is broccoli and cauliflower.

Found out about a funding website at the last writer's meeting.  Using it to try to raise some tax money we owe.  If you like, go to indie and check out our campaign: Save Seniors' Farm.  Let me know how I can improve the campaign, if you would. Things have been a bear lately with Art's diagnosis of prostate cancer, treatment, and our lowered summer income with higher summer utilities.

Still, we keep up our spirits and work on our problems. Have some stuff at a resale shop, and are working up a load of scrap metal. Making more jam this weekend when it cools off.

Our produce and jam sales were the best ever at Brazos Writer's last week. Thanks, folks! Enjoy your products and know the money went to good use: another tax payment made.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Spouses Diet—Results Vary    

          A stringent diet is just what the doctor ordered—a protein sparing fast for my husband and me with most of the “food” available at our clinic. Shakes, cereal, main dishes, soups and eggs come in foil envelopes to be mixed with water and consumed. One diet frozen dinner allowed a day. Good thing the product line includes bars and chips now, or the past two months might have been a whole lot more boring. Truth told this diet works: Art has lost nearly 50 pounds, and I’ve lost 25. Some days though, it’s tough not to grab something not on the list.

          One evening as I sat down to the computer, I smelled something familiar wafting along in the air. PEANUT BUTTER! Someone was eating peanut butter! My eyes shifted to my husband, spoon in mouth, and an odd expression on his face. Ever seen a grown man try to look innocent when he wasn’t? That’s the look.

          “Cheater!” I shrilled.

          “MMMMGPH!” he replied. A man who eats peanut butter by the spoonful should not try to communicate with his mouth stuck together. I went to the kitchen, got a spoon, and dug in the jar. Just one small spoonful, I thought.  Later I felt guilt, but it was too late. I had swallowed. His weight loss for the week was six pounds, mine was barely two pounds. Who says cheaters don’t prosper?

          Our trip to the grocery store last week began as any other. We each had our list and began to shop. As I rounded the corner to look for my mate, I spied him leaving the Deli. He didn’t see me. He sat down and took a big bite of a fried chicken leg! I zoomed toward the dining area, beeping the horn on the electric cart. Again the guilty look crept over Art’s face as I screeched to a halt. He tried to hide behind a store circular to finish, but he was laughing so hard he could barely chew or swallow. Somehow he managed to finish the chicken leg as I stared. How much weight did he loose that week? Another six pounds! I lost one-and-a-half pounds, even forgoing the fried chicken. Where is the justice in that?

          After the weigh in, we stopped at a roadside stand to buy a huge watermelon.  It disappeared in four days. Watermelon in quantity isn’t on the diet. Watermelon isn’t protein, so it’s not allowed. I ate melon with gusto, but I couldn’t match Art’s dedication to that juicy fruit. I couldn’t wait for the next week’s weigh-in. What would my results be?

         Stepping onto the digital scale, I took a double-take! I lost three pounds!  Himself lost his customary six pounds. Perhaps there’s something to Art’s “Have a Treat” philosophy, or maybe watermelon just doesn’t hang around in the system long. Should I try a fried chicken leg next? I’m thinking not—fried chicken is probably the first step on the road to… cheesecake.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Scorched Earth Policy Courtesy of the Electric Company

            The past two years have been a running battle with our electric provider. The front line is the right-of-way running through our farm. On a small section of this access there are/were dewberry canes, two pear trees and an ornamental plum tree.  The old man who owned the property previously planted them there around 1995. We purchased the farm in 2000.  2012 rolled along, and the plum and the dewberries are still there, but are dead, dead, dead. The pears survive, but require vigilance. Why did these plants suddenly become offensive starting in 2010?

            The first visit of or provider’s work crew occurred when we were off  property. We came home to crew-cut pear and plum trees. Shock and outrage followed, but not surprise, as the crew manning the saw on the extensible pole truck finished trimming along the wires fronting the road the day before. Why take a third of our trees’ top growth, “cutting” the fruit production severely? Regulations require branches trimmed back six feet from the wires, not ten feet! Damage done is done when pruning, and there’s little recourse on issues on the right-of-way. Not even when the tent caterpillars the crew brought from another location hatched out and festooned the plum tree and one pear tree with their tell-tale tent-like webs. The only cure is to cut off the branches infected and burn them.  More loss.

            Last year the butchers returned, stealthily creeping up the right-of-way from the neighbors¸ toting pruners and loppers. To my delight, our dog saw them and barked thunderously.  Hah! You thought you could sneak by us this time? I thought. From the foot of the porch I yelled, “STOP!” as the first pearbbranch fell. Startled, the culprit turned to face me. “Wait for my husband!” I shouted.

            Robe flying and slippers slapping (it was very early), hubby rounded the corner of the house, and cut loose with his own barking. Phone clutched tightly in his fist, he called their supervisor. They quit eying our trees, and ambled down the right-of-way to their next victims. We should have known they retreated too easily.

           Next morning the hairy intruder alarm sounded again. Scrambling for shoes and glasses, I stumbled to the living room and shoved the curtain aside. Villains! Villains carrying a sprayer, fanning it along the row of dewberry bushes! What were they thinking? Dewberries never get within six feet of the wires; three or four foot long canes are the most they can do!  Another irate phone call resulted in a personal visit from the supervisor and a promise to quit spraying. Notice nothing was said about sawing, pruning, clipping or any other cutting words in relation to our trees.
            Somehow the pear trees survived the chemical attack. The spray eventually killed the ornamental plum tree, its roots entwined with those of the dewberries mercilessly covered with toxic chemicals. I’ll miss her frilly pink spring dress, and the succulent dewberries that surrounded her. Someone needs to remove the skeletons.

 Don’t worry, guys, I’ll be waiting. You may have “rights”, but I have my “ways.” We’ll talk next time you visit.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Back Once Again

It has been awhile, I'll agree. Things are back on track, so here we go!

Automated Phone Systems – Machine War (text to be published in  the Marlin Democrat)

          When I sat down to write this article, my computer came up with the dreaded blue screen: no C-drive detected. I felt like I’d been dropped into one of the “Terminator” movies. The machines were out to get me. I had to deal directly with the dreaded auto-system in order to speak with a human minion of the machines.

            I dialed the toll free number, and began the auto-sorting.

My problem? “None of these,” I said.
My express service number? “On the back of the computer,” it prompted, “Say the number or enter.”  I repeated the ten digits.

“Please hold for a representative,” the machine ordered. The phone rang once followed by the empty sound of a lost connection. I thought some words, but I didn’t say them.  I hung up and dialed again to repeat the process, hoping for a better result.

The second call netted me a young man in India, the rumbling sound of other calls from folk at the mercy of their machines in the background. After 20 minutes I had a C-drive again. I think the machines want to build a false sense of security in me, so I’ll abandon this article. I am not fooled.

Want to get information on an account, or pay a bill by phone? Yes, I know I can do this by computer. I’ve tangled with the machines before to my sorrow. Machines have suckered businesses into the battle against humanity using these phone and computerized systems to increase efficiency and save money. I yearn for the voice of a live person, even if they owe allegiance to the machines. I hope for human sympathy, and punch “O” over and over and over. Sometimes a machine error allows contact with a biological entity.

I call the doctor’s office at our large clinic. The first thing I get is a machine. It wants information, and if it doesn’t get it, I won’t get the appointment I want, either! It requires a phone number and address, the better to keep track of you. I’m not paranoid, really! Don’t forget the patient’s birth date and insurance.

I wanted to talk to the nurse. Of course the machine won’t let you speak with her; you must leave a message. The machine dictates the data needed, some of which I’ve already given. Do it! The machine insists on it all, or the nurse will not call. Last name, first name, birth date of patient, insurance, doctor, reason for calling, call-back number … all given in a staccato manner, barely a pause…Aiee! What was that last one? What number do you press for a repeat? I punch “O” hoping the system will let me speak to something breathing. Sadly, I must go through the system again.

 I’m about to e-mail this column if the machines permit. If you don’t hear from me in a few days, please send help. The machines want to keep their secrets, and hold all of us at their mercy. I’ll keep typing as long as I can….