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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Baby Bunnies

Thing 2's litter of bunnies died on the 25th. Nothing seemed wrong; the babies seemed perfectly formed, but sometimes death comes along any way. It was a very small litter of two, and there may have been problems we never saw. Thing 2 has stopped searching for them; such a sad thing to watch the puzzlement on her face. Don't think these animals don't have emotions, be they ever so simple. I realize I may be putting my feelings onto another creature, but I stand by it. So life on the farm goes on, as we wait for the rest of the litters due.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Christmas has gone and New Year's Eve approaches. We set course for where we're heading, but look back to see where we've been. Ah, nostalgia! 

Do you remember:

* the first time you went to a friend's house by yourself?
* the first time you used a telephone?
* your first pet? 
* your first two wheeler bike?
* Saturday morning movies?
* first job? ( I sold shoes)
* graduation (any kind)?
* your first apartment?

Add some firsts of your own, or tell a story about your special  "first"  in honor of the New Year!  I'd love to hear from you folk.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all throught the house
Was the sound of the gnawing
Of the resident mouse.

One cat in my armpit,
And three on my lap,
Bon-Bon's in the towel stack,
Taking a nap.

The cats will eat Iams
And swill down the cream.
Catch a rogue house mouse?
You're having a dream!

The porch cats are restless,
The weather is cold,
Striped faces at windows;
"We'll get it," we're told.

"Just open the door, Mom,"
"We'll catch it real quick."
Don't buy it one second;
You know it's a trick.

I've made them a warm tent
With a blanket and chair.
Their outside cat manners
Are hard to forbear.

Five cats in the house
Are enough here for me.
The ones living outside
Don't care where they pee.

I don't care for mopping
The stains left by Kitty.
Boat peed on my lap!
She went out with no pity.

Each time we go outside
Peppy bolts through the door.
We throw her out each time.
This process -- a bore.

Bless Wally the tomcat,
For he knows his place.
Scratch 'round his ears;
There's a smile on his face.

Both in and out Kitties
Are well-fed and dry.
Fillet of fresh mouse
Is a dish they won't try.

I heard mousie exclaim
As she dove out of sight,
"I love living with fat cats
Merry Christmas; good night!"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Do you suppose you could push off Christmas another week?I am not ready; I have sewing to finish and a bit more shopping to go.

The chickens want spaghetti for Christmas, with or without sauce. The main thing is that it should be cooked al dente and served warm. It tastes better if the chickens in the opposite pen don't get any and have to watch the lucky chickens eat. Chickens have the holiday spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge before the ghosts came along.

The inside cats ask that the puppy disappears. If they can't get that, then a case of tuna will do. With parsley for garnish. I have to hold my tuna over my head between bites if the fluffy folk aren't locked up. They love it insanely.

Bear, the puppy, wants the inside cats to play with him, preferably sans hissing. He'd also like to be able to eat whatever he finds on the carpet, but that isn't advisable.

Peppy, the porch cat, wants inside permanently.

Wally,our outside tomcat, thinks Peppy should go away with Santa.

Boat, also a porch cat, wants all the cat food, better snacks, and me to hold her for hours and hours.

The rabbits (21 total to date) would like extra fresh vegetables and more twigs to chew on. Six of them want extra hay in their boxes to deliver their litters in (due on Christmas Eve). Buttercup, the crazed rabbit, wants us to disappear, not realizing we bring the food. She's better "turn over a new leaf" by settling down and becoming a good mother, or I'll have rabbit stew for New Years.

The gardens "want" watering and covering every evening.

Art got the puppy he wanted. Thanks.
What do I want? I must be one of the luckiest folk in the world. I can't really think of anything I'm desperate to have. Except that extra time I mentioned earlier? That would do nicely!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cat Recuperation

The girls are back from their travails at the spay/neuter clinic.  Shaved legs, throats, and bellies are a embarassment. My apologies do no good. Someone must pay!

There's a new puppy here, too. A shepherd/rottweiler mix, has come to live with us as Art's Christmas gift. How does this relate to the cats? He's a palliative.

Cats feel better when the puppy is distressed. The girls have experimented to discover the fastest way to make Bear unhappy. The easy, nearly effortless technique is  extremely suited to the cat lifestyle. They stare at him; he cries.

Bon-Bon likes to hunker down six inches from the pet crate door to glare at him. The team stare across the room occupies Fuzzums and Brighty for minutes at a time. Varmint gives him "the look" as she saunters across the living room, before plopping down on my lap to continue.

Hope the girls feel better soon, the puppy-crying is nerve wracking. I think that's my punishment for taking the girls for their life altering surgery.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Elf Bowling

Let's play a game! I love Elf Bowling! Here's the least troublesome of the free trial offers I've found.

You'll get an hour, and be sure to read the helps.

Have fun! I can't wait to sling those nasty elves around again, myself!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

EEK! Cold!

Weatherperson lied last night, you know. Temp is currently 30 degrees. Low last night predicted as 35. Please let the garden have survived the night.

Hope the furnace repairman comes tomorrow, operating the furnace by breaker box is a drag. I'm afraid of the breaker box, so I let Art do it. At least Matthew got it to go by that method, it was completely off at first. Thanks, Matthew.

One holiday party down and one to go. Getting into the spirit of the season, and am seized by the ghost of shopping. I must remember the budget, I must remember the budget....The Christmas Spirit is

hitting me with an amnesia-whammy. Save meeeeeee!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weather / November Update

Wow! Even I have to admit it's cold out. There is a 50% chance of snow for Friday. I think I hear Art wailing as he looks for his flannel lined jeans; he doesn't do cold very well. I do prefer cold to the stinking hot summers.

Starting tonite we cover the gardens with sheets and hope for the best. One pumpkin could be picked, but we'll cover the rest, and feed them to the chickens if they freeze. Broccoli , kale, and leaf lettuce should survive, covered.

Heat must be turned on in the porch bathroom, and my philodendron moved there from the porch. Draining the water pipes to the porch or dripping the tap in the porch kitchen are our choices to avoid broken pipes. 

We need to get some hay for the rabbits to hunker down in. They, like me, do better in the cold, but they need a "coat" of hay like I need my jacket. Difference is, they can eat their coat; they won't go hungry if the weather is sloppy and cold, and we're late with the feed.

I'm planning on making a blanket tent for the porch kittens in the comfy desk chair next to the stove. It'll give them shelter and conserve their warmth. A nice warm dinner of table scraps will help, too. You'd think it was going to be below 0, wouldn't you, the way I'm carrying on. No, just 31 or 32, with 29 on Friday night.

I am about to share a treasonous thought, at least as far as Art is concerned. I'm looking forward to seeing snow, and taking pictures of it. Then it can melt, and get us back into the 60's.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Cat is Like a Two Year Old?

 Yes, a cat and  a two year old are much alike. The closed bathroom door is an anathema to both the toddler and the cat, especially if Momma is on the other side.

Both creatures begin with wailing, easily interpreted as "Let me in!Momma? Momma? Open the door!" Cats and kids can cycle this endlessly with increasing volume on each repetition. Calling to them, "Relax, Momma is here. Just give me a minute!" might just as well be spoken in Hindi. There is no rebate in the noise level until the door is opened or Momma comes out.

If the door should not be flung open immediately, the assault goes to the next level. Hands or paws appear under the door clawing and scrabbling. Do they think they can haul themselves under the door with enough effort? The only respite from the noise is when they gasp a deep breath in order to increase their attack on the door.

Suppose you plan ahead and allow either of the creatures into the bathroom while you bathe to avoid the seige on the door. Peaceful? I think not. As soon as you're settled in your bubbles, child or cat is drawn to the tub. Pattycake on their bubbles is a favorite game, followed by ingesting the bubbles (either species do it), and climaxed by the small creature joining you in the tubby by design or accident.  Flailing, splashing, and gasping follow until you seize the miscreant and exit the tub-of-contention.

One could suppose the dripping, sudsy soul would be grateful for their rescue and grant you a break, but no, that's not to be. A hand or paw snakes out and pokes you in your marshmallowy mommy-tummy. Poking you again and again to watch the effect on you contours, they chortle, albeit the cat does silently.

As the bubbles slide down over your dripping abdomen (the one you keep covered and in the dark like a mushroom) the face gazing at you, furry or bare, takes on a look of wonder/horror. Momma, you hear them think, how do you do that? I saw that on TV once, but on the beach, and people were pouring water over it.(Kitties do watch TV, you know.)

Kitties and two year olds are alike in more redeeming ways, though. They do resemble  angels when they're sleeping. Best of all, you'll forgive them most anything because they love you, and you love them, too.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Boogie - Before the Event

Thanksgiving time, the day before,
Miss Maggie and I go to the store.
The Wal-mart, fifty miles away,
The object of our shopping day.

We circle 'round the pack-ed lot,
Looking for that special spot.
Miss Maggie wheels her SUV,
The shotgun seat's the place for me.

The parking placard displayed clearly,
We seek a spot to park it near-ly,
To the portals made of glass.
I seek a cart to plop my ass.

I ride the magic 'lectric steed 
To the baking aisle for what I need.
The thickly milling, holiday crew
Makes it tough to drive on through.

They've glutted up the passageway,
And blocked the walnuts far away.
I charge right through, my head unbowed.
Wally salad's planned for the dinner crowd.

I must get them, despite the mass.
I beep my horn, I have no class.
Then apples, grapes, and whip-ed topping.
Move your butts, Helene is shopping!

I will indeed run over your toe-ses,
I part the seas like a Biblical Moses.
Don't stand there in my way and talk,
Move it lady, and start to walk.

If you catch up here on family news,
I'll have to overrun your shoes.
My patience, she is running thin,
Walnuts are my goal to win.

If beeping doesn't do the trick,
If your head is really thick,
I'll bump you right behind your cancle.
Your blocking traffic makes me rankle.

The produce aisle is not much better.
Make a phone call, write a letter.
Don't stand there, you-all in cahoots,
Move your shiny fashion boots.

You tell me patience is a virtue,
I will launch, and likely hurt-you.
You could have come another day.
I'm here right now; you go away.

Twenty items, and I have more.
The grumbles echo in the store.
My turn now; I'm almost free!
I don't care what you think of me.

The greeter waves, I zoom right out.
Safe at the car I give a shout.
"The marshmallows I have forgotten!"
The list I wrote  was misbegotten.

The Wally salad's short that item.
If folks complain I think I'll bite 'em.
We're in the traffic, headed home.
Time to end this little poem.

P.S. Matthew, I found some marshmallows on the shelf at home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Christmas Footprint

During the plenty of the holiday season I am haunted by a footprint. The envelope containing the tracing arrived just after Thanksgiving 1956, when I was six years old. It bore the postmark of post WWII East Germany.

My father and uncle emigrated from Germany as boys, and came to the US. Letters traveled between them and their mother until the war and resumed once Germany was divided at the end of the war. we might get a birthday card, but always the holiday letter got through, letting us know what was most needed.

Dad removed the tracing of Grandma's foot from the airmail envelope carefully. Airmail paper was pale blue or white, and very thin and flimsy. I wanted to try my foot against the footprint of the Grandma I'd never met, but knew I'd be in trouble if I damaged it. Her foot had to be twice the length of mine and broad from walking everywhere she went.

Dad cut the outline out carefully and carried it to the Sears in downtown Milwaukee. I gazed at the Christmas displays as Dad slipped the footprint in shoe after shoe. Grandma knew the European sizes were different; hers was a 44. Dad found a sturdy brown pair in size 10 that he thought would last until next Christmas. Such ugly shoes for a gift, I thought. I felt she needed pretty slippers, so I asked to choose them.

I tucked the footprint into several pair, and found a softly shining black pair with red ribbon roses on top that were a perfect fit. Dad paid for our purchases, and asked for an empty cardboard box to pack the gifts we would send.

At home again, we placed things I took for granted into the box. Airmail stationary, toilet tissue, bars of soap, cannned vegetables and fruit, coffee and chocolate. To my six year old eyes, these were hardly the gifts I would have wanted. I couldn't imagine a world without these items readily available.

Dad placed the shoes on top ,and I added the beautiful slippers. He sealed the box with tape, wrapped it in brown paper, and tied it with string. he well sealed package was mailed the next day, sure to reach Grandma long before Christmas itself.

No matter how carefully dad sealed the box, it would have been opened and some things removed  before
Grandma got it. It happened every year. Grandma would report empty spaces in the box he'd packed so tightly. Dad referred to it as "the price of doing business with those 'stunks'", in the East Zone government.
He always packed extra food to make up for the pilfering. I was outraged anyone would steal Grandma's things. Dad said the items were taken for personal use or traded on the Black Market. I imagined a black painted store, with blackened windows where people met at night to trade for things they needed. It sounded so ominous when my parents discussed it; it had to be a terrible place.

I wondered if her wonderful slippers had been stolen. I sat quietly next to the piles of presents under our tree as Dad read and translated her letter. She was happy with the gifts, especially the coffee and chocolate, which she  coud not buy there. She didn't mention any hardships directly in her letter. If she had criticised her situation, her letter would have been discarded after it had been read by the officials censoring the mail.

It seemed the reading of the letter slowed time itself. I tried hard to sit still as Dad went on paragraph by paragraph. Finally he read the last page. I recognised "Danke" as thank you, and "Hausshoes" as slippers.The Christmas tree sparkled, wavered and danced through my tears of relief. Grandma had her slippers, and I had my first Christmas when the needs of others truly impacted my life.

The memory of Grandma's footprint on flimsy airmail paper has visited me every holiday season since. I realize I am so blessed to have what I do, both material goods and freedom. I remember the needs of others, and donate to food and toy drives. This year I remember as I get ready to seal a brown cardboard box for a special soldier I know. I give thanks for his service to protect my freedoms, the ones Grandma lost, not to be regained in her lifetime.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dear Andrew Zimmern - Grasshoppers

Dear Andrew Zimmern,

I've admired your show" Bizarre Foods" for several years, and also enjoy your new series "Bizarre World. You seem to be up for any challenge.

I'll bet you have a file of recipes from your world travels. How many are for grasshoppers? An adventurous man, such as yourself, would be sure to have many interesting and delicious ways to prepare them.

Central Texas reigns as the foremost grasshopper capital of the continental U.S. Hoppers hatch out in early spring, and persevere into early winter. The supply is endless, both the crawling variety and the flying type.  Sizes vary from smaller than a Raisinette to as large as a Tootsie roll, and I don't mean a midgie. They got that size from eating my garden.

I'd like to invite you to the Central Texas Hopper Fiesta, held here at HomePlace. Response to our event has been remarkable; we'll be running the event for two days. Bring a few recipes of your own to prepare for the huge crowds expected the first day. Surely you have some prize winning ways to tempt the folks, like a Chinese marinade, or maybe a sour cream topping with caviar? Something international would be a delightful way to open the festival, as day two will have a  Tex-Mex flair.

I've admired the way you've eaten hoppers sauteed and grilled on skewers, smacking your lips with relish.  I believe you'd be the perfect judge for the contest on day two. There are categories for appetizers, entrees,  deserts, and snacks, all with a Texas accent. We'll provide some palate cleansing Lone Star , and you'll be happier and happier as you test dish after dish of Texas Hopper cuisine.

Do you enjoy desserts? I'm not trying to influence you, but I've been working on a recipe for German chocolate cake that I think is a winner.  The frosting is crunchy, yet tangy, and sets the beer off well. Who needs pecans?

Please respond by e-mail ASAP. We need to get a tent set up for you on the back of the property. A tough explorer like you would be sure to decline a hotel room with pressed cotton sheets in favor of snuggling in your sleeping bag listening to the coyotes singing. You'll have a campfire and access to a porta-potty. Nothing is too good for our honored guest!

You can build up an appetite for the cook off by swatting our mammoth mosquitoes in the dark. Who knows, you might even come up with a recipe or two for them as well. The wings aren't much, but the drumsticks are unbelievable.

Looking forward to your response.

Yours in the culinary tradition,

Helene Burnett

Thursday, November 5, 2009

October Update

The Pumpkin Shoot and Writers Bar Camp are over, so it's back to work on the projects around the HomePlace. The beautiful weather is encouraging outdoor work. I hate outside work in the summer -- blazing sun and stifling heat encourage sipping iced tea and hiding in the AC. Those excuses are invalid now. So out we go!

Pumpkins continue their growth. the one hanging off the fence needs support to continue onth vine. We've used fabric hammocks before to grow watermelons off the ground before, so that might work.
David suggested we might have pie at Thanksgiving since we missed Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. I hope so.

Seedlings are up for the winter garden. Since we still have weather in the 80's, the grasshoppers ate my first set of broccoli I transplanted. I'm going to cover any new transplants until those hoppers are dead, dead, dead. They are evil, armored, plant gnashers; most likely they're demon spawn .

Art's putting up in insulation in the Hut. I'm excited to think about furniture arrangement soon. I'm going to love an organized craft area away from my good friends the cats. They are so helpful.

My basket collection and some artwork can go up again, as soon as we have paneling. Quilts on the bed and walls would spark the decor, too.

No puns about Art Work, please!

The first course of the herb garden is down. The grandbabies came last weekend to help me paint tires. Amazing how fast the painting goes with two helpers. Twenty tires down, eighty to go! Guess I'd better get out there and swing a brush, hmmm?

I adore this cool weather. The projects are moving along well, and some new ones are waiting in the wings. Let's get to it, menfolk. I have an idea!!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I have to Go Walk the Cat

Yes, walk the cat. Pepperoni likes to accompany us on our morning walk. Now that's she's feeling better after her set-to with Wally (big orange tomcat), she's back to running ahead of us, investigating the twigs and leaves nearly grown cats adore. She attacks them to keep us safe.

She'd discovered Art would carry her when she was hurt, and she tries to con him into carrying her before we reach the halfway point. She'll throw herself down on the trail,  keel over to one side, and look at him piteously. He assures her she'll have a ride back to the house, then walks off. Peppy will stare after him in disbelief, get up, bolt ahead, then throw herself down again. She repeats the process until something interesting catches her eye. Skittering wildly, she attacks, and toys with the threatening acorn or twig.

At the halfway point, down on the shooting range, Art scoops her up into his arms. Leopard-like she lays across his arm with legs dangling, smirking as he carries her back. Charming him with her rumbling purr, she lobbies for Vienna sausages, her favorite post walk snack. No wonder she loves her daily walks more than we do!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Great Pumpkin Shoot

October 17 we hosted the Brazos Writers at The Great Pumpkin Shoot. We posted this sign at the road so folks could find us, but several got lost. When they inquired the police, they didn't know where we were either. Stacy, my daughter-in-law and I went to town to find any other stragglers.We do live away out in the boonies!

                                                                            Photo by Jean Marie Linhart
Hangman served breakfast at 9:00. Here's the bear sign bubbling in oil. Pioneers named this drop donut after bear scat. The cinnamony flavor is delectable, despite the name. Breakfast finished with burritos and fresh coffee. We finished breakfast as    Hangman started lunch.
Hangman divided his time between tutoring new shooters
and  creating early Texas foods. Stew can simmer today while
folks get other work done as in the past.
photo by Jean Marie Linhart                                                           

Timo  found the Texas tourists
look for but seldom find. He "technically"
traveled the longest distance to reach our shoot, even
though he's lodging in College Station as an exchange
student at Texas A&M.

photo by JML

photo by Amy Sharp

Leah's picture is one of my favorites during
the morning practice session. She
should win the biggest smile award for
  a first time shooter. She finished firing a
12-gauge shotgun and is toting more shells
 to try it again!
photo by Amy Sharp
Are Ali and Matthew hoping to save these pumpkins,
or are they hoping to shoot some, too? Both
are good shots trained by our extended family.

photo by Amy Sharp

Chris hopes he can save this one.All the kids were a
 big help during the event, running erands, taking photos,
 and talking to guests. Ali was especially gracious speaking
to departing guests. I 'm so proud of her!

Pumpkins lined up after a lunch of beef stew, roasted
chickens, and cornbread with molasses or Steen's cane syrup.
Shooters readied themselves behind the firing line.

photo by A.S.

Pumpkin parts fly as shooters use
six-guns, shotguns and rifles to
protect HomePlace against orange

After a little peach cobbler fresh off the fire,
guests left discussing the guns of the Old West,
and asking when we'd be able to do another
event. We'd be happy to oblige!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Scattered Notes - Homeplace Events

Things have been extremely busy as we ready for our first event here at HomePlace. If you've followed Art's Blog, you know about The Great Pumpkin Shoot kicking off at 9:00 A.M. tomorrow. If not, please check the link near the bottom of the page here. He's got good pics; I took several.


Picked Swiss chard today for the critters after I planted some onion seeds. I checked the pumpkin vines, and saw a few were still attached; there's been a problem with blossom end rot. While standing there it occurred to me that something smelled really good -- like food. It was the squash blossoms. To my diet-demented mind they smelled delicious. I know you can eat them battered and deep fried, but Dr. Sterling would have a fit.

He's been supervising me on a partial fast. I've lost 30# in six weeks. More to go of course, but I'm maintaining a good attitude with the help of family and friends. Thanks, folks!


Nearly time for rabbit breeding to begin again. We need a few hutch repairs before the does can go on their "dates". Mamas need dry, protected nurseries for their babies. We need to get some hay to line the nest boxes, too.

Buttercup and Trigger, our Palomino rabbits, will create our first litter of that breed. We have to get the first litter in well before  Easter ; sometimes the first one is lost because the doe is inexperienced.

In this picture, Buttercup is 4 months old and the size of our other rabbits. Both buns finally have come to full growth, and are huge! Each must outweigh our other rabbits by 3 or 4 pounds. They'll give us some nice bunnies come spring.

The other does are rested, and ready to begin again. We need a good supply for this season. We ran out of bunnies last Easter and had to take orders. They don't sell as well after Easter, generally.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Signs of the Times - Culture

" Free Soup Kitchen On Saturdays 6:00P.M." The ramshackle grey building hosting that sign reinforced the depressing message. I don't know why I was surprised to see this sign in a small town nearby. Perhaps it was a message of hope instead, that someone is out there making a difference. Each of us sees these signs in our own way.

Then I got an idea! (You may wish to check my earlier post on ideas.) Signs like "Free Soup Kitchen" and other new depression signs are a reflection of our current social and economic conditions. Many of them must be out there, undiscovered.
When you're out and about, snap pics of similar signs, and e-mail themto me
at, if you're willing. If you find any online, send those, too.
I'm curious what else is out there that reflects our
current times.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Books and Audio Books

Both Art and I love books. We buy them, trade them, borrow them, and acquire them by various means. We review books for I Just Finished, and get to keep the books we review. Boxes of books arrive by UPS from my sister in North Carolina. Half-Price Books and Barnes and Noble are frequent destinations. Sometimes we even (gasp!) give them away, to make room for more.

With books-in-hand, we read aloud to share them. It avoids the "What did you think about...?" and "NO! NO! Don't tell me, I'm not that far yet!" Or watching our other laughing maniacally with face in book, while we're dying with curiosity, itching to get our hands on that particular volume to see what is so funny.

We read Evanovich, Butcher, and Sterling, and get their works as audio books frequently. Audio books are more expensive, but we get the story similtaneously. Generally their publication follows the hard copy publication, which means waiting, waiting, waiting.

Sometimes I just can't wait. I'm starting Sword of the Lady by S.M. Sterling today. For those of you who follow this series, that's book  six. If you've ever wondered what would happen if technology breaks down, this series is for you. Cannibals, feudal society, military society, clans, the Faculty Senate society, Tolkein-Elven Model society, religious groups ( Wiccans,  The Church Universal and Triumphant, Mormons, etc.)  and others carve out a new life in Northwest America.

If you've done re-enacting in any time period, I'm sure you'd enjoy this book. Sterling has done his research well for the most part; Art has fits when bowstrings hit bracers in some scenes, though.

The characters are well drawn, and of great variety. Descriptions are vivid and add immeasurably to the scenes.That's it! I'm done wrinting about it! I'm going to get Sword, and get started. You might get to borrow it from me someday, but Art gets to read it first. Just a warning? You'd best return it when done; this series is a keeper!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Machines We Live With -- Farm-All

Meet Ephraim Farm-All

Ephraim is a 1945-H Farm-All, an Inter- national  Harvester tractor. He was owned by the 80 year old man we bought the HomePlace   from. Ephraim was worked hard under that owner, clearing weeds and undergrowth from the woods and orchard. The lack of ground cover  resulted in sandstorms when we first moved in. We spit grit from between our teeth every time the wind kicked up. 

We've let the woods go back to natural, and Ephraim doesn't work as hard as he used to, but he's still versatile. He does some disc--ing for Matthew's deer food plots, for instance. Before the bulldozer came to live here, he also pulled the Frankin Leveler to resurface the driveway.

A low throaty putt-putting sound announ- ces that Ephraim is on the move. He sounds like a mellow Chris Craft inboard engine as he wends his way through the trees with one of the menfolk on board. Freezing cold or blistering hot, Eph starts and runs thanks to Matthew's fine maintainance. Once in "road gear" Ephraim fairly flies down the right-of-way cutting across our land. He has the power of an oxen team for pulling and hauling.

He hauls things of all sorts.

Sitting on the sled or held in a daddy's lap,visit- ing children love Ephraim. Spud, now 6, is beginning to learn to steer him, and when tall enough and careful enough will eventually drive him alone. Tricycle style tractors can be tipped, even with the rear wheels spread far apart. He's not a toy, but a tool.

Freezers and refrigerators to be turned into raised garden beds are dragged along to their new jobs on the sled. Art made the first sled almost 10 years ago of salvaged materials. The sled has worn out this year, but Ephraim still is chugging along.

Vehicles stuck in the mud of spring follow Ephraim out of their wallows at the end of his chain. Just once we had to call for help, and the 2 1/2 ton wrecker that came to pull out the M 37 ( sunk to the wheel hubs) had to be pulled out by Ephraim.

The best use of our Farm-All is dragging home the Christmas tree each year. The kids can ride the sled on the way out, and burn off their excited, tree-related energy trotting next to the tree on the way back. Settles them down for trimming the tree.

 I'm glad we spent the extra money to buy Ephraim Farm-All from the old man, not the the newer tractor we were offered. Ephraim is a hard working classic, and fits in here perfectly as the oldest and best loved vehicle of them all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Update for September 2009

Update time! The month has gone so quickly. The garden is recovering from the heat and drought. Pumpkins are forming, but it's doubtful they will be ready for Halloween. The Swiss chard is lush and ready to pick again. Broccoli is nearly ready to transplant.
I love to get my hands dirty, and the critters eat what we don't. The rabbits love the broccoli plants when we pull them up, and the chard will grow all winter if covered with a sheet when it freezes outside.

Here's the Hut, my office building and part-time guest house. Time to insulate! The cooler weather will make that much more pleasant.
We have beautiful quilts from Art's family to put on the bed once we have the inner walls up and painted. There's a Victorian crazy quilt to hang on the wall, too. Guests will be coming throughout the cooler seasons, and we need a place to stash them. I'll have a wood stove for really cold weather, so all will be comfortable.

In conjunction with the Hut, I'm reorganizing the pantry to include an additional writing space. Some of our friends gave us a computer and printer to use for writing and as back up for the main one. Ready for the computer desk to move in, and one last push to get the pantry organized. We have "Stuff", and  lots of it! I can never seem to find whatever I'm looking for. All the Arts and Crafts stuff out to the Hut, Hooray!

Speaking of writing, I just signed a contract with BackHome for my article "Makin' Money with Bunnies". They like those weird titles I think up. I like their cash.

This is the start of our herb garden. The Grandbabies are helping paint the tires that Art cuts for us. Walls will be stacked 4 or 5 tires high, filled with dirt. The burned area in the center is the slag from the greenhouse we used to have. It perished in a grass fire  two years ago. We'll cover that with white gravel, add chairs and a bench, and the sundial lost in the weeds right now. The top tires will be planted with herbs, which will form part of the enclosure.At some point we'll add some shade over the top.  I can imagine sitting there and reading quietly, isolated from the world,surrounded by the various smells, lemon, mint, dill and the like. Perhaps some flowers, too. 

Have to buy more paint brushes and paint for the tires. The painting committee is behind the progress of the cutter. It will require 100 tires for four courses high and another 25 for five courses high. Good thing the kids like to paint. I need to recruit more kids to paint, then all I need to do is touch up. Yeah, right.

Cool weather is energizing: I'm filled with the possibilities.
I have to be cautious, though. I can't say "I have an i_ _ _! " It stresses my family.   
"I've been th_ _ _ ing!" is out, too, if I want cooperation."  The feelings of husband and son are delicate.  Those phrases set them off (See the post "I've Been Thinking"), and they waste energy squalling and fussing.  

Hopefully in the October Update, these projects will be well on their way. I'll have more pictures to show, and some more i _ _ _s to share!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Legendary Chicken

Dork crowed and laid eggs,taught cats manners, and  sulked when we built the new porch.                                                     

Who ?           
Dork was a Silver grey Dorking chicken we owned four years ago,  one of  my favorite oddball birds. There are many Dork stories, but here are three.

She wore a hen-suit, feather colors patterned typically for the female of the Dorking breed. She laid eggs regularly for quite some time.  Until the day "she" crowed. Egg laying dropped off from there. I admit to being startled the first time I saw her crow -- a double-take, in fact! I scurried off to my reference books and the internet. I found out that breeds, especially the old and rare ones like Dorkings( over 2000 years old) can be overbred and result in some oddball results.

Sometimes the hormone balance can change radically with age and some hens become "roosters". Talk about a challenging Change-of-Life. Imagine hitting menopause and turning into a guy. No insult intended, menfolk, but thank you --NO!  At any rate she continued to crow and took over the flock of free running chickens.

From Dork's point of view, once the flock was under control, the cats had to be next. Breakfast (cat food) was served to chicken folk and cat people on the old porch each morning. The cats were young and easily impressed by sharp pecks and arial attacks. Chickens ate first, then graciously allowed the cats to clean up what was left. Once they exhibited proper manners cats were allowed to eat beside the chickens as long as they didn't get too uppity and try to hog the food.

A new batch of kittens tested  Dork's patience one summer day. She sat on the porch dozing when the kits began their stalk. At some miniscule sound Dork popped one eye open and peered at the kittens. They didn't notice her watching until they were a foot from their goal. Dork exploded  into a feathered fury; she chased and beat on those kittens until they were tired. She continued until SHE was tired. Amazingly, Dork really didn't hurt the babies, just taught them their place in the flock. They joined the rest of the feather-cats in the combined flock of birds and cats.  An odd sight.

One thing was beyond Dork's power to control. The humans ruined everything when they began falling through the old porch and decided to tear it off. "She" watched, aghast, from a distance as the humans destroyed her castle.  Reduced to sleeping on a barely strong enough twig on the tree next to the ruins ( see top picture), she glared and scolded before bed each night. She slept there every night until the new porch was started, then went off to find  a new spot in the goat pasture, where most of her flock hung out since construction began. I think they couldn't stand the noise of saws, nailguns and old fashioned hammers.

She refused to use the new porch. The rest of the flock would appear for breakfast, but not Dork. She ate goat food instead, and never forgave us for our vandalism.We certainly were no friends of hers after what we'd done. We'd hear her crow from the pasture, and she'd socialize with the flock when they came to drink from the goat water pool, or scratch about in the shade.

One day the crowing disappeared,  but the cats  apparently still tell their kittens stories of their chicken leader. The new cats have always respected the chickens, even without Dork, a HomePlace legend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Something Wrong With This Cat?

Ock brings socks. Sounds like Dr. Seuss doesn't it? Hmmmmm.

Ock brings sox.
Cat's gift, Art mocks.
Ock will howl,
Art will growl.
The sox come from Art's box.
He wishes he had locks.                           

Out of Art's box,
The one minus locks,
Cat brought sox when we left.
His feelings were bereft.
He'd pile them in a stack,
Hoping we'd come back.

Piling up the stack,
Hoping we'd come back.
He brings sox now before we go,
Puts on a loud and wailing show.
Something wrong in that cat's brain,
Piles of sox become our bane.

Something wrong in the brain,
Sox in piles become our bane.
Now this habit's gotten worse,
What he brings is quite a curse.
Our underwear festoons the room.
The cat is courting looming doom.

Underwear festoons the room,
Cat approaching looming doom.
Afraid to let in visiting folk,
This habit has become a joke.
He howls as he comes down the hall,
Sox in his mouth, rolled in a ball.

Howling coming down the hall,
Socks rolled up into a ball.
I'm sad to say I think it's funny.
Not so! thinks Art, who is my honey.
I hope you folks enjoyed this ditty.
I have to go rescue the kitty.
  ***             ***
Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why is Matthew smiling, eyes gleaming?  He just shot the flame off the candle he's holding. On the first try! Notice the candle wick - flame out, no candle destruction.

It wasn't enough that he could cut a playing card in half edge-wise. My boy loves a challenge, and this was the newest.

He used his trusty .45 Springfield XV, which he carries out here on the farm. Out in the boonies there are critters that can hurt you.

  Matt's been in shooting sports since he was a kid, participating in Cowboy Action Shooting with Art and I. Then he did a stint in the Army; I'm sure that improved his skills even more. He hunts every year and we love the venison he brings in.

Yes, I'm proud of his skills, and happy that he is passing his them on to his kids. Eleven and six, they both practice with their dad and mom, sometimes Art and I join them. Shooting sports have always been an enjoyable family activity for us. In my case, shooting from a chair or standing with crutches, I can still play with my family.

As for Mr. Look-I-Snuffed-The-Flame-Out? He's teaching the kids how to shoot small targets like shotgun shells, and the occasional acorn, for the oldest one. That's a different kind of challenge, and he's rising to meet it. I hope to see both of the kids snuff a candle someday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Muscovy Duck- The Lowdown

There is no online dating service for Muscovy ducks.

Imagine the profile! Is there a less judgemental word than ugly? How about visage challenged? Duckling faces are cute at hatching, but then maturity sets in.  Caruncles, red warty skin, appears on their faces. Males get wide coverage, but females have less.
This is extremely useful, because tipping these birds over to "look under their skirts"can be a challenge. They don't like their personal space invaded, and will fight you. Imagine being tipped upside down and having your nethers inspected!You might protest a bit, too.

Disposition? Cranky, for the males. At fourteen pounds or so as adults for drakes, cranky can be expressed energetically with powerful wings to beat you with, and long sharp talons to claw you with. Don't forget the bills; they can bite quick as a snake. Raised crests on their heads serves as an early warning system. We once had a three way drake fight here, and Art was able to wade in, sieze them one at a time from behind, and remove them from the field. They ignored him and strained to return to the fray. He kept all the sharp parts pointed away from his body as he put each bird into solitary.

Females are a bit more mellow, unless they are nesting. A Mama duck in a doghouse was the downfall of Joe Boxer, an old dog of ours. He was curious about this new doghouse we'd put out, and investigated. His head alone could fit in, but was quickly withdrawn, followed by a hissing head and snaking neck. Body flattened over her eggs, she struck at him each time his head got close. Poor fool kept trying to see what the problem was -- strong of body, weak of mind. After three our four bites he gave up, a full size boxer losing to a seven pound duck.

Are they available? You might think catching the"girls" was easier, since they are smaller and milder, but they  fly.ONly a catch net will help. I stood up suddenly one day and saw something looking like a feather covered bag of flour with wings flying at my head. The poor duck was pumping her wings as hard and as fast as she could, but she hadn't planned on the human standing up. She veered, I dropped and she wobbled over the fence. Two days later all the females flew out, returning for food and water. The males, far too heavy to get aloft, glared after them, stuck without female companionship.

Hobbies or talents? They hiss loudly, waggling their tails as they vocalize . Do not confuse a Muscovy tail wag with a dog tail wag, especially if the bird's crest is raised. They do not quack, so are actually quiet enough to be kept in the city.

Females have a lovely, warbling-cooing sound when they speak.
One of our girls used to sleep on the top of the mobile home. When I'd go out to work in the morning, she'd raise her head, and stare at me. I'm sure I was supposed to feel guilty for waking her up. Did I ask her to sleep right over the door? After she figured out who I was, most mornings she would warble a bit at me before she would tuck her head back to sleep some more. Six-thirty, 'o dark early, is too early for ducks.

The girls have hissing mastered for special occasions. A strong, menacing hiss for Joe Boxer, for instance, or someone else threatening their ducklings. It's the kind of hiss that says," I am no pushover, Back off!"

Muscovy dating is non-existant; no flowers, candy or even the courtship dance of the rooster is offered. A drake just grabs a likely female by the neck, squashes her flat, and has his way with her.He's twice the size she is, and she ends up severely rumpled and offended. Do you wonder why females fly over the fence as soon
as they're able?

What is their fanily life like? Challenging. This bird originated in South America and is a completely different species than the rest of the ducks of the world. As a result, breeding with another kind of duck will get a duckling that is sterile, like a mule. Duck-mules are good for eating, but not much else. Muscovy must meet up with Muscovy for serious continuation of the breed.

In the wild, females frequently nest in hollow trees. Have you ever seen film of duckings leaving a nest in a tree? They pop out, tumble down, and land with a bounce. What a way to start your life in the world. Amazingly, they survive it. Mama gathers them up and off they go to water. She is careful not to let them in the water too long; they have far less body oil than"regular" ducks, resulting in waterlogging and drowning. Muscovies don't need swimming water at all to survive, but they do enjoy it. water deep enough to clean their nostrils is fine with them.

Before you pity the poor, dateless Muscovy, know this. Ugly beyond reason, they have loads of personality and make devoted pets if hand raised. I find them lovable despite their looks and
fascinating to keep. After all, I am the Mother-of-All-Animals, what else can you expect?