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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?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

David in Iraq

David is my semi-adopted son, a son of my heart. Currently he is in Iraq, and I am so proud of him.

First,I'm proud that he is serving our country, enduring hardships to keep the rest of us safe and free. He has given up the comforts of home, and put himself in a situation of  different culture, blistering heat, and danger.

Secondly, he has joined the Army as a career; he's carving out a piece of life for himself in a time of economic trouble. He is able to take care of his responsibilities, and improve his job skills. The service seems to be the only "employer" hiring numbers of folks these days, but the job is a hard one, long and erratic hours. Not everyone can or will choose it as a career.

I'll be thinking of you, David. Hope you read this post and others to keep up what's happening here at home while you're gone. We'll e-mail you often,and I'll hold you in my heart until you return. I'm glad we got to see you before you went over.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Surprise! A Video Made My Day

I saw this on The Texas Woman and couldn't resist. Today is a new step in my blogging career.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dry, Dry, Dry

It's so painfully dry here that the oaks are dying. Over half of our place is wooded, and so many of the trees are turning brown. There's nothing to do about it. Even if we could haul enough water to save them, the cost of water would be prohibitive. We have county water, not a well or even a tank.

We took a ride in the M37 to check out the property before Art goes off to work on the movie filming in Smithville. Hot, parched Texas weather is taking it's toll.

Another tree has fallen over the fence dividing our property from the neighboring pasture. One more thing added to the "to do" list.
The last time that fence had a hole I looked up to see twelve cows wandering around the pear trees. I do not herd cows, so Art and Matthew rounded them up and took them back and fixed the fence.
I don't fix fences either. I am the Empress!

When Art stopped the truck for me to take pictures, I could smell the grass scorching underneath. I tried not to ask to stop for too long. Way to easy to start a fire these days. We've had two major fires here in two years, and it's frightening how fast fire moves. The last fire, in February of this year, required the Texas Forestry Service and three area fire departments to put out. A spark from a passing train ignited the grass in the neighbors pasture, and the fire moved to the deer lease on the north and west to our place. Matthew had to cut a firebreak in the woods between our back pasture and the house/outbuildings. I'm so glad we had a dozer here for him to use.

We just have a small garden left. Tomatoes and swiss chard have survived with our help. Everything else has shriveled and died.

Yesterday I started broccoli seeds for the fall garden. In the midst of this drought, I still have hope. The rains will come and the remaining oaks will drink deep.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Homeplace Begins - Two Free Ducks

Two ducks trudged across the garden. A battered-looking mother and child needing sanctuary, we thought. They looked to have ended up on the wrong side of a whuppin'; many feathers were missing, and some wounds were evident.We had no concrete plans for acquiring animals yet, but here were two free ducks! I just knew these ducks were a sign of future farm prosperity. “Look!” I caroled “We’ve been here only a week and we have ducks! We need to go to town and buy them a wading pool! “

My husband refers to me as “Mother-of-all-animals”, frequently between gritted teeth. I have ideas about animals and their care; ideas which seem so simple initially.  Oddly, our son and his friends have a similar response.

Off to Bryan to buy a wading pool – round trip just under 100 miles. We chose a medium sized, blue one, decorated with tasteful seahorses and bubbles. The local discount department store doesn’t carry feed, so off to the feed store for duck food. The feed store didn’t have a suitable container for a mere 50 pounds of feed. Next stop -- the Farm and Building supply for a large trash can to hold the “scratch”, besides, we needed some t-poles and fencing to protect the ducks. Son and friend grumbled about starvation after all this shopping; hamburgers, drinks, and fries for four completed the day’s financial damages. Twenty–year-old boys don’t eat cheap! “How do you figure those are free ducks?” Art groused, as he drove back home.

“You can’t expect the ducks to wait until tomorrow for their pool!” I gasped in horror at Art’s suggestion. “Look at them! They’re all dusty and dirty!!!” This shows how much I didn’t know about ducks then. “Mama’ was gleefully throwing water around from a large kitchen pot. “Baby” was close by, but unable to get near the water.

An hour later the pool was installed in a newly leveled spot under a pear tree. Baby duck couldn't get in out out of the pool; she needed a ramp. The fence across the open end of the garden was strung, and I drank in the sight our new ducks, safe in their new home.

The county Ag agent arrived two days later at our invitation. After his tour of the property, we asked about our new residents. I thought he said "Muskogee", but that's a city in Oklahoma. I got on the internet and found we had Muscovy ducks. Fascinating birds!


The following week we got six brown Muscovies donated by a friend. We've taken in two goats, rabbits, chickens, and a number of cats. All came without accessories. Each time we set up for a new species, Art and Matthew grumble , "Free animals?"


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Signs of Current Culture

PLEASE IGNORE THE DATE!  This is really something I'd worked on earlier, and posted October 11, 2009.

" 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 them to 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, September 3, 2009

Six Guns and Six Legs on SyFy

Six Guns and Six Legs
The SyFy Channel

There's nothing like a "Creature Feature" on a lazy Sunday afternoon!

With a title like "Six Guns and Six Legs", you can imagine what the movie was like. The creatures were similar to the one on the right. More spidery and mechanical, though, with grey metalic skins. They dug burrows like crawdad chimneys, but larger.

The setting was very authentic for the times -late 1890's, early 1900's at the latest. The town was muddy, monochromatic, and bleak. The majority of characters were likewise. Having done living history for many years, I must say the costumes were excellent, but drab. The portrayal of the settler woman living out by the mine waa dreary and defeated. Her husband was mining pitchblende, the source of uranium. Both seemed to be affected by radiation.

The Authenticity Police would have been horrified about the weaponry. I once attended a movie we were promoting at a Houston theater, all of us wearing our Old West finest garb. During that movie an usher had to come and get someone to settle down part of our group acting as AP's in one of the screenings. They were pointing out all the "mistakes", weapons showed that were from a future time. Pointing it out loudly enough that people were having trouble hearing the movie!
My favorite AP error was the chrome finished Colt python showed in "Six Guns"-- one hundred years too early. The abrasive female bounty hunter (?????) was carrying something that might have been a double-action revolver common in the 1940's and later. If I'd had popcorn I would have thrown it at the TV. Remember an item called the TV Brick? I needed one.
The space critters were hooked on uranium. They'd flop out their water hose tongues and just suck it up like mechanical butterflies gone wrong. The whole invasion was the fault of the scientist who'd hired the settlers to mine the pitchblende when the last miners died. Mr. Science was hording a ton of uranium, which drew the space critters to their town.
Predictably, aliens shot humans, humans shot aliens, humans shot humans, people betrayed the hero, and the whole town nearly died. Mr. Science baited the aliens with a trail of uranium dust, then set himself up to dynamite the aliens. The alien ship showed up conveniently overhead and the scientist lit the fuse. The hero and heroine galloped off to their new life as the wagon of dynamite, scientist, aliens and their ship exploded in a gigantic fireball. WOW! Nothing like a well deserved explosion to punish evil!
I enjoyed it immensely. I think Art did, too!

Updates - First Week of September

Updates! Thats what this blog needs.  Here we go!

This morning Art said he can feel when I've got an idea. He describes it as a trembling sensation. Hmmm. He was dragging the waterhose up to the garden at the time. I'd gone up to check the freezer gardens and they were dry. Do we have ideas by telepathy?
Boat, the peeing cat, continues to live on the porch. Stand still for more than a moment and she'll (yep, another girl) climb you to be held and petted. She and Wally, the senior porch cat, have an on- again-off-again truce. When Wally is having a mood, he chases her under a set of shelves. When he's feeling mellow, they share the food dish.
Boat lurks by the front door hoping for somone slow (me)to open the portal . Once the way is open, she streaks in to grab a bite to eat and roughhouse with her sisters. Then the humans spoil everything and put her back outside. Her sisters don't miss her; Wally has taught her to play rough. Once ejected, Boat waits for the door to open again. The process repeats all day.                                        

When preparing to cook raccoon, pierce the meat and soak it in reconstituted dry milk for 24 hours, That makes for a milder tasting meat. Thanks, Hangman, for that tip many years ago. It's proved to be a useful one; it works on all kinds of game meat.
Working hard on my first fiction short story. Writing non-fiction seems so easy for me, but this quite a challenge. I've got a 3,000 word limit for a contest I want to enter, and have nearly 2,000. How will I finish in another 1,000 words and get everything sewed up? If I had no word limit, this story could end up being a romance! How's that for a surprise? Someone must think I've run out of homework, so I got a new lesson, as the old saying goes.
Stay tuned for more updates!