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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Annual Letter

Greetings from Central Texas!

2010 was another action-packed year on the farm. We know you’re anxious for the details, so here’s our annual letter.
January began with the 2009 taxes. We brought our usual large box of assorted receipts, oddball explanations, and a jumbo bottle of antacids with a bow for Jeanne. An experienced tax preparer makes all the difference when filing taxes for the farm.

An e-mail from the hatchery sent us into poultry fever in February. Assorted ducks on sale!!! We can save nearly two dollars per bird! Are we prepared? No! Off to town for feed, bedding, hay, heat lamp and new waterers; then across town for a wading pool to use as a brooder. Don’t forget the mileage to town - 52 miles, another 50 to the hatchery, and 45 miles back home. The first receipts drifted into the 2010 tax box.

March dawned with duckling escape. We heard the splat of ducky feet exploring their new world, the porch bathroom. Something else went splat on the floor as a by-product of duckling exploration. It was followed by the anguished shriek of our son, Matthew, who had designed and built the extra bathroom on the porch. The very floor he laid on all fours in 100 degree heat was now defiled, he ranted. Brood the ducklings at your house again, we suggested. Recalling last year’s experience, suddenly the floor was less of an issue. Baby duck odor is as breathtaking as skunk essence.

Who else but Art could borrow a bulldozer? As April drew to a close, the rumble of the diesel could be tracked as it crunched over small trees and dodged the larger ones around the property. Testosterone levels rose as the menfolk regarded the driveway. “Needs scraping,” Matthew said. He roared down the drive and back, blade lowered. “You left bumps!” Art pointed out. “Let me do it the right way!” Good thing the headlights didn’t work. They’d have spent the evening turning the drive into a canyon.

In May one of the porch cats had eye problems and needed a vet. My soft-hearted hubby packed it up and took it to the land of gross indignities. Its temperature was taken, and the nurses laughed when it weighed nothing. It changed from a half wild farm cat to a clinging baby in one traumatic visit. Vet visit, meds, special food and a toy (for trauma) made that kitten as expensive as the ducks of February, so it moved inside. Art’s beard was Momma, and Momma got to itching. Surprise again! Tiny kitten; tiny fleas! Flea shampoo for two happened in the kitchen sink, and Brighty’s trauma was nothing compared to Art’s.

First cat, Ock, was appalled at our decision to add a junior cats to his kingdom when their Momma disappeared. Kitten chow was tasty though, and he became plumper and sleeker daily. Explosive hissing declined, and Ock began to lick the babies. Watching a particularly blissful grooming session I had a horrid thought: do you suppose Ock is tasting them? How many licks before he decides to go for the chewy center?

July’s scorching heat saw Art out in the duck pasture planting excess pumpkins. “I have an idea!” He said. My right eye twitched for the next hour. I wasn’t soothed by the strains of music from the duck pasture / pumpkin patch either. The ducks had become addicted to the country music we used to chase off night predators. If you turned off the music, they squawked and quacked mightily. They also stopped laying eggs as a form of feathered protest. “No music? No eggs! Turn up the volume, too. We can’t enjoy it unless you can hear it clearly from your bedroom!” I hope that jumbo bottles of aspirins are on sale this week. I’m nearly out.

I found something disturbing during a raid on the new workshop in August. You might recall how Art blew up the old one in 2007 making “Ethanol”? The plans for a catapult lay half-hidden on his desk. ”Surprise!” he said, “Think of it as an easy, fun way to spread fertilizer,” he explained. “Enough fertilizer spreading is happening right now,” I retorted. I am frequently accused of being no fun.

September’s gardens were lush and the chickens were laying well, even in the heat. Art noticed agitated chickens, and moved the plywood sunshade from the nest in an isolated pen. He was surprised for a change. No chicken, but a furry, black and white striped critter lounged on an ice bottle we’d left for chicken comfort. Eggshells were scattered about. Empty. “#$%*%#!” Art yelped, and fell backward into a water bucket. He threw everything loose in the pen he could find, including the eggs from the basket he was carrying. The skunk, startled, began to dance his special dance, then considered the madman before it, and ran for the woods and the highway beyond. I can’t believe he didn’t get sprayed. I’m grateful; tomato juice is getting pricey these days.

I woke up one October morn to the gleeful shouts of men and loud thuds. Peering out the window I flinched as a pumpkin flew by. Men clustered around the completed catapult; my husband, son, friends and a few strangers were toting pumpkins. “Remember you wanted to explore value-added produce?” Art yelled. “Buy a pumpkin and launch it free! You can’t believe how many we’ve sold! Now the catapult is tax deductible!” I chewed two antacids from the bottle I was saving for next tax season.

November first I threatened to take a chainsaw to the catapult, fearful of frozen turkey launching following a special we’d watched on satellite TV. Art turned it over to the custody of our local historical museum instead. I recognized the curator as an enthusiastic pumpkin flinger. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this latest manly scheme.

Art started his letter to Santa early in December. A better lock for the workshop topped the list. If he thinks a lock will keep me out, he’s mistaken. He also wants two tiny flight suits, a book on the Hindenburg, seven cylinders of helium, a remote control, and a do-it-yourself crop dusting DVD.

Remember you have a standing invitation to visit. Bring a set of lock picks, and crowbar in case the picks don’t work. I didn’t like the list Art wrote to Santa, and my gear from Spy, Inc. is on back order. Anyone have a source for bulk antacids?


Helene and Arthur Burnett


  1. Sorry to have caused you anxious moments the last year. Perhaps with the guidance of wise friends like Hangman and Butch I can do better this year.