Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Happy is as happy does.
6:47 pm edt
had a visit from a friend’s last evening. The conversation quickly exhausted weather conditions, our animals, etc. and
ultimately intensified to a discussion of happiness, or the lack thereof. “Are you happy,”
I asked. A long silence followed as the question was considered. “Not really,” my friend replied.
Reasons ranged from abandoned dreams, disappointing spouse, age and a resignation that it’s too late to change
things now. How very sad.
I can’t stop thinking
about that confession. I believe happiness is simply the lack of unhappiness. I am very happy and why not?
I have the essentials I need (need being the key word), a meaningful life and work that I love.
In my work I am lucky enough to meet a lot
of other happy people and the one common denominator in their lives is that they are all passionate about something beyond
themselves. I’ve concluded that apathy leads to unhappiness. (Who needs Dr. Phil?)
Some folks could rightfully be entitled to being grumps or whiners considering challenges they’ve
faced, but they’ve chosen to move forward with a positive attitude. I think of one fellow who lost
most of his sight almost overnight, yet he is one of the happiest men I’ve ever known. The reason?
In addition to his 'day' job, Bill had devoted his life to rescuing and training horses and mules, most all of which
had come from dismal situations. One might think blindness would have put an end to that, but it didn’t.
“These animals give me a reason to get up every morning,” he said
as a white mule nuzzled his back, then stole the handkerchief from his pocket. Working mostly by touch,
my blind friend rubbed salve into the wounds on the mules shoulders, wounds inflicted by the animals former owner who had
worked him nearly to death.
I wrote a few articles about blind Bill and
how he had moved beyond the inconvenience of losing his sight because he refused to give up his passion. Following
publication he received phone calls and letters from all over the country from other victims of macular degeneration who were
inspired by his spirit.
Bill was just one of so many
special (or unusual) people I’ve met through my work. I’ve decided to share profiles of some of them, but this
will have to wait until next week. I’m leaving at 6:15 AM for a press trip and won’t return
until Sunday. These trips are tightly scheduled, so there may not be a chance to post anything until I
Yesterday I wrote about too many chickens. I
guess the hawk read the blog because today he got two of the little hen’s seven chicks. They were about one third grown.
I knew he’d be back.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Mr. Studley must go!
5:59 pm edt
I’ve just come from the feed mill. Scratch for the chickens used to cost about $6.00. It’s
now up to $11.25 and it never goes on sale. And so, while it grieves me to do so, I must reduce the size
of the flock. Mr. Studley is looking for a home.
I can’t get rid
of Randy as he is such a pleasant creature (as roosters go…). Nor can I eliminate Pinhead as he
and Randy get on together with no bickering. And it isn’t as if Mr. Studley (the most gorgeous rooster
I’ve ever owned) is the only extra male. I only wish it were so, but several of the other immature
birds do not look very feminine to me. Twenty-one birds add lovely color and ambiance to this place, but
today I collected one egg!
Feeding 21 birds which produce one egg a day
makes no sense. Even I can see the foolhardiness in this. Were I to leave the door to
their coop open at night, this problem might be taken care of for me, but I could never do that.
I’ve previously mentioned the coyotes who serenade nightly, but at 3 AM their songfest was
right next to the house. I leapt from bed, hit the switch for the flood light and opened the window.
Below the open window Bean the basement boy (cat) was nervously pacing by the back porch door, rather than risk coming
inside via his kitty door which is just below the kitchen window.
ran downstairs and he raced in, happy to retreat to the safety of his cellar apartment. It was all quite
Since it was another lovely day I continued garden work.
The animals love these “work days” as Ted illustrates. Is there anything more joyful
than a smiling dog? I think not.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Too much of a good thing.
5:57 pm edt
Just when it seems we’ve seen
the last wonderful autumn day Nature surprises us. One can not afford to ignore such surprises, so while
the sun shone the overgrown tired-looking gardens were attacked with vigor.
A few years ago at a rummage sale I was delighted to find a small basket of cannas lily tubers for
a mere seventy five cents. In the spring the half dozen or so produced a patch of exotic foliage topped
with bright red flowers that attracted the hummingbirds. What a bargain, I thought.
In the fall when I dug them up for winter storage I was again delighted to see how they had multiplied.
The next year the lily patch was much bigger. Well, you see where this is going…. Now I have
cannas lilies coming out my ears! There are patches of exotic foliage and bright red flowers all over the place.
Each year I give bags of tubers to anyone who will take them, but
they are like roosters. You can only place so many because the initial recipients are also dealing with
their prolificacy. I can’t bear to ignore them and just let them rot in the ground, so today I dug
and dug and dug and still there are more cannas lily plots to take out. Unless I find a few
new takers I’ll have to plant about half an acre of them. I think I'll give them to my favorite thrift store and
some unsuspecting soul will be delighted, just as I was to discover such a bargain.
mother had lovely gardens of mostly perennials. I don’t recall her ever planting things that needed to be over wintered
in the house. Smart woman, my mother!
(See some of them
in this photo punctuating the background and reflected in the door? Those were just the tip of the iceberg!)
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Warm up a chilly day!
6:14 pm edt
Early this morning I sat on the porch in my pajamas and robe enjoying a big mug of coffee.
The air was balmy, but the sky was ominous. This luxury was short lived as the breeze
quickly became a cold wind and the balmy air became a drizzle. Now it’s downright cold.
Soup weather, so I’m trying a new recipe from Marti, my gourmet cook friend. Easy peasy and
very tasty. Here it is.
Sauté an onion in a
bit of olive oil. Add one can of refried beans, some broth (vegetable or otherwise), corn (frozen or canned),
cumin and a jar of salsa. Mix and heat. I’ve topped mine with grated cheese, but even without it is good and hearty.
Friday, October 23, 2009
A day for contemplation.
7:53 pm edt
In a former incarnation I was a manufacturer’s
rep and spent a lot of time in the Cleveland area. I never gave a second thought to the daily drive, but
several years have passed and now a trip to “the city” is something of a big deal—one I thoroughly enjoy.
I spent the morning at a wonderful art gallery, pouring over paintings I
would love to live with. It’s hard to think of a nicer way to pass a dark rainy day than being smothered
The beauty of the changing Ohio trees is awesome; most likely
because this color is so fleeting. Nasty weather is predicted and many of the red, yellow and russet leaves
will blow away, thus revealing nearby houses which I pretend don’t exist. Unfortunately the houses
are now visible through the skeletal trees and I’m reminded of how small my country life really is. I
wish I had more land, not for myself, but for the threatened wildlife.
Coming home from the day in the city I approached my driveway where a doe stood staring at me.
Her rain-soaked coat rendered her a dull gray that nearly blended into the pavement. I think she
knows that deer season is fast approaching. Every weekend the air is punctuated by gun shots.
It will probably surprise some readers to know that I am not opposed to responsible
hunting. Hunting fees preserve a huge amount of land that would otherwise be developed into god knows what.
That habitat which is often enhanced by sportsmen groups supports a lot of wildlife including many non-game animals.
What I do oppose are those who disregard land that is designated off limits.
Not a year has passed that I haven’t found the carcass of at least one
deer that was wounded and left to die. Some of these have been on posted land. Sure,
the abandoned body feeds a lot of scavengers throughout the harsh winter, but that doesn’t excuse the “sportsman”
who was too lazy to track and dispatch the animal he’d wounded.
year I followed a bright red trail on the fresh snow until I came upon the young buck who lay bleeding in the woods.
He’d been gut shot, but he struggled to his feet and slowly moved on. The next day I found
his stiff lifeless body in Kenny’s field. Over the winter I saw the tracks of the various critters
that had fed upon it. Coyotes, fox, opossum, buzzards, crows and the small rodents that gnawed on the bones.
Before long the carcass was dismembered and well dispersed. In the spring I brought
the skull home and cleaned it to add to my collection.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The sky is falling!
4:52 pm edt
I was trying to take it easy today, but as I sat quietly reading a great racket arose from the barnyard.
I ran out just in time to witness the drama. It was the hawk again. He’s
quite magnificent and ever so brazen. As he swooped down toward the blasé flock that had been pecking
around in the field, the roosters (now a confirmed group of 4 with still more gender undeclared, but suspiciously masculine-looking
birds) let out shrieks which I interpreted as, “Yikes! It’s the hawk. Get out’a my way you, stupid hens!”
Once again they have shown themselves to be utterly useless.
Meanwhile, the little white hen featured in yesterdays post had positioned herself under the bottom fence rail. She
calmly, but firmly clucked to her 7 chicks which obediently took cover under her wings, thus illustrating that in the chicken
world the weaker sex certainly has far more integrity. There were no fatalities.
My intervention drove the hawk away, but today’s visit was probably just a surveillance mission.
I’m sure he realizes that the next time he is really really hungry, this will be a good place to come for lunch
since security is so lax. I shall be making calls to anyone who might like a couple of roosters.
It’s probably obvious that I have more than average tolerance for cohabiting
with wild things. The occasional mouse who comes in from the cold is not dealt with in a lethal manner.
He is relocated to the barn unless he becomes a cat toy before I can rescue him. Snakes in the cellar
present no problems either and even a bat with faulty sonar didn’t cause alarm. Live and let live
is the general rule of thumb here, but there are exceptions. Flying insects are not welcome in my home.
“…And when I tore out the south wall in the bedroom, honey just
poured out and ran across the floor,” said Tom, the fellow from whom I bought this place. That honey
bees had built a hive in the wall of this old house wasn’t all that surprising since it had been sitting empty for several
years before Tom bought it. But, now there are new windows and doors, lots of caulking and getting inside
(for bugs) should be difficult.
Even so summer brings
an influx of yellow jackets and wasps which somehow swarm in my bedroom. I’ve had some nasty stings. But
worse still are the faux ladybugs which arrived en masse yesterday. I can’t get that rhyme out of
bug, lady bug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire, your children are
this case, home would be Asia, but thanks to a government brainstorm that deliberately imported them in the early 20th
century, they are now well-established in various parts of the country. Asian Lady Beetles are menacing creatures, not the
cute black-spotted orange aphid eaters we knew as kids. Oh they do eat aphids in pecan orchards, but I
don’t happen to have such an orchard. Basically, they are annoying pests and nothing eats them!
They bite and they stink! One warm sunny day and they are all over the windows, ceilings and floors.
Entomology web sites assure me their presence is temporary, but even so they have created a temporary hell. I
and my Hoover have declared war on the Asian invaders!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Not feeling well
8:02 pm edt
I'm afraid I'm a bit under the weather tonight. Although it was an absolutely beautiful day I have been much
too ill to enjoy it or to enter anything but an apology in tonights post. Please bear with me. Hopefully tomorrow
will be better.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Just walk on by...
10:12 pm edt
My daughter pulled into the busy grocery
store parking lot. A light rain was falling and she was in a rush. As she hurried across
the lot a fluttering grayness caught her eye. At first she thought it might be a glove someone had dropped,
but no. It was a dove, injured, but clearly alive.
“I couldn’t believe how many people just walked over it or past it,” she said.
She put the bird in her truck and took it home along with her groceries. Upon examination it was
clear the dove wasn’t going to survive, but at least it could die in peace and quiet.
The apathy that allows one to walk over or past a helpless creature is indicative of indifference which
is much too common in our society. It’s very disturbing—or it should be.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Better safe than sorry.
7:29 pm edt
When I was a kid my uncle Bill and
I regularly went mushroom hunting. Every spring and fall we collected morels and puffballs and it never occurred
to me to question the edibility of the fungi we hauled home by the basketful. I’ve often heard that
morels are the crème de la crème of all mushrooms, but I don’t think I could eat one if my life depended
upon it thanks to memories of my mom’s morel mutilations.
by soaking them overnight. The next day they, like so many other recipes went into the big iron skillet
where the delicate (so I’ve heard…) morels were cooked to the consistency of the gristly part of a human ear.
That is exactly what they reminded me of; ear parts swimming in a watery gray “broth.” While
it was fun to find the elusive morels in the woods, I passed when they were proffered at a meal.
The puffballs were another story. These were one of my mother’s signature
dishes. She’d brush the wood debris from the big white orbs, slice them about ¼-1/2 “
thick and lightly batter them. These too went into the iron skillet, but they were cooked in butter and
they were delicious.
As an adult my mushroom collecting has been limited
to the grocery store. While I still come across morels and puffballs in the woods, I’ve not felt
confident enough to confront them in my kitchen. This past weekend while walking the dogs with my houseguest
we came upon a spread of what I declared to be puffballs. I think my friend was impressed, but was somewhat
dubious. “Are you sure,” she said? We did not pick them.
I’m having dinner guests, one of whom is from France, so it occurred to me that local puffballs might be a nice addition
to our meal. Back in the woods this afternoon I no longer felt so sure that the fungi growing in abundance
was the same as those consumed without question in my youth. I brought one home and did some research and
it’s a darned good thing I did!
to puffballs, the color was off. They should have been snowy white, not tan. And the
shape wasn’t quite round, but more of an inverted pear shape. Hmm…. Upon closer examination
of the proposed dinner delicacy I knew that a menu change was in order.
field guide assured me that eating the “earthball” would not be fatal, but that I would become sick enough to
wish it were. I’ve decided to stick with mushrooms from the grocery.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Dearly departed friends.
4:56 pm edt
It’s been a busy, but wonderful weekend here. Jimmie’s new owner came to visit and to collect
her new little guy. They are now en route to his new home in Cincinnati. I will miss them
both and certainly Ernie will miss his playmate, but I am happy. the pup will be much loved and well cared
for and that’s what really matters. His new mom and I have been friends for more than thirty years although we don’t
get to visit nearly as often as we wish, so the past couple of days have been very special.
What is nicer than catching up with an old friend over good food and a nice bottle of wine? We sat
in my cozy kitchen and I prepared a real Caesar salad (not dressed with that awful stuff that comes in a jar labeled Caesar
dressing) and some pasta with pesto and shrimp. Yum yum.
A relatively-new blog friend says he longs for the simple life and certainly that would have to include good simple
meals. I guess I’m a food snob. Things must be fresh and of good quality and prepared with some thought
and attention. I love to cook and often wonder why so few people share this pleasure.
Why do they buy those greens that come in a bag (chemically treated) rather than just tearing up some fresh
Romaine? Put a bit of sea salt in a wooden salad bowl, rub with freshly cut garlic cloves, add some olive
oil, mustard and the juice of half a lemon (not that reconstituted stuff from a bottle!). Whisk it.
Add the Romaine, a tin of anchovies and toss. Shave some good parmesan cheese on top (not that pulverized
questionable cheese from a can) and maybe add some crusty croutons. Simply delicious! Add a lovely
glass of red wine and voila.
I’ve just made myself hungry.
Friday, October 16, 2009
6:53 pm edt
I have been aware of various patches imposed upon this old house ever since I’ve been here. Curious
“fixes” have popped up in the most unexpected places, but over the years I've tended to forget about them, but
now that my friend is coming to visit (and to collect Jimmie) I have been doing a little extra cleaning and have again become
aware of some of these improvisations.
As I scrubbed the ugly kitchen floor today I noticed the tin patch on the baseboard. It’s
only one of many. Painted over (and over and over…) it wouldn’t be noticeable to a casual
visitor. I only noticed it today because of the whisper of icy air that sifted in from its seams.
Is there no end to the patching and caulking and winterizing I must address? I think not.
Lots of people have fantasies.
Mine is that these kitchen walls are ripped out. Insulation (currently non-existent) is installed
and a new, easy to care for floor replaces the fake brick one now in place. If only This Old House came
here? Norm and all those handymen would be in heaven!
love to cook and bake and to have a group of interesting people in for dinner, but this kitchen presents a challenge.
Maybe I should play the lottery? Just thinking about a draft-free room with more than one
electrical outlet and a floor that doesn’t require heavy-duty wax makes me almost euphoric! But oddities are not limited
to the kitchen.
the bedroom is a well-used mouse hole leading into what used to be an attic of sorts. I’ve learned
that in the 1940’s they used this room to smoke meats! I’ve turned it into a guest room and
it’s cozy, but the little mouse hole (one of several) makes me smile. One time
a little mouse actually peeked at me from that hole. I could never sell this place. Who
else would find such things as tin patches on the baseboard and mouse holes in the bedroom charming? I
think no one. So, I’m stuck here. Things could be worse.
At night I lie in my bed and think how grateful I am to have a warm bed (okay, well, it isn’t actually warm since
there is no heat on the second floor…) and a safe place to be. So many people in the world don’t
have such a luxury. I think I live a very privileged life.
11:23 am edt
Yesterday was fraught with problems, one of which involved this blog. I entered the days post, but it appeared in duplicate.
I attempted to delete the extra copy and then I lost everything. Figuring it would be simple enough to just re-enter
it I found my account was frozen, so I called the web master, but was informed that the next available customer service
representative wouldn't be available for "approximately five minutes...." During this "five minutes"
I was subjected to what must certainly be the most annoying faux music ever invented. Twenty minutes later I was still waiting
and listening to the tuneless noise that was interspersed with a gratuitious reminder that my "...call is very important...."
I wanted to tear my hair out! By the time the issue was finally resolved I was too tired to post anything at all, so
here is yesterdays entry, a day late, but entered in a much more tranquil state of mind.
When Jimmie (the dumped puppy) arrived nearly two weeks ago he was a novelty for the other animals; fun, like a new
toy. All three dogs liked him, especially Ernie (the former baby of the dog family). They could roll Jimmie around, take his
puppy food, give him a bath and tease him. The cats liked playing with him too since he was smaller than
they, but now the newness of the pup has worn thin. Nettie grumbles, but tolerates his enthusiastic romping and Ted even allows
Jimmie to curl up and sleep with him. But Ernie has targeted him for some nasty tricks.
I wish I could tell Ernie that the puppy’s only here for a couple more days. He’ll be
leaving for his new home this weekend. But dogs only pretend to understand. Ernie probably really thinks
Jimmie’s staying indefinitely.
Yesterday Ernie must have told Jim what fun it would be to go for a swim in the scummy pond. Of
course he himself did not go in, but poor little Jimmie with his pristine baby hair sank into the sludge up to his belly and
appeared at the door looking as if he’d been dipped in tar. The smell was beyond words.
Fortunately he fit (just barely…) in the bathroom sink and was subjected to an emergency bath.
It was a stinky mess. Black globs splattered all over the white bathroom. The wet puppy shivered
violently, so I wrapped him in a big fluffy towel and he snuggled on my lap as Ernie looked on--miffed. He
hadn’t figured on his victim reaping so much special attention and privilege.
last night after finishing chores I hoped to just relax by the fire, maybe watch some telly or read, but suddenly Ernie announced
that he and Jimmy had to go back outside immediately. It seemed odd since they’d just come in only
minutes before, but out they went.
When they returned Jimmy looked like
a porcupine. He was covered in nettles and his cute little sweater will never be the same, but Ernie himself was nettle-free.
He pretended to look at Jimmie with sympathy, but I knew what he was really thinking, “Heh, heh, heh, just wait
So, instead of relaxing by the fire I spent the
evening combing out nettles and vacuuming. As darling as this puppy is, I will be happy when life here
returns to normal and all 104 pounds of Ernie will again be the baby of the house.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I'm not quite ready for this!
7:50 pm edt
There was a skin of ice on the bird bath this morning and now the weatherman is predicting snow for the next two days.
It’s much too early for all of this! There are cannas lilies and dahlias to take out, pack
in peat moss and haul into the root cellar. There are trees that need to be turned into firewood and leaky
windows that need another shot of Great Stuff. The garden shed that houses Tom, the formerly-feral cat
needs to be winterized. Oh, just thinking about all that remains to be done makes me weary.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The devil made me do it.
6:25 pm edt
Since I’ve owned this property I’ve put my personal stamp on most of it.
Only a few places remain essentially as they were when I bought the farm. One such place is the
north end of the loft in the barn. On the wall, emblazoned in large pink letters is the “explanation”
THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT.
I have no idea who was responsible for the embellishment,
but every time I climb the steep stairs to this catch-all area and see the declaration it makes me laugh. I
love the blatant irresponsibility of the notion that any foolish or unsound act is excusable because of demonic intervention.
It sounds like something coined in the seventies. Ah, those halcyon days.... I
think I may resurrect this excuse.
Another relatively-untouched area
is the root cellar. It’s only “relatively-untouched” because the bowels of the bathroom
plumbing are accessible from this tomb, hence there have been occasions requiring a lot of unpleasant touching.
When I bought the farm the shelves in this dark little room were heavily laden. Mason jars of cherries
that looked as if they’d just been canned. There were plums and pears and tomatoes and jars with
what looked like cancerous brown tumors. I don’t think I want to know what those things were.
For many years I left the jars as reminders of some earlier life
on this farm, but ultimately I got rid of most of them and now I wish I hadn’t. I thought I’d fill the shelves
with my own preserved produce, but that never happened. My canning efforts were dismal. Freezing
stuff is so much easier, but admittedly opening the freezer and staring at flat bags of corn or Tupperware containers of pesto
isn’t nearly as poignant as entering the recesses of the root cellar and seeing shelves of colorful jars.
I know those jars were once scalded, then filled with the bubbling contents and capped with the zinc
lids. I wonder how the cook knew if they had safely sealed. I guess she just had to hope for the
best. I feel pretty certain a woman was responsible for all that food. I picture her
wearing a plain white apron. Her brow is damp, her hands are raw and stained and she looks weary.
She wiped the jars clean and put them on a rack to cool before carrying them down the narrow steps
that led to the dirt-floored cellar. The jars were set on the wide white shelves and with a sigh she pulled
the door shut. Then one blustery winter day I imagine a child was sent down to retrieve some of summers
preserved harvest; maybe a jar of yellow peaches or sour red cherries from the tree that the storm took down just a few years
But now the shelves sit mostly empty and the little room has not
much purpose other than to access the temperamental plumbing. My unused canning supplies are there along
with some empty wine bottles saved in case I ever decide to take up wine making. Many times I wish I’d
left all the old jars with their mysterious contents. I will never paint the wall in the barn loft because
when something moves you, it’s better left as is.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Critters, mine and others.
1:17 pm edt
It was a weekend with not a spare
minute, yet I’m afraid all of my labors will only be noticed by me and the animals, and they couldn’t care less.
The past couple of days have indeed been animal focused; cleaning the barn, stripping the hen house and seeking homes
for the latest chickens who have announced their manhood with pathetic warbling crowing efforts. As I worked
a red tail hawk swooped down and attempted to snatch lunch. The roosters, every last one of them proved
worthless as protectors of their respective harems. They had one concern and that was saving their own
butts. It was every hen for herself. After watching briefly from a tree near the barn
the hawk left, but I’ve no doubt he’ll be back, especially since the security guards have shown themselves to
be utterly lazy and inept.
Last night was a landmark for Jimmie, the
foster pup. He spent his first night in the house rather than in the barn as the weather had turned frosty.
He did remarkably well for such a young dog. Jimmy will be moving to his new home this coming weekend and while he is cute
as a bug, the dogs, the cats and I will all be happy to return to our old routine.
Buddy the cat hasn’t been herself lately, so this morning she went to the vet.
(I’ve spent a lot of time there lately, not to mention a lot of money.) It seems Buddy has a heart murmur, possibly
caused from gingivitis. Who knew! And so, she will undergo oral surgery to have a few
bad teeth removed and the remainder cleaned. She will be put on antibiotics and I will have one more giant
vet bill. It’s best if I don’t give too much thought to these costs. It
would be just too depressing. (I did advise the vet that under no circumstances would I okay a heart transplant
or pacemaker for Buddy. One must draw the line somewhere!)
the vet clinic I was astounded to see so many Vote Yes on Issue 2 signs. Apparently the $7 million dollar
investment by those pushing this issue is paying off. The signs refer to “food safety” and
“excellent animal care.” It’s obvious that some of those with yard signs have bought
into the misleading implications and that they really do believe that the proposed board of “experts” will benefit
small family farmers or protect our foods. For the most part these farmers already do provide humane and
appropriate care for their livestock. How many small or organic producers do you think contributed to that $7 million?
My guess is not many.
fear this issue will pass, based solely on implications rather than the truthful agenda. It will pass because of voter apathy.
Researching a ballot proposal before casting a vote takes time and objectivity. It’s work that most of us don’t
bother with and in this case it is my belief that if Issue 2 passes it will lead to a false justification for confinement
livestock farms, more puppy mills and worst of all, a further distancing of society from the real sources of the foods
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Music in the country
3:52 pm edt
Tonight is the
first music potluck of the season; the official beginning of fall. For the past 20+ years a group of dear
friends has gotten together the second Saturday of every month to play old time music, consume a lot of good food and catch
up on one another's lives. Since people are usually busy with other things, we break for the summer.
But before you know it, it’s October and we re-launch the get-togethers meeting at a different home each
month, but our first potluck of the season is always in Kent. This photo of a few of the music makers was taken
here at one of last years parties. Most of the musicians are very accomplished. I am
not, but they politely allow me to plunk away on my guitar anyway. This is the true test of friendship!
But not everyone shares an interest or appreciation for traditional music.
Since 3 PM a steady thud, thud, thud... has been reverberating throughout the area. The origin of this rudeness is a
full half mile up the road and there is reason to believe it will go on into the wee hours.
Friday, October 9, 2009
5:27 pm edt
Rain, rain and more rain. It feels like a London day. Balmy and wet and not unpleasant to be outside, but
not nice enough to tackle the planned project. The forcast for the weekend is not encouraging either, so trail blazing
is on hold.
If the rain continues, as predicted the cellar will soon be under water. While such conditions might
be alarming in other homes, for this place it's just the norm. In fact John Grogg deliberately built this house over
a spring which gurgled out of the floor. Just imagine! He must have been the envy of the area with his 1821 in-house
refrigeration. He also built the house on bedrock, so the water cut a channel through the stone as it made its way out
the cellar door, but when the addition was built everything changed.
As the excavators dug (with great difficulty)
through the rock to create a usable workshop room the source of the spring was diverted. In an instant the gentle gurgle
became a gush of icy water that poured from the side wall and quickly filled the new basement room. The flow was about
what a fire hose would produce. This "problem" was solved by the installation of five drains to route
water down to the leaky pond. The spring must be somewhat seasonal since the cellar dries up eventually. This system works
reasonably well until we get a lot of rain. Then the old spot erupts again.
Since there is a drop of about three
feet from the old cellar down to the new room the cascading water sounds like a waterfall (which essentially is what it is...),
so the sound in the living room directly above creates a strange ambiance.
When I hear people worry and fret
about a "damp basement" it makes me giggle. If they only knew! By morning mine will be a wading pool.
5:26 pm edt
Rain, rain and more rain. It feels like a London day. Balmy and wet and not unpleasant to be outside, but
it isn't nice enough to tackle the trail project. The forcast for the weekend is not encouraging either, so trail blazing
plans are on hold.
If the rain continues, as predicted the cellar will soon be under water. While such conditions
might be alarming in other homes, for this place it's just the norm. In fact John Grogg deliberately built this house
over a spring which gurgled out of the floor. Just imagine! He must have been the envy of the area with his 1821
in-house refrigeration. He also built the house on bedrock, so the water cut a channel through the stone as it made
its way out the cellar door, but when the addition was built everything changed.
As the excavators dug (with
great difficulty) through the rock to create a usable workshop room the source of the spring was diverted. In an instant
the gentle gurgle became a gush of icy water that poured from the side wall and quickly filled the new basement room.
The flow was about what a fire hose would produce. This "problem" was solved by the installation of five drains
to route water down to the leaky pond. The spring must be somewhat seasonal since the cellar dries up eventually. This system
works reasonably well until we get a lot of rain. Then the old spot erupts again.
Since there is a drop of about
three feet from the old cellar down to the new room the cascading water sounds like a waterfall (which essentially is what
it is...), so the sound in the living room directly above creates a strange ambiance.
When I hear people worry
and fret about a "damp basement" it makes me giggle. If they only knew! By morning mine will be a wading pool.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
4:20 pm edt
The wilderness outside my back door
4:17 pm edt
I live on a paved road and town is only about nine miles away. This is hardly the wilderness I wish it
were, but wilderness is formally defined as “a mostly uninhabited area of land in its natural uncultivated state…,”
so according to that definition the area south of the orchard is a wilderness.
When I first got this place, the only cleared area was immediately surrounding the house. There
was so much work to do that venturing into the bush wasn’t even a consideration. It was an impenetrable
tangle of multiflora rose, wild berries, saplings and vines. But in the summer of 1990 my life changed
drastically. Exploring the unexplored became my obsession and therapy.
Armed with a lopper, a hatchet and a Cub Cadet garden tractor I set forth. It wasn’t easy
work. The little tractor would plunge into the tangle until it could go no further. Then I’d jump
off, hack away with the hatchet and lopper and move forward a little more. It took all summer and I was
pretty well cut to ribbons in the process, but I had created what is now referred to as my nature trail. It
loops through the trees, and wild raspberry and blackberry bushes and there is something wonderful to see and enjoy every
day. There’s a rustic bench made of a couple logs and a plank. In the springtime the area directly
in front of it is a carpet of violets. Part of the trail cuts through a thicket of poison ivy (appropriately dubbed the poison
ivy leg). It passes an ancient manure spreader and corn planter that have been in place so long that a
tree has grown up through the bed of the spreader. I don’t think of the old iron-wheeled relic as
junk, but as sculpture.
The trail has evolved over the years and visitors enjoy it. Some of them act as if it’s a
real adventure, so it’s nice to share with those who rarely get off a paved surface. I hate to mow,
but driving the tractor along this pathway is fun. My nature trail is lovely and it was worth every cut and scrape!
So, today I decided to expand it to the south since this area is utterly impassable.
The dogs and I tried to find just a deer trail to follow, but it was impossible. The prospect of
making this corridor is exciting, but it will have to wait until the weekend. To be continued….
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Another surprise package
11:30 am edt
Fall blew in with gusto yesterday and in addition to the flurry of limbs, leaves and chevron geese
that honked their way over the barn, it brought with it everything to which I seem to be allergic. It knocked
my socks off, hence no Tuesday post. My apologies.
Another mysterious gift from Kenny appeared this morning at the end of the driveway. How he manages
these surreptitious deliveries is a mystery considering all my “watch dogs.”
It’s a wonder the roaring winds didn’t blow this surprise away like the leaves, but when I let the puppy
out, there on the other side of the gate sat a box that I knew could only have come from up the road. The
box was perforated, like boxes that contain small birds or animals. This was worrisome, but I need not
have been concerned. Kenny was merely recycling.
In today’s parcel was the ubiquitous loaf of raisin spelt bread, still in the store packaging, so
it might even be fresh. Also in the box were many chestnuts. I’d admired Kenny’s
laden trees when I took something up to him and apparently he remembered that I said I love chestnuts. There
were also two suspicious walnuts of dubious age and there was a small container of beautiful red raspberries
which I suspect he bought down in Amish country. How many people are lucky enough to have a neighbor like
Last winter, just about dusk neighbor Sandy called. “Kenny’s cow is down at the mailbox
and I’m afraid she’s going to get hit by a car.” No other explanation was necessary.
Fencing at his place is either non-existent or easily breached. I hopped in my truck and headed up the road.
Sandy was waiting at the end of her drive and jumped in. As we drove toward Kenny’s, she asked.
“Do you know how to handle cattle?”
Well, the honest answer would have to be “no,” but I guessed we’d both learn in a couple of minutes.
Apparently cow had tired of waiting for Kenny and headed back down the lane. The big Ayrshire with horns greeted us
at the barn with a look that said, “Where the heck is Kenny?”
to do. Did she need to be milked? It was hard to tell, but one thing was certain, I
wasn’t about to get a bucket and find out in the middle of the snowy field in the fast-ebbing light. From
inside the barn we heard a bellow.
I may have mentioned that Kenny’s a collector of stuff; nothing in particular, just anything and everything that
he can haul home and dump in the barn. At auctions he collects all the leftovers. Waste
not, want not….
We fought our way through this maze of rubbish
and ultimately made our way through the milk house and into the bottom of the barn where cow’s half grown calf was tethered.
Only then did we find a light switch. The bottom barn was not quite as cluttered as the rest, but
there was an assortment of farming remnants throughout including petrified harness (Kenny hasn’t worked horses since
1941), broken pitch forks, old crocks and lumber. Cookie, the beagle growled at us from her bed in the
corner. We watered and fed the terrified calf who probably weighed about 700 pounds at the time and got hay for the cow.
There wasn’t much else to do. We left Kenny a note and departed.
He never mentioned the incident to either of us and to this day we have no
idea where he was that cold blustery night. Neighbor Sandy is convinced he has an Amish girlfriend, but
I think not.
Cow is friendly and she’s a pretty
thing. Her son now sports a big brass nose ring and while I’m not afraid of cow, the bull who is now about
half a ton is intimidating!
Monday, October 5, 2009
Cans = cat food
8:15 pm edt
Today began with the rumble of the township mowing crew (actually just a crew of one) clearing the roadsides of the
lovely tall flowers of autumn. Quickly gone were the goldenrod, the ironweed, Queen Anne’s lace and
all the other ‘weeds’ that made such a lovely palette on either side of the pavement. In their
place was the exposed rubbish thrown from passing cars; some of it shredded, while other things like those horrid plastic
water bottles and giant cheap-beer cans remained ugly and intact—indestructible!
Twice a week, when I walk without the dogs I collect those last two items, popping those I see into a plastic bag.
The water and pop bottles just go in the recycle bin, but the beer cans go in a special bin. When this
is full—and it fills up quickly, I take it to the scrap yard and typically get a few dollars. While
this may hardly seem worth the effort it pays off in several ways: First, it removes litter.
Second, it adds another dimension of exercise to my walk. Third, the money goes into a “fund”
which is used to buy cat food for a fellow whose middle name is BAD LUCK. Fourth is the gratification of
knowing that the slobs who mindlessly threw their emptied cans of rot-gut into the lovely countryside are indirectly contributing
to a charity of my choice. In recent years this charity is a little Leprechaun of a man I shall call Buddy.
Buddy was discovered
digging through a trash bin a few years ago and feeding whatever he found to his two waiting dogs. When
my friend came upon him she asked if he could use some pet food and Buddy gratefully accepted the offer. One
thing led to another and soon she, I and my friend (whom I admittedly conned into hanging dry wall) found ourselves renovating
Buddy’s pathetic house, taking all of his cats and dogs to the vet and supplying him with pet food. It now seems apparent
that this angel of mercy role is unending.
When I hear Buddy’s funny lisping voice on the answering machine telling me he’s “out of cat food…”
that’s when I tap into the beer can “fund.”
the end the road is cleaner, I’m more fit and Buddy’s cats have food, so maybe it’s a win-win deal.
Even so, the thoughtless irresponsible littering by the drunken cretins who cruise this road infuriates me.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Can't tell a book by its cover
2:07 pm edt
If you saw these apples at the grocery store you’d probably pass them by. They aren’t
big, shiny, pretty nor even moderately appealing, but that’s just the outside.
When I got this farm there were several old fruit trees in addition to those in the apple orchard.
Several “experts” advised cutting down the misshapen tree between the house and barn, but I resisted and
have not regretted the decision once-especially this time of year. Who knows what kind of apple this is,
but it really makes a lovely pie.
to trim it according to the fruit growers guide, and in general it now has the recommended umbrella shape, but tending just
a couple apple trees has given me greater respect for those with big orchards. It’s a lot of work,
snipping the rain spouts, cutting away the dead and remembering to spray the dormant oil. Since I don’t
use any other chemicals the apples are far from perfect specimens.
I’ve planted several additional fruit trees over the years, but these new varieties are not nearly so hardy as
old trees like the one that produced these apples. Between this tree and the other oldsters in the orchard,
the donkeys and I have plenty of tasty apples, even if they aren’t pretty or perfect. Gee, do you
suppose there is some other message here???
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Knowledge is power
5:48 pm edt
time is coming up and on the Ohio ballot this year is the controversial Issue 2 which deals with farm animal welfare.
Issue 2 would set up the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. In a nutshell, passage will result in a board that will
decide standards under which food animals are raised. Proponents point out that this panel will include
one county humane society representative, a couple of veterinarians, and some family farmers among others. Up
front all of this sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? Looking at the details tells the real story. Passage
of Issue 2 will result in a board of “foxes” in charge of Ohio’s “hen houses.”
Yes, I’m a longtime vegetarian, but I don’t care if the rest of the world eats ground up tires.
It’s not my business, nor my concern, but proponents of this issue will have you believe that opponents of the
referendum have an agenda to force all of the rest of you to eat as I do. ‘Utter nonsense and outright
lies. This is what gets my dander up. The issue is being presented to the public under the guise of protecting
your right to choose your diet, protecting food safety and providing the best care for the animals that ultimately make their
way to your plate. This is not the real agenda of Issue 2. This is smoke and mirrors.
Agribusiness, AKA factory
or industrial farms stand to gain because they will be able to continue business as usual. Yet the proponents
are telling the public that passage is necessary to save “family farms.” This claim is always
accompanied by a background of happy Holsteins grazing in a dazzling green pastures and testimony from a dairy farmer who
milks 600 cows thrice daily. It is highly unlikely that 600 cows are out in grassy pastures.
Cows only produce milk when they have calves. Where are the crated veal calves in this Pro-Issue
I once did
a story about a mega dairy that milked a couple thousand cows. The image of a row of 400 wooden crates,
each containing a black and white calf unable to even turn around or lie down comfortably is forever etched in my mind.
The farm manager casually said, “When the flies are bad you can’t even tell that these are Holsteins because
they’re black (covered in flies). The television stations came out here because animal rights people
got all up in arms. We’ll have to do something about the manure under the crates this year.”
just a sample of the misleading promotion of Issue 2. If it were really about protecting “family
farms” and sustainable agriculture, which I’m 100% for, the plethora of pro-Issue 2 literature would show the
big producers who will comprise this bogus ''animal welfare" board.
in farrowing crates, or crowded pens that encourage cannibalism is standard procedure for pork production, but unless Jimmy
Dean is your daddy, this isn’t how hogs are raised on “family farms.” The same goes for
laying hens. Big producers don’t want to be told that confining birds in a tiny cage where they do
nothing but eat and drop an egg onto a conveyor belt is not a humane way to get eggs (Nature’s perfect food…),
but providing a bigger cage cuts into profits. They claim opponents just don’t understand and tell the
public that their only concern is for the safety of the animals and the food supply.
I consider myself an animal welfare advocate, but not an animal rights LUNATIC. Statistics support the
fact that livestock raised under more natural and humane conditions are healthier and that the end products are of better
quality. Foods produced under such conditions sell for premium prices and this is what helps save
small family farms.
Issue 2 is not about saving anything but the status
quo. I’m off my soap box now, but the point of this rant is to be an informed voter.
I can't abide dishonesty. Go to the proponents of Issue 2 sites as well as those listed below and decide for yourself. While
I do not support HSUS as I prefer hard scientific facts rather than emotional pleas, the argument against Issue 2 is pretty
well-explained in this link.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Good news, bad news...
6:31 pm edt
early morning was overcast, the sun quickly broke through beckoning me outside. I could work on assignments
later, after dark. It would be a shame to waste such a golden day, especially with so much to be done like
working on that giant ragweed, mowing and pulling out dead garden plants. I really did have all the best
intentions, but the dogs wanted to play Frisbee, go for a walk, have their pictures taken and lounge under the beautiful blue
skies, so what else could I do? I granted all their requests and got little yard work done.
While the day was lovely, a frost is predicted, so I’m hauling potted plants inside for the winter. The coleus
should be happy here in my office and geraniums always brighten the kitchen throughout the winter with happy red blooms.
I’m looking forward to winter.
What a joy to report that the dumped pup, tentatively named Jimmie has been adopted and will be moving to Cincinnati
next week where he will have a wonderful home with my friend. I couldn’t be happier, although I’ll
miss the little guy. He has changed so much in the short time he’s been here. He’s
filling out and he’s happy. He is also extremely smart, not to mention being simply adorable.
This is the good news.
The bad news is that a dog that appears to be his mother along with a sibling has been spotted, but they have not yet
been rescued. The longer they are on their own, the more difficult rescue will become. The
pup won’t survive unless the mom can still provide some milk, but that’s not likely. I, the
police chief and neighbor Sandy are all searching for them, but the brush and the woods are dense and the dogs are frightened.
Keep your fingers crossed!
Other good news is indirectly related to the dog situation. It seems the mother dog killed a couple
of chickens on the next road. One of them was a rooster the fellow had only gotten two days earlier.
Needless to say that upon hearing this story I stopped and offered him a replacement. One of the teenagers is moving
out tomorrow. Whew, things like this rarely happen. So far the other young ones are
keeping their gender a secret. Only the handsome black boy has crowed, so with a bit of luck the others
are pullets. The man who will be his new owner told me he names them and says, “I like to just sit
out here and watch them. It’s relaxing.”
Observing the world around you, not just glancing past it, but really looking at it is a great tonic. On
days like this I’m especially grateful for my small country life.