My Small Country Life

Published Works
Favorite Photos
Useful Links
Contact Karen
Archive Newer | Older

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A busy day.


            I’m pleased to announce a successful adoption of the incubator chick that hatched just as I entered the barn this morning.  Peeps that hatch in the sterile confines of machinery, whose first sensation is that of the wire grid under them and being isolated from their own kind is sad.  The wet little chick peeped pathetically and wobbled around on the wire, instinctively calling out for comfort.  But the incubator was warm and ultimately the little guy/gal was dry, but not fluffy like chicks that hatch under a hen and are dried by her soft feathers. 

            Introducing the peep to the other setting hen was scary.  Would she reject the newcomer and possibly even hurt it?  It was a chance that had to be taken, so late this afternoon I tucked the hatchling under her and thankfully she pushed it under her fluffy breast and settled down with it.  She seems quite natural in her maternal role.  This is her first chick.  I put all but two of her remaining eggs in the incubator so she can concentrate on becoming the proverbial mother hen.  Tomorrow I’ll move the pair and the remaining eggs into the maternity ward.

            Later today neighbor Karen drove her vintage 1950 tractor with the brush hog down the road and cleared the lower field.  It was a dicey trip for Karen as the tractor has no brakes.  Mowing around her own farm isn’t a problem, but Karen lives up the road, at the top of the hill.  You can see how coming down here could be a problem, but she only drifted a little ways past the gate and we had a good laugh.

            I thought surely the donkeys would be excited to get into that newly-mown field, but they’ve been concentrating on their current project—paint removal.  At the rate they’re going the renovated stall will soon look as ratty as it did before I painted it.

            Getting ready for a party is a lot of work.  I’ve become quite good at framing photo shots for this blog in very flattering ways.  The published images don’t show the whole picture, so now I’m working like a beaver to tidy things up.  Like I said, it’s a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to spending Sunday afternoon with friends. 

            Ted has an early morning vet appointment because something is wrong with his back leg.  He is very uncomfortable and can put absolutely no weight on the left leg.  He’s had pain medication, but the vet could not get him in this afternoon.  If it were my own leg I’d just muddle through, but when it’s one of the animals it’s a different story.  I can’t bear to see them in any discomfort.  Hopefully it’s just a sprain.  To be continued.



9:31 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good mothers.


           Fluffy and Buffy are caring moms to these three chicks.  Another hen is setting on some of Fluffy’s abandoned eggs as well as a mountain of other eggs her gal pals have donated.  In the incubator are eight more eggs, but I fear this batch is doomed as Ginny’s old incubator seems to be malfunctioning. The temperature should be 97 degrees and it was when I set things up, but this morning the thermometer registered only 80 degrees.  I cranked up the heat and rotated the eggs. If there is no sign of life from within these eight eggs in a weeks time I will presume they are duds.  Being a poultry farmer is challenging.  I’m joking, of course.



8:59 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 28, 2010


            Part of living a country life involves regular trips to the feed mill, a place I love. To celebrate its centennial last summer the quaint building next to the railroad tracks got a fresh coat of bright yellow paint.  Colorful lettering on the side suggested a few products they carry; seed, fertilizer, Manna Pro, Joy dog food, fuel oil…. From the historical photos hanging inside, the place hasn’t changed much in the past century.  Oh sure,  I could go to Tractor Supply where the prices are a little cheaper and the inventory is vast, but there’s no ambiance, no cats on the counter, no Wally or Ed or the other guys that have been there forever.  I love the Hartville Elevator.

            When I was there this morning I looked at the place with fresh eyes  There were the familiar faces of Ed the owner, Craig, “…with the pretty eyes” as my daughter refers to him, and the fellow whose name I can never remember who rings up the sale and always presents the itty bitty receipt from an old-fashioned cash register.  In the winter Wally delivers heating oil.  John loads heavy sacks of grain or dog food in my truck even before I’ve paid for it and knows without asking whether to put it inside (if the weather is bad) or in the truck bed, like today.  I suspect the guys  know all of their customers about as well.  This kind of service doesn’t exist in too many places these days.

            The sales room is small.  In the summer the old screen door invites a gentle breeze, and a fan keeps the temperature comfortable.  ‘No AC here.  The resident cats are usually snoozing on bags of dog food or on the counter and someone is usually petting them. The well-worn floors are swept clean with a broom and the store smells of old wood and grain.  There’s a bulletin board on the wall behind the counter with about a hundred overlapping notes tacked on it.  I don’t think anyone ever removes outdated ‘for sale’ or ‘lost’ notices and I’ll bet if one were to search down a few layers there would be listings from ten years ago.  Sometimes a farm truck is dumping a load of ear corn into the grinder next to the narrow wooden loading dock.  Birds love these days.

            If your best friend happens to be waiting in the truck you can buy him an individual dog biscuit or a small brown paper sack of peanuts for yourself.  Farm & Dairy weekly newspaper is always on the counter to peruse while the men get orders together.  In the back section there are bins of garden seeds, but only the most popular varieties, never anything fancy.  You won’t find arugula seed at the mill.  If varmints are raiding your garden you can get a live trap. It will be near the bags of ‘squirrel corn,’ sunflower seeds other wildlife treats.  In other words, you can find most of what you need at the Elevator, but not necessarily what you want. 

            One late fall day, after delivering fuel oil at neighbor Sandy’s Wally pulled the truck into my driveway.  The old red Elevator heating oil truck is just about half the size of the BP truck and the oil costs more, but some of the people on the road get their fuel from the mill out of loyalty.  I’ll probably switch from BP myself this winter.  Wally stopped by to visit the donkeys who of course love being the center of attention. 

            We stood at the fence chatting as the boys nosed around Wally’s jacket just in case he had some treats for them.  Suddenly he dug down in his pocket and pulled out a harmonica and began to play. He played quite well too.  This was a strange new sound for Corkey and Andy. They acted as if they had been shot and broke into the fastest donkey canter I’d ever seen.  It looked as if they’d been fired from a cannon and they didn’t stop running until they hit the barn door.   Then they turned to look back at the noise coming from the lower field.

            Just as suddenly as Wally began playing, he broke into spontaneous song; “Oh I had a blue mule...,” he sang without a hint of embarrassment.  It was one of those frosty late afternoons I’ll never forget.  I can buy arugula seeds at Tractor Supply if I want, but I’m pretty sure none of their employees would stop by with a harmonica and a song.

            Sorry I didn’t have my camera along today, but here’s a link to the mill:



6:53 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Animal helpers.


            Andy sauntered into his stall, cast a discerning eye at my handiwork and said in distinct donkey talk, “I hate this color!”  I had to agree with him, the new color on the freshly-painted stall walls was the result of mixing several partial cans that I knew would never have any other use.  The last time I’d painted the stall it was a handsome hunter green on the lower portion with pale yellow upper walls.  It looked good, but over the past decade the bad asses had chewed most of the green paint off and what remained was a mess.  The stall is fresh even if the color is awful.  Corkey is less critical of décor so long as food appears in his grain box on a regular basis.

            Today my daughter and I attended a documentary in Cleveland.  It was called The Peaceable Kingdom, the journey home.  I definitely recommend it.  While some of the concepts may be radical, what is presented is honest and disturbing, but also inspiring.  I may write more about this experience later, but at the moment I am trying to compose myself.

            I’ve frequently bragged about my perfect puppy, the one who never does anything bad, but in my heart I knew it was too good to be true. I returned from Cleveland to find that she had done some “handiwork” of her own with my favorite Oriental rug.  It was upsetting, but I have cobbled the rug back together  (It now looks like a rag.) and have decided that the perfect puppy will either have to go to the basement or stay in the laundry room when I go away for an extended time.  Julie says she is sorry, but I don’t think I’ll risk another “redecorating” job in the near future. I've no one to blame but myself on this one.



9:33 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 26, 2010



            Yesterday, just as expected the first egg hatched under Fluffy the little white silkie.  It hatched, but it did not survive, not even long enough to dry off.  The huge black chick was still in a slightly constricted position when found.  I guess it would be chicken SIDS.  But, not to worry, this morning a darling tiny chick the color of pumpkin pie greeted me and more eggs are chirping. I don't usually name the chickens, but this peep is so cute I do think I'll call it Pumpkin.

            Since it will not be possible for the hen to care for chicks AND incubate the remaining eggs I have made the necessary arrangements to do the work for her.  She will set until a few more peeps hatch and then she will abandon the nest, so I went over to Ginny’s to borrow her incubator.  When Fluffy tires of setting on that mountain of eggs I’ll pop them into the incubator.  When the chicks hatch I’ll  slip the orphans under the hen during the night and since chickens are not terribly astute, I’m pretty sure she will accept them.

            The temperature was in the upper 80’s when I drove up Ginny's long lane but there she was in her high-top LL Bean boots, jeans and a pink T-shirt with some rock band name on the front  out hoeing the garden.  She hugged me with surprising strength, as if she didn’t ever want to let go.

            Her pretty blue eyes only require glasses for reading and her hearing is as sharp as her mind.  Ginny is something else. “So, how are you?” I ask.  “Oh, not so good,” she says.  “I don’t know why I get so darned tired!”  I point out that age 99+ one might expect to be tired.  She laughs and we go inside her immaculate house and have a piece of home-baked apple pie. 



7:42 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 25, 2010

To tell the truth.


            I’ve often remarked that I love my job and I really do.  My work is interesting, sometimes challenging and often inspiring.  A lot of people think being a writer is glamorous, but it isn’t.  It’s a job for people who enjoy research and who seek ideas and solutions. Sure the travel and interviews are fun, but sometimes there are aggravations that are not fun or inspiring, but nevertheless demand attention.  Such was the case yesterday.

            Equine slaughter has been a controversial issue for several years.  Essentially there are more horses, donkeys and mules than there are good homes.  Many of these animals are little more than commodities to their owners and as such the owners send them to what are known as killer sales when they are no longer wanted.  Rather than the owner paying a vet for euthanasia the animal is auctioned for its “salvage value” as a meat animal.

            The sales are wretched places and the horses are roughly handled. Many are terrorized and injured in the course of the sale, but after the auction, things get even worse. From the sale barn they are crammed into trucks and hauled for days without food or water to a slaughter house.  Many never make it to that dismal destination alive.  Until recently there were three American abattoirs exclusively for equine.  These were USDA regulated and the kill method involved stunning the animal to unconsciousness with a captive bolt gun before bleeding it to death.  The carcass was shipped abroad where horsemeat is a common menu option.

            Then an effective campaign was launched by emotion-driven animal rights activists and major “humane” societies who stood to profit by taking credit (and yes, those non-profits do take in boatloads of money, sometimes under false pretenses…) for passing the legislation. Politicians who stood to enhance their own public images helped shut down those three equine abattoirs.  Whoopee!  They all patted themselves on the back as if they had successfully legislated compassion.  The killer sales continued.

            Now, rather than a couple of days travel to a regulated slaughter in the USA, the doomed animals face much lengthier trips to far more brutal fates in Mexico or to Canada (less horrible, but still farther distances).  Those who sent their unwanted equine to killer sales before the shut-down still do so.  Legislation did not change their attitudes, nor did it encourage them to “put the horses out to pasture” as suggested by opponents to previously-legalized slaughter.  These people are still regularly sending the old, the lame, the sickly, the unwanted-for-whatever-reason to the auctions where the killer vendors still buy them.  Nothing has changed—for the better.  Things have only changed for the worse.

            In the past I have written articles about this issue for several horse and ag magazines, but I did my homework.  I’ve been to the sales.  I interviewed those whose job it is to actually kill animals.  I listened to the pros and cons of the captive bolt gun from people who use it.  I’m involved with “horsey” individuals ranging from those who operate sanctuaries to those who breed, sell and use equids.  I have listened to both sides and one thing stands out; many of the loudest voices against legalized US horse slaughter, those who present themselves as experts have never owned, cared for or contributed to the care of any horse, donkey or mule.  Few have talked to horse haulers, gone to a sale or offered any viable realistic alternatives. 

            Yesterday I received email from just such an individual who sees a Canadian decision to shoot (with a gun) horses destined for meat rather than using the captive bolt gun as fodder to shut down Canadian abattoirs as well.  This apartment-dwelling woman presents herself as educated while accusing me of not being so on this subject (she has a PhD and I don’t…).  Her attempts to insult me are annoying, yes, but more importantly she reminds me of my obligation to use my position to present honest representations of issues as polarizing as horse slaughter.

            Regardless of how one feels about this subject, reality needs to be considered!  So, when you the reader open your mail and find a plea for money to fight this battle, I suggest you ask the solicitor for precise options to slaughter.  You will not get a rational answer—guaranteed!  Ask how many sanctuaries they fund and support with the money they want you to send them.  The woman who emailed me says the answer to the problem is “mandatory sterilization.”  Think about this for a minute and you will see that any logical response to such a solution is utterly impossible.  As one editor referred to the likes of her, “…a whack job.”

            It would have made far more sense initially to fight for legislation setting strict standards for more humane equine-specific slaughter facilities, much as Temple Grandin did for bovine abattoirs than it made to shut them down. These activists take no responsibility nor do they even acknowledge what their “victory” has wrought.  I could go on and on, but I won’t.

            Being a writer is not glamorous.



2:09 pm edt          Comments

Oh, what a beautiful morning!


            What a spectacular way to start the day!  The sun is bright, woodpeckers are performing in the old walnut tree, accompanying the chorus of frogs down at scummy pond.  Were it not for the tormenting insects life would be perfect—well, almost….  Right on schedule eggs are peeping in the barn.  Photos to follow as chicks immerge.  I’ve stopped waffling about the annual party here and have notified friends.  Preparing for a party, even a simple garden-type party is a lot of work, but what the heck.  I’ll just do it and pretend that I’m a guest when the time arrives.



8:43 am edt          Comments

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stormy weather.


            Huge storms hit yesterday and power was lost for several hours.  Julie didn't mind.  She just took a nap.  And no, we did not feel the earthquake, but folks just slightly south of here swear they did.  Although the forecast promised clearing, it has rained off and on all day and it appears we may be in for another stormy evening.  This is great weather for weeding and transplanting and after the previous unseasonal heat the rains caused seemingly-dormant plants to go into overtime production.  Yesterday I picked the first crop of beans and yellow squash.  If I chose to I could also have harvested beets!  Amazing.

            A friend from NM came for dinner and it was lovely to prepare food which had been in the garden only hours earlier.  There were even fresh raspberries on custard for dessert.  Delicious!

            The only thing still refusing to grow is lettuce.  I’ve lost track of how many times this has been planted, replanted and replanted….  The tiny leaves seem not to change from day to day in spite of excellent conditions.

            Eggs should begin chirping tomorrow.  When Fluffy, the little white silkie became broody this last time I marked four eggs for her to set.  Little did I realize that her gal pals were going above and beyond the call of sisterhood, cranking out a mountain of eggs!  Certainly not all will hatch, but she should end up with several peeps.  How exciting!  After all these years it is still thrilling to walk into the barn early in the morning and hear tiny chirps from within the eggs.  Then I find a dozen reasons to go to the barn throughout the day and once I’m there, well, of course I just have to check on the progress. 

            Since I am forced to endure photos of other people’s grandchildren (who all look like J. Edgar Hoover anyway), I will post photos of the new ‘kids’ here ASAP.



6:59 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Be nasty to nasturiums.


            Yesterday felt as if I had accomplished nothing, when in truth I had finished two writing projects, cleaned the barn, stripped my bed and hung the freshly-laundered linens on the clothesline (allergies, so what! I love the smell of sunshine…), gave myself a pedicure (must treat myself to another professional one sometime, since I still recall what a luxury it was…), finished that dreary book and started another one (quite good I might add…) and installed a new toilet seat (would have been easier to rebuild a carburetor…), so in fact I did get a good bit done, not to mention weeding one of the gardens.

            Then a friend called to confess she was in the dumps, feeling as if her life were going nowhere fast.  I empathized.  No sooner had the call ended and another friend called with essentially the same lament.  What is one to make of all this?  ‘Must have been the summer solstice.

            It’s no secret that I’m fanatical about trees, but one can only have so many.  It kills me to pull up the volunteer maples and oaks that pop up in the most unsuitable places.  If found when still tiny seedlings I yank them out with abandon, but every so often a healthy specimen hides until it is several feet tall and then suddenly reveals itself.  How these escape detection for so long is a mystery. I cannot bring myself to uproot and discard them like rubbish, so I put a couple of lovely Norway maples in a bucket of water next to the fence with a sign: Free Maple Trees.  So far; no takers.

            T. says I should have put For Sale on them along with a can for honor system payment.  For sure someone would steal them and then the trees would be gone.  As it is they sit pitifully by the road as endless cars, trucks and tractors pass by.  Dare I even think about putting a bucket filled with healthy Rose of Sharon starts out there?  I have a gazillion of them!

            Some of the lofty plans I had during the winter for spring projects have been put on hold.  I refer to the “garden” area by the manure spreader and corn planter.  While the early spring multiflora rose eradication went well enough, the farm relics are already consumed by a new jungle of vegetation.  Then there was the extended Nature Trail.  That project is most definitely on hold!  In order to cut this trail I must recruit a scout to walk ahead of the tractor and detect holes, rocks, stumps or swampy areas that could swallow the tractor.  No one wants this job. The brambles and the bugs and the humidity make this something only a masochist would tackle.  It’s on the back burner until autumn.

            Then there is the issue of the annual July garden party to consider.  Each year for more years than I can recall I have hosted a party the first weekend of July.  Lots of interesting people, tons of delicious food, music under the big maple tree and an overall good feeling because so many nice people are part of my life.  This year I’m ambivalent about having it.  I’ll think about it later.  Right now I’m going to transplant more tomatoes and enjoy the beautiful nasturtiums which I’ve planted everywhere.  The saying refers to adding nitrogen (AKA manure) to the potting mix and obviously, it works!



7:58 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 21, 2010



            The gate at the end of the drive was necessary because my dearly-departed Nettie had an uncontrollable urge to chase anything and everything that went down the road.  Nothing deterred her, not even underground invisible electric fence.  Being a smart Border Collies, she quickly figured out how to disable the device by going into the pond which effectively shorted out the battery in her collar and voila, she was free.  The pipe gate was the ultimate solution.  Nettie's gone, but I keep the gate closed.

            Visitors complain because it requires them to either park along the road or to get out of their car and open the barrier (unless I’m expecting them and have opened it).  I don’t care.  I love having the gate.  Sure, it keeps the dogs safely confined, but it symbolizes security in other ways.  It keeps the world at bay and feeds my belief that one can actually control some things.

            The world news is so depressing and hopeless, if one is to be realistic.  I remember being naïve enough to actually believe that equality, justice, peace and civility were viable concepts if we just worked hard enough.  Now I know that these are only attainable in the worlds we create around us.  The world inside this gate is calm, polite and peaceful.

            A few days ago I saw old Kenny setting another fire along his lane.  This has always been a sort of seasonal ritual—all seasons!  Watching fire tidy things up is satisfying to those of us with a touch of pyromania.  Until farmer Chuck came upon the scene there was always plenty for Kenny to torch whenever the mood struck him.  Dry weeds, litter from the roadside and from his own waste bin provided fuel for casual fires along the long lane leading back to the farm.  It all went up in orange flames with ease.  There was no danger of the lane itself catching fire, nor the cultivated field to the north, so these could be considered “controlled burns.”  Things have changed in Kenny’s world.

            In his second year of working Kenny’s fields Chuck has taken enormous liberties with the entire farm.  It is so neat and tidy one hardly recognizes it as Kenny’s place anymore.  In addition to freshly-painted buildings, cleared brush and rubbish, he also mows the lane borders with a riding mower he brings in his truck.  There was nothing left for Kenny to burn.  Only one young Tree of Heaven interrupted the long velvety green strips leading back to the bright white barn and neatly-mown lawn.  But, now after Kenny’s persistent efforts, the Tree of Heaven has died and gone to Hell. 

            Kenny’s old Volvo station wagon always has plenty of combustibles inside, so for several consecutive days I have seen the vehicle parked next to the obstinate tree that clung to life in spite of anemic flames that licked at its base.  Daily, mountains of crumpled paper were heaped around its trunk, then lit by the old man who is silently watching his farm morph into a foreign landscape. 

            Chuck is a nice man and I’m sure he believes he is being helpful, but I feel so sorry for Kenny.  In just the past few years he has lost his sister, his dog, and now without even realizing it his farm.  Too bad Kenny didn’t have a gate at the end of his lane.

            I finished the Blue Shoe, all 319 pages of tedious contrivances. It is now in the “back to the thrift store” box.  A disappointing read I should have added to Kenny’s fire!



5:30 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pewrry poppiwa, daisies and buttercups.
3:40 pm edt          Comments

Just another sunny Sunday.


            I went to the grocery and returned to find that Julie, my perfect puppy had pulled back an Oriental rug and chewed up the underlying rubber pad that’s supposed to keep rugs in place on wood floors.  When my raised voice indicated disappointment and she heard the words, “Who did this?” she peed all over the place.  She’s very sensitive.

            Ernie, who already smelled like a cesspool from his daily swims in scummy pond found something delightfully disgusting to roll in, thus adding a concentrated eau de pew to his existing stink.  He will require yet another bath sometime today.

            Buddy the bully cat stalks poor timid Sissy and has turned her into a compulsive eater, but today Buddy met her match when Tom intervened.  While I don’t speak fluent Feline, I distinctly heard him say, “’Think you’re a big shot?  How do you like this?”  That was just before he rolled Buddy in the driveway and pounded on her head with his little boxer-glove paws.  A handful of gravel heaved in the direction of the fight broke up the battle—for now….  Did Buddy learn her lesson?  It’s doubtful.

            Yesterday Corkey met me at the gate with the left side of his face soaking wet from tears and his eye badly swollen.  A bee sting, perhaps?  Dirt or weed seed?  I don’t know, but repeated saline eye baths and triple antibiotic ointment seem to have cured the problem.  He’s fine this afternoon, thank goodness, but I’ll continue treatment for another day.  Animals usually choose weekends to develop problems.  I think knowing that weekend vet calls cost 3x as much makes them feel special.

            The good news is that the gardens are glorious!



2:17 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The insufferable heat.


            The heat is unbearable (to me anyway…).  I worked this morning at the Pegasus Farm fundraiser porch sale and it was pleasant with a nice breeze, but by afternoon it was miserable!  Came home and read more of this equally-miserable book.  I can honestly say, now that I’m more than half way through it, that it is one of the dullest, most boring reads I’ve ever picked up!!!  I hate Blue Shoe!  So why am I continuing to read it, you ask?  Hope springs eternal.  I keep thinking that soon any paragraph is going to introduce some interesting or maybe even exciting event, but in my heart I know this is not going to happen.  How and why did this book make the NY Times bestseller list???  I can’t wait to be done with it and when I am, it will not take up space on the bookshelves.  It will go to the thrift store where some other person will be swayed by that “bestseller” distinction and pick it up, hoping for a good summer read.  Maybe I should just torch it….

            These past few days the farmers are working late into the night planting beans, spraying corn and making hay.  The latter is important to me.  Their machinery does in a few hours what took early farmers days to accomplish.  Soon the barn will be filled with that wonderful sweet smell of freshly mown hay and I’ll know my donkeys will eat this winter.  It’s such a reassuring feeling. I’ve cleaned the hay room and am ready for delivery.

            It's just too hot to write anymore tonight. No, there is no air conditioning in this old house.




10:09 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 18, 2010

The blahs.


            This current bout of allergies took quite a toll.  I slept very late and then spent part of the day lying on the porch reading the “New York Times Bestseller” Blue Shoe by Anne Lamotte.  My theory is that if a story doesn’t grab me by page 30, it probably isn’t going to at all.  I’m on page 45, but even so, it is not what I’d call a page-turner.

             Being supine invited close consideration of the wooden porch ceiling.  I watched a wasp try his best to squeeze into a tiny hole between the tongue and groove boards.  What a relief when he finally gave up.  Had he succeeded his next move would have been into the closet in my office where bugs are not welcome.

            Time on the porch was pleasant for a while.  Birds twittered and after an impromptu pool party, the dogs stretched out on the brick floor for an afternoon snooze.  Although it would have been nice to loaf all day, there was work to be done.  I have a couple writing projects underway and there is never a time when the gardens don’t need attention, so my respite was brief.

            Gardening with free ranging chickens means that one must either fence the plants or settle for helter skelter rows.  I opt for the latter.  Lettuce grows here and there.  Beets are plentiful, but widely and erratically spaced.  Only big things like peppers, tomatoes and zucchini are where they were originally planted.  It makes for a garden of surprising delights.  Already there is one perfect yellow squash and I’ll soon be picking beans, but I’ve replanted basil for the third time. 

            My house guest is a serious gardener.  As we chatted about plants, weeds and weather I casually asked, “How big is your garden?”  H. thought for a minute and then said, “Well, the main garden is as big as your house….”  Yikes!  I’m sure it is immaculate too.  She always brings me some wonderful treat and yesterday it was a bottle of her husband’s homemade wine.  Tonight may be a good time to try it.

            Each year about this time as another birthday draws near I find myself seduced by the temptations in the drug store beauty aisle.  When did I take on the look of a scarecrow?  Was my hair really that mousy when I went to bed last night?  Did it turn to straw while I slept?  Feria to the rescue! 

           The box that featured some twenty-something model on the front promised “shimmering highlights” -- and more.  Fearlessly I donned the rubber gloves, mixed the three magic potions in the squeeze bottle and doused my frowsy head.  Since I had also cut my hair before applying the concoction with the “pleasantly scented lotion…,” in less than half an hour I was transformed from a scarecrow to Howdy Doody.  The good news is that my short red hair is indeed glossy with lots of shimmering highlights.  Change is good.



6:46 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Under cover of darkness...


            In anticipation of my house guest I bathed all three dogs.  Their daily swims in the algae-covered pond had rendered them pretty ripe, so cleaning them up was no small task.  For almost twenty four hours they smelled fresh and fragrant, but just prior to my friend’s arrival they all decided to go for a dip.  Fortunately my guest was an animal person and very understanding.

            We sat on the porch visiting and enjoying the quiet night until blood-curdling screams erupted from the tall weeds to the east. Something awful was happening.  The hunter and the hunted were moving north at a frantic pace, so we raced through the darkness to follow the murderous cries.  Standing  in the deep black, armed with a high-powered flashlight, it’s beam caught nothing.  Only thousands of flashing lightening bugs and a few mosquitoes revealed themselves.  It was getting late and back at the house we decided it was time to call it a day, but then the attack began anew.  Back into the night, this time without the dogs we stood at the north end of the barnyard for what seemed an eternity, silently listening for movements that never came, but certain that morning would expose the source of all the screams.  This morning we found nothing.  I can only think that it must have been foxes or coons.  Hopefully there won’t be an encore tonight.

            Allergies put a damper on things today, but we had a wonderful visit in spite of my sneezing, runny nose, headache and watery eyes.  My friend left for home late this afternoon and now the “non-drowsy” allergy pill I took earlier has left me almost as lifeless as whatever met its demise last night.  ‘Feeling awful and going to bed early.



6:45 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Does it really matter?


            It’s not easy being a Virgo.  Our obsession with order and tidiness is tedious and sometimes pointless.   As I set about making the attic orderly  I was stunned by just how pointless life in general can be.  I only meant to get rid of boxes of old tax papers, owner’s manuals for long-dead appliances and other junk.  The discarded paper would fuel my pyromania, a bonus of sorts for being tidy. 

            Where did that flat cardboard box bearing the discolored manila envelope come from anyway?  Why had I never seen it before?  Who saved all those photographs?  Not I, that’s for sure, but there it was--my life, my ancestry in one big brown package.  Dead people whose blood runs through my veins stared out from old pictures printed on glossy paper, the kind no longer used.  Some stared at me from tintypes.  All strangers, even the one of myself as a cute chubby-cheeked baby. 

            I wonder if these people thought their lives mattered.  Maybe they did.  Maybe their lives are the reason I’m the way I am.  We can never know for sure, can we, but that’s no excuse to not keep trying.  When I’m dead I want my life to have mattered.



10:52 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 15, 2010



            The donkeys are bored, so they insist on “helping” me with the gardens as I hoe and pull weeds.  Only the woven wire fence separates us.  They push against it with various body parts, testing; a pathetic big nose with two inch square imprints begs for attention.  Next, a butt with a tail that looks like a broom bows the fence toward me.  At last a full body side slam accompanied by a mournful bray.  Anything for attention.  It works.  It always does.  I put the hoe aside and open the gate to the barnyard, get the grooming tools and curry out the seemingly inexhaustible winter hair.  They love being groomed and stand perfectly still until I reach for the bug spray.

            “Whoa,” I order and Andy stops in his tracks.  I spray his legs and belly, squirt some spray on my hand and wipe his face, then finally spritz each of his long ears and tell him he is beautiful.  He doesn’t move.  Andy would let me brush and pamper him all day long.  Corky requires coaxing, but ultimately he too cooperates.  He really does like the attention, but he doesn’t like Andy trying to butt in.  I push the bigger donkey aside, and he repositions himself so his head is resting on my back since I must bend over short little Corky.  Very carefully Andy takes the tiniest corner of my shirt between his front teeth.  It’s all part of the daily game.

            Soon the barn will be filled with sweet smelling hay and I’ll write out a check that will take a big bite from my bank account.  Sometimes I wonder why I do it, but interruptions to my work like this answer that question.  I can’t help it, I love these bad boys.  It’s a pity that not all donkeys lead lives such as mine do.  This photo shows the sad existence of donkeys in developing countries.



5:32 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mister fat head.


            Tom is just about the sweetest cat here.  Maybe after all those years as a feral cat he has no fight left in him.  Whatever the reason he is sort of the grandfather figure nowadays.  All the other cats bump heads with him in greeting.  They share the porch furniture for naps and all seem to adore the old guy, so it was quite a surprise to find Tom in serious trouble yesterday.  He looked like a boxer who had not fared well in a terrible fight.

            His head was about twice its normal size.  Pus oozed from a spot above his one eye and he felt feverish. Hot compresses were the best I could do on a Sunday, but first thing this morning we were at the vet.  I thought his injury may have resulted from either a bee sting or a snake bite.  Looking at this picture it's easy to see how that could happen.  The vet was perplexed, but gave him an injection of antibiotics and sent him home with oral drugs.  He’s perked up already and said that he hopes I will knock off those hot compresses because he hated them.

            My British harness maker friend Terry was commissioned to make a driving harness for a pig.  The pig is apparently quite a celebrity and even had an audience with the Queen.  I see a story about this special porker if I can come up with some images.  I love my job!

            The fellow who hit my truck last week not only sent a check to reimburse me for the repair, but also included a gift card to the area’s newest (and quite wonderful) restaurant.  How unusual and kind is that response to an accident! Life is good!



7:24 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A matter of life and death.


            As a rule I hate mowing, unless it’s the pasture or the nature trail.  Those areas are pleasantly different for some reason. The donkeys simply can’t eat the grass fast enough, and unless I cut it occasionally things like mint, burdock and other weeds take over.  The fence line is vulnerable to the ubiquitious multiflora rose, so that needs to be kept under control or it will pull the wires down.  And so on this lazy Sunday afternoon I revved up the tractor and confronted the knee high grass and weeds around the barnyard.

            Depending on their moods, the donkeys sometimes think chasing the tractor is big fun, but today they stood in the barn and just watched.  I set the mower deck as high as possible and mow with caution lest I encounter a rabbit nest.  All went well in the upper paddock, but half way around the fence line of the lower section I did disturb a bunny nest.  A youngster raced away from the intruding tractor, so I killed the mower, backed up and retraced the already mowed path and called it quits.  The rains had started again anyway.

            Making my way back I saw a flutter under the blue spruce next to the barn.  A baby bird was helplessly flopping around.  I leapt from the tractor and picked up the fledgling, but it didn’t look promising.  While it had pin feathers, it still had that big Dwight Eisenhower head and a pathetically-gaping mouth.  Admittedly, I have not had success saving orphaned birds and often the mother bird is frantically watching from somewhere, so I replaced baby Dwight under the tree and hoped for the best.  A couple of hours later it was dead as a mackerel. 

            I felt sad about the bird, but happy that I had not injured or killed any rabbits while mowing.  Life and death in the natural world happens, but I don’t want to contribute to the latter.  Sissy killed a chipmunk the other day and presented it at the back door.  As senseless as that death was I had to remind myself that killing small creatures is instinctual for cats.  It’s undoubtedly how Tom survived all those years before he decided to allow himself to become domesticated.  

            The point is we humans can only do so much, but we can and I believe, should make every effort to do no harm.  I’ve tried to make this place a sanctuary for myself and for animals both tame and wild, but even in sanctuaries, things die.  That’s just the way it is. Acknowledging this truth makes our own mortality easier to accept.



5:39 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Too hot to do much, or an unproductive day.


            More storms predicted for today.  The pond is full to overflowing and this makes the dogs very happy.  “Go swimming,” I say and they all three charge down to the algae-covered water immerging looking like Chia pets.  I think the tiny light green plant that covers the pond is called sea lettuce (I’ll have to research this name). I was told it is the smallest flowering water plant in the world. 

            Betty the cat got her annual bath this morning and while she still looks as if someone has torn out half of her hair, she thinks she is pretty.  I can tell by the way she prances around.  Occasionally she takes off like a racer, ears pinned back and I think she's imagining herself as a young kitten again even though she’s pushing twenty.  I brush her skimpy coat and she purrs contentedly.

            It’s so muggy and hot I’m not inclined to do much of anything, although I did plant more melons, took the tractor to T’s so he can fix it and cut down some tree-sized Rose of Sharon bushes.  A re-do of the ground cover garden between the house and shed is underway.  This is where snakes live, so working in this garden makes me edgy.  I like the snakes, but encountering them is always a surprise, one that makes me shriek and jump.

            The old fence is coming down and a new and simpler version is taking its place.  This is the summer that long-neglected projects are at last getting attention.  The biggest project will be redesigning the porch off the kitchen, ripping out the existing one and then replacing it. Kind of exciting actually….

            But on a day like this with a sky just about to burst open once, thinking about this big deal job is quite enough.

I love this quotation by George Eliot:

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”



3:52 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thugs beware.


            A couple days ago I was jolted from a sound sleep by gunshots fired off just around midnight.  Five or six, I’m not sure.  It wasn’t’ the sharp report of a rifle, nor a pop from a shotgun, but sounded more like a handgun; bang, bang, bang, pause, bang, bang….  I thought it very strange.

            Last night a woman from far up the road out for an evening walk stopped to ask if I might have seen her cat which has been missing for a few days.  We chatted for a bit and then she told me about being awakened at 3:30 AM by gunshots!  She proceeded to say they were not rifle, nor shotgun sounds, but those of a handgun.  Since her husband was out of town she was rather frightened.  I told her what I’d heard.

            Events like this are not things that make the newspaper, but they sure make the neighborhood hotline.  Houses are too far apart to call this a neighborhood watch and so far no one else has reported hearing anything, but now the entire road is on alert. 

            I think we learned the importance of universal alertness several years ago when thugs were robbing and beating up old farmers.  Kenny was a victim.  The thieves would go to a house that sat back from the road a ways, knock on the door and ask if this were the place selling dogs.  The several old men who were victimized by this scam all said something like, “No, no dogs here….”  That’s all the thugs needed to know.  They were hidden from passing traffic, they weren’t going to be attacked by a dog and the house was remote enough that no one would hear cries for help.

            They tied Kenny up, robbed him of many family heirlooms and then beat him badly.  They stuffed newspaper under the chair to which he was tied and asked how he’d like to die; burn to death or be shot.  Old Kenny told them he didn’t care because they were going to be charged with murder either way, so they left.  I don’t know who found Kenny and called for help, but after a trip to hospital Kenny recovered from his injuries, but not from his fear.  Even when his beagle Cookie was alive, Kenny installed one of those remote-controlled recordings of a vicious dog barking in the house.  We all laugh at “Kenny’s Doberman.”

            As luck would have it I had been working in my garden that evening and was stooped down in the midst of some tall flowers when a van pulled up in front of my place.  Figuring it was someone about to dump an animal or steal an animal I stood up just in time to get a look at the vehicle and the passenger who was peering full face back at me.  I later had to testify in court with this information. The maggots that had robbed and beaten Kenny and several other old guys who lived alone were convicted and sent to prison.

            Since then we spread the word about strange happenings.  Some might think of it as gossip, but enhanced awareness could prevent a repeat of what happened to Kenny.  Now we’re all listening for shots in the night.




4:26 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, June 10, 2010



            Booger the cat thought Julie needed a bath.  Their shared ablutions are typical of animal relationships here.  Why is it so difficult for humans to get along?  It's been a very long day.  




9:17 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stormy weather.


            I spent the best part of the day sitting in cozy Amish kitchens talking about horses and gardens.  Outside the skies were dark and the rains poured down, but inside all was quiet and serene but for the hiss of the propane light.  Amanda and Eli, who have each donated horses to the Happy Trails Amish Horse Retirement Program were happy to learn the fate of their old companions and to share stories about all kinds of things we English don’t ever have to deal with. 

            Finally it was time to head for home; away from the pristine gardens and grazing horses.  Rolling along the quaint back roads it was nice to reflect upon the day’s interviews and to think about how I’d incorporate some of their stories into the article I’m writing. I stopped for an ice cream cone and continued toward home.  Before I knew it I was back in the city and my thoughts turned to how long I’d been away.  I wondered if my little princess puppy had gotten into any trouble while I was gone.  That’s when it happened.

            Only about ten miles from home traffic was backed up.  I was stopped when the big Ford slammed into the back of my truck.  Fortunately I was far enough from the car ahead that I was not shoved into it.  The poor fellow who hit me had hydroplaned in the standing water along the roadside.  He was sincerely apologetic and I’ve no doubt that the issue will be settled with no problems, but I’m a bit sore this evening and tomorrow I’ll have to take the truck to see about having the bumper repaired.  As for the little princess, she had gotten bored and tore the backing off the rug in the laundry room, but other than that, all was well.

            Since Nettie is gone there is a burgeoning rabbit population.  Nettie’s favorite “breakfast” was hasenpfeffer, babies in particular.  Now that the bunnies have no dog predators they are getting very tame.  One even comes out to greet me when I go to the barn.  I talk to the cottontail and can walk to within four feet of him.  Tomorrow I’ll try to remember to take the camera, although frankly all rabbits look pretty much the same….

            At first the bunny bonanza was cute, but their cuteness diminished when they started nipping off the tomato plants.  Tonight I built mesh cages in an attempt to salvage the pathetic remains of plants that had been big, healthy and in blossom, but which overnight became finger-sized stumps!  Cayenne pepper did not prove much of a deterrent since the rains washed it off as fast as I dusted the plants.  Hopefully the cages will do the trick.  Other than the unsolicited tomato pruning the garden is looking happy. Seeds planted just days ago are poking through the moist soil and weeds are still under control.

            It’s been a long day, but not a bad one….



8:44 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This morning.


            In light of all that’s wrong in the world, it was especially inspiring to visit a company that after five generations is still trying to do the right thing for all concerned.  I refer to the family-owned cheese plant that is the subject of an article I’m writing. 

            “I’ve always had a real problem with anyone who abuses those who can’t defend themselves,” says Phil Mueller of the Minerva Dairy.  That goes for school bullies as well as animal abusers which is why he stopped doing business with Conklin dairy (cattle abuse scandal) without thinking twice about the decision.  I respect men like Mr. Mueller and think the world would be a whole lot better place if more people were so uncompromising and decisive.

            The tour of the cheese plant was interesting.  I’ve toured other cheese plants and ice cream plants, but the small town atmosphere, the old fashioned, no frills building and the friendliness of the employees at this place were refreshingly different.  It was a good meeting and I’ll enjoy telling their story.

              The drive was also lovely this sunny morning, but I did a double take when I came upon this unique “lawn decoration (?).”  With all the sun-up to sun-down work that’s part of farm life, I had to wonder when this family had the time or energy to create this eye-catcher.  It made me laugh out loud.



2:08 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 7, 2010

A bright week ahead.


            Finally, a break in the weather! Now it feels like early springtime; sweater weather, but no complaints from me.  I replanted some garden items since the original seeds had apparently washed out.  And since the day was bright and breezy I could not ignore the grass that desperately needed to be mowed unless I planned to make hay.  I had almost completed this most-hated task when the mower blades refused to engage.  A look under the deck revealed that a belt about a hundred feet long had broken.  

            I collected the owner’s manual for the tractor and headed off for the hardware.  Might as well get a set of blades too, I figured. What a jolt when the service person presented me with a bill for $110.00!  Good grief!  And these new parts still have to be installed. Broken belts and blades are not do-it-yourself jobs. 'Looks like the donkeys’ pasture won’t get mowed anytime soon.

            This will be a busy week, but with fun projects; tomorrow an interview with Minerva Dairy, the business that promptly severed its relationship with the infamous Conklin Dairy after the video of animal abuse hit the media.  I really enjoy writing articles that commend businesses or individuals that foster humane treatment of animals. 

            On Wednesday I’ll be back in Amish country to interview some of the folks who have donated their driving horses to the Amish Horse Retirement Program at Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary.  What an amazing place the Sanctuary is and what an innovative and inspiring person founder Annette Fisher is.  I’ve written about Happy Trails in the past for American publications, but this particular piece will be for a British driving magazine. 

            Once again the donkeys have been up to no good.  The big barn doors face north, so an inside gate allows me to open the doors for ventilation while keeping the donkeys out of forbidden territory. After dumping the wheelbarrow I neglected to latch the chain on the gate while I went for water.  No sooner was I standing at the pump when I saw the bad asses scurrying around the barn to take advantage of the unhooked gate.  Nothing delights these two more than access to off limit spaces.

            From the pump I could hear thumping and bumping and I knew they were up to no good.  “GET OUT OF THERE!” I yelled, but to no avail.  Thump, thump, thump….  If Nettie were alive she would have run them out of the barn in short order, but none of the current canine crew has any herding interest.  Suddenly Corky bolted from the barn, head thrown back, prancing as if he were in a show ring.  He was carrying a big red box in his mouth, a box I knew had contained cedar shake shingles before being confiscated it for a toy.  Sure enough, when I returned with the water buckets the barn floor had been transformed.  Shingles were everywhere. 

            There was no point in chasing the thief.  Even in my most-fit condition I could not outrun a donkey, especially a donkey with a new toy.  So, I gathered up the shingles, secured the gate and looked out the door to see two happy boys ripping the box to shreds.



7:50 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The great flood?


            Is this the beginning of another proverbial forty days and forty nights of rain?  It sure seems that way!  Yes, it’s great weather for transplanting things and the leaky pond has filled up again. It’s very easy to pull weeds which are thriving and the bugs are happy, so the frogs are happy too.  The grass is so long already I wonder if the tractor will even be able to cut through it if it ever stops raining and that doesn’t look as if it’s going to be anytime soon. So, I sit on the porch and read.

            “Oh, let's sit on the porch...,” visitors often request. People enjoy looking over the park-like setting, listening to the croaking frogs and the birdsong, but this “park” has nothing to do with any of my pathetic gardening efforts.  Beyond the narrow strip of “lawn” everything is wild and natural making the porch a peaceful place to sit and visit. 

             This year, more than any year in memory there is an amazing variety of colored bird species;  goldfinch, strawberry finches, Baltimore orioles, small green heron, cardinals, jays and hummingbirds, but there is also a plethora of ‘glad bluebirds of happiness.’

            Along the fence line I have several bluebird houses, some but not all of which are occupied.  The surprising thing is that the bluebirds are frequenting the area near the porch, far from the fence line.  They are so pretty and so friendly and they seem to just enjoy being around people. 

            A fellow named John and his dog (whose name I’ve forgotten) are familiar sights on this road as they check the bluebird houses he and his brother (whom I have never met) started installing on telephone poles a few years ago.  No one asked the brothers to do this, nor were they paid for the materials or maintenance.  They just did it because they wanted to.  The two have built and placed several hundred houses throughout the township and about thirty are on this road alone.  When rodents began taking advantage of the high-rise apartments, John pulled out their nests and put metal barriers on the poles. BIRDS ONLY.  Discriminatory housing….

            He and his old black dog are friendly and John is an interesting fellow, so I suggested doing a story about his bluebird trail, but because the houses are mounted on utility poles (which technically is illegal) he thinks it best not to draw attention to them. Thus far no one has complained, but you just know there would be some crank who would demand their removal, so we who live on the road quietly reap the benefits of the pretty bug-eaters that nest in John’s nice houses. 



5:34 pm edt          Comments

Pretty, polite Poppy.


            Ernie had an upset stomach during the night and had to make an emergency trip outside.  When the door opened, Poppy ran in from the porch, but she wasn’t alone.  She brought a mouse with her.  I wouldn’t even have known if she had not sat herself on the bottom stair and stared at her little prize who sat motionless in the corner.

            Since I can’t see much without my contacts or glasses I could just make out the cat on the step and an indistinct, light-colored form on the floor. Occasionally Poppy reached down to touch it, but ever so gently.  Then the form moved, so I got the flashlight, lowered myself almost nose to floor level and saw the “toy.”  This was not something that could be ignored, for although Poppy does not kill things like birds, snakes, frogs, mice, chipmunks or any other little critters, some of the other cats enjoy nothing more than a game of chase and kill.

            Poppy is the perfect kitty.  She watched as I returned to the dining room armed with a stainless steel colander and a spatula.  It was easy to just push the little fellow into the colander. He seemed too frightened to even attempt an escape.  I carried him back outside and released him next to the lattice work on the bottom of the porch so he could beat a safe retreat. 

            If you’re wondering why I didn’t just pick him up, it’s because the last time I did so the mouse bit me.  FYI: There is no danger of getting rabies from mice.  They are not carriers, but why risk a sore finger?  This information came from the Ohio State Health Veterinarian. 

            Poppy was still sitting on the bottom step at 4:20 AM when Ernie came back inside.  He said he felt much better and headed back upstairs to his dog bed.  The cat probably wore her confused look, but like I said I can’t see, so I'm guessing.  I put the colander in the dishwasher and dragged my groggy self back to bed.  For anyone curious about what time the birds waken, I can tell you.  They start twittering at 4:30 AM. Nightime wasn't nearly long enough.



1:21 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 4, 2010



            My heart is heavy as I write this blog.  My friend received a call from the city sanitation department telling her they had found her missing dog’s body.  It was far from home, so we can only surmise that someone may have plucked her from up in front of her own house and took her elsewhere.  Did the little black dog get away and was she trying to get back to the only home she’d ever known?  We’ll never know. Losing one's pet is horrible and when something like this happens to a friend, it’s almost as bad. 

            This has made me think about the meaning of friendship.  A true friend isn’t just someone who shares MY pain; it’s someone whose pain I share.  Sadly, even sharing doesn’t make the pain any less bearable.

            Another friend told me of a visit to a dreadfully-deprived dog pound in the southern part of the state where she had gone to rescue a few dogs.  She said the warden is a saint who is trying desperately to improve the conditions, but anyone involved in animal welfare knows that there will never be enough homes for all of the unwanted animals. They come from irresponsible people and there is no shortage of them.

             I sent the pound a small donation and told my friend who just buried her beloved little dog about the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing this dedicated warden.  Now, she too is sending a donation as a memorial to her departed pet. That act of kindness in her time of grief doesn’t surprise me, for that’s the sort of person she is.  Not a day passes that I don’t think about Nettie who died this past winter, but then I look at Julie, so sweet and trusting and so happy and I know that opening one’s heart and home to another animal in need lessens the pain.  I’m sure my friend will do so, but not until her own heart has a little time to heal.

            Today I received a reprimand for allowing my chickens to roam freely, rather than keeping them penned.  The critic noted that the little yellow hen would not be dead if she had been safely confined.  Yes, that’s true, but her life wouldn’t have been happy, so my birds will continue to be free-ranging, only confined to their coop at night.  Yesterday’s hit and run death begs that old question; why did the chicken cross the road?  Who knows?

            Another blog follower told me about the many snapping turtles she has removed from harms way or relocated by grabbing them by their tails!  All I can say to that is that she is one brave woman!!!!

            And so the dark stormy skies still hang heavy in more ways than the obvious, but tomorrow will certainly be a brighter day.

“Brothers and sisters I beg you beware

Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.”                Rudyard Kipling



5:04 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Road hazards.


            I heard the clanging of the pipe gate and looked out the window to see neighbor Sandy coming down the drive with what looked like a yellow package.  As she got nearer to the house it was apparent she had not come bearing gifts.  What dangled from her extended arm was the mutilated body of my little yellow hen, the latest hit and run victim. 

             It’s been quite some time since the chickens have even gone beyond the fence, but today for some reason they ventured into the road next to the barn and one of my best layers was the target of a cruel lunatic.  She had been literally dead center in the road, so it wasn’t as if she bolted into the driver’s path.  I’m sure it was a deliberate hit.  Little yellow hen was only about four years old; too young to die.

            Later, while en route to take my nursing home-bound friend Dorothy a bouquet of peonies and some just-picked strawberries I had to swerve to avoid a very big snapping turtle that was attempting to cross a busy highway.  This presented a real dilemma for I always stop to remove turtles from the path of vehicles, but I am scared to death of snapping turtles.  Perhaps if I'd had a snow shovel or anything with a very very long handle I would have tried to shove this whopper out of harm’s way, but I had nothing, so I drove on, plagued with guilt.  The good news is that the car ahead of me pulled over, hopefully to reverse his direction and rescue the snapper.  At least that’s what I’d like to think, but maybe he saw turtle soup on the hoof.

            My friend’s little black dog is still missing and ironically, so are three other black dogs.  The implications of this ‘coincidence’ are disturbing.  Anyone who has ever lost a pet knows the anguish her family is enduring.  It’s a heart break like no other. 

           These strawberries were growing next to the porch at the "handyman special" T. recently purchased to fix up and sell.  The description of the house is an understatement, to say the least, but the berries were sure a nice surprise!




4:54 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Things long gone.

In a grainy black and white photograph taped to the file cabinet next to my desk, my father sits on the old glider in the shade of a long-gone apple tree.  

His legs are casually crossed at the knee. His left elbow rests on the metal arm of the glider and that hand, with splayed fingers rests atop his right hand. 

On his feet are penny loafers that I remember as being brown.

The sun cast shadows of the leafy bower upon my dad and all of his surroundings.  He’s smiling and if I look very closely at this old picture I can see the gap between his two front teeth. 

I have only a few images of my father that captured a happy man. 

I wonder why he was smiling, but more so I wonder what took that smile away.  Just as the gap between his teeth was replaced by unconvincing false teeth that clicked when he spoke, his smile was replaced by a vertical crease in his forehead that looked as if someone had hit him with an axe.


The apple tree, the glider and my smiling father have all vanished.

They only exist in grainy photographs and in my mind.

12:56 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It's a wonderful life.


            Gee, that sounds like it could be a movie, doesn’t it?  In spite of what some people think when I share stories about my past, my life has been what I consider to be a bowl of cherries.  I’ve never been forced to work at a job I hated, never been totally derailed by relationship issues, never had to wonder where I’d sleep at night and never have gone hungry.  I have a lovely daughter, wonderful personal relationships and good health. I feel my life has been quite privileged and even though I don’t make tons of money, I am happy. 

            A major factor is that my work is rewarding in ways that surpass monetary measure, although I'm sometimes surprised at my publishing success even in a depressed market.  Several articles have looming deadlines and I’m meticulous about meeting deadlines, so the plan for today was to work on these stories, but that plan never got off the ground.

            An emergency request from an organization I respect and was happy to help, a call from a dear friend whose dog has vanished without a trace and a few other urgent matters took up the entire day.  Before I knew it, it was time to do evening chores.  Evening in the barn is my favorite time of day.  It’s relaxing and peaceful out there.  There’s no phone and while I could take the cordless one out there, I choose not to.  Sweeping the floor, scrubbing water buckets and bowls, brushing the donkeys and