Monday, September 27, 2010

Down by the coast time

I was born down by the coast... and there's something there that feels so right.

Sometimes, I don't get down there as often as I'd like, and this has been one of those years.

Sometimes, life in general gets in the way...

 But when I do get there, I soak in enough salt and sand and sea breeze to see me through the days until I return. 

Fall is showing itself at the coast as well.  Golden sea oats rustle in the stiff breeze in advance of a storm.

We spent the evening, making pizza and laughing and talking together.
We awakened to the sound of the late season baby egrets and ibis squawking and the seagulls shrill cry.

We walked on the beach and swam and got sand between our toes.

I watched the dolphins play in the surf, just out of reach, dark pewter gray against the ocean's silver and white.  Silky and smooth, they swim like grace in aquatic form.

It seems like just yesterday we built the house by the ocean.

 I was pregnant with a little lad, who has now grown old enough to share a beach walk with a young lady.

The palmetto tree hangs full of ripening drupes and the salt marsh grass begins to turn from darkest green to a lighter chartreuse in advance of true autumn's golden tan.  The drive out past the farm stands nets us sun-ripened tomatoes and small squashes and peppers of every shade.  Late melons and early sweet potatoes and my usual blessing from the sweet lady who runs my favorite roadside stop.

Knitting a warm and cozy hat for a special girl in a beautiful shade of  'Kelsey' green on the return ride warms my hands and bids me turn my face toward home.  A month to come filled with a final season of band competitions and autumn on the farm beckons.

My spirit is filled from my prayerful meditation by the sea and will tide me over until I return.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Signs of fall and other stuff...

So, what you see here is a candle... and a little breeze... and a window open onto the night air.
Sheers tucked behind the drape, to let in the ease of the evening.

As I sat and listened to the night noises last evening, I tried to remember the last time that every window in the house was open.

I can't remember.

It's been a long, long time.

I love the softness of the evening air... and the crickets calling to each other....

Truth be told, the reason that the windows are all open is a bad one... our A/C/heat pump unit is out... possibly out for good.  When I called the man of the house to report a total lack of air circulation and an indoor temperature of 88 degrees, he pointed out that the unit was 25 years old...

But the reminder that this house was built at a time when the air conditioning WAS to open the windows and hope for a cross ventilating breeze was, perhaps, timely.

We've become quite spoiled by convenience.

Don't get me wrong... convenience is a good thing and central air conditioning is a better thing.  I assure you, the repair/replacement folks will be welcomed with open arms, but to spend a day or two remembering the lazy late summer days of childhood, when this was the plan for getting cool is not a bad thing.

We're on what I hope will be the last wave of crushing heat.  Mid afternoon was rather awful, hot and muggy, stillness... no breeze at all.  To make matters worse (I guess), I laid down on the couch in front of a fan and fell asleep.  A nap hadn't been in the afternoon schedule.

All of this made me think of the signs of fall so far....

... red and orange tints on the dogwoods... the first trees in my yard to begin to turn.

...the late season apple tree, hanging heavy,  green apples tinted with shades of rose.

...warm, ginger laced applesauce... for breakfast on a lazy weekend morning. games, band competitions, open house at school.

...chickens moulting, two eggs a day, instead of a dozen, end of season herbs withering in the heat and sun.

...sweet potatoes, the first of the fall pumpkins and winter squash.

... needing to get the winter greens in and not finding time to get the ground ready.  Yes, we're really pushing it this year, but the extreme dryness and lack of any rain hasnt' helped.  It's also a frustrating reminder that I'm still restricted from certain activities, like running the tiller.  Sigh...

...the fact that I went to bed, reveling in the cool breeze from the window and awoke in the night finding it necessary to grab the sheet and the comforter...hmm.... felt so, so good!

... cinnamon raisin bread, toasted with butter, cup of coffee, sweet faces across the table.

Enjoy the turn of the seasons, friends... find those things that make you breathe deeper and take a little time to appreciate the moment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

interesting conversations

and a thoughtful moment...

Today, I'd spent the entirety of a day on building a resume.
And I was mentally exhausted.

One of the harder questions that I'd faced today was determining my own personal strengths...

you know, the kind of strengths that are job related.

You know, I always really need and count on my family and friends.

Some days, I need them more than others. 

So, I asked a couple of folks who matter to me what they thought my strengths were...

and I got some very thoughtful answers...

that made me feel better about this whole ' looking for a job at 50 thing'.

It helps sometimes, when you can't quite figure out what to do or think about yourself,
that those around you can...

it's good to have folks who know you, and care enough...

Self examination can be a challenge.

When I most needed a break from it all, I got a call from my girl...

and among other things that she said,  she made a pretty profound statement... something she's done a lot since she was small...

She said   "Sometimes, you don't have to be the best, you just need to be the last one standing."

Something to think on while I write...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


"My idea is that there is music in the air,
music all around us;
the world is full of it,
and you simply take as much as you require."
~Edward Elgar

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Splashdown! ugh!


I've been busy this morning... so busy, in fact, that I did not get out of my comfy hot pink pajama pants and cool pink tank top... No, indeedy, at 3 pm, I was still in the wild pink stripes.

Hey!  It happens... you know you wish you were sitting there, right now, in YOUR wild pink pajama pants!


I've gotten a lot done...
couple loads of towels,
a load of band uniforms after I'd sewn several yards of white braid in it's new location on said uniforms,
a load of dishes to the machine and more than a few large pans (baked 175 rolls yesterday for a church function) washed by hand,
sorted through one of the 'junk drawers', because I need to use the junk drawer for non-junk...
Actually, got on here and caught up on things that have been happening lately.
Then, I saw the 'compost bucket'.

To make this worthwhile I'll briefly explain the compost bucket.  In the kitchen we have a bucket that catches things... things like leftovers,coffee grounds, peelings,things that have been missing in the fridge for a week... that sort of thing.  This goes to the chicken coops mid to late afternoon for 'snacks'... sometimes, it's a great day... sometimes, the pickings are slim.  Today, there were lots of 'just too late' figs, veggies from cleaning out the veggie drawer in the fridge and some left over rolls.

AHA!  I think... the juvenile chicks will LOVE this... and off I go.

If you've read backwards, from today's musings, you'll discover the reason why I am marching about my barnyard,
in hot pink pajama's,
with a large fishing net 'at the ready'... I mean a large net~!

Picture, if you will, a large composting bucket under one arm full of yummy treats (yummy if you're a chicken, that is) and 'armed' to the nines with a big black net.  I get to the coop in question, and there's a lake...

a lake, I tell you!

The water hose has been left dripping (not accidental, this is a plumbing need of which we are aware but unable to get to at this moment).

So, there is a lake....lake,
woman in pink pj's,
compost bucket, large fishing net...
and large dog...

Nana wants the rolls (she wants more of the rolls, since she's already had her share!).

I step one flip-flop clad foot (oh, yes... I know...) into the mud/lake and I bet you can guess what happened next....  In a flurry of over-testosteroned rooster feathers,large defensive dog, small frightened chickens, muck, mud, dinner rolls,overripe figs and fishing net, I land... hard... on my behind.

As luck would have it, muddy lakes aren't very hard...
and for the life of me,
I don't know why, it struck me as quite funny...
shrieks of laughter alerted the large dog that we were now in play mode...

and there you have it.

I could not have looked more like the creature from the black lagoon if I had tried... nor smelled fruitier.

I arose, and with all the dignity that I could muster, I strode back to the house, where I stripped to the skin, popped the mud covered pajamas into the already running washer, and climbed into the shower.

Even the cat was disgusted... she kept peering over the top of the tub, ears laid back as if to say "what in the world happened to you?"

I've had enough for today... enough animals, enough domestic responsibility, enough...

I'm done!


Two weeks ago, Maggie, who was aged and totally blind, enjoyed a rousing weekend with the Boy Scouts.
As happens sometimes, Scouting plans for a campout further afield  fell through, and the default plan was to come to Camp Weaver... where the scouts are most welcome.  We actually have an excellent 'place' for beginning campers, that is known and loved by the older scouts and leaders.  Anyway... as always happens when the scouts are on the place the Weaver complement of dogs makes a nuisance of themselves by joining the campout.

On Monday morning, following the campout, I could not find Maggie.
I could only imagine that she headed back to the woods, to the campsite, to find the boys.
I searched the entirety of several hundred acres by myself and in tandem with the kid, when he got home from band practice at 9 pm.  My worst fear was of her getting turned around while swimming in the river... not knowing which side of the riverbank contained home.
I searched on Tuesday, most of the day, knowing that if she heard me, she would answer
but growing more fearful that she was gone.
On Wednesday we found her... at home... under a favorite bush down by the if asleep...

Rest in peace, Maggie,,, rest in peace.

Driving Miss Daisy

Daisy is the world's simplest dog.  Easy to care for, sweet as all 'get out'... she's often the last one to get her hugs for the day.  She demands nothing, requires very little and does her job... barks like a fiend and keeps deer out of the greenbeans.

Daisy joined us years ago (not sure anyone remembers how many years ago, but the children were quite young!).  Someone TOSSED her from a moving Jeep... She was gigantically fat... so fat in fact, her belly dragged the ground when she tried to walk.  I imagined, at the time, that she was pregnant, possibly with a St. Bernard puppy. (Yes, it would be OUR luck to get a beagle/bernard cross).  We fed her and every day for two weeks, she went and sat by the side of the road, where she'd been tossed and waited... and waited... and waited for her 'folks' to come get her.

Somewhere there,,, she figured out that WE were her folks...

... and we figured out that she' wasn't pregnant, but had an eating disorder.

This small dog will eat herself to death.
Left alone with a 25 pound bag of dogfood one day, when I returned, she had eaten her way through it, resulting in her being unable to stand... only lie on her side and grunt painfully.
So, we have to be careful where Daisy's concerned with food.

Daisy also does not like to exercise.  When she joined us, and after it became presently clear that she would not give us puppies, she was set to leash and taken for walks... and I'm telling you, it was NOT pretty...
every objection known to the dog world ... she used.  When her weight got down to the point that the boys were simply calling her 'the fat dog', we let up on the walks, and time and age and our learning what to do with Daisy has helped.

Anyway, this brings me to one day this week...  I needed to run a couple of close to home errands.  I often use these errands for 'training' purposes, to keep the dogs accustomed to riding in the car.  When I came out of the door, Nana, who loves to go see people, but who detests riding in a car, saw the leash and bolted for bushes unknown. (Note to self - do some positive reinforcement training on the leash issue with Nana!)  Bailey, recognizing the bolt technique, put tail between legs and crawled so far under the 'river van' that she could not be reached by a woman who is not in crawling shape just this moment.

But there stood little Daisy.... wiggle wiggle, grunt... cute little head twisted to one side... and I wondered aloud why I never took Daisy to ride...  Daisy goes to ride only for her obligatory vaccinations... in tandem with the other dogs all sitting on top of her and with all kinds of barking, howling drama (really, you don't have to tell them they're getting shots... they just know!).

Look a there... an errand companion!  So, onto the leash she went.
Her expression said "huh?  oh, crap... I'm about to go for a WALK".
Truth be told, I had to lift her to pop her into the car (it's ok. she's not that heavy!)!
"Oh, Lordy" her expression said "  I'm going for shots"...
and she promptly got UNDER the back seat.

So we headed to the gas station and the state park, where she was coaxed out of the car.
And then, wonder of all wonders, Daisy recognized that she was
~1. having one on one time with mom!  and
~2. the center of attention.

I tell you, that little girl dog checked out everything.  She checked out every post and every tree. I was fearful that we were going to check out every blade of grass.  Such wonderful new smells... so many new opportunites to pee... She walked upon the leash... no dragging a small fat dog, feet side up... she perfectly pranced.  She visited with the park ranger and blinked and turned her little head so cutely at several visitors.  She went with me to walkabout the pond and back through the awesome Osage orange trees.

She JUMPED into the van (no small feat for a short legged chubby doggie).

Now, truthfully, when we got back home, she collapsed in a pile and slept for hours.

Daisy will get to go for more rides, now that I know her secret!

Rooster troubles...

I will try to be sensitive... but this post may not be for everyone.

I've been having some rooster troubles.  For about the last year, there have been two roosters in the barnyard.
They followed several happy years, where their father, had kept a very peaceable barnyard.  He was a stellar rooster.  This means that he managed his hens wisely... he looked out for their safety.  When out and about in the fields and yard, he kept an eye out for any threat and made it known when such occurred.  He fulfilled his duty faithfully in breeding... beautiful chicks, true to breed specifications with a high fertility count coming from the incubator.  He was beautiful, strutting his stuff and  being the undisputed king of the coop.  BUT, and here is the critical thing, he understood his place in the human/rooster heirarchy... he did not ever attack a human.  He was always happy and contented doing his rooster duties and leaving the business of  being the 'top dog' up to the humans.  I don't know why this is... some roosters are simply better than others.

When it came his time (after a couple of 'off days' he died on the roost), there were present in the barnyard, a number of his progeny in a 'bachelor' coop.  Bachelor coop is also short for the 'fattening up' pen.
Before I could choose a replacement rooster, a still undetermined predator took out all but two of the bachelors.  It was winter, breeding genetics were not high on my priorities. In choosing the next ruler for the chicken kingdom, I opted to break the hens up, making two coops and keep the two roosters.  One of them was not true to breed in that he had a rose comb, so I'm not exactly sure why he was spared at the time, except that he seemed meek and mild mannered enough like his father. 

Fast forward to the last two weeks.  One rooster has decided that I need to be taken out... seriously.
Every time I turn my back on him, I can hear the pitter patter of chicken feet, right before he hits me... in the back of the legs, in the back of the head... where ever he can land...  Please note his fine spurs...

Spurs that he has used most effectively on my arms and legs.

I am not amused. In the grand scheme of someone getting taken out,,, it's not gonna be me.

Note that I am post surgery and not much in shape for rooster wrangling.  I did manage to catch him and pen him separately, but he managed to free himself from the pen... sigh...  where, oh. where are the farm boys when you need them?

On the other hand, we have this fine gentlerooster.  In this video (first attempt at video!) you can see that he is less than 2 feet from me.  No, no... you will not be able to see this , as I have failed yet again to get a video clip to load!  Trust me here, he's quite companionable, indeed, even to the point of following me about the yard, all the while gently calling to his flock of 'girls.  Anyway... here's the 'good rooster'... the "destined to be the ruler of the barnyard rooster".

This morning, as I was out doing morning chores, this guy followed me all about.  Where he goes, his 4 hens go, all clucking gently, searching for bugs in the beautiful morning sunshine, eating grass, dusting themselves.  When he finds a treat, he 'calls' his girls, who hustle over... first come, first to get the bug, so to speak.
He is clearly the 'second' rooster in the barnyard currently... he lost his beautiful long tail feathers in the last two weeks, during cockfights with the mean rooster, who clearly has established his rulership.  He keeps 'his' girls out in the pasture until the other rooster and his chickens have been locked in for the night, then he calls and they trot in at full speed... right amusing, actually.  I let them out first in the morning and give them adequate getaway time.

Part of living with farm animals is managing them.  Managing them is not always fun or easy.
Anyone who keeps chickens, who uses an incubator to increase their flocks WILL get more males than can be kept in a barnyard. Food costs are high and rising and feeding roosters is not productive, not to mentioned the aforementioned nonsense.  They take resources from your hens, who give you the eggs that are the main reasons that chickens reside on this farm.  Except for the necessary one rooster for every 10 to 12 hens, they harm the hens with excessive mating and harassment.  While you sometimes can 'share' a rooster or two, the rest become 'table birds'. Plain and simple. I don't enjoy the path from pen to table, but I do like homegrown meat on my table and knowing what's gone into it.  Being a farm girl is sometimes a dirty business.

Chicken keeping, on the average day, makes me quite contented.  I love the warm eggs, straight from the nest.  I love cooking with eggs so fresh they've never seen the fridge.  I love looking out in the pasture and see hen 'bottoms'... all sunny side up, pecking and scratching, clucking peaceably in the afternoon sun. They are my single most favorite yard ornament. I can sit in the yard, or on the porch and watch 'chicken tv' for quite a while.

All of this makes up for the fact that I don't enjoy being flogged.

A final note on rooster troubles... when the youngest son was about 7, on a day when several roosters had been harvested, he said "Mom, it just doesn't seem fair that we only eat the boys."  After an extended conversation,during which we discussed fairness in the world, among other things,  he was allowed to choose a rooster to be 'his'... he was also give a half dozen hens to accompany 'his' rooster.  The boy faithfully care for his flock until the following spring, when, as happens, the spring hormones kicked in and the rooster regularly kicked the kid's behind when he went to feed them.
It took less than a week before the boy took the matter into his own hands, ended the experiment of 'why don't we keep a lot of boy chickens?' and never looked back.