Wednesday, December 31, 2008
My hope for everyone for 2009 is that help is available when needed, but life goes smoothly without much need for help! My very best wishes to everyone for a wonderful and exciting new year!
Monday, December 29, 2008
We had a shower to go to on Saturday - not having a hot shower beforehand was met by a milk bottle of cold water (I've been storing gallons of water for just such emergencies). We drove the fifty miles to the party-site and discovered that the restaurant was also without power, but they had moved the party to another restaurant in their chain two suburbs away. We had a lovely time at the party, even though it sounded like the wind was going to tear off the roof tiles. The evergreen trees surrounding the restaurant were blown into horizontal positions, but they would pop up straight whenever the wind let up. When the party was over, I knew I couldn't take Mother home to a cold house, so I stopped and bought a generator - knowing full well I wouldn't be able to cope with it. A generator is one of those things, like a chain saw, that my father and brothers drilled into me was too dangerous for me to attempt to use. I've had several chain saws since my father has been gone, but have never felt comfortable with them. Funny how my father seems to be looking over my shoulder whenever I touch one. I bought the generator anyway, stopped at the farm, saw Gibby and determined that heat and light were on in his house (but I couldn't imagine taking Mother into the mud and toy/trash littered house) and picked up two electric heaters. I drove home through the little village where my closed-up antique shop dominates the landscape. I thought I could ask a friend who lives there to help me, but found all the lights on in the village - so I was hopeful our power was on, too.
No such luck. I got Mother into the house and under several blankets, then went outside to see if I could lift the huge generator box that two men had lifted into the car. It really irritated me that I could hear a generator running next door at my brother's house - that was my mother's generator that my brother took. At first I couldn't budge the huge box, then I took a deep breath, and pulled with every bit of strength I could gather - it moved. Once I moved it the first inch, I knew I could get it out somehow. I found a ramp board and placed it on the car bumper, then surprised myself by lifting that box over the edge and onto the ramp - I was cheering in my head as the box started down the ramp, then it somehow twisted and fell the rest of the distance to the driveway. At least it was down. I cut the box open and went inside to read the directions by flashlight. It was at this point that my father started reading over my shoulder and I knew I was in trouble.
My cell phone hadn't worked all day and the house phone required electricity (I totally forgot I had installed a different kind of phone upstairs, but I remembered later so I could report that our power was out.) I had tried the cell phone a couple dozen times, always hoping that AT&T would solve their problem and start working again. I went back outside, stripped off my heavy jacket to get to work, and tried the cell phone again - this time I got through to my friend's house in the village! Alas, he'd already gone to bed, it was only 8:00, but he had to be up at 2AM for his job - I thanked his wife, told her not to disturb him, and went back to pondering the generator. The problem now was I couldn't get it out of the box. I decided try to cut the box with a steak knife, then I was going to load Mother back into the car (which was going to be about as hard as taking the generator out of the car because she was exhausted and sound asleep) and go find a motel. I had decided to deal with the generator tomorrow when a car suddenly came up the driveway, and there was my dear village friend! He had climbed out of bed to help me! In about half an hour the generator was running, the heater with the fireplace fake flames was on, and so was the little tv that didn't need cable to run.
My friend advised me to get some more gas in case the generator ran out, so I drove into town and got the gas and stopped at a party store to see if I could find something for our dinner. I asked if they had any pizza slices left, and the clerk said, "Not for sale" and then handed me a box filled with half a large pizza. He wouldn't let me buy it, just gave it to me. I wonder if I looked as frazzled as I felt.
After we ate a few bites of pizza, I sat down in the recliner, pulled my jacket hood over my face, had two dogs in my lap, and was quickly asleep. I woke up when the silence hit me. The TV, lamp, and heater were off. I thought the generator must have run out of gas, so I went outside, used the key to turn the machine off, and filled the gas tank. I was surprised that it filled to the top before I had emptied both gas cans, but I still thought I had everything under control - right up until I couldn't get the d--n thing started again. I tried and tried the electric start, then the pull start, and no luck. I got the directions out, traced out the starter and choke, thought I worked both of them, and still couldn't get it started. I checked the outside thermometer and the temperature had dropped from over 50 to barely 20 degrees - and now I again had the dilemma of trying to load Mother into the car to find a motel at 1AM. I knew that wasn't going to work, so I called 911 and explained the situation. Within about ten minutes I had two vehicles with flashing lights and three firemen in the driveway. Ten minutes later, I learned that the choke was in a different place than I thought, and the generator was started.
The men wanted to be sure everything was working, so they came inside and we found only cold and darkness. Luckily, one of their flashlights briefly struck the power connector I had used at the end of the extension cord - it had a rocker-style on-off switch. I switched it on and there was light - and heat - and tv. The men were pleased with their help, gave me a lecture on getting a different power cord, running it through a window instead of the door, said, "After all, she's not so young (pointing to the blanket pile where my mother was) and you're no young stud yourself." That stopped me. I wanted to say, I'm not a young stud or an old stud, but then I remembered how helpful they'd been and remembered that all that was showing through my black clothing was my glasses and my nose, so I let that comment go and thanked them profusely. I never told them that I had figured out that one of the dogs must have stepped on that power strip switch when they were stealing the rest of the pizza off of the coffee table and caused all that trouble. I just went back to sleep and didn't wake up again until this morning when it seemed much warmer and something told me the power was back on. Halleluiah!
Friday, December 26, 2008
The snow has been so deep that a very kind neighbor plowed out the farm driveway for me, and now the driveway and parking lot has turned to ice, and I have a lovely skating rink. The cats must have tried out the rink because yesterday there were little paw tracks skidding down the snow mounds around the edges - I hope the cats weren't in a hurry, it looks like they were having trouble getting to secure ground.
I'm a bit leery of the ice myself, and Gibby's dogpen has also turned to ice. I've had to give up getting to him that way. Now, instead of dancing around anxiously and licking my fingers while I try to remove the chain that weaves between the gate and the fence, Gibby charges out through the kitchen door. I have to be really fast with my hands and good with my balance to grab his collar as he tries to bolt through the porch door. Once I get the cable clipped to his collar, he seems to be the happiest dog in the world - he fairly flies out into the snow, and snow flies everywhere.
The snow is so heavy the tarp over the chicken yard has ripped and caved in. I haven't found a way to cover it over again, maybe I'll just spread another tarp over the opening. In the meantime, I won't be too unhappy if the rooster finds his way through the opening. He's been pleasant and peaceful for a while but suddenly has started attacking me again. Yesterday, I was so fed up with him, I opened the gate wide and tried to talk him into moving out into the great wide world - but he just glared at me and stayed put. When he attacks me, I have to fend him off with whatever is in my hand, usually the plastic feed containers. He attacks, I hit him, he attacks again, and I hit him again. Over and over. I know roosters have little brains, but he is really dumb, charging right into my swing - it puts me in a pretty poor mood to be beating up a little animal. I wonder what would happen if I let him move in with Gibby... maybe feathers flying instead of snow...
Friday, December 12, 2008
The cats greeted me in the driveway. I was bending down, giving a tail tug to each cat as they paraded in front of me, then I looked over to the wood pile where they were coming from, and saw one poor cat standing perfectly still. It really scared me when she didn't move at all - she had a dog food can stuck on her head. I pulled it off, and luckily it came off easily. I think the poor cat had just realized she couldn't breathe. I've been giving the empty cans to the cats to lick after I feed Gibby. I never thought about any of them getting stuck.
My little black youngster has returned. A young cat came to me when I was tail tugging. He let me pet him, which usually the cats don't allow, then he ran ahead and turned to look at me and came back. Just on a gamble, I put my hand on his side to pick him up, and instead of running off, he leaned into my hand. I picked him up and he ducked his head down so I knew it was him. He's been gone for about a month and has gotten fluffier. I thought he was poisoned, and I'm very happy he wasn't.
I'm still carrying the doggy door in the car, haven't had time to install it yet. Gibby doesn't seem to mind leaving the door open and heating the whole outside world.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I went back to the farm again after dark and had a great time. I wore a headlamp, the kind made for bicyclists, and it made walking around much easier. The cats were fun - the headlamp caused a reflection of their eyes that made the porch on the red house look like it was decorated with Christmas lights. I wonder what the cats were thinking when they watched a head height headlamp aimed at them. There are some new cats moving in. They have the same coloring and small size as my cats, but I can tell they are new because I hardly get to see them - they disappear the minute they spot me. They're probably coming from the big barn that's across the street from my west-side neighbors, there has been a lot of crossbreeding between that feral colony and mine for years. Maybe there was a bumper crop of babies over there, too, and they didn't have a big die-off. New cats as scared as these are might not even stay around, they might just be checking out the possibilities. I don't know if anyone feeds the cats over there anymore, Carol, the woman who used to feed them died several years ago. I don't even know who lives in the tenant house there now - it might not even be a tenant house anymore. Part of that land was sold and a giant house, that looks like a great big gray and gloomy orphanage, was built in the field behind the tenant house. I've never seen any people near either house since the orphanage was built.
Anyway, Gibby is back in his giant doghouse, and the heat is on. I'm carrying a doggy door and some new tools for installing it around in the car - but it's way too cold to install it.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
He had a mean sounding bark for the gas man and I was glad I had moved him out of range. He stopped barking when I told him it was okay, and that made him look like a really well trained dog. While I went with the gas man to check the furnace, Gibby had fun getting himself into a real tangle. What he did to that cable reminded me of the game we used to play on the playground when I was a kid that we called "Chinese Puzzle" - kids would grab hands in a circle and then tangle up together and let the person who was "It" try to untangle without breaking any hand grips (I supposed today we would have to be PC and call that game by another name). Anyway, Gibby had his cable wrapped around, over and under, around a clump of little trees next to the corn crib. It also looked like he had started to pull some wood out of the corncrib. Pieces of wood, leftovers from construction projects, have been stacked in there for years. I recognized some of the wood he pulled out as being from a room renovation in the red house back in the seventies. I only use the corn crib as a storage place for dead animals. I put the cats there in case the Dept. of Ag. would want to do autopsies, which they didn't.
I finally got Gibby untangled and put him back in the pen. He was really disappointed, but I promised I would see him later.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
It was much harder to walk around the yard with him, the snow was very wet and slippery and I'm afraid it will be icey tomorrow. I probably should have taken out the big tractor and driven it down the driveway a couple times to pack down the snow, but I had left Mother at home alone and she wasn't feeling well so I decided to deal with the snow tomorrow. It's supposed to snow all night and be pretty bad by morning.
Some friends came out from town and helped me put up some of my mother's Christmas candles.- they're little figures, like Santa and angels and snowmen and wisemen, etc. Mother has the largest collection of Christmas candles in the world - at least that is what we have thought for the last twenty-five years. She started collecting them before I was born - so, quite a long time ago. The boxes they are in are very heavy, so I made a decision to only put up a few this year, we probably put out a couple hundred. It's kind of nice to have only a part of the collection on the mantle, the bookshelves, window sills, etc. because it's easier to see individual candles. There are a lot of memories connected to those candles.
The candles put me in a Christmas mood, so I'm going to get my Santa antique replica rug out and get some hooking done.
and here he is three seconds later at the other end of the yard.
Gibby may have looked silly chasing his tail, but he was smart enough to stop once he caught it!
I think Gibby liked being up high and hidden. I don't think he knew I could see him. He really has good balance, the top of the flatbed was a sheet of ice and snow - its completely shaded by the garage so the snow didn't melt like it did in the yard- but he never slid across it.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
As near as I can tell, Gibby's odd howl didn't mean anything other than responding to hearing me open the gate. He was dancing in the pen when I got to him. He's such a cheerful dog. When I let him out, he ran from me to Patches and back again. Blue jumped at him, to keep him away from Patches, then Patches and Blue got into a barkfest. While they were doing their doggy things, I went over to feed the chickens. Next week, I'm going to have to find some time to go up to the dog pound to find another dog, Gibby really needs a roommate.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Blackie walks ahead of me toward the red house porch, stopping often and looking back over her shoulder. Each day, she stops at least once, sits up on her haunches and touches her nose to my hand. I can give her tail a little tug and even pet her long body, but she won't let me pick her up.
I tried to take some photos of Gibby, since I haven't posted any pictures of him recently. He was in the yard, running in a large circle, stopping at one side to sniff the ground around Blue and Patches, and then stopping at the other side to sniff the ground near the pool room - maybe sniffing a cat trail. The first photo, above, shows how fast Gibby was moving - he ran right out of the photo.
He slowed down a little bit so I got two more photos.
After about fifteen frustrating minutes, I finally caught him checking out the smells near the pool room. By the time I got this shot, it was getting too dark for more photos.
Gibby still has access to the house. The two antique planes I brought from the shop didn't work, the blades kept slipping out. I'll have to get back to the hardware store and buy the plane I wanted originally - can't do it tomorrow, the store will be closed for Thanksgiving, so Gibby has at least one more day to play inside. Once I can get the door closed and locked, then I can figure out how to install a doggy door.
I guess it's really funny that a door to my house doesn't close. It's odd enough in this day and age that I don't lock my doors, but apparently I don't shut them either. I have absolutely no idea how long that door has been so swollen that it won't close, I guess it could be years. I think when I opened the dog pen for Gibby the door looked like it was closed, but it was just resting against the door sill. When I had some men finish enclosing the front porch this fall (a project I started before I bought the store back in 1994) they installed a door with a lock and keys. They asked me if I wanted to lock the door - and I laughed. A dog pen door that won't close, a back door held shut with a pitch fork - and a locked front door. I guess a polite burglar would be deterred.
Monday, November 24, 2008
The other good news is there were no dead and no sick cats today. I'm more convinced than ever that the poison was in the food - I only wish I had caught on sooner. I counted fifteen cats today - the year old orange cat with the friendly face was back. I haven't seen him for a week or more. There was also one cat caught in the pool room - the long-hair black yearling who looks like Sooters. I can't figure out how he got into the pool room. I had to pry weeds and vines away to get the door open, and then, of course, he wouldn't come out when I called. I had to leave the door open and hope he would come out on his own. I tried to watch from around the corner but all I saw were more cats going in. I played a little with Gibby and then climbed up the broken steps to look in the pool room - while I was looking I heard a little mew, looked down and the little Sooters was sitting outside, just under the ledge below the poolroom floor. How sweet of him to let me know he was outside - he even sounded like my old Sooters (Sooters was my much loved house cat, killed by a friend's pack of dogs eleven years ago.)
I tried unsuccessfully once again to lock Gibby out of the house. I stopped at the hardware store to buy a plane to plane off part of the door so I could get it closed tight again. The girl at the hardware store talked me into another tool, a plastic handle with a sort of rough file fitted into it. It was a stupid choice, not strong enough to deal with the hard wood of the door. I filed down part of the softer wood of the doorframe and was able to get the door halfway shut, but not far enough to be able to engage the dead bolt. I whammed on it from the inside with an old hammer and wedged it in further, but I bet Gibby will have it open in a flash. I'll have to go back to the hardware tomorrow and buy a plane - or, if I have any sense, I'll go to my own store and get one of my antique planes - I bet I could get rid of half a door with one of those in half of the time I wasted today. If I remember correctly, I have eight or ten antique planes.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Gibby has been busy redecorating the inside of the farmhouse. The two electric heaters are keeping the main floor warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, and maybe warm enough to feel good to a hairy dog. He's been throwing everything loose into the dining room, including the almost empty dog food bag. I retrieved it, and filled the big bowl in the kitchen. Gibby seems to be having his meals there instead of in the pen. I guess I'm going to have to get some tools out - make that door into the pen close tight by shaving down the side, and then install a doggy door. When really deep winter hits, I can't have that door wide open or the pipes will freeze in the basement - in fact, the water storage tank is in direct line with the stairs and that door. I moved the tank into the basement some years ago when I got tired of spending all the below zero days with a blowtorch trying to melt the ice in the top of the tank where it was buried out in front of the barn. There's no way I have time for that foolishness now.
Gibby and George are apparently never going to be friends, but George doesn't seem to be as wary of Gibby as he used to be. Tonight, he walked right through the circle Gibby was running so he could ask me to let him into the house. That required some pretty fancy footwork to jump over the cable. I guess George must think the dog food in the house tastes better than his food at Grandma's house. I was pleased to see him feeling well enough to be walking around instead of just laying by the car waiting to get back in.
There was only one egg in the hen house today, but it was a beautiful bright blue - almost a robin's egg blue. Pretty soon I'm going to have to find something to do with those eggs. Even though we had eggs for breakfast, I still have three dozen in the refrigerator. I know it's silly, but I love to take them out and look at them - they're blue and green and pink, and some are gray. The pink ones are from the old hens and only appear once or twice a week, but we've been getting three or four of the others every day, until today. I put that one beautiful blue egg in my jacket pocket and forgot to give it to Mother when I got into the car. We had to go to the feed store and I bought a fifty pound bag of chicken feed - and some thermal underwear for Mother. I struggled to get that bag of feed onto the top of the grocery cart, then had to muscle it from the cart into the back of the car. I already had three big bags of cat food in the back (two good ones and one of the probably poisonous Kroger bags) so I had to shuffle them out of the way and then get the chicken feed in - and with all that and several ins and outs under the steering wheel, I got all the way home before I remembered that egg. I took it out of my pocket and it was still whole, tough little beautiful blue egg.
Well, I didn't tell you much about Gibby today because I really didn't spend much time with him. I don't think I even threw one stick for him. He watched me carry the two dead cats to the corn crib and must have understood I wasn't feeling really cheerful, because he didn't even ask me to throw a stick. Oh, he did tell me he doesn't like well water - something I suspected. I dumped the ice out of the bucket by the back door of the house and filled the bucket with fresh clean well water. He chose to lick the icey chunk of rain water and never put his nose in the bucket at all. There are enough chunks of rain water ice around the farm, maybe I should take some in the house and melt them for him. And then again, maybe he should learn to like well water.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Two more dead cats today, and three who refused to eat. It looks like poison - and my mother asked if it was in the food - and I was stunned. I had already given them two feedings from a new bag, the same Krogers brand as the last bag. They had already eaten quite a bit tonight, there wasn't enough left to remove, but I had a bag from another source, so I gave them some of that. All of the young ones are gone except one very shy shorthair gray, the teeny-tiny black one has disappeared just like the brave little gray. I counted twice tonight, counted 17 the first time and 18 the second time - that's ten less than the highest count during the summer.
I also found a dead chicken. This was not a good day - no sign of trauma, no injury, and not the cold - right inside under the heat lamp.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I went away for a week and a good friend took care of the animals at the farm. That means that Blue and George and Patches had to return home. They returned home and apparently worked with Gibby to provide easy in and out to the dog pen, and Gibby has been a house dog ever since. I don't know if he stays in the house overnight or just goes in to romp around, but it's a good thing I had already decided that the couches and chairs all need to be replaced when I return home - they are completely soaked with mud. It's not as terrible as it would seem, there's not a stuffed chair or couch under thirty years old and not one that was in decent shape before Gibby moved in. At least, Gibby isn't a chewer and hasn't damaged any of the wooden furniture, which I do treasure.
The last few days, there are indications that Gibby has gone kind of wild. He has knocked boxes off of piles, cleared stuff off of tables, and generally made a huge mess. It looks like he was either looking for something or chasing a mouse through the house. I hope he hasn't taken his destructiveness upstairs - I haven't gone up to see. I put hooks on the outside doors yesterday, but they weren't effective - the eyes they were hooked into were gone today.
About a half dozen cats are gone. Little Gray is one of them, just disappeared. I found two dead on the porch. I think it might be coyotes, but can't figure out why they would kill and leave their prey behind. I enclosed the cat porch with heavy gauge plastic to give them a warmer place out of the wind, I hope I haven't created a trap they can't escape.
Winter has arrived too soon - frozen water buckets, frozen hose in the barn, chicken yard tarp weighed down with ice, etc. Despite knowing that winter always comes, I'm never really ready for it, and never expect it before Thanksgiving. I guess my biggest cold weather concern is water - have to get the heater set up in the barn trough, have to set up heated bowls for the cats and Rusty - so Rusty has water when I figure out how to keep him out of the house, where he's been using the automatic fountain in the bath room.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I had already explained that I was going to be in New York next week, so I said I would cancel my trip, but she said we could postpone surgery for a week. The cancer could be one of two types, 1) slow growing, slow enough that Blue could die of old age long before the cancer could kill her, or 2) extremely fast growing, so bloody in surgery she might need transfusions. Luckily, there is a Greyhound Rescue in the area, and Greyhounds are "universal donors". I didn't want to postpone the surgery, but the vet assured me that it wouldn't make a difference. We put Blue on some chemotherapy that could slow the tumor growth for the week I'll be gone.
I guess it's a good thing I wanted Blue's phenobarbitol level checked. Whew!
The other concern is Blue is showing signs of a glandular change, or at least some glandular activity, so we've ordered a pregnancy check along with her other blood test. Blue's too old to have puppies - this is probably almost exactly her twelth birthday, although we've always celebrated her birthday on January 1st, like we do with the horses.
Gibby had visitors both yesterday and today. Cathy, who will take care of him next week, is going to be his new best friend. He loves to play and she enjoyed playing with him. I'm not going to worry about him at all.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
When I had finished feeding the cats and the chickens and checked on the water for the horses, I was ready to feed Gibby. I told him to go to his pen and he gave me a look that clearly said, "You're crazy, lady. You haven't played with me yet." So, I tossed sticks and we played for a while. I stopped playing when Gibby turned the game into tug of war and his teeth came down on my hand - actually, his mouth is so big that somehow my fingers fitted between his teeth and I wasn't pinched at all - but I told him he bit me and Gibby calmed down right away.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Gibby has apparently decided he has entitlements. He is entitled to play catch for at least a little while or he won't go back into his dog pen. I haven't seen the kong for several days so the only available toy was the big stick. Yesterday, he played with it so fiercely that he broke off a piece about a foot and a half long. I was able for a while to alternate between throwing the main stick and throwing the smaller piece, but he soon told me that wasn't fair because I was throwing the second one before he had returned the first one. Gibby gets a look on his face that very clearly says, "You aren't playing fair." and then he quits playing.
Blue and Patches were not having a lot of fun. Patches kept barking at Gibby - I kept yelling at her to shut-up (unfortunately, other more polite requests for quiet make no impression at all). Gibby went over to Patches several times, in a bouncy-puppy friendly way, but Patches just lunged at him. Patches would jump, I would yell, and then Blue would be the enforcer and attack Patches. Patches would run and bark, Blue would chase and bark more, and Gibby would watch in amazement. I left them to it while I did my chores.
I gathered two eggs for the first time in months - one from the old hens, and one from the new. A big peach colored one from the old and a little gray-green one from the Araucaunas. We're going to have eggs for Sunday breakfast and try the new little eggs for the first time.
I broke up the barkfest by telling Gibby to go to his pen - my goodness that dog is smart - and off he trotted. Yesterday, he had explored into the weeds around my flatbed trailer and gotten his cable wrapped over and over around some Goldenrod so he was tied tight and whined for help - today he didn't go anywhere near that spot. Yesterday I had to take him off the cable so I could get it untangled and when he was loose, he didn't run away, just went directly to his pen. He is so smart, he runs to the pen and then waits just inside the gate for me to catch up with him and unclip his cable. If I have to go into the house to get his canned food, he sits right in the same spot and waits for me.
I can't stop thinking about some photos I saw at the funeral today. Our friend had emigrated from Chekoslovakia in the forties. There was a photo of his parents, with his father wearing a cross awarded to him by the czar. I have been thinking how excited I was about getting my letter from the university, how much more excitement there must have been around getting an award from the czar. There was also a photo of his cousin in a Nazi uniform. The cousin was conscripted by the Nazis and was never heard from again. He came here and earned a PhD in something to do with metals - and was given an award by China for developing something to do with better steel.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Today we had one of those miracles that makes farming exciting. After raising the five little Aracauna chicks, almost catching my mother's house on fire with their heat lamp, discovering that one of the chicks was a rooster, having that rooster escape and run me ragged around the barnyard, and waiting and waiting, today, FINALLY, the first egg arrived! It is so different from the eggs laid by the other hens - it's half as big and it's gray. I called it green, but the camera thought it was gray and it looks very gray and small in the egg box with the super extra large brown eggs.
Monday, October 6, 2008
see the big earth mover in the woods. It was being used to drag the big logs out to the hay field. I saw only two big logs out there when I parked my truck, and I watched the third one dragged out. That big machine made a wide road through the woods and the fallen trees had already left a wide opening in the canopy so sunlight was hitting where it hadn't been seen for many years. I'm wondering how the wildflowers will be effected next spring - I haven't been back there for several springs, but I used to love watching the trillium and jack-in-the-pulpits give way to a carpet of adder's tongues.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Up until some time in the later 1970s women at the University were basically second class citizens. Womens sports were club sports, sort of sponsored by the university, but not recognized or financed in the same way as the men. In the sixties, even the cheerleaders and the band members were all male. A fall football extravaganza was a completely male event.
One woman doctoral candidate, Sheryl Szady, used her research opportunity to find the women athletes from those early days and persuade the powers that be to recognize us as pioneer women athletes. I played field hockey all the way from my freshman year through several years of graduate school. After more than forty years, today, I received a letter jacket. That's me in the photo, on the left. The others are Chris Schneider, Cheryl Barkovich, and Mary Hensel, who all played field hockey in the late sixties. I was not any sort of super player, but I loved the game and for me, autumn leaves meant field hockey. My mother started showing me and my friends how to play when we were still in grade school, which went to eighth grade. Then, I played all the way through high school, college, and graduate school. I only stopped playing when I started buying horses.
Those girls today had all kinds of advantages we didn't have - we played on a grass lawn behind the dormitories, a place where we sometimes had to beg boys to leave and toss their football elsewhere. The girls today played on astroturf, or at least some kind of special surface, a surface that had to be watered down during halftime, a surface that has a wonderful give and bounce to it. They have a shelter over their bench area - we just put our stuff on the ground near the field. They have an announcer stand - with an announcer - and an electronic scoreboard. Well, in addition to the physical changes, the game rules have changed so the game is faster, and the players were so fast my camera missed every significant play. We had to leave during the second half because my mother was getting cold, Michigan was ahead 3 to 0 when we left.
We went from the hockey game to the farm. I drove the car through the overgrown pasture and hayfield back to the woods. I think I showed the woods to my mother once, about twenty years ago, when I hauled the family back on a haywagon pulled by my antique tractor, but she doesn't remember that adventure. I have been talking so much about having trees cut that I wanted her to understand where they were coming from - she really doesn't like the idea that I'm allowing a single tree to be cut down, let alone forty trees. I couldn't drive right into the woods, but I'm hoping she realized that twelve acres of trees is a whole lot of trees.
I don't know how Gibby could tell we were at the farm when he couldn't see us way over beyond the orchard, but he seemed to be barking in an extra excited way when we pulled into the driveway. The cats were also strangely excited. They were scattered all over the yard, from the farmhouse, across the driveway, and all over the woodpile. No one could be unhappy watching two dozen cats and kittens fly in all directions before they all decide to race toward the gate. I picked up the fluffy little gray kitten and then another little gray kitten. For the first time, Fluffy started to purr. I got another burr pulled out of her fur, but there is still a wad mashed into her back fur. I'm hoping Gibby never hurts this one.
Gibby was a complete gentleman when I opened the gate and held him back so I could clip the cable on his collar. He ran and jumped around and three times headed for me - he came so close I was catching my breath. Then he dove into the grape vines near the house, I thinking looking for his kong toy. I found the kong over by the picnic table and we played catch for a while. Gibby is a real tease, he pretends he's going to give me the kong, then he tosses it where he can get to it first. After several teasing tosses, he finally lets me have it. I wished I could play this game with him until he was tired (although I'm not sure he ever gets tired), but my mother had been pretty patient all afternoon, so I knew I should hurry. Gibby ran around the trees and played by himself while I was feeding the chickens and giving the cats a second feeding (it seemed to me there were more cats than usual today.) I really hated to leave him. He'll get shortchanged tomorrow, too, since the pioneer athletes will be honored again at a luncheon.
These are photos of the woods where Gibby is no longer allowed to go. It's hard to believe this can be a very dangerous place, but during hunting season, it's a killing ground. With neighbors who choose to trespass and choose to shoot into my land, there's no way to guarantee Gibby's safety here. It is a great place for a dog to run and play, but not with the gamble of being shot for a deer - and we've had evidence in the past that my neighbor shoots before he has a clear view of his target. The lumberjacks will be back in the woods today cutting down the marked trees - but one large mature tree will not be cut, even though one side is marked, a second look showed some damage at the bottom of the trunk.
Gibby played and played when I let him out of the dog pen on the cable. He couldn't go very far, but he put on a great show racing around the trees, dancing and prancing and playing the stick game. When I told him he was a good boy, he startled me by dropping the stick and running back to the dog pen fence and touching the body of the dead kitten with his nose.
Then he ran to me and layed down at my feet. If there is any way to read a dog's mind, I would bet Gibby was saying "I am soooo sorry." If I could have been sure he wouldn't run to the woods, I would have taken Gibby off of the cable that instant. Instead, I could just pet him and let him almost knock me down with enthusiasm.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I don't know what made me realize he was gone, but I thought he would return when I called him - so, I called and called. No Gibby. I covered the whole barnyard, calling in each direction, no Gibby. At that point, I was ready to believe the worst, and walked down the driveway and along the side of the road, expecting at any moment to see Gibby laying in the ditch. Phew, no Gibby.
My hunter friend came back to get his last vehicle and we chatted. I think he realized he had been foolish, said he should have talked to me before he spent the day ruining his hunting season, and then he started helping me look for Gibby. More calling and looking all over. The hunter took his four wheeler down the lane toward the woods, but returned when he saw three deer standing in the lane, deer who wouldn't be there if Gibby was there. He came back and then jumped over the riding ring gate (I can't believe I put the water trough right in front of the gate so it can't be opened) and went calling across the north end of the orchard. I pushed part of the fence down so I wouldn't have to jump the gate, and went through the riding ring and then through the orchard to the south side and out into one of the overgrown pastures. No sign of Gibby anywhere. The horses were looking at me like no one had been out in the pasture with them for a long time (perceptive critters, horses are), and there was no dog with them. I gave up. Went back to the car and drove over to my neighbor's house to the west - she's a dog lover - and asked her to keep an eye out for Gibby. I had heard barking from that direction earlier and kind of hoped Gibby had gone over there to visit her dogs. Turns out they had just returned from a trip and the barks were welcome home barks. After one last return and look around the barns and in the dog pen, I took my mother home.
I gave Mother one of those horrid microwaved tv dinners so I could hurry back to the farm. I was so upset that I wasn't a very pleasant dinner companion. Mother suggested I might want to stay at the farm overnight - and I didn't know if that was to look for Gibby or get my grumpy self away from her.
I took a new rug hooking book and the ATHA newsletter with me. I was expecting hours of waiting with no Gibby, but Gibby surprised me - he was waiting uncomfortably in the driveway when I drove in. It was dark out and he was caught in the headlights - not knowing who was coming, so he was kind of dancing around. I spoke to him as I opened the gate and he came running. First he ran to me, then on past me to the car. I think he was really disappointed that the other dogs and Mother were not there. I wanted to drive past the gate and didn't want Gibby to get hurt, so I let him into the back seat of the car. He anxiously sniffed all over the seat and barely responded to me at all. I petted him enough to learn that he was soaking wet. Maybe he'd gone back to the little pond in the woods for a swim.
I checked the dog pen and learned that Gibby had already eaten the two dinners I had left for him, so he must have been back for at least a little while. I put him back in the pen, and told him I was sorry. For the next month or more, through the multiple different kinds of hunting seasons, I'm going to have to keep him on a cable again. He looks way too much like a deer to be running in the woods without getting shot.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Two timber cruisers came out to measure the trees in the woods so they could tell me how many and which ones they wanted to buy. I drove out and joined them long enough so I could take some mushroom and fungus photos for my dye project. They were both very nice, explaining to me why certain trees would provide good quality lumber and others poor quality. The damp side of the forest, where Gibby likes to wallow, grows trees that are useless for lumber - the dampness turns the color darker and maybe splotchy and people don't buy it (too bad lumber doesn't have the same type of appeal as fabric where a variety of shades and the mottled look are good things). It was also interesting to learn that trees that are wider at the bottom are trying to grow around ruined or sick parts of the trunk. After I drove the men back to the barnyard in the back of my truck, we made our deal. I signed the contract, and then we each had an apple. Some people toast with champagne - we woodsy folks eat apples. Gibby went nuts. I thought he thought we had red balls that we might throw for him - but I was wrong.
The two men went back out to the woods to paint the trees. On the way, they tossed out their apple cores - and Gibby charged for them. Seeing that, I tossed my apple core into the air above Gibby's head and he leapt for it and chomped it up - no wonder he wants to be in the orchard!
When the timber crew comes to cut the trees, they're going to reopen the road on the west side of the farm. Right now, it's so deep in weeds that I drove right over a huge old corner fence post because I couldn't see it (I had the two timber cruisers in the back of the truck and neither one even whispered anything like "Woman driver" - just like neither even changed the expression on his face when I told them I was collecting mushrooms because I'm a hooker who likes to dye). Anyway, when that track is open and packed down by the big trucks, it will make a nice race course for Gibby.
I had run out of chicken feed, so we had raced up to the feed store, but got there four minutes after closing. Our only alternative was to drive across the road to the produce market and buy a bag of field corn - they have a huge load of bagged corn and apples to sell to people who bait deer, but baiting deer is illegal this year - the DNR found one sick deer on a commercial deer ranch so they made baiting and feeding deer illegal to keep the deer from unnatural gathering, Anyway, getting the corn made us late getting the chores done at the farm.
There was a big cat race to the gate when we drove in the driveway. Brownie is almost always waiting for us and she seems to signal the others. The fastest racer is almost always the new Blackie - who lets me grab her tail while we go as fast as possible back up the driveway. Right after the new Blackie I watch for the fuzzy gray kitten in the photo. This little gray kitten was in a photo posted earlier, sitting on a saddle with burrs in her fur - and she seems to gather more burrs all the time. Today, she not only had burrs and stick-me-tights in her fur, she also had a piece of white fuzz from the dog bed that Gibby ripped apart when he first arrived. To my surprise, she let me pick her up so I could remove the worst of the stuff stuck to her.
She is a very brave little kitten. While I was watching the chickens to see if any of them were going to try pecking at the ears of corn I had put in their pens, Gibby decided he was going to chase cats. I had already stopped him once, just by saying NO until he turned back, but he knew my attention was on the chickens - so, he headed for the porch on the red house where I feed the cats. One little kitten was sitting about six feet out in front of the porch entrance. Gibby got to her first, but she wouldn't run. She stood up and hissed at him! His nose was right above her when she hissed, and he backed off fast! I didn't dare laugh at him, I just called him "Good boy" and gave him a hug.
When we were ready to leave, I looked back and noticed the black cats taking over the chicken pens. There are several sitting on top of the tarp covered chicken wire and several more patrolling the perimeter. I wonder if the cats are protecting the chickens...
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
When I went back again in the late afternoon, I let Gibby out of his pen, and instead of doing his wild run out to the yard, he bounced in front of me, jumping up to my nose, and making a funny little sound - he repeated this funny bouncing several times. I told him to go on, and he ran over to the car to say hello to my mother. He was pleased to greet everyone, even was gentle with Patches (yesterday, he told her to quit jumping on him by pinning her to the ground and growling at her.)
I went about my chores and was feeding the chickens when I heard an ominous crack. I looked around, and saw a large branch from a maple tree dangling down about 30 feet high, right over Gibby, who was standing next to Blue and Patches. I was suddenly so scared I couldn't even get a yell out, as the branch suddenly fell right on the spot where Gibby had been. Whew! I didn't see him move, but he was not there and the two cattle dogs were sitting inches beyond the branch. I went over to drag it out of the driveway, but the main part of the branch was too heavy for me to move. I rolled it over as much as I could, just enough to be able to drive around it. I found Gibby and gave him some great big hugs, followed by hugs for Blue and Patches. I am very glad they are all still with me.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Gibby came back from one of his forward forays and caught the deer scent. A deer colored dog chasing deer in this country would be shot, no second chance. So, we yelled his name, I yelled NO, the timber cruiser has two rottweilers and a strong, I AM THE BOSS, tone, and he yelled, "come here", and, unbelievably, Gibby left the scent and came to us. Whew! I don't think I have ever pulled a dog off a deer scent before. My old shaggy black dog, Shady, had been smuggled out of another county because she had a death sentence for being a deer chaser, and brought to me - to my farm where I could easily count 96 deer in the hayfield on a summer evening. She survived to very old age, but never stopped chasing deer.
Gibby loved the hay field, he ran and leaped and ran some more, but I think he loved the woods even more. He followed scent trails back and forth and covered the whole woods before I could get over the fallen tree near the entrance. Luckily, some of the ancient old fence was still up enough that Gibby ran into it and turned back into the woods. He found the mucky area near the back corner and ran up to us from there with black goo oozing from his toes all the way up to mid body and looked like a very happy dog. A few minutes later, he came back clean again. Then he did it all over again - covered with black goo, then washed clean. The third time, I had finally walked to the right spot and saw him rinse himself off in big clear puddle - what a clever dog!
I learned that the Emerald Ash Borer has been active in my woods. Lots of dead Ash trees. The Ash are so like the Walnut that I had thought they were just young walnut trees. I suspect there are no live Ash trees in my woods anymore. I lost a whole species of tree a few years ago when my front woodlot was all Elm and they died off. Surprisingly, a young elm sprung up in the middle of my front yard and is now about thirty feet tall. I think the Dutch Elm Disease must have died out and somehow this volunteer tree might survive. I'm not particularly fond of Elm trees, even though they lined the streets where I grew up, because their leaves are tough and rough like sandpaper when you drive the lawn mower around the tree and run into the low hanging branches - but I have great respect for that brave survivor.
The timber cruiser wanted to zig zag through the woods and check out more trees, so I headed back to the barn yard. I had way over walked what my legs could do and I wasn't sure I could even get back without having to sit and rest for a long time. I was quite surprised that Gibby didn't stay in the woods but came with me. He didn't stop running, but he kept me in sight. I had to stop a number of times to rest, but he didn't leave me behind.
When we got back, I went inside to wash, and Gibby spent about five minutes rolling in the grass. When the timber cruiser returned, Gibby was sound asleep on his back, all of his paws in the air. I said, "Gibby, do you want a drink?", and Gibby ran right into the dog pen to his water bucket. I think he is a genius.
When Mother and I came back several hours later at feeding time, I thought Gibby would be tired and subdued, but he was ready to run again. Mother gave him the supreme compliment, she said, "I think your new dog is another George."
Saturday, September 20, 2008
After everything was delivered, I let Gibby out. Fortunately, he shows no interest in going down the driveway unless there are people in the driveway. As long as he continues to focus his attention in the barnyard, he'll be safe. He ran around checking things out but didn't do his wild running - no sliding soccer tackles to scare me. I spent a little time cleaning out the dog pen, Gibby had quite a collection of cardboard and aluminum dinner trays. The recent weekend of constant rain washed away a lot of the dust that accumulated during the years the pen was not being used and part of the pen floor is now the original gravel. I never liked the gravel for the dog paws, but at least it is the little round kind and not rough pieces of rock. Gibby seems to be very happy with his dog house. He chose the smaller of the two - well, actually, I chose it for him by putting it under the tarp, but he agreed with the choice and runs right into it when he's in the pen and not eating. He seems to get smaller in the dog house, he curls up and only takes up half of the space.
For the first time, when it was time for me to leave, Gibby didn't want to stay in the pen. He went in willingly, but when he saw that I was closing the gate instead of going in with him, he tried to squeeze his way out. That really bothers me, having to lock him up, but it's so much safer for him. At least I could promise to be back later.
The roofer discovered some ants in the two by fours where he fell through the roof, so I had to buy some poison. I bought a concentrate and had to mix it after I got to the farm. I let Gibby out, then went into the farmhouse to mix the poison. Mother said Gibby went back and forth between watching the back door and putting his head in the car window. It took forever to mix the poison - I wanted to do it very carefully, so, of course, none of it worked out right. First of all, I used a strofoam cup to measure out the concentrate - big mistake. The cup disintegrated in my hand while I was trying to pour it into the gallon bottle. Ugh, poison all over the sink, on my hands, and splashed who knows where else. I'm going to have to do a major scrub down before the dogs stay there when I'm in New York. That poison is so potent I don't want them to touch a dried drop. Even after thoroughly washing my hands a number of times, I was leery about petting the dogs, especially Gibby who has lately taken to licking my hands. I pasted a poison warning on it and put it on the pallet with the roofing supplies.
Gibby followed me through the rest of my chores, but I wasn't up to playing with him - dealing with the poison was exhausting. That's the first poison chemical I've allowed on the farm since 1984 and I don't like it, but those carpenter ants must be stopped before more of the roof falls in. Gibby seemed to respond to my mood and was pretty subdued. He chased some cats, but not with his usual energy.
He was even pretty calm when I took his dinner out to the pen. Here's hope for a better tomorrow.
Friday, September 19, 2008
When I let Gibby out of the pen (the gate repair is still holding), he did his wild running, around in a big circle, back to me, to the car, back to me, etc. I think he was surprised to find the car empty, no other dogs and no mother. He did one straight line run at full speed right at me, but I was now confident that he would swerve away or stop in time - but, oooooooooooo, I was almost wrong. He slammed on his brakes about a stride too late and slid right into my feet- just barely touching them. For a second, I was sure he was going to knock my feet out from under me.
We went down the lane that starts next to the barn, Gibby going back and forth and side to side, covering about ten times more ground than I was. When we got to the beginning of the pasture, a tree that grows right in the corner and acts as a fence post, had dropped some hickory nuts on the ground, so I gathered a pile and left them there to pick up on the way back. I was thinking the squirrels would probably see that pile and make it disappear before I got back.
I saw the downed tree and it really did some damage to the sheep pasture's new fence. I was glad Bobby was coming back with a chain saw. Once I saw it, there was nothing I could do alone, so I walked a little further and found another scattering of hickory nuts. I was really surprised to find them before the deer or squirrels or other animals had gobbled them up - last year, I didn't find any - so I piled those up, too. Gibby was dancing on his toes, trying to get me to hurry on, and he didn't even tell me that a man was coming up the lane calling my name. It was the fellow, a Quarter Horse cowboy, who works for the sheep man. I stopped and talked with him on my way to the farm. He came over to help with the tree and instead helped me with the hickory nuts. I filled the pouch I made out of the front of my shirt. I already made a hickory nut dye sample, so I might use these for eating. I think I'll save the husks and dry them so I can see if dried hickory husks give as good dye as fresh hickory husks. Gibby must have been disapointed because our walk was cut short. We walked back to the barn and got there just as Bobby arrived with the chainsaw. Gibby was as good and polite as any dog could be. I told him I had to leave and he walked right over to the dog pen. I reached over to chain the gate, and he licked my hand - such a wild big dog being so gentle!
I went back to the farm again at feeding time and Gibby was just as active as if he hadn't run for miles earlier in the day. We both went back to check the fences and found the two men had cut up the tree trunk and fixed the sheep fence, but left the horse fence down on the ground with the tree branches laying on it. It's rusty old fence that needs to be replaced, but when it's up the horses respect it, so I had to prop it up with some of the branches from the tree. ( I left one big branch in the path so Bobby would have to stop his four-wheeler to move it - I was feeling a little irked that my fence was still down.) Gibby was running back and forth, up to the barn yard and then back to me. Patches was barking at him and I think he couldn't decide who he wanted to play with, Patches or me.
I fed Gibby just before time to leave. Yesterday I put a whole bag of dry dog food in a feeder that he can access any time he wants. I couldn't tell whether he had eaten much of it or not. I think he figured out how to use it - he has to push his head on a swinging door to get to the food. However, he really loves the other food I bring to him from Mother's leftovers, he jumps up to see it no matter how high I hold it while I'm taking it to the pen. I think he's saying, "What's on the menu? is it meatballs and rice again? Oh, I hope it's spaghetti! Wow, is it really a hamburger and fries???? Yum! Today there were no leftovers, so his meal was a can of premium dog food.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
When I opened the dog pen gate, Gibby wanted his one minute of petting.He ran to the car to say hello to my mother, then he sat by my side and let me rub behind his ears. Looking down at him from that perspective, he has a really big head - lots of brain room. Maybe that's why he is so curious and so smart.
Then, he started MY work routine! He apparently remembered that I go first into the barn to check on the horses and the indoor water trough. He headed into the barn ahead of me, then came back to be sure I was following.
He went right into the pump room and checked out the pump. If he had hands, I bet he would have turned on the water for me.
Next, he ran through the stallion section, then came back and jumped up to look into the stalls - stalls that have been empty now for almost a decade. I wonder if he could tell who used to live there.
Outside of the barn, he tried to play with George.