Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happiest of Happy New Years to All

Gibby is getting a New Years present - he will finally have a doggy door from the dog pen. My across-the-road neighbor offered to install the door for me - and he's a professional carpenter. We looked at the door last night and he said it should be easy (even though the big door is an old wooden door that really should be an interior door - it was once a hallway door before I expanded my bathroom and eliminated the hallway). He's going to add a piece of plywood to hold the door panels together and put the doggy door through the plywood and the door. He offered to put the doggy door in when I spoke with him a couple weeks ago, so I took him up on it when he came over last night to fix my mailbox. The snowplow had knocked the mailbox post over and he brought a T-post over to brace it up - I've never had such a thoughtful neighbor before. This has certainly been my week for having some very kind help from quite a few people.

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

Our power went out Saturday night and came back on this morning. The cold was awful, the lack of warm food terrible, concern about keeping my mother warm was very worrisome - but having no internet connection topped it all off and made a miserable time.

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

Glibby is now a regular householder

Christmas is over and life is getting back to normal - although I haven't had Christmas for the animals at the farm yet, Mother was ill for too long to think about much else - she's much better now and had a wonderful time with her nieces and nephews and one of her grandchildren yesterday. I may wait to have Christmas for the animals when she's feeling well enough to start going to the farm again. In the meantime, I'm going to gather a whole pile of walking stick length sticks for Gibby - his old ones are buried underneath the snow.

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

Gibby's been busy

Gibby has been out of the dog pen a couple times recently. Both times, it looked like he got tired of waiting and found a way out shortly before I arrived - his footprints in the snow showed he hadn't travelled around too much. So, I bought a chain intended to be a tie-out, and used it to weave the gate closed from the bottom all the way up to the top. It worked, Gibby was in the dog pen when I arrived today.

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

Gibby is a Great Dog

I think I should change Gibby's name to Gibby the Great or GG for Great Gibby. The poor boy spent most of yesterday and a good part of today locked up on the front porch so the furnace men could do their job. Apparently he didn't bark or do anything to make the men aware that he was even there. Once the new furnace was installed, I let him out, and he was even nice enough that he didn't pull too hard on his leash. He ran out to the end and then turned back, which was really good because the ground was a sheet of ice. Gibby was glad to get back into his dog pen, he went right in and then ran back and forth and around a couple times before settling down by his food dish.

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

Gibby is a Guard Dog

The gas man was coming today to turn the gas on in Gibby's house, so I moved Gibby and his cable to a far part of the yard. I fastened his cable to the steel supports of my old two horse trailer and the first thing Gibby did was move the trailer sideways - that is one powerful dog!
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.