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Saturday, December 24, 2011

From our house to yours...


I've been so busy the last few days that I haven't had time to stop and blog. Plus, Don's home on vacation for two weeks and I don't get much computer time when he's home.

In a couple hours I'm headed to Alabama to spend Christmas with my family. Don is staying home to take care of the critters. We have a deal...he goes to Louisiana to visit family for Thanksgiving and I stay home for critter duty. At Christmas I go to Alabama to visit family and he stays home.

I just wanted to take a moment before I headed out to say...

Happy Holidays
from
Hickahala Ranch!

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's the Grinch's fault!


This afternoon I strung Christmas lights along the front yard fence until it was dark and chilly. The dogs and I were singing Christmas carols, the cats were helping hang the lights and everyone was having a merry old time.

Okay, I confess. I strung Christmas lights until I got tired of trying to untangle huge wads of lights. The dogs kept barking and digging holes in the yard so I finally gave up. It's supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow so I really wanted to finish the lights this afternoon, but it will have to wait until after the rain.

I honestly do not know how the lights get so tangled. The wad that made me give up didn't seem to have a beginning or end.  While my memory isn't the best, I'm pretty sure I would remember if I took the lights down last year and tied them into knots. No, I recall taking them down quickly because it was cold and folding them neatly before storing in tubs.

So what happens from one Christmas to the next?  Do seismic shifts cause the lights to tangle throughout the year? Is it the pull of the full moon? Does Don go up in the barn loft to tangle the lights after feeding the horses?

After much deliberation I think I know who is to blame. The Grinch! Yep, during his off season I bet the Grinch sneaks in while I'm sleeping and tangles up all my Christmas lights. He was probably hiding behind a tree today while I was struggling to fix his mess.

I bet that's who the dogs were barking at the whole time!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chicken in the hen house? Um...no!


Oh what a frightful day I had yesterday! First our old Lab Drake wandered off and it took a couple hours to find him. Well...technically we didn't find him, he just showed up. Don was down in the woods looking for Drake when I heard him at the garage door. Poor old Drake's been having a spell of senility so he'll be going out into the fenced in front yard from now on.

When I went out yesterday evening to do the chores I let several dogs out with me. This is routine for me and the dogs. Yesterday Maggie, Caoimhe, Seamus, Conan, Kyla and Katie went with me...the normal evening gang. As I stepped out of the garage and walked toward the chicken pen I realized the door was open and my Wyandotte chicken, Aunt Bertha, was OUTSIDE!!!

I ran to the chicken pen and tried to quickly guide her back in, but that wasn't going to happen. Chickens are not known for their high IQ. Aunt Bertha panicked and ran in the wrong direction, which caught the attention of two dogs...Maggie and Caoimhe. I'd been fortunate up to that moment that none of the six dogs had noticed the chicken was outside her pen. Now I was panicking too!

Screaming like a banshee I tried to keep Maggie and Caoimhe away while attempting to catch Aunt Bertha. It probably took just a few seconds to catch her, but it seemed like forever to me. Once I had her safely in the pen I have to admit...I shed a few tears and Aunt Bertha shed a few feathers.

I was quite upset with Don for not checking the latch when he was gathering eggs earlier in the day, but I am very grateful that the dogs were not interested in the chicken. I honestly don't think Maggie or Caoimhe had any interest in catching Aunt Bertha. No, they were just curious as to what was going on, otherwise they'd have definitely had her before I had a chance to get hold of the poor chicken.

A stressful day for sure, but you know what they say...all's well that ends well!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A little touch of Mother Nature in the house...


The weather has recently turned chilly again so last night I decided to build a fire in the fireplace. Don had brought some damp wood in to dry a week or so back and I was quite delighted to discover that one of the logs had sprouted a gift from Mother Nature...mushrooms!

I believe these to be Oyster Mushrooms, an edible variety of wild mushroom. Oyster Mushrooms always grow on hardwood and these are growing on a piece of the dead Elm tree we had cut earlier this Summer. They're called Oyster Mushrooms because of the way they look, not because of their taste. They actually have a nutty licorice, or anise, flavor.

Now, I'm no wild mushroom expert so I didn't serve these up for supper last night! However, I'm 90 percent sure these are Oyster Mushrooms because of the way the gills appear to run down the stem.


When Don got home he admired my discovery, but agreed that it would be best not to eat them. Instead, he tossed the log on the fire and burned up my Oyster Mushrooms! I wanted to use them in a little Christmas woods land display under glass, but Don thought they'd just get slimy and nasty so into the fire they went.

I'm just glad I found them before he did. At least I was able to take some photos and do some research. It's always good to learn something new!

Friday, December 16, 2011

When your bowl is empty, sit in it!


Yesterday when I came into the garage after feeding the chickens I found Siobhan sitting in the bowl we use outdoors to feed the cats. Apparently, it was a comfy place to sit because she stayed there while I went inside to get my phone. I snapped several photos and she never got up.

Of course, she hopped right up when I opened the cat food container (we keep it in an old cooler). All the other cats came running, but I fed Siobhan first. Seemed only fair since she'd been patiently waiting in the food bowl!

Cats are so funny. I've found them curled up asleep in the kitchen sink and the bathroom sinks. I've found them in various sized boxes...some much to small to comfortably hold the cat! I've found them snoozing in plastic shopping bags and one year Hermione thought the Christmas wreath was the perfect place to nap!



They curl up with us, with the dogs and I've even found Fergus napping in the chicken house! There's not a nook or cranny in this house that I haven't discovered a cat at one time or another, but yesterday was the first time I ever caught one sitting in their food bowl.

I don't know...maybe Siobhan chose that seat because it fit her big wide hiney perfectly!




Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bad luck comes in threes, right?


If the old superstition about bad luck coming in threes is true, then I should be good to go! Computer virus last Friday, water leak in the laundry on Saturday and realized on Sunday our satellite wasn't working on the television.

Don fixed the computer last Saturday night, I called Directv on Monday and ended up having to set up an appointment to have a repairman come out on Wednesday, which turned into a very busy day!

I got up early yesterday so I could get the floors swept and the laundry room emptied while Don went to feed the horses and call the plumber. Plumber actually arrived before the TV repairman and got to work sawing two big holes out of my laundry room wall. Pictured above is the bad fitting he found. It has now been replaced, but the entire house was plumbed with this stuff so we're just waiting for the next one to spew. An example of the lovely plumbing work done on our house when we built it:


While the plumber was restyling the laundry room walls and plumbing, the TV repairman got busy restyling the cable to our television. Seems the dogs had been using the cable as a chew toy and the high winds we've had this Fall repositioned the satellite dish. The repairman replaced the cable and ran it above the windows along the back wall by screwing it to the brick wall.

HA! I'd like to see a dog chew on it now...the cable is a good 12 plus feet off the ground! Of course, I think it should have been installed that way in the first place, but we only had two well behaved dogs when we moved into the house almost eight years ago.

After everyone finished their repair jobs and left I was able to get outside and start putting up some of my Christmas lights. Don hopped on the tractor to do some driveway repair work and we stayed out until well past dark. Yesterday you would never have thought we'd already had snow twice this Fall as it was 68 degrees. I was hanging up Christmas lights in short sleeves...and enjoying every minute of it!

Here's hoping you don't get hit with triple trouble this holiday season! I know I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we don't get a triple whammy again any time soon!

Monday, December 12, 2011

More unexpected visitors...


The other day I was sitting here at the computer when I heard a sound that made my heart sink. From the sound I assumed that a water line had broken and water was spraying out into the back yard. Imagine my delight in discovering, when I peered out the back door, that it was an enormous amount of migrating birds!

I'll take birds over broken water lines any day, even if they are grackles, which these appeared to be. Obviously my neck of the woods is a very popular migration area for the noisy birds (just check out the map - http://www.birdsource.org/GIS/cgrackle.html). Next time I won't be surprised when I hear them out back!

They were a marvel to watch as they flew in unison from one group of trees to the other. I had to grab my phone and run outside to get a picture as they flew over the house. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to get a good photo of flying birds, so the picture doesn't even begin to convey the large amount of birds that flew over my head. I'm just glad none of them dropped a "gift" on my head as I was standing there gawking up at them!


Several years ago, during the winter, I caught a glimpse out the window of something large and white. I ran to the porch and marveled as a large flock of snow geese swooped around the barn and then landed in the horse pasture. There were so many that it looked like the pasture was covered in snow. Like the grackles, the snow geese didn't stay long, but I am so glad they graced me with their presence for a short time.

I have to admit, grackles don't even compare to snow geese, but the massive number of them was quite awesome and the sound was unbelievable. There isn't a week that goes by on the farm that something doesn't catch my eye and send me on a search to learn more about it. I am very grateful to live here where nature surrounds and entertains me. It makes my life full and exciting.

Now I need to go see what the dogs are so excited about outside. Must be another unexpected visitor...like a possum, an owl or a deer! Or, it could just be the neighbor driving down his driveway!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sorry about that!


Poor computer caught a nasty virus Friday! And no, it wasn't my precious grandson's fault...he hasn't been on our computer since this photo was made two years ago!

The virus, called Vista Security 2011, masquerades as anti malware, but it's actually trying to steal your credit card information. The poor English used in the wording was a huge red flag for me, so I unplugged the Internet connection and waited to see if Don could get it off our computer.

He was able to access the necessary steps to remove it while at work and did so last night. YIPPEE...I've been online all day trying to catch up! Now I need to get off and do some of the Christmas stuff I should be doing, but first I need to fix the leaking drain pipe in the laundry room.

It's always something, isn't it?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Family, fun and lots of holiday shopping!

Nerisha, Nicole, Audrey, me, Valerie, Amanda and Anna
I've been gone awhile and for good reason! Last weekend was our annual mother/daughter Christmas shopping trip and WOW...it was hectic, but lots of fun!

Last Thursday night I headed to Alabama and my sister's (Audrey) house. Arrived about 2:30 a.m. and slept a few hours before we were up and headed to Huntsville to pick up my cute pregnant daughter-in-law (Nerisha). After helping my son get a new battery to replace the dead one on his car we headed down the highway toward Birmingham.

Once we got to Birmingham the group of us checked into the Wynfrey Hotel and hit the Galleria. We were able to get a head start on some Christmas shopping and then hit the bed since we needed to get up early and head on down the road to Montgomery.

When we arrived in Montgomery we met up with my sister-in-law (Valerie) and niece (Anna) and began to shop until we literally dropped! Nerisha fell asleep at the mall so we headed to our suite at Staybridge and tucked her into bed.

Then we hit some more shops (I thought they were going to have to throw us out) before heading to the Montgomery Airport to pick up my daughter (Nicole) who had to catch a late flight from Dallas. My precious grandson's preschool recital was that day so Nicole wasn't able to join us for the entire weekend. Isn't he the cutest little Toy Soldier you ever saw?

Obviously Montgomery rolls up the carpet at 10 p.m. as we couldn't even find a Wal Mart Supercenter that was still open! Before heading back to the hotel we grabbed some snacks at a gas station so we'd have some munchies while gabbing in our suite.

Sunday we enjoyed a very nice buffet breakfast at the hotel before heading out to do some super fast shopping. I have to say, the Staybridge was very nice (the photo at top was taken in the lobby) and we'll definitely use them again next year if there's one in New Orleans. Yep, the girls decided we should do our holiday shopping in New Orleans next year. Last year we went to Nashville.

After some lightning speed shopping we parted ways at noon. Valerie and Anna headed back south to Mobile and we headed north, stopping once again at the Galleria to do some more shopping. We got Nerisha home to Huntsville in one piece and boy, was her hubby glad to see her!

Nicole and I spent the night with my mom and I know she enjoyed having us. I woke on Monday morning to the sound of Grandma and Nicole chatting up a storm. Unfortunately, it was a short visit as I had to get Nicole to the Birmingham Airport by 10 a.m. and head to Mississippi and MY hubby!

Monday night I fell asleep about 8 p.m. and slept a full 16 hours! I'm all rested up now and ready to get those gifts wrapped in time for Christmas!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Miss Attitude...


Even with dirt on her nose, Aislinn looks like a sweetie, doesn't she? Well, looks can be deceiving...just ask our vet!

For a couple weeks now I've been telling Don something was wrong with Aislinn's right ear. She whimpered every time she scratched it. When I would rub the ear it sounded squishy, which I took to be a sign of an ear infection.

Don finally had time to take her to the vet yesterday and boy...did he have an exciting time! At first they could not get her out of the crate. They even turned it on end and Aislinn managed to hang on somehow! So a vet tech reached up to pull her out and Aislinn let her know real quick she didn't care for strange hands. Don was finally able to get her out (while wearing gloves).

At this point the vet decided Miss Attitude needed a muzzle and one small enough was found, but it took THREE people to hold Aislinn down and get it on her. Next step was to wrap her up tight in a towel and tie it so she couldn't escape! Even all bound up Aislinn still required three people to hold her on the table so the vet could examine her ears.

Poor little girl...I was right. She had an ear infection and ear mites. Don said Aislinn didn't calm down until the vet put ointment in her ears and began to work it down into the ear canal. At that point she practically purred...just lay there with her eyes closed and made happy little moans and grunts.

Aislinn's chart now has the word "BITER" in big red letters written on the front and we are left to figure out how the TWO of us are going to hold her down (without a muzzle) while treating her ears. If we're lucky, Little Miss Attitude will remember how good it felt when the vet massaged the ointment into her ears.

I'm not holding my breath though...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hunkering down...

Maggie "hunkering down" last February

I've seen the satellite images of the storm that's supposed to hit us tonight and was very much convinced that we needed to prepare. So, we've spent most of the afternoon making sure all the critters have a roof over their heads and shelter from the cold rain we've had all day...which is supposed to turn into sleet and snow during the night.

We started first at the barn. Got a temporary fix on a stall door and repaired one of the handles on the big barn door so we could latch it and keep the horses from getting in the hall of the barn. There's five stables now open for four horses and I'm betting three of them won't be used! Rose and Angel will bunk together and I wouldn't be surprised if Jasper and Shiloh also share a stall.

Don is headed over right now to check on Rose. She's our oldest horse at 26 years and we're concerned about her getting a chill (if she hasn't already). This could prove to be a very difficult winter for Rose.

After the horses were happily munching hay in the barn lot we headed back to the house and prepared a warm place on the front porch for the three dogs (Angus, Teagan and Caoilainn) that sleep in the front yard at night. We fixed an enclosure on a protected corner of the wrap around porch and filled it with hay. Aislainn and Tadhg immediately jumped in the hay and made themselves cozy little nests and curled up. I was happy to see them do it as it reassured me that Angus, Teagan and Caoilainn would be okay tonight.

Next it was time to tend to the chickens, ducks and Elvis. This mainly consisted of making sure their houses were draft proof and giving them dry hay. The hens, Aunt Bernice and Aunt Bertha, were very happily exploring the hay in their house when I came inside.

Now we've got a fire going in the fireplace and I'm going to make some venison spaghetti to warm our bellies!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's a three dog night...or four...or...


Brrrrr...yesterday's fierce wind and lingering rain has made for some chilly weather around here! We've all pretty much hunkered down in the house all day snuggling up to one another to stay warm.

I lit a fire in the fireplace this afternoon and have spent most of my day trying to convince the dogs it is okay to go out in the rain to potty and then drying them off with towels when they come back inside. Most of the dogs love the towel, but Miss Aislinn definitely does not. I guess she prefers to be wet!

Poor Don went out to the barn this evening to tend to the horses and came back soaked, tired and grumpy! He's in the shower now and I'll fix him a nice plate of Thanksgiving leftovers when he comes downstairs. Then I'll cozy up by the fire and browse through some of my Christmas craft books until I grow sleepy and head upstairs to bed.

Hopefully there'll be room in the bed for me as I figure it's going to be a three...or four dog night, which makes for a very warm, but crowded, bed!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Storm's a brewing...


Since yesterday I've been watching a large storm heading our way from the west. It's been slow moving, but appeared to be getting very close when I went out to feed Elvis, the ducks and chickens earlier than normal this afternoon.

Since this front is supposed to be bringing us colder temperatures (we even have a chance of snow flurries!) I decided I'd better get some firewood into the dry garage before it started raining. I got my little garden wheelbarrow and proceeded to pile it high.

My accomplice, our cat Siobhan (AKA Fat Girl), and I made a discovery while at the woodpile. It was a gooey, icky fungus growing on a large piece of Sycamore trunk. Of course I just had to take a photo of it and hurry in to research it online. It's rather yucky isn't it?

Turns out it is a Auricularia Cornea, commonly known as Wood Ear and quite edible when cooked. They are very popular in Asian cooking (usually steamed or in soup).

It turns purplish with age, so I'm guessing the one I found today is ready for the retirement home!

Wood Ear also has medicinal qualities and is used medicinally for many ailments, including cancer, fatigue and cardiovascular disease. It is high in calcium, iron, carotene and protein. This information and more is available at http://www.medicineatyourfeet.com/auriculariaspp.html.

This is one of the things I love about living out in the country. I just never know, when I step out my back door, what I'm going to find and what I'm going to learn about it!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Spur of the moment Thanksgiving...

After the memorial service on Wednesday for Hunter and Brittany's little Eli I didn't plan on having Thanksgiving, especially since I woke up with a headache yesterday morning. I just wanted to rest, but that wasn't in the cards.

My son and daughter-in-law called and said they were coming over since everyone at his Dad's house was exhausted from their harrowing week dealing with their loss. Thank goodness I keep my pantry fairly well stocked!

I ended up cooking a 14 pound turkey, homemade succotash, yeast rolls, cornbread dressing, gravy and had pecan and pumpkin pie. Dug around and found a can of cranberry sauce and Don made his famous candied sweet potatoes (so yummy with pineapple in them).

I'm thankful they came over now. We had a pleasant time and everyone had plenty to eat. Jesse said they even saw five wild turkeys on their way over, which seemed like a nice touch for Thanksgiving!

According to Jesse, it's all good...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Drake, our "old man" dog...


Thought I would introduce Drake, our oldest dog, this evening. He's a registered Black Labrador Retriever...the only dog we have that has papers! He's a sweet, gentle dog who knows some neat tricks like speaking, begging on command and shaking hands. Drake is quite a gentleman!

We've known Drake since he was a puppy, but he hasn't always lived with us. He was my sister-in-law's dog for several years, but she had to bring him to us about six-seven years ago. Drake is now 12 years old and, as you can see in the photo, he's really showing his age.

Drake suffers from severe arthritis and takes a daily supplement for it. He's also given an anti-inflammatory when needed, which seems to be more often as the days go by. Drake is also becoming very absent minded and hard of hearing.

When Don fed the dogs last night Drake didn't get up to go eat. That worried us, because Drake LOVES to eat! The poor old fellow wasn't even reacting when Don called him, so we decided to feed him in the house (he usually eats in the garage). By mixing some canned food with his kibble Don was able to get him to eat a little bit of his food.

When we went to bed Drake didn't come upstairs with us. We were sitting in bed fretting over Drake's behavior when I realized that he'd slept all day long...he didn't go out for a potty break until Don got home from work. We were very afraid that last night might BE Drake's last night. Don even got up at some point in the wee hours to check on him.

As you can imagine, we were quite relieved to wake up this morning with Drake sleeping on the bedroom floor. He's been better today, not quite so confused and seems to have his appetite back...evidenced by his begging treats every time I've been in the kitchen!

Perhaps it was just the change of weather. We had storms move in during the night and Drake may have just been achy and tired last night due to the barometric changes. Whatever it was, I am grateful that he is feeling better because it would hurt my heart to much to lose Drake right now.

When the time comes, and I know it's coming, my wish is that Drake slip away peacefully in his sleep (right now he is sprawled out on the love seat snoozing with Conan).

I also hope that he sees one more Christmas...or more!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Horses had a visitor...


Yesterday after Don fed the horses we heard the dogs barking. I went to the window to check on them and noticed someone walking across the hayfield toward the horse pen. Then I noticed something odd...there were FIVE horses at the fence. We only have four horses!

Don and I immediately knew what was going on. A neighbor of ours recently got a horse and has been keeping it tied in his yard. He doesn't have a fenced pasture. Obviously his horse had gotten loose and trotted over to greet our horses.

It was also obvious that the neighbor was not having any luck catching his horse, so Don hopped in the truck to go help. By the time he got to the hayfield the horse had taken off across the field, up the road past the neighbor's house and was in another neighbor's cornfield. Don was able to catch the horse by bribing it with an ear of corn.

He had a bit of a chat with the neighbor about the situation and learned that they have a pasture up the road. They will be taking the horse there as soon as they sell the stud horse that's currently in that pasture. I hope that happens soon because the horse has no shelter and the other day I saw their pit bull tugging the horse by the rope around its neck. I pulled in and blew the horn, but no one was home. Fortunately, I distracted the dog, but don't doubt that it went right back to aggravating the horse when I left.

At least the horse had a good trot around the neighborhood and our horses were happy to visit across the fence!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A heavy heart tonight...

Elijah Davis Reynolds, August 24, 2011-November 19, 2011

Earlier today my daughter Nicole called with heart breaking news. Her younger brother, Hunter, and his girlfriend lost their precious three-month-old son this morning. My heart goes out to Hunter, Brittany and my kids' dad and step mom. I got to visit and hold little Eli shortly after he was born. He was a beautiful baby and will be greatly missed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fluctuations and acclimation...


We had a lovely sunset this afternoon, courtesy of Mother Nature and airplane contrails which made some interesting patterns in the sky. Just one of the perks (probably the only one) of living south of a major airport.

Mother Nature has really been busy doing her job lately by blowing most of the leaves off the trees. I can hear the windchimes on the front porch as I type. The wind has also blown in some chilly weather. We fell into the 20s last night for the first time this Autumn. A brisk wind with 28 degree weather can give one quite a chill, but I guess I am quickly becoming acclimated to the cooler temperatures.

When Don got home from work around 11:30 p.m. last night, he walked the dogs and then came in to put on his jammies. When he came back into the kitchen he was wearing a quilted flannel shirt. I asked him if he was cold and he told me it was 56 degrees upstairs. Downstairs I'd built a fire earlier in the evening and, while a bit cool, was doing okay in my short sleeved teeshirt.

HA...Don checked the downstairs thermostat and it was OFF. The temperature downstairs was 60 (thank you fireplace). There was a time I would have been freezing at that temperature, but no longer. Of course, if I do get a chill, I'll just put on some long sleeves.

We're still having some fluctuations in the weather and should be into the low 70s by Sunday, with no sign of dipping into the 20s again any time soon. Guess that means I can keep the heat off into December!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

While I was gone...


While I was gone to Texas to celebrate my big blue-eyed grandson's fourth birthday Don stayed home and tried to burn down the house! Actually, he had a minor grass fire on Sunday and I just happened to call him in the middle of it.

He was mowing in the side yard when the lawnmower caught fire. It was very windy and the grass fire quickly spread toward the house, but Don managed to put it out before any damage was done. My two huge lavender bushes went up in flames, as did my Sweet Shrub. The broccoli, raspberry canes and blueberry bushes were spared, thank goodness!

It was extremely windy in Texas too, more so than usual, which made having a birthday party at the park quite an experience. We had to forego most of the decorations, but I don't think the kids minded. They had the park to play in, a bounce house to bounce in (personally, I think we should have had the party in the bounce house) and plenty of birthday cake and ice cream to eat.

The party was on Saturday. When I arrived at Jude's house he asked me if it was his real birthday and I explained to him that his real birthday was on Monday and we were having his party early. He's a smart little guy...when someone at the party asked him how old he was, Jude replied, "Still three".

I'm happy to report that Jude is now officially four-years-old, Don has "officially" retired from burning things up and he is now back at work. That means I get the computer back...finally!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Go West...


I'm very busy today, but had to grab and minute and blog. Tomorrow I'll be heading west to attend my precious grandson's fourth birthday. Every year my mom, sister and I go to Texas for the weekend to help Jude celebrate his birthday. It's so good to see my daughter, grandson and son-in-law even for a short time. I just don't get to see them enough!

So today I am bustling about trying to pack, find birthday gifts that I'd bought earlier in the year and tucked away, not to mention trying to get the house situated so Don can find clean socks and something to eat!

I won't be blogging until I get back...possibly Sunday evening, but most likely Monday.

See ya later...I'm going to head into the sunset now!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!


Last night I made soup, vegetable soup to be exact. Made some cornbread to go with it and Don declared it a delicious supper.

My main reason for making soup was some leftover green beans in the fridge and a bottle of V8 Juice I'd bought at the grocery store on Saturday. When my kids were small I always made veggie soup with V8 Juice. I haven't bought any in years, but there was a sale on it and I had a great coupon, so how could I resist?

Unfortunately, my plans to use up leftovers always backfires when I make soup. For some reason I simply can not make a small pot of soup. It just grows and grows until I have a huge pot full, which is exactly what happened last night. That small portion of green beans turned into several quarts of soup!

Fortunately soup freezes well so I'll put this up in two person portions so we can enjoy it later. Either that or we'll be eating soup every night for a week!

P.S. Thank you Mr. Lewis Carroll for the poem "Beautiful Soup" and for all of Alice's adventures.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Spray painting...


The other day I bought some barn red spray paint and today I started using it. I'm in the middle of repainting my laundry room a creamy butter yellow and decided the red would be a nice punch of color.

This afternoon I took my two shelves (two long pieces of wood that I lay on top of metal brackets over the washer/dryer) out to spray paint. I didn't see the sawhorses around so I decided there would be no harm in using the box blade on the tractor as a substitute. After all, the box blade and tractor are red, plus the box blade is rusty so a little paint would spruce it up too.

Fergus was quite intrigued with the goings on and stayed on top of a fence post keeping a close eye on me. The dogs couldn't have cared less (which is good as I didn't want any dogs with red noses, paws or tails).

As I was spraying the shelves I started thinking about spray paint. How many of us learned how to spray paint at Vacation Bible School? Remember those cigar boxes we decorated with uncooked pasta and then spray painted gold?

Spray paint has come a long way since Vacation Bible School and my childhood. For one, it costs a lot more! It also is a better quality and you can find lots more colors and different paints for spraying different materials such as plastic and metals. You can even get it textured these days!

Anyway, I'll be putting the final coat on my shelves tomorrow and then I'm going to spray paint the little green cupboard I found at Goodwill. I also have a couple of decorative shelves to spray paint. After that, I just have to put up my "cats in the laundry basket" border and the room will be finished. I'll post a photo in the near future of my decorating efforts.

Oh, did I mention I also managed to spray paint my index finger today? Yeah...also learned that spray paint doesn't wash off!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Long night ahead...


Saturday nights are always long around here. Don doesn't get home from work until 1 a.m. and it's usually 4 a.m. by the time we get all the dogs fed and bedded down for the night. We also have to round up cats. The coyotes sound like they're getting a little closer to the house every night, so the cats are sleeping inside (except for big burly Harley who hates to be in the house).

Tonight, however, is going to be an hour longer that normal and I am looking forward to it! An extra hour of sleep will be much appreciated since I had to get up early this morning to do the grocery shopping...a chore I normally do on Wednesday. I am most definitely not a morning person so any excuse for an extra hour of sleep is a good one!

Of course, I despise Daylight Savings Time in the Spring when I lose an hour of sleep. Just doesn't seem like there's any point in doing that these days...especially to a night owl like myself!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Smarty Pants...


This is Teagan. Teagan is a pest. Teagan is also to smart for her own good. Teagan's name is Irish and means "beautiful". We made a mistake. We should have named her Miss Smarty Pants.

Before we took Teagan into our home she was hanging out on the rural road where we live with a black dog. I guess they were pals because you always saw them together. One day, coming home from the grocery store, I found them in our driveway. I stopped and put out some dog food for them. Teagan was thrilled to make friends with me and I had no trouble putting her in the truck (where she promptly hopped onto the dashboard to ride up to the house).

Unfortunately, Teagan's friend was not so sure I was a nice person and wouldn't let me get her. A week later she was hit and killed. That made Don and I very sad, but there was little we could have done since there was no way to catch her.

Teagan, being the smart little dog she is, quickly settled in with the other dogs. We feed her, pet her, play with her just like any of the other dogs, but Teagan continues to be extremely needy. It's like she just can't get enough, which makes her a huge pest, especially since she is very persistent and will climb all over you to be petted. Oh, did I mention Teagan is extremely strong for her size?

At night Teagan sleeps in the fenced in front yard with Angus and Caoilainn. She likes being outside at night and does much better there than in the house. If she spends the night in the house Teagan will walk all over us while we try to sleep. Like I said, she's a pest!

Now to the truly smarty-pants aspect of Teagan. She recently learned how to open the front door! We have a door knob that has a push down latch and Teagan has figured out how to push it down with her paw and waltz right in...and she NEVER shuts the door behind her!

After a few mornings of finding outside dogs jumping on the bed (and the front door wide open) we've decided that the only way to fix the problem is to lock our door at night. Living out where we do with all the dogs, locking up has never been an issue. Now we're having to lock the dogs out!

To top it off, Teagan is teaching my little Beagle, Tadhg, how to open the door. He's done it twice. The door is now locked during the day as well!

If you're wondering what breed of dog Teagan is, the vet declared her to be a "genuine Mississippi Mutt" which is just a fancy way of saying she's a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blustery November has arrived!



November arrived on a blast of cold air for us here in north Mississippi! Yesterday it was a balmy and pleasant 72 degrees, but last night brought rain and today we've seen fierce cold winds and a temperature that struggled to stay above 50, but lost.

When I was out hurriedly feeding the chickens, ducks and Elvis I noticed that the magnificent Hickory tree in the back had lost most of its beautiful gold leaves. Rats...I've been meaning to take a photo of the Hickory while it was ablaze with Fall color. I was a day late, but maybe I'll get one next year.

Now I've got the house all nice and snug with a fire roaring in the fireplace and a pot of homemade venison/veggie soup bubbling on the stove. Just before Don gets home from work I'll make a pone of cornbread to eat with the soup.

Afterwards we'll fall asleep on the clean flannel sheets I put on the bed today. Mmmmm...just thinking about it makes me all warm and sleepy!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween everyone!


I hope your Halloween was a safe and fun time for all involved. Halloween used to be my absolute favorite holiday (right up there with Christmas), but it's pretty low key these days. I carved the pumpkin this evening and he is now cheerily glowing on the fireplace mantle.

Other than our annual Jack-O-Lantern we don't do anything on Halloween. We're a half mile off the road behind a locked gate eight miles out of town, so we never get trick-or-treaters. The kids are grown and live in other States, so there's no more taking children out trick-or-treating either. My daughter will post photos of my sweet little grandson making his Halloween rounds on Facebook so I won't feel left out.

OOPS...just got interrupted by a phone call from Texas! It was my grandson calling to tell me about Halloween! Guess that was my treat...sure hope there aren't any tricks in store before the night is over!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What came before...


In the photo above is an old fence row on our property. Before we bought our farm it was a 120 acre cow pasture. We've found remnants of an old silo and barn. In fact, we discovered some time after building our barn that we'd built it on the site of the old barn!

There is some evidence of what came before us and even before the cow pasture. I've found a broken piece from a butter churn lid and down in the woods one Spring I discovered a big patch of daffodils. Knowing this was an indication of a house site, we explored a bit and found some old handmade bricks. They now form a "patio" that my garden shed steps sit upon.

There are traces of what came before that old house site. Long before white men moved into this area it was populated by the Chickasaw Indians. The name of our farm, Hickahala Ranch, comes from the name of the creek that forms our north boundary line. I contacted the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma and found out the name is actually two words..."hicka" means "stop" and "hala" means "arrive".

That's exactly how we feel about our home. When the realtor stopped in what became our driveway we knew we'd finally arrived at our home. Later that evening we drove out here alone and walked the half mile to the back of the property (where the house is now). While standing there soaking in the beauty around us a flock of Canada Geese flew overhead. In that moment we knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that we were meant to live here.

I enjoy finding the traces of what came before...barbed wire fence lines turned into a row of trees...unexpected patches of daffodils in the woods...crumbling bricks made decades ago. I can only hope that when Don and I are gone someone will enjoy what we will leave behind...fruit trees...wetlands converted from fields to forest...and this house we hope future family will love as much as we do.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

So busy today!


I've been busy, obviously the dogs have NOT been busy (unless you consider laying around the house busy). The day started off with a dreaded Saturday trip to town. Oh, how I hate the Saturday crowd with all the nutso drivers and long waiting lines! I took care of my errands and headed home as fast as I could!

Once home I had to iron a shirt for Don and fix his lunch. Got him off to work and then it was time to start painting in the laundry room again. That's been a very slow job. I just can't seem to get done in a day what I could when I was 20. Which is sad, because in my mind I'm still 20 so this going slow is frustrating.

I did take time to go to the pond. Fergus had cornered a large grasshopper earlier in the day so I figured I could catch a few fish for the ducks. No luck...sneaky fish stole my grasshopper off the hook and there were no small fish in the minnow basket. Poor Ducky and Ping had to make do with chicken feed and lettuce today.

After feeding the chickens, ducks and Elvis I brought the dogs in and got back to work. Darkness fell and I paused long enough to have a bite to eat and build a fire in the fireplace. We're supposed to get another frost tonight and it's quite chilly outside. After my break I went back to painting.

Anyway, I've been so busy I forgot to blog! Now you know why I'm so late posting today!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A rose by any other name...


...is still our Rose. Don snapped this photo of Rose the other day. He put her in the barn lot separated from the other horses to paste (worm) her. Rose hates to be pasted so we now put it in her feed and she'll eventually eat it.

Rose was Don's first horse and she's beginning to show her age (late 20s). I can see a more pronounced sway to her back and her face is turning white. She's a good horse and I dread the day we lose her. Don will take it very hard.

She's been put out to pasture now (literally...back in the pasture with the rest of the horses) and we will do our best to spoil Rose in her old age. She gets Senior feed and her own stall in the barn when it rains or turns cold. Her old bones don't tolerate the rain and cold like they used to and it is a pitiful sight to see a horse shivering.

Sure do love our Rosie girl.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We found it!


Back in April we had some heavy rainfall that resulted in a good portion of our property flooding. This isn't a rare occurrence for us and we've become used to it somewhat. This was, however, the first time our mailbox and large country garbage can washed away.

A few weeks after the flooding Don found our mailbox out in the cornfield with the mail still in it. I still haven't figured out why he brought that mildewed lump of soggy paper (previously known as mail) to me as there was no way I could salvage any of it. Most likely the garbage can was floating down Hickahala Creek to the Coldwater River

HA! Here it is seven months later and we found the garbage can! On Tuesday we went for a walk in our few acres of woods and near the middle of the woods I spied the garbage can jammed up against a tree. Don checked it out and it appears to have survived its half a mile journey from the road into the woods.

We'll probably use it at the barn, or turn it into a duck house like the old one that lost it's lid. I'm just pleased as punch that I spotted it on our walk and think it's funny that for over half a year it was just down the hill from the house the whole time!

The prodigal garbage can has returned!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Signs of the Seasons...


Today I noticed that the berries on the holly bush at the end of the front porch are starting to change colors. Right now they have a pinkish tint to them, but before I know it they'll be bright red and ready for Christmas!

I've noticed other signs that Autumn is moving steadily toward Winter. We've had a couple frosts so I went out this afternoon to check the broccoli in the garden. It's doing great, but the frost killed some volunteer potato plants so I dug them up. Got two medium size potatoes for my efforts so we'll be eating them for supper tomorrow night.

The butter beans were also killed, but the catnip still looks good. I'll need to harvest it soon as I'm sure the cats would enjoy some toys stuffed with catnip, especially Possum, the new kitten (who is growing like a weed).

My garden spiders are slowly dying off as well. It always makes me sad to say goodbye to them, but they've lived their brief lives and next Spring their children will replace them. The only one still hanging on is the one of the porch. I guess she is better protected from the chilly nights.

Almost all the leaves have blown off the persimmon tree and there are only a few stubborn persimmons still clinging to the limbs. The dogs continue to root around beneath the tree looking for sweet persimmons, but it won't be long before there will be none to find.

However, the dogs have other things to enjoy now. They love lying in front of the fireplace when I have a small fire going (the photo is Guinness from a few years ago made just before Halloween). They also enjoy the cooler days and have been quite rambunctious the last week or so.

Elvis has also been quite frisky, hopping around his cage and greeting me at the door when I bring him treats. I'm sure his rabbit fur coat feels better to him when the temperatures drop!

Saturday I bought a pumpkin, which I will carve on Halloween. Since we live so far off the road I'll put it on the fireplace mantel for us to enjoy. I just can't imagine Halloween without a jack-o-lantern, even though they signal the end of October.

November is quickly approaching. I see the signs of it everywhere and I welcome its arrival with open arms!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Some things are more important than others...


I barely have time to write tonight because something more important came up...a phone call from my daughter. I could hear my grandson in the background and enjoyed that as much as I did talking to my wonderful daughter.

She is wonderful...hard working both at her job and at home. She works at a bank part time, takes care of her husband and almost four-year-old son and manages to maintain a 3.5 GPA in college. She is working towards a degree in early childhood education.

It's difficult living so far apart and I am so very grateful that we have cellphones and the Internet to help us keep in touch and stay connected. I'm also grateful that my dear daughter feels free to call me whenever she needs to talk...for advice...a sympathetic ear...or just to share a funny story (usually about my grandson).

So yeah, tonight I spent my "blogging time" talking to my daughter. I'd do it again, too!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Darkness descends...


As darkness descends this evening I'm left wishing there was a full moon coming up over the pond as it was in the photo above. It would make it not so dark when the power goes off tonight.

TVA has a scheduled outage that begins at 11:30 p.m. and lasts until Sunday morning. That's probably not a big inconvenience for most folks, but turns out to be a slight one for us. This is Don's late shift day. He won't be home until 1 a.m. and, being night owls, we usually don't go to bed until 3-4 a.m.

I'm prepared though. I've got lots of candles set out around the house and a fire in the fireplace to ward off the chill and provide some light. We'll have sandwiches for supper (yes, we eat that late) or roast hot dogs over the fire. I plan to take my shower before the power goes off and be in my jammies early.

My biggest problem is having something to do! My eyesight isn't good enough for reading by candlelight so I've been wracking my brain this evening trying to think of something to keep me occupied. I'm still undecided. I guess I could fold clothes in semi-darkness, or sweep floors (although I'm sure I would miss some spots).

Hmmm...maybe I'll just take a nap by the fire!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fitting in...


It's official...Aislinn is a bona fide member of the Gallagher family now. This was made official last night when she hopped up into a living room chair and claimed it as her own. None of the other dogs challenged her and Aislinn had herself a nice nap.

It always amazes me how easily our dogs accept new members to the family. I often read about people having trouble introducing a new dog or cat to their family, but we've never had a problem. Perhaps it's because we get new pets so often, or perhaps it's the way we go about it.

When we get a new pet they are crated in the den so that everyone can get used to them without the worry of an attack. It's also a good idea health wise too. With the high incidence of Parvo and other diseases stray cats and dogs may have, time in a crate is also a quarantine period.

Aislinn was in the crate longer than usual because the last two dogs we'd gotten prior to finding her had Parvo when we picked them up. We lost one of them (sweet little Aoife) and the other, Caoimhe, survived after spending a week at the ER veterinary hospital. I was terrified that Aislinn would get Parvo before she was completely immunized and our vet agreed that she should be crated. Poor baby did have a battle with intestinal bugs, but is now healthy, happy and a tad bit bossy!

It's hard to believe Aislinn has only been with us for eight weeks! She is so much a part of our family now that I can't imagine life without her. How did I ever survive without my snuggle buddy while watching TV? How did I get by without those warm kisses and her bouncy cheerful ways that light up my days?

I know one thing...I am so very grateful that we were in the right place, at the right time, that hot August night when we spied little Aislinn running down the deserted country road in front of our place. I am also grateful that she stopped and let me pick her up...trembling with fright while I reassured her that everything was going to be alright.

I think she believes me now...all is right in Aislinn's world tonight.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jack Frost is coming to visit!


Looks like ol' Jack Frost will be paying us a visit tonight. It's been cooler since it rained Monday night and there's been a chilly wind blowing for the last couple of days. Of course, I'm loving it! Best of all it is now cool enough at night to have a fire in the fireplace.

I'm grateful we have a wood burning fireplace, especially tonight. When I came in from feeding the critters and visiting the pond the house was dark and chilly...an unexpected power outage! I decided the best thing to do would be light a few candles and build a fire. Of course, as soon as the fire was lit the power came on! That's okay, with the temperature outside at 42 degrees the fire feels very nice. The dogs must like it too as there are several of them snoozing in front of the fireplace right now.

Did you know that Jack Frost originated in Viking folklore? The Vikings called the sprite Jokul Frosti ("icicle frost"). I'm always fascinated by ancient lore that passes down from generation to generation and is still a part of our culture today.

So welcome Jack Frost, I'm glad you're here. Paint the grass and windowpanes with your icy paintbrush while I sit inside by my cozy fire with my book.

Monday, October 17, 2011

They're everywhere!



The asters have certainly been putting on a grand show this Fall. Between the horse pasture fence and the driveway the Brown-eyed Susans and the Calico Asters have dazzled us with their natural beauty.

I found it interesting that Brown-eyed Susans are a member of the Aster family, but Black-eyed Susans are members of the Sunflower family. Of course, there are obvious differences in the two flowers...differences that are traits of the families they belong to. For example, Brown-eyed Susans bloom in late summer and early Fall like most wild Asters do. They also grow up to five feet high and have multi branched stalks with lots of flowers. Aren't they gorgeous? I took the following photo from the truck, so you can imagine how tall they've been this year!



Black-eyed Susans bloom during the summer and grow much closer to the ground, with one flower per stalk, just like their cousins the Sunflowers.

I didn't realize there were some medicinal uses for Brown-eyed Susans until I did a little research. Native American tribes used a poultice of the plant for snake bites, a tea to treat colds and worm in children and a juice made from the roots to treat earaches.

The Calico Aster flower was used as a smudge (smoke) to cure crazy people! Good stuff to know in case I ever get bitten by a snake, have an earache or go bonkers!





Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mushroom stomping...


When I was a kid my siblings and I enjoyed stomping on puffballs to make them "smoke" (release their spores). Mama always told us not to, but I don't think we were doing any harm. We were just speeding up a natural process!

I suppose I'm still a kid at heart because, at age 52, I still enjoy stomping puffballs! We've had a lot of them this Fall, especially in the front yard. Yesterday I noticed this one near the chicken pen. It's pretty much lost all its spores, so stomping on it wasn't much fun.


Then I got lucky and found another one that still had plenty of smoky spores. After I was finished with it we'll probably have a field full of puffballs next year!

Puffballs are classified as Basidiomycetes and do not have a cap and gills. As a result, they need an external force to disperse their spores, a force I'm quite happy to provide!

It's my understanding that puffballs are edible, but since I am not an expert on wild mushrooms I'll stick to stomping them instead of eating them!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Busy as bees around here!


Today has been humming with activity...literally! There was the humming of my neighbor bush hogging his field behind us and the humming of farm equipment across the road and on the other side of the creek as farmers hurried to harvest the last of the cotton and soybeans. On our South side there was a bustle of activity as hay was loaded and taken off. Late this afternoon there was the drone of Army helicopters flying low overhead.

As you can tell, my dogs were busy as could be in the front yard playing with one another! Right now they're busy barking in the front yard, just letting the coyotes nearby know that they'd better not come up here!

I figure everyone was extra busy today because we're supposed to get heavy thunderstorms Monday night with a drastic drop in temperature accompanying the storms. If predictions are right we'll see our thermometers dip into the 30s for the first time this Fall. I can't wait to build a fire in the fireplace! There's nothing quite as cozy as a little fire crackling in the fireplace, or the smell of it wafting in the chill night air.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go round up some very loud dogs. I think they've been busy enough for one night!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Endings...


As I was sitting in my rocker on the front porch trying to finish the book I've been reading (Horns by Joe Hill) I looked up and noticed we had yet another spectacular sunset. Odd thing though...it was in the southern sky, not in the western sky! It's a phenomenon we've noticed here on more than one occasion, although it's usually to the east, not the south.

Whichever way it was, I sat and enjoyed the beauty of another day's end. I can't really say that I enjoyed the ending of my book however. I always feel this NEED to gobble up a good book and then feel sad that it's over when I finish. It's as if I didn't get enough and want the story to continue.

Last night I sat and wept because of something that happened in the book. I can honestly say this is a rare thing for me to do when reading a horror story. The only other book in this genre I can recall making me cry was Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. Silly of me, I suppose, but what can I say? I'm a cry baby!

Finishing a book also leaves me feeling at odds...I'm not sure what I want to read next. I need a day or so to mull over this book before moving on to a new one.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Was I missed?


Last week was a long one, but the hard work paid off and we made over $3000 on our annual yard sale. My brother (as usual) made the most, but I made more than I did last year so I'm happy!

I'm also happy to be home and it seems I might have been missed. My little dog, Aislinn, has been getting in my lap to nap...something she didn't do before I left. The other dogs were all wiggling and giving me kisses when I got home Monday night and Don was waiting in the driveway to give me a hug when I got out of the truck!

This morning Don brought me the lovely wildflower bouquet above. It's a mix of Joe Pye Weed, Calico Asters, Goldenrod, brilliant red Sumac leaves, Brown-eyed Susans and a white flower I haven't been able to identify. I'm not handy with flower arranging so I just put this bouquet in a vase just the way Don brought it to me. I think it is gorgeous and love having a bit of Autumn in the house to enjoy.

Personally, I think Autumn has just as pretty a display of flowers as Spring does with all it's golds, reds and purples, which are some of my favorite colors (red being my absolute favorite). I also love the way Autumn paints the leaves on the trees with reds, rusty browns, gold and yellow colors. All this glorious color set against a bright blue sky is just breathtaking.

I hope you get a chance to go out and enjoy this time of year. Soak it up...it's fantastic!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fifteen miles of bargains...


Imagine, if you can, this yard covered in STUFF and I don't mean that white stuff! Tomorrow I am headed for Alabama to help out at the 6th Annual County Road 93 Yard Sale in the Pebble Community (between Haleyville and Double Springs). The big event is Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7-8th.

Every year for the past six years my brother, sister and I congregate at my mom's house and set up a HUGE yard sale with something for everyone. One of our customers last year said we were the "Wal Mart of Yard Sales" and I guess we are since we have everything from A-Z.

It's a lot of work, but it's also a whole lot of fun. My mom really enjoys having all her kids there and we have a lot of laughs. It's also quite profitable. If I remember correctly we made around $3000 in two days last year!

Of course, I won't be posting all next week...sorry! However, if you're in the north Alabama area come on out to find a bargain and say "Howdy"! I'll be set up next to one of those big magnolia trees doing my yearly cashier job.

For more information (and a map) go to http://www.pebblecommunitycenter.com/. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Best buds...


As I sit here at the computer desk Aislinn and Possum are having a grand old time. It looks like our two newest family members are going to be best buddies!

It has always amazed us how the newest addition is always taken under the wing of the addition just prior to them. It's happened since the first two dogs we had...Huck and Becky and has progressed on down the line to Caoilainn and Aislinn. Now it looks like Aislinn is going to take Possum under her wing and show her the ropes!

I can't recall this ever happening between dog and cat before, but perhaps that's because Aislinn is more cat size than dog size!

Oh well, it's all fun and games until someone gets her nose pinched in the crate bars (Aislinn is now pouting in her own crate)!