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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)!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's cotton picking October!


On my way to the grocery store this morning I noticed that cotton picking as begun around here. We don't grow cotton on our place, but are surrounded by fields of cotton, soybeans and corn. Once all the cotton is picked the local farmers will harvest soybeans (corn was harvested in September).

One year I picked up a twig of cotton that had fallen off a trailer onto our driveway and sent it to a friend in Virginia. She's never seen a cotton field, or raw cotton and was very intrigued. She even shared it with her niece and nephew who took it to school for show and tell. I also sent some to a friend's son in California as he was doing a report on Mississippi and needed some "authentic Mississippi cotton" for his visual display.

Cotton is the third largest crop in Mississippi, with approximately 1.1 million acres planted in cotton each year. By the way, Mississippi has 30, 020, 454.4 acres of land. Obviously Mississippi isn't one big cotton field from Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico!

The fields are very pretty in summer when the plants are green and even prettier this time of year when the cotton bolls open up fully.  From a distance it looks like there's snow on the fields! On my way home for the grocery store I slowed down to snap the picture above of the field across the road from us. Isn't it pretty?