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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Kitchen Frogs and Other Oddities...


Life on the farm is kind of laid back...at least according to John Denver. Life on our farm has been kind of odd lately, but that's the way we like it. Okay, life on our farm is always kind of odd with all the dogs, cats and other critters we live with...some odder than others.

For instance, the other night I was cooking supper and had to get something out of the freezer, which is in the laundry room. When I walked back into the kitchen a tiny little toad was sitting on the kitchen counter next to the sink. I was taken aback for a moment, but realized he must have been in the potted plant I'd brought in earlier in the day (it was still sitting on the counter). I scooped Little Toad into a jar so I could show Don before setting him free. 

A few minutes later I stepped into the hallway to get something from the pantry. When I returned to the kitchen there sat a teeny toad on the kitchen counter looking quite content. I immediately wondered how such a small creature could have gotten out of a tall jar! Imagine my surprise when I realized that the first froggy was still in the jar. 

The rest of the evening I kept my eyes peeled looking for more baby toads, but these two were my only visitors. After showing them to Don they were put back where they came from - outside the garage under the floodlight where all the night time bugs gather. I'm sure they are both fat frogs now, even though I didn't invite them to have supper with us.

Early the other morning we were awakened by the most distressing cries coming from the fenced in front yard. I got up to see what was going on and was quite surprised to see a white-tailed fawn in the yard! I don't know how the little thing got over the fence, but it was panicked and couldn't figure out how to get out. Our dog Teagan was barking at it, but the other two dogs, Angus and Caoilainn weren't paying it much attention. In fact, Angus was asleep! 

Don threw on some clothes and hurried out to see if he could catch the fawn. I was able to call the dogs into the house and then went to slip on some shoes so I could help Don. However, in the few minutes I was gone the fawn managed to squeeze its way THROUGH the fence and ran off towards the big pond. 

I assured Don that the doe was probably standing in the trees at the pond keeping an eye on her baby. He was worried because the fawn was still young enough to have spots and it had banged itself up a bit trying to get through the fence. We are both still amazed that our dogs didn't touch it. Don said Teagan appeared to be trying to herd the fawn, not hurt it. We haven't seen it again so I'm sure baby and mom were reunited.

Last, but not least (that would be the baby frogs) was our critter adventure last night. I went out to the garage and as soon as I stepped out I noticed my cat Norah was trying to get something from behind the cooler where the dog food is stored. Cautiously (as in I stood in the house and leaned way out) I used the flashlight to see what she had. Poor frightened little field rat! It was huddled up and trying to be invisible, but Norah kept circling and trying to figure out how to get Mr. Mousie. I quickly closed the door and let nature take its course.

When we were getting ready to go to bed Don put some of the dogs in the garage for the night. I asked him if the little rat was still there and he wasn't sure so I got the flashlight and we checked again. Amazingly, it was!  I convinced Don that the poor thing was terrified and the dogs would make quite a ruckus if they found it. My soft hearted husband put on his work gloves and carefully caught the little rodent who squeaked in terror more than once.

We took the rat outside and set it free in the grass. As we stood there watching it make a cautious getaway I told Don that we were probably the only two people on Earth who would go into their garage at 4 a.m. to rescue a rat!

I guess we're just two soft hearted  oddities ourselves, but I don't think being odd is a bad thing. It certainly keeps things interesting around here!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kenobi's been quarantined!


Monday afternoon while I was out doing my weekly shopping Don called to tell me Kenobi's lump had ruptured. This upset me terribly as I was hoping to get her to the vet and have it lanced before that happened. She's now quarantined in the dog kennel by the house and not very happy about it. I know she misses Obi and Juan, but it's best they be separated for a few days while we care for her wound.

When Don found her he tried to clean up the ruptured abscess as best he could. From what he told me, Kenobi put up a good fight (he chased her around for 30 minutes...usually she's underfoot) and was quite vocal in her protests. This did not sit well with Obi and Juan who began butting Don in the, well, butt. This made any kind of doctoring quite difficult. I have to admit, I wish I'd been home to see it as Don's description gave me the giggles.

Don took Kenobi to the vet where they lanced the abscess and cleaned it out. The vet hasn't done any tests, but says it looks like CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis) a horrid bacterium that has no cure. It affects the lymph system and is highly contagious, hence the necessary quarantine. You can read more about it here: http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/U/UNP-0085/ if you'd like.

I am hoping that it isn't CL and is just an abscess due to a small wound or insect bite. Goats are notorious for such abscesses. If it is CL the other goats have already been exposed due to it rupturing in the goat pen. Makes me sick, but there's no sense in beating myself up over it. The vet told me not to bring Kenobi in until the lump softened so I waited...waited until it was to late.

Fortunately, other than the abscess Kenobi got a good bill of health. She's a nice 57 pounds, is clear eyed, eating well, etc. Vet says she'll be fine. I won't be able to breed her or use her as a milk goat, but that's okay. Obi, Juan and Kenobi will just be pets...like dogs with hooves that "baaaaaa" instead of bark!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hello August!

The dwindling pond

August and the dog days of summer have arrived! Only thing good I can say about August is that it's one month closer to Autumn! Just today I noticed the days are getting shorter. Normally I do my evening chores as late as possible in hopes that the temperatures will be a tad bit cooler. Usually that means I'm back in the house by dark, which has been 8:30ish. Today it was 8:00ish and dark already.

The heat has been a real bear, but fortunately all the animals seem to be dealing with it okay so far. I expect it will be worse before it gets better, but the rabbit gets his bottle of ice to cuddle with, the chickens, ducks and goats have shade and fresh water and the dogs stay inside in the air conditioning. They're not about to lay around outside during the dog days of summer!

Hermione and Teagan
Even the cats have found ways to stay cool. Some of them refuse to go out, some of them prefer lounging on the cool concrete floor in the garage and, as you can see, Hermione likes to spread out on the floor with the dogs so she can cool her belly on the floor. More often than not you will find her sprawled out like this with her belly spreading out on each side of her body. It's like she has plastered herself to the floor.

Guinness, our Husky mix, is the only dog to lay like this.. He likes to lay on the back porch with his rear legs sprawled out to the sides. Being a large dog, it's a funny sight to see.

Even the two barn cats have given up the relative cool of the barn for the garage. Harley and Murphy both can be found snoozing in the garage. Murphy sleeps like the dead in the most awkward positions. One of these days I'll have to share a photo of him. Coming home from the grocery store Monday evening I found him down by the pond sprawled out in the middle of the driveway. He never even twitched as the truck got close to him, which scared me badly. I just knew he'd suffered heat stroke or something and was lying there dead. Jumping out of the truck I called his name and he slowly raised his lazy head and yawned at me. WHEW...I moved his lazy self off the driveway so I could drive on up to the house.

Speaking of the pond, it is getting awfully low. I haven't been down there fishing since Don killed the huge water moccasin. Nearby Arkabutla Lake is so low that I see dead fish floating on the edges of the lake when I go to Hernando to do my shopping. It continues to be terribly dry and hot here. Today I dug up an onion for supper and the ground in the garden is dust on top and dry as a bone beneath the surface. It was so hard I was barely able to get the shovel into the ground around the onions. No way would I have been able to just pull it out of the ground!

So I welcome August and hope it passes swiftly! I'm yearning for cool Autumn days and autumn rain pattering on the roof.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

They ambushed me!





Short blog tonight, not because I have nothing to say (Don would agree that my having nothing to say is an impossibility), but because it is very painful to type tonight. Plus, little crumbs of baking soda keep falling all over the keyboard and computer chair!

This evening I was out cutting down some brush for the goats to munch on when I obviously stirred up a wasp nest. Those things are fast...I never even saw what kind they were, but suspect they were the same nasty red wasps that got me last year. One got me on the outside of my right arm just above the elbow and the other got me on the inner right arm on the bicep...and then I was running and screaming like a banshee. 

I am mildly allergic to wasps and by the time I finished my evening chores and ended to the house for Benadryl  and a paste of baking soda for the stings I was having cold chills and light-headedness. Now that I'm medicated I am just having pain...these stings really, well, sting! The one on the inside of my arm rubs against my tee shirt so it feels better if I hold my arm out away from my body...which makes typing difficult.

Y'all have a good night and be careful outside. Obviously there are wasps waiting to ambush an unsuspecting person everywhere. If they do get you remember to administer a paste of baking soda and cool water to the sting as quickly as possible. It really does help!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Things I've learned since becoming a goat granny...


Spent some time this evening in the goat pen, which includes the chicken, duck and rabbit pens. I had a few things I needed to do on top of the normal feeding, watering and petting everyone. Doing anything extra is quite a feat with my three new "helpers" underfoot, even a simple thing as going in and out of the gate. I've never had goats before (my Daddy did though) so I've been learning a lot since getting the three amigos...learned some stuff today too! For example:

OBI
1. Goats like to stand on things. Now, I knew this already and had put some sycamore stumps, etc. in the pen for them before they arrived. However, I've also discovered that they will get in ANYTHING. One day I had the wheelbarrow loaded with fresh hay for their house. I raked out the old hay, turned around and Obi was standing IN the wheelbarrow munching hay. I managed to get her out, put the hay in the house, turned around and Kenobi was standing in the wheelbarrow! She did NOT want to get out and we had a serious discussion about how she could tip the wheelbarrow over and fall. I finally convinced her to get out and let me go about my business.

2. If you lean said wheelbarrow on the fence the goats will have to go behind it to see what's back there. If you lay it on its side so they can't knock the wheelbarrow over, they will put their front hooves up on it to see if they can knock it over (they can).

JUAN
3. Even male goats think they are boss. Juan is pretty sure he is king of the hill and, although he's to shy to let me touch him, he has NO problem butting in (literally) on what the girls are doing.  Juan is always kicking up his heels and pushing the girls out of the way at dinner time. He's quite a little rascal with them, which is funny considering how scared he is of me! He was also scared of the dogs at first, which makes me think Juan is just all bluff and bluster.

KENOBI
4. Goats are picky...sort of in a strange way. They have loved munching on the small elm tree, the hedges and various other vegetation in their pen. They haven't touched the grass. I have discovered that if I pick a blade of grass and offer it to Kenobi she will eat it and ask for more. Of course, once Obi realized what was going on she had to come over and eat some grass too. Kenobi took offense to that and there was quite a little tussle going on despite the fact that I tried to explain to them there was grass all over the ground and plenty to go around. I do believe goats are hard headed...in more ways than one!

The thrilling part of this little fight over being hand fed blades of grass is that Juan came up to me yesterday to see what all the fuss was about and even took a blade from me! I'll win that handsome guy over one way or the other.

Yesterday I was going to put up a tarp (actually a cheap plastic tablecloth with flannel backing I found at the Goodwill Outlet) to provide the ducks some extra shade. That didn't happen since Obi decided the red tablecloth was food and every place I attached it to the fence she attempted to eat it off. So today I executed Plan B...their leaky kiddie pool is now upside down on four sticks I pounded into the ground. I put it up in one corner of their pen and ran a longer stick catty-corner through the fence across the top of the pool to keep the wind from blowing it off. It's a temporary fix until I can come up with a Plan C.

Today I discovered that I can NOT set a bag of feed down in the goat pen while opening the gate to the chicken pen. The three stooges almost had that bag of scratch chewed open in the few seconds I had my back turned to them! I guess it's partly my fault...I give them bits of corn out of the chicken scratch and they probably thought I'd brought them a 50 pound bag of treats!

5. There's a reason you need good fences for goats and it is not because they'll jump over them. No, the reason you need good fences is because goats like to rub on the fence...and rub...and rub...and rub. Now my goat fence bows out all the way around the pen. 

6. Goats are affectionate, fun and good company. Until I got Obi, Juan and Kenobi I didn't realize just how companionable goats could be. I know my Daddy's goat, Junior, followed him around like a dog. As soon as Daddy walked outside in the morning Junior would jump the fence and follow him all day long. In the evening Daddy would tell Junior to go back to the barn and the goat would jump back over the fence into his pen for the night.

Obi, Juan and Kenobi start calling to me as soon as I round the corner of the back yard in the evenings, or if they see me in the front yard. The two girls follow me everywhere in the pen (with Juan doing the same at a distance) and they love to be petted, to have their ears and bellies scratched, their heads patted and their ears rubbed. They listen when you talk to them and they will jump up on you to get your attention. When you leave the pen they will cry after you (unless they're still busy munching on something yummy like sweet gum branches).

7. Last, but certainly not least, I've learned that I really REALLY like having goats and I love Obi, Juan and Kenobi with all my heart!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On the right path...


When Don and I first bought Hickahala Ranch it was nothing but open fields and a few acres of wooded bottom land. We loved the way it looked and discussed leaving it like that...natural. Of course, we soon discovered that open grassy fields are NOT natural here and, if left unmowed, our fields would quickly become woods!

As the years have passed by it seems like Don kept mowing more and more "lawn" until he was spending all of his two days off on the lawn mower. This year, he's finally come to the "green side". I've urged him time and again to bush hog instead of mow, to let the horses into the fenced in front yard from time to time and to let me put the goats in the back yard. I seriously doubt that it was my nagging that changed his mind. I reckon he finally just got tired of mowing because this summer he's decided to just mow paths!

He's keeping the front yard mowed around the fence and about ten feet out from the house. He mows me a path to the garden and one to the pond. Pictured above is his path to the woods behind the house. Everything else is left to grow. I think it's great! No more wasting gas (I hate petroleum products and America's dependency on them), no more wasting time on the lawnmowers and no more wasting money constantly fixing the blasted things! Nope, Don is now on the right path...the "green" path that I've been trying to steer him onto for a very long time.

The benefits are amazing. We have more birds around the house...cardinals, hummingbirds, yellow finches and little Indigo buntings, to name a few. The barn swallows raised their family on the back porch and have decided to stay for a while. Some evenings I step outside and there are dragonflies by the hundreds hovering over the lawn. They attract bats, which I dearly love to watch swooping low to catch mosquitoes and other insects. The taller grass also attracts grasshoppers, which in turn help to feed the garden spiders that are beginning to build their webs around the house.

Don has told me to sell the riding mowers in my mom's annual yard sell in October. What mowing needs to be done will be done with the push mower or bush hogged with the tractor next year. It's just one tiny step on the path to a more environmentally friendly farm and I couldn't be happier!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My favorite jewels...


I'm not big on jewelry or precious jewels, but I do enjoy spotting unusual moths, bugs and spiders during the summer months. I was quite delighted when I spotted the one above on some concrete blocks next to the garage door. The pattern and color were remarkable...this little bug was iridescent and quite jewel-like! Surprise, surprise...it's known as a Jewel Beetle or Metallic Wood Boring Beetle (Buprestis rufipes).


This pretty little beetle likes to munch on oak, maple, black gum, beech and elm trees in the larval stage, so it's no surprise I found it right next to our woodpile (which is full of elm). Like most bugs, the Jewel Beetle lives only one day to two weeks as an adult. This life span varies so widely because there are over 40,000 species of wood boring beetles known to us! That's a lot of bugs!

These glorious beetles are actually used to make jewelry as they come in a wide variety of beautiful colors and shapes. Personally, I'd rather see one crawling around enjoying it's brief life, but then, like I stated above, I'm not much for jewelry. I rarely wear any jewelry at all...not even my wedding band!

I've discovered that gardening and rings do not mix. The minute I pick up a hoe or shovel my wedding band starts wearing a blister on my hand just below my ring finger. So, first thing I do in the Spring when I go to the garden is hang my wedding band on a nail in my potting shed. I put that nail up specifically for my wedding band so I wouldn't forget where it was once Autumn has arrived and I can wear my ring again.

Necklaces bother me, bracelets get in the way and I usually forget to wear earrings. No, I prefer to see my jewels munching on the firewood or crawling up a concrete block!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Poor little girls!

As I mentioned yesterday, we've been having a lot of health issues. I was found to have a dangerously low Vitamin D level and am currently on a once a week mega dose for 10 weeks. I was quite surprised to learn that low levels of Vitamin D will not only cause softening of bone tissue, but also causes depression and anxiety disorders.

On top of dealing with that, I went out on the front porch a couple weeks ago to discover my cat, Siobhan, had lost all the flesh and hair from most of her tail! The vet called it "degloving" and poor Siobhan had to have all but a couple inches of her tail amputated. When she came home the day after surgery she looked like she had a breakfast sausage stuck to her rear end!

The stitches came out on Wednesday and now that the hair is starting to grow back she has less of a sausage tail and more of a bob tail (thank goodness).

We also took our two youngest pets, Aislainn and Possum, to be spayed. We are very strong supporters of spaying/neutering as we know firsthand the problem our country has with excess pets and the issues that go along with that - abandoned/dumped pets and the diseases they carry and spread, etc. So off they went on Tuesday afternoon to get fixed. Poor things had to spend the night at the vet's since he was not able to get to them until Wednesday morning, but both were able to come home that afternoon, albeit a little woozy still.

Little Miss Aislainn (right) put up quite a fuss at the vet's office. We were told that she was even nipping at them (which didn't really surprise us...she likes to get her way) and being quite uncooperative. Aislainn has been a sad little lamb since coming home. She spent Wednesday evening napping on our bed and has been very uncomfortable. I've never seen a dog behave the way she does and think it must be her stitches. She'll get comfy and suddenly jump up like a bee stung her. My guess is that a stitch pokes her or she has a pain. I feel very bad for Aislainn and will be happy when she is back to being perky.

Possum has been quite another story. She was a meek little lamb at the vet's which surprised us because she is the Devil's spawn at home and reverted right back to her evil ways once the drugs wore off. They must have done her surgery after Aislainn's because Possum was still pretty out of it when she got home. In fact, she's still sleeping more than normal (and that's saying a lot for a cat). I don't think she's been off Don's computer chair in two days unless he's home and moves her elsewhere. Poor Possum, we will really miss her antics when she was in heat, which seemed to be every other week!

At least the other critters have been sympathetic, as well they should considering they've all been through the same thing! Last night Possum snuggled with Darcy. I've never seen Possum snuggled up with anyone! Darcy, however, is a different story. She loves to snuggle!

Aislainn decided to snuggle with her big sister Maggie who is an excellent snuggler, by the way. Even I like to snuggle with Maggie!

I'm still keeping an eye on one ailing critter. My goat Kenobi has a golf ball size lump in her throat just below her jaw. Now, I know she didn't swallow a golf ball because Don and I don't play golf. I wanted to take her to the vet when the others went, but decided to call first as I didn't know if the livestock vet would prefer to come out to the house. Kenobi is a great rider, so transporting her wouldn't have been a problem. However, the vet told me to just keep an eye on it and as soon as the golf ball softened up to bring her in and they'll lance it. He said it's a common thing in goats and to not worry.

HA...easier said than done!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Forecast: Sunny and scorched




I did it again and I apologize for going AWOL for a while. I've been dealing with some health issues...mine and some of the critters, but things are settling down now just in time for the drowsy hot dog days of summer.  Or maybe those days are already upon us considering all the sleeping dogs scattered about the floor around me!

So far this summer has been a very hot and dry one. The  Sycamores (above) have been losing leaves and the elms have pretty much kicked the bucket. We lost another favorite elm (right) in our yard this year...a real beauty...and I will probably cry when it is cut down for firewood. We just had a week of rain, which may have saved some of the vegetation, but this tree is past saving, as are a couple more elms down at the pond. At least they will not go to waste since we only harvest dead or downed trees for firewood in the winter. This enables us to keep the thermostat very low (a chilly 64 degrees) so we don't have to burn as much propane gas. 

Last year we made it through the winter on just over half a tank of propane! Of course, it helped that we had a mild winter and I am thinking we may be in for another...the climate is definitely changing and I am convinced that global warming is upon us. I'm pretty sure this won't be the last elm we lose and am kind of relieved it is the last one that was in the yard.

Today the USDA designated our county a national disaster due to the drought we are having. I know a lot of folks around us have lost their corn fields, but last week's rain saved our peanuts. I was worried because the peanut plants weren't growing, but they look good now and are blooming. I've pretty much given up on my garden this year. Last time I tried to plant something in the garden the ground was so hard and dry I could barely scratch out a shallow hole. We're getting potatoes, Roma tomatoes, onions (left in the garden from last year) and peppers. In fact, I should be canning tomatoes right now! 

One thing that has done well this year are my two apple trees. They are just now old enough to really set fruit and they are loaded. One tree is even leaning over from the weight of all the apples. Last week's storms helped cull some of the apples and I picked them up...no sense letting them go to waste! I've made green apple jelly with them...a new jelly for me. Hopefully we'll enjoy it as much as we do the dewberry jelly (which is already down to only two jars that I have hidden away for wintertime). Dry weather means the kudzu won't bloom this year, so no kudzu jelly and there may not be any elderberries, so no elderberry jelly either...apple is going to be it!

Fortunately, all the critters are managing in the hot weather so far. The goats, chickens and ducks all have plenty of shade and are given fresh cool water throughout the day. Elvis (the rabbit) is enjoying life in his new pen and snuggles up to the bottles of ice we place in his pen when the temperatures soar. The horses can find shelter in the barn or under the trees at their pond and the dogs and cats...well, let's just admit that the dogs and cats are SPOILED ROTTEN and get to lay about the house in the air conditioning all day long!

As do I!



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fear and loathing in Mississippi...


If there's one thing I hate about living in the South during warm weather, it's got to be venomous snakes. I do not like them, I do not want to be near them and I do not want to see them. However, I am married to a man who insists on bringing them to the house so I can take a photo every time he kills one, which he did day yesterday.

While sitting down at the pond after a walk with the dogs (a morning routine for Don) he noticed my little dog Aislainn had spotted something in the shallow end. Going to investigate, Don saw a huge water moccasin (also known as a cottonmouth down here in the South) slither out of the water and raise it's head up.

Water  moccasins are known to be aggressive and whenever we see a snake taking a stand, instead of fleeing, we immediately go on alert. Don approached this one cautiously and was able to pin it down by stepping on the snake's head and then killing it with a stick.

Don has killed cottonmouths with sticks before and even killed one at the barn with a screwdriver! This was the biggest one he's ever killed though and I have decided he must get a pistol for Father's Day. He's very lucky he didn't get bitten and so is little Aislainn. She's barely 15 pounds soaking wet and if that big nasty snake had gotten her, Aisliann would not have survived.

As you can see in this photo, the water moccasin's tail narrows suddenly. This is one way to identify a moccasin should you come upon one while out walking. They are usually short and stocky too. This one was very stocky and about three and a half feet long. I'm telling you...it was humongous!

We don't condone killing wildlife on our property, in fact, we're a certified Wildlife Habitat (even have a sign on our gate). However, we do make an exception when it comes to venomous snakes. We've had two dogs bitten by water moccasins. One spent a week at the vet's and barely survived. We don't want that to happen again and the dogs are always with Don when he's out and about. Fortunately, the dogs are fairly cautious about snakes and the ones who have been bitten (by venomous or nonvenomous snakes) are extremely cautious with a snake.

We've been very luck to have never come across a copperhead or rattlesnake and last year we didn't see any water moccasins. Now we've got them in the front yard pond! I've already informed Don that I will not be going to the pond in the evenings until we have our first snow.

I suppose I could go down there and take his pistol with me, but if I saw a cottonmouth as big as this one I'd be shaking so bad I would probably shoot myself in the foot! Then the dogs would have to call 911 because I'd be snake bitten, shot in the foot and having a heart attack!




Sunday, June 10, 2012

Just call me the Goat Granny...

When my children were younger I used to tease them about getting three goats and naming them Obi, Juan and Kenobi. They thought I was corny (something I'm often accused of being) but I'm happy to report that my dream has finally come true! I am now happily sharing my life with three adorable goats!

Obi is a sweetheart and even kissed me on the nose yesterday when I was working on her new house (something quite difficult to do with so many four-legged helpers). Obi helped me out by jumping on top of the house and holding it down for me! If I am in the pen, Obi can be found right by my side watching everything I do. I find that quite charming as she is very good company. I love her black and white markings and think she's quite a cutie. When I talk to her, Obi looks me in the eye as if she understands me. (I have a confession to make. When Obi kissed me on the nose I responded by kissing her on the top of the head!)

Then there's sweet little Juan, isn't he a handsome fellow? I love the black "bow tie" on his face! Juan is a shy little fellow and I've only touched him once since bringing him home. He sticks close and watches everything, but stays just out of reach. I felt so bad for Juan yesterday when I brought a few of the dogs out with me. Having never seen goats the dogs immediately started barking. Obi and Kenobi stood their ground and the hair down their spine stood up (something I didn't know goats would do). Poor little Juan stood behind the girls and trembled like a leaf! Fortunately, the dogs quickly lost interest and Juan stopped shaking.

I've got my work cut out for me when it comes to Juan. I am determined to befriend him and plan to do it with bribery...the yummy type! I haven't been able to sweet talk him with baby carrots or apple slices, but I will find out what his weakness is and then Juan and I will be best buds!

Last, but definitely not least, is Kenobi. She is the largest of the goats and seems to be the leader. Obi and Juan defer to Kenobi in all matters. She was the first one to make herself at home in the new house (which I had to enlarge yesterday as the goats were bigger than I expected) and is the first to check out any treats offered. In fact, Kenobi ate ALL the baby carrots I offered today...Obi just sniffed hers and Juan wouldn't even look at his!

I think Kenobi and I are going to be great friends as she's quite friendly and very level headed.

My heart goes out to the generous lady who gave the goats to me. I know it was a difficult thing for her to do and I hope she will come by and visit them when she's in the area. I am just tickled pink that my long time dream of having goats has finally come to pass and I'll warn you now...there will probably be lots of blogging about goats in my future! I'm just totally smitten!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bye bye duckies...






It's been a rough time this Spring for my ducks. We lost Ducky to old age, the drakes drowned their brother Rowan (pictured in the pool above) and last week during my brief time home between trips we lost little Ping (the other duck in the photo). Don found Ping half eaten up in the big Sweet Gum tree in the chicken/duck pen. She was only two years old and we suspect a coon got her.

When the drakes drowned Rowan Don insisted we get rid of them, so I listed Puddles and Mr. Bean (AKA Mr. Mean) on Craigslist. A couple days ago I got a response and will be taking them to their new owner tomorrow. In exchange I will be bringing home a five month old rooster that looks a lot like our dearly departed Strayhorn. The owner assures me that, so far, the rooster is quite docile. Her five-year-old daughter plays with their chickens and the rooster eats out of her hand. Since she is in Olive Branch, MS I've decided to name him Oliver. I guess his last name will be Branch!

I do hope Aunt Bernice and Aunt Bertha, the hens, will warm up to Oliver quickly. For a few weeks he will be penned next to them so everyone can get acquainted. Then we'll see how they do together. I will most definitely miss the ducks and hope to get more in the future...just no drakes though! We really enjoy duck eggs...actually prefer them to chicken eggs, so I'm sure there will be more ducks in our future here on Hickahala Ranch.

Until then I have something else to keep me busy...three pygmy goats! I'm picking them up tomorrow afternoon so you know what tomorrow's blog will be about...Obi, Juan and Kenobi!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Time to settle into summer


What a whirlwind life has been here lately! I've been gone two weekends in a row with only a few hectic days in between at home. The end of May I traveled to north Alabama with my daughter, son-in-law, grandson (pictured on the left) and my daughter's younger brother to attend the high school graduation of my nephew. From the left (in white) are his sister, dad, Jonathan and his mom (my sister). I'm peeking over her shoulder in back. Next to my sister is my niece (with her fiance peeking over her shoulder), sister-in-law and my brother.

My niece and her fiance are the reason I was gone this past weekend. They are husband and wife now! Friday I drove to north Alabama to pick up my son, his wife and my little grand daughter. We then headed south to Mobile to attend my niece's wedding. It was a lovely wedding and everyone had a good time. Anna and Jeff, we wish you a happy life together!

While in Mobile we got to drive around and explore a bit. I drove out to the USS Alabama so my daughter-in-law could see it. Unfortunately, it was already closed for the day and we didn't make it back on Sunday as we ended up at my brother's house visiting family. Sunday afternoon found us on the road again, heading north to Huntsville once more. After dropping my son and his family off at home I ended west to my mom's house for the night, with plans to be home by early afternoon. Ah...the best laid plans! I ended up going back to Huntsville when it was discovered my son's suitcase was still in the back of the truck. Seems I thought HE got it out and he thought I got it out! Oh well, more driving that was worth every mile as I got to play with my sweet grand daughter some more! I finally made it home around 9:30 Monday night.

Those hectic few days in between my Alabama trips is a tale for another day...tomorrow perhaps! As for now, I'm still resting!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Killer ducks!


That's right...two of the ducks pictured above are cold blooded killers! The big white one with his head under the water (Puddles) and the dark brown one next to him (Mr. Bean...alias Mr. Mean) committed murder by drowning last night. Don found poor Rowan drowned in the duck pool this morning. Since we keep the drakes in a separate pen, there is no one else to blame for this heinous crime.

Last night's incident leads us to believe that it was Puddles and Mr. Bean (Mean) who jumped Strayhorn and brutalized the poor rooster so badly he wasn't able to recover. Rowan didn't have a chance last night and now we are left with our least favorite foul fowls!

Rowan is now buried at the garden next to Strayhorn and I told Don I didn't want any more male birds. Don, however, wants another rooster. He misses the crowing...says it makes the place feel more like a farm with a rooster crowing. I just hope we find another nice rooster, but I never want any more drakes!

Rest in peace handsome Rowan. You were never a nuisance and that's a quality I admire in a duck...or a neighbor...or...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Life's path...


As I was walking to the house this evening from the chicken pen and garden I noticed that I was walking on a path...a path that I've slowly made from daily trips back and forth. Even in the area Don hasn't mowed yet any one would be able to see my little path. The dogs use it as much as I do and every day we walk in a line out to do the evening chores.

Many times Don and I have chuckled at the horses as they walk their worn path from the barn to the pond after they've been fed. I can even see it on the Google map of our farm! Don's walking path down the hill and into the woods is also visible on the map. Before long the paths our dogs are making in the front and back yards will also be visible. Strange to think that a path made just from walking the same direction every day could become so permanent as to be seen from a satellite spinning in space!

I guess we all make paths in our lives in more ways than one...paths made from doing, feeling, reacting, in the same way day in and day out. Some might say I'm "in a rut" doing the same things every day, walking the same direction, eating the same foods, having a schedule, etc. Some might say that sameness makes me a very dull person. I don't find my life dull at all. I find the sameness...the paths I've made...to be comforting and no day is ever the same!

Today as I walked back from the chicken pen and garden on my same little path I noticed the sunset through the Black Gum tree and wished I could see the solar eclipse, but I still enjoyed the lovely sunset. I rejoiced in the three perfect eggs the chickens gave me and the tiny bean sprouts that had just popped up in the garden today. I walked as I savored the handful of ripe raspberries...the first this year...that I'd picked at the garden. I was tickled to hear the tanager singing his heart out in the Elm tree...he always heralds in summer for me.

I am grateful that life's path has led me to this farm and all the treasures nature has in store for me every day. There is a peaceful contentment to routine and I welcome it every day, just as I welcome all the new and exciting experiences I find here on the farm each day I step outside.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tastes like summer!


This morning Don and I gleefully bit into toasted English muffins spread with butter and freshly made Dewberry Jelly. It was SO delicious, I can't even begin to describe it! We both agreed that Dewberry Jelly is quite possibly our absolutely, hands down, favorite jelly of all time and that I need to make more.

While Don was on vacation last week he helped me pick dewberries along the edges of our field. In fact, he went out again and picked more so I'd have enough to make jelly. I crushed the berries, placed them in cheesecloth and hung them to drip. I got enough juice to make a batch, with a bit left over. I think I'll freeze it and save it to add to the raspberries when they get ripe.

Don was quite disappointed that all his picking efforts resulted in only three and a half pints of jelly. We like it so much that three pints (I'll probably give the half pint to his parents for Christmas) might last a month or two! Looks like we will have to go on another picking foray on Don's next off day! There are plenty of dewberries to be had, without depriving the birds.

What's the difference in dewberries and blackberries? For one, dewberries ripen before blackberries do...usually in late May around here. Dewberries grow close to the ground, unlike blackberries which send out upright "canes". The leaves are also slightly different (dewberry leaves, like blackberry leaves, can be used to make tea). The wild dewberries here in the South have much larger berries than the wild blackberries do and a slightly different taste. In fact, I prefer the taste of dewberries over blackberries.

I always strain the juice and make jelly instead of jam, since I don't like the little seeds. There's no secret recipe either...I just use the recipe in the box of pectin. Dewberry jelly is always the first jelly of the year to be made in my kitchen. Next up will be Wild Plum (if the birds and worms don't get them all), then later in the summer I'll be making Elderberry Jelly. In the early Fall I'll make Kudzu Jelly if the summer isn't to dry to prevent the kudzu from blooming and, hopefully, I can convince Don to hoist me up in the front end loader to pick wild grapes for jelly!

All this discussion of jelly is giving me the urge to have a PB&J right about now. Bon Appetit!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Farewell feathered friends...

I'm back...again! Don was on vacation last week and I didn't get to post. We had our hands full trying to get the garden planted and taking care of Strayhorn, the injured rooster. We managed to get 48 potato starts planted, two patches of corn, four peppers (two each of two different varieties), green beans and cucumbers. Don also did a lot of mowing and bush-hogging and I did a lot of running in circles!

Sadly, our efforts to save Strayhorn were in vain. He died yesterday and is now buried out at the garden. He will be missed, especially by Don and I. We'll miss his gentle nature...a blessing after the last evil rooster we had (who should have been named Diablo instead of Randy)! We'll miss Strayhorn's afternoon crowing and the soft way he would chide the hens in the evening as he urged them to head for the roost.

I don't know when, or even if, we'll get another rooster. I fear we won't be as lucky as we were with Strayhorn, who didn't have a mean streak like most roosters do. If karma decides we need another one, I'm sure we'll take it in and give it a home.

On another sad note, our duck, Ducky, also died on Mother's Day. I'd noticed Saturday evening when I was feeding the ducks and chickens that Ducky was not herself. She was lying down next to the hutch and didn't come to eat. Normally, she would have been all excited hoping I'd brought fish. Don stood her up, but she just laid back down.  Sunday morning Don went out to check on her and found Ducky with her head tucked like she was just sleeping. The other female duck, Ping, was lying next to Ducky.

She was getting old, we've had her almost eight years, so it wasn't a huge surprise, but we will also miss Ducky very much. She was our first duck and had more character and charm than a lot of people! Don loved the way Ducky would "talk" to us, especially if we had the blue bucket with fish in it, and the way she would wag her tail when she was excited.

So it goes on the farm. It's never easy to say farewell, but we know it is a part of life and accept that there will be farewells...sadness along with the joy that our feathered friends bring us.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Miss me?


I'm baack! Never did I intend to be away for such a long time, my intention was to take a break through the holidays. However, life had other plans for me!

On February 18, 2012 my precious new grand baby arrived early...five weeks early! Her name is Bellatriks Coraline and she is just the cutest thing, as you can see in the photo above. There were some problems and I ended up staying with my son, daughter-in-law and new grand baby for three weeks. All is well now and little Coraline is growing at much to rapid a pace. I'm missing her something fierce and am looking forward to seeing her again the end of the month.

My daughter has had some scary health issues and I've been worried sick, but it appears that she is going to be okay. She sees her doctor Tuesday to get finalized results from her last test and they will discuss any further treatment that might be necessary. It is such a relief to know preliminary results were good that I've felt like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders.

Sadly, my dear aunt is losing a long and difficult battle with lung cancer. She's been in the hospital and we are hoping she will be strong enough soon to go home for the remaining days of her life. She is a very sweet person and very dear to our family. It's heartbreaking.

My mom was also in the hospital a few weeks back. She had my sister take her to the ER as she was having heart issues. Her BP was high and would shoot up every time she stood. They kept her overnight for observation and let her go home the next day. We're not sure what is going on, but I'm hoping she will see a cardiologist in the near future.

As for daily life here on the farm we've had some ups and downs...mostly downs this year. Right now we have three dogs and a rooster being treated for injuries. Strayhorn, the rooster, has had it the worst. Two weeks ago the three drakes (my ducks Puddles, Rowan and Mr. Bean) attacked Strayhorn during a storm. I heard the ruckus and headed out in the rain to rescue him. He was lying in the pen wet and limp as a dishrag.

Poor Strayhorn lost an eye and had two big wounds on the back of his neck and under one wing. It has been quite a battle to save him. We even stayed up until 4 a.m. one night tending to him. Strayhorn has been living in the house since then, but should be ready to move outside in the next few days.

We've had water leaking through the ceiling in the den and went without running water for over a week and had a cat (Siobhan) go missing for a week. We spent many hours searching for her over the course of that week and then she just showed up at the front yard gate as if she'd never been gone!

To top things off my kitty, Possum, went into heat the morning we were going to take her to the vet to be spayed! She'll be going tomorrow, but we don't regret waiting so long. She provided us with a lot of much needed laughter last week with her meowing and rolling around on the floor. We were the only ones laughing though...the other cats and dogs were freaked out by her odd behavior!