Sunday, February 27, 2011

Baking Sunday

The complaint going around the office last week finally got me Friday, so I spent most of yesterday (after the grocery run) resting. 

This morning I felt better, though I have only been outside once, to check on the birds.  I have been watching Food Network and vegging with the pugs, while the big dogs snooze in the kitchen and the kittens in their warm places.  Keith has left for four days, for an emergency response excercise in another county, 3 hours from here. 

Right before he left, I decided to bake another apple dessert so he could take some with him.

In our family, we have a little joke about apple desserts.  You see, once we went to Ames to see the folks, and decided, since the whole family would be there, to stop at Lamoni at the Welcome Center for treats.  There was an Amish lady selling cinnamon rolls and pies on a long table in front of the Welcome Center, and her horse and buggy tied up under a roofed hitching post nearby.  As Keith's family was Amish two generations ago, we decided to get our treats from her.  We bought several trays of cinnamon rolls, and an apple pie.  When we got to Ames, the cinnamon rolls disappeared in short order as soon as the kids saw them.  (the whole family had gathered, which is rare).  The pie was set aside to enjoy at breakfast the next day. 

The next morning, Ralph, Keith's dad, sat down at the table, and asked for a piece of the pie.  He bit into his piece, and didn't say anything, so Keith asked how he liked it. "It would be great," he said... "If there were some apples in it!"  It turned out that the pie was simply apple pie filling from a can, with no solid apples!  We have always joked about it since.

So, we make apple desserts frequently, and always make sure there are real apples in them.

I found this dessert on a blog, and if you are reading this, and see it.... please identify if for me!  I forgot to write it down the night I printed it six weeks ago.  I do not think I found it on Farm Bell, as it would have printed out below, but it could have been.  It is called "Mom's Raw Apple Cake", and it is wonderful.  Keith does not really like iced cakes, so this kind suits him fine.

Here are the first ingredients, mixed in a bowl by hand:
3 cups chopped baking apples (I used 3 Granny Smiths)

Add 2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups oil, 2 eggs, well-beaten, and 1 teaspoon vanilla
And get this:

Looks yummy already!
Next, sift together
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon

And then mix together with the wet ingredients, getting this:

The batter will be VERY thick.

Spread in a greased 9 x 13 pan, and bake at 350 degrees for an hour OR until a toothpick comes out clean.  (It may take longer than an hour, depending on your oven). 
I only baked mine about 35 minutes, and it was done. 

Here is what you will get:

There is a note on the original that this is a cross between a coffee cake and a cake, that is perfect for dessert or with coffee in the morning.  The cake will keep up to three days, covered.  After that, it will get too moist.

Here is a bit out of  piece:


This was, hands down, the best coffee type cake I've made in years.  Keith did not get to taste it, as he had to get down the road before it was ready to be cut, but let me tell you, it is moist and good, and I'll make it again next weekend so he can have some.  The cake is going to work with me tomorrow so that my co-workers can have a treat in the morning.

As I sit here typing this, the fog is so thick that I can't see past the llama shed.  I am going to pull my boots on and go slosh in the mud and melting snow, putting more feed out for the wildings, and checking on the henhouses.  The starlings have been invading the big henhouse daily, eating and drinking everything.  At least warmer weather is coming, which will stop that.  I'm going to load the llama's hay buffet up, too, as we expect storms tonight. The weather around here is on a wild ride!

Have a peaceful Sunday evening at the Oscars, everyone!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kittens

A kitten with a length of string
Is such a pretty, playful thing
A kitten with a leaf to chase
Exhibits beauty, form and grace
But I love kittens curled up, wise,
With ancient mystery in their eyes.

       Salvatore Marsiglia
Please join us at Farm Friend Friday, hosted by Amy and Richie at Verde Farm

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ch-Ch-Changes

Winter is back, at least for a short while.  I came home to this:
And this....

The popholes were frozen open, but we managed to get them shut.
The odd thing is, it's not freezing cold yet, but was 31 degrees when I got home.

The little birds were snug in the little henhouse, and the new bantams are finally starting to move around, eat, and drink.  The silkies have been huddling for two days, scared of the others.  They had been kept in very tight quarters, so the henhouse must seem like a palace.  They have never been outside, but the door will be open for them as soon as the sun comes back.  They are being given scratch and protein pellets, but were given only scratch at their old home, so they are still getting used to the pellets.  The "old" birds, the originals, are used to scratch as a treat, and eagerly eat the layer pellets.  You can see the buff brahma scratching in the fortex feeder. (and the rooster eyeing them)

These guys weren't really bothered, though they are settled in their barn for the night.  They have lots of good hay to eat, and we left the hay buffet half in the barn so they can eat at their leisure.  They know how to stay out of the wind.  Here they were eating their feed for the night.
Temps are not supposed to be terrible, but I just let Lilly Ann out, and there is at least an inch to an inch and a half of snow on the deck already, in the last hour. 
C'mon Spring!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Wild Geese

When I was little, my dad and mom had a stereo.  Made to sit on a table, it actually sat on the floor in our dining room, in a corner.  They had very few albums.  My dad, a Naval ensign in WWII, loved to listen to light classical music, and had the album "Victory at Sea", which he played repeatedly.  I still think of him in his recliner in the dining room (the table was pushed to the side), with his reading lamp on above him, reading Shirer's  "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" for the umpteenth time (we never knew if he ever finished it), and listening to Victory at Sea.  How I wish I had been old enough to have real conversations with him... he died when I was nineteen, at the age of 55.  One of the albums Daddy had was by Frankie Laine, and on that album was a song "The Call of the Wild Goose" - I think was the name.  How I loved that song!  It instilled in the heart of a little city girl the longing for wild spaces and the country, neither of which my parents, my brothers or sister shared.  One of the lines was "My heart goes where the wild goose goes"... and here, at Calamity Acres, we are between the Missouri and the Kansas (Kaw) rivers.... surrounded by bean and corn fields.  Keith has seen  perhaps a thousand geese rise up from the fields by Stranger creek, a mile from our house.  They are hungrily feeding now that the snow has melted and before the next round comes.  On my way home, I saw several hundred.  Of course, when I want to show them to you, I can't find the videos... but some nights thousands upon thousands come flying overhead, their siren sounding the call to go with them.  They come in waves, and sometimes are just above the house.  Here is a sample of what we frequently see... and please, pardon the bad camerawork at the end, I filmed it a ten days ago and am at a loss how to cut the end part out.  Just turn up your sound so you can hear their glorious noise.
video


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Another Boring Chicken Post!

First off, bienvenue au Cbel2me, and a rousing Tongie hello to Suseez and Laughing Duck Farm!  Welcome to Calamity Acres, we are glad to know you!

I'm afraid this is another chicken post. 

Last night we aquired 12 pullets, and got back three hens I had given up last summer in a moment of madness.  From Cindy, whose feed bunk was featured on Sunday's post, we got a white cochin, some buff brahma pullets, 3 mixed pullets (appear to be cochin/brahma) and some blue silkies.  These little birds, who are nearly a year old, are not in lay yet, and have been raised in dark cages kept in a closed barn.  They are in the little henhouse with my little flock, and we have decided to close off the little henyard from now on, to keep all these little birds safe and in their own domain.  It was a little comical to watch them, as they had not had so much room to move around as they have now, nor access to the outside, where they have never been.  Believe, the roosters were HAPPY. 

Here they are this morning:
You can see two of the mixes on the right, the white cochin in the center, and some of the buffs and blue silkies. Silkies make such good mamas, I was glad to get them.
I hope to ramp up egg production with these girls soon.
Also coming back were Suzy and Squeaky, two elderly Old English gamebirds who spent the last 10 months in a small cage... and are now living with Butch and the three survivors in the feed room...

The three survivors are actually old enough now to go outside with the big birds, so tonight, Reddy and Eagle are on the "big" side.  Angel, the porcelain D'uccle, is still with Butch and now, Suzy and Squeaky.
And the other bird who came home to me last night was Buffy, a buff Polish hen who came here as a four month old about 2 years ago.  She was also kept in a cage, and a rooster was with her part of the time, but he died. 

When I opened the door to do chores tonight, starlings flew.  I am so tired of cleaning up after them, and they had eaten all the food in the feeder again.  (on the coop side).  As there is feed in the bedding and the birds had access to outside, there was no harm done for the few hours, and it will be filled tonight.  I swear that Buffy remembered her former home... she paced the divider wall (behind her here) to get into the coop side, and I finally let her through.  She is out there roosting now, with the other birds, so all is well in her world.  She has not been able to roost until last night, when she stood on a ladder and slept all night.

Rain is coming tomorrow, and after it, the chance of snow. I know many of you have been hit again, and I am so sorry for all of you.  Please pray tonight for the people of New Zealand.  For many years I have had an email friend from there, Nell Sommervell.  I have not heard from her yet, but she is an actress and is married to the manager of a stud.  I am hoping she and her family are all safe from harm tonight, but the country and people need our prayers.  Keith's hometown of Fort Dodge, Iowa, is also in peril tonight, and much of it is under water, so those good folks also need our prayers.

We are drawing up final plans for our chicken house, and Paula from Fraker Farms was kind enough to send me pictures of their wonderful divided henhouse to give us some more good ideas!  Thank you so much, Paula!




Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Nifty Hay Bunk

Today Nathan and I went over to friend Cindy's to look at some chickens she has for sale.  While there we noticed that she had a nifty new hay bunk, which she designed and her husband built for her.  I asked Nathan to take pictures of it while Cindy and I visited.
You can see how very sturdy this feed bunk is.


I would have some qualms about goats horns being caught in it, if it were mine (and we had horned goats), but she commented that she has wasted MUCH less hay this winter with the new feed bunk, and the little goats seemed happy and healthy.
As we were leaving, Nathan made the aquaintance of Cindy's emu:

Notice his hands are hidden... I teased him that the emu nipped and he immediately covered his hands! He didn't want to get TOO close.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

What Is It?

The magazine I like so much, Country Living, has a column called "What is It, What is it Worth?" and I thought of it as soon as I saw this tool at the antique store last week.  It was too good to pass up...
I set it on a bath towel so it was easier to see.... can you tell what it is?

Yes, that's Nathan behind it. You can see that the handles are worn with use.

It reads "Houpt Cutters".... and we think it's a biscuit cutter.  It still rolls easily, and we are going to make some yeast biscuits and see how it does!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Aging Chickens

In our henhouse, we have aging chickens, but it's also useful to be able to age chickens by looking at them. 

Some are obvious... they are old and infirm, in a chicken way...Dovey is one of these.  She is five this year, and she and her sister Rosewitha have raised many, many little chicks to chickenhood.  Now she has lost many of her toes, and can no longer roost.  In the good weather this week, she has jumped down from her nest box and gone outside to enjoy the sun with the others, though she must hop along.  She is still eating and drinking, though, and occaisionally I'll find an egg in her favorite two boxes, so she has a home here still.  Her face is bleached out, and her legs are pale white.

Next are two Wyandottes, the remnants of five beautiful Wyandotte hens we were given by our friends Paul and Nancy five years ago.  We have lost Pandora, Isis and Clea, but Sprocket and Lola live on.  They have not laid in probably three years, they are seven years old (we think) now.  They have had the color come back into their combs and faces and legs, it has been so long since they produced eggs.  They hang out together, and have always been the bullies of the henhouse.  If you could see their shanks, you would see they are yellow again, since they are no longer laying.  A hen in high production will bleach out all her color around her face, her eyes, and her legs.

Younger hens who are just coming into lay will begin to lose the coloring as they start producing eggs, to witness, are Libby and Rosemary, each laying a lovely brown egg daily:

I have another hen, Birdy, the last full size daughter of old Rambo, who is still laying... but Birdy was hatched by Helen the turkey, and survived a terrible snake attack... she has always been a wild thing and won't hold still to have her picture taken. She is three, and still laying about three to four eggs a week.

In the bighenhouse also are two very tiny white/blacktail Japanese hens who haven't laid in years, and a beautiful black frizzle cochin purebred bantam, who is not laying.  She has produced some gorgeous chicks, but I have not found an egg from her in a while.  I am hoping once we move the hens into their new house this summer, that she will begin laying again. There are also the Three Survivors, who will be coming into lay at any time now.

We are getting three to four eggs a day from the hens in the little henhouse, who are all young.  Led by Silka, one of the three mamas... who is about two... there are a trio of one year olds, and about six born in September.  We are hoping they all begin producing the nice off white eggs that we have gotten from the older hens in there.  Whoever thinks bantam eggs aren't good hasn't seen these, they are great eggs. 
This is a very small pullet, who is almost an exact copy of the cochin in the big henhouse.  The other colored chick (grey)  was a clone of Rosewitha and Dovey, who was killed by the opposum this week.
 You can see the silkie and jap influence in the roosters, who also have the very bright coloring in their combs.
(Not all the birds in this pictures are cockerels)
Now that I look at this picture closer, I see the cochin influence in their combs, too.
I will try to get some pictures this weekend to show the difference in the sizes of birds.  These are actually very small.  (And I think my estimate of five cockerels in there yesterday was on the low side!)
Come on over to "Farm Friend Friday" at Verde Farm and look at all the great farm blogs listed this week!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Bit of This and That

Tonight is a catch-up night. 

I tried to post several stories this week, and one actually appeared to post.... but never did.  We don't know if it is Hughesnet, our computer, or Blogger.  After three weeks, I can tell you that Hughesnet is no faster than our Sprint aircard at the speed we have right now, which is basic.  As Keith is kindly paying for it, I don't feel I can demand we go to the next level.... yet.  So, I continue to have the problems all the rest of you have, bad access from the countryside, though we are close to a small town, and a major metropolitan area.

We have never seen a snake as early as the one in the henhouse now.  We have had many snakes in there... in fact, once, there were seven while Keith and I stood and watched.  It makes for few eggs, let me tell you, though we are glad to have them around. I don't know what this portends for the summer.  Our goal this year in making a new henhouse is to have more eggs for us, and less for the snakes.  We also want a secure place to raise purebred chicks so we can have replacement pullets. 

These are two black rat snakes who were mating and went right in between our legs as if we weren't even there last spring.
The reason we have so many roosters around is that yes, I'm a sap and hate to put them down.  We have managed to give away a few, and if they were bigger, could probably give away all to a local ethnic group who likes to butcher and eat them.  However, except for Rambo, the other roos are small, down to downright tiny. As my friend Diane calls them, they are McNuggets.  We can't handle too many more, though, and I realize that.  In the old days, at the old Calamity Acres, I managed to give away any roos I had....and my purebreds always were easy to sell.  Now, we have five in the big henhouse, Rambo, One, Two and Three, and Butch in his feed room with his harem of three, who are abandoning him now for the rest of the flock. 
In the little henhouse, we have Ratchett the frizzle cochin, Ruffles, the half frizzle, and two tiny ones who are nameless as yet.  The hens and pullets in the little henhouse are all very young (there are sixteen in there now total with the loss of the gray pullet this week), but the hens in the big henhouse are aging, except for Angel, Reddy, and Eagle, and the black Libby and Rosemary from our friend Dave last summer.  It's these hens that must be replaced with layers this year. 

A week ago today, the morning temperature was 9 below zero.  This afternoon, as I drove home from the dentist, my car registered 75 degrees.  I heard the news as I went by the tv earlier, and it is expected to drop to 56 by 8 PM.  The yard that looked like this two weeks ago:

Looks like this today:

And even more gratifingly, as I cleaned up some of the garden beds tonight, I saw this:

Some of the iris coming up!

And lastly, a few words about writing this blog, and the people who are reading it. 
I had been a scrapbooker for about six years when I started this blog nearly 2 years ago.  I grew to really like recording what was happening around our place, first, for people like Keith's parents who live 5 hours away from us in Ames, Iowa.  Then, for friends who, even though they thought I was nutty for the animals we had here, enjoyed reading about them.  Now, I look at my stats and see that people from all over the world are reading about what goes on here in Tonganoxie.  It is awesome, and awe-inspiring.  I have never been anywhere.... I lived in Wyandotte County, Kansas, my whole life, until I married Keith.  I lived in Illinois for the final year and a half of his Army career, and then came home here, to Leavenworth County.  My sister has traveled all over Europe, her husband is half Italian and half Slovenian, and speaks both.  I, who always wanted to go to Europe, have stayed home and been very few places.  A few in Arkansas, and a few in Pennsylvania, mostly connected with Civil War battlefields or the circus.  Keith lived in Europe for 3 1/2 years early on in his career, and has traveled widely there.  We see people from Russia, Germany, Slovenia, and many other countries reading our blog, and we marvel.  I work for a German pharmaceutical company, so it is not out of the ordinary for me to speak to people from other countries, but to have someone so far away interested in our little blog is mind-blowing.  People really are the same, no matter where they live.  Keith's family is from Holland (his mother's side) and Germany, (his dad's).  Someone in Holland reads this blog regularly.  It is inspiring to me.
And for those of you in the US... I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I love reading your stories... I stay up far to late to do so... and to Sheeps and Peeps, Sproutnwings, The Old Geezer and Rural Revival, welcome to our blog!
Join Amy tomorrow at Verde Farm for Farm Friend Friday. Last week 54 blogs posted to Mr. Linky.  I found so many new blogs to follow, that I  got VERY little sleep Friday night!



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Craft Fair for Tongie

On Saturday, we had our first craft fair in Tonganoxie.  The crafters gathered in the banquet room at Bichelmeyer's Steak House, and from 10 to 2, people from all around gathered to look at the things offered for sale.  It was an experiment, really, put on by Michelle from White Horse Antiques, her sister Vicki at Bichelmeyers, and their friend Donna who banded together to try to bring something new to town.  It appeared to be well-received and I enjoyed seeing the things that had been made by local and international crafters.
These gorgeous necklaces were sold by volunteers of Project Lydia (see www.ProjectLydia.org), representing widowed and abandoned women in Eastern Uganda.  The beautiful neclaces were made of paper, rolled tightly into beads, and then laquered to hardness.  I bought a necklace and earrings for 20.00, a true bargain.  I hope to buy some more of this colorful jewelry.  They also presented bowls and dolls, made by the same women. 
These beautiful bowls were sold by a local crafter:

And here was my friend Sherry,(center) with her wonderful hand-made cards, and some charming lapel pins she fashioned from bits of lace and pearls.

So there was everything from re-purposed clothing for kids...

to home decor made in the home by craftsmen...

It was a very successful show, and the three entrepreneurs are going to stage another on March 12, as our newspaper said in tonight's weekly edition, so we'll have a chance to do more shopping. I know some people in my family who are going to get lovely necklaces this year. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quick One for Monday Night

Happy Valentines Day!  My sweet Keith sent roses to my office... the oldest on the floor, I was one of two who had flowers delivered, and was mighty surprised!  Chocolates came with them, for a nice treat!
I guess I should have put the Mylanta away before I took the picture.
I came home to do chores, and found this in the henhouse:

Still hunting... I have one hen, Dovey, who will be five this year.  She and her sister Rosewitha look like twins, but Dovey has lost most of her toes.  She has trouble walking now, and no longer can roost.  She nests in one of the nest boxes hanging on the wall.  I am hoping he does not get her tonight, since he's obviously still hungry.  Maybe he'll find enough mice.
In the duck house, which sits behind the big henhouse, some of the little hens liked to lay.  I always check it.  Tonight I opened the pophole on the side, and saw two black wings.  I went and got the rake, and pulled them out... black chicken wings.  I laid them on the roof of the house, and tomorrow morning I'll go out and count heads.  Someone is gone.  I suspect a raccoon, because possums usually just bite the heads off, but Keith thinks maybe a fox.  I can't believe it would go in the duck house to eat it's meal, though. There was nothing in there but the two wings, separated.  I had a nice black cochin hen with the frizzle gene, and I hope it is not her.  I'll know by tomorrow morning.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Two-Post Sunday

 It was a glorious winter day here in Tongie, got up to mid-fifties after the last three weeks that wore us out.  We had a peaceful morning, and I read the paper after chores, at leisure.  Then into my brother's to drop off some groceries, and to get the car washed finally, and to stop at Wally World for some things.  I had intended to broil two small steaks in the oven, but left the oven cleaner at Wal Mart!  It's time to clean, it doesn't look dirty, but we can tell when we broil that it needs cleaning.  Anyway, that will be a project for one night this week, now.  So we are having chili dogs, and though I love to bake on Sunday, the only thing that got baked today were some Cinnabon Pillsbury rolls (and delicious they were!).

Normally I would not do a second post in a day, but there were so many things happening, that I want to talk about them.  First, I came home and let the little girls out to run around in the nice weather for a while.  They were so glad to get out and stretch their legs!

Then, I tackled this:

LLamas are unique in that they normally poop in the same place all the time.  They don't spread it around the whole pasture.  This was in the back of the llama barn, where they have been spending a lot of time in the cold weather.
And after much pitchforking, loading into the big yard cart,  it ended up here:

In my new garden bed (one of them).
Then I tackled the big henhouse, which was horrible from the starlings this week.  In fact, as I walked towards it, numerous of the foul birds flew out the eaves. 
Here is the front of it, showing Beau's old yard stall plainly, now a catch-all:

The big yard cart is there on the right, and if you click on the picture and make it big, you can just see the heated llama trough which I also dumped and cleaned, on the left behind the walnut tree.  On the right is Butch's little four x four pen in the henyard, with it's blue tarp cover.  Out of sight just to the right is the little henhouse.  I had to spread some bad hay there just to be able to get back and forth, as the mud was slick.
I started digging out the nasty wet dirt in the henhouse with a large shovel we keep in there for that purpose.  I only did half of the big room, as it was backbreaking dragging the cart through the snow just outside the camera view behind me. 
Inside the henhouse, I found this:

The bucket on the right is a "nest" that Birdy likes to lay in.  It's a feed bucket.  She was in there early this morning when I went out to feed and let the birds out.  My guess is he found her egg, because he had a lump in him, and I found him draped over the bucket, sleepy.  After I started shoveling, he started into the hole in the wall.  I nudged him and he turned his head around to look out and see what was bothering him.  He was a big one, if it was Mr. T, we have never seen him this early... February 12th... more like March, or mid-March. 
About then, Keith got home and filled the llama trough for me, and we watched hundreds of geese flying overhead. 
So here is Lil inspecting the loads of chicken-cleanings I dumped on my new garden bed.  I had to trundle the carts through the snow, and it was hard work, so I'm pooped out tonight.  Our steak dinner became chili dogs.  Keith will take the pitchfork to the pile of llama poop straw on the right this week, and spread it out better, I was tuckered out when I got that far. 
Spring, I think at last, is in the air!

Me, A Decade Ago

When I was a little girl, I was horse crazy.  I was one of those little girls who imagined a pony would clip-clop down the street to me on Christmas morning, and be tied to the walnut tree in my side yard when I got up.  When I was seven, eight and nine, I asked for farm sets for Christmas, and I got them from Santa.  Daddy fixed me up a place in the basement of our house (an unfinished basement where the ancient huge freezer sat, daddy's workbench was, the water softener was, the welding kit, and a primitive toilet and shower).  There, he hung two old doors horizontally, where I laid out my farmyards while I sat on a stool and played for hours.  I had a barn at either end on each door, and fencing and horses and cows and pigs, and goats, and of course, chickens.  Even today I have one of the goats I played with then up on my windowsill in the kitchen.

I always had horse pictures in my room, and I dreamed of horses.  Ideally I would have had seven, a different one for every day of the week.  I wanted to be Liz Taylor in National Velvet, and I wanted to BE the "real"  Velvet Brown from the Enid Bagnold book, who is given ponies by a rich elderly man.  I wanted to have a warm stable with stalls for each, and their own little paddocks, and I wanted them to be CALLED paddocks, and not "corrals" or "pens", as we do here.  I wanted to do nothing but get up in the morning and muck out stalls, and braid manes (except that I could never braid) and be called something exciting like "Scout" and have pigtails that flew behind me when I rode.

Then, when I was twelve, my dad took me to the Kansas City Stockyards one day.  We often went there because his best friend worked there, and because I loved them.  As you came around the Central Street bridge to the James Street bridge, I would roll down the window and breathe in the smell of hundreds of cattle pooping in their pens, along with thousands of hogs and sheep. I loved the smell.  And then one day we went there and looked at a sorrel horse with only one eye, young, strong, running around in his pen.  And before I knew it, my dad was pulling out his wallet and 75.00 passed over, and home came that horse to my grandma's farm.  One of the boys who trucked him out there got on and rode him around for a minute, to prove he was broke.  He was, barely.  So I got my first horse, Shorty Blaze..  After all the good books I had read, I could not decide on a name for him.  He lived at my uncle's farm (my grandmother's farm) where he slowly went insane from being alone all the time, because by then, the Holsteins had gone and my Uncle Marcus was a mailman.  I did not get to ride him much because green broke, he was not only dangerous for a little girl, but with one eye, a downright trainwreck waiting to happen.  I worshipped him from afar, mostly, and he was finally sold to someone to use as a stud, since he was a registered quarter horse.  Several other horses passed after him, including Pecos, who I worked for after school for hours and hours to support.  Many years went by, and I began renting horses to ride at a local stable.  I was friends with the owner, and was allowed to come out almost anytime, saddle up, and ride out alone, instead of with a group.  I miss those early morning and late evening rides, when I saw wonderful things in the fields and woods.  Once I was riding along, and a dog coyote jumped out of the woods.... landed on the path directly in front of me... we all froze, horse, coyote and I.... and then he jumped quickly over the fence and ran off across the next pasture, and I rode on.  Many times I would see deer grazing in those woods, and they would lift their heads, watch, and then drop them again to keep grazing.  I saw all kinds of birds, and the little animals, like squirrels.  Eventually, the stable closed, and now there is a huge shopping development where once the little ponds of the woods stood, and I quit riding because of time commitments and finally, because I married and moved out of state.  Now for years I have not ridden, and though I love to watch, I am content to remember.  Our minis reminded me of my love, and especially dear old Beau, the loveliest old pony anyone could have been privileged to own.  Only once while he lived here was he ridden, and that day five little children got to enjoy him.  I was happy just to see him grazing in the pasture with Lacey and Lilly, and sleeping under "his" tree.
So here, in this grainy picture, am I at the stable, in a pair of leggin's, ready to ride!  This is the woman Keith met and fell in love with... my thick red mane and feisty ways.  I could throw a rope then, too... and my rope still hangs in the garage here, if we should ever need it! (I hope we don't!)

Several of you asked about Luigis, where we ate on Friday night. If you Google  "Luigis in Leavenworth", you can read a story from the Leavenworth Times about this restaurant, which opened in November.  We had tried to eat there three weeks ago when Brandon was down for the weekend, but thought the line that night meant an hour's wait.  We were wrong.  After our possum adventure, we tidied up, and drove on up to Leavenworth.  We waited only about 20 minutes, as things appeared to be flowing.  The restaurant is in a century-old building, with wonderful dark wood floors, and tin ceiling.  It is sparsley decorated, and painted a pleasing color of green.  There are two rooms, and somewhere to the west, a kitchen.  We were seated in the back room, which was 3/4 full that night.  The menu is very full, but Keith, who loves seafood, chose Linguini Alfredo Tuttomare, and it had all the good things of the sea, large shrimp, mussels, and clams.  He loved it!  It was an especially large serving, so he could not eat all of it, and did not think it was the kind of dish that could keep.  I had Spaghetti Pizzaola... I am not sure what the second word means, but it was a spaghetti with thinly sliced Italian sauage, peppers and mushrooms in a natural kind of sauce, and was very delicious.  I have to say that the wait staff was very nice, and our waitress appeared to be from a middle European country. When I commented on how very good the dipping sauce was.... they served it with not the long garlic rolls one normally sees, but round soft rolls, very, very good, with a buttery garlic that they had been baked with... she went and got me a container to take home!  Here is the incredible thing about the menu.... I did not see ONE dish on there that was more than $15.00, and our bill for two dinners, with one specialty beer for Keith was 28.00 plus the tip!  Not just reasonable, but VERY reasonable, and for such good food.   As Keith said when we left, it will be worth another trip to Leavenworth soon to sample more on the menu.  It was a wonderful Valentine's treat, my gift to him because he is still my honey!
Also, since this is stretching out ad infinitum, I need to explain something about Lilly Ann, and how great it was for me to see her break off her wild barking at the possum that Keith corralled Friday night, after she had attacked and killed the first. (She has her rabies shot). 
Lilly has always tried to dominate everyone here, including Keith and me.  She was always the "boss of Ranger", since she was a puppy.  She is passive-agressive, and will lay on her back as soon as she knows she has done something naughty, but if you try to get her by the collar, the teeth are bared.  She is the only dog we have had who has gone to obediance school, but I found that if I worked with her one-on-one, she would do her absolute best to do what I wanted.  I taught her to sit as I touched my collarbone, and she plants herself down immediately, even if she is hot in pursuit of something.  She has killed probably a dozen chickens (the suicidal ones, as Keith says, who come over the pasture fence) but will literally drop one if I catch her and tell her to plant it.  Friday night, Keith was trying to get through the gate with the possum on the snow shovel, and Lil was in a high state of dudgeon.  I called her to me, and told her to sit, and she PLANTED HER BUTT ON THE GROUND AND FROZE.  I could see her watching Keith as he walked away with the possum, but she then switched her gaze to me, and listened as I praised her for being such a good girl and protecting us from the possums.  She has really, really come a long way, and we are so very proud of our big red dog.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Wild Friday Night

Since we had a hard week with the snow and the cold weather, I decided it would be nice for Keith and myself to have a nice Friday night, and celebrate Valentine's Day a little early, since it's on Monday this year.  So, I asked him on Wednesday if he would like to eat at Luigi's, a new restaurant in Leavenworth about which I had heard good things.  We decided it would be a good "date night", so Keith planned to come home from a meeting overtown and do the chores, so that when I got home at 5:15, we could leave and be seated early for dinner.  I wore a nice black dress dressed up with a lovely scarf to work, and even managed to keep it clean all day!

As I came down the highway on my way home, thinking of the lovely dinner we were going to have, the phone rang.

"Uh... Honey.... how far along are you?"

"I'm just crossing Stranger Creek.... why?"

"Uh..... welll..... Lilly just killed a possum I think.... and I just threw it over into the neighbor's pasture.... .but now I came around behind the little henhouse... all the little birds are out but six...."

"Do you need help getting them and is Lilly okay?"  (Possum teeth glinted in my brain)

"Lilly's fine.... but..... there's a second possum in the little henhouse and six of the chicks are in there with him".

I hit the gas.

Right before I left work, I had slipped my tennis shoes on, as our driveway is turning from ice and snow to slush and mud.  I had my (good) work coat on over my dress, but parked and ran to the little henyard.  There was Lil on guard at the fence:

Having already killed one (we didn't realize it was dead), she knew something was up because Keith was behind the little henhouse and concerned.
I didn't have my camera in the car... but felt my phone where I dropped it in my pocket, and drew it out quickly.
I ran behind the henhouse, but didn't think to take a picture of the possum hunkered down in the corner under the warming light.  There, as if mesmerized, were six of the six month old chicks across from him on the other side, nervously mumbling amongst themselves. 

"What's our plan?"  I asked.  I had thought to run up on the porch and grab a dog carrier that was out for Hannah to go see the vet.  I had grapped the fish net we use to catch the birds as I ran by the henhouse porch.

"I'm going to try to net him".

I thought of the teeth again.

"Okay". 

We keep a squeegee mop behind the little henhouse.  Weird, but true.  Once there was a little pool sunken in the henyard for the call ducks... and that mop cleaned it out.  I keep it now because I reach and pull the eggs towards me with it.  Keith told me to go get the mop, and go around to the front and try to push the possum into the net.  Problem was, I couldn't see where it was, I was stretched across the porch and he was out of sight.  There was some yelling then. 
Finally, I handled the mop back over to Keith, who sort of mopped the possum into the net.  I ran back around to the backside, just as he pulled the possum out.  Unfortunately, in dropping him into the carrier (where we were going to take him far away and release him).... the critter nimbly ran up the net and out into the henyard.  More yelling.
Lots of barking from the Red Dog.

I ran for the pophole of the big henhouse, and shut it quickly.  Keith kept an eye on the possum, who, of course, was scared out of his tiny little mind by now.  He tried to run out the gate, but Keith managed to stop him with the snow shovel:

The possum, whose tail you can see sticking out, was not harmed by this... he is simply being held down for a second while we tried to figure out what to do. 
Then Tony cantered around to take a look... Keith lifted the shovel for a minute... and Tony leaned down and whuffled at the possum's back! (smelling him, we think). 
All the while this was going on,
THIS was going on at the fence:

It was a ruckus all right!  Note Tony heading back out in the pasture with one last look...

Keith then shoveled the still live possum onto the snow shovel, and Lilly Ann VERY obediantly came to me and sat, and I held her and told her how good she was while Keith carried the possum clear across the property, behind the house, and over to the Spehar's fenceline, where he tossed it (gently) after the first one.

Here is the first one, picture taken this afternoon:

As you can see, it didn't fare so well with Lil.  She found it in front of the big henhouse, in the porch area. 

We had talked earlier in the week about the wildings dying in this weather, and we figured these two were starving to come out in the daylight and be as bold as they were.  We have found a possum in the duck house before.... dead.... came in, curled up, and died..... but not live ones.  We HAVE found a juvenile Coopers Hawk in the henhouse once. 

Lil got a lot of praise, but Keith is finally (with my blessing) going to get a 22 to prevent the loss of any young chickens to these predators, since we think this one will be back.

And then, we went to dinner!