Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Look at Snow

Last year at this time we were under about 3 feet of snow, and zero or below-zero temps.  Friday we had a light snow and were worried that it was going to continue (shades of Christmas Eve 2009).  I was off work and went out to do chicken chores in mid-afternoon, and as I approached the little henhouse, I saw the September hatch chicks in the doorway, marveling at the snow!  These chicks still don't go outside... the piece of wood is still put up daily to keep them in.  When they are ready, they'll start hopping up and over, like the hatches before them. Then we'll have a chick round up for the first few days or weeks every night.

Yes, that's duct tape on the wall... we made a hole for the electric cord to pass through the night the chicks hatched so we could light the warming light.
Now it's run up and through one of the upper windows that's now covered with fiberglas.

Rosewitha, one of the three mamas, has now gone back to the big henhouse, where she is living again happily with One, Two, Three and Four the roosters, and her sister Dovey, as well as the other chickens who roost in the rafters. Flicka and Silka are still caring for the chicks, who are now all roosting with the two hens, Ratchett the Rooster, and the four remaining chicks from the June hatch that live in the little henhouse, 3 pullets and one rooster, Ruffles.
What IS that stuff out there?

I had two Old English Game Hens (now living with my friend Cindy) but they have numerous descendents in the little flock.  That's one on the right.... and the one on the left is clearly a silkie cross.
I have several friends who swear by their purebred chickens... and I like mine, too... but I love my little bantam crosses and think them very beautiful.  This weekend I'll try to get a good picture of the whole bunch lined up so you can see what nice birds they have become.  This hatch is VERY small.... and I'll try to get pictures of how small that is. 
Tomorrow night I'll write about what we have accomplished here at Calamity Acres this year, and all those dear pets and friends who have gone on now over the Rainbow Bridge, and what we would like to do next year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The New Gate

Our new gate is up.  Keith got it from the steel company who made it for us, and hung it a week ago.  For five years we had had to drive clear out on the gravel road to get out and shut the gate behind us... and many times were a target for people speeding on our country road.  We always worried that someone would be distracted and plow into us.  Keith began working in earnest this fall, and got the framework up, and about ten days ago, the gate came home.

He had to put the hinges on and some other customizations... so that the dogs could not get out

Ooops... liquid refreshment in this picture

Once the refinements were done, the gate was hung...

You can see the old red gate still hung... the hinges are almost one with the wood, so it will be a while (warmer) before it gets taken down.  But we are able to pull the truck and the car off the road safely to open and close the gate, that's what matters.
All photos taken by Nathan.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Abby the Farm Dog

When we lost dear little Addie Mae, we thought to get another pug to keep Hannah company.  Hannah depended on Addie a lot, you see, because she is so lacking in sight.... she can see a little, and we know she can see up close, but she will literally sit for 30 minutes on the deck watching for me, not knowing I have come up behind her.  So we contacted the adoption agency where we found our good Hannah, and they had another pug, called Fiona.  We went to see her, and fell in love with her crooked little mouth with the tongue hanging out, and brought her home to Calamity Acres.  We were worn out in a week... she wanted to play, play, play, and would not stop bringing us toys, etc.  and literally would not rest until we had turned the lights out at night.  We almost took her back after a week, we were so tired.  We thought about it long and hard, though, and realized she really needed a home, and was so much younger than Addie had been... only two, and younger than Hannah.   Little did we know that Abby, as we called her now, would become such an integral part of our lives.  Abs is the farm dog... who accompanies me on chores morning and evening.  She knows the pattern that we do them... and is quick to notice anything amiss.  I can take her in the henyard and henhouse without any qualms, the only dog to live here that we have done that with.  (though Gertie will go in, she is petrified of the chickens).  She will lift a paw and hold a chicken for us, or stare them into submission, without hurting them at all, and the chickens are no longer afraid of her.
Abby when she still had her girlish figure, before we porked her out.

Abs meeting Lilly Horse for the first time... she was not too sure about the horses!

Now that we have Gertie, she is kept busy playing all evening, until she herself can play no more but must drop in exhaustion!  She is getting some weight off, and having fun!  We are so proud of her and she has earned her praise as Farm Dog Supreme at Calamity Acres!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wiped out After Christmas

Even the animals were wiped out after Christmas.  We got home from the Christmas Day feast at my son's, and Keith wiped out in the car.  When we got here, he promptly ensconced himself on the couch, but soon had some fellow nappers.
The kitties had the back of the loveseat...

Nathan had been allowed to unwrap two gifts before we left....

after I had been to church and picked him up...

and then we all truly enjoyed the feast at my son's. (turkey and ham just out of view to the left)
Even the little ones loved it...

Cousin Hayley, Paiton and Jax, brother and sister, the two littlest grands,
Amy and Jim had plastic ornaments on their tree because of the kids.... we have them because of the KITS....
and finally, home to relax, read some blogs and the news, and watch a little television before going to bed, satisfied with our holiday.

The Blogging Assistants gathered at my feet... Hannah and Gertie use Abby as a pillow.
Hannah is at the vet's today (Monday)... we are worried about her... she is passing blood when she urinates, so we are getting her checked out.  As she is nearest and dearest to me, it was a bit of worry over the lovely holiday.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas From Our Place to Yours!

The happiest of Christmases from our house to yours, and peace to all of our friends and followers - thank you all for taking the time to stop by here and see our farm, we appreciate all of you and all your comments. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Very Thoughtful Gift

Last evening we received the most thoughtful gift ever from Grandson Nathan.

Bread, made with his own hands!

We received this picture by phonemail on Wednesday...
And yesterday when he arrived, this is what he brought us....

and of course, I had to take his picture...

And this is what it looked like when I fixed bacon and eggs for our breakfast on a snowy Christmas Eve morning!

Toasted with apple butter from
Calamity Acres.... MMMM Good!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Storm Coming but a Quiet Night

We expect two inches of snow and some sleet late tonight or early tomorrow, but things are warm and cozy at Calamity Acres tonight.  We still have some baking to do, but Grandson Nathan is on hand to help in the morning, and to wrap gifts too.  Then he will go with his mom tomorrow night, and with his dad on Saturday, as thus it is with some families, and ours too. 

The animals are all snuggled in their beds, and thanks to Nathan, the trough is topped off and we are ready for the storm.  Let it come.... we're as ready as we can be... and ready for the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child again, to bring light to all the world.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two Days Now

Two days now until the Christ child comes again to remind us all that we need peace and brotherhood in this world of ours. 

Do you have your shopping finished and your gifts wrapped and your baking done?

I have the last thing bought, but have not wrapped... in fact, Keith is ahead of the game there.  We cannot put gifts below our little tree in the house because of the destructive Jenny.  I will wrap and then put them back in the bin where they have been hidden.  On Friday morning, I'll take Nathan to get something for his mother with his nine dollars he has saved.  He has made bread for Keith and me, and I believe that will be our best gift ever.

Hannah lays beside me tonight as I type this, but we are both tired and as soon as she has gone to the porch, will join Keith, Abby and Gertie in bed on a cold winter's night.  We have passed the shortest day of the year now, though, and even though it's cold and gray, I know that spring is now drawing ever closer and the days will be lengthening.  I am off the next five days, so it will be a wonderful respite.
Gertie and Keith, thinking about their stockings.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Fudged on the Fudge

Okay, I fudged on the fudge.  I started out to make Clotted Cream Fudge and made a box of Carnation's Famous Fudge, and let me tell you... it was easy and GOOD. Then, I cut the fudge this morning and put it on the table to take to work... and walked off and left it sitting under the newspaper Keith had opened to read.

I apologized to friend Gretchen whom I had promised fudge, and will take it tomorrow for everyone else to enjoy.   She will be gone on Christmas vacation, but I told her I would make some for her after the first of the year. 

I work tomorrow, and then am off for the long five day weekend.  I am going to get the "golden syrup" at the store tomorrow night, and make the special fudge on Friday to take to my son's on Saturday for our Christmas dinner. 

Today I talked to someone I had not spoken with in several months, a former co-worker, and he told me he had bought 80 acres to grow crops on near his dad's farm.  He works full time, but grew up farming and likes to keep his hands dirty.  Hearing this made me fill him in on some of the things we have done here this year, and I am thinking that it's time now at the end of the year to  assess what we have actually accomplished here, and what we hope to accomplish in the next few years.  I'll get this story in my head and sit down after Christmas to "put it on paper" for you.
I leave you with a picture of Jenny, whom Keith has been calling "El Destructo" (even though she's a girl!) ... she loves to play in sacks and boxes, and we keep a box for her to sleep in regularly.  Didn't our kids like to do the same?

Sound asleep for an hour!

Monday, December 20, 2010


Short post tonight, bloggers... I have to make Clotted Cream Fudge per Suzanne McMinn's recipe seen on Chickens in the Road,  and I have just discovered that I do not possess in our pantry a bottle of "golden syrup" (light corn syrup, Karo).  I have the clotted cream... long story... but Keith went all the way to Leavenworth TWICE to get me some from the Queen's Pantry after I got there on a freezing cold day FIVE MINUTES TOO LATE.  What a husband!  Anyway, I may have to run to Country Mart to get the corn syrup if I can't find any at the back of the pantry where it will have been languishing for a while.

I will take pictures (I hope). 

I am leaving you with a wonderful picture taken by my grandson Nathan yesterday afternoon of Tony, Inca and Aztec.  Nathan has been using the camera now for a year, and I asked him to walk around and please take llama pictures because I was so busy, and also to take a series of pictures of Keith working on the gate.  He did both, and got some VERY good pictures which will be used this week.  I'm very proud of him.

Aztec at six weeks, strong and healthy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spoiler Alert - Don't Read This Post If Gross Stuff Bothers You!

Grandson Nathan came to help me today while his mom did a little Christmas shopping.  I was glad to see him, as I had told him we would see a movie this weekend, but after yesterday's trip, was just too behind in chores to be able to get away for hours.  He helped me a lot while he was here, and not only carried many water buckets, but also took some pictures which I will feature this week.  He's becoming a very good photographer!

As we went down the road to take him home to Lawrence, I told him that this morning on the way to church I had seen a dead goose in the road.  Going back a few days, Keith called me on his way home one night to tell me there were two dead geese in the road outside the goat dairy, which is about 3/4 of a mile south of us. He speculated that the goat lady's coonhounds had possibly gotten loose and gotten two of her geese (they had done this once before).  He loves geese like I do, and lamented the fact that they were laying in the road, dead. 

Back to this morning, I got out of the car and looked at the goose's body.  It was perfectly intact, as if the goose had just laid down, legs under her, for a rest, but... there was NO HEAD.

It was clean, dry, and no blood.
In my opinion, this looked like an opposum kill.  I have had possums get ducks several times, but never a bird as big as a goose, a big healthy one like this.  When fowl are asleep, though, you can do almost anything to them.

This was to the left of the goose.
It looks like a dog someone hit, stuffed in a bag, and dumped on our road.  I thought it was a coyote at first, but we don't think so. 
Keith has a theory... that it was  someone's dog that killed the goose, and the owners killed the dog and dumped both.
Keith said the goose had a head when he saw it originally, so I stand by my possum theory. (only it got the head AFTER the fact). The other thing is, there isn't a mark on the goose. 
A mystery on a country road.
We sure wish people wouldn't dump their animals here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Old Homestead

We saw them clear up I35 Today on the way to Ames... the old homesteads along either side of the highway.  Big houses, some still maintained, and big barns... many going to ruin with boards out and leaning sidewise. Many still have there outbuildings around them... the old henhouses and cribs and granaries.  Here in another old picture I have you can see the family standing in front of the fine house... the big barn... the woodpile all piled and neat for winter use.  The outhouse standing just far enough away that odor would not drift.... it's a beautiful old farm, neat and well-kept.
double-click to enlarge

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tomorrow to Ames

Tomorrow we go to Ames to see Keith's parents for Christmas, and it means rising early, taking care of the animals in the dark, and then driving 4 1/2 hours north.  We do stop several times to stretch our legs, but it makes for a long day.  Tonight I watched my two youngest grands, Paiton and Jax, while their parents went to a Christmas gathering.  Keith stayed here and prepared the baskets, and made treats, with the help of the dogs and cats. 

He did a great job making up the baskets... after being helped by Jenny especially. 
And here a basket partially filled and lined by Keith!  What a great husband he is!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Looking Back A While

Here in Leavenworth County, we have plenty of deer.  I love to watch them, and know that they must be culled, but no deer will ever be shot on our property.  I am content to see them go by... just Sunday morning before church I saw two does run, tails up, through our neighbor's pasture and along our fence line, crossing the road before I could get camera out.  This scene from months ago shows deer in our neighbor's beautiful park-like back yard.  Their dogs were inside, and ours far enough away that the does felt safe to come up to the house to graze, and drink from their pond. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Gertie has settled in very well with us now.  She and Abby play constantly, and when they are tired, they are TIRED.  Abby can't keep up, and now instead of bothering us to play every night, she plays with Gertie until she is worn out.  The amount of toys on our living room floor makes it look like little kids live here.

We're glad to have her as part of our Calamity Acres family, and glad her moving around has stopped.  She deserves a good little life, and that's what's she is going to get. Now, knock off bothering the kitties, Gert!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One Last Word ...

about Independence, that is!

I stopped downtown on the square to eat at Clinton's. This was the soda fountain where President Truman first worked as a 15 year old boy, and I had a lovely bowl of chili while I looked at a memorial wall with pictures of the President.  There was no other business, it was such a cold and windy day, but it was a great ending to my day of seeing my son and looking at the beautifully dressed mansions.

Not a creature was stirring, just me!
Soda fountain where the future president worked!

And with that, that's the end of Independence for this Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Vaile Mansion

Today I'll continue my story about the trip to the two mansions in Independence yesterday.

The second house I visited was the Vaile Mansion, which was the home in the late 1880's to "Colonel" Harvey and his wife Sofronia Vaile.  Colonel Vaile was a mail contractor and entrepreneur who accumulated a sizable amount of land and property in Independence.  He had built a huge home for himself and his wife, but they lived in it only 3 years before Mrs. Vaile died mysteriously of a laudanum overdose in 1883, and Colonel Vaile of a stroke in 1894.  The house and estate passed through several hands, as the couple had no immediate heirs, and now the house sits on a small number of acres surrounded by the city of Independence.  It is lovingly supported and maintained by the Vaile Victorian Society, and was a gift to the city by Mrs. Roger DeWitt.
(As always, to see picture larger, click on it, and then hit your brower's back button to return)

This year's theme was "A Silver Victorian Christmas"

And the decorations started right at the ornate double front door.

The view down the hall from the front door.

One of the parlor maids explained how the lady's parlor tree was chosen and decorated.

The music room mantle, all the mantles in the house are original and gorgeous!

This is the dining room.  It is not as large as the one at the Bingham, but is beautiful.  The silver tree is in front of the pass through from the butler's pantry, where food would be handed in from the kitchen.

Directly opposite wall of the picture shown above, showing some of the wonderful antique furnishings of the Vaile.  The door on the right leads into the two south parlors, and the left, into the hallway.

A beautiful upside-down Christmas tree.

The Vaile is unique in that Colonel Vaile had built a cistern that held 6000 gallons of water.  There was hot and cold running water throughout the house, and forced air gas heat.  The room seen here is under the cistern (which has been removed) but is a circular room set up as a breakfast room off the kitchen.  It may have been used by the six live in staff as an eating area, because it is in the back of the house behind the kitchen.  It is a charming room with five windows. The colonel had the same number and size of windows built above it around the cistern, so that the symmetry of the house would be correct.

The upstairs hallway.  The view is into the small room at the top of the front tower.
There are four bedrooms in this area, two on either side.

This room is set-up as a bedroom, but was possibly used by Mrs. Vaile as a dressing room or sitting room. There is a bathroom just off it with a tub and toilet, and would have been her private bath.
Mrs. Vaile's copper-lined tub, with a filling of red bulbs lit from underneath.

The picture that caused all the scandal.  Colonel Vaile had French and Italian painters do the detail work on his ceilings and walls.  This painting of a woman, which was originally bare from the waist up, caused such a scandal in Independence that Mrs. Vaile was shunned by society.  It was directly over their bed alcove in the master bedroom.  It was in this bedroom she was found 3 years later, dead of a possible overdose of laudanum, that was used  by society then as an opiate or sleep aid.
The painting had been "covered up" after the scandal broke, and a diaphanous insert put over the bosom area.

A ceiling decoration.

The gentleman's library.

The stairway to the 3rd floor.  It was never finished during the Vaile's tenure.  The mansion was used for a number of years as a sanitarium/old folks home, and residents were housed on the third floor, so there are bathroom facilities up there.  The former housekeeper's rooms, now the shop, were the operating or treatment rooms in those days. (second floor)
We were told once by a man who owned a Victorian mansion that rather than decrying the use of the fine old homes for things like boarding rooms and retirement homes, we should be glad that they were used, and not torn down.  I agree.

The kitchen.  Of course, there was probably a separate summer kitchen,  now gone, and the larders and servant's quarters were in the basement. 
I have many more wonderful picture of the gorgeous decorations, but will leave you with one more, and put some on the Calamity Acres Facebook page this week.
I hope you have enjoyed these pictures as much as I enjoyed going through these great old homes.  I love the old ones... though I am glad to be here in our tiny house, snug as a bug in a rug.

The "back door" of the Vaile, the portion of the house here was the domain of the servants... the housekeeper's rooms on the second floor, and the kitchen and service areas on the first.  The water cistern was under the tower you see just peeking over the house on the right.