Thursday, January 31, 2019

Saying Goodbye to January, 2019

Bye, Felicia. 

That's how I feel today. 

We really have nothing to complain about, we, in the mid-American part of 
the lower forty eight, while our northern and northeast cousins are in the throes of a 
terrible storm. 

This is the kind of weather that drove Keith (in the winter of 2013-14) to give up
on the country as he fell more ill.... and convince me it was time to move to 
"the big house", where we lived until he died. 

You can see the vestiges of our last snow were melting on Sunday, when I heard a sound on the deck and went to look out the window. 
I saw two naughty ewes on the deck, who had pulled the chain on the 
pasture gate (I had forgotten to loop and "lock" it), and made themselves at 
home in the yard. 

I let them stay for the afternoon, they actually grazed for several hours. 
Yes, in the cold. 

I have made a decision that no one will be eating or drinking on the deck in the summertime. 
I am tired of the constant mess, and I can put the water somewhere where it will stay cool all day. 
I am moving a finch feeder to a spot next to the side deck, where I can sit at the kitchen table and watch the finches feeding, and the mess will go down to the ground, where they can clean it up.  The finch feeder hanging now in a flower bed will come out, and will be unused and kept as backup. 
I am spending a fortune on wild bird seed, and it has to stop. 

She IS the queen of all she surveys. 

Unfortunately, the Queen had to have some blood drawn 
last week, as I monitor her pretty closely at this stage in her life.  
We are starting Tramadol daily now for her aches and pains. 

Thanks to Dr. Becker and Ashley, at Bethel Animal Hospital, where I have taken my 
pets for over 30 years. 

We were very lucky that for much of January, the hoses were able to be used, and flowed 
freely, or somewhat freely... they did spit ice cubes a few times.  Last year, all hoses 
were drained and hung by this time, but this year, I was able to use them more. 

I just realized that I did not get a picture of the truck and trailer, but on the 23rd, I had 
Casey from Reynolds Lawn and Leisure, in Shawnee, Ks., come and work on 
my John Deere tractor.  I was so glad to hear that it is in excellent condition at 
six years old (maybe seven!).... and good to go for another season.  He did a complete 
tune-up on site in the trailer that he pulled, and I was so glad to know it is in good shape.  

Chris, my oldest grandson, was here for two nights from Garnett, and got the barn 
straightened up, and the mower was moved in there until spring. 

Ooops... just realized this is a bit of a blurry picture, 
but the ancient shop lights were removed from the barn, and 
my nephew Brandon hung these new LED lights for me. 
He also re-wired all the circuits, and made sure I am good to go to 
get my seeds started in two weeks.  We had coped with 
dingy old shop lights since we bought the place in 2005, 
and Keith replaced very few of the bulbs in them.  It was depressing 
going in the shop/barn  and as you can see, it became a repository for things

On the 13th, a business hauled away a huge pile of junk that my grandson had readied for them... and since I took this picture, Chris has gotten busy and done even more cleaning.  We stopped 
that day (the 23rd) because it was terribly cold. 

In a couple of weeks, we will work on it even more, donating some things and 
junking others.   The shoplights have to be hauled away, and all the bulbs that were in them. 

I hope to have a wide open space and be able to walk in, find what I need, and walk out. 
I have a LOT of gardening things in there, and am eager to start seeds this year. 

I also had them haul things from the Dierksen storage building, and it is in much 
better shape.  I am still going through the boxes and bins in this building.  
Chris cleaned it up, too. 

Yesterday was the first time the ducks did not want to get in water. 
It was four degrees below when I took this picture, 
with a "real feels" of twenty below.  They half-heartedly 
fished for their lettuce, and then went back under the 
porch where I had put straw for them.  No chickens were 
let out. 

The black bucket in the back froze clear across the top, for the first time. 

It was a miserable day, and in the afternoon, we had an 
unexpected snow squall that thankfully did not drop 
too much snow. 

I stopped at Orschelns and bought another bucket similar to the 
heated sheep bucket, which has never frozen.  It is a little 
taller than the one you see here, but was open this morning. 

Beautiful hoarfrost around it this morning!
It was seven above, and I had to go out three times to get all the chores done, coming in to 
warm my hands up. 

Beautiful frost and reflection in the other bucket, too. 

There was not even this much open yesterday morning, it was seven above this morning, and only eight below real feel. 

I have permanent farm hair (took this while I was 
photographing the buckets).  (gosh, pretty good scowl, too)

Jester has the right idea!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Winter Wonderland 2019

Wow, we are off to some start. 

The view from the front door as I stepped onto the porch this morning. 
We got four inches, see the railings? 

However, it's still coming down lightly. 

The crazy thing is, it's 30 degrees out.  The weathermen even 
told us that it would melt by Monday. 

Hope the kids are enjoying it. 

As you see, my yardlight was still on. 

Between the Hen Spa and the little hen house. 

So beautiful. 

These guys are suffering the most, they graze all day long 
in the yard and pasture.  

They can't get to the grass.... so... I went to the commissary yesterday 
and stocked up on cabbage leaves, and romaine.  They had a head of 
romaine this morning, and I just took cabbage leaves out to them and 
tore them into pieces, they are sleeping under the front porch of the 
hen spa. 

I actually filled both pools, which are on opposite sides of the yard, because I 
knew the starlings were going to need water. 

(They drink from a fortex I also filled). 

I left all the chickens in (they hate me now) and 
left the sheep locked in their pen.  They have plenty of 
good hay in their barn to keep them happy, and I'll take 
their grain out about 3 PM.  

They are staying in the barn, but have a heated bucket for water. 

The fencelines are gorgeous. 

It's hard for me to trudge back and forth, though. 
I have shoveled a path on the deck, and shoveled the front and 
side decks of the Hen Spa, and shoveled all the steps, I'll treat them 
with salt before it gets dark tonight. 

I could see where the cats had come back and forth in the night, 
and there was still some food left on the porch this morning. 
All of the cats are in such good flesh, though, that I am not worrying too much. 
I know one or two are sleeping in the little red hen house, I can see where they have made beds in the straw. 

And remember, there is a heated dog bowl on the porch for them (and the raccoons and possums). 

I saw only two raccoons on camera last night, and only one possum, the big white one, but 
four of the cats visited to eat. 

I have big plans for this garden, this year. 
It has to be protected from the chickens, so 
Chris and I are going to fence it with tee posts and 
snow fence, that can be easily removed at the end of the season. 

And..... now, I have watched a few videos about wooden snow fencing, 
and I am thinking that maybe I should make an investment and fence it 
off with livestock panels. 

Still thinking about this. 

We would have to fence clear around where you see the upright 
panels, which our beans and peas used to climb. 
Keith was very clever.  

Unfortunately, a wild rose has gained ground in that far upright bed 
on the right, and no matter how I have dug, I cannot uproot it. 

This rose bush, in a picture I took on Thursday evening. 

In the evening, I have as many as eight pair of cardinals eating at the feeder. 

I am going to try to get some pictures of the (hundreds) of birds feeding today. 
I stocked up on all feeds at the feed store on Wednesday, in anticipation of the weekend. 

Like I said, it isn't the temp today, it is the snow making it hard on everyone. 

If we can hang on for forty eight hours, I think it will all melt and fill my well. 

My big doll (Lilly Ann) on the couch last night. 
She came out for a good while in the snow this morning, but it sticks all over her, 
and she got worn out pretty quickly. 

She is sound asleep on her bed right now. 

(Keith was a Cyclone) 

I'm telling you, it's a pretty glamorous life! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Out with the Old, In with the New!

Most of you who read this blog know that I am a cradle-Catholic, brought up in the 
church and yes, I still go.  I won't say I am the world's best, but the tenets with which my mom and dad raised us, stuck, on my part. 

Today was a holy day of obligations, meaning that we need to attend Mass on those days...
This was the Solemnity of Mary, honoring the mother of our Lord, and
I was named after her, Mary, and Ann, her mother. 

I will say I don't keep EVERY holy day (my bad) but I did particularly want to 
get the year started out right. 

So, I went.  Father Mark's homily asked us to go home and think of 
ten good things that happened in 2018, and think about them, instead of the bad. 

I paid attention.  I was looking for a way to do a year-end post, and the 
last three days had no inspiration. 

We went from 55 degrees and sun on Christmas Day, to 
upper thirties yesterday with steady rain, and 
today, painfully cold (18 with a "feels like" of FIVE), and spitting snow. 

I took this after mass this morning. 

Let's reflect on it for a minute.  During mass, two young couples had beautiful babies, one a boy, one a girl, and they began fussing.  Another young child behind me started fussing.  I started to get anxious, and then realized.... this is so natural and normal.  I looked around, and there were along side me two more young wives who were far advanced in their pregnancies.  It made me feel good 
that these kids will know the same things I did, growing up.  I stopped being anxious, and thought about what a good job the young parents were doing, rocking their babies and quieting them. 

My Nativity set is still up at home, and will stay up until Epiphany, next Sunday, as the one at church will. 

(the day the Wise Men arrived) 

These guys and their camel. 

So, on to the review of the year. 

Last year started about like this one, as you can see. 
I have to ask myself sometimes (like this morning) if I am nuts... I'm 68 years old, and 
bundling up to go out and take care of a bunch of thankless animals (and wildings). 
Yes, I second-guess myself.  I do know that my A1C is the lowest it has been since 
before I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2004, and I am in better overall health than ever. 

One of the wildings upon whom I am spending a fortune in feed costs. 

Briefly, I had two lovely kittens, Autumn and Twinkle. 
I started a new medication in January and had terrible trouble adjusting to it, 
and realized I needed to rehome them.  I am eternally grateful to Kitty Cat Connection 
and Tammy Potts for doing so for me, and they went together to a new home. 
Still on the meds, adjusted fine after 3 months, and yes, I regret losing the babies. 

March brought more temperate temps.... and grandson Jax came to 
help me in the garden for a few days.  Jax NEVER wears pants, even in the 
coldest days of winter... he wears shorts.  His dad wears shorts.  
BRRRRRRR.  He does own some sweatpants and a few pairs of 
slacks, but this is his regular guise.  I am hoping to hire Jax because I am  planning a complete
revamping of those garden beds, and a regular garden this year.  I need digging help, and this 
young athlete can do it. 

On April 4th, I saw a gold-headed blackbird in the feeding area.... along with the ubiquitous starlings.  I did not see it again.  

I did have several at the big house, before Keith passed away, but had seen none here

By the end of April, grass was greening nicely.  Lilly Ann, pictured here, 
had torn her ACL, and I actually made an appointment for her last trip to the vet (she is not a candidate for surgery because of age and weight).... but was recommended to put her 
on CBD oil and did.  She is still with me, thank heavens, because she is the 
soul of this place. 

I know I won't have her forever, but she has gained almost another year, 
and will be thirteen this summer. 

Late April also saw Barnyard Babies at the National Agricultural Center, 
our biggest event of the year, and one for which Jax and Paiton always volunteer... they did the bubble table again. 

And then, in late April, this happened: 

A neighbor approached me with a suggestion that a I hire a man who had done 
odd jobs for her for many years.  I did, he built a couple of crude hand rails on two 
stairways that Keith had built, but left with no rails.  He also built two doors for me, 
but DID NOT put handles on them. 
(I ended up paying someone to do so) 

He asked what I was going to do with my pasture, and I told him "cut it", and he asked
if he could put sheep there for the summer. 
I thought about it and told him yes, and four sheep became eight and then twelve... 
and were duly brought and unloaded.  The fact is, I had never been around sheep 
except at the fair, and I LOVED them. 

However.... the arrangement was awkward, to say the least.  He would 
come mornings on his way to the place where he worked (down my road about a mile)... and let the sheep out... and I would take care of them, water them, feed them, and generally 
move them into the yard and back into the pasture....  Some days he did not even come in the morning. 

I was uncomfortable with what was, in fact, a strange man coming on the property.  He was uncomfortable too, I could tell. 

However, as I said... I fell in love with them. 

Three ram lambs left at Memorial Day, to go to barbecues. 
I am not cut out for commercial sheep raising, let me just say that. 

By May, the deck was a riot of color. 

Of course, the chickens tore a lot up.... but I am thinking of ways to make the deck 
unavailable to them this year. 

Chicken Poop.  In summer I can wash the porch off daily, but in winter, ugh. 

These guys. 

What we didn't know on this sunny day was that we were going to have a drought for the entire summer, and most farmers here only got one cutting of hay, and yes, hay is now through the roof. 

On June tenth, I caught the 50th Anniversary Tour of one of my favorite bands.... Yes.... 
the Steve Howe version, and that's Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood on stage at the Midland, I was in the second row. 

Met the band afterwards, and had a blast. 

Guitar virtuoso Steve Howe, and yes, he does look 
like the Crypt Keeper, the older he gets, but 
can this guy play. 

Also in June, this happened.  Granddaughter Paiton started hunt seat lessons, 
and she has now spent 30 weeks learning, and I hope, developing a life-long love of horses, as I did. 

It's such a pleasure to see her ride. 

Her mom saw this picture and said "That's a big horse".  

Thanks to West End Farm for such a great experience, still 

By July, the girls were laying up a storm. 

My eggs, as of April, began to go to the new walk-in shelter 
(Leavenworth Interfaith Community of Hope) in Leavenworth (KS).... 
and little by little, I began to also cook a meal a week for them, 
as they depend on people preparing food for the shelter 

The night manager, Paula, reminded me that "if I took 
care of God's needy ones, He would never let me 
run short".... and guess what... I HAVE NOT. 
I found that I really enjoy cooking that extra meal, 
and I plan it carefully. 

I learned I don't have to cook for forty, that I can fix enough for twenty, or ten... 
and I continually look for new recipes I can try, and have a bunch of 
tested ones to fall back on. 

I had loads of fun this summer with my ducks, 
and had actually had six babies... two had been taken by 
raccoons or owls at this point, and I was later to lose these four, 
which was a sore loss, as both females were laying gorgeous big eggs. 

I am down to three as I write this, and will tell you that ducks are 
very labor-intensive if you take care of them right. 
My big three Pekin drakes that I still have require water that they 
can dip their bills into daily, and I always provide swimming water, too.... 
I keep a heated bucket for them, but have been out there twice today, 
filling a pool for them to get into, even in the bitterest weather. 
Yes, it stinks... but I love them. 

I am going to come up with a dog pen, I think, that 
can be covered tightly with a tarp, so that I can get some 
ducklings in the spring and keep them safe from the raccoons. 

I'll feed them in the pen and herd them in at night. 

It was hot, hot, hot here this summer, but on August 9th, 
we got some much needed rain. 

You can see the barns were painted by then. 

By my 68th birthday on the 25th, the heat had eased up a bit. 

On Labor Day, my cousin Mary Frances and I saw Ringo and the All Star Band at 
Starlight.  I saw the Beatles, folks, when I was 14, and saw Ringo on his first time out with his band 30 years ago (can it be that long?).... we had a blast, it was a beautiful evening to be outdoors. 
That's Steve Lukather of Toto on Ringo's left. 

The next morning,  Mary Frances and her husband, Rich, took me to MCI to fly to 
Milwaukee... my very first "vacation" after losing Keith.... and grandson Chris stayed here to take care of the place. 

So I am posting a somewhat blurred picture of me with the OTHER Version of YES, 
the Anderson-Wakeman-Rabin version, 
with my idol, Jon Anderson.  

I am using the blurred picture because Jon Anderson could NOT HAVE BEEN NICER, 
he put his arm around me and one other lady from the meet and greet bunch, we had dinner (lovely buffet) and a three song warmup just for our group, meet and greet, and pictures. 
As their camera was possibly on the blink, the hostess took pictures with our phones, and where we would have only gotten one, I got eight.  I am giddy just writing about it.
I know we are a bunch of old farts, still rocking, but I don't care.  It was FUN.  

I had more fun than a barrel of moneys, enjoyed downtown Milwaukee, 
saw a wonderful concert, and have great memories. 

At the end of September, the sheep had demolished the first bale that their owner bought, 
because the pasture had pretty much died during July.  However... it revived with the 
rain of August, and came back.  I moved them back and forth between pasture and yard. 

I have learned the pasture could have supported an additional five or six sheep. 

I only had to cut the weeds about four times all summer. 

I have to tell you that I would have bought these sheep.... but I was worried about 
winter and carrying water, as there is no line to the barn. 

I did keep two... and I solved the problem, I have a heated bucket, and run the line from the porch to the barn lot.  Not ideal, but works fine. 

I really REALLY like sheep. 

Their owner bought a second bale, but sold them within a month of bringing it, and my two are still working on it. 

October 6 brought "The Phil Collins Experience" at the Midland, and what a good tribute show that was!  I saw it from the front row. 

In October, there was still a lot of this going on. 

Early November marked the owner of the sheep appearing here at midday one day, to tell me had sold them, and they would be shipping out on Saturday.  Broke my heart. 

I wanted to buy two, Big Mama and her baby, Brownie.  The day of the loading, 
he loaded Mama's baby, and left Fluffy, another black faced sheep. ( he did not really know his own sheep, as I took care of them) 
Mama called for Brownie literally all day.... and by the next day, 
went down.  I called the only sheep vet in the area, and on Monday morning, 
two days later, he came in a literal blizzard.  He gave her shots, 
told me if she didn't get up, she would get pneumonia, and we dragged her into the barn. 
I gave her shots for three days, then called and he came on Wednesday morning to 
euthanize her, she had aspirated.  It about killed me, I was so attached to her, 
and she was very gentle and would let me handle her all over. 

Fluffy, who had been left with her, had been bonded to another sheep, Freckles, but luckily, 
did not go down.  I was able to buy another sheep, Flicka, locally, and Flicka is almost certainly bred.  IF she has ram lambs, they will be wethered, and will stay here as pets, as I am not breeding.  

I did not write about this at the time, because, frankly, it about killed me. 

December brought Santa's Express Country Christmas at the Ag Hall, and there goes Paiton out the door with our school marm, Elaine, to help in Island Creek School for the morning. 

I'm so proud of Paiton and Jax for giving their time to the museum. 

Paiton and I worked together that afternoon in the Smith Pioneer House, doing crafts with the visitors. 

Paiton and Jax and I went over to Independence (MO) to see my younger son Jeff, 
whom I rarely mention on this blog.  Jeff lives alone and works for a local grocery chain.  He has been an Independence resident for almost 30 years, and does not drive far, so rarely comes over to the Kansas side.  I see him infrequently, but he is always in my thoughts.  

It was good to see him just before Christmas. 

Keith is buried at the National Cemetery in Leavenworth, not on post at Fort Leavenworth. 
I was so pleased on Christmas Eve as I headed up to the shelter with eggs, to see that his 
section was decorated this year for Wreaths Across America... five thousand are decorated yearly. 
I had placed a wreath on his grave on December 1st, but all those brothers and sisters around him had been decorated.  

I was at a retirement party this past weekend, and a friend and I were talking about Keith.  She told me that another of her friends was widowed and said this year was harder than the first... and I would have to say that the first year, 2016.... was easier, I was still on adrenaline from the whole thing, and trying to adjust.  Last year was a little hard, because I had time to reflect, and while, in many ways now, I am "used" to being alone.... this year was a little harder than the last two. 

I suspect from here on out, it will be easier. 

This is my oldest son, Jim, and his wife, Amy.  Amy had a double mastectomy on November 5th, and has started her battle against cancer.  As of today, she has lost her hair, but her attitude remains great, and she and Jim are convinced she will beat it and thrive. 

I am praying for them daily (this is Paiton and Jax's mom) 

So...wrapping up 2018... I had the barns painted, and the driveway re-graveled, but 
will perhaps have to do it again, as the young man miscalculated. 

I had some regular maintenance done on the buildings, more to come in 2019. 

I had some large trees removed. 

I did not garden. 

I saw (besides the bands mentioned above) The Foo Fighters (everyone needs to see Dave once).... and two Beatles Tributes, Let It Be and the Fab Four, and saw one band, one of my favorites, twice... The Little River Band.  Love them. 

This year... I am going to have more work done on the "shop", the big cement 
floored barn, replacing the lights in there so it is usable. 

I am starting seeds again, and will be working on my orders this afternoon, when this post is finally finished. 

I will continue to volunteer for the shelter, and take eggs and meals. 

I want this place to be somewhere where my family can come and be happy. 

I didn't want to forget my buddy, Jester, the best little dog ever! 

I hope all of you reading this have a safe, happy New Year and the greatest of 
happiness in 2019!

You can follow me @Ksredhead1950 on Instagram, or Mary Ann Yoder on Facebook.  Of course, after 9 years, I will still be blogging infrequently here!