Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thirty Years from City Slick

I swung the gate's two sides together, closing it. After wrapping the chain around both parts, I dropped a link through the slot.  There are two latching chains on a cattle gate, just for safety, so I repeated the action on the other side and turned to walk away.  

Then something stopped me.

"Nope.  That's not right," I thought.  I turned around, lifted the latch chains out of their slots, and unwrapped them.  When I redid the five-second job, I pulled each chain in the opposite direction from what I had done at first.  "Left chain goes counter-clockwise, right chain clockwise.  There.  That's right."

You can wrap either chain either direction.  Why does it matter?  Because you always want to leave the dangling chain end hanging outside the pen.  If you use a counter-clockwise wrap on the right chain, for example, you'll leave the chain's tail hanging inside the pen, where a curious cow with a curious tongue might, eventually and accidentally, work the chain link out of the slot.

The chances of cattle doing this, and especially doing it twice--once for each chain--are small.  But rounding up a loose pen of cattle could take a day or more, with lots of stressing and sweating and maybe even some cussing.  So my farmer friend taught me early on to leave the chains dangling on the outside of the pen.

I grew up in the middle of Houston and Dallas, concrete and shopping malls, where we didn't pen up cattle, drive tractors, bale hay or gather eggs.

But thirty years ago today, I married my best friend and drove off to Nebraska to start putting down roots--literally and figuratively.  Decades later, as I walked away from the now-properly-chained gate, it struck me that, over those thirty years, I have learned a truckload of tidbits and trivia about rural living.  Things like how to chain a cattle gate.

To celebrate these thirty years of marriage and country living, I've made an online journal that I'm calling "Thirty Years from City Slick." It covers thirty different bits of learning that I've acquired in the last three decades as I adapted to a new framework from which to view the world.

I'll be posting these thirty notes, one for each year I've been a farmer's wife, right here on this blog over the next few weeks and months.  Some of the thoughts are pretty small, like how to chain a gate.  Some are more significant.  And one of them was life-changing.

I hope you enjoy my discoveries.  Happy anniversary, John.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

The sky hinted at rain, although I couldn't tell for sure.  Dark in the west, but no dark spots on the concrete. It's been a very long time since the concrete was dark....

I opened the back door to listen.  You couldn't see it, but if you stood still and held your breath, you could just softly hear that beautiful sound.


A symphony of tiny little drops, tickling the leaves high up in the backyard maples.

Do you hear what I hear?

It won't be enough to wipe out the summer drought.  It's probably not enough to stop harvest for a day, or even enough to knock the dust down.  It's too little, too late to help the corn yields or to flesh out this year's crop of hay.

But it's still a wonderful, gentle, quiet reminder:  We didn't make this earth and we still don't control its cycles and seasons, the patterns and principles that God set in motion -- for our benefit -- many, many years ago.

Do you hear it?  The reminder that nothing in all our man-made grandeur is as astounding as the first beat of a tiny human heart, the last breath of a weary set of lungs, or the brilliance and complexity of a world of maple leaves painting the sky and then letting go in the fall.

Do you hear what I hear?  The whisper of a God in control, played out as a thousand raindrops dance on a thousand glorious leaves in my backyard.  The touch of that same God who made the world out of what was not visible,  and set it under our feet, knowing we would mess it up horribly.  The God who had a  plan to redeem and restore, to overcome all of our failings and destruction and downright hatred, and to set the world right again.  Have you heard that marvelous promise?

Sometimes we can't see it.  Sometimes every glint of hope, every possibility of redemption and good, seems to be covered over with greed, death, loss, selfishness, ugliness so powerful that it threatens to choke us. But what is coming, what is promised, is not made out of what we see.

Stand still and hold your breath and listen.  Do you hear what I hear?

"The child, the child, sleeping in the night, he will bring us goodness and light."

It's already started.  Look for it.  Listen........

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

....with Friends

I probably spend a little too much time on Words with Friends these days.

But lately, I've also been able to do some

Biking with Friends.

The great thing about Biking with Friends, unlike Words with Friends, is you actually get to be WITH the friends!

I highly recommend it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sunny September Saturday

First, some time with the Hubster, participating in his favorite sport.

Then a little time with Merrill, watching the Huskers participate in theirs.

And in between, a zip up the hill in the sunshine, enjoying MY favorite outdoor activity at 21 mph.

What a glorious summer Saturday!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday's Harvest

Where is my harvest-cooking-freezing-canning-eating help when I need her!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I watched her drive away in her shiny new electric blue Ford.

Twenty miles an hour on the gravel.  No pits or dings in the new paint, please.

Half a mile away, she turned the usual corner, and her car disappeared behind the usual field of corn.

A tell-tale finger of tire dust rose out of the brown stalks, waving goodbye to me and to summer.

You go, bright girl!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Boys Like to Climb

This one is 77 years young and still ascending.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

goodnight moon

(praying for rain)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Duck Escape

Ducklings are cute, but they have the nasty habit of, in a nanosecond, polluting any water they may have access to. They probably don't care a whit if they're swimming in a mucky mess, but it offends my sensibilities as a caretaker. Every day or so while Audrey was gone, I lifted the edge of their outdoor cage, retrieved their swim dish, dumped it, and refilled it with sparkling H2O.  Until the other day. 

At that time, the only way INTO their pen was to lift the side, because their "pen" consisted of an upside-down garden cart that had wire mesh sides.  So you had to lift the whole wagon, or at least most of it, every time you wanted to move anything in or out of the pen.

The water needed changing, so I lifted the wagon side and caught up Abernathy.  Buford, however, made a run for it, and gleefully escaped into the wide world, peeping the joy of freedom at top volume and circling his little legs around so fast they looked like the leg-wheels you see on fast-running critters in cartoons.  I chased, trying to nab the speedy Buford with only one free hand, since Abernathy was beating his little wings violently in my other palm, trying to break free and loudly cheering encouragement to his friend.  Round the spirea bush we went, and then Buford made a dash for the elm tree; we circled it a time or two, and then back to the spirea.  I ducked  :)   and pounced and swiped the air with my free hand, while Abernathy cheered and waved his downy pom poms.  John was in the kitchen, just the other side of a glass patio door, obliviously reading the paper.  I knew he was there, but I didn't dare leave the chase to get help, for fear that Buford would have competely disappeared when I returned. 

Buford's legs may be faster, but my brain is bigger.  I chased him into a corner, caught my prize, and stuck them both in a small indoor cage in the house while I pondered my next move.  The birds are too big, noisy and messy for me to put up with them in the kitchen any more, but I can't risk a cat showing up during a ten or fifteen minute duck rodeo every time the water needs changing.  So now the ducks have a new home.

This old stock tank, with big rusted-out holes in the bottom, was lounging around by the cattle pens.  I took a SawsAll to it to completely remove half of the bottom, and you can see the rest of my handiwork.  It is not perfect---a REAL DuckMaster would have put some screen windows in the sides for ventilation and better duck-viewing---but it was fairly quick, is easily moveable from spot to spot, was cheap and didn't require a trip to town for supplies.  Best of all, one can catch and remove the ducks, if one so wishes, without giving them free range access to a thousand acres of earth and two cats.

Stock tanks are multi-purpose.  When they are new, you can fill them with water and let your livestock drink out of them.  When they are old, you can make them into a duck pen.  Or, if you don't have ducks or livestock, you can make them into decorative planters -- read all about it here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Day the Music Died, Part 2

The music really died a long time ago for this puppy.  She's an old girl from maybe the 60s, and she's had a hard life.  Long vacations between visits from the tuner, followed by lots of solitary confinement in our basement dungeon after we bought a nicer piano.  In between, she took her share of kid-pounding, including the day I vacuumed bits of ground piano out of the carpet.  A visiting toddler had thought the music would be louder if he used a tool instead of his fingers to bang on her ivories plastic keys. He was right of course, but the piano never got over it.

Last week we decided it was time for her to yield up her parking space in the basement.  Audrey, John and I grunted and strained our way up the stairs with her.  Then John and Merrill took over with the loader bucket, giving the piano a graceful,open-air ride across miles of gravel to her final resting place.  Not as much fun as the last time we parted company with a keyboard---read about it here----but maybe our taste for fun has changed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pizza is the New Soup

Our grandmas used to clean out the refrigerator (or icebox) and throw it all into a pot for soup.

My fridge was bursting at the seams last night, but it's way too hot around here for soup.  Fortunately, I found pizza parts hidden in amongst the tidbits and tadrats that were hanging out in a half-dozen Tupperwares.  A bit of leftover ground sausage, one grilled chicken breast, a handful of residual hamburger meat, a few black olives, two rings of red onion, half of a garden tomato plus two tablespoons of canned tomato left from some earlier culinary adventure.......throw in some olive oil and a little cheese, chop a few sprigs of basil from the yard................... and Voila'.

The fridge is cleaned out, the supper is good, and we didn't have to eat soup on a ninety-degree summer evening.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The sail,

photo by Audrey

the play of its pulse so like our own lives:  

photo by Erica

so thin and yet so full of life,

photo by Erica

so noiseless when it labors hardest,

photo by Erica

so noisy and impatient when least effective.
---Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Art Imitates Life

Erica and Audrey are gliding down this outdoor escalator in a swank, trendy part of Atlanta.  It is full of wrought iron and glass, huge brightly colored umbrellas, and everything upscale including.... 

a set of planters made from the most fashionable....

stock watering tanks.

Who knew we were so vogue?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer Again.

Isn't it great that summer rolls around so regularly?  The older I get, the sooner it's summer again.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What Became of the Duck Egg?

Audrey candled the duck egg she found in the hay field.  Candling is a time-honored method of determining whether or not your eggs are viable--you stand in a dark room and shine a bright light through the egg, to try and see what's going on inside.  The first time Audrey candled the egg, she was thrilled.  As you might remember, this little egg had a rough start.  But the contents of the egg looked just like the photos said a growing baby duck was supposed to look when viewed through a thick calcium shell.

A week or so later, however, discouragement reigned.  The veins we saw the first time had turned into dark blobs; the air pocket was getting bigger.

But Audrey knew she was no expert on candling or on the hatching of duck eggs, so she left the egg in the incubator.  Then, one night at supper, she thought she heard a squeaky little peep.

That's enough to make an animal lover freeze her fork in mid-air and listen again.  She DID hear a squeaky little peep.  Since she had read that ducklings have serious issues if they are raised alone, she peeped back at it.

"But not very much," she told me.  "I would have peeped more but I kept cracking myself up, squeaking encouragement to a duck egg."

Maybe it was a good thing Audrey peeped, since it appears that it is a lot of work to pry oneself out of an egg.

One wing out.

(Thank you Erica, for these great photos!)

Whew!  The whole process took about three hours of stretch and struggle.
Like I mentioned earlier, Audrey read that ducklings don't like to be alone.  This little guy sure didn't.  As soon as he had rested a bit and gained some strength, he peeped and jumped and flopped around his box almost constantly. He calmed down only if Audrey picked him up and held him.

But Audrey has a few other things going on this summer, and can't really be full-time Duck Mama.  She made some phone calls and located a man raising ducks not too far from here.  He has lent Audrey a duckling friend for the summer.

Now Buford and Abernathy--those are their names--live happily in a box on my kitchen floor.  Buford, Audrey's original duckling, hatched on Wednesday of last week.  Abernathy popped out on Friday.

Until they grow up a little, they'll live safely indoors. But when it rains, they get to go outside and play in mud puddles,
Abernathy (left) at 1 day old; Buford at 3 days.  Photo by Audrey.

and splash around with their outlandishly oversized feet.

I just heard Merrill say she's trying to potty train Abernathy, and that it isn't going very well.  Isn't that odd? Stay tuned.........

Saturday, June 23, 2012

New Baby Chicks

and some grown up.