Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Getting painted

We have had an hour or so of pounding, pounding rain every day for the past couple weeks so today we start painting the house. Seriously.

George (our contractor & not to be confused with family-member-of-the-same-name) has been MIA for a while, but he called last night. His girlfriend got back from a visit home (Japan) late last week & then they got married so now he is ready to work. Actually, what he said on the phone last night was "now that I am whole again I can start getting things done".

Many moons ago, I started shopping for a contractor to finish the back room (now that light filled space at the back of the house, but in those days a rank, concrete hole that a previous homeowner had sort of just stuck on). I could not believe what came out of the yellow pages. I think my favorite was the guy who brought his mother; she took notes & drove him around because he had problems with his drivers license. Between them they had three teeth that I could see. There were several other candidates, all variations on this theme.

George was different. First of all, he had no trouble with the ocean of dog that surges around our house. & they had no trouble with him. This is a huge plus. There were also a thousand small things that I couldn't put my finger on, that I gradually came to understand. He was from Manchester, CT so he sounded like a normal person & not some DukesofHazzard wannabe. He measured things while he talked about completely different things (I took this to mean he had a brain that could multi-task, also my step-father does this so it was another reflection of home). & not once ever, did he bring up Terry Schiavo (remember poor Terry Schiavo? This all happened in those weeks, if you want you can look it up); this was a bigger relief than it should have been because we had just had some work done to fix our water pump & put in a new septic system & all the workmen that entails so I had really had enough of this particular topic. I had (have!) a strong & specific view on this issue & was sick to my eyeballs of hearing what their pastors had to say about activist judges.

Anyway, we found George & he has been our contractor ever since. He squeezes our small jobs in around his other work (other contractor jobs but also yoga classes-he's the instructor). & today, he will start replacing the bad boards outside the house & we will get painted!

What color are we painting, you ask? Why precisely the same color everything is right now. Well, not precisely. I think we managed to match the color the old paint has faded to.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Useless alphabet

Today I had to unload horse feed. This is an exercise equal only to Missionaries & Cannibals if you actually had to do all that rowing yourself, but more because there are always extra scenarios. I will tell you that story another day because today, while working my way back & forth through gates and pastures I started a Useless Alphabet:

Appaloosa are arrogant - accept it, asshole.
Bad dogs. Bad bad bad. Boy-o-boy are you bad dogs.
Chickens choose corn on the cob
Donkeys do know what does & does not belong BUT donkeys don't care
Emus are easily excited.
Forget fun & fascinating vacations, all our funds are forfeited for Feed!

Now, someone else do G.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Big birds

Today A confirmed that Cleo is blind in his right eye (yes, his. It turns out, I had them exactly wrong, so now they are CleoPatton & Antonelle). It is hard to say when it happened, if it was even here. When they arrived, he was in the worse shape & didn't move around much for several days. This is how the people looking after him determined "his feet hurt".

The two birds had been enclosed in a smallish pen & fed on a diet of dog food, which I have been reliably informed is the typical diet for backyard emus. This explains why there aren't so very many.

Now I need to decide how to treat it. Not that I think there is a treatment, exactly. The eye is foggy & food placed on that side is ignored. His depth perception is terrible; often Cleo will jab Antonelle trying to grab a leaf more than an inch or two from her head. I hope he doesn't blind her. I am not sure our large animal vet wants to treat large birds; horses are more her line.

Aside from not seeing to the right, he seems happy enough. As happy as a large bird with a small brain can be. We were weeding today & pulled several of the Asteraceae they love &, as usual, stems full of leaves fell at their feet, but only by accident did they stand on them to make pulling the leaves any easier. & only briefly. This is probably what happened to the dinosaurs, too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Travel plans

I am in the process of arranging to go to CT the last week of December. Yes, I know it's July, but I need to do all the ordinary planning & cope with coverage for the animals (boarding, sitters-do you know how hard it is to find someone who will pet-sit a pair of emu?).

When I started thinking on these lines last month (yes, JUNE), I suggested to A that I go up a few days ahead of him. Classes end 12/10, but exams continue to 12/19. & then there is always some last-minute ass-hole trying to negotiate a better grade (I have so much respect for people who cut classes, don't hand in homework & then pitch temper tantrums because they are .5 from the grade they want & Prof won't cut them some slack). At the time A said he thought that sounded good. Now he is sure he would never agree to that.

There is no getting A to sit & make a decision about when he might be ready to go. He thinks more than 48 hours notice for anything at all is excessive. His whole family is just as bad. Last year, his mother was astonished that we had plans for a particular day that couldn't be changed less than four days before (the day was New Years). She was clearly frustrated that I wasn't prepared to alter my plans to squeeze in a visit from them & their houseguest. She also tried to grill me on what those plans were, to find gaps that might work. I don't know if the Inuit really do have 100's of words for 'snow', but I can tell you Romanians have no word for 'none of your beeswax'.

& so, here I am trying to purchase airline tickets , but I don't know what day or what airport or who he might want to see or how long we are staying or anything & the person who really will be inconvenienced by whatever wrong choice I make is much too absorbed with "more important things to dedicate any brain cycles to than something that won't happen for 6 months".

I wish I knew what he DID agree to, maybe I want that.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A painting, a book

I have been reading Strapless by Deborah Davis, about the famous Madame portrait by John Singer Sargent & it referenced (as being painted just before) a painting belonging to the MFA Boston that I have always admired: The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.

I was not surprised to learn that it is indeed a portrait of four different children, ages 4-14 who were the daughters (plural) of this family. What did surprise me was that nowhere in the blurb at MFA (as recorded on-line) or in the book Strapless did anyone mention what I thought was obvious: the pose is intended to show the child distancing herself as she ages. The youngest child is front & center. The next, off to the side. The next at the back facing forward & the eldest, next to the previous, but facing away.

I admit to having done no research on this. I guess I thought it was such a no-brainer that it ought to be in the little black typed card on the wall, next to the painting itself.

What has this to do with useless ranching? Nothing at all.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Yesterday, my next door neighbor materialized at the back door & asked (asked!) if I would mind (mind!) if she mowed our back pasture. The reason: last year when she did it at the end of summer, parts were hard going & she thinks if she "gets started early" it won't be so bad this year.

I don't pay her to do this. I never have. I would never ask her to do it. I know that it helps her keep her weeds down if our common border is mowed but that is all that is in it for her. I would take back what I said earlier about southern hospitality being a myth except she is transplant, like us. Her husband is southern. Floridian, even. & he has been away for most of the past two years building a house in the Smokey Mountains. Or running guns. Or whatever. When she says he is expected back on such&such a date, I make clear to her that we know she killed him ages ago & is just waiting to have him declared dead. Again to her credit, she thinks this is funny. When he is around, he is so reclusive he could pass for a person from Connecticut.

As a thank you, I dug up all the mature gladiolas (I like them, right up until they need to be staked. Then I cannot be bothered), some coral vine & the remaining oxalis (the chickens are quite fond of oxalis & by this time of year between the heat & the pecking, it gets thin, but it will rebound in October).

When I walked them over, I saw the hedge of what had been my amaryllis (again, I like it until it gets just too big) had grown nice & tall against her old tobacco barn, now used to store equipment in the loft & shade a water trough below. Last year's soap aloe lines her long driveway (they get so abundant, they creep across our walkway & A likes clean edges, I don't know why).

In short my former plants look like show-pieces at her house. She takes better care of my things than I do!

The only good thing I can say about my garden (& it isn't a small good thing), is that it is thriving. Despite the overflow I forget I hand around every year, there are no blank spots. If anything it is too dense. I think this is what comes of not caring too much what it looks like, just about whether or not it is healthy.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sunflowers & chickens

It has rained almost every day for two weeks, and the sunflowers have finally all bent to the ground under the pressure. This put them in reach of the chickens just as seed-heads formed. I don't think there will be any sunflowers next year.

This is the aggravating thing about chickens. Anything within their reach will be tested, if not consumed. I have heard stories of each and every tomato on a plant being pecked...once. I do not believe this story, because chickens love tomatoes; chickens love all fruits&vegetables made up mostly of water. They would have denuded the tomato plants entirely, if they left any plant at all. But I do understand the point. A chicken will try anything once.

This is great in the horse yard. The six weeks or so they were shut in (to protect them from the TWO families of fox that moved into the field next door), the insect problem was unbearable. I have never seen so many flies! But now the chickens are out, tearing into those piles with zeal, squabbling over what they find. It's a whole new perspective on farm fresh eggs.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Country Wisdom

When we first moved out here, I thought I would keep my mouth shut & my ears open & I just might learn something. What I learned is 'Country Wisdom' is a myth, like 'Southern Hospitality' or 'The Noble Savage'.

Last week the farmers down the road shot a hawk. It was circling their blueberries. They thought it might eat the blueberries...? I cannot say that a hawk will never eat a blueberry. But I am quite sure a hawk would rather eat a mouse or rat or rabbit that will without a doubt eat a blueberry. More than one, even.

I don't know why I am surprised. A son of this family said my hens would never lay eggs if I didn't get a rooster. I told him that his wife ovulates even when he is out of town. Turns out, he's divorced. A couple years later he pointed to Spotter, an elderly ancona hen with a large red comb & remarked on my rooster. I told him it was a hen. He laughed & assured me it wasn't. Right.

Tonight the fireworks will start. Forget the drought (& the burn ban), forget the surrounding livestock (stampede, anyone?). It just isn't patriotic if you don't blow something up. Or at least make blow-things-up noises.

The dogs will bark all night long. The horses will run until they lather. People talk about the peace & quiet of the country. I would get more sleep in a girls-gone-wild motel during Spring Break than I will get tonight.

Don't get me wrong, I like it out here. & B*** is actually a nice guy, as rednecks go. I know he thinks we are the strangest pair he has ever met, but he is always pleasant & helpful. We suspect he likes to collect stories about them incomers, or whatever the redneck word for outlander might be.

But I hate this holiday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


So this is blogging. I can do this. It helps, I suppose to start with what's normal. Normal is a lot, A LOT of animals that aren't pets exactly. To list them would be long & boring, so I'll get to them as I get to them. Mostly, I like to watch them wander around the place, but a certain part of each day is spent dealing with them -feeding, grooming, etc. or with the world around them -mowing, fence repair, etc.

And when I am not doing that, I am doing something else. Usually something that will amount to nothing. On the off-chance I actually produce something, I will almost certainly give it away. Mostly because the effort involved has turned me against whatever it is & I never want to see it again. At that moment.

Today's big plan: go to N*** Feed & get....feed. & maybe diet pepsi. Around 8pm I should have something dinner-ish assembled. Everything else is optional.

Somewhere in there, I should find time to update a blog, right?