Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Diary of a bad garden year

Let's start with the worst case.
This is my one zucchini plant.  I only plant one because that would be plenty for us, and because I know the squash bugs will kill it anyhow.  As you can see, in spite of my vigilant spraying and egg-and-bug destroying, it's dead.  Every year I try and fail at raising zucchini while others complain about how they have so many zucchinis they can't give them all away.  I'd love to hook up with one of those complainers.  Oh well, on to the next tragedy.

These are my potato vines, obviously dying.  In this case, I'm pretty sure I know what's wrong:  I unthinkingly planted potatoes where last years tomatoes were, and the same blight that kills tomatoes kills potatoes too.  I knew this, but ignored that knowledge.  Oh well.  

Okra, eggplant, green beans and corn are doing fairly well.  Does okra ever NOT do well?  My first planting only gave me four plants; but the seeds I planted in the bare areas made up for that.  I don't know what I'll do with all the produce of four eggplants.  One was more than enough last year.   Know anybody who would like to trade zucchini for eggplant?

Tomatoes and peppers are looking good, but of course my old enemy, blight, hides at the bottom of most of the tomatoes; blight can affect the pepper crop too, but usually isn't a problem with them unless you continually plant them in the same spot.  
I told Cliff the other day I was going to move my tomatoes to an entirely different location next year to get them away from the blight, and he suggested we move the whole garden.  At the time I said no to that plan, but the more I think about it, the more I think that's exactly what we'll do.  That will leave only the strawberry patch in the old location and give fresh soil to everything else.  
There is no plan that will provide me with zucchini, but I know from past experience that I'll get some tomatoes and potatoes out of the deal.  

At least I have pretty flowers to enjoy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Now what do I do?

My last three dogs have been exclusively fed Science Diet... plus, of course, bites of what Cliff and I are eating.  Mandy and Sadie always turned up their noses at any other brand of dog food, for instance when Hawkeye was visiting and they had access to his food.  
I'm a follower of the website Seriously Free Stuff, and often get samples of pet treats and food.  Yesterday I received a sample packet of Purina One from Walmart. I offered Iris a bite of it from my hand and she actually tasted it; that was a real surprise considering how finicky she usually acts if you try and feed her anything out of hand.  
So, I went ahead and poured the entire contents of the packet into her dish, on top of the Science Diet that was already in there.  She went to her dish and carefully ate the Purina One, making sure she didn't accidentally eat any of her regular fare, Science Diet.  
Now what should I do?  Give her the one she obviously prefers, or continue to feed her Science Diet, the brand veteranarians and pet shelters recommend?  

The circle of life

Cliff was asked to be a pallbearer at his Uncle Phineas' funeral, which was held yesterday at the same place where we bade goodbye to his parents, his grandparents, and most of his other relatives who have died up to this point.  Now that it's getting close to our generation's turn, the funerals are likely to be spread more widely around the country.  I'll bet I've been to a couple of dozen funerals at Kidwell's over the years.  
Because it was a nice day with no rain forecast, Cliff and I rode to Versailles on the motorcycle.  It's a two-hour drive one way through picturesque Missouri countryside.  
Uncle Phin was eighty-nine years old, a World War II veteren; so he was buried with military honors. Quite impressive, as always, in its simplicity.  
Once the graveside goodbyes were said, Cliff's sister and I wondered if we could find their parents' graves.  I knew if the younger sister were with us, she could lead us right to the spot.  Versailles cemetery is a large one, and it was too hot a day to be searching out markers.  I was, however, fairly certain that Cliff's grandparents' grave wasn't far away, and we went looking for that.  

And there it was!

I remembered that Uncle George's grave was near their marker, and we soon located it, too.  Uncle George really liked me, which of course made him a favorite of mine.  He lived in a cabin in the woods where Cliff and I would occasionally visit him and spend a night, early in our marriage; it was pretty primitive:  Uncle George got his drinking water from an open spring, and although there was an outhouse on the place, it was filled up with junk and therefore not usable.  When nature called, there was nothing else to do but find a convenient tree behind which to hide.  Let's not talk about the ticks that thrived in the woods and hitch-hiked back to the cabin after such a mission.  
I once wrote a song about Uncle George and his cabin, long after he passed away.  

Speaking of the circle of life...
Remember when you, my readers, helped name this little fellow?
He goes to the butcher shop today to become grass-fed beef for our freezer.  He is one year old and outweighs his mother.  It's time.  He's had a wonderful life and given me lots of laughs with his antics.  His mom will get a few weeks of rest, and then deliver a little whiteface calf, good Lord willing.  I really, really hope for a heifer calf, as I always do.  But once the sperm has met the egg, there's no changing the outcome.  So it's just wait-and-see.  
I hesitated to mention Sir Loin's imminent demise, knowing how much complaining I've read online about what goes on at Pioneer Woman's ranch.  Folks, if you eat beef, you may very well have eaten a product that spent part of it's life on the Drummond ranch.  So get over it.  If you are going to eat meat, some animal has to die for you.  That's just life.  And before they die, those animals must be herded and branded and castrated and sorted and weaned.  All of which may seem cruel to sheltered city folks.  
I do not feel bad eating meat that comes from an animal that enjoyed life and was loved and laughed at while he was here.  

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The cost of having pets

Cliff and I have had several discussions about how much money we've spent on dogs in the past few months.  First, Sadie had some sort of problem that was making her heave and puke.  I don't even remember how much it cost... I know it was over $100, though.  
About a week later I thought the same problem had returned, but turns out she'd been fed a pork bone.  It ended up killing her.  The cost of futile efforts to save her, added to the cost of putting her down, was over $200.  
So I went to Wayside Waifs and found my next dog; the adoption fee was $120.  I brought Iris home and she immediately showed signs of kennel cough.  
Turns out it was something worse than kennel cough:  cost, over $200.  Then of course, she needed flea protection and heartworm prevention.  $$$$$. 
Cliff has been very kind, although he personally wouldn't have spent all this money on dogs.  He's the chief money-maker here, so I'm glad he lets me have use of his checkbook.  I won't even mention here how much we spend on Science Diet dog food.   
I told him the other day that it must be old age making me spend so much on dogs, because up until five years ago, there's no way I would have thrown so much money away on any animal.  
And that's when it hit me:  I wouldn't have spent that much money on a pet because we simply didn't have it.  Now, we do.  
The dogs who live here these days just happened to have shown up in the best of times.  In the future, my pets might not be so fortunate.  Cliff obviously won't be able to hold down a job forever.  There will come a time when we will have to live on a fixed income.  
Meanwhile, I am thankful for my husband's generosity.  He doesn't hold it over my head or mention how much I've spent on my dogs, unless I bring it up first.  Even then, he doesn't complain.  

Thanks, Cliff.  I know there are a lot of things you do just because you want me to be happy.  I appreciate that.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Slideshow from the Oliver gathering

When you go to an Oliver tractor show, you see several different brand names and colors:  You'll see old, dark-green Hart-Parr tractors; that's the company that eventually became Oliver.  There are yellow Cletrac dozers and tractors, manufactured by Cleveland Tractor company, which was eventually bought out by Oliver.
There's a red Canadian Oliver that for some reason wasn't called Oliver at all.  It's name makes me want to laugh, for some reason:  Cockshutt.
The Oliver company merged with White in the mid-1970's, and soon there were no more tractors with the Oliver name on them.  I've made up a slide-show of various tractors that fly under the Oliver name.

Here's the model I want, which looks exactly like one we had years ago.  Only this one is a little too nice and shiny to suit me.  I'd like one that Cliff wouldn't be afraid to use once in awhile.

Hello from Iowa

For the last couple of years, Cliff has been on this Oliver tractor kick; that's why there's a behemoth green tractor in his shop , taking up half the space in there.  
So there's this huge Oliver tractor gathering at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and Cliff just had to see all the green, red, and even purple Olivers.  So here we are in Ottumwa, Iowa (home of Radar O'Reilly), forty-five minutes from the show.  Because all closer motels were full of other tractor-loving folks.  
I love the Mt. Pleasant Labor Day show, with lots of steam engines, and sorghum-making, and all kinds of old-timey goings-on.  This Oliver show?  Cliff is going to enjoy it, but it's pretty much of a yawner for me.  After you've seen dozens of 1800 Olivers, some of them showroom shiny and some in their work clothes, you figure you've seen enough.  
Anywhere we go on a vacation, Cliff always tells me, "I'm only here because of you; I'd rather be home."  
Makes a girl feel really special.  Not.  
But now I think I can relate.  
I intend to make lemonade out of the lemons, though:  There are a couple of tours of historic places I may try to catch, and I know I'm going to walk to the square and look at the flea market and craft items.  Cliff and I have our cell phones, so we can keep in touch.  I brought my trusty chair-cane, so I have a seat any time my knees give me fits.  And of course, we'll have to opportunity to eat out several more times before we hit home.  No cooking for me!  
I dreaded leaving Iris at the kennel, but she acted excited to see all the dogs there, and not worried about my leaving at all.  I warned the people working there that she tries to kill small dogs, and they said they'd be careful.  I hope she comes through her stay happy and without incident, because we're going on another little road trip before long, one to which I look forward; a trip that involves a motorcycle and no tractors.  I want to know she'll do OK.  
Back to the subject of Oliver tractors:  After Cliff had used the little Ford tractor we bought in 1968 for a couple of years, he had the opportunity to step up in the world:  a friend of his restored an Oliver Super 55, making it look like the later model 550 Oliver in the process (a detail that caused us some problems when we tried to sell it later on).  For old time's sake, I want Cliff to buy one of those, since he's so into Olivers lately.  It's a smallish machine, and wouldn't take up much room at all.  I happen to know he has plenty of money in his tractor fund to buy one.  We even know of such a tractor, stored in a shed not far up the road from us.  It needs work, but hey, my husband likes a challenge.  
I'll try to have a few pictures for my next entry.  There's a story behind the purple Oliver tractors that I'll share.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Getting to know Iris

Dogs, like kids, have distinctive characteristics.  Iris is the first dog I've had who is not motivated by food.  Oh, don't get me wrong:  she LOVES food.  But she doesn't beg for it.  To watch her behavior, you would think she didn't care about food at all.  I give you this little video, in which I feed Iris some Fritos.

Notice, she was very nonchalant, acting as though she didn't care whether anyone gave her a Frito.

She is, however, very motivated by toys.  Especially by any sort of ball.  Now please forgive me for showing so much leg in the following video, but I had my shorty-shorts on that I only wear around home.  And if I had to change clothes for every video I make, I wouldn't make many videos.  Also forgive me for the fact that the vacuum sweeper is in the picture; hey, at least I USE it sometimes.

If you're wondering what I was watching on TV in the first part of this video, it was "In Plain Sight".  Pretty good show, I think.  Iris, on the other hand, thinks they need to get a dog or cat signed on to make it more interesting.

More memories

I went looking in an old photo album, hoping to find a picture of the 8N Ford tractor I mentioned in yesterday's post.  Cliff cannot recall ever seeing a picture of that tractor, although I seem to remember seeing a hazy picture (aren't all my old photos hazy?) of Cliff on that tractor, holding our son.  If such a picture exists, I didn't find it today.
What I did find was a group of pictures from that time period depicting a very exciting episode of our farm life:  We had a pond built!  

This is where the dozer-man was marking the outline of the pond.  

There was some rain, which started the pond filling with water before it was done.  Cliff took a vacation day from work to watch the pond being dug, but the guy only worked half a day and then went fishing.  

Judging by the size of my children in this picture, we must have had the pond built in 1971.  
We swam in it sometimes.  We had it stocked with fish, although I don't remember catching anything but tiny sunfish.  
Our cost was $666.  Oh my goodness, we thought we were in tall cotton.  
I'd love to have a pond like it on this place, but the windblown sandy soil on which we live doesn't hold water like that Oak Grove clay did.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Found among my souvenirs

In 1967, with an infant son less than four months old, Cliff and I bought a little house on twenty acres.  

It had been vacant for awhile when we moved in; rats kept us awake the first few nights.  But by george, we had us a farm.  
We needed a tractor, but we lived from payday to payday back then and couldn't afford one.  I remember Cliff and his brother, Phil, cutting weeds taller than themselves with a couple of scythes.  

Then my dad took pity on us and sold us an old Minneapolis Moline that he really had no use for... for $100, I think; I imagine my parents let us make payments.   
Cliff was glad to have that tractor, but the brakes were undependable on it; he almost killed Phil's boy, Randy, one time when the tractor got away from them.  So we had a tractor, such as it was; but we were badly in need of a brush hog to maintain our twenty acres.  
The other day I was scrounging through old mementoes and found the bill of sale from the next tractor Cliff purchased after that one, a used Ford 8N tractor with a brand new brush-hog/mower.

Click on the picture to make it bigger.  The tractor cost $485 and the mower was $275.  

I'm still wondering how we came up with that down payment.  Seriously.  We were young, with a baby boy and a mortgage, and there was no extra money.  My parents were sometimes good for a quick loan, so perhaps we borrowed the down payment from them and paid them back a little at a time.  Lord knows we did that several times over the years.    
Cliff put that little Ford tractor to work, clearing every bit of land that could be cleared.  He's had many tractors since then, but I doubt he's enjoyed any of them more than that first really good, dependable tractor.  That same tractor now goes for $2,000 and up.  When we had ours, it was just an old tractor.  Now it's an antique.  But you know what?  There are hundreds of them around, still running.
They don't make 'em like that any more.  

Morning activities

We've been using a huge borrowed pet taxi for Iris to sleep in at night; it's been beside our bed, taking up an incredible amount of room.  Iris had no complaints about it; if I told her to go to bed and the door of the taxi was almost closed, she'd stick her nose in and open the door, squeezing through.  
We also have a too-small pet taxi that we used to transport Sadie in the car; Iris is the same size Sadie was, so that one is too small for her to use as a bed, although it works fine for taking her someplace in the car.  
I've been watching garage sales for a just-right-sized pet taxi Iris can comfortably sleep in; I certainly didn't intend to pay the price for a new one.  
Cliff was putting some stuff in a storage shed in the pasture and noticed a pet carrier back in the shadows.  "Did you know there's a dog crate down there that's the size you want?"
Neither of us have any memory of acquiring that thing, but sure enough, there it was.  
The metal door is rusty, and I had to clean out lots of wasp nests.  It isn't the prettiest thing I ever brought into the house; but after some cleanup, I figure it will serve Iris just fine until we find a better one at a garage sale.  

This picture shows the difference between the sizes of the two pet carriers.  

On another note, this morning I plugged the electric fencer in and it was dead as a doornail.  Where it usually reads "14.4" or something in that range, it read "0.0".  We had not been using it for a couple of weeks because the removal of the old trailer house also entailed the removal of the source of electricity to our barn.  Yesterday the barn was re-wired to our box.  
Although I was fairly confident that "0.0" meant there was a worse problem than a few weeds on the wire, I decided to eliminate that possibility while Cliff was asleep.  That way he can go on to other possible problems.  

There definitely were plenty of weeds on the electric fence.  However, after I had removed the weeks, the fencer still reads "0.0".  
This electric fence runs along our side of the barbed wire fence between us and the neighbor to the west; his horses, lacking decent pasture, eat over the fence and lean on it so hard that they'd eventually push it down.  We string the electric fence along it in such a way that whether they eat between the barbed wire strands or over the top, they'll get a shock. 

 Our cows have a selection of any variety of grass or legumes they might want; so where did I find them eating this morning?  In the idle field Cliff intends to plant to grass this fall, where nothing but weeds can be found at the present time.  In this picture, Bonnie has a mouthful of the vine my daddy always called "Creeping Jenny".  Weeds!  My cows like weeds!

Speaking of weeds and vines, here is the trumpet vine I've been trying to get established for two years; it suffered a serious setback in the spring of 2009 when a nephew mowed it; I then marked it with an electric fencepost to keep such a tragedy from happening again.  This is a plant many people have warned me about, saying it's invasive.  So I put it in a place where it should remain harmless, and yet I can sit on my porch and watch when the hummingbirds are feasting on its blossoms.  I have yet to see a bloom, but I'm sure I will eventually.  
I recently put a "butterfly bush" in my flowerbed; I understand that's another plant that can sometimes be invasive.  I'm not worried; my husband loves to kill plants, and if it becomes a problem, I'll turn him loose on it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I probably shouldn't have done it

I bought a dwarf Golden Delicious apple tree today.  We stopped by Orscheln's yet again, and I went looking for marked-down flowering annuals.  There were none.  
However, there were four dwarf Golden Delicious trees, originally $30, now half-price.  They looked like they had been sufficiently watered; the leaves were green and healthy-looking.  The problem is that this is a horrible time of year to plant any kind of tree.  
We're having temperatures in the mid-nineties, and it looks like we may be in for a dry spell.  
I've worked in a couple of apple orchards at harvest time, enough to know that you can't get a good Golden Delicious apple unless you find one that was accidentally allowed to ripen on the tree.  In a commercial orchard, Golden Delicious apples are picked green.  Now, orchard owners tell you that Goldens are the only kind of apple that will ripen after they're picked; I don't call that "ripened".  They're supposed to be golden, for heaven's sake, not green, as they usually are when they sell in the stores.
I remember when I was a child, the Golden Delicious apples my mother bought were sugar-sweet.  I haven't tasted apples that good in years.  
So after standing there reminiscing about my childhood until my mouth was watering, I decided fifteen bucks wasn't such a big risk.  Lots of people spend more than that on soda in a week.  

And now, there the poor little tree stands with several strikes against it.  I have certainly planted a lot of trees since we moved out behind the barn.  I chose to put the apple tree in the back yard, which I push-mow by myself.  Cliff resents trees being in his way where he mows, so this is how I keep peace.  
I read in an article online that "A good dwarf tree should live about fifteen to twenty years and will produce about one to two bushels of apples within two to three years."
So, here I am with another experiment going.  If I can just get an apple like the ones I tasted as a little girl, it will be worth my efforts, which include digging a hole in the ground on a ninety-five-degree day.  
There's one other problem to consider:  I'm supposed to have another apple tree nearby to pollinate this one.   Oh well.

A grave marker for Sadie

Cliff's sister, Rena, bought this last Saturday; now Sadie's grave has a marker.  Iris and I stop by there each morning to say hello to her.  You can see the iris plants behind my new dog... those are the plants that gave her a name:  When I was digging Sadie's grave, I looked up and saw the iris plants, and knew my next dog would be named Iris.  As I told my friend Joanna, perhaps Sadie is the one who suggested this.  

I know, that's silly.  Just humor me.  

Rena suggested that we take it next time we go to Versailles and have their cousin engrave Sadie's name on the stone.  He's put the names on many of the headstones at the local cemetery down there.  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Big change

I'll show you the "after" picture first:

All we need to do is sow some grass seed when the time is right.  New fence is in place; now the sour cherry tree is in the pasture instead of the yard.  We'll see if the horses and cows kill it.    

Here's the "before" shot.  I don't know what we would have done without the help of our son on this project.  I can just imagine him telling his friends how he spent his summer vacation.  

"I helped my dad make a house disappear."

My flowered mornings

Most mornings I head outside with my coffee in hand; it's exciting to me to see which flowers are blooming.  I've never had a lot of perennials other than Iris and Peonies, so many of these plants are ones with which I've become acquainted in the last two years.  
Coneflowers, one of my new favorite posies.  Talk about trouble-free, these are.  I moved some white ones onto Sadie's grave, where I intend for something to be blooming from spring through fall.  

The tall hibiscus is almost ready to start strutting its stuff.  I can't wait!  

I bought these marked-down Shasta daisies at Home Depot on our anniversary; I look forward to dividing it and putting it in various places amongst my other flowers.  I picked up the salvia (behind the daisies) yesterday at Orschelns, on a quick Father's Day motorcycle ride.  Salvia is an annual, but it will fill in some space until I find suitable perennials later on.    

This hydrangea is another Home Depot bargain; the leaves have some rust-colored spots, but notice on the new growth there is no evidence of this.  Keep in mind that all these varieties are new to me, so if I kill them, it will be no surprise.

I know this has to be something I planted two years ago, but I have no idea what it is.  This one is in back of the house.  I hope at some point it shows me some blossoms.  Surely I wouldn't have placed it here if it weren't a blooming plant.  

There's another one in front of the house.  I sure would like to know what my mystery plants are.  

I love astilbes.  I only wish they bloomed longer.  

So, now you've taken my morning walk with me and Iris the dog.  Isn't it exciting?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I heard unfamiliar music, and yet so familiar...

On our way home in the downpour yesterday, we stopped by a Mennonite store; a sign about a cheese sale caught our attention on the way to the tractor show, but we knew cheese would likely melt in the hot car while we looked at antique tractors, so we stopped in afterward.  

We were just going to buy a chunk of cheese to take home and then go to a Mexican place to eat lunch.  However, Cliff's eye fell on an old-fashioned stick of bologna, and he asked the lady for two slices.  And also asked her to slice three pieces of cheese off our block.  Hmmm, I thought to myself, sounds like he plans to eat in the car.  

A loaf of cheddar cheese bread made our purchase complete; I wasn't sure yet what Cliff's plan was, so I didn't mention that the bread wasn't sliced.  

We ended up tearing hunks of bread off and eating it with bologna and cheese, in the car.  I still prefer Oscar Mayer bologna to the old-fashioned kind.  I also prefer Mexican food to any sort of bologna, but I digress.  

The Mennonite lady had some music playing that is still haunting me, obviously hymns, but none of them familiar, sung by women.  Such words I could make out were very comforting.  It was the folksy type of music I love, sung a cappella.  I was raised in a church with a cappella singing.  

I wanted to ask the lady if she had any CDs of the music for sale, but for some reason I didn't.  I commented to her that I thought it was good music she had playing, and she replied with a smile, "Well, I like it."  

I found some Mennonite and Amish music for sale online, but I'd really like to have those particular songs I heard playing softly in the background at the store.  We pass by there often; maybe next time I'll ask about them.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

And now, for Father's Day...

My daughter and my sister-in-law have dinner planned for tomorrow.  No problem.  

I will make Cliff's favorite breakfast:  pancakes and R.B. Rice sausage.  

And then we're going for a motorcycle ride someplace.  It doesn't matter where.  We'll  be back in time for the dinner that's in the works.  

Sounds like a plan to me.

Tractor show, and other surprises

Cliff and I have been planning to go to the Lathrop tractor show for quite awhile.  We hoped to ride our motorcycle, because it's a nice little ride... about forty-five minutes.  

This morning, however, after looking at the weather forecast, we decided to go in the car.  Egg-sized hail wouldn't be much fun on a motorcycle.  

We walked around the flea market and took a quick look at the antiques and tractors.  I only took one picture during our walk through the show: 
I don't know how old this fan was, but it was running.  It's battery powered.  

We looked at several tractors; trouble is, they're the same tractors we see there every year.  We have them memorized.  And all the time, we had that forecast in mind, because our Mercury is rear-wheel-drive.  And at a tractor show, you park on grass.  We knew if a downpour occurred, we'd be stuck.  

It was hot and steamy when we went into the building where lunch was being served, and there was a long waiting line.  Cliff said, "You know, we'll be going past lots of places to eat on the way home."  

Normally I like to support the people putting on the tractor shows by buying lunch on the grounds, but I was worried about the weather.  So we left, thank the good Lord.  Because not ten minutes later, an unbelievably strong wind came up, and some mighty scary clouds.  

Here's the view through our windshield as we headed toward home.  We hoped to outrun the storm, but our hopes were in vain.  

This was taken through my passenger window.  

This shot was taken much closer to home, before we crossed the Missouri River.  

We arrived home to find an inch of rain in our rain gauge and our electricity not working.  For six hours. Oh happy day.  

I am SO glad we didn't take the motorcycle.  

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day lilies are starting to bloom

That's the good news.  And now for the bad news:  

Tomato blight already, in spite of the fact I've been spraying the plants with a fungicide ever since I set them out.   

Will I get enough tomatoes to can before the blight spreads and kills all the plants?  Blight has stopped me from even making an effort to raise tomatoes in the past.  That could very well happen again.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Calf with laryngitis

Cliff's brother brought a little heifer over here; she will be company for Bonnie after we take Sir Loin to the butcher shop on June 29.  Unfortunately, she was nursing her mom right up to the time she came, and now she wants milk.  She wants her mommy.  She wants to go home.  

We turned her out with Bonnie and Sir Loin, but in her frenzied search for mom, she got out and wandered to a nearby farmer's place.  He kindly brought her home, and we're keeping her in this small pen until she gets over pining for her home.  She has bellowed and bawled so constantly that she now has laryngitis.  

Click HERE to witness this strange occurrence.  

A long overdue night at the cabin

I've wanted to spend a night in the cabin with Iris since I got her, but for the several weeks she was snotting, I preferred not to sleep with her.  She's been snot-free for about three weeks, and I decided the time was right.
In some ways, I dreaded going to the cabin after such a long time away:  Mice have a tendency to take over during an extended vacancy.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to see plenty of mouse poison still in place, which is a sure sign there's been no recent rodent activity.
Bugs were another story, though.  There were many dead bodies of the ever-present Asian Lady Beetles; various kinds and sizes of spiders scurried away at my approach.  Cluster flies buzzed at the windows.  I sprayed the place liberally with Raid and swept up the dead bodies, then set my lounge chair up in the shade and began to read the book I'd taken with me:  "Still Woman Enough" by Loretta Lynn.  

I took only one picture at the cabin this trip, a grisly one.  I keep one of those sticky mouse pads out at all times; usually I only find bugs of various sizes stuck on them, although a couple of mice have met their death there.  Yesterday, along with assorted bugs, there were two skinks stuck to the glue... and one was still alive.
Rather sad, really.  I like skinks.  But there was nothing I could do to save the little guy, and his friend was already dead.   

In 2004, when Cliff put the cabin in the spot where it stands today, I could see the Missouri River from the front deck.  The trees and brush have totally blocked that view.  It is an impossible task to keep the foliage open, and I now accept the coziness and isolation of the encroaching woods.  

Originally I stored a few basic implements at the cabin, and kept coffee and a coffee pot there.  I even had a camp-stove, intending to make a grilled cheese sandwich occasionally, or heat up some soup.  I pictured myself spending two days at a time back there... my own little Walden.  You know what they say about "the best-laid schemes".   Turns out the only cooking I do at the cabin is to hold a hot dog or marshmallow over my campfire.  As for coffee, I've found I prefer to walk back to my nice air-conditioned house where I can take a shower to get the smokey smell off myself, and drink wonderful coffee made in my Bunn Coffeemaker.  Yeah, I'm not as much of a die-hard outdoors-woman as I pictured myself to be.  

I didn't read as much of my book as I had intended because storm clouds gathered, making it an early nightfall.  Before long it started raining, and Iris and I turned in around eight o'clock.  I love being at the cabin when it rains, although I don't enjoy waking up with a full bladder and going out in the rain to relieve myself.  After one such trip outside (at 2 A.M.), I crawled back into my sleeping bag and lay awake pondering those skinks, wondering how they got in.  It occurred to me that if a skink can get in the cabin, so could a snake.  I thought back to some old western I saw as a child where a cowboy woke up with a snake curled up on his chest; it had crawled in bed with him seeking heat.  I mused on this for perhaps twenty minutes, and then went back to sleep.   

And so it goes at my cabin in the woods.  It isn't for the faint of heart, my friends.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A healthy dog

Up till today, I've been taking Iris along on a leash when we walk.  When she was sick, she kept wanting to go back to the house without us, and I wanted her to stay with us.  Besides, I didn't want her to stray and get lost.
Today Iris and I walked alone while Cliff slept, since he wants to spend his "walk-time" setting a corner post for a fence where the trailer house used to be.  I decided to take the dog without a leash.
I've never seen such speed in a dog.  If I called her, she'd come running toward me... and pass me by!   I wanted to get a video, but she was so fast it was well nigh impossible.  I managed to get seven seconds of her running recorded, and then she was out of sight.   And truthfully, this wasn't her top speed, not even close.  I hope to get a video in tomorrow morning at the beginning of our walk, when she's at top speed.

I read that whippets can run up to thirty-five miles per hour.  
Occasionally she'd take time out to roll in the wet grass, and then she was off again.  Whenever we used to see Sadie rolling, we knew she had found something nasty and rotten to roll in, but Iris simply rolls for the pure joy of living, the same reason she runs so freely.
I can't wait for Cliff to see the speed of this dog.  
Now for the negative doggie-news:  The little neighbor girl was in our yard with her chihuahua, and it started yapping at me and Iris.  I knew there could be trouble and tried to grab Iris by the collar, but it was too late; she was off like a rocket, with me yelling "Nooooo" to no avail.  
As luck with have it, the chihuahua was able to run under the body of an old car, and Iris was too big to follow; the little girl grabbed her dog, who was just fine.  Thank God for that!  I warned her that Iris is capable of hurting her dog, since she did catch Angel and rough her up, with several people watching and trying to intervene.    
  One of my regular readers, Wil, suggested Iris goes after small dogs because she is a sighthound, bred to go after rabbits and other small game.  I tend to agree with him.  Even though she is only half whippet, she certainly has all the traits of a purebred.    
So, Iris is out to kill cats and small dogs.  I have a brother-in-law in St. Louis who would consider that a wonderful trait, but I really would prefer she not hurt other people's pets.   

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grassy garden

It's hard to tell where the lawn stops and the garden starts, isn't it?  When it rains every day, or at best, every other day, the grass grows and there's not much you can do with it.  That lettuce, by the way, is ready to be pulled up.  On the right you see peas, and they'll soon be done too.  Next to them are the beets, and I am anxiously awaiting the time when I can once again make borscht.   The next row is a pitiful mix of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.  And on the right, potatoes.  

The garden would actually be a miserable failure if it weren't for the reliability of green beans and potatoes, plants I have always been able to depend on.  

The tomatoes are looking good, but I'm always afraid to hope for much because of blight.  I had good success last year; blight didn't kill my plants until late summer.  I still have a few quarts of canned tomatoes left, and those should last until these plants start producing.  This year I am spraying the plants with fungicide in hopes of keeping blight at bay.  In the back, to the left of the tomatoes, is my single zucchini plant.  I won't be making zucchini bread or cake:  Why take something healthy and make it unhealthy?  

So, that's how my pathetic garden is doing.    

The get-together last Saturday

I took a short video while everybody was eating last Saturday.  You can see and hear the rain pouring down over the chatter of all the relatives.  You'll see Cliff's brothers and his oldest sister, and nephews and granddaughters and my children.  
Later on Grandson Arick, who had to work that day, showed up, as well as Brett.  Also my cousin Betty and her husband, and a friend from the past we had not seen for years, with his wife.


I have several tomatoes on my vines, the largest of them about an inch wide.  I can't wait!

This is a hibiscus I got last year from a seed company.  It's very tall, and strong winds have damaged some of the stalks.  I wonder if I should somehow stake it?  I'm fairly new to hibiscus.  

My daughter gave me this hibiscus from her flowerbed.  It's less than two feet tall.  Are there both tall and short varieties of hibiscus?  

This is an Asiatic lily I bought yesterday.  I have several regular day lilies almost ready to bloom, but they are nothing like this.  

Here's a hydrangea, also purchased yesterday; it was marked down.  Now that it's already planted, I read online that it should be at least in partial shade.  Shall I leave it where it stands, or move it to the north side of the house with the astilbes?  

Whoever said ignorance is bliss certainly didn't know what they were talking about, because I'm very ignorant about flowers and I don't feel blissful about it.  

Now, to answer a question someone asked about our "new" dog:  Iris doesn't show up in any of the pictures taken Saturday because it was storming, and she's terrified of storms.  So I had her safely tucked away in her hidey-hole.  Later in the day when the storms abated, she did indeed mix with the people and dogs that were present.
We still watch her closely with Angel, but I believe she is getting to the point where she will live and let live.  Granddaughter Amber spent a lot of time here with her Mini-pin, Sophie; For the most part, Iris ignored her.  We've found that Iris isn't worried about other dogs eating her food, which was a real sore spot with Sadie.  She is possessive about her toys, and does not want any dog approaching those.  So we know what to watch out for when a dog is visiting. 

Iris has settled in nicely and has become a real part of our household.  We do watch her closely because of her counter-surfing habits; I don't leave her in the house alone even for a minute; she either goes out with me, or into her pet taxi.  Now that she's totally recovered from her pneumonia, or whatever she had, she's a live wire.  She will chase a ball or Frisbee as long as someone is willing to throw it for her; she really got a workout with all the company we had last week.