Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Garden woes and a garden hoe

Yesterday morning I was bound and determined to tackle my badly neglected, over-grown, weed pit, sorry-excuse-for-a-garden in hopes that I could find some viable plants amongst the Little Shop of Horrors.
Earlier this spring, it was almost a respectable garden, but in recent days the weeds have taken over and weeding has become such a daunting task that I have been avoiding it like the plague.
The problems began with a rough start to the growing season here in the Midwest. We had near record rainfall in June and parts of my garden were literally under water for nearly three weeks. Unless one is growing rice, these are less than ideal growing conditions.

 When the rain finally subsided, any meaningful gardening became nearly impossible with all the boot-sucking-mud pulling at my feet and the evil weeds laughing at my useless attempts to rid them from existence....OK, maybe the laughing weeds were my imagination...but was a huge mess. In addition to the weed issues, I had to replace several of my 50+ pepper plants and a couple of rows of green beans that rotted in the mud.

Things eventually started to dry out, but that's when the opportunistic weeds really made their move. The 80 x 30 foot garden was almost becoming indistinguishable from the lawn. Weeds and grasses were intermingled with the few scrawny vegetable plants that were holding on for dear life. I just couldn't keep up.

At that point in time I was hoping to enlist the help of Manny. Manny is strong and handsome, he works tirelessly without complaint.  He has always done everything asked of him without question. Miss Effie and I came to share Manny when one of Miss Eff's flower customers offered him to us for a very small could we refuse. He spends some of his time at Miss Effie's and the rest of his time here. We don't mind sharing him.

This is Manny, our Mantis tiller......what did you think I was talking about?
But even Manny was no match for these weeds. So I slowly started picking away, weeding by hand, section by section, trying to make some headway through the garden. Now, all of my life I have been accused (deservedly so) of always doing things the hard way, and I pondered that fact several times as I was out pulling weeds one stem at a time out of the tangled vegetation.
And then, in a moment of clarity that can only be achieved while bending over a buggy, weed-infested garden in 90 degree heat with sweat pouring into your burning, stinging eyes, it came to me....
.............I have one of these.
A Hoe? Could this possibly work? Hmmmm, people have used them for centuries......this is a crazy enough idea that it might just do the trick!
So, with a renewed hope for resurrecting of my garden, I began hacking away at my weedy rivals. Gleefully I hacked,  I tossed them into piles and finally, after about 4 hours and a lot of sore muscles later, it happened. I could see actual vegetable plants, and some were even  producing in spite of my neglectful ways.

My purple peppers are looking better than they have in years.

Lots of baby watermelons were lurking under the weeds.
And lots of these yellow Summer Squash....which I loathe....but, that's OK, whatever. I intended on planting acorn squash, but someone wickedly switched the tags at the nursery so I came home with these.....but look at 'em go!
Victory is mine! Ummmm, at least momentarily. I took these pictures to prove that once this season, even if it was for a fleeting moment, I had a nearly weed-free garden. There is a strong probability that next week it will have reverted back to it's previous wild state, but for now I am basking the glory of my small victory.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Reasons to love Iowa

I realize that on occasion I have poked fun at this great state in which I live, but rest assured that it is all in jest and I can't imagine living anywhere else. I must admit that I sometimes long for the sandy beaches of Cape Cod, or dream about the beautiful mountains and fragrant pine forests where we used to camp in Colorado when I was a child, but there is nothing like the Midwest with it's slow pace of life and warm, friendly, trusting people. I was reminded of this the other day as I drove past my neighbor's unattended sweetcorn stand at the end of their lane. Would this work in L.A. or New York City? I think not!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dog thoughts

 Hi, I'm Bailie, it's my 10Th birthday today so mom is letting me blog.
Mom's friend, Cassie, brought over some of these great homemade dog cookies yesterday so mom is letting us have some as a birthday treat.

Only problem is, she is making us wait patiently while she takes pictures of us with the cookies.

I am good at waiting, and being patient, but these other two pssshhhhh! I am just going to sit here and.......
......oh, my gosh these cookies smell good.

They look DELICIOUS! I am not sure which one is mine...if I stretch I am equidistant to both of these cookies, so in theory, either-or both could be intended for me...Jordan probably isn't hungry anyway.

It is my birthday, so maybe they are all for, I think maybe one is for Emma....'cause she's bigger than me and I don't want to argue with her......but the others are mine.
That's it! I can't take it! Every dog for themselves!!

Oops! Sorry Jordan.

That's OK Bailie, I slobbered on all those cookies before you ate them.

Oh nuts!

It's time for another lamb update...OK, it's past time, but I have been really busy with market and my garden that has decided to go rouge on me (that is a later blog post) as well as trying to find a home for the wayward kitty so it has been difficult to find the time to blog. By the way, with the help of my dear friend Jean, we have found a fabulous home for the kitty, and, for once, it isn't OUR home. BONUS!
Today's update is all about Brewster. I am sure you will remember Brewster, the little super-hero ram lamb that looked like he was wearing a cape and mask.
As I watched him grow, I wondered if he was going to grow into a breeding quality ram. His horns were slow-growing and came in much later than the other boys.
But, then they finally made their appearance and became nice, wide-set, beautiful horns.
His birth-coat was quite crimpy, but as he started to grow, it seemed to be losing some of it's original softness and crimp, which sometimes happens, so I waited, and kept checking. Eventually, close to the skin there was evidence that the crimp was returning, and by weaning time there was beautiful crimp and luster.
I kept and eye on his tail, which looked pretty good right from birth, and now is just about perfect.
His conformation is nice and square with a wide rear and straight legs.

Overall he has turned out to be a stunning ram. Real super-hero potential in this one. Almost everything you could ask for in a ram.......

Except........ There is only one coin in the  pearl in the oyster....OK, enough of the euphemisms....The poor guy has only one testicle.....that we can find. What difference does that make, my non-sheepie friends might ask? Well, this my friends, means that he cannot be registered.

Since I was unable to locate the offending man-part (not for lack of fact, I was beginning to worry that the neighbors would call the authorities to report some crazy woman feeling up a little rammy in the pasture every time they drove past) I took him into my vet to see if he could find the missing orb. Nope. Nada. Nothing. The vet felt confident that it was in there somewhere, but where? This leaves the masked man(ish) in quite a predicament. I had hoped that we could still wether (castrate) him and send him to a pet home, but after checking on prices for surgery to 'go in' and find the hidden treasure-$100, that is not really an option. We could have the one visible testicle removed, which would "likely" render him infertile since the remaining testicle would be up in the body cavity and his body heat "should" kill off any reproductive cells (yes, folks that's why they usually hang down so low), however, the ram hormones would still be firmly in place and he would still have a ram's attitude...not a good pet. There is also a higher risk of the remaining testicle turning cancerous. So, what to do with the Caped Crusader? I know that lots of my friends would send him off to market, which works for them, but I think you know by now that I am not prepared to do that. Perhaps if someone has an unregistered spinner's flock they could use a spotted-somewhat less of a ram..... Poor Brewster.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I'm gonna rant for a moment!
I have almost gotten used to people dumping animals near our property, it's just one of those sad, unfortunate realities of living in the country. We have found abandoned dogs, deathly ill cats, and every kind of varmint imaginable that people trap in town and then release here. In fact, we actually caught someone in the act a few weeks ago. I was out mowing the lawn and saw a man pull onto our gravel road and grab a live trap out of the bed of his pickup truck, before I could get over there to interfere I witnessed him setting a nice fat pair of squirrels loose in our yard. A week or two later the same thing happened, although bunnies were the critter of choice that day. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, Gary was close enough to say something when the same man tried to repeat the process. Gary yelled to him, "What are you doing?" The man seemed surprised for some reason that Gary would take offense to him turning animals loose all over our property and replied, " Gosh, it's just a squirrel!" To which Gary quipped something like, "Then let him be 'just a squirrel' in your yard!"  I understand that people sometimes think that they are doing the animal a favor by letting them go in the country, they have this idealistic image that the animal will scamper off, romping about the fields and have a long wonderful life. I also see how they might look at our place (which sometimes looks like some sort of insane petting zoo) and think that we are such huge animal lovers that we would surely love to have a few more, but the sad truth is, if any animals make it past the barn cats and the dogs, then generally our neighbors dispatch with any survivors. We live in the middle of farm fields and farmers don't take kindly to lots of imported wild critters eating their crops or unwanted domestic animals chasing their livestock. Animals that are displaced-especially this time of year when they likely have young somewhere-don't do well. Territories have been established and releasing a disoriented new-comer into the mix is really unfair to the animals.

Yesterday morning I was working in my home office when I heard a distressed "Meeooww! Meeoow!" It did not sound like any of our cats, but I peeked around the house to make sure, and all three of them (yes, we stupidly have three house cats) were sleeping contently in the living room. The meowing continued, and as I listened it became apparent that the sound was coming from outside the front window. I opened the door in time to see a very young kitten scamper away into the bushes. I followed the kitty, and when I called out to it, immediately the small kitten came toward me and started purring and kneading the branch that it had climbed onto. Clearly this was not a feral cat, it was not one that had wandered away from a neighbor's barn, it was extremely friendly and most certainly came from a litter in someones home. She just wanted to snuggle and be held. I wondered why someone would think that this was the right thing to do to a kitten, and I wondered what the fate of her litter-mates had been. Did they think that I would like another barn cat? I have barn cats-they are spayed or neutered and have their shots, they have been together for a long time and don't welcome unfamiliar cats into their circle......and I most certainly don't need another house cat! The day before I found her we had a 2+ inch rainfall, it was 100+ degree heat index on the day I found her. We have a no-kill shelter within 20 minutes of our place, but yet they chose to dump her here and let her take her chances. Yes, I am an animal lover, and yes, I will find her a home (quickly-before my husband tries to keep her), but I wish people would take more responsibility and realize that it is not up to everyone else to clean up their messes.

Yeah, she's looking a little TOO comfortable here.....BUT SHE'S NOT STAYING!!!!

Thank-you for allowing me to get on my soapbox for a moment.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Omaha, we found you!

Well, we made it back safely from our whirl wind trip to Omaha. For those of you who had no faith in my ability to navigate the 320 mile trip across the great state of Iowa with a load of sheep and my sister Marie as my co-pilot... you've probably met us.
This is a card I gave Marie a few years back and it is a pretty accurate depiction of what happens in our travels.
Our plan was to be in Omaha by 9 AM Saturday morning, so at 4 AM, Marie arrived at our house to load sheep, and stuff the truck full of snacks-cause that's just what she does. Still half-asleep, we clumsily loaded the 3 sheepies into the truck without incident (luckily they were half-asleep as well) and headed for the open road with the wind blowing through our hair ( the air conditioning in my truck is 2-70....two windows down at 70 miles an hour) and the smell of sheep emanating from our clothes.... life is good.
When I mentioned that this trip is 320 miles, I should have clarified. The route is 320 miles....on Interstate 80... each direction....straight, flat shot across this great state that I love. 320 miles.
  I was going to post lots of pictures of the 'scenery' along the this.......
....and this
But then I remembered this video that really captures the essence of  what it means to travel interstate 80 through Iowa.

Down the interstate we drove, mile after mile, the sheep quietly munching on hay in the back of the truck. The trip went pretty quickly, perhaps it went quickly because we were hauling sheep so we weren't tempted to stop along the route, or maybe it was because there were massive amounts of caffeine consumed due to the aforementioned 4 AM start time....whatever. We arrived in Omaha just a few minutes later than planned, but still were able to meet the new sheep owners by about 9 :15 and transfer sheep into their vehicle so that they could take them to their final destination in Colorado....incidentally, it is surprising how many onlookers gather when you transfer baaaing sheep in the middle of a hotel parking lot first thing in the morning.
Now that the sheep were safely delivered, we decided that we would take our time on the return trip. We pointed the truck to the East and started our trek back to the East coast of Iowa.
We were actually doing pretty well staying focused and hadn't been distracted by too many things along the way. One thing I wanted to do was to get some pictures of the 'wind farms' once we got closer to Adair, Iowa. We have been past the wind farms before, in a previous trip, but since I was driving then too I was never been able to get pictures of the turbines..........well.....there was that ONE incident in the previous trip when I handed my camera to Marie and asked her to take some photos of them. She pointed the camera out the window and after a couple of clicks she turned to me and said, "Darn it!" "What's the matter, Marie?" I asked. To which she replied,  "I wanted to take a picture of that one, but the blades aren't moving." After a few thoughtful moments when I wondered if she had really just said that, I answered, "That's OK, Marie, they won't be moving in the picture either."
So this time I was taking my chances pointing the camera out the window and clicking random shots myself without looking...cause I was driving.

Hmmm...kinda crooked. We decided to follow an exit where we could see seemingly hundreds of turbines off in the distance surrounding a small town-this looked like a great place to take some pictures.
I was trying to get some shots that would show the enormity of these turbines, but I don't know if it is possible to capture it in a photo. I am all for green energy, but I couldn't help thinking, as I looked across the horizon dotted with these massive structures, that I would not want to gaze out on my pastures and see something reminiscent of a Stephen King movie towering over my property.  I have always been curious as to whether or not there is a lot of noise emitted from the turbines...the answer is a resounding YES! From a distance, they seem to be silently sweeping their giant arms through the air, effortlessly turning, but as we got closer we could hear the pulsing "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh" of the blades.
Our curiosity about the turbines had been satisfied, so on down the road we went to turn around and head back to the interstate. Then we saw THIS...

Well, obviously, this begged the question, "Is it an antique city, or a city full of antiques...and does a town of 897 constitute a city in the first place???" These questions had to be answered.
We drove into town along the tree-lined street, passing blocks of beautiful older homes with perfectly manicured lawns, wrought iron fences and cozy porch swings. As we approached the 'downtown' area we saw what we were looking for-shop after shop of antiques...we had hit the mother load.
The first place we stopped had some awesome metal sculptures and garden items.
Here is Marie with a giant metal pig and such.
Inside the shop was full of antiques of all kinds.

We explored store after store...I think it was 'Take your tractor to work day' at this shop.

" OOoooooooooohhhhhh, shiny!"
It could take us years to get out of this place.

This store had three levels. I think we all know how I feel about heights..this picture still makes me nauseous, but...
I had to go all the way to the top floor to find AN ENTIRE ROOM FULL OF OLD CHAIRS!  I love old chairs. I couldn't actually go into the room to look around because that would have meant going up a few more steps and then having to turn around at some point to come back down the stairs which overlook the open center of the building...all the way down. Waaaaay down. See previous photo. Dooooown.
 The last shop we went to had a bakery with the tantalizing smell of fresh-baked bread wafting out onto the sidewalk beckoning us to come in. Once inside, we lusted over the delicious-looking pastries and rolls, but decided to wait and have some real food once we got back on the road. Before we left I went into the restroom to wash my hands and was quite puzzled by this sign on the inside.
Is there a way to get out of the bathroom without unlocking the latch???

We did remarkably well by only spending a couple of hours in this quaint little town, and amazingly, we didn't buy ANYTHING! There were lots of lovely items, but for the most part the prices were a bit high, probably due to the fact that a lot of tourists pass through. I prefer to find treasures under piles of junk at a flea market or in dusty boxes at a garage sale...I guess it gives me more of a sense of accomplishment, the search is half the fun.
We got back on the road and made one other stop at a large garden center, but since it is towards the end of the season there wasn't a great selection left-again, we bought nothing!

 We arrived back home at about 4:30 in the afternoon..extremely tired, but we had a great time. I KNOW! From one side of Iowa to the other in about twelve hours without getting overly distracted? Unbelievable. And you thought we would be gone for a week.

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