Thursday, July 24, 2014

A wonderful homecoming!

"Any time you give your heart to anyone or anything, you run the risk of it being broken, but to deny yourself of that love isn't living fully either."

No, a famous poet or writer did not say that, I did and it's true. On the farm there are a lot of opportunities to have your heart broken, a calf dies, your old dog succumbs to heart disease, you have to sell your old, gentle bull to make way for the next generation, your much loved puppy kills two of your much loved chicks, leaving one still alive and one missing in action and presumed dead.

 All the above happened, I was especially distressed about Murphy going rogue, I thought I had trained her that the chickens were mine! This happened just a few days before we left for WI, since I found one chick, a Blue Wyandott, still alive out of the four, and only two bodies, I had hopes that the Speckled Sussex had also escaped and was out here somewhere. But as each day went by, I came to the conclusion she was also dead, Thursday morning we took off for WI and the chickens were on lock down for the duration of our visit.

Fast forward past Bruce's birthday blog and it's Sunday night, I knew it was supposed to get very hot and muggy at home so talked to my chore people and asked them to open the chicken scratch yard into the McGregor yard on Monday morning. The chickens will still be confined but they can get out among some plants and trees and shade, out of the hot house, I didn't need to come home to hard boiled eggs.

We arrived home at 5:30 Monday night to a couple of excited collies, "You're back!! You're back!!! We thought you were gone FOREVER!!" I didn't even try to enforce the "Stay down!!" law that we are trying to instill in Murphy especially, excitement was bursting out all over and there was no way their four feet could stay on the ground. I had to run to the chicken house before going to bale and there, in the apartment with Little Blue, strolling around as though she had never been gone, was the Speckled Sussex, now named 'Lucky' for obvious reasons! I couldn't believe my eyes!!

The only thing I can think of, was she was hiding, very well, I might add, in the McGregor yard that entire week and with the gate open on Monday, found her way back.

Whatever, it was a wonderful sight! She seems no worse for wear and Blue is so happy to have her sister back.

When we arrived back home after attempting to bale hay, it turned out to be too wet, I checked on Larry Jr.'s little bride in the blue jay cage and there was a tiny yellow head peeking out from under her feathers!!

How much more excitement can my heart take???

I couldn't wait to shout the great news to the world but first I had to call Jillian and see if she knew anything about the chicks and she did not, she'd never seen Lucky before. But I'm going to have to give that girl a raise!

I had a hard time staying away from the bluejay cage on Tuesday, every time I went out, I'd find another egg shell and exhausted chick, by that night she was the mother of 6 babies, each one of her eggs hatched. Larry Jr. did good!

His little bride is a ferocious mother, she didn't like my interfering in her business and made no bones about it. Wednesday morning I heard her talking to her babies and knew she was off the nest, I peeked in, over the brick wall I set up so they wouldn't fall out of the house and there she was, glaring back at me! "What do you want NOW?" She had all the babies tucked under her feathers, looking for all the world like Scarlett O'Hara at the ball at Tara.

She huffily ushered her little family back into the carrier.

"Come children, hurry, hurry, one, two, three....."

And then there is the one who doesn't listen.

"But why, Mom?"

She won out and got them all back in the carrier but she still wasn't happy until I got the heck out of there.

There was one remaining egg, the one the frizzle laid in the nest that led me to the discovery of it. I left it, not knowing when Larry's little bride had started setting. Now I know it was about July 1 because it takes 21 days to hatch. This egg could still be fertile and it needed to be incubated another week. I had another broody hen in the coop sitting on a golf ball in case I needed her so I switched out the egg for the golf ball.

She seems to know she is sitting on the real thing now and is much more vocal when I'm around, it would be something if she would hatch the foster chick, how would she feel about a frizzle baby?

I knew the blue jay cage was not a good home for these tiny babies, they would never get up the long ramp so I called my pet caretakers, I knew they had a dandy little chicken, rabbit, duck coop they bought this summer and soon realized it was too small for their flock of 5 hens. Tim and Jillian brought it over, eager to meet the new family. It is perfect, it's Murphy and other varmint proof while giving them lots of room to explore. There is a little ramp from the nest box to the ground floor, this morning I heard one little chick cheeping frantically. Evidently the little hen took her babies exploring to the ground floor but failed to count heads going back up the ramp and left him behind. He was happy to cuddle in my hand while I returned him to the nest box but did I get any thanks from his mother? N-O-O-O-O-O!

Instead she glared at me, "Well for crying out loud, there are SIX of them, I can't be expected to keep track of each one!" 

I think she has a lot to learn about being a mother.

I'll send out invitations to a baby shower soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The weekend was all about Bruce

This was the year my honey turned 65, that magic age where, starting in Feb, he was reminded of it over and over and over from Equitable, Liberty, Humana, American Republic, Mutual of Omaha and on and on and on until we were afraid to the mailbox would explode. After much angst, some fits and starts, wrong turns, dead ends, mixed messages, Bruce finally signed up for Medicare and we hoped for the best.

We decided it would be fun to celebrate in WI with Jean and John who share an anniversary on the same day. I thought it would be fun to surprise Bruce, so contacted the rest of his sister's and some cousins who live out there. It really wasn't that hard because he has never been snoopy, unlike me.

After double checking with my chore girl, Jillian and her mother, Jaylene, I left all my animals in their capable hands and we headed out at the butt crack of dawn on Thursday morning, the day before Bruce's birthday. It's always stressful for us country mice to battle the big city traffic, throw in road construction and a lengthy detour and we feel fortunate to arrive in one piece. After a hearty lunch, I retired to the sun room with a book while Bruce, Jean and John went golfing, I think I got the better deal.

The first surprise was sister Carol, who rode the train down from Minneapolis, "Hello, Brucie!"

Then Janet and Gerald, who we thought were coming and then didn't think were coming and then came.

As with any Nielsen gathering, there is plentiful food, Carol was amazed at the Salzwedel's well stocked liquor cabinet, a toddy was in order for the traveler.

Friday morning, the Big Day!, all the golfers took off for the course, those of us who would rather mow  lawns than golf, took off for Kohl's, 30% off coupons clutched in their hot little hands.

We came, we spent, we conquered.

The second surprise was a birthday supper at the Essen Haus, a German restaurant that Bruce has wanted to return to ever since we were there several years ago. He only knew we had reservations for 7:00 someplace so when we pulled up and he saw where we were, he let out a, "Yo, Ho, Ho!" (You who like polka's know what I'm talking about.)

In the parking lot was nephew Scott and son, Corey.

Niece and Goddaughter, Kelsey.

Niece Lori.

Inside the surprises keep coming, Nephew John C with wife Carla, one of Bruce's fishing partners in MN.

Cousin Brian from Dodgeville joining the festivities.

Our cute waitress, with Jean looking smug that we pulled it off....

....and waiter, not bad legs for a guy!

Father and daughter, Lori and John.

Father and son, clowning around.

Shirley and Rich

And joining every gathering are the inevitable cell phones.

If you are really into it, you get a boot of beer, the table next to us had at least three.

Brian's daughters, Cheney, who married last fall and now is sporting a baby bump, her husband talking to Janet and Casey, back from the east coast.

We all sang a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" to Bruce and we did such a good job that the table next to us requested we sing to a birthday girl at their table so we obliged.

Picture time for the family.

Then it was polka time! Bruce and Janet...

....Bruce and Kelsey.....

...Bruce and I throwing in a little swing with the polka.

John, Bruce and Brian 

The weekend went on with more food, more golfing, more shopping, a little more drinking, going to church to round out the weekend, and more food. The birthday weekend drew to a close with a dinner cruise on Lake Monona.

A little muskrat baby on shore getting his greens for the day. 

Shirley, John and Rich enjoying the cruise.

Bruce and 'Captain Stubby', deep in conversation

Janet and Foof with the Capitol building and Madison skyline in the background.

Foof and Jean, it was a lovely evening for a cruise and all the food we could eat, except the rolls, they must have miscounted and shorted some people who were not happy! We, who did get a roll, didn't tell them they didn't miss much!

Monday morning was traveling day but first we stopped in Livingston and attended the funeral of Bruce's Aunt Tootie, who was just as considerate in death as she was in life. She had been struggling with health issues before we left for WI, we thought we would be making a second trip out there for her funeral. But Tootie didn't want to put us out.

This picture was taken last fall at granddaughter Cheney's wedding, with daughter Marilyn and Janet. Tootie was able to make her own decision for her end of life and we should all be so lucky. The funeral was huge, they had a visitation starting at 9:00 AM before the service and there was a steady stream of people paying their respects to the family, the church was packed, a tribute to how much she was loved.

We left right after the service, home called, hay to bale, animals to attend to and I was missing my critters. 

Jean, you need to get a dog!

It's always fun to go, but there is no place like home and it was a great homecoming. Jillian's father, Tim, mowed our yard while we were gone, that was the first thing I noticed, what a guy! I raced around, doing a speed greeting of all the animals, counting heads and finding some surprises, before I had to go help Bruce with the hay.

I'll give you a clue....

This was a birthday Bruce will always remember, sometimes it's fun to be all about you!

To be continued......

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The backyard pond

I built the backyard pond the summer I retired, I'd been wanting one for some time but was smart enough to know I needed an extended period to actually do the building.

Let me tell you, a backyard pond is not for sissies!

If you are contemplating one, you can't do too much research, but I've never regretted it, even with the work of the upkeep. I never thought of fish as pets but the goldfish inhabiting the pond watch for me to come out of the house and they all gather at the edge, anxiously swimming in place, eyes fixed on me, "Are you going to feed us??"

I had an email once that had different facts, one of the 'facts' was a goldfish has a memory span of 15 minutes, to that I say, "Horse hockey!" 

I've always had singing toads in the pond who laid a plethora of eggs and hatched hundreds of toadpoles who developed into tiny baby toads. Suddenly, last year, a frog appeared in the pond, then another, then another until one time I counted 6 frogs. They lived over the winter and have become used to me being out and about so I'm able to take pictures. The odd thing is, this year I have no toads, do toads and frogs not co-habitate in a small pond?

I fed the fish one day and one of the frogs was drifting in the water, the fish were swimming around and under him and he never blinked an eye.

My friend, Elizabeth asked if I ever saw the frogs on one of the lily pads and I told her no, then the frog made a liar out of me when I was out working on the pond!

I've never had a collie who liked water, they always cringed when I tried to bathe them, Murphy is the exception, she LOVES water! To her the pond is one big collie water dish that she can also cool off while drinking.

Some people drink raspberry or some other flavored water, Mollie got goldfish flavored as they swam around her nose.

"Are you going to feed us??"

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Coffee Club

Every small town has a place where the locals go for coffee - and gossip, here at Frenchville, it is the big pine tree near the house. Each morning the girls gather under the tree.....

...more hens show up and settle in.

I get 'the look' from a couple...

"What do you want??!"

Then they settle back and discuss the things that are happening in their world.

Such as, "Did you hear Mabel cackling this morning, sheesch! You would think she was the only hen who has ever laid an egg."
Or - "Have you seen Larry Jr. panting after Harriet these days, she could do much better than that little twirp!"

But soon some unwelcome visitors horn in on their little hen party, Stinky....
....and Murphy.

"What you guys doing, huh, huh, huh!!!"

"Alright, we're out of here."