Sunday, June 29, 2014


Faith [feyth]
  1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
You can't be a farmer without faith, faith that all the money you pour into the ground in the spring will produce a crop in the fall. Faith spills over into other parts of our lives including restocking our farm ponds after two bad winters of fish kill due to low water.

 Bruce's father, Leo, built up the 14 acre wildlife area we all lovingly refer to as 'Leo' Pond', beginning  with digging a pond in the pasture with a Caswell loader in the 1940's and went from there. Today there are 5 ponds, one for each child I heard, and thousands of trees and bushes that provide food and cover for the wildlife. He moved in a couple of sheds and made them into cabins, built a firepit for cookouts and a boathouse and cement dock. Other than being at the MN cabin fishing, Leo's Pond was his favorite place to be.

As a side note, Leo's Pond' is on Google Maps, Leo's brother, Roscoe, worked in Washington, making US  maps and put it on, it will be there for all eternity.

Leo fishing

Leo and brother, Howard, in the blackberry patch.

A story about the patch, we were having a family picnic at the pond and went to pick blackberries. We were all eating probably as many as we put in a bucket, sister, Rosanne and husband, Peter, as well. When we took the collected berries back to the house and dumped them in a sink of water, 'picnic bugs' started crawling out! That ended Peter's love affair with blackberries.

With the drought's we have been in, the water in all the ponds were sadly low and froze completely over in the winter, with little oxygen the big fish died. Bruce did not restock last year since they never recovered but with the rains we are receiving, he made the call to Beemer Fisheries at Bedford, IA and ordered white amur carp, they are sterile and keep the green moss down, hybrid bass and bluegills. There were delivered to our door the next morning by Speedy Delivery.

The white carp, lively little devils....

....and ready to get in the water.

This guy stopped by to see what we were doing, one day I saw a dragonfly flying, carrying a butterfly, awwwwww.

Beautiful little baby bass....

...they, too, were ready to do the high dive into the pond.

Lastly, a bag of 200 hybrid bluegills...

....split between the ponds, they will grow fast and make for fun fishing for the kids.

We have high hopes that the timely rains will continue and keep the ponds full for the fish, as Bruce said, "I can't NOT restock, Leo would be happy."

I'm sure he was smiling down from heaven, watching his son carry on his dream.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"If I'd known Grandkids were so much fun....."

"I'd had them first!" Who hasn't heard that saying and know that there is some truth in it, but then parents are busy trying to feed and clothe their family and grandparents are just free to indulge those same children.

So it would seem at Tom and Sue's house with grandson, Jaxon. (Actually Sue says Pappy lets Jaxon do whatever he wants while she is the disciplinarian.) But they both thoroughly enjoyed their own two boys, even with the challenges of building business'. Whatever Ross and Todd were involved in, they threw themselves into. While our own father was pretty much hands off with us, Tom and Sue could be found playing ball, sledding in the winter, hauling ponies to horse shows and building cages for Todd's pigeon colony.

I felt a little envious of Dad and Mom's immersion of all their grandchildren's lives when they were retired and had the time to follow ball games, wrestling matches (which Mom did not like, but went!), horse shows, camping, fishing and anything else that came up. I only barely remember Dad's mother, whom we visited infrequently, when we did there was usually a snack of Spam and tea! So in their case, the old adage was probably true. But, as Jean would say, "I digress....."

You first met Jaxon and his buddy, Buster, last summer, they were both playing on Grandma's floor with an ice cube.

Jaxon and Buster are both growing up but still best of friends, here they are playing one of their favorite games, Jaxon pulls a sheet around the yard and Buster rides.

With a little help from his Pappy.

Jaxon and his Pappy share a special bond as they go to the garden to plant gladioli bulbs.

Jaxon takes the bulbs out of the package.... them in the trench that Tom dug with a hoe.....

.....and dusts the dirt off his hands, a job well done.

They read a favorite book.....

...and meet Mr. Owl who would still like to take a chunk out of his handler.

Jaxon and Buster on the hill behind his grandparents house.

Jaxon sporting a faint bruise where he tumbled into a chair.

I'm sorry I don't have pictures of Sue, like me, she was behind a camera. Sue is the glass artist who has graced me and my garden with several treasured glass creations. She also graciously opened their lovely home to the spur of the moment, self invited picnic, with even more family unexpectedly showing up. I have never mastered the art of having a presentable house anytime like Sue does.

If you want to come to my house unannounced, you better bring a broom......

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Owl gave a hoot...

Several members of our family and friends and neighbors gathered in my brother, Tom and sister in law, Sue's, lovely backyard and watched the release of an owl.

I never could live in a town, much less a city, but this sight out their backyard would make it a bit more palatable. 

A couple weeks ago, Tom and Sue were alerted by their neighbor that an injured owl was in the back green space area. Tom grabbed a large beach towel and captured the owl, but not without a tussle. They located a local wild rescue group and eventually was able to get 'Hoot Gibson' to a lady who would care for him.

(Hoot was determined to have a badly broken bone in his wing and was sent to Carroll, IA for surgery and rehab.)

Tom and Sue were contacted by the rehabber that they had a juvenile great horned owl they would like to release in their backyard so an impromptu picnic was hastily organized, complete with champagne and sparkling grape juice to toast the return to the wild.

I forgot the young man's name who brought the owl, you can tell he really gets into his job because he spent a lot of time talking about the wildlife and their rescue group.

All the time we are thinking, "GET ON WITH IT!!!"

He finally got down to business, first donning a pair of elbow length Kevlar gloves!

(To think, Tom used a beach towel, wimp!)  

Opening the latch....

...gloving up.....

"I'm going in!"

There was a lot of commotion inside the cage, feathers flying, wood chip bedding sailing out the door and a loud 'clacking' that turned out to be the owl's beak.

They wrestled around on the ground, the young man trying to get a good hold on the owl and the owl expressing his extreme displeasure of the man-handling he was receiving.

(I expected to hear some expletives, "D#@$ you owl, let the H%!~ go of me!!)

But he was very professional and kept his cool.....

....finally getting hold of both the legs and neck without getting speared with those talons or bit in the belly with that wicked beak.

We thought he was awful close!

"You want a piece of me??"

Look at those gorgeous eyes.

He is calming down but continued to 'clack' his beak.

A full body view.

Again, those eyes, I wouldn't want to mess with him, would you?

With a great heave, the young man tossed the young owl into the air and he flew!

Down the hill, across the green space and landed in this driveway....

The speck that you can see to the left of that electric pole is the owl. He sat there quite awhile, we could watch other smaller birds dive bombing him, trying to get him to fly but he just sat and took stock of his surrounding.

We were hoping the home owner wouldn't come zooming in the driveway and run over him! Wouldn't that be a revolting development??

Just as the young man was getting a little concerned about his charge, Tom saw the owl lift off and fly over the garage and disappear.

It was a great evening, how satisfying to see a wild creature successfully returned to nature, I felt like belting out "Born Free" - but that would have caused the party to break up pretty quickly.

And possibly a call to the police for violation of a noise ordinance.

So I sang it to myself, I sounded great.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Times when I wish I'd had a camera

The day I was driving down the highway and saw a hawk sitting on a post - with a 'No Hunting' sign clearly posted.

When a cow was vigorously scrubbing her new born calf to rid it of all the birth detritus and the baby raised her head and licked her mother's nose.

The baby robin was sitting on the railing of our porch, not a good place for a baby bird with dogs and cats around. The parents were flying around making a racket, "Fly! FLY!!" I tried to scoop it up to take it to safety further from the house when he flew. One of the adult birds flew directly at me with it's talons outstretched to impale me,  mouth wide open, words spilling out that I had no idea robins knew! It landed on the railing and kept up the diatribe, finally flying off in a huff. I was headed to the barn but the bird cut me off, still quite irate at my intervention. I think I was lucky to get away with my life. My advice is, Never, never mess with a mother robin.

I would have liked to have seen my sister, Rosanne, picking strawberries and putting them in a bowl ---- that her 5 hens, who were following her around, were eating out of when she wasn't looking.

Bruce told me when he opened the door this morning to let Zoe out, Mollie and Murphy, the big and the little dog, were lying side by side, sleeping with feet pointing in the same direction. As the screen door opened, they both raised their head at the same time, looked over their shoulder, saw it was 'just Zoe', laid their heads back down on the rug and closed their eyes. Synchronized sleeping!

Last summer Zoe, the cutest kitten in the world, and I were spending a lovely evening in the gazebo when we were rudely interrupted by an obnoxious gang of sparrows who invaded the tree right above us. They were a hoodlum gang who were drinking, showing off and creating a lot of noise that woke Zoe from her slumbers. She raised her head and looked up at all the racket, finally getting to her feet and going to the door. When I didn't immediately jump up and let her out, she fixed her eyes on me until I got the message! I let her out, she climbed the tree, walked out on the branch where they were congregated and sent them all packing. Zoe returned to the gazebo door and patiently waited for me to let her back in, mission accomplished.

Early Sunday morning thunder, lightening and rain moved in, it rumbled and grumbled for several hours. I got up fairly early, for me, got my coffee and quilt and went to the gazebo to enjoy listening to the rain on the roof. I was reading my book and drinking coffee when I became aware of another noise, a hen who had missed curfew the night before and looked like a drowned rat. Murphy went to see what was going on and that really ruffled her feathers. I felt sorry for her so didn't bother with the camera, just ushered her into the chicken house to dry off. Guess I better not be in such a big hurry to shut the chicken door for the night.

Maybe I'll have to spring for a pair of those Google glasses so I will always be equipped....but probably not.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Taming the Wild Chicks

Each year I like to get a few new pullets because they will continue to lay through the winter, the older hens will go through a molt late in the year and it takes all their energy to regrow those lost feathers so usually they won't start laying eggs till spring. I also lose a few hens every year, either to old age, predators or illness, sometimes I don't know the reason. Just a short time ago, I found Midge, my Speckled Sussex hen, Chet's bride, dead in the coop, laying there with her eyes closed as though she was asleep. She was not old, nor sick. This is Chet, who was deposed as the ruler earlier this year by the little half-pint Serama, Larry, Jr.

You can't predict what will go on the chicken coop.

The three chicks that the Little Red Frizzle Hen adopted belong to my sister, Rosanne, and will eventually go to live at her house. That is, if the little red hen ever decides to cut them loose, right now she is a helicopter parent.

I wasn't in any hurry to get chicks, then Rosanne called me from her daughter, Carri's, Bomgaars, we have to distinguish between Carri's Bomgaars, our niece, Nancy's, Bomgaars and our Bomgaars, who aren't big on chicks. They never get anything really cute, mostly the sign will say 'Brown Egg Layers' so you never really know what you are getting. Back to my phone call, Rosanne said Carri's Bomgaars has lots of really cute chicks, Speckled Sussex, that made my ears perk up, Iowa Blue, Blue Wyandott and others, then she went on to talk about how cute the little ducks and geese are but she lost me there. With my backyard pond, I'm not getting any ducks or geese.

That was Saturday afternoon, did I want to run to Sioux City to buy some chicks? Let me think about it. As I thought about it, I realized my other sister, Sara, was coming here, through Sioux City the next day. So I fired off an email, asking her to get me 1 Speckled Sussex, 2 Iowa Blue and 1 Blue Wyandott. She replied that she would.

On Monday morning Sara called that the Ia Blue's were straight run, not pullets and that means I had a good chance of getting another rooster, not an option. So I changed my list to 2 Speckled Sussex and 2 Blue Wyandotts. 

And I waited. While I waited, I set the chick crib back up in the laundry room, filled the feeder and waterer and waited. They were so cute!

(Sara called me a chicken@#$! for not going to buy my own chicks but I knew I would probably exceeded my allotted room in the coop.)

I love the sounds of the chicks scratching and the "Whit, whit, whit," of their conversations with each other.

But baby chicks can be rather spastic, they don't love to be cuddled, in fact they hate to be cuddled. No matter how much I stood and talked to them, as soon as I'd reach in to re-fill the feed or, heaven forbid, change the paper, they went ballistic.

Every summer we have an influx of flies and they love the kitchen, I have no idea where they come from, there are no holes in any screens, I often wonder if they hatch and come out of the basement. But they drive me CRAZY!! I was wielding the fly swatter when I just damaged one, he could still move. I took it back to the chick crib and dropped it in, the fly fluttered and the two Speckled Sussex dove on him. YUM!

So I swatted and carried the bodies back to the chicks and soon they were watching for me...

"Got any flies on you?"

...much excitement when my hand appeared with fly bodies, at first it was just the Speckled Sussex.

So I held back those two greedy chicks and offered the treats to the Blue Wyandott's, at first they were shy but soon were gobbling them down.

I had no idea that ridding my kitchen of flies could be so much fun....

....and create such goodwill to my little girls.

If there is only one fly, the first chick to grab it then has to retain her prize and it's not easy. She runs and the others are in hot pursuit, the fly might change beaks several times before disintegrating. It gets pretty wild.

I dropped an egg on the floor accidentally so scrambled it to feed back to the chickens, they go crazy over it. You never want to feed a raw egg to the chickens because that can lead to egg eating. I thought if the chicks loved the flies so much, they would also love scrambled egg, I was wrong!

When chicks are disturbed they have a high pitched "EEEEEEEEE!" I mashed up the cooled egg, put it in an empty cottage cheese lid and set in the bottom of the chick crib. They all raced over at the sight of my hand, took one look at the contents in the lid, screamed "EEEEEEEEE!" and raced to the other end of the tub.

Maybe it seemed a little sick to them, after all, in other circumstances that scrambled egg could have been a sibling. 

Kind of like cannibalism?

I guess I would have screamed also.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rain, lovely, lovely rain!

We have been extremely dry since last fall, hardly any snow this winter and it continued on into spring, rains would come our way, then split and go north and south of us. We had rain 10 days in a row and barely received 1 inch. Our farm ponds were low, one nearly dry and we lost a lot of fish over the winter. To be a farmer you must have faith, faith that the thousands of dollars you put into the ground each year, will produce a crop in the fall. (That is why we have no interest in casino's or playing the lottery, we gamble every day of the year.)

We started getting some rains, .2 th's here, .5 inch there, a blessed inch created much excitement but the sub-soil moisture was still low and no tile lines running. Saturday night a storm hit with wind and drenching rain that left nearly 3 inches in my rain gauges but thankfully, no hail or crop damage. The next day you would never know we received that much, I took the dogs to the pond but the cement dock was still out of the water, you could walk completely around it without getting your feet wet.

Yesterday storms were brewing in Nebraska and we watched in horror, the twin tornadoes nearly destroy the small town of Pilger and surrounding area, killing two. I heard from a friend that she knows a farmer who lost his herd of cattle, house and operation but was alive. It would be so difficult to experience and I pray we never will. There was rain everywhere, we would periodically get a shower, some stronger than others and this went on into the evening. Then they came!! Wave after wave after wave of heavy rain, suddenly it was looking like the Memorial Day Flood of 2013 all over again, or as Yogi Berra would say, "Deja-vu all over again and we didn't want that!!

It was a nightmare, the pasture under water, fences out and those that did not go out were covered in trash, a set of three 16 ft feed bunks, bolted together, swept a half mile down the pasture, some of the reason for the fences out, much erosion in the farm fields, gravel roads swept clean of the gravel and in other places around the county, bridges were taken out or severely damaged. We built fence and cleaned corn stalks off wire for an entire week, we were exhausted and getting pretty testy when my sister, Rosanne, hubby, Peter and daughter, Kaiza, (did Kaiza come? it all seems a blur now.) came and helped us finish.

All night long I kept waking, hearing the rain and wondering how bad it was, it was a relief to finally get up and face things. There was a little water in the basement so that made me feel better, I checked the rain gauges and they all agreed, about 3.8 inches. Our first thought was the cows and calves, the creek is out of it's banks but the cows were on dry ground, so to speak.

The dogs and I took the gator to the ponds to see if they had water and did they ever! This is at the picnic area and Murphy is on the cement dock that was previously standing on dry ground, yesterday!

This is the overflow out of the big pond, roiling and gushing water out and down the spillway and meeting the creek in the pasture.

This creek, bank full all the way down the pasture.

There is always trash left on the fences after high water, Bruce has some work ahead of him....hey, I clean the toilets in the house, the fences are his to deal with.

During the night the entire bottom of the pasture was underwater, the matted grass shows that. This is why this land should never be farmed, can you imagine if this was farm land? The erosion would be tremendous.

There are 5 ponds in the wildlife area and each one feeds the next, beginning at the south end pond that is fed by farm tiles. This is the 4th pond that flows into the large pond at the picnic area, the water was so high also that it ran over the drive between the two before receding at some point.

Murphy wanted to run as we headed east to the road.....

....Mollie chose not to.

"Crazy kid, why run when you can ride?"

It was going well until Murphy came upon a very angry garter snake, he was probably flushed from his burrow in the high water and was in no mood to entertain a snoopy dog. He did his best rattlesnake imitation by coiling and striking and completely freaked out Murphy who doesn't know the difference. The snake finally slithered away into the grass, tired of us bothering him.

Isn't this a beautiful field? Bruce farms his rolling fields on the contour to hold water when it rains like this, no erosion here.

By the time we got back to the house, the cows and calves were crossing the fast moving creek. I watched the more adventurous babies dive into the water, go under a moment, the swim to the other side with their mothers calling encouragement.

Fancy and her baby, along with a couple other cows and some calves decided they were happy on this side.

My brave snake hunting dog, enjoying a victory ride back to the house....

....all she needs are goggles and a do-rag to be a cool biker mutt, or gator mutt.