Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Whenever there was building going on at the French Farm, "On Construction", would ring out, usually from Bruce's mouth. Two years ago there was a bad hail storm that hit the MN cabin, the shingles were 30 years old and Bruce knew it was only a matter of time before there would be some leaks. Last summer he measured the roof and took those measurements to Marcus Lumber and let Bob figure the steel for it. Since we have discovered roofing steel, asphalt shingles are a thing of the past! Late summer Bruce hauled the load to the cabin and wrapped it in a tarp for the winter, just waiting for summer. 

I dreaded the job!

Two weeks ago he was meeting his brother in law, John, at the cabin for a little fishing so Bruce went a day early to get a start on the roofing. I hated that he was up there by himself but he bought a safety harness and said he wouldn't do the 'dangerous' side, a two story drop to the ground, until John was around to call 911.

Now THAT was comforting!

I just had to have faith that Bruce was smart enough to not do something stupid and later the second day I received a picture from John. "Look what I found when I got to the cabin!"

Bruce is standing triumphantly, tethered to the tree, on his new roof. By the time they left, half the cabin roof was done and they even got to fish.

And they ate fish which was even better since we have a LOT in our freezer.

Shortly after coming home from the cabin, Bruce played his weekly golf game and then we lit out for his birthday weekend in WI. When does this man have time to farm?? We had only been home a few days, I was just settling into my routine when Bruce broached the subject of returning to the cabin to finish the roofing. He wanted to get it done before the next round of fishing trips so they didn't have to interrupt their fishing to work on the roof. I was slow to warm to the idea, (whining), "But we just got home." Bruce was patient, planted the seed and waited for me to see the brilliance of his plan.

"We will only be gone three days."
"The weather is supposed to be nice." 
(It's a beast to be on a roof with temps in the 90's or above, trust me, I've been there.)

I lined up my animal caretakers, made Mollie and Murphy promise to be good dogs and we left for MN Saturday afternoon. Bruce was on the roof before the truck was even unloaded.

I climbed on the roof to get a shot of the swamp, this is the very high point of the roof and I didn't have a safety harness on.

Saturday morning I was rudely awakened at 7 AM by the sound of drilling, yes, Bruce was back on the roof. I grabbed a cup of iced coffee and went to help. This is what it takes to put a roof on.
Insect repellent, lots of it! Iced coffee in the Twins mug, water in the yellow mug, leather gloves and a chair to sit on and book to read during the down times.

Lots of DeWalt tools and battery chargers and batteries.

The safety harness clip securely fastened to the tree, Bruce did not spare any screws on this, it was the only thing between him and a two story drop to the ground!

Our scaffolding and work table....

....and music, always music.

Let the building begin!

I found my niche, I can drill holes....

....cut tin, it's really fun with the power shears.....

...and lift sheets to the roof.

Where Bruce is waiting with a smile, always smiling.

He's a master with the grinder, cutting a hole for the 'stink pipe.'

He shows off his walking the peak skills while putting on the ridge cap.

After two days, a trip to Alexandria for 8 more sheets of tin when we found we were short, a trip to Sauk Centre to get a cover for the sewer pipe when Bruce discovered he left the one home he bought, lots of sweat and a few cuts, we finished!!

Time to crack open the bubbly and chilled glasses, we drink nothing but the best!


After a shower, a short rest, we put the boat in Cedar Lake and went fishing, the first cast with the Blue Bruiser, it never fails Bruce.

We loaded the pickup with as much stuff as we could carry Sunday night and headed out early Monday morning for home.

Bruce is going to have to go fishing a few more times this year to bring everything back that we hauled up there.

There's no place like home.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I'm not sure when it happened, but Murphy seemed to grow up emotionally overnight, perhaps after she was spayed? We were always on her about throwing herself on Mollie, constantly chewing and generally making Mollie's life miserable.

I was instructed to keep Murphy quiet for 10 days after surgery, yeah right! After the first day it was difficult and only achieved by kenneling her. I had Murphy in the gazebo with me the day after surgery, I was reading and she was laying beside me. I became aware of a "Snap, snap, snap,....".

"What," I asked myself, "could that me?" Looking down I saw Murphy pulling on the first stitch of her incision, OUCH!! She'd pull, let go, ere the 'snap'. YIKES! It was after hours at the vet clinic so I took her in the house and attempted to make a cone collar out of a piece of poster board.

Murphy thought that was the most fun game I'd invented yet! It was a failure. So I turned to Mr. Google and found this easy solution. Take a bath towel, fold it in thirds, for my big dog, then wrap it tightly around and around her neck. Fasten securely, in this case I had vet wrap but pins, duct tape, anything that will keep it in place. Eureka!!

Murphy did not quite know what to think, she tried to jump backwards out of it but the real test was yet to come.

It was a success, the thickness of the towel kept her from bending her head enough to reach the stitches. By the next day she was getting hot, that was the downside so I removed it and watched her. She never bothered her stitches again.

I tell you, Mr. Google is one smart guy!

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......