Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Life and death on the farm

Every year Bomgaars ushers in spring with baby chicks and they are hard to resist, even though there is a big sign 'DO NOT HANDLE BABY CHICKS!!' I like getting a few pullets to replace the old hens that quit laying and this year my sister, Sara, picked up two Blue Wyandotts and two Speckled Sussex from the Bomgaars in Sioux City.

They start their life in the chick crib in the house until they begin to stink, then they are moved to the apartment in the coop to grow up until I think they are safe with the rest of the chickens.

The problem was not the other chickens but Murphy, she killed one of each which broke my heart, how could my darling puppy do that??

So that left Blue and Lucky, Lucky got her name by escaping the murderous Murphy and hiding out in the McGregor garden for five days, it was a joyous reunion when she and Blue were reunited.

They were best friends, never apart.....

....where one went, the other wasn't far behind.

They grew up into beautiful hens, Blue was especially striking with that dark blue head, and they were both finally laying, breaking the egg drought around here.

Last night I went to shut the chickens up and Blue was sitting on the floor, I picked her up without a struggle so knew something was up. I put her in the chick crib in the basement with some food and water and she ate some. Blue didn't have any symptoms of illness so I was hopeful but she died this morning.

I felt sorry for Lucky, last night when I carried Blue out of the coop, she tried to follow me and this morning she was waiting on top of the metal bucket I keep their sunflower seeds in. She cocked her head, looked at me and began crooning. I petted her and told her how sorry I was she lost her best friend. 

I took Blue's body to pond, we have a bald eagle hanging around she will provide some food for him, you know it's the circle of life. I did have to chuckle because I put her body in the back of the gator and called the dogs. They both came running, leaped in, took one look at her and jumped back out.

"Oh NO! You aren't blaming that on ME!!"

Murphy was in trouble a lot this summer and Mollie is always afraid she is to blame also.

"I told her not to do it!"

I must have gotten my message across because they refused to get in the gator until I moved Blue to the front with me.

That is life on the farm, where there is life, there will be death, we accept it, mourn it and move on.

Bruce's dad, Leo, said to him once, "You can't raise them all."

So true, so true.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Useless information or how to break the ice at a party!

"Did you know that rabbit urine can be blue?"

Imagine yourself at a gathering where you don't know anyone, you can start a scintillating conversation with the above information.

Honest! I could provide a picture if you don't believe me. I noticed there were blue spots in the snow around the oat bin, along with rabbit pellets where they clean up the spilled oats. After searching other places rabbits hang out, the same blue phenomenon and I said to myself, "What the Hey??"

So I turned to Mr. Google and this is what I found:

Our native rabbits (the eastern cottontail) have been browsing on an alien shrub (European buckthorn). The buckthorn contains a chemical that passes out with the urine, which comes out yellowish to brownish, but after exposure to sunlight, turns a lovely blue color. This effect is visible, of course, because the urine in question is suspended in snow. You would think that the cottontails are eating the berries of the buckthorn, because they are purplish, but according to the second reference above, the effect occurs after the rabbits eat other parts of the plant. Buckthorn holds its leaves long after most native deciduous plants, and in winter cottontails subsist largely on bark and twigs.  

One person compared the rabbit urine snow to a snow cone, YUM! YUM!

I believe I will pass.

So now when someone asks you a 'Duh' question, such as "Do you like chocolate chip cookies?", instead of replying, "Is a bluebird blue?" or "Does a bear, you know what in the woods?", you can reply, "Is a rabbit's urine blue?"

That's me, always trying to help you out.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Germantown chicken, yum, yum!

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling like I'd turned the corner......but then the invitation to have Germantown chicken and fries that night may have had healing properties in itself. Our neighbor's son was having a birthday and we were asked to help celebrate.

Wednesday nights are always a big night at The Hideout, a rousing business in this tiny town, because you get free fries! We love free!! Carson got to fill his plate first from the heavy laden trays of chicken and fries.

After cleaning up both trays, not a scrap was left, Bruce, Carson, Jon and Carly played a rousing game of Foosball. I'm not sure who was the winner but Carly was putting on some pretty fancy victory dances. 

Carson was born a farmer, he's been out helping his dad from the time he could walk. Bruce helped Jon finish up a field this fall and Carson was right there with them. He's quite accomplished, he drives the grain cart beside the combine so Jon can unload on the go.


 If Bruce can't stop for a couple of minutes to unload the combine, he can take the grain back to the bin by himself!

Carson says, "You got to keep that combine running if you are going to get done!"

He is a wise boy but I'm still not dumping on the go.

Carson was with Bruce in the tractor between loads and he was grumbling about school. He didn't see any reason for spending his days there when all he wanted to do was farm. So Bruce gave him the pep talk about how math is so important in farming, he better stay in school a little longer.

We were at their house this summer, cutting up a tree for firewood and saw a firepit out by the shed. Their mother, Val, said that the kids like building fires and toasting marshmallows but they always had to ask permission. One early morning when their 16 yr old cousin was staying, Carly came in their bedroom and whispered in her dad's ear and left. Later they found out the cousin shot a ground squirrel, a striped golpher, they skinned it, cooked it over the fire pit and ate it! 

Come visit, we'll take you to Germantown for chicken, the striped golphers are hibernating.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Spending quality time with the cats

This last week has passed in a blur as I have spent most of the time laid out on the couch, except for the times I was laid out in our bed, or traveling back and forth to Cherokee for shots or for my twice daily airing while I did chores. 

When we were kids and driving our mother crazy in the house, she would finally snap and order us out of the house to "Get the stink blowed off!!" 

It's good to get the stink blowed off but in doing so, is very exhausting so I find myself back on the couch to recuperate.

I am never alone, Clyde spends his days on one end of the couch, he gets a little testy when I want the entire thing, he thinks I should be happy with my end and the footrest. After all, he can't reach the lever.

For some unexplained reason, after living upstairs for years, Ghost has packed her bags and moved downstairs with the rest of the family.

Zoe took up residence in the computer chair, just a few feet away from the couch, to be within reach should she hear me coaxing the Ghost to come up. Zoe has tormented the Ghost from the time she set her mitten toes in the house and when she is caught, uses this pose to get out of trouble.

"Who ME??"

There are tense moments, this is the closest these two have been without fur flying and fur would have been flying had I not been nearby.
"Just wait, Ghost, she has to leave sometime, then I own you."
Clyde tries to be tough but he doesn't have the backbone, he was sitting by the couch when Ghost walked by him, heading to her perch on the top. Clyde did the 'tough cat neck thing' that tough cats do to an enemy to scare them off. Ghost stopped, opened her mouth and gave him a cat breath blast right in the face and continued on her way. Clyde suddenly remembered something he needed to do in the kitchen and left before Ghost changed her mind and pummeled him into the carpet.
Between the naps and the drama surrounding our cat family, the days go by and I will get stronger. As long as I never get sick like I did the first time, I can handle the increased chemo, that is my barometer. I'm looking for an end to this tunnel and get on with my life. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chemo #6, cranking things up a bit.

When I finally sat down with a calendar and figured out if I continued on the 1/2 dosage chemo every three weeks, I discovered I wouldn't be done until May 18 - GACK!!!!

That just won't work, we have too much to do around here, March starts calving season with heifers which means night checks. April the rest of the cows start coming in and Bruce is ramping up field work, weather permitting, we can't be spending entire days at Storm Lake and running the next week to Cherokee for shots.

Since I had been getting along so well with the chemo, I started thinking about asking Dr. Rao to ramp up the dosages to cut down the treatment time and discussed that plan with Bruce, who was all for it. Dr. Rao was on board, she said she would increase the Rituxin to a 3/4 dosage, then 1/2 of the Treanda today and 1/2 tomorrow. She said if all goes well, we will do two more treatments and then do a scan to see how things look and go from there.

As usual, my nurse, Sheri, settled me in the comfy recliner with a pillow and warm blanket, Bruce got the arm chair and TV. I pulled out my precious tablet with the hot pink cover and found the new book I downloaded yesterday and started reading. Then Sheri plugged in the Benedryl IV and it wasn't long before my eyes started getting heavy and the book made no sense. I gave up the fight and snoozed away the afternoon while Sheri increased the speed of the IV so we didn't have to spend the night there.

Bruce watched ball games, read some farm papers and even sneaked the tablet off my lap and was learning how to work it, he truly has the patience of Job. We were finally done, thanked everyone for their fine care, and there was still light to find the car in the parking lot. We decided to celebrate another day done by going to Hardee's for a Thickburger before heading home.

Tonight is going to be very cold, -15 or worse, so we were very pleased to find our appointment tomorrow isn't until 1 PM. Now Bruce does not have to get up before the butt crack of dawn and battle the bitter cold to get the cattle fed and fountains thawed. 

And it means that I can lounge in my pj's, build a fire and read a book, see previous blog.

I think I get the better deal.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The blizzard!

We had a blizzard last week, it was bad enough to cancel schools, postpone activities around the area, law enforcement was telling people to stay off the roads and not a snow flake fell from the sky. It was all caused by the 6 inches we had previously with winds whipped up to 60 MPH. 

It was nasty, at times we could hardly see the corn crib.

I knew I would be drafted into service to clean snow so Bruce had our trusty Mustang running by the time I got to the farm in the morning.

It was COLD!

"Get a picture of my breath!"

The calves didn't think that was very special.

"See our breath, we can do it out of each nostril."
I mounted the Mustang and began cleaning the bunk, it was level full.

I dumped it on the floor and Bruce pushed it out into the cattle yard....

....uh, see who has the cab with the heater???"

Down at the cow pen, the bulls, Louie and 9100, square off while waiting for their feed.

This is what Bruce does every morning, rain, shine, sleet, snow or blizzard.....

.....he feeds his hungry stock.

And this is what I do every morning, build a fire and have coffee in my pj's, while reading a book on my tablet....

....it's a dirty job but someone has to do it.

It looks like I need to clean my kitchen.

(I'm going to have to hide my camera where Bruce can't find it.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Keeping the home fires burning.

We love this in the winter.

But it takes a lot of this.......

....and a lot of this.

Bruce gets to do the big chunks that are too heavy for me to lift.

Some are really big......

.....and even give him a hard time.

While the dogs play.

Wouldn't you love to have a dog's life?

Bruce perseveres with the big guy. I learn a lesson about picking up wood off the ground while he is splitting, "THWACK!" a piece popped off and smacked me up along side the head!


Then we get this.....

....that buries the wood pile and splitter.

The temperature drops...

.....so we are really happy to have this to tide us over....

....until we have this again. Sigh.....

But on the upside, we are celebrating Murphy's 1st birthday today, January 7th!

This was baby Murphy at 3 weeks old.

This is our wild child today, she loves the snow and cold!

If Mollie knew then what she knows now......

....I don't think she would have been quite so welcoming!

Happy Birthday, Murphy!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Birds of a feather, flock together.

Bruce and I finally got our Christmas dinner, New Years's Day when we traveled to my old stomping grounds, Whiting. Our friends, Sam and Larry Waugh invited us down but when we arrived, we found out we were going just a mile away to their daughter, Heather's and her new husband, Aaron's house on another farm they own.

I had not been in that house for years, it was nice but Heather has really put her stamp on it with a new coat of paint in every room, ripped up carpets and refinished wood floors, they have made it into a beautiful home.

Heather has a couple of cockatiels, Hershel and Gus, while on a tour of the house, we saw their own room, a big closet off Heather's office, complete with toys, perches, newspaper carpet, lights, heater and a  mesh screen door....

.....which Gus clings to in an attempt to convince Heather to bring him out. In the spring, when they start replacing windows in the house, Aaron is going to put a window in their room so they can watch what goes on outside.

After a yummy dinner of prime rib, twice baked potatoes, salad, fresh rolls with homemade strawberry jam and an ice cream and hot fudge dessert, Heather brought Gus downstairs to join us.

Gus is quite the character and definitely a one woman bird, he would leave her to walk around on the couch but didn't stay away long.

Gus is very photogenic and his top feathers very expressive, if he was on alert, they stand straight up. Hershel was Heather's first cockatiel, she was distraught when he flew out the door one day when she let the dog out and was gone for several months over the winter. Heather figured he was gone forever when she got a call from a friend who was at the humane society and said they had a cockatiel that whistled the 'Andy Griffith' song Heather had taught him. He was in deplorable shape, had plucked a lot of his feathers out, something they do when stressed. She brought him back home but he has remained a nervous bird and not very sociable.

If Heather has something to drink, Gus joins her.

Bruce thought he would get acquainted with Gus....

"Polly want a cracker?"
"Touch Polly and you will draw back a bloody stub!"

Gus treated us to a concert, Heather tried to get him to do Andy Griffith also but he was into his own thing.

Since both Sam and Heather also have chickens, I made some Knock Off Flock Blocks to take for treats. I found the recipe on Pinterest, what else?? The ingredients are chicken crumbles, cracked corn, oatmeal, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, eggs, shells and all, fruit, molasses, and water. Mix it all together and bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours, warning, the house will smell heavenly!

I tried it out on my chickens first and they gobbled two small blocks in one day. 

It's a wonder I wasn't down there with them.

Before we left I wanted to see Heather's chickens, I forgot to take their flock block over so they didn't get a taste test. She has a possum who spends the night in one of the nest boxes, YISH!

Back at Sam and Larry's, we took her hens a treat........

.....and the jury is still out.


After a great day of good food, good company and great memories, we hit the road for home. The next day I needed to run to Cherokee for groceries  and on the way home I saw two bald eagles in a field. I still had my camera in the car and fired off a few shots as they flew away.

I was just sorry I didn't have my new big, honking lens but I have a lot to learn first and the weather is not conducive to sitting outside and taking pictures.

Doesn't it just make you want to burst out into The Star Spangled Banner?

In the privacy of your own home, that is.

Go ahead, no one will know.