Wednesday, June 30

Eve of Destruction



When we moved in to the house, there was, to the left of the back door, a wall of ivy crawling up the side of the house. It was only a little over two feet and it was pretty.

Now that we have been here 5 years, the ivy has decided to take over. It has worked its way into the basement walls through the tiniest of cracks and I have vines coming into the basement across the ceiling. It has grown up under the vinyl siding on the house and is creeping into the door frame. In short, it is slowly eating the house.

I have seen enough episodes of Life After People to know that vines and trees and plant life can make short work of bringing down a building so I knew the ivy had to go.

No matter how pretty and 'english garden-like', it had to go.

That stuff is strong. I could not get it out. It was so entrenched in the ground by the basement wall and so secured under the siding that it was not going to budge. Roy came out one morning and did the man thing, attacking the ivy until it was all pulled down and away from the house. Then I went in with trimmers and got the majority of the ivy out. We still have to dig out a few of the major roots but we cannot see our basement wall. And we have a window!

I am planning on getting the area cleared of ivy roots and tilling the whole mess and letting it sit for a while. I am debating leaving it to turn to grass which would be easy, or if I want to add yet another garden to the yard. Something simple, like lilies that don't require much maintenance and tend to fill in fast.

It is hard to not feel like a murderer. I hate to kill a plant on purpose, even if it has to go. I have a terrible time thinning seedlings. But for now, the ivy is gone and I am not as sad as I thought I would be.

Tuesday, June 29

Can't Believe I Forgot This!

Wednesday, June 23rd we had an earthquake here in Upstate NY. It was centered in Canada but we sure felt it here at the farm!

The table I was sitting at shook back and forth and I could feel the floor shaking under my feet. Things on shelves in the kitchen rattled and Snowy whined and paced around the kitchen before heading for the basement.

I have only experienced one other earthquake in my life, in 2002 I think. Kind of unsettling, I have to say.

Earthquake List

Photographic Cooperation

Sometimes they cooperate very nicely:



And sometimes they don't:


Monday, June 28

Resolution Report

In keeping with my New Year’s Resolutions, I tried a new food yesterday: Blueberries.

Yes, I know, you are saying "how could she never have had blueberries before?" But it is true.

A bit strange to bite down on one, but not the 'pop' I was expecting (dreading). It was a little tart but mostly bland. I had another one just to make sure - yep, the same.

So, not totally thrilled with blueberries but I did not totally hate them either. I was left with the question, 'why?'. They really don't have a distinctive taste, as far as I can tell.

Maybe I got a bad batch?

Sunday, June 27

An Exceptional Egg

I don't know how it is with most people who keep chickens but I think it is an exciting adventure. Maybe after I have had them for a longer period of time, it will not be such a thrill to check for eggs or to hold a chicken on my lap. But for now, and I think it WILL actually last forever, I love this whole chicken keeping business.

The neat stuff just keeps coming. Today I found this egg - it was HUGE!!!! It bottomed out the egg scale.


I placed it on the table next to an egg, the size we usually get:


I was still awestruck so I broke out the ruler:



And then, Roy wanted an omelet. So I thought I should use 'monster egg', and it turned out to be a double yolk! The surprises just keep coming!


These are the things that fill my day. Now that I am a home-maker/'lite' homesteader, I spend a lot of time, well, here at the home. And I love it! I do not miss my job and I dread having to run errands. Yes, we are doing with less but it is ok. My favorite part of the day is the trip out to the garden and the chicken coop. Connor eats raw, shelled peas right for the garden, standing next to me, waiting for his serving of fresh produce.

My days are chickens, gardens, hanging laundry on the line and lounging with the little guy in the lawn chairs. I love my full days. And I love the coop surprises.

I am worried about one thing however. How on earth did one of my ladies lay that egg!!??!?!?!

Friday, June 25

Mouse in the House



I am not a stranger to a mouse or two in the house. It happens. Especially when it's an old house and two out of my three cats are so over-fed and "portly" that they could have a mouse come and sit on the end of their nose without a second thought.

Cheese, my youngest, still finds a thrill or two in chasing a mouse. One night last week I was awakened in the middle of the night to the cries of a young mouse doing its best to escape from Cheese. She had it cornered under the elliptical machine, and since I wanted sleep and not a mess to clean up in the morning, I corralled Cheese long enough for the little mouse to get away and find refuge under the steamer trunk.

Some of you might say that it is not a great thing to have mice in one's home. I would agree. But I can live with the occasional mouse in that he or she usually meets his or her end in a short period of time by way of the cat.

Or I find a way to catch the mouse and put it outside rather than kill it, via cat.

This was the case the other night.

We were watching tv on one of our last night’s of having cable when all of a sudden, "squeak, squeak, squeak."

Cheese had cornered a small dark gray mouse in a pile of shoes. It took a little time but the mouse managed to get away and run under the couch. I did not really want to sit on a couch with a mouse under it and a frantic cat trying her best to get under said couch, so I went in the other room.

Roy called me back a few minutes later and I arrived to see the mouse, half way up my living room drapes. Cheese had not seen the mouse yet or she would have also been swinging from the drapes at this point. We grabbed the baby's toy drum, flipped it upside-down, caught the mouse in it and released him outside to the wilds.

Thus is the excitement we can look forward to on our nights without cable tv in the future.

Tuesday, June 22

Utah's Loss

I do not live in Utah. I live in beautiful upstate NY. I have been to Utah and it is also beautiful. But I am a New Yorker, born and raised.

I have listened to a radio show for as long as I can remember. Some of you may not like this show but I find it entertaining, informative and a positive addition to my day. I listen to Bob Lonsberry on WHAM 1180. He is a part of my day. Sometimes I do not agree with him, sometimes I do. Sometimes it is political, sometimes it is about self sufficiency, sometimes about his family and about his weekend, and sometimes it is just something really funny. I just like it and I am used to it and, like I said, it is a part of my day.

Bob also broadcasts a morning show on KNRS in Utah. On too early in the morning for me to tune in live on the internet, but they offer a downloadable podcast that I listen to when I am walking with the little guy or gardening or when I am out on the mower. It was also a part of my day. Maybe not every day, but a part none the less.

I have come to think of Bob and his co-host / producers as friends. Please don't think I am strange, or a stalker or anything like that. When you get used to hearing someone at certain times during the day and you follow their lives through their stories, you become a little invested.

All this changed for me on Wednesday the 16th when I heard that Bob was fired from his job at KNRS">KNRS, along with his son Lee, who produced the show. I was pretty upset to say the least and it totally put me in foul mood for the rest of the day. I really enjoyed listening to the Utah show. He talked about different things than on the Rochester show, I enjoyed hearing about his adventures in Utah when he visited there and I enjoyed his segment where he discussed daily life on the air with Lee. Sometimes I miss the Rochester show due to baby obligations or whatever, so I counted on the Utah show to get me through.

Now, I am not addicted or crazy, I just like what I like. And I get used to things. I have a schedule and I like to stick to it.

Now my schedule is all screwed up. I am actually, truthfully upset about this.

I am sitting here now, in the kitchen, baby napping, the rain pouring down and Bob is on the solar radio, chatting away on WHAM. It's getting humid but I am happy. We still have my favorite radio show here in Rochester. I feel bad for the people in Utah.

Apparently, the people in Utah are not happy either. See link below:

Bring Bob Lonsberry Back to Utah

There are many ideas floating around the web as to why he and his sone were let go. Political, ratings, etc. I don't know what the truth is but all I can say is that Bob says what he thinks and some people don't like that. I like to think that most of the time it is mostly just common sense. And, like I said before, sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't. Roy does not like the show, even through my best efforts to get him to listen. He is more on an NPR fan, which I will listen to once a while. I will listen to whatever interests me, regardless of the political undertones of a particular station.

Bottom line is that I think it really stinks that he is off the air. KNRS has lost a great show - the only local news show on that station as far as I can tell. He has been replaced by Glenn Beck. I used to like Glenn Beck. On rare occasions, I still do. But I really think that Glenn has just gone a little nuts.

(Shhhh, but I think he has a bunker stocked with Ensure and gold somewhere.)

Monday, June 21

My First Day of Summer Present



The first day of summer, was a pretty good day. The weather was just about perfect - not too hot, not humid, a little breeze. Perfect.

The little man was behaving, we got a lot done, we went for a nice walk and he took a good long nap. And I got do hang out the laundry.

Now, all this by itself would be a chalked up to a pretty good day in my book. But I got a bonus.

While I was hanging out the laundry, I heard a commotion in my neighbor’s barn, which is behind our barn and in plain view of my clothes line. The barn swallows were going crazy - swooping around and screaming at something. I thought it was the wood chuck which lives in the barn but normally, when Mr. Woodchuck ventures out for his meal of grass, they don't go THAT crazy.

Then I wanted as a coyote pup came out of the barn, completely surrounded by barn swallows dive bombing him. He was a little older than a pup, I guess you would call him a coyote teenager. He was beautiful - his tail was not filled in yet and he was a reddish-brown color. He came up my garden of lilies, still surrounded by swooping birds, and headed up my driveway towards me.

He did not see me since I was occupied with the birds. I grabbed my camera from the picnic table and I would have gotten a fantastic shot but the battery was dead!!! I HATE CAMERA BATTIERIES!!!! So all I could do was watch and I guess I can be happy with that.

Note: Picture above was not taken by me.

He was about 25 feet from me, saw me, and froze. He stood there, birds and all, and looked at me and I at him. I took one small step forward and he turned around and half walked/half ran towards the back field, still being swooped down on by birds.

He went all the way out the barn access road, to the main road and across to the corn field. Only then, when he was across the road, did the birds let up.

What a great privilege to have him so close that I could stand a admire him.

But I am not so enthralled as to forget that this was a coyote, cute, but still a coyote. I checked on the chickens, even though he was not near them at all. The girls were all in their coop, as I guess they sense danger and went to their safe place. Good girls.

Good day today.

Sunday, June 20

Buffet-Style



My ladies now eat buffet-style.

Thanks to their habit of flinging bits of shavings, straw and poo into the water fonts and feeders, I decided that a little height was in order.

I did not want to suspend them from the ceiling because the younger girls are jumping and flying all over the place and I would just end up with water and food all over the floor from the collisions. So I got an old, thick board, painted it white since there were some oil-like stains on the board, and screwed it to some left over 4 x 4 post ends.

It keeps the feeders and fonts cleaner and it keeps things off the floor.

Thursday, June 17

A Good Reason Not to Name Them.

A couple of days ago, I posted about my aniamls, both wild and farm. I mentioned how I restrained myself from naming the woodchucks and the other wild babies for a few reasons.
So this morning when I got up with the little man, I wondered over to the front door and watched "the woodchuck" munching on grass in my front yard. I little closer to the road than i would have liked but, he is not my pet and he has free will. I watched him eat for a few minutes, was happy he was there and went to get breakfast.
A while later, when Roy was up and getting ready to leave for work, I let Snowy out the front door on her line and saw the woodchuck laying in the road, hit by a car. I was so absolutely sad - I had just been watching him eat and enjoying the fact that he chose to eat my grass and let me watch him. It had made me happy, as it does every day. And now he was gone, in a span of just a hour.
I told Roy about him and that I had just been watching him. Roy said "I'm sorry. Sometimes it is just a cruel world."
This was a big woodchuck. There is no way that you could be driving down the road and a) not see him and, b) not feel something when you hit him. I just wonder about the kind of people who can just go on driving without stopping. Or, I am reminded of another time when I saw an empty tow truck hit a deer and while the poor deer was laying on the side of the road, thrashing in pain, the guy was more concerned about his undercarriage. Not that he could have done anything to ease the pain of the deer, unless he happened to have a gun. In fact, there was not much he could have done but it just seemed so heartless to me to now even show a bit of concern and glance in the deer’s direction.

Roy went out to the road in his good work clothes with the snow shovel and moved the woodchuck to the field tall with weeds and flowers across the road. We both noticed that when we saw the woodchucks belly, that it was in fact a girl and that she had babies somewhere. I only hope that the other woodchucks I have seen around the same outbuilding are her babies and they are all old enough to survive on their own. I will mention it to my neighbor in hopes that she will keep an eye out for them.

But Roy is right, this is a cruel world. I know it is also full of good and wonderful things and that the laws of nature include death. It just seems so wrong when that death comes not from a natural predator, but from a speeding sport utility.

This incident and I think a buildup of other small incidents that strike a sour note with me, have confirmed my recent thoughts that we are not far enough out. This area, although agricultural, is turning suburban. Not that we are moving any time soon - we love it here. But some day, we might want to go out where the roads are dirt, you don't have to worry about the neighbors teenagers hanging around, and you might not have to worry about Crosstown development coming to destroy the landscape with cheaply built modern houses. At least not in my lifetime, hopefully.

This cruel world makes me cynical.

I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing.

Wednesday, June 16

More...





Seriously - could there BE any more blooms on one little tip of a branch???? This is my love today (and yesterday and probably tomorrow). I just knew it was going to be a good year for the roses.....

Monday, June 14

Animal Inventory

Today was a day of wildlife in the yard. I saw more woodland creatures today than in many other days combined. The roll call was as follows:

A family of woodchucks in the back yard and another group across the road
A baby red squirrel (they are FAST!)
Tons of new starlings foraging around the yard for a meal and testing out their wings
A new little brown bunny eating grass
One wild turkey (shy)
One coyote that came out of the newly plowed corn field, stood in the middle of the road, looked around, then ran up the middle of the road and took a sharp turn into the pine trees. Wow was he (or she) pretty!

Add all this to the recent black bear sightings in Irondequoit and Pittsford and we are living in the wilds around here.

We also have a barn swallow nesting on our front porch which is the first time they have done that since we have lived here. They mostly stay in the barn - and multiply like crazy. Mowing the lawn is quite a show since they come out in force to swoop down around the mower looking to catch bugs jumping out of the path of the blades.

Robins are also nesting in the barn, right next to the door so every time you have to go in there you get a scolding from momma. The upper barn is full of starlings, and they have also managed to find an unsealed section of the solar panels to nest in this season. I don't mind this except that they like to come out and pass the time by pooping on the top of the panels. This looks kind of bad since our black panels are streaked with white on the top sections. I'll have to get a long-handled broom and clean the droppings off as soon as the nest is vacated.

I am very happy with the boom in our wildlife population, and with the addition of our chickens, this actually feels like a real farm. I like to think of them all as part of my day here. I am used to seeing them, not usually all in the same day, but I have developed an attachment. Especially to the woodchucks. They just seem very innocent to me and I love to see them run. They can go quite fast, I have noticed, and they just kind of shake all over like Jello with fur. I will not name them because this will lead to two things: the first, that I will be very, very sad to see one of them in the road one day after a meeting with a car, and secondly, I don't want the neighbors to think I am nuts.

I have, however, named my 6 older chicken ladies after careful deliberation with the baby during our poultry television the other day. I now have Hildred, Mildred, Gertrude, Gladys, Abigail and Spot.

Hildred is pictured below, looking quite annoyed with her new name but resigned to it none the less. I have mentioned her before. She is the meanest chicken but i think that under it all she has a good heart and good intentions. Kind of like that really crass aunt that everyone seems to have at least one of.


Saturday, June 12

My Day

Today is my day. Since Roy will not be here tomorrow due to work obligations, and tomorrow being my birthday, he said I get today for me. Anything I want to do (within budget, which isn't much, but at least it is something).

I was the in garden. I had Roy out there with the tiller and we were working the weeds and surveying the plants and getting things done. The corn has started out pitifully this year, as did the beans. Out of 4 rows of corn only about 1/2 a row germinated. Same with the beans. Since I have never had good luck with corn, i am not surprised. the beans, however, make me sad. I have always had excellent luck with beans. Even when nothing else went right in the garden, like last year, i could always count on there being beans. I absolutely could not kill them.

My peas are doing well though as are the potatoes and the white onions. My goal for these next few days are to get some more potatoes in as well as some red onions. The tomatoes are doing very well, to my surprise as are the hot peppers. the green bell peppers are still very small so I am hoping that they have some sort of growth spurt any day now. I managed to get the rest of my starter squash plants in the other night and the zucchini and cucumber plants are spreading. I really don't even like zucchini, but what is a garden without a few big green zucchinis mixed in there!?!?

I have still been using the metal tomato cages even though I really don't like them. They are hard to get into the ground if it is even a little rocky and they just don't seem to work the way I like. I am searching for a more sustainable alternative for all of my climbing veggies - this season I made a fence for my beans instead of the tepees I usually use. I think this will allow for more even climbing and it has already proven to save garden space and tilling time.

i want to try something like this for the tomatoes - something that I can take apart and re-use every year. I have a ton of pine trees with the long 'arms', the dead ones being nice and straight and great for poles. i think this is the route I will try next - some sort of pole/fence system that I can take apart and store over the winter. But I will use the metal ones until they break since I don't just want to throw them away. I am very much into reusing anything I can and I can usually make it look half way decent and not like a big crazy hodge-podge of leftovers. Just another step to living a more responsible life.

One last note on the edible gardens, I did not get a single strawberry this year. I moved the plants from the vegetable garden area over to the front of the barn in with the roses since they got more hot, direct sunlight. The plants did very well and I would have had a nice little strawberry crop if the birds would have left them alone. Note to self: next year get some poultry netting and make a little strawberry cage.

Thursday, June 10

Braggin'





Pride is the gardener’s worst sin. And I am the guiltiest gardener today.

I have, honestly, hundreds and hundreds of roses blooming right now. Every bush, climbing vine and trellised rose I have is bursting with blooms. So many that I can still not even really believe that something could be so pretty. I just like to stand outside and look at them.

I am full of gardener’s pride.

The irises are just about done now but i still have a few blues and maroons holding on. The lilies are starting to come on strong now as the peonies are drooping and shedding petals. It seems like the peonies did not last long this season.

Is it just me or has nothing lasted this spring? It seems like everything blooms wonderfully and looks great but it only lasts a very short time. Didn't iris and peony used to bloom longer?

Wednesday, June 9

Budgets and Colby Donaldson



A few posts ago, I wrote about how we were off-the-internet-grid for a few days. You will be happy to know that I did not collapse from facebook withdrawal and I have been happily downloading podcasts of my favorite radio show as if nothing ever happened.

Having this happen made me realize a few things. First, I am addicted to the internet and I cannot live without it. And secondly, that I am addicted to the internet and I cannot live without it. No, I did not have a typing error. I have a problem.

Not the type of problem that warrants an intervention living room full of family members but something to question none the less.

So when Roy came to me this morning with the dreaded "budget" idea, I cringed as usual, hoped it was flitting idea that would pass, and braced myself for another round of "No more clearance Target tank tops!" But he did not mention tank tops. He mentioned the cable bill.

And I did not cringe.

He wants to cancel the cable and I agree.

I never thought I would see the day when I would agree to this. But it is here and i am not afraid. It is not the internet, which is wonderful. Just the cable, which I can live with.

This whole loss of internet thing has made me realize how absolutely, absurdly, obsessed I am with certain things that really don't matter too much. Why does it matter to me how many re-runs of MASH I see or that I need Robin Meade to tell me all the horrible things that happened in the world while I was sleeping over my morning toast?

Today the word 'budget' did not say 'run for the hills' to me. It said 'simplify' and 'you don't really need this'. And I listened and it is being cancelled at the end of week.

We still get regular, local channels and we are happy with that. Anything we desperately need to see, we can most likely watch online. Hockey season is another matter but Roy promises he will figure out something that lets me watch my beloved Buffalo Sabres.

So we are not off-the-grid, we do not have a rotary phone, and my lights still burn bright, all be it with compact fluorescent bulbs.

But between budgets being necessary and my quest to be more self-sufficient, I think this is actually a good idea.

If any of you out there can tell me what happens on Top Shot next week, I would appreciate it. (Note: I really don't care who hits the target as much as I like seeing Colby.)

Tuesday, June 8

Milk Jugs = Best Idea EVER!



Saving milk jugs is a pain. Rinsing them out, hanging them to dry - a pain.

All winter I saved them and cleaned them and hung them by their handles on a cord stretched between two nails across the span of my basement. Just annoying to look at and I knew that I might not have rinsed them well enough and come spring, I would be carving the bottoms off of moldy, smelly milk jugs.

I had a little mold but not much and after I sliced the bottoms off this past spring, I still doubted them. I didn't think these mini-greenhouse cloches would work. The plants would dry out or the wind would blow them away or the neighbors would think I was experimenting with a new form of yard decoration.

So I decided to do a test row. I took about 15 struggling tomato plants out of the basement around May 1st and planted them in one row, spaced evenly apart. These were the runts of my litter - the plants that didn’t get thinned that were small and that I did not think would make it. The plants that were being made fun of by the towering tomato plants under the adjacent grow light.

I wasn’t expecting much and it was just a test .

I placed one jug over each plant, no tops, and anchored teach one with two small metal "mini-stakes." These were actually chain link fence ties that we had left over from the old house. They make perfect mini-stakes for a job just such as this.

I staked my row and though it was a wasted effort and left them alone.

A couple of weeks later, I noticed that there were leaves pushing against the inside of the jugs and I pulled one jug off and before me I saw a beautiful tomato plant. Perfect, green, sturdy and healthy. Every plant in the row was the same.

My ugly ducklings had turned into nice tomato swans and I kicked myself for doubting my recycled cloches. They worked great!!!! I cannot say enough good things about them!!!

I now have them on my green bell pepper plants since they like the humid temps and the towering tomatoes from the basement are now getting a run for their money from the little brothers they picked on all those months.

Since I have been gardening, I have had horrible luck with my tomatoes in one way or another.

I have a feeling this year will be different.

Monday, June 7

The Sidewalk To Nowhere



When we were looking for a new home, I had a list of things that i wanted. I wanted an old house - the older the better. At least 100 years. It had to have room to farm, hardwood floors (original would be a plus) and we had to be able to afford it.

We got everything we wanted in this house, except for one thing. A screened in porch. I wanted a screened in porch for plants and the cats and for comfy chair sitting/reading time. Come to find out that there used to be a screened in porch off the west side of the house, where the kitchen is now. They got rid of it to expand the kitchen, which was actually nice since I like a big kitchen. The sidewalk to what was once the outside porch entrance was still in the yard though and I named it my "sidewalk to nowhere."

It was crumbling and annoying to mow around. (

Me: "I want the sidewalk to nowhere taken up so I can put in a garden".
Roy: "Do you know how thick those slabs are??!!??! It would take forever with a rented jackhammer."

End of debate.

But fate smiled on me as a friend runs Brown Dog Development. I got my mulch for him this year and while we was dumping the brown gold in a pile in the driveway I asked him about the sidewalk.

Me: "Do you have a jackhammer that would take up that sidewalk?"
BDD: "No, but i could just bring the backhoe down and break it up."
Me: "Would you take the chunks of concrete away?"
BDD: "Yep"
Me: "OK, do it."

So easy.

Sidewalk to nowhere gone. Clean fill dirt brought it. Garden planted. I am happy.



Sunday, June 6

Evil Chicken



I was hoping, that when I acquired my flock, they would welcome my presence, let me pet them and sit on my lap. That they would listen to my troubles and cluck softly in understanding. That they would be happy and healthy and loving and wonderful little examples of well-mannered chickens.

I was mostly right, I am happy to report. I have one golden comet who is all dark brown in color with streaks of black in her tail. She sat on my lap and I got to pet her like a cat. I think this is just so cool, and I don’t care if it makes me weird. I fully integrated the flock this past weekend since they have just about done it themselves anyway with the fence-hopping antics of the younger generation. There was the expected pecking order dance but everyone seems to be getting along well.

There is however, one exception. Isn't there always just that one exception in just about any situation? She is a mean lady, this one. One of the six older ladies, she has always been a little cantankerous and just a bit strange. She is missing some feathers on her rear end area and this seems to make her angry at the world.

She is not viciously aggressive but she does not hesitate to put all the other girls in their place and she seems to have a dislike for my black muck boots. She will come right at me every time I venture into the coop for egg retrieval or font refilling, and she goes for the legs. Peck, peck, peck.

It does not hurt, mind you, and she may just be thinking that my leg is a garden. See, I have a big tattoo on my lower left leg of poppies and blossoms and monarch butterflies. But I cannot help buy notice the evil look in her eye when she makes a run at me. She is just one of those cranky old hens, I suppose.

Since I got the ladies, they have been laying on average about 6 eggs a day. All have been good, normal looking eggs. About 4 days ago however, I noticed a VERY soft shelled egg which was very light in color. The shell was so soft that I could hardly pick it up and it broke apart in my hand on the trip to the compost pile. Since then I have had two more like this.

The ladies get plenty of good feed and oyster shells so I am just going to chalk it up to stress from the integration. I will keep an eye out however.

So I now have one flock. One flock of happy ladies, save one.
PS – Happy 200th post to me!

Wednesday, June 2

And we never rode the golf cart again.....

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to my Grandparents home in Stuben County, NY. Since they moved here in 1980, we have all called it "the farm." It is a 200 year old dairy farm, the house of which they have lovingly restored. They had chickens at one time but they are now content with their two cats, numerous deer, skunks, raccoons and the occasional black bear.

My parents, Roy, the baby and I all went for lunch and some fun. We arrived to the sound of a chain saw and soon Dad and Roy were helping Grandpa saw huge logs into chunks that he could later run through the wood splitter. They still heat with wood, and only wood, during the cold winter months.

While they were getting dirty and sawdust covered, I spent some alone time in the woods gathering pine cones for Christmas decoration and taking pictures around the pond and the pine trees. The acreage is massive and they use a small tractor, a 4-wheeler and a golf cart to get around the property when needed.

The golf cart is fun. Very, very fun. We all love to drive it and we are all guilty of going too fast, taking turns too sharp and getting into the field areas where the water pools. Grandma is very particular about her golf cart. She is particular about pretty much everything and is a total control freak, like my mother, and like me. A nice family trait. So every time, we get some instructions - " Don't go in the low part of the spruce filed, it's muddy. Don't try to take the path in the woods, it's steep and the breaks are not great. Don't go too fast and stay out of where there is water and ........"

And it is always the same with us - "OK Grandma." And Mom and I take off, me driving, going way too fast, on trails that we should not be on and having a great time. You always feel a little bad when Grandma secretly inspects the golf cart when you get back and she thinks you are not looking.

But you get that scarce feeling of getting away with something.

I took the golf cart out myself doing my alone time and I spent a great deal of time cruising around all areas of the property. They used to have a very large Christmas tree plantation so there are rows upon rows of tree now much too tall and bushy to cut and sell. Fields and woods - with trails kept up and some that are grown over. I don't know what came over me but I decided to be a little reckless and take the upper field path by the big pines, despite warnings of mud and wet areas on the trail.

Yes, as you are probably thinking, I did get stuck. In the mud. And I was wearing flip flops. At this point I had two options. I could walk back to the house and admit that I got stuck somewhere that I should not have been in the first place and have Grandpa come tow me out with the tractor. This would incur the full wrath of Grandma and I did not want to make her upset. Option two was to get out and push.

I chose option two.

So in flip flops and cropped jeans and nice white t-shirt with a little lamb on it, I pushed the red golf cart as hard as I could. This is not as easy as it sounds, if it might sound the least bit easy to you. This particular golf cart operates by pressing down on the gas pedal and when you let up, it automatically stops running so there is no neutral. You can not physically push it. So I had to figure out some way of holding the pedal down and pushing at the same time. This was resolved with a big rock.

With rock on pedal and my flip flops in the mud, I push and got all splattered with mud and dirty water and it finally came free. Now I had the problem of a golf cart taking off without anyone steering it since the rock was still on the pedal. Imagine me trying to run in mud covered flip flops through a field trying to catch a red and white runaway golf cart which is now covered in mud up to the wheel wells.

I caught it and stopped it and wondered how I would explain this.

I stopped at the pond and cleaned off my feet and shoes but I had no way of cleaning off the cart. Driving it into the pond was NOT an option and I did not have a bucket. What to do.....

Go as fast as possible down the road and hope the mud flies off.

This worked, kind of, and I was able to pull the cart into the driveway and say "Well, I hit a little muddy spot and it got a little dirty but I will make sure it is cleaned off."

Grandma was not happy but she didn’t say anything bad. Mom just looked at me and tried not to laugh as she could see the side and butt of my jeans were muddy and wet.
Now comes the part where you feel bad. I wanted to clean the golf cart. To restore it to its spotless glory. But Grandma does not have an outdoor water faucet or a hose. They never got around to installing one on the house of the barn so I was left to figure out how I might get water and clean this thing off.

But then a light bulb came on. I recruited Mom and the baby. I had mom distract Grandma while I went into the wood shed (which Grandma probably wanted to take me out behind) and got a big yellow pail. I hoped it was not the bird food pail or the cat litter scooping pail, since Grandma has all her pails lined up, according to size and purpose.

By this time it was time to help Grandpa and Dad carry the small row boat up to the pond of the summer season and this distracted Grandma long enough to get myself, Mom and baby in the golf cart and take off to the pond. We took the shortcut through the woods and parked on the edge of the pond, partially hidden by the trees. I jumped out and left Mom holding the baby on the cart while I carefully scooped up bucketfuls of pond water and tossed them on the wheels, cleaning them of mud and clumps of grass roots.

This was working pretty well and I had one side sparkling and half of the other side pretty clean. But it still needed a few buckets full. Mom was still sitting on the cart holding the little man on the still-dirty side and I had another big bucket ready to splash on the wheel when we heard people coming. It was Grandma and Roy and I was about to be caught. I knew she would be mad, even though I was doing my best to clean off the cart. I had “borrowed” a bucket that probably was not supposed to be used for water hauling and it was just another situation that I wanted to avoid. So I freaked in the middle of the throwing of the water and it went everywhere but on the muddy wheel. In fact, it went all over the back of Mom, soaking her shorts. It missed the baby, fortunately and he just sat there looking bored. Mom let out a muted scream and the jig was up. Grandma was there and we were caught.

I said “I think it is time to fess-up.”

I was laughing because it was actually pretty funny and Mom was laughing and Roy and Grandma were looking at us like we were crazy. Why was Mom all wet? Why was I laughing uncontrollably?

I explained what I was doing and what happened and why Mom was soaked and I went back to the pond to get another bucket full because I was bound and determined to get that damn golf cart clean if it was the last thing I did. And it very well might have been.

I dropped the bucket.

In the pond.

It sank.

I was laughing so hard I almost fell in the pond. I ended up calf deep in dirty pond water. Everyone else was thinking this was pretty funny at this point and I went to get an oar from the boat to fish the bucket out of the pond. I retrieved the bucket, finished cleaning off the cart and scared all the fish pretty good.


Scared Fish.

I stated then and there that I never wanted to get anywhere near that golf cart ever again and I made Roy drive it back to the barn. I walked with Mom in her wet shorts and a baby that was still looking bored and confused. Then I spent the rest of our visit apologizing to Grandma and hoping that she wasn’t too mad at me.

I managed to laugh hysterically, feel really naughty and guilty, and have a great afternoon all in one day. And, the view is to die for:




But I do not think we will be invited back (exaggerating here). And I know for a fact that I will never ride that golf cart ever again.

Smell This

I follow a blog entitled 'Rurally Screwed' (very entertaining and informative) and the other day I read a post about pear cider. Here is part of the post:

"The other night Jake was bottling hard pear cider in the designated brew room and I heard him exclaim, “Blugh! This cider tastes like crap.”

I went over to check out what he was doing. He looked at me with a tortured expression and thrust a bottle in my face. “Here, drink this.”


As soon as I read that I thought "Why do guys always do that?" Roy is totally guilty of this in that he is constantly saying things like "Oh, that’s gross, here, smell this" and "this is terrible, here, taste this."

Why in hell would I want to smell or taste something that was proceeded by the words gross or terrible!!!??!!?? Like I am actually going to taste or smell said object after that. And the worst part is, he is shocked when I don't want to!

I have determined that this is a guy thing and that in a strange, cave-man way, they are doing something that every guy must have embedded in their DNA.

To prove this point, I did a small search online about "smells" and i found this article on Internet Odor. Apparently someone, most probably a guy, decided that it would be good if you could smell things while surfing around online. My favorite quote from the article has to be "A small amount of the aroma is emitted by the device in the direct vicinity of the user."

Only a guy would put the words 'aroma', 'emitted', 'device' and 'vicinity' in the same sentence.

And did I mention that the huge banner ad on that page was for a John Deere Tractor? It’s 'Deere Season', apparently.

Neat History Thing

You know me, I am a sucker for anything historical. Especially when it involves the WWII era. I got this email the other day, a 'forward', which I normally delete. But i thought this was worthy of passing on:

"Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British Airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape...

Now obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end is a useful and accurate map, one showing
not only where stuff was, but also showing the locations of 'safe houses' where a POW on-the-lam could go for food and shelter.

Paper maps had some real drawbacks -- they make a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they wear out rapidly, and if they get wet, they turn into mush.
Someone in MI-5 (similar to America 's OSS ) got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. It's durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads, and unfolded as many times as needed, and makes no noise whatsoever.

At that time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John Waddington, Ltd. When approached by the government, the firm was only too happy to do its bit for the war effort.

By pure coincidence, Waddington w also the U.K. Licensee for the popular American board game, Monopoly. As it happened, 'games and pastimes' was a category of item qualified for insertion into 'CARE packages', dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war.

Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible old workshop on the grounds of Waddington's, a group of sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany or Italy where Allied POW camps were regional system). When processed, these maps could be folded into such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.

As long as they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddington's also managed to add:
1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass
2. A two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together
3. Useful amounts of genuine high-denomination German, Italian, and French currency, hidden within the piles of Monopoly money!

British and American air crews were advised, before taking off on their first mission, how to identify a 'rigged' Monopoly set -- by means of a tiny red dot, one cleverly rigged to look like an ordinary printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square.

Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWS who successfully escaped, an estimated one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets. Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely, since the British Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in still another, future war.

The story wasn't declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from Waddington's, as well as the firm itself, were finally honored in a public ceremony."

Tuesday, June 1

Outdoor Girl

We went out to lunch with my grandparents and my parents a couple of weeks ago to celebrate a late Easter and Mothers Day. Given the nature of the occasion, I decided to get "dressed up."

I hardly ever do this. I do not have a job to go to every day and I am not one of those people who try to wander around the mall dressed "to the 9's" to impress other people. So getting dressed up for me is a big deal. But not totally in a good way.

Here is what I mean.

I wore a dress. And heels. And makeup.

And i was absolutely, totally, 100% uncomfortable in my own skin. I kept pulling at the dress, thinking it was too short and people could see my butt.

Not that I do not want to look nice, but the feeling of uncomfortable-ness far outweighed any feelings I might have had of "looking pretty."

I am just not a "dress-y" person. I like dresses - those nice summer dresses that you wear around the house on hot, humid days and that you hang the laundry out in and take little tours of your garden in. Those are nice, and I wore one of those to lunch. But for some reason, it just didn't work. I took the dress out of its element and it repaid me with a self conscious afternoon.

Maybe it was because I expected too much. Since I lost my job and have become a stay at home mom, I think that jeans without holes in the knees and a button down shirt over a tank top that match each other is getting "dressed up." The most exotic place I go to is the Wegmans organic department. Most days, I live in "outdoor" clothes - clothes that I can wear to mow the lawn and clean the bathroom, or work in the yard. This consists of some sort of long shorts, tank top, muck boots, my trucker-chick baseball cap and a pair of dirty work gloves.

I am 100% totally comfortable in this. I feel confident and powerful and kind of attractive, actually.

Case and Point: the other day I was at Mom's doing some garden work for her (taking up sod, planting lilies, weeding, etc.)I had on cut of jeans, a hoodie sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off half way up, muck boots and an old corona beer baseball cap. Later that night she emailed me and said "why is it that you look so nice even when you are getting dirty gardening?"

I guess this means I was just meant to be an "outdoor" girl.

Falcon Cam

Just one of the neat things that I think is fun - the Falcon Cam on the Kodak Building in Rochester.

Right now I am being stared down by mamma as the babies are curling up together in a big fluffy ball of sleep in the background.

Something about this gives me a little hope. With all the horrible things going on every day here and around the world (which i really try not to think about or pay attention to), here is this family of falcons going about what they have done for generation upon generation. Ideally they would be in the wild woods in a tree or something but I guess being up high on the safety of a tall building is ok too. This marriage of the technological world and the natural world can be a horrific one at times, but this seems to be a good thing.

It makes me think there might be hope for us all.