Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Country Life Is So Quiet

Except it's not. I've already subjected you to the horror of the zombie frogs. But honestly, that video was a little disappointing to me, because the frogs were so loud in that one, you couldn't hear the BACKGROUND noise. Which is, in itself, considerable. Listen for yourself.

BUT--notice how well my dogs listen to me! I enjoy this, because they're the only ones who do. Please to note that when I say, "Come on, poodles!" they run right to the door, with no detours. They are good dogs, they are! (Please read that line to yourself with Eliza Doolittle's accent. Thanks.) Even the ones who trip raccoon traps.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Trapping Vermin

Alex had no sooner baited and set the Hav-A-Hart trap (a humane live trapping system) and turned his back than he heard the trap snap shut. WOW! Instant success! What did we get? At first glance, it appears to be a small raccoon, or a bedraggled 'possum, or maybe some kind of mutant badger. How exciting!

We heard the trap snap right after setting it

Hmmmm. On closer inspection, it appears that we might have caught some heretofore undiscovered species!

Wow, what did we get? A raccoon or badger or 'possum?

Well, now. That's not a badger at all. That is a very naughty, and very sad (but somehow wholly unrepentant) ninja poodle. Obviously her ninja skills need some polishing, or she'd have robbed the trap and escaped without tripping it. But she stares at us inscrutably with one baleful eye until we released her and restored her dignity.

Nope. just a very sad, very naughty poodle.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Re-Kindling My Love Affair With John Deere

Before I was married, I had a sweet little house and a good-size horse barn that sat in the middle of a few acres of gorgeous, lush Tifton 44 Bermuda grass. There was grass. LOTS of grass. For a little while after I bought the place, my dad would come over with his lawn tractor and mow for me. For my entire life, my dad had done ALL the mowing of every yard our family had ever had. It was his thing, and he took a lot of pride in it, and he was stingy with it. I grew up begging to mow the yard, and was never allowed. It was just always a task that appealed to me, probably in large part because it was forbidden to me. But I watched, for years, soaking it all in.

There came a day, many years ago, when Dad got a fancy new John Deere lawn tractor, and in a display of lawnkeeper's largesse, gifted me with his old one. And I was allowed to USE it. I have to tell you that I loved mowing from the get-go. There's something just so satisfying about it--it's a chore that shows immediate results. I mean, all you have to do to see your progress is look behind you! That's a beautiful thing. And it's not like dishwashing or laundry or vacuuming or dusting, in that no one can come along behind you and mess everything up right after you finish. The grass just grows, at its own pace...maybe it grows rapidly, but it doesn't grow instantly. So for at least a couple of days, you can look out on your lawn and feel some satisfaction in what you've accomplished. I don't know about you, but that is a feeling that brings a wonderful sense of peace to my mind. If I could do the same thing for the inside of my house, I wouldn't even know how to handle all the happiness I'd feel.

Over the next several years, as Dad upgraded his lawn tractors (ALWAYS staying true to John Deer, as will I), he rotated the "old" ones through the family, one going here, one going there, which resulted in "new" mowers for me on two or three occasions. I loved it. The lawn tractor we have currently is the last one my dad gave me, and even though I lust over, and may one day own, models like this, I plan on trying to keep that baby running for the rest of my natural life. It's a sentimental thing. I mowed my yard the way my dad did: twice a week, with the blades set a notch higher than most people choose to set them. The grass stayed thick, lush, and green, even in dry weather, because it wasn't getting "scalped." I didn't give much thought to the whole process; it was just something I did.

Then I got married, and my husband moved into my little house with me. And somehow in that process, he took over the mowing. I'm not sure how it happened, though I suspect that the gateway was weed-eating and edging. I've never been good at using a weed-eater. I'm not terribly strong, and those things are heavy. Even the electric ones are unwieldy for me. My approach to weeding and edging had always just been to spray Round-Up along my fenceline, and be done with it. That left an ugly brown swath of deadness all around my yard, but I chose to believe that the gloriousness of the lawn itself distracted from that. So Alex, being a man, and now in possession of the first lawn he'd ever owned, naturally took an interest in the maintenance of that lawn, I think largely due to the lure of engine-driven maintenance equipment. Suddenly he was out there doing all those things I'd never tended to, like trimming hedges, weed-eating, edging, pruning! And somehow, along the way, he also took over the mower...probably in the hopes that this would free up more of my time for frying chicken and making biscuits.

A couple of years ago, we moved out of my sweet little house, because it was bursting at the seams. What was ideal for one person was a little snug for three. I hated leaving it, but the new place had possibilities. Unfortunately, we now live on 5 acres of rocky, barren hillside, and lush pastures are gone from my life (and the lives of my horses, which is why I'm always on the lookout for new homes for them). That anything grows here at ALL is thanks to some long-ago resident who carved, out of the rock, some flat surfaces, terracing, shoring up with railroad ties, and trucking in topsoil. So there is a lawn, and some not-too-shabby perennial, low-maintenance landscaped areas around the house, not to mention an entirely charming koi pond that came fully stocked with pretty fish. And when we moved here, Alex continued his tradition of lawn-domination.

But somewhere along the line in the last year and half or so, for various reasons (recently including being busy building various shelters for various poultry), Alex hasn't been so keen on mowing. And for reasons I still don't understand, I didn't step in and do it myself when he didn't. What was up with that? I have no idea. And just a couple of weeks ago I had a real light-bulb moment, and thought, "I have never mowed this lawn!" I was outside, the mower was right there, Alex was busy with a rented auger, boring post-holes into the rock for the new turkey habitat, and Bella was playing nearby. Ah, opportunity.

It took about 5 minutes for the love to come back. It took considerably longer to finish the yard, but it was all good. I even like the droning sound of the tractor's iPod necessary during the mowing. Back and forth, around the trees, in and out of the shade, feeling the breezes, breathing the air (this was a rare, low-pollen day) was about as zen as you can get while operating a gasoline-powered combustion engine. I think the best part of all is that in mowing the lawn, I'm communing with my dad. I'm setting the blade height exactly where he did. I'm mowing back over half of each freshly-cut swath, in the opposite direction, to pick up all the "stragglers" left behind from the first pass. I'm feeling a sense of independence and accomplishment. And I'm having a little giggle every time I mow around a tree, as I cut the wheels in to bring the cutting deck almost close enough to kiss the bark...this is an homage to my grandmother, who I'm sure already understands what I mean as she's reading this. (When my granddad reached the point at which he was no longer able to mow his enormous yard himself, Grandmom started doing it. This didn't mean that Granddad was no longer involved--oh, no. He sat out on the porch, "supervising," and calling out instructions to her from time to time, one of the most common being that she was driving the mower "TOO CLOSE TO THAT TREE". For those of you who know the women in my family, the response to this should come as no surprise--on her next pass around the tree, Grandmom would swing that mower in just a little bit CLOSER.)

Oh, AND? When I mowed over one area near the pole-barn, where, unbeknownst to me, an old woven plastic tarp had been long-buried, with grass growing on top of it? And the mower blades snagged up a piece of that tarp, winding it around the rotors and bringing the whole works to a literal screeching halt? Did I cry and call my husband, or someone else's husband, or the tractor-repair place? No, I did not. What I did was to get a sharp knife and a large pair of scissors, disengage the cutting deck of the mower, and drive it sideways onto a small hill and engage the emergency brake. Then I placed a large, sturdy planter on the downhill side, and then I heaved that sucker over until it rested on its side on the planter, and I sat down and went to work hacking away every bit of tangled mess underneath the cutting deck. It took a while, but I DID IT, and it felt good when I set the tractor right, started it up, and engaged the cutting deck and heard that smooth rumble that meant that all was once again right in the John Deere world.

When I mowed on Monday, by the time Alex got home I was just about finished. He changed clothes and came out and ran the trimmer all over the whole yard. That, right there, is just about as perfect a partnership as a marriage can have (Except--wait, I still had to come in and fix dinner then, didn't I? Yeah, we're gonna have to work on THAT.). And in the spirit of my granddad, Alex even waved me down a time or two to tell me where NOT to mow. To which I responded by going back there and mowing just a little more.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On Days Like Today, Even The Fish Are Lazy

Yes, I have some actual written blog-posts coming. But in the meantime, here's another lazy posting of a random, lame video. Today, it's Bella and I sitting by the koi pond, watching fish, and hollering at Alex on the tractor. Also, Bella sings one of the current Dunkin' Donuts commercials. It's RIVETING.

Oh, and this is the scene of the Poe-worthy FROG NOISE from the other night (and every night).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Make Sure It Doesn't Poop On You"

There has to be a life-lesson there. In the basement brooder as of this week, and for the next several weeks, are 15 Narragansett turkey poults. They're adorable, and that adorable stage will not last long, so we're getting a kick out of it. They're really different from baby chicks--stick your hand in the brooder with a bunch of chicks, and they'll run away from it and huddle in an opposite corner. Do the same with baby turkeys, and they run TO your hand, and even nibble on it! They're not terribly bright, but then we're not raising them for their smarts.

Narragansetts are a "heritage" breed of turkey, far removed from the modern, industrial "Broad-Breasted White" turkeys that show up on 99% of tables at Thanksgiving. Those poor brutes, being engineered for a huge percentage of breast meat, can't even live out a natural life, much less reproduce on their own. We're looking forward to doing our part in preserving this rare and historic breed of livestock by raising even a tiny flock of the birds.

Just don't let them poop on you.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Poe Should Have Written A Poem About These Frogs

Because these frogs? They will make you crazy. They're right outside the windows, all around the house, and on nights when there has been some rain, I am actually kept awake. By FROGS. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "What kind of 'Princess and the Pea' syndrome does this woman have going on?" You think I'm over-reacting. That's why I just stepped outside and recorded this--listen for yourself:

Also, note how "KNOCK IT OFF, FROGS," is not the magic phrase.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Blogography: Occasionally Child-Safe!

One of the very few blogs in all the world that I read every single entry of (even if sometimes I get behind and have to spend a little while catching up with), and have for the last three years or so, is Blogography. The appeal of Dave's varied and entertaining showcase of creativity was an instant "click" with me, and this fondness has not worn off one bit as time's gone by. A large part (though not all, by any means) of the attraction, for me, are the toons. The DaveToons. They're fantastic, and I appreciate the aesthetic--clean, spare, geometric, and simple, but able to convey volumes.

The very first time I visited Webkinz World with my daughter, I thought of Dave. It's the animation. And I wasn't the only one--the first time Bella saw a Webkinz monkey in animation form, she said, "That looks like Bad Monkey!" Of course, we PREFER Bad Monkey, but there is a slight resemblance. So when we spotted a rare, retired Webkinz monkey in plush form, it was only natural that we'd want to send it to live with Dave. Bella wrote him a (kind of bossy, IMO) letter--in all caps, even--instructing him on how to adopt his new pet, and we popped him in a box and sent him on a 2,300-mile journey from Arkansas to Washington. He arrived in good condition, and Dave blogged about him.

This, as you can imagine, delighted a certain preschooler, and I documented her reaction as she read Dave's blog entry about his new "pet."

Bella Reads Blogography from Belinda Miller on Vimeo.