Thursday, October 22, 2020


 The neighbors and I joke that Murphy and his Laws live on our road.  Seems he's been on steroids lately.  The culmination of the most arduous, dreadful two weeks:  we had to say goodbye to sweet 22 year old Roscoe.

The bloody nose from the week before had been the harbinger of ill fate.  The colic was only a response to the fluid building in his lungs, not the primary condition.

I had worried he would decline after, Henry, his best friend in the whole wide world passed.  

Now they're reunited.

Friday, October 16, 2020


 Actual term.  Lumberjill is the feminine of lumberjack.  I've never been accused of being feminine, but let's just go for it for the sake of semantics.

I hate cutting trees, not only because I'm a 1980's Greenpeace activist tree hugger, no... mostly because I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  I've read my Stihl chainsaw manual front to back and I've watched countless video tutorials, but felling remains a dangerous job that puckers my butt cheeks.

Rewind to last Friday when Roscoe came back from grazing with a bloody nose that lasted almost 6 hours. He, nor his pasturemate is talking, so Dr. Brown rounded up the usual suspects: trauma, pulmonary hemorrhage or poisoning.  Feed or plant toxicity usually affects the entire herd, but my suspicions rested on this:

A huge red maple down by the lake.  Red maple leaves, after they fall, become extremely toxic.  The tree isn't in a pasture, but the horses walk past it on their way to their daytime pasture.  In the fall, I exclude them from it to prevent accidental ingestion.  We've never had a problem with it, but Roscoe is a knucklehead.  

To add to our poisoning suspicions, Roscoe was in full blown colic mode by Tuesday morning. 

Revenge occurred immediately.

I've cut less than 100 trees down in my life and this was the biggest, plus multi-trunked, with a lean in the opposite direction of the crown weight.  Thanks to two hurricanes, our tree service was tied up for the next month and they wanted $5000 to take to bring it down and haul it all off.  We can do that, I said.  Problem is, the employee I was counting on with the skills to help me was in Ohio on another job.

I knew I was in trouble when the chainsaw felt like it was going through butter.  I now had the challenge of a hollow core.

Just me and my new 18 year old hire, Luke.  Who doesn't drive a tractor.  I put some tension on one of the trunks rising from the 3' diameter base and theorized it would split into the lake.

Correctamundo. I went home to change my Depends and returned to take down the back half.

I wasn't loving life this week.  

Yup, burned up one of my nine lives on that one.

Then the fun begins of cleanup.

Adjanie came to help us.

At first, we thought of leaving the limbs in the lake as fish habitat, but the image of one of the horses (who like to swim) getting their feet tangled up in a sunken tree made us reconsider.

Meanwhile, Roscoe wasn't improving.

Nothing to do but monitor his vitals around the clock, administering pain medications, force feeding mineral oil and fluids.  By Thursday night, I couldn't think anymore.  Cumulative totals of maybe 3 hours sleep per night.  So behind on homework it will take a miracle to submit all my assignments by Sunday...  I'm a seriously pissed off zombie.

Nothing works frustration off like a chainsaw.  

Three days later, we're still cutting and cleaning.  Mostly because we found 3 other red maples that had spawned off the mother tree and were growing all tangled up in groves of oaks.

The results of bloodwork on Roscoe reveal he wasn't poisoned by the maple.  So, we're still stumped as to why his colic lingers and he runs a temperature of 102F unless given Banamine every 12 hours.  To boost his spirits, he was allowed to graze with his BFF last night. At 3 AM Friday morning he looked depressed and puny.  Then by 9, his temp was down and he had some appetite back.  Cheerios help.

Life isn't grand sometimes, it's only by gritting your teeth and not giving up that you can get by.

Oh, did I mention Pippins eye surgery wasn't a total success? No, I haven't had time to introduce you to the new dog I've had for months now.  Yeah, not a good week, actually two weeks.  Ranking right up there in crappiest of the year (and we all know this year has been extra 'special').

Friday, October 2, 2020

Entomology 101

 You already know of my love of Hercules beetles and how I maintain a rotational 2 year grub nursery in the back of the manure pile.  I look forward to August when, attracted by my open doors and lights, they fly into the house.  Most nights, I pair up one male and female to do the wild thing in my carport.  I'm quite the match maker.

I'm not fond of all bugs:  fire ants, cow killers, yellow jackets, scorpions, black widows... all hated, but I save special hatred for chiggers.  Unseen to the naked eye, these fiends plague me from Spring till frost.  They hide on grasses and drop onto you, pursuing tight clothing where they can burrow into your skin and cause the most insane itching.  From 6 years of trial and error, I've concluded that wearing pants makes it worse.  I've spent months looking like a leper with feet, ankles, backs of my knees and underoo area blanketed with bites. Loose shorts is the only way to go. 

Back to more pleasant creatures. Butterflies trip over each, they're so plentiful in the gardens.

But, my heart belongs to the moths. Scorned as boring and killed by the billions by those infernal bug zappers, their subtle beauty attract me.  The last batch of luna moths flittered around last week.

Regal moths, like this one below, often stop by the barn at night.  

With a 6" wingspan, they are truly regal.  

I never saw them 6 years ago, now thanks to much, much reduced chemical usage on the farm, their numbers are increasing.  I'm crossing paths with their caterpillars more often.

You can't miss them:

In order to become a Regal Moth, first you must spend a year being a Hickory Horned Devil.  They only come down from trees to look for burrows to overwinter.  This one was crawling across the gravel drive.

Promptly relocated to deep leafy woods:

They look ferocious, but they're not.

David Attenborough, eat your heart out.  

A praying mantis flew into my house 2 evenings in a row.  The first night, I struggled to catch her to put her back outside and she eluded me.  Only when I was brushing my teeth before going to bed did I see her looking back at me in the mirror, from her perch on my mop of hair.

We sorta bonded after that.


Life in all it's complex diversity, isn't it grand?

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Crop Dusting

 Urban Dictionary: v. the act of starting at one end of a room, ripping a nasty one and dusting the room with the stench, thus staying ahead of your own flatulency.

GUILTY as charged.

Peter picked up the foulest bug a few weeks ago.  The poor old man is around 14 years old.  It kicked his butt.  

The first night, I thought it was indigestion (he has a penchant for acorns and horse nuggets).  Next night, he leapt out of bed 5 times and burst out the doggie door into the dark.  Peter doesn't ordinarily move at Mach 1, so this was serious. Dr. Brown prescribed supportive antibiotics and he continued to redecorate the house in the worst diarrhea I've ever seen.  Think pumpkin puree with swirls of ketchup in it and the stench of Muenster cheese.  

Three bottles of Clorox cleanup, mounds of latex gloves and 3 laundry loads a day...

Days of this culminating in the most atrocious act committed upon my leather couch: a blow out.  Peter dismounted from the leather couch, slowly, front feet first with a downward dog stretch that provoked an explosion out the rear. 

He was ashamed of having his bum washed 5 times a day and I was tired of my nostrils being assaulted every time I stepped foot in the house with the mixed smell of an overchlorinated pool and an outhouse in Summer.

But Peter was turning the corner when two others started to defile the house. Baby Jesus save me.  

The cholera has departed our lives now, all the walls at anus height have been washed, curtains too (don't ask, I have no idea how they soiled so many things while I was at work).  

And check out who's feeling froggy again?

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Selling Your Soul

 Ten years ago, a friend of mine sold his business and accepted a job at Auburn University.  Not by choice, by necessity to provide health insurance coverage for his family.  Selling his soul, as he called it.  Never would I sell mine and be desked.

Now, I'm starting to understand.  My entire American life has been spent paying for my own insurance.  Not bad when you're in your 20's.  But, in my late 40's, the cheapest insurance I can get is $620 per month with an $8000 yearly deductible.  With my medical history, that translates to an average of $26,000 per year of out-of-pocket medical expenses. 

Years of surgeries and dealing with my insurance company's reluctance to cover services, has left me with the uncanny ability to foresee where they might try to maneuver around me.  I  paid $9000 out of pocket for a knee surgery that should've been covered, but since then, I document every step of pre and post surgery.  I've been known to spend $550 on lawyer fees to coerce them to pay a $380 doctor bill.  It's the principle of it.

Now being a full time student at Columbus State University allows me to join the university's health coverage plan.

A fraction of what I pay.  Come to mama!

A yearly saving of $4600 on my premiums alone and a mere $500 deductible.  I have remained on my current plan for 2020 because in the Winter, my cardiology tests and procedure forced me to cough over $8000, so why jump ships midstream.  But, January 2021, I am emancipated.

I had been waiting to see if scholarships I've applied for would come through, instead, I received word that based on my taxable income, I'm fully eligible for 100% tuition and living expenses coverage via federal student loan program.  All my medical bills are finally helping me out.

I have found a way to afford to grow old:  become a perpetual student.  I think I'd like an English major next, followed by French literature.

Might just go for that Master's degree in Kinesiology, that could get me beyond my 71st birthday.  I'm onto something!!!

Jamie, Financial Planner Extraordinaire 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Son From Another Mother

 Not all of my family live in Canada.  I have a sister in Oklahoma and a sister in Texas. We're not blood, we're stronger than that.

Gina from Oklahoma is of Italian descent.  It shows.  She's all about her familia and you don't mess with the boss' family, or she'll go all mafia on you.

 Over 40 horses are her family, and I'm under the same umbrella!

Gayla is originally from Maine.  How she ended up in Texas, I'll never understand. Years ago when I worked on her genealogy, I realized we were related after all, through common ancestors who colonized Quebec. Her mother, in fact is from Montreal.  

I met Gayla by virtue of  her son, Sebastian.  For a few years, I had the pleasure of being his stepmom. 

Gayla and I clicked from the start.  She is the Saint of East Texas cats.  I can't keep up with how many she has at home or the feral colonies she tends.  

And thus is the trifecta sisterhood.  I claim to be Protector of any living creature within my farm's 1200 acre borders.  Don't mess with our horses, dogs, fish, gopher tortoises, raptors, luna moths, foxes, Hercules beetles, wild Louisiana irises...the list goes on.

 Cut from the same cloth we three are.

Perhaps that is why it never struck me as odd to love my ex's ex as my true sister.  

So, when my son from another mother, Sebastian, called to say he was taking his first long distance road trip and could he come see me... I flipped.  YES!  

Years it had been since I'd last been able to stay with them in Texas.  Not a teenager, but a 6' tall, college grad pulled up to my house.  Pictures are grand, but hugging the snot out of someone you love is a million times better.

A few days together is what we had and we maximized.  

Damn my sister did a fantastic job raising him.  If I do say so myself, he's perfect:  funny, yet very serious, empathetic, caring, meticulous... his prized Thunderbird's engine looks like he cleaned it with Q-tips, knowledgeable and interesting (ask him anything about vintage watches and how they're made).

We stayed up until all hours of the night talking and studying.

Yes, how the tables have turned.  It was my Business degree kiddo sitting with me for hours to help me with my homework.  Life is strange, life is beautiful, and family is forever.