Monday, June 30, 2014

Down Time

Nothing terribly exciting to report from the Agricultural Research Station in Alabama.

We could discuss the weather, the universal conversation starter.

Monday afternoon, it was only 93'F, with 73% humidity which equals 118'F Heat Index.  Welcome to Death Valley, Alabama.  Sucks the life out of you. 
I've been preoccupied with pouting over the fact that I can't run with this back problem.  Who wants to run in this anyway?  I should be grateful to be cloistered in my own house! Gratefulness is not what I have been emoting lately, more along the lines of grouchiness.  My slogan since I hurt my back has been "it could be worse".  I'm ready to switch to "this will get better". 
Perhaps not yet. The forecast for tomorrow:  99'F, or 37'C to my Canadian family.  Add a predicted 60% humidity and voila:  sauna, 120'F Heat Index, or as you Canucks say Humidex of 49'C. 
The heat wave today was interrupted by an unruly storm rushing in from the East.  The Storm Center warned of 60 mph winds, so I gathered up the troops and rushed the farmhouse. I didn't see the need to pile 4 dogs into the underground shelter, as I could watch the radar on my new tablet.
The same ninnies at Verizon who gave me a free Smartphone last year gave me a free tablet.  Their attempts to entice me into using more data are failing, miserably.  But, keep giving me the free gadgets, guys!
I have two regular boarders staying here this week, their initiation to severe weather preparedness. I've been accused of being a worry wart.. been honing that skill for years.  When I was eleven, I made my own rope ladder to use from my third floor bedroom in case of fire.  There was always a lit cigarette somewhere in the house when I was growing up and I practiced getting my cat stuffed in my backpack, out the window and down the ladder.  I was beyond Boy Scout prepared, tad bit of a wing nut back then, so what changed?
The storm rolled in and left behind some down limbs, took out the top of one tree and plopped it onto the fence.  Mother Nature can be apologetic:
While working to straighten all the toppled plants, I found a coachwhip snake that had snared itself in the netting I had installed over the sweet potato plants to protect them from marauding chipmunks.
Sadly, the poor fellow was dead, probably baked in the heat today.  A beautiful 4 foot specimen. 
Long enough to make two belts.  All joking aside, I can't find Wilbur tonight.
Wilbur fills up my hand when I hold him, I doubt the snake could have swallowed him, but that may not have deterred him from preying on him.
Good news is that the netting has saved half the sweet potato plants. 
I wish to encourage biodiversity in the microcosm of my backyard.  But, it's getting out of hand, the wildlife is edging me out. 
To vent, Cole and I went squirrel hunting after the storm passed.  The colors in the sky at dusk were amazing. 
Sometimes being benched is what's needed to start seeing things with more gratitude. 
Life is magical.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


My back had been troubling me all week, but ignoring the problem seemed to be working fine.  Before heading to work Thursday morning I was drawing water up from the well to water the garden when it felt like someone shot me with a 9mm in the hip. 
I've had back issues before where I'd been stuck in bed and my husband had to carry me in a prone position to the chiropractor.  So, I thought that this was simply a pinched nerve and what I had to do was keep moving and the nerve would unwedge itself and all would be OK again.  I shuffled around doing my chores, cursing and crying. I kept crying because every time I turned around I found damage caused by furry creatures.
Overnight, the chipmunks had eaten off the tops of all the newly planted sweet potato plants.  The sweet potato plants ordered months ago, waited on and finally arriving only Tuesday. The chipmunks' feasting wasn't limited to these, they had also eaten every single lima bean that dared to sprout.  My usual 2 gallons of harvested dried beans are not to be this year. Do you realize how many groceries I will have to actually buy this year?  Oh, this is WAR. Fur will fly.  Can you buy dynamite on Ebay?

Teetering out the drive to the chicken coop, I found Morel had her head stuck in my fence.  Darling, precious Morel had eaten an entire side of a cherished antique rose that had been full of buds on the brink of blooming.
Out in the pasture, what did I behold?
Tommy had attacked the coop during the night.  Bovine sized piƱata. Torn tarps, broken clips, aaaaargh!
 I managed to get into the chicken coop to take care of the girls and then couldn't get back out.  I spent ten minutes in there scaring the hens with my bawling.  Surrender.  If I could make it out, I promised myself I'd go straight to my chiropractor.  I got out, but couldn't get into my car. 
OK, Plan B:  Reschedule work not to lose any income and root through the medicine cabinet for some relief. 

One lousy 6 year old muscle relaxer tablet is all I could come up with.  Better than nothing.  As I tried to cut it in half, it disintegrated.  Half fell onto the carpet, but I was able to lick the other half of the counter. ________________ fill in the blanks with something that would make a soldier blush. 

A few hours later, after laying on a bed of ice packs, I felt a little better.  I still couldn't reach down to put socks on.  But, with a couple pairs of kitchen tongs, McGyver got her loafing socks on. Progress is good.

I'd be making a fashion faux pas, but I could now get dressed to go to the chiropractor.  If only I could get in the car...not... aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!

Late afternoon was absolutely gorgeous outside.  Probably our last beautiful day for a long time.  Heat advisories forecasted for the next five days.
My neighbor had brought me prescription strength anti-inflammatories, I was feeling upbeat. Somehow, I was going to make my day productive and enjoyable.  Resting in bed would have benefited the body, but the spirit needs tending too.  Being outside, with the hummingbirds buzzing me, the breeze on my face, the mockingbird's overtures, the horses waiting for me at my gate, now that bolsters the spirit!
I managed to extend electric fencing to the chicken coop.  Tommy, literally, knock yourself out, buddy!

I could now get down on my hands and knees and crawl around.  Cole senses when things are amiss and he becomes very protective. He won't leave me for a minute.  Even in the smallest room of the house, he sits at my feet and stares at me:  "You OK?".  Unnerving, but sweet. His shadowing made it possible for me raise myself when a post or tree wasn't handy. He let me use his shoulders to pull myself up. I love that kid.  We did some weeding and I covered the guillotined sweet potato stubs with mesh.  They may not grow back, but who knows!

By evening, the Celebrex gave me enough mobility to fold myself into the car. The dogs and I went for a test drive.  Could I manage the stick shift?  Not gracefully, however I did get to the coffee shop to collect my 2 gallons of organic milk.  Our agreement is that I get it out of their coolers ASAP on Thursdays.  I wasn't going to renege on my promise and lose my dairy privileges.  A big mug of hot cocoa was my rewards for bringin' home the milk.

This is what greeted me when I returned from town.
Toads sitting atop fresh manure, thinking they got it made in the shade, lunch would be flying in soon.  That's my day in a nutshell:  up to my eyeballs in poop, but good things are always there, if I keep my eyes peeled.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kayak, Bad

Embroiled in vacation planning around here.  The original idea was to haul my kayak to Canada, dropping it in a Great Lake or two along the way to Algonquin Park.  The four day excursion in the Park will require multiple portages, the longest being a mile.  Time for a test of my equipment.

First snag:  somebody overzealously applied Overton's Kayak Protector (overpriced Armor-All) to her kayak.  Hoisting it over my head was as futile as trying to hold a greased pig.  As far as kayaks go, it's also quite heavy at 60 -70 lbs.  The 60 pounds of rocks that simulated my gear and Cole's food were also quite heavy.  Instead of risking losing my good hiking pack in the bottom of the lakes, I used two old packs, strapped front and back.  Makes it hard to breath when you have 30 pounds compressing either side of your lungs.  Who would have thunk it?

Washington crossing the Delaware.
We didn't capsize, didn't lose our load, but discovered that loaded down, the kayak barely has 1" positive buoyancy.  With a little choppy water, it would be fabulous recipe for hypothermia on a Canadian lake in October.  This completely disqualified the kayak.  But, the experiment had to go on to the end.

We had to portage a complete mile.  Which meant trudging to the other lake and zig sagging around to get the mileage.  To add to the misery, it was the hottest day yet:  mid 90's, Humidex in the triple digits.  The pond water wasn't even refreshing... like wading in a hot tub.

Conclusion.  Two hours devoted to flunking a hypothesis. Therefore, I shall dole out the $25/ day for a rented canoe in Algonquin Park. 
Next experiment:  will Cole redecorate the interior of the wagon with puke if I bother to take my bicycle to Canada?

Taking bets right now...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mental Health Day Musings

Wednesday had monumental gaps in the work schedule.  Get on the horn and drum up other jobs!  Not so fast, not today.  What are those mental health days salaried folks talk about?  Remaining work was pushed into 3rd shift hours, I grabbed the dog and went hiking at Lake Martin.

The Cherokee trails ( meander around the bays.  A jewel of a place.  Hike a bit, swim a bit. Repeat.

Not another soul around, even the few boaters were off at a distance.  Sanctuary.
I was gunning to do the 7 mile course, but by noon, the temperature was getting too hot for Cole. The high was 95'F with 70% humidity.  Even though most of the trails are shaded, we were fading.  As a dog's only manner to dissipate heat is to transpire through his pads and by panting, he's at a disadvantage.  When the air temperature comes close to his core temperature (101'F), he can quickly overheat by panting in hot air. 

On the way home, I stopped at Millstone Nursery in Walnut Hill, a Japanese maple emporium.  After an hour, Cole gave me that look of "Can we go now?". 

It's a good thing I didn't have my flatbed trailer and someone else's checkbook...
Face plant.  Air conditioning is his friend.

 Events of the past week can be qualified across the entire spectrum:  from fabulous to downright disenchanting.
Epic Failure:
A dozen homegrown cabbages prepared and fermented for 6 weeks into an inedible mess of mold.  Yet another attempt to make sauerkraut gone sour (really!).  40 pounds of lost kraut, retail value:  $120. 
The $5 store variety only depressed me further. 
Jamie 1 - 4 , I shall make good sauerkraut again, if it's the last thing I ever do!
Sad times on Sunday:
The bluebird pair nesting in the farmhouse lost all their babies.  I was working outside when the birds began to use this distressing call I'd never heard before.  They flittered at the entrance of the nest, but refused to go in.  That's when I saw the snake.  By the time I got the ladder from the barn, it was too late.  He was making his escape and I couldn't reach him.  I don't know what exactly I was planning on doing anyway, Heimlich Maneuver?  For two more hours, the broken hearted pair called and flittered around the nest.  The nest has since been abandoned, for two years they'd returned... friggin' snake, I hope he choked on the beaks.
Another baby rat snake was found in the yard and relocated.
He's lucky I found him before the bluebird incident, otherwise his fate may have been different.
Tommy played King of the Castle on a day that I was in a rush.
 "None shall pass".  Cute, kid.
One variety of lotus finally bloomed.  A high point to the week.
Biggie sized.
No Photoshop here, iridescent pink messes with your eyes!
Beneath, Wilbur has been fattening up on the catalpa worms that cover the nearly defoliated tree in my yard.
Hors d'oeuvres served daily to my frog.  What's he waiting for?  When will he turn into my prince?
A little late, but Cole now has health insurance.  Previous inquiries into pet coverage results:  too expensive, too complicated, not accepted everywhere.  My latest Journal of Veterinary Medicine had an article on insurance.  Trupanion provides one comprehensive plan for dogs, has its own underwriting company and pays 90% of all illnesses and accidents (they haven't met Cole yet).  My regular vet and the vet school's billing department both endorsed Trupanion, so it is so.  Cole has better coverage than me.
When Cole isn't busy helping Liz teach a class or guarding her office, he can be found in the Physiotherapy Lab strutting his stuff. 
The man in motion:
When life gets overwhelming, seek out inspiration, no matter how tiny of a strand it may be, grab it!
Liz and Cole sending me off on my day with a lightness to my step.
But, not light enough.  My personal trainer, Ike, attacked me on Wednesday morning with his fat calipers, scales and this high tech gizmo that measures your % body fat by shooting an electrical impulse through your body. 
My goal of getting my marathon body back, like elite runner, Shalane Flanagan, are further away now than when Ike and I began to work together.
I lost my groove.  Running isn't fun without the Kid.  He's on the brink of being ready to run again and I'll be the one slowing us down.  Time to pull my head out of the dark place it's been stuck.  Back to business, if only to cheer up Ike.  He was more disappointed in my results than me!  Pitiful. 
I saw some silver linings.  Here's the rundown:  body fat % down slightly, circumference of biceps, calves, legs and shoulders all increased by an inch, but I put on 5 pounds.  Oops.  Look at the bright side, Ike... you're doing your job, I've gained +5 pounds of muscle.  It's under a layer of insulation, but cheer up, it's there! 
So, maybe this should be our new training goal (less Liz Carmouche's tattoos and boxing gloves).
If I start doing my part and watch my calorie intake, Ike and I might be onto something.  I will be a force to be reckoned with at trail races.
I'll be able to clothesline anyone who dares to try passing me.  Grabbing those strands of optimism and holding them tight.
Losing weight might get a little easier this Summer if more crops fail.
Miniscule harvest of itty bitty Brussels sprouts.  Ten times more energy expended cultivating, harvesting and cooking than their caloric value.
Hopefully, the olive tree will produce olives this year.
Infant olives the size of pin heads right now.
No matter how dejecting circumstances can be, I tell myself that at least I'm not the one who was confronted by a wild creature in Auburn's neighborhood park, Town Creek Park.  Imagine the change in undergarments you would need if you were my client whose dog irked this creature?
This little kitty is some sort of cross between a serval and a domestic cat.  That's what the owner told the police anyway... the police who showed up with hunting rifles.  The feline had been missing for a couple days.  The owner managed to intercept at the 11th hour.
'When we keep wild animals as pets, we turn them into something for which nature has no place.'  National G, April 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Thing of Beauty


My new baby is home!

Presenting my new 20 ft. flatbed trailer, with ramps, with stake pockets, tandem axle brakes, all the bells and whistles.  So beautiful.
For months, I'd harassed friends to sell me a used flatbed trailer; shopped online; driven around trying to price new ones and offered my own landscape trailer for sale.  Nothing was bearing fruit. 
I started back where I'd begun my search:  Wilhite Trailers, in Opelika, AL.  I've been dealing with Freddie for almost 20 years.  Earlier, he didn't have any 20 footers in stock.  The stork delivered mine last week and I stopped in this week.  Serendipity. 
I picked it up in between jobs on Thursday.  Proudly drove it around town, snaked into  a subdivision and parked in front of a client's house before remembering she lived on a cul de sac.  Can't exit gracefully when you have to back up to the next street to turn around, the reverse beepers blaring the whole time. 

The trailer currently sits empty because Freddy doesn't believe in leaving keys in his equipment.  During the time it took the Wilhites to swap out the trailers, I'd run all over the yard, crawled over all the machinery and left my nose print on all the antique vehicles.

All goals were once mere dreams... I'm getting warmer.

Freddy was informed that once at the farm, I was going to play with my new trailer.  He gave me the look of "you are a twit, but we appreciate your business".

Foiled playtime:  the car wouldn't load, frontward nor backward.  Redneck ingenuity will be required.  The Master Plan was to strap the car down, put Cole in the driver's seat, drive down the lane and video Cole driving with a moving background via a camera anchored on the trailer.  Oh how I pass my leisure time.

Cole liked the view.
So much so that we sat on the trailer and enjoyed the birds, the lumbering livestock, the flowers in the yard until dusk.  The dog sat in my lap the entire time.

My evening opera show.

My horror show.

An old scratch...half inch blemish, horror, horror, horror.  Emergency plastic surgery on the schedule for this weekend.

I'll be ready to haul a mess of round bales this Fall and whatever else might tickle my fancy!


For a few months, off and on, I've been crawling around under the house, raising up one pier at a time. The back half of the house had developed a slight sag.

My horror.

My eggs would skid to the back of the pan.

The after.

I shall miss hanging out with my little friends under the house.

Even small victories ought to be savored, preferably served over homemade bread with fig preserves...