Friday, August 29, 2014

Fishing Buddies

Fishing is not part of my skill set.  I took fly fishing lessons and caught five bottom-dwelling catfish.  I live on a property with two stocked ponds, but have never caught anything.  
I have found the solution:  the buddy system.
#1 find someone else who knows how to fish:

#2  and let me do the paddling.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Kjar and I hopped in the canoe and trolled around the pond.  He caught 5 big bass.  Don't believe me, ask Cole, he was there.  We threw them all back.
This Friday, we took the peddle boat instead (easier for a man in his 90's to disembark).  We didn't have much luck until I switched from peddling to using the canoe paddle to more quietly troll.  That's when they began striking (new fishing lingo I learned tonight).
Dr. Kjar landed 3 and we took two home.

What an awesome way to spend a Friday evening.
Have I mentioned the multi-million dollar view around here?

My father had an expression when I was a child:  "a face only a mother could love on payday".  I never knew if that was a bad thing, or a good thing.
 Must be a good thing.  How can anyone resist kissing that face?

Back at the house, Dr. Kjar got front row seating for horse feeding time.
Settling in for a supper of poached bass and homegrown mashed potatoes.
Working together, I reckon it wouldn't take us long to fill my freezer!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jinx is Jinxed

I found out today why my rat terrier has been getting me up in the middle of the night for potty breaks.  Jinx has a bad prostate infection (keeping my fingers crossed it's not anything worse).  Apparently it's atypical for a neutered dog to have prostate problems.  Go figure I'd have the exception.
My vet said that his prostate was really big...  poor Jinx.  He's been violated twice this month.
Clearly unnerved by his day at the clinic.  
Still chipper enough to clown around.
I guess it's a good thing I decided not to include him on our canoe trip in Canada. He mustn't feel well. Besides, the money I would've spent on his gear can now go towards his veterinary bills.  Yes, Murphy's Law has it all figured out for me!
Cole received his new life preserver today.
Ruffwear makes some good stuff.  His Palisades pack that we took to Vermont was more expensive than my own pack.
The Ruffwear lines aren't cheap, but you get what you pay for.
The Kid walked 6 days on the Long Trail with ease. 

Tell you what else is easy: shopping online. I hate, hate, hate store shopping.
 Did you know that you can buy bugs through Amazon?
Mealworms are a superfood for chickens, very high in protein.  Entertains me to watch them do jumping jacks when they see me coming with their scoop of treats in the morning. In spite of the low kissability factor of chickens, I love my girls.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wash Day

I had last weekend off and made the most of it.  Quality time spent with all the critters, doing what comes naturally to me:  cleaning.

Saturday morning, I awoke with a deep desire to wash all the animals.  Only Morel and the chickens were spared.

Rub-a-dub dub. Tommy and Mack required a full bottle of shampoo.

All horses washed and squeegee clean!

Even my neighbor's donkey fell victim to the hose.

FYI, donkeys don't like to get wet.  I wasn't sure, but I know now.

If only I cared as much for my own hair as I do for my horses...
Bella reminded me of a 1970's game show host before I put her forelock braid back in.

Braiding helps her keep a little cooler without that heavy mane on her neck.

I opted not to braid Angus' forelock again.  It makes his head look fat.  I worked on the opposite end instead.

A tail braid to keep the top from getting tangled.  Not merely kissable, but croquable, as my French grandmother would say.
Let it be noted that Rat Terriers share a donkey's dislike of water.  

By mid afternoon, I'd given everyone a spa treatment.  I later read that the heat index was 113'F on Saturday, which explains why I was feeling icky by about 4 PM, having spent most of the day outside.  As I was carrying supplies back into the house, I fell, going up the  stairs (requiring much more ability than falling down the stairs).  My knee received a good bashing, but the judges only gave me a 6.4.  To raise my score, my next routine involved falling into the house through the back door and catching my heel on the bottom of the sharp metal door.  I earned a 9.1 and a mulched up heel.  That will keep me from running for at least a few days.
Later, I bent over to open the dishwasher, felt dizzy, grabbed for the counter and slapped my water glass into the dishwasher.  Glass shards flew everywhere, not good for a barefoot nitwit.  Mr. Bean climbed over the kitchen island, thinking she'd avoided the debris field, to find glass upon setting foot on the opposite side.  
#1 I'm not flexible.
#2 I need stronger reading glasses.
Result:  picking glass out of my foot was not fast and easy.
My headache persisted into Sunday, so I stayed indoors most of the day.  The Southern phrase "used to could" applies to my life more and more these days.  I used to could work outdoors in any weather, but next time, when they issue a Heat Warning, I'd better heed it!
The Spring Cleaning continued unabated.  By Sunday night, the house scrub down was complete.  I wash my windows every couple of months, not only because I'm OCD, but because I love to savor my million dollar view.

Correction:  multi-million dollar view...

No more time off predicted until Cole and I leave for Canada at the end of September. We will sneak some fun in somewhere, but this past weekend was the last hoorah.  
For the past month, I'd been trying to include Jinx on our walks and canoe rides, thinking I could take him with us on this trip.  I hate leaving him behind when I go on long trips with Cole.  He's well cared for here at the farm, he gets to go visit with the neighbors 'at the big house'.  Jinx may not have the privilege of those visits this time because the neighbor's dog's arduous love of Jinx got out of hand last month.  
Registered sex offender.
During one of our pasture walks, Jinx tried to rebuff his advances and they nashed teeth.  Jinx-a-roo lost.  His wittle lip and gums were cut up.  The only thing he would eat for a couple of days was yogurt.  
My drama queen.

Time for a family meeting.

When offered adventure travel, Jinx decided to take his chances here with Lester the Molester.  
Glad that's settled.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Wilbur has been M.I.A. for a few weeks now.

After two years in my lotus pond, I figured he'd finally found a woman and run off.  
That's what I want to believe.  What's closer to the truth is that a predator lunched on him.
While rushing around this morning to harvest some arugula for the chickens, I almost stepped on a snake caught in the protective mesh around my sweet potatoes.  You can never be prepared for those kinds of surprises.
This yellow bellied water snake was fortunate I found it before the blazing heat of the day cooked it.  The snake was so tangled in the mesh that it took me a long time to cut it free.  Plus, it wasn't being cooperative...

I can't be mad at the snake, it's his nature, but I did want to relocate it out of my yard.  As soon as it senses it was free it wriggled out from under my stick, went between my legs and escaped.  As I don't bounce out a kneeling position as I did when I was 20, it took me a moment to stagger to my feet.  I played tag with him in the basil and finally gave up.

Farewell, my friend Wilbur and I suppose welcome to the family Seth, the snake.  

Starting my Friday off late for work was an omen.  By late afternoon, I'd hit a brick wall.  I struggled to finish my jobs, but ended up running out of time and energy.  I was so disappointed to have to choose between losing part of my long awaited weekend off or starting Monday behind on two jobs.
Cole greeted me at the door with my slippers in his mouth, we did the ritual chasing around the house. He was more of a spaz that normal, he then grabbed my work bag and took off with it, spilling my appointment book, wallet, notes everywhere.  
I've been reminded of some important lessons in life today.  Life's short, cherish your loved ones while you can (thank you Seth for that harsh reminder). And live in the moment.  Cole is, as usual, right.  Work will be waiting for me tomorrow or Monday, but tonight, I don't worry about it because I have more important things to do, like chase my kid around the dining room table to get my slippers back!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Story Behind the Trailer

This Summer's workload has been voluminous... and inexhaustible, unlike me.  I've threatened to take some time off and it never quite materializes.  It WILL happen this weekend.  From Friday night to Monday morning, I shall not set foot off the farm, nor change out of my PJ's.  Clarification: one set of pyjamas per 12 hours... 52 hours in the same pair would be gross -- even for a cow kissing fiend!

I  haven't narrowed down which projects I want to work on, there are so many and the forecasted temperatures are for 100'F highs.  Decisions, decisions.

The last time I had the whole weekend off was almost a couple of months ago and I had fun:  I finished my horse trailer's rejuvenation.  It had started off as a mere rust treatment on the roof a few weeks earlier and ended up being a total repainting job.

I repainted it exactly as it was before.

Not precisely as before... we have new graphics.  Tommy's having difficulties reading the second word.

The design is my homage to the Craftman movement, the dragonflies will forever be my symbols, O'Neill is my family name and a crofter is an old Scottish term for a tenant farmer.  That is what I am:  a tenant.  
O'Neill Crofters has a nicer ring to it than O'Neill Hobos or O'Neill Squatters.
Before I rechristened this outfit as Crofters, we were once O'Neill Dairy.
My ode to the Art Deco era, ominously echoing the roaring 20's before the Great Depression.  O'Neill Dairy's glory days were ended by the Great Recession. It had all begun as a dream aided by the impulse purchase of a dilapidated trailer.  Correction:  a 1960's school bus converted into a trailer.
I vaguely remember how I had announced my idea to my husband on a Friday night: "Honey, I found a big, inexpensive trailer online... in Virginia, I want to go 'look' at it.  I'll be back in 20 hours or so.  Don't wait up for supper."  Like I was going to drive half way to Canada and not come back with something!
I'd never hauled anything larger than a two horse bumper pull trailer.

 Myself and my poor F-250 were unprepared for the 38 foot, 16,000 lb behemoth we pulled out of the hollers of the Smokey Mountains.

This depicts it cleaned up and with four new wheels and tires on.  
It was worse when I bought it -- way worse.  It had no brakes, so by the time I returned to Alabama, my F-250 had burnished brakes, a ruined rear suspension and a gimpy transmission.  A concerned trucker in Georgia had alerted me that I had a concrete block on the roof.  It could have killed someone, had it fallen off, but it was well anchored by the tree sapling that was growing through it.  

Somewhere in its history, someone had toiled to convert it into a 6 horse centerload trailer.  A very uncommon rig nowadays, the three front horses rode facing backwards. Can horses get nauseated?  The original creator had used oak boards for the floors and the half walls. The next owner added a living quarter where the front three horses had been.  It was a great camper, unlike RV's that have light, flimsy fittings, this one had solid oak cupboards and stout 2x4 walls.  My own Hillbilly Deluxe!
Unless I planned to haul miniature ponies, the living quarter had to go.  I tore out my camper's guts, then put an entirely new, lighter pressure treated floor in and tore out the bad windows.

The restoration ceased for a year due to a divorce and the funneling of my time and money into building a house.  As Murphy's Law would have it, the camper portion had been gutted and I now needed a place to live while I was building.
Six months, I lived in that thing.  The roof leaked like a sieve when it rained, the bugs almost ate me alive and it was hot as the Dickens in there in July.
It was primitive.  Yet, those 6 months of roughing it and building my dream house will evermore be some of the best times of my life.  I eschew sentimentality over material things -- except where this trailer is concerned.  
It has housed me, safely ferried all my sick animals to the vet school (and forced me to buy a bigger F-350).  It allowed me to start Hudson Transport,a not for profit company, to rescue abused or neglected horses and transfer them to safe havens.  It taught me the joy of seeing a restoration project through to the end. So, I built a shed/temple for it out of recycled lumber.  I wuv my trailer.

I devoted half a year to redoing the whole thing:  new windows, I learned how to install and calibrate electromagnetic brakes, rewired it front to back, scoured every bit of rust and smeared it with 17 gallons of Rustoleum.
Inside,outside and underneath!
The past few years of unsheltered parking has marred its finish.  The animals have helped with the ageing process over the years too.  Mack attempted to tear a hole in the roof with his horn (the picture below is the view from the outside).
I peeled and recaulked my seams with this amazing automotive sealant.  Slight sticker shock though:  $16 per tube.
Any semblance of rust was ground down and treated with Rust Inhibitor, primed and the whole shebang repainted.
Some see it as an obscenely ugly moving violation, but I cherish that 50 year old hunk of steel.
The whole O'Neill Gypsy clan love it too!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Last Lap

Monday, the skies poureth bucket upon bucket of water upon us.  We almost drowneth.  
I came home, late afternoon, because I was beyond soaked.  My last job in Opelika was rescheduled, lo and behold, I couldn't have gotten there anyway with some of the road closures due to flooding.

Opelika 3 PM

The Hyundai, lacking amphibian capabilities, was relieved to have been spared having pond water in her motor.
After drying myself out, I picked up Cole from physiotherapy and went to clean a student rental.

The last one.  I'm DONE.  Three days ahead of schedule. (crowd goes wild).  Tonight, we celebrate:  in bed before 10 PM and no warning shot to anyone who disturbs my slumber.

Maybe we can get back to some semblance of normalcy around here..... ooooh, I slay myself!
I can guarantee one item that is now on the top of my list:  vole annihilation.  Now, that I think back to some of the crop failures this past Fall, it wasn't frost, it was vermin.
The good news is:  they have no liking for my basil, my tomato plant, my arugula, nor my corn.  Small blessings, count them, even if only on one hand.  

Puckering up to kiss Toddy under the ten foot tall Bloody Butcher corn.  Great for the oxen...

I grew a quarter acre of corn for the boys when they were babies.

Every morning, I'd take my machete and chop some down for them.  Spoiled?  Nah.

I did keep some for myself to dry, grind and turn into spectacular corn bread.

Ahh, Glory Days!

Off to bond with my PJ's, night y'all!

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I've been informed that math is not my strong suit.  One gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, so the one five gallon bucket I pull up from the well is 40 pounds, not 8.  Yes, I am a dunce at times. Or a clown, take your pick.

Staying Busy

Between an overabundance of work and farm projects, there's been little time and energy left for much of anything else.  

Eventually, I'll catch up on all my correspondence.  Currently, I'm still weeks behind.

Months ago, I guaranteed clients that I could take care of all their student rentals that become vacant the two weeks around the first of August.  In a college town, it's called Rollover.  Contractors flood in to repair, paint and clean all the units left in varying degrees of uncleanliness and ravagement.  Rollover is akin to a marathon versus a 5k.  You work into the night (or straight through) until you get them all done.  
I'm gearing up for the Lake Martin 100 this Spring and I consider all-nighters to be part of ultramarathon training. 

 I've been told that staying awake and moving for over 30 hours straight is the hardest obstacle for runners to overcome during a hundo (runner's slang for 100 mile race).  Me thinks I got that part licked.

I've been fortunate to have many heroes in my life, some now passed, great ones still inspiring me daily and many more yet to be discovered. One such source of strength is someone I've been working for twice a month for a decade. 
I had lost my vim and vigor when I saw her last Monday, complaining about my workload and how unsure I was if I could get all the rentals and my regular work completed.  Her answer was to grit my teeth, plow forward and get it done. No coddling from this one.  She has one daughter with a double doctorate and a son who retired as a general on the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.  She obviously has a handle on motivating people! 
For years, she's amazed me with stories from her life.  The hardships she endured while being pregnant during WWII, with her husband abroad, she being left with her in-laws on a dairy farm, struggling to get by.  
The voles may have devastated most of my garden this year, but I can get in my car and go to Earth Fare to buy more organic produce.  70 years ago, with rationing, you didn't have the gas to go to the store.  Once at the store, you couldn't buy what you wanted anyway!  We have no clue what true resilience is anymore.
When I grow up, I want to be like Mrs. C.
By telling you that she was preggers back in the early 1940's you can guess that she's no Spring chicken anymore, but don't tell her that, she won't believe you (she may actually swat you).
A couple years ago, she begrudgingly allowed her daughter to permanently borrow her Scuba gear because she was letting her Hawaii time share go.  The agreement is that it's hers to use whenever she wants it back!
I'm telling you, she's a hoot.
I called her on her cell phone a few years ago, she answered and related to me very quickly, in a language most unbecoming of a great-grandmother, that she couldn't talk now, she was hauling cattle over the mountains, in an overloaded trailer, trying to keep up with her grandson's rig and the blasted @%!! boy was driving too fast.  8 hour haul in your 80's.  My 5 mile haul to the vet school every few months exhausts me and I'm half her age.  

So, last weekend, my gardens were parched from the lack of rain.  I carved out 6 hours on Sunday to draw water from the well for irrigation.  I draw up a 5 gallon bucket of water (40 pounds) and fill a tub on wheels until I have 25 gallons to tote around the yard.  I lost track at 44 forays with the tote.  That's over 1100 gallons, over 220 buckets drawn from the well.  
When I thought my hands were going to plop off, I'd wander off and work on another project for a while.  My strategy worked because it permitted the dropping water column level to replenish itself by a few feet.
When I thought of quitting altogether, I asked myself:  What would Mrs. C do?  
I grit my teeth and stopped only when I was finished with the last plant and I was drawing up pebbles from the bottom of the well.

Have you hugged your mentor today?