Sunday, December 27, 2015

Plotting and Planning

Spontaneous getaways have never in been my vocabulary.  At one point, I had 12 dogs.  Later, I had 10 horses. 

 No grabbing a bargain last minute flight to Europe, because you can't throw 30 bales of hay out and hope for the best. Every trip has to be well choreographed and planned far in advance.

 Which, is a task I relish almost as much as the actual trip.  
So, that is why 10 months in advance, I'm beginning my preparations for our North West adventure.  Cole and I lack 10 states to complete our USA running challenge.  This was to be our Cross country skiing trip.
We have two extra side kicks this year, two more to get tangled up in the lines, two more to wrap me around a tree.
Besides, I lack the budget to dress 3 dogs for skijoring.
Cole, styling and profiling with snug body vest, skijoring harness, no slip hat and leg hoses to keep ice from cutting his legs.  All courtesy of Howling Dog Alaska, not Walmart priced either. 
Besides, finding accommodations for one large dog is always challenging... to find a room for a mushing team, probably impossible. And I'm not sleeping in a tent in Wyoming in February.
Plan B:  late Summer trip to Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming.
Hours spent tearing down the subcompact Korean car.

Presenting to new Dog Mobile, finally fits one adult and three large dogs.  Only one adult as only a single seat and seat belt remaining. Plus passenger side air bags disabled!
Montana, ready or not, here we come-- in approx 10 months.
Garrett:  "What are we waiting for?"
Pete:  "Wake me when we get there."

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Big Day

You know it:  Christmas Day.  What everyone has been stressing about for weeks now.  Except the chosen few.  We put our favorite cowboy boots on and head to the barn to do what we do every day.  There's bliss in that. Besides, only morons would dare venture out in the floods we've endured in these parts.
"Hang on Myrtle, here I come with the cranberries and dressing". 
 Entirely not worth the risk of floating down the Saugahatchee and the ignominious volunteer fire department rescue.  Yes, it has been that bad.
Yes, I spent gobs of time herding horses into the barn before lightning storms, then back out, then back in.
Some were royally confused by the exercise.

Some are plain brighter than others an need no reminders to get out of harm's way:
The most kissable end of an ox.

Worth all the effort... all minions accounted for, in defiance of some violent storms. 

All hands on deck the past few days.
Garrett, head of quality control, is eager to help run tests on the new screens I've been retrofitting to very unsquare office windows.  "Please curb your enthusiasm, son".

Two days alone on the farm, entry points secured, no employees in sight... not like a holiday, but almost.  Do you realize how much work can be accomplished??? 

Not as much fun as being back at home with family, 

but a close second.
Although my tourtieres are good, I bet mononcle Jean's are better.
He'd agree.

In conclusion, we, on this remote, sufficiently elevated dry piece of agricultural land, do wish you a splendid Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fasten Your Seatbelt

What do they say about the best laid plan?  
They go Kablooie in your face, that's what.
Stayed up late/got up early making multitudes of tourtieres (French Canadian meat pies) and watching over an ancient horse who was mildly colicking.  Horses are as stupid as we are.  When it gets cold, they don't feel thirsty.  Guess what happens when they ingest 17 pounds of feed with little water?  Water is Nature's Drano.  And the saying is true:  you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  However, you can make warm concoctions with molasses and Gatorade and you can make him find his mash buried under 2 gallons of water!
Note to self, the Weather Channel lies. Mercury plummeted enough down here to freeze the faucets in the barn Friday night. This is Alabama, nothing is designed for cold weather.  By George, I turned the water off to the barn for tonight and drained the lines... won't catch me twice.
All this fun and games today set me back so far that I had to miss driving to a Christmas party out of town.  I'd even converted a horse trailer into a doggie duplex...don't leave home without them!
Comfy on a sofa in the trailer.  Note the tacky battery powered Christmas lights.
What do you do when your car can't hold 3 large dogs?  Get creative.
Lamps, heater, 5 rolls of extension cord, all the comforts of home.
All for not.
To add insult to injury, a buck tackled my truck 1 mile from my house and remolded everything from the front fender to the rear door.  Cole and I attempted to find him, all he left was a few hundred in damage, much blood and my mirror. I was going 25 mph, he must have hit me going 35.  Where's the justice?
Not even the decency to die where I could bag him for my freezer.
Some days, it doesn't pay to get out of bed!  Cole is like my personal Pauxatawny Phil.
If he emerges from his den and sees his shadow, we should stay in bed.
Outdoors or indoors!  I rigged up a bed between trees to watch my cattle.  Can't see squat with a 70 pound ground hog sitting on your chest.
Tonight, we stay in and try to power through all the party food. 

Two dozen deviled eggs divided four ways.  No one light a match around here tonight!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Love Thy Pet

The Master of Disaster has his own health insurance coverage.  Better than mine, actually.
Remember the fiasco from this Fall?
My bank account shan't soon forget.  Two thousand four hundred dollars and some change to put Humpty Dumpty back together again after the snake bite saga.
I finally completed all the paperwork to file a claim two weeks ago.
Tip of the hat to Trupanion Pet Insurance... I'm getting 90% reimbursed.
They're self underwritten and have the most benevolent staffers.  Take note vultures at my own Blue Cross Blue Shield.
$45 a month buys me piece of mind. And him extra lives.
"Who me?"  
Yes, you, Mr. Mayhem.

He is loved and cherished, especially by his physiotherapist at AU.
Guess who got the first Christmas gift of the Smith household?

Home baked dog treats.
He's miffed about sharing though.
Insert biscuit and retract fingers.

I often say that I may not be rich, but I'm the wealthiest woman in the world.  My family consists of one humanoid and many critters.  We stick together, like glue, in defiance of logic, reason or fiscal gain.  Point:  
Names were scratched out to prevent my parents from finalizing the sale! 
I have a 15k pasture ornament.  And it gives me kisses and follows me through the woods like a puppy.  Angus will not be loaded up on a trailer and shipped off. 

Sorry.  My horse affliction is chronic and irreversible.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Being Thankful, Part Deux

 Shopping is my least favorite activity. Being at the mall ranks up there with being dropped in a pit with vipers, or swimming with sharks.  
So this is how I will choose to honor Black Friday today:
Painting posts. Black. Voila.
Then, I'll resume planting wheat in the horse pastures.  Something I did on Thanksgiving Day.
Does it get better than this? Me thinks not.
Especially because it almost didn't happen.  Unhooking from the box blade was an arduous challenge Thursday morning because the three point hitch was refusing to un-hitch and the hydraulics were being equally cantankerous.  I have a hate-hate relationship with hydraulic lines. 
Thanks for the guidance of two customers and the feed store owner on what to plant and seeding rate.  Next, thanks to at least 4 creative farmers who posted Youtube videos on how to calibrate and service this blasted planting drill. Tinkering and unclogging little tubes... two hours later:
I'm loaded up.
And fully functional.
Wishing you the same marvelous day I'm about to have-- again.  As long as playing in the dirt is something you relish too!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Being Thankful

Many things, I am thankful for this month.
One:  I've  been promoted to manager of the farm.
The employees here resent being called minions and they refuse to call me by my rightful name:  Supreme Leader.  But, I'm working on it.
In retaliation, I'm performing corporate restructuring.  
Garrett has been named CFO and Pete will be Party Planner.  Cole, the trust fund baby, will not be soiled by work.
In all seriousness, a huge thank you to my friend, Ann, who got me started on this dream farm.  And a tremendous thanks to my bosses who trust me with their spot in Paradise.

Next on the agenda:  gratefulness for strong friendships.  Geovani and I worked together for 10 years.  Even after being in each others face for 70 hours a week, we were like glue.

What my Dad and I are both thankful for:  a day off.  Yes, for my father's birthday, I took him off the farm. We drove a couple of hours to Southern Georgia to visit ANOTHER farm.  Premeditated torture.  Plus, I brought all the dogs.
I couldn't figure out why we were the only ones enjoying a park on the banks of the Chattahoochee.  Gale force winds, perhaps? 
"Are we having fun yet?"

I can't vouch for my long suffering father, but I had a blast discovering forgotten gems of a town. My favorite:  Fort Gaines.  A frontier festival the previous day had left all the historic buildings open... 

"I think I can see a golf course, salvation, in the distance."
Mercifully, we eventually made it to White Oak Pastures.
A five generation farm who bravely took the plunge into organic, sustainable agriculture over a decade ago and have proven that it can be done well and it can support an entire community.  If Armageddon comes, I'm heading there.  They are completely, completely vertically integrated.  From producing their own compost with all their waste to making their own sugar, they grow it all.  The farm restaurant is staffed by Elton John's former personal chef.  During the course of our lunch, we met the owner.  He invited me to drive my truck anywhere on his farm, as long as I closed the gates.  Then we met the sheep herdsman's wife.  What a bonanza, what a day trip!
And I came home with full coolers for many more meals.
Guinea fowl, goose, rabbit, lamb heart and kidneys, sausages, so much more. 
Thanksgiving came early to the Smith residence!

Thursday, November 19, 2015


A few weeks ago, a little snowbird flew down from Canada.
This wasn't Dad's first rodeo, he packed work gloves.
He arrived at 6 on a Sunday evening and by 6:05 he was whisked away to help me feed livestock.
He toils well.
Or digging up sweet potatoes.  He was nonplussed about the black widow spider who hitched a ride into the house.
The weather has been miserable... killing frost, 6 days of rain, flooding.  The dogs are most adaptable -- preferring to watch me work from the coziness of the truck cab.
Sometimes they volunteer to venture out in the elements.
Mostly though they rough out inclement weather this way:
Ordinarily, we're a pack of four.  This month, it's been 5.
99% of the time, I value my posse's constant presence. 1% of the time, they're downright underfoot.
Par for the course around here. 
Unfortunately, my truck wasn't able to avoid a bad water hazard after torrential rains a couple of weeks ago.  We fell into this crevasse late one night.  Nearly took out my radiator.
All along, Dad has kept on toiling...
Loading steel.
Building a barn. (Notice how safely he's perched)
Isn't this what everyone does when on vacation?
Do not be chagrined for him, he loves it.
It's genetic, he can't sit still.  
I tried to take him out to local tourist attractions:
Once.  Because one attraction is all we have.  
Drive thru folk art gallery.
See, I know how to treat guest right.
Let's hope he comes back in Spring.  Tons of work during planting season, ya know.