Tag Archives: farms

In the moment – a surprise post

I got too hot sitting in the sun so I took my book and moved to the shade. Now I sit in a corral made of large branches from a dead cottonwood. I’m facing west. I’ve removed my shoes and socks so my toes can dig in the grass, into the earth. I hear the chickens clucking; they’ll be going to bed soon. I hear a mourning dove. It makes its Whooo-hoooo…coooo, cooooo, cooooo noise. There’s a lark somewhere far to my left. The Stupid Dove (Asian? Eurasian? The ones with the band around their throats and that sound like they were raised by crows because of the way the coo-squawk. Squkwoowk, I guess. They sound like idiots) is squkwooking behind me, looking for its mate.
The sun is descending, falling through the leaves and branches of the giant, wild willow. It looks like a cottonwood, too, but has willow leaves. The garden is growing; I can see the rhubarb from here. It’s beginning to bolt. The hops are creeping up their trellis and the robins hop around lunging at the ground for bugs. There are little black birds with beady eyes and yellow beaks, too. They are more serious than the robins who seem to enjoy the evening as much as I. Beyond the trees that line the creek, the trees whose leaves sparkle in the sun because it rained earlier today, the hill rolls tumblingly up to the rainclouds on the horizon. The clouds are lit by the sun behind them, giving them a golden glow around the edges.
Something has grabbed my attention. On the other side of the corral, the grass wiggles. I watch long enough to see that it’s a mouse, a cute mouse. It doesn’t know I’m here. I watch while I type and it nibbles at … I can’t see what it nibbles, but I see it pause, poke its head above the grass and look around. The dog comes close so the mouse stands still. That is wise as the dog loves little creatures. She wants to hug them and lick them and play with them and take them home and call them “George.” Mostly, though, she catches them and gives them heart attacks and then carries their little dead bodies around, hoping they can be friends if she’s just patient enough. The mouse still has not moved. It knows better. It must be an old mouse. Wait, now it inches its way down the streambank, slowly. I only see it because I’ve been watching. It is going to the rocks where it will be safe.
More robins congregate on the lawn, some chirp from the tree. Across the green, the Peak peeks. It looks like it has lost its snow but I know it’s still covered; I saw it this morning and there was more white than blue. This is just a trick of the afternoon light.
This is a lovely moment. The smell of grass and fresh air. I smell lilacs but that can’t be, as there are none nearby, not that I know of, at any rate. It’s warm – the high sixties at least which is funny since it started out so cold this morning, perhaps in the 40’s? Low 50’s at the most.

I want to remember this moment forever, this evening on an early summer day. I wish I could give it to everyone I meet, I think it would bring peace to many. This is the best I can do, writing about it, sharing pictures. It’s not the same but hopefully, it will help me remember later.

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Disclosure: This is my version of Stream of Consciousness-style writing. I’ve only edited spelling mistakes. Also, I had to go into the house to post it because the internet didn’t reach all the way out there.

THE NEXT DAY, an edit:  While I was washing the breakfast dishes and looking out the kitchen window, I saw the lilacs. They’re surrounding my car. I’d been sitting by them earlier. I’ve always known they’re there and they’re still blooming so obviously, I was in some other state brought about by peacefulness yesterday when I said there were no lilacs nearby.

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard

Super Special Snowy Saturday post

We’re out at the farm this weekend and it’s all snowy and blowy and stuff.

This was around 8 am. It had just started snowing.

This was around 8 am. It had just started snowing.

And this is around 11 am. There's a little more snow.

And this is around 11 am. There’s a little more snow.

I’m sitting here with three dogs who are currently melting on the rug because we just finished a rousing game of Shovelful of Snow TO THE FACE, a supremely fun wintertime activity, and Gabe who is playing with his tablet, his laptop, and the TV because he is just so excited that there’s internet in the house.

Much like Shovel of Snow TO THE FACE is fun, so is SNOWBALLS IN THE AIR! It's an awesome game.

Much like Shovel of Snow TO THE FACE is fun, so is SNOWBALLS IN THE AIR! It’s an awesome game.

See? Snow is the best plaything ever.

See? Snow is the best plaything ever.

I haven’t lost any chickens, though there’s always a chance there will be a yeti attack in the night.

Neither rain nor wind nor sleet nor snow will stop these gals from laying eggs.

Neither rain nor wind nor sleet nor snow will stop these gals from laying eggs.

This is what is going on outside while the girls are inside clucking under their heat lamp, getting a tan.

This is what is going on outside while the girls are inside clucking under their heat lamp, getting a tan.

And because it's all windy and stuff, there are drifts.

And because it’s all windy and stuff, there are drifts.

Diego the horse, the one who made out with me all last summer, is being a total jerk and pretending he doesn’t even know me and Buttercup, the donkey, is covered in ice because someone keeps kicking her out of the barn (I’m looking at you, Llama Face)

These two are all, "GIT OUTTA MY BARN!" and then everyone else has to sit around in the wind and ice.

These two are all, “GIT OUTTA MY BARN!” and then everyone else has to sit around in the wind and ice.

See? Poor Buttercup! If I thought she'd come with, I'd bring her in and put her in the bathtub to drip dry. I'm not sure that would work well for anyone, but at least she wouldn't be covered in icicles. That llama is mean. (Actually, she's out here because I'm out here and she thinks I have treats. And I did have treats. And she got some)

See? Poor Buttercup! If I thought she’d come with, I’d bring her in and put her in the bathtub to drip dry. I’m not sure that would work well for anyone, but at least she wouldn’t be covered in icicles. That llama is mean. (Actually, she’s out here because I’m out here and she thinks I have treats. And I did have treats. And she got some)

I feel very sorry for everyone who has to deal with the snow but isn’t doing it here (which means, everyone who is not Gabe, the three melting dogs and me) because this is the prime blizzardy place to be. There are scads of tea options, there are buckets o’ soup, and there are big windows everywhere so we can watch the snow fly by while staying warm. And melting all over the rug.

Happy snowy day to all of you from the comfort and warmth of the farm. Sorry you can’t be me.

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Filed under Adventures, In someone else's backyard

And a good weekend was had by all

Gabe & I completely successed this weekend until it couldn’t breathe. No, seriously, we were like superheroes of accomplishment. I am so impressed with us that I moved the post I’d planned to put here to another day just so I could take some space to brag. Before I start the braggery, though, I’d like to mention we had our first snow this past Friday. It wasn’t a storm or anything but there was a dusting of small white sleety frost-pebbles on the ground and it was frickin’ cold out. Saturday called for more of the same, yet it was all bright and sunny when we got up which was exciting for us because we had a big day planned: we were going to get the Halloween decorations out, get the house staged to be pimped, and then we were going to get my mom and head out to the farm to pick pumpkins. We were all, “Yay! It’s not going to be cold while we pick pumpkins after all!” only then the clouds started looming around 11:00 am and by the time we got out there at 12:30, it was cloudy and moist in the air and it was bitter. That didn’t stop us, though.

Gabe’s first (of many) success!

We brought home 20+ pumpkins. 10 are for carving, 4 were for the neighbors, and the rest are for decoration (I want to do this) Anyhow, we got home with our giant pumpkin load and unpacked them all over the house, giggling and cavorting like…well, morons, really.

All these pumpkins belong to me…and they take up my space so I’ll need to sit in the people seat.

 

We were cold. I made stew and Gabe made bread and we watched “Ghostbusters” because it’s important to get into the…eh heh heh…spirit of the season. Afterward, I finished making Halloween cards while sipping my spiced apple cider because we’re very posh like that.

You know how I said it had snowed and was cold for two full days? Yeah, I figured that meant it was safe to fill the bird feeders and put out the suet. Turns out, I was very wrong. Hungry Bear came into our yard in the night, tore down the feeders and ate everything plus picked up the compost bin and tossed it away so to be better able to dig through the compost. That meant we had extra work to do Sunday morning! Hooray. :/

Let sleeping garlics lie.

Yes. That is a totally redneck garden border. But don’t worry! We’ll make it pretty next year. Maybe.

We cleaned up after the bear – and let me tell you, putting the compost all back together takes forever. I don’t know why, but it does. It was frosty out and it stayed cold in the shade, but the sunny areas quickly warmed and we were able to finish making a deliciously warm bed for our soon-to-be babies, which other people call garlic. We planted 50 cloves (it’s the hardnecked kind and has to sleep in the ground during the winter) plus 7 mutant cloves that might not grow. We said nice things to them and tucked them in for their long sleep. Gabe covered them with warmy-toasty leaves and we will see our babies again in the spring if all goes well.

Then we decorated the heck out of our house! Gabe worked on the inside while I worked on the outside because Gabe is not methodical like I am and he just digs through boxes, looking at stuff and it drives me nuts so I killed him and put him in the yard as a prop. Not really, but I thought about it as I strung purple bat lights across the door. Here’s the end result:

No, really, this place is totally safe and sane. Toooo-tally.

and that’s not including whatever we wind up adding on over the next few weeks. I guess with advertising like that, it’s really no surprise that we get so many trick-or-treaters.

As we drifted off to sleep in our tired and achy old bodies, we congratulated ourselves on a job well done. We completely carped the weekend!

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, In someone else's backyard, My Dearly Beloveds

The Case of the Missing Chicken

Back in August, Gabe and I got to be farmers. Well, he was a rancher and I was the farmer because, technically, we were farmsitting on a ranch. Anyway, it was completely beautiful and delightful, our own little on-the-land vacation, up until I lost a chicken.
Gabe was in charge of the ranch land surrounding the farm. I was in charge of the animals: 2 horses, 1 donkey, 3 biblical sheep, 1 llama, 1 dog (3 dogs for one weekend), and 8 chickens. For two weeks, I kept these guys safe from harm (I didn’t actually do anything. I didn’t even have to feed anyone but the dog and chickens because all those hoofy animals feed themselves in the pasture. I did see a lynx/cougar…Lygar. Counx. Clynxar. Chupacabra…creature and I promptly took its picture

It’s like playing Where’s Waldo only with a cat creature, one that does not wear stripes. At least, not that I saw.

then yelled at it because I obviously believe in personal safety. That’s LIKE protecting animals) As you can tell, I had the more sensitive job because what can really go wrong if you’re just watching land, right? Still, my job wasn’t THAT hard; I should not have been able to screw it up.

I’ve just mentioned the Lygar/Counx/Clynxar/Chupacabra in the area. There are also coyotes; we heard them at night making their yappy ruckus. There’s a husband-and-wife hawk team that live near the barn in the big, old cottonwoods. Aaand there’s at least one owl. You’d think with so many predators nearby, I’d have hesitated to let a chicken wander about the grassy yard, let alone 8 of them. But, see, chickens need fresh greens and they need to stretch their legs. Their coop and fenced-in pen might be bigger than my bedroom but there are 8 girls stuck in there together. Think about that.
So that last morning on the farm, I let them out for their daily exercise and grass-eating. 7 went strolling and 1 stayed in to lay an egg. The dog and I played with the hose water, I picked some beans, tidied the yard, pulled some weeds and then it was time to put the chickens away; 7 went in and I shut the gate. I figured the 8th was still inside the coop laying her egg. I thought I’d check in, see if she was having any problems. After all, they’re all new to this whole There’s-an-egg-coming-out-of-my-chicken-butt thing. I went around to the coop door and peered in only to find nothing. 0 chickens in the coop. I looked back into their pen. 7 chickens. I opened the coop door and went inside. I looked up into the rafters (they hide there when the Chupacabra comes ‘round)

Totally hidden. NO one will EVER find them there.

and down under the water tray. I looked in the nesting boxes, in the corners, and back up into the rafters. There were no extra chickens in the coop and there were only 7 of them out in the chicken yard. That means there was 1 missing chicken (see, Mrs. Zimbrick [my first- and second-grade teacher], I did learn basic math!)
I called the dog to me. “Find the chicken,” I cried like a General in a war…a war that involves chickens. “FIND HER!” The dog looked around, all excited.  I gave her some auditory clues. “BAWK BAWK! Where is the chicken that says BAWK BAWK?” The dog, who is pretty damned smart, looked at the chicken pen and all but said, “They’re right there, moron. Riiiight there.”
I started searching for the AWOL bird. I searched the roots and root caves of the shrubs that are by the stream bed. I looked up into the cottonwoods and willows because I know chickens can fly high enough to get up to a branch. I hunted through brambles, over and under rocks, through the garden. I walked the perimeter of the yard calling, “Heeere, chicken chicken chicken. Bawk bawk bawk bawk” (I can actually do a fair chicken noise imitation so those “bawks” sounded convincing and I was sure she’d answer back)

Here’s an aside: I know chickens. I am wise to their ways. Despite knowing that we were in dangerous territory with chicken-eating predators lurking around every corner and under every leaf, I was confident that this chicken had not become a meal. First off, neither the dog nor the other chickens had freaked out at any time and they would have done so had a coyote ambled into the yard to grab a bite. Second off, the hawks are ridiculously loud when they swoop down to get a meal and the two in the area are always shrieking about something so I’d have heard them if they were around. Third off, the chupacabra already knew about my crazy and would not even risk me yelling at it again. And fourth off, I know chickens love to hide. I know this because I have been around many chickens – I even raised one from the time it was laid to when it was viciously murdered by my aunt and uncle’s evil terrier from hell (in case anyone from that part of the family is reading: NO, I will NOT ever get over that. EVER) – and they have all hidden at some point. Seriously. It’s what chickens do.

Ok, back to the story: I guessed the missing fowl in question had made a nest somewhere and was hoping to have egg-laying time in private. I decided I’d wait her out. I sat in the grass and told the dog to come sit by me. We cocked our ears and liiiiiissssstened. That’s how Gabe found us. He asked what we were doing. I told him. He said, “There were only seven chickens, Erica. Not eight.” I rolled my eyes and said in my snottiest voice, “I’ve been taking care of the chickens for two weeks. I know how many there are.” He said that if it had existed, it had been eaten and we shouldn’t waste our time sitting on the lawn using our dumb-looking listening faces.
That’s when she started screaming. Chicken screaming is melodramatic. She was all BAH-GAWK! BOCK BOCK BAH-GAWK!!!! as loud as she could yell. Her voice lead me to a post by the cattle/horse/animal chute (the ramp animals walk up to get into trucks)(they don’t just climb into trucks on their own, in case you were wondering) that I’d walked past at least 93 times in my searching. She’d found the one area where the grass grew long, long enough for a chicken to hide beneath. I was quite impressed with the nest she’d made herself; it looked rather cozy. She calmed down when I picked her up, hunching herself into my side, and I carried her to her home. I told her she was a moron and that she was lucky I’d found her first because she’d make a delicious meal and that if she didn’t settle down, I intended to find out just how delicious of a meal she’d make. She gave me the Chicken Eye and did some more clucking, all happy with her lot in life. I tossed her into the coop and yelled as I slammed the coop door (I actually had to kick the bottom to get it to shut so I wasn’t slamming it because it felt good; it really did have to be done), “And STAY there!” Like she had a choice. Still. It was the principle of the statement that mattered.

And that’s how I solved the mystery of the missing chicken when I was being a farmer (evidence of farmertude below)

No chickens were harmed in the taking of this picture, though one should have been, the little monster.

**This post is dedicated to Caiti who didn’t seem at all put off by my homeless-like outfit that I wore to our lunch date because I got my good outfit dirty while hunting for an MIA chicken.**

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Filed under Adventures, For my short story collection, In someone else's backyard, My journey to writerhood