Monday, February 27, 2012

On to the Ducks...

(Note: this was written several years ago. See previous blogs.)

My memory is hazy as to dates, but about two years ago we bought some baby ducks, six to be accurate about the number if not the time of acquisition.  Now everyone knows that ducks love water, but that is a bit of a problem when all you have is a penned in yard for your fowl to run in, and exercise their little legs, and catch bugs and eat table scraps.  But, to get back to the water.  I felt that these ducks should have something to paddle about in.  All I had was a baby bath, and since I had no further use for it other than a possible over-sized dish pan, or a litter box, I decided that this would become the ducks’ "pond".  Every day I would fill it, and inside of ten minutes those dumb ducks had practically emptied it.  They would jump in, flap their wings, beat their wings in the water, and spray everything within a three foot area.

            The water spraying from the hose into the pan was like pushing a mating button on the drake.  He would immediately become overwhelmed with a desire to consummate his relationship with the females, and wore himself out exhibiting his sexual prowess to the other birds, and any other voyeur in the area.  He became the Clark Gable of the duck pen, a real lover.

            I decided one day that they required something larger to swim (or wade) in.  The baby bath was rather cramped when three ducks tried to get in at the same time.  With spade in hand, I climbed the fence and began to dig.  I was going to dig a pond for my babies, and my little feathered family would love me forever.  Only a nut would dig a hole in a duck pen that was, in the end, about two feet in diameter, and possibly two feet deep, before the force of the hose pushed half of the loose ground back into the hole.

           You see, nobody hits water two feet down, and so now, instead of filling a baby bath, I was filling a hole, which took about four times longer to fill, and the ducks still emptied it, though it took them a bit longer.  But it did my heart good to see them swimming, for they could actually swim if they stayed right in the middle and if they went around in a circle.  Every so often I would have to take the spade and dig the hole out again.  One time, in digging it out I found an egg.  One of the ducks must have been too lazy to climb out and lay it.  Either that, or they were playing golf and it got putted into the water trap.  The best days for the ducks and me were the days we had a heavy downpour.  The rain filled the hole and soaked the ground so that it took longer for the water to soak in.  It might be two or three days before I’d have to get the hose out again.

            I enjoyed the ducks.  I liked watching them, and I even talked to them and they would quack back, but don’t mention this to anyone, for they might think I’ve gone “quackers”.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Part 4 - Chicken and Geese

I shall begin with the broilers, which were, from the onset doomed.  They are adorable little puffs of down at first, but rapidly become gawky, ugly, half pin feather, half down, noisy little devils, with the table manners that would turn Henry the VIII’s stomach.  They can not tell the difference between the dining room and bathroom, and manage as if planned to spill their water at least a dozen times a day, and soak the woodchips, which of course should remain dry.  They eat and peep and poop with constant regularity and quickly grow to the point where they can manage without heat lamps and constant overseeing and are set out with the layers to make their own way; to eat and peep and poop away each day, growing larger and larger until the time arrives when the chicken spirit rises to that big hen house in the sky and they meet their end at the hand of grass shears.  Ah yes, grass shears! This is a new technique developed by Boss.  It is tricky but accomplishes the job.  You must not frighten the chicken, but approach cautiously, talking gently and reassuringly to the doomed critter, and then with one quick squeeze of the shears, remove the head from body then quickly catch the nerve spurred run-away body before it loses itself in the gravel pit nearby.  It’s a hard day’s work, the killing and the cleaning.  I can remember sitting pulling feathers for hours and hours, not too many days before Christmas.  I detested it!  The smell of a dead chicken can nauseate even the strongest of stomachs, but again sheer will power wins out, and we get them in the freezer.  I would not eat chicken for a while afterwards for my stomach has a memory, and that had to be dispelled before I would enjoy eating chicken.


            I shall leave the chickens and go on to the geese.  Like the chickens, they are cute when they are very young, pass through an ugly stage, but become beautiful birds in a very short period of time.  My deterioration is shown here, as I found myself becoming attached to these white birds.  We spoke a different tongue, for they were Chinese, but we got along pretty well using sign language.

            I have not mentioned that Boss, because of his real job, spent weeks at a time away from home.  It was during such a period that a crisis occurred.  We had acquired four geese but only two were ours.  Boss, being a generous, amiable sort of guy, had volunteered to raise two geese for a friend.  That is commendable, but he didn’t stay around to perform his side of the bargain, and flew away leaving me with the goslings.  It was a period in my life that will forever be stamped on my memory.

            One day, on a regular inspection trip to the barn, I noticed that one of the goslings did not look well at all, and I immediately began worrying, pacing and panicking.  I asked a fellow who I knew could tell me whether or not the little thing was sick, and he agreed that there was definitely something wrong.

Now what was I going to do?  I wondered.  These things were my responsibility.  Immediately, I labeled the sick chick as one of the two belonging to the other guy.  I hardened myself to the situation.  I had to be strong.  This would be a test of my ability to cope.  Bearing this in mind, I immediately began to cry!

Through my tears, and my intermittent thoughts that this might justify as a reason for divorce, I managed to rig a box, in the house, of course, with a light bulb for heat, and brought the ailing, almost lifeless gosling into the house.  I fed it pabulum, and held it, and hoped it would be alright, but alas, the following morning I found it dead.  I was really saddened by this, but reality beat its way to my brain.

“Now what are you going to do?” the little voice in my head said. 

            I couldn’t very well tell the other fellow that one of his geese had died. I mean, how did I know which was which.  The only thing to do was to replace the dead gosling.  I called the place where we had gotten the geese originally, explained my predicament, and with much sympathy, the lady suggested the possibility that the gosling had gotten into the medicated chicken feed, and that’s what did it in.

            That was not an impossibility.  The way Boss had set up the barn, there was every chance that the medicated feed had been scattered around and the gosling had dined his last day on food that eventually did him in.  I said previously that chickens were messy birds, and they throw their feed all over, then, scratch it all around.  Since there were no signs on the medicated feed saying, “Don’t eat me, silly goose!” and that even if there were signs the geese couldn’t have read them anyway, remember, they were Chinese, the end result was the demise of the gosling.  There was just a piece of cardboard separating the chickens from the geese, and although it kept the birds apart, it did not keep the feed contained, and some must have been pushed under the cardboard.  May I say that I did some ranting and raving when Boss came home, referring to his shoddy methods of separating the birds.  Of course the whole thing had been my fault!

            The geese were purchased for a reason.  They were not there simply to grace the farm with their beauty.  They were, as the Boss explained, to weed the strawberry patch.  They would weed the garden?   How wonderful thought I.  Marvelous!  A Godsend no less!  Well ……, they did weed……, for a while.

            A pen was built and placed in the strawberry garden.  This was going to be terrific.  All we would have to do was move the pen every day or so and the geese would do all the work.  Well, it sounded good, in theory.  In practice, the idea stunk, to put it bluntly.  Our geese were not ordinary geese.  I had made pets of them, and before they grew to full size the children had played with them, and so in their pen, in the garden, they paced back and forth on the side closest to the house, tramping on berries, waiting for somebody to come out and play.  When they heard the girl’s voices they would join in with their honking.  They even had names, Tim and Tom.  Original, don’t you think?

            As for their weeding, they would weed, most certainly, if I was in the patch with them, and it got so they would eat the weeds only if I picked them, and fed them.  Tim and Tom, my buddies!  There we were, the three of us, up to our beaks in weeds, me pulling and the geese eating.

            Thanksgiving approached, and with it the thought of roast goose for thanksgiving dinner and that thought made the children and I suffer such agony.  No way were we going to munch on Tom’s leg or Tim’s wing.  The alternative was to sell our pets so someone else could eat them.

            The tears that fell the night we delivered Tim and Tom to the new owner, would fill a bathtub twice over.  The girls went through a box of Kleenex, with some help from me, I must admit.  Poor Tim (sob, sob), poor Tom, (sob, sob), oh dear!  That was it!  No more geese, ever!  And I stuck to my guns until the next year when we got two more.  I made the same mistake with them.  I loved them, and these two were really mine.  They would even listen to me, sometimes, and follow me.  I was the only one who wasn’t afraid of them when they got bigger.  I had to hold them when they needed their wings clipped, so they couldn’t fly out of the pen.  But we sold them too, in the end, to people across the road.  They tried to come back once.  I guess they missed me.  I glanced out the window to see them heading across the road.  I flung myself out the door, acting like a crazy person, yelling, “Get off the road you stupid bird, you’ll get killed!”  I finally got them back where they belonged by carrying them.  I had to hold them once more while their wings were clipped.  It’s kind of strange when I think of it.  There I was worrying about them getting killed, when in a short time they would be beheaded anyhow.  This was further proof that I was undeniably going bonkers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Confessions...Part 3

Do you know that a farm cannot be complete without the presence of animals and fowl, and the odour which each produces, along with the more material manifestations of their being?  In layman terms, a farm’s got to have animal smells, and chicken poop; crude, but to the point.

            And so, we acquired chickens, just three to begin with, for their eggs.  The fact that we approached a large egg producer in the area, who had thousands of laying hens, and asked if we could buy three, seems now to be totally ridiculous.  But this is what we did.  We did it without any planning ahead.  Boss got the chickens and was asked where he would put them to get them home.  A good question, as we had been out for a drive, and pulled into the egg farm on the spur of the moment, having nothing in the car to put the chickens in.  The family cat was also present.

            “Just throw them in the back”, Boss said, “As soon as we get the cat cornered and the kids settled down.”  The girls were not entirely thrilled with the idea of sharing the back of the car with three frightened hens.  One never knows what scared fowl will do, and the children or I, for that matter, were not looking forward to finding out.

            That was the easy part, getting them home.  Getting them from the car to the barn was the problem.  These chickens were really scared, but through perseverance we managed to get them settled, and within a few days they were presenting us with eggs.  They appeared to be quite happy in their roomy, almost palatial new quarters, for they were accustomed to small wire cages where they could not even turn around.  We had given them a new way of life and they repaid us with eggs and a constant supply of garden fertilizer.

            Our farm was growing.  We now had a cat, two rabbits, and three chickens.  Through the years, at various times, we had as part of our menagerie, upwards of fifteen broiler chickens, which are a story in themselves.  We have raised geese, ducks and two pigs.  With each addition came events which will forever be emblazoned on my mind, and which added their own stroke to the deterioration of my emotional and mental stability.  I will therefore afford each group their own section.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Diary"..part 2

And so, hating and yet strangely enjoying the work, the garden became an obsession, a passion, and a constant pain in my back.  It was surely driving me mad, but more was in store for me.
We had a “farm”.  A very small holding, grant you, but a farm, a hobby farm, some would call it,
But I have yet to conclude exactly whose hobby it was, mine or Sir’s.  It was a farm because the children, when asked what line of work their father was in, would reply, “He’s a farmer, and he flies airplanes”, thus making their father’s occupation of secondary importance, even though his flying paid the bills and also helped to induce the madness that was creeping into my head.  I will show as this goes on, just how this occurs.

            For amateurs, our garden was fairly successful.  We had grown enough produce to supply ourselves, our relatives, and half the south mountain with vegetables, especially beans!  Boss’s rule of thumb was, “If it’s there, can it or freeze it,” no matter that you can’t use it all.  I became bogged down in the canning quicksand, with pickles and tomatoes, and the freezing mire with mountains of peas, beans and corn, not to mention all the berries that grew wild on our land, and because they were ‘there’, you canned them!

            Now, all this seems, on the outside, to be very ‘back to the landish’, and it is, except for one small item.  I had never canned anything, or made pickles, or cut corn from the cob to freeze the kernels, or blanched peas and beans.  But, you do what you must do, and so I did, but talk about frustration!  The vegetables were seasoned with the salt from the tears I shed, tears of utter hopelessness and futility.  I didn’t have a clue, and I detested every minute of the harvest.  It sure seemed to me that it was a lot easier to pick up frozen peas at the grocery store, than to sit for hours, shelling thousands of pods to get a few bags to set in your home freezer.  The jolly green giant does it much better, and faster, and he doesn’t have to pick up dropped peas for weeks after.

            The fact that four years later I am writing this attests to the realization that one can do what they must do, and survive, at least physically if not mentally.  Each year I do the same, and I must admit I can do it faster now.  I can not say better, or that I enjoy it, but I do it because it’s there to do.

            And so we shall leave the garden, and the canning, and though I should mention that I still do both and it has become a part of my life, that the transition is over, the harvest is a natural event that comes in its turn each year, and is accepted, if not greeted with anticipation.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Just thought I'd share this. Maybe you'll get a few laughs, and perhaps understand a bit more where I am coming from. This was written a long time ago......

Written November 1978
 (This was written while in Shelburne.  It began as a letter to friends back in the valley.  I don’t recall if it was sent in full or not.  I don’t know whether to keep it or not, but will omit the first part.  I think it was supposed to funny, but rereading it, I don’t find it so.  I put myself down quite a bit.  I will just continue with the part where we begin farming.)

 Part 1

            Our married life has had its share of ups and downs, oohs and ahs, darns and I’m sorrys.  For the first eight or so years there were many changes. (We produced two off-spring and they always needed changing.)  We were like nomads, moving constantly it seemed, living in a different house every year, and sometimes moving twice in the same year.  But, in the spring of 1974 we finally settled in a place called Nicholsville, and here, dear reader is where the madness begins to make its mark.  It is here that I will begin a detailed description of the “Mad Housewife.”

            Our own home, our first home, this little house was really home, finally!  It meant comfort, warmth, relaxation……Ha!  Fat chance!  In the first few days, even before we actually had moved in, I had an inclination of just what was in store, and yet I ignored the treacherous thoughts that kept nagging at me.  This place is going to put calluses on your hands, bruises on your legs, paint on your pants, and hurt in your heart.  “I laughed it off.  No way, I said to myself.  This is heaven.

            As we moved in, a whole new way of life unfolded before me.  In fact a whole new Boss sprang out of the old one.  It was as if the mountain air produced a potion that transformed him into something alien.  He began to spend every waking hour working on the house, or outside.  His job flying became secondary, a means to an end, and in the changing process I began to realize that I too was slipping gradually, and not without a fight, slipping into the chasm with my husband.  It was then I knew that I had to be going completely mad!  I feared I would never be normal again.  To prove this thesis I will endeavor to report certain activities that will support this mad theory.

            We must go back a few years, to the beginning, before we moved in.  Back to the time when I found myself sitting under a great maple tree, at the edge of what my husband called a garden, but what appeared to me to be a farmers field.  Why, you might ask were we sitting under the tree?  For one thing, we were cutting potatoes to plant in “our garden”.

            We cut, we planted, and in so doing we sowed the seeds of country living into our hearts.  I became blood brother (or sister) to a potato, by slicing my finger and allowing the juice from the potato to mix with the blood from my finger, and I became mysteriously a part of the land.

            The day came when we moved in.  This followed days of lugging our belongings up the mountain, and across a gravel road to our new house.  The moving was a miracle in action, a truly weird sight to any onlookers, and I am sure to this day, that it implanted serious doubts about our rationality, in the minds of our new neighbours.  Picture, if you can, a beat-up, rusted old car, hauling a skidoo trailer loaded to the gills with cartons, mattresses, furniture, and then add to that a following truck, an ancient four wheel drive, ex paddy wagon, and also packed full of our belongings.

            Slowly, we crawled from the married quarters at the base, where we had existed for a month or two, along the middle mountain road, unpaved of course, then up the mountain to the top road, which was about to be paved, and was therefore blanketed with rocks the size of beach balls.  I was indeed a battle, weaving to avoid the larger rocks, and at the same time, not swerving hard enough to upset all the cartons on the trailer.  Finally, with beaded brow and racing pulse, and overflowing kidneys, we arrived with the last load, and became residents in our home.

            We decided that top priority was the garden, and I became a fast learner in the weed course.  I can remember closing my eyes at night and seeing weeds, weeds of every kind.  I’d shake my head in a futile attempt to dispel the vision, and it would be replaced with millions of carrot tops, popping through the ground.  Oh how I ached for peaceful sleep, without having to take the garden to bed with me.  Strange bedmates, strange indeed.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

     Feeling better today, after all my whining.  I even had enought energy to do this -

     Heather brought me some fleece on the weekend, so I couldn't wait to dye some. Now, what shall I do with it? Lots!  Got me some 'sperimentin' to do. Thankful for a better day.