Category Archives: Diary of a Redneck Englishwoman

Morning drizzle

8.13.17

How lovely it was to wake up this morning to the very soft sound of rain pattering down on the roof and deck. After what seems an interminable age without the slightest bit of moisture direct from Mother Nature, this soft drizzle was much appreciated. Last evening, Darrell and I sat on the front deck as some huge raindrops splashed down. We were in hopes of a downpour but instead got just enough to make some dark splotched areas on the deck’s parched wood. A brief spattering and it was over.

This time of year, any moisture falling from the sky is very welcome. Fire is our greatest fear so as we watch the clouds building we have mixed feelings, will we get some much needed rain or will those clouds bring only thunder and lightning? Thankfully for us we were spared lightning although the huge rumblings meant someone was feeling the brunt of the storm nearby.

It really is quite amazing what a natural watering from Mother Nature does to one’s garden. Despite being diligently dampened on a regular basis with water from our well via hosepipes and sprinklers, the plants seem to relish the “true” dampening coming from the skies up above. They seem to grow almost before one’s eyes and instantly flourish. I am sure our corn and sunflowers sprout inches immediately after a rain and the weeds, well they just go right to town! Yes, nothing beats a natural soaking.

I had to smile yesterday morning. We have a family from Portland visiting us this weekend, dad and his twin 11-year-old children. As we all went down to the lower farmyard to feed Lass and the pigs, a few large raindrops started to spatter down. In the 70 plus degree warmth of the morning I relished the droplets falling on my face and shoulders, this to me was a treat! The youngsters however, pulled up their sweatshirt hoods and eventually headed for dryness of the bunkhouse until the brief shower was over. I too may have done just the same at one time in my life, now, during summer’s drought, I relish the slightest moisture coming from above.

This summer has been quite brutal as far as hot weather goes. Our chickens are showing their displeasure by cutting back on egg production, Lass too is down on her milk although still giving up nearly 5 gallons a day for me plus some for her calf as well so I cannot complain. But in this heat she is more content to find a shady tree to lie under rather than head out the back to forage. Trying to get as much done in the coolness of the early mornings as possible is the name of the game for us for by noon the heat is driving us to find a shady spot. This whole year has been a bit of a muddle as far as temperatures go. The wild and wooly winter was followed by a very wet spring which just as Darrell predicted, turned off into a blazing hot summer. Not to wish our lives away, but we are looking forward to some slightly cooler and damper weather! It is just too dry out here!

Of course before much longer we will be inundated with people in our little community as the great extravaganza, the solar eclipse, will see a huge swath of Oregon swamped with people from all over the globe. We in Monument, as well as other towns in Grant County, are in the “Path of Totality”. As such, we are preparing for an influx of visitors the likes of which we have never seen. If only half the number of people show up that are expected, we will still find resources stretched to the limit! With only a week to go until the celestial event, people are on edge wondering what to expect. Some landowners are hosting huge numbers of eclipse viewers, opening up their fields and sectioning off camping spots to take advantage of the flood of people looking for a place to watch the sky. Eclipse mania is upon us! For ourselves, we are content to have a lovely family from down in California return to stay with us. Two years ago they were here for a family reunion and at that time booked our bunkhouse for this event, which to tell you the truth I had no inkling of at the time! They and a photographer lady from the Seattle area are the only ones who will be staying at our farm, which is perfectly fine for us!

Let us all hope those folks who are planning on coming to our little part of the world to view this celestial event will treat our lands with kindness and consideration. May they come and enjoy our beautiful area, leave no fires behind them and return home safe and sound.

 

Letting go…

7.16.17

As I woke up this morning and glanced out the bedroom window, the early light of dawn was just a glow on the horizon, reminding me yet again that we are on the downhill slope of another year. There is a bit of a chill in the air, a welcome coolness after the heat of the past couple of days, but a harbinger that firing up the wood cookstove of a morning may not be that far off. Daft thinking I know, since we still have the remainder of July and all of August’s heat to get through. Right now we have guests staying in the bunkhouse or this cool morning would see Darrell outside, firing up the chainsaw, cutting the logs piled in our driveway turnaround into chunks destined for the woodshed. Early morning is definitely the time to get cracking on chores like this before the day’s heat drives you to seek shelter indoors.

Sitting waiting for my first cup of tea to brew, I realize it is a very dear friend of mine’s birthday today. She turns 57, just as I shall turn 57 in September. Goodness me, why 57 sounds so much older than 55 or 56 I have no idea, maybe because 60 is looming around the corner? I think I am going through a mid-life crisis. Once again it hits me how very short our lives are and how much we tend to work, work, work instead of making time to play. Now when one has been brought up with the old adage “Work first and play later” firmly drummed into one’s being, playing before working in an anathema! Yet more and more a part of me is raising up a rebellious head, determined to defy that part of me so well programmed by my father all those years ago. I can choose when to say, “Let’s take off for the day!” and put all thoughts of the chores waiting to be done at home behind me can’t I? Of course! Sounds so easy to do yet how hard it is to take that step away from old habits. Yet when one does, an almost gleeful little girl feeling steals over one, an uncontrollable urge to giggle wells up inside. As we throw a map, fishing poles and tackle box in the back of the truck, grab some snacks out the pantry and head off into the dawn’s early light to who knows where (after judiciously feeding all the farm critters of course!), I glance over at Darrell sitting beside me and we both feel a tad like truant schoolchildren. It is however a grand feeling! We must do this more often.

This maybe is what has brought forth the feelings inside me that it is time to allow change to slip in to the old routines, to let go of some things here and there, make some changes in our life. What on earth has brought this on? Maybe the realization of mortality as a flashback to this past winter and the roof collapse debacle, maybe the realization I am starting to slow down, that I cannot go 90 miles an hour all the time. Maybe just that I finally came out and admitted to Darrell that I am tired. Do you have an idea how hard it was to say those three little words out loud? Incredibly hard! I think Darrell was quite relived that I actually voiced them! Now anyone who knows me will understand that there is no way I can just sit and do nothing, it is not in my nature, but I have made up my mind that I need to cut back here and there. Small steps towards slowing down!

Well, that was easy to admit and spit out in the open! So then comes the huge dilemma of what to cut back on, what to possibly give up, what to change et cetera, all the wile trying like mad to not feel guilty about any of it! Stumpy has helped me out in one respect… haven’t I always claimed I lost the end of my finger for a reason? He makes his feelings known in a swift and sure manner, letting me know instantly and often very painfully, that I need to rethink how to accomplish common tasks. The other day I had the making of sausage on the agenda. Grinding the meat was no problem; it was the mixing in of the spices that was the daunting task. How would Stumpy cope? He hates to get cold and a fifty-pound lug of ground meat is cold! The pepperoni mixing was slow but not too bad. The summer sausage was even easier as I got into the swing of things, however the salami almost did him in! Those whole peppercorns were just too abrasive on Stumpy’s still tender end! But one handed I got the job done. Darrell offered his help but stubborn me declined, I could get this done and done indeed I did!

Stumpy brought up a good point, I can work around his tendency to boing up in the air out of harms way at a moments notice for the most part, yet I have to admit I have to be so very aware of him at all times. He does not bend as easily as I feel he should, he is still a fat, chubby little thing and my goodness does he get cold easily! I find I have lost some strength in my left arm, natural I suppose since I cannot grip as well without the full use of a middle finger, but I am working on that. What concerns me, and we shall soon put it to the test, is how Stumpy will fare when it comes to skinning out an animal or butchering a beef. His tendency to stick straight up in the air, while comical sometimes could become a liability where sharp flashing knives are concerned! I shall have to be extra cautious! Maybe I need to give him some more time to recuperate, more time to work on his flexibility and strength, more time to toughen up tender nerves. Yes, time.

Then the thought hits me… time… time to slow down, time to go fishing, time to just sit on the front porch and watch the sun go down. Oh drat! Is this a subtle way to make me let something go? You know, I think it is. I ask Darrell what he would think about me giving up my autumnal work of processing wild game for folks? Normally he responds to such an enquiry with a comment such as “I need to leave that decision up to you”, so I was surprised when he came out with a resounding “Good idea!” He worries about me being in the butcher shop all day cutting and wrapping elk or deer. He will worry more because of Stumpy. Can I do this though? Can I give up all my loyal customers who have relied on me for the past few years to process their harvested game animals from carcass to little white packages? Oh dear me, saying “no” is not my forte… yet there is a part of me that once the subject was voiced I realized it was the right decision to make. The guilt will no doubt insidiously try to seep in when I get a telephone call asking if I can cut and wrap an elk or two or three, but I must and will be strong. This is one thing I will let go… at least for this year. Stumpy and Darrell will be relieved!

Yes, making the decision to slow down a tad, to cut back on some of the things I do is not easy, it makes me feel awfully lazy! But you know, along with such thoughts come calmness, a peace and a sense that I have made the right choice. Is this what a mid-life crisis is about? Seeing that life is short and it is time to stop and smell the rose’s a bit? If so, I think I am on the right track. Thank goodness I have a strong man beside me, to help guide and support me through this chapter in my life. What on earth would I do without him? Ah… he just brought me another cup of tea… yes, what indeed would I do without him…

 

Lilli’s visit

7.9.17

Goodness but this year is zooming by at quite an alarming rate! Here we are, rapidly approaching the middle of July. Summer heat is upon us and the days are already starting to show subtle signs of being on the downhill slope. Whereas only a week ago at this same time of the morning, a touch before 5 o’clock, the sun would have been ready to peek above the horizon. Today as I sit in my chair and glance out the window, a perceptible lightening of the dawn sky shows me sunrise is still a short while away.

This week has been a busy one. Monument always holds a grand Fourth of July holiday celebration complete with a community Bar-B-Que, fun events for children and adults alike and wraps up with a brilliant fireworks display! We, of course, had our little stall set up on the village green with other vendors and were kept busy selling soaps and lotions, sausages and cheese to the passers by. The following day saw the arrival of Darrell’s son Andy, his wife Anna and our granddaughter Lilli, coming to visit the farm for a much anticipated holiday.

Lilli has just turned five years old and what a little charmer she is and right at the age when helping with chores are a grand adventure and something not to be missed. She is ready at a moments notice to don her little apron to gather eggs, helps feed the piglets and milk cows and willingly fills water tubs and buckets. Wherever nana Rose went, Lilli was right behind! There really is something quite special about watching a youngster of this age experience not only the fun but also the work involved on a farm. Learning that eggs come from chickens, milk from a cow and sausage and bacon from the piglets running around in the pen is priceless. Knowing it is important to get all the farm animals fed and watered first thing in the morning and helping to feed piglets by carrying a bucket of grain all the way up a hill to their pen. Using our muscles to drag a garden hose over to their water tub and the fun of seeing them splash and blow bubbles in their newly filled wallowing hole.

Back at the house, breakfast time was a tad messy of an affair but a fun one too! On the first morning Lilli had waffles, but in our house that means little ones get a hand in learning how to make their own breakfast! Managing to half carry, half drag a wooden breadbox, which made a perfect stool on which to stand so as to reach the countertop, Lilli measured out all the ingredients. Cracking the egg into the mix, adding the milk and stirring like a pro… for after all, a good chef always makes a good mess… the waffle batter was made. Taking up her ladle Lilli managed to dollop a couple of good-sized blobs onto the surface of the waffle maker, put the lid down and watched patiently while it cooked, not worried at all about the excess batter oozing from beneath the lid. Next morning it was pancakes she made and cooked all on her own with nana Rose close by to supervise! Setting up her special little table on a kitchen chair with the ubiquitous breadbox now a handy seat, Maple syrup was put in a small jug just for her and a tiny shot glass made and excellent little juice cup. What a great little cook she is! Now to teach her to wash up!

The days were filled with farm chores, with egg gathering a definite highlight, paddling in the hot tub that became her own little swimming pool to cool down in, or dashing in and out of a garden sprinkler. Lilli helped make mozzarella cheese for my upcoming market but promptly fell asleep when her mum and I started making fizzy bath bombs. Yes, she is a worker and a true delight to have around the farm. The “please and thank-you’s” come naturally to her, what a wonderful job her mum and dad are doing in raising such a polite little girl.

The house seems quite quiet this morning. As I headed down to the milk cow paddock to turn Lass in with her calf so he can take care of the morning milking chore, since today is a market day, I half expect to see Lilli ready to check the hen house for eggs. Darrell is busy cutting wood for our winter stockpile, the sprinklers are on and I am just about to load all my boxes in the back of Pearl to soon head down the hill to Kimberly. Yes, we are back to the daily morning life here on the farm but we sure miss our little lassie Lilli…

 

 

Automobiles… past & present

6.25.17

Think it is a going to be a bit of a scorcher out there today. After a long, hot, mad dash to Scappoose and back yesterday to pick up a new truck… well new to us… we are exhausted this morning! The trip, all 520 miles of it, was uneventful. Leaving home at 5am we were sure there would be elk and deer galore to see, but barely any were spotted. The morning was glorious and even in the Columbia River Gorge there was little wind and just tiny white caps to be seen on the water. A delightful drive!

Purchasing a new vehicle is always such a huge headache, yes headache. The decision of “should we or shouldn’t we?” The pros and cons of the different vehicles out there on the market, the exorbitant cost of a new vehicle which for us is definitely out of the question, the makes and models and hours trying to find the right one. It is an exhausting business! We had in mind what we wanted, the challenge comes in finding said vehicle that fits our criteria and is in the price range we can afford. So many of the trucks we looked at were jacked up so high I would need a step ladder to get in the cab, are a bright red colour and we greatly dislike red on a vehicle! Remember that lovely 1959 Chevy Impala Darrell bought? It was red and we could just not get used to it so it was promptly sold! The search seemed interminable!

Many are the times we decided to just stick with our old blue truck and drive it until the day it gave up the ghost. But with our luck, it would give up the ghost while pulling a loaded trailer up the Mitchell grade! No, it was time for a new, or I should say, newer vehicle. So the search began again and this time the vehicle that fit almost all our requirements popped up on the computer screen! Chatting back and forth with the owner we felt this was indeed the truck for us. A deal was struck and yesterday we made the jaunt to pick up our new workhorse for the farm! Of course it has a few bells and whistles that are a tad superfluous for a farm truck… such as heated seats and a 6 disc CD sound system… but as the lovely lady who sold it to us said, in no time at all we would wonder how we ever got by without such things! I will take her word for it.

It is funny though, with these “newer” vehicles, newer as in they are not old classic Chevy’s, I never seem to have the inclination to name them. They are generally known as “The Blue Truck”, “The Little Truck” or now “The New Truck”. Old cars however immediately seem to garner nomenclature; “Nessie”, Pearl”, Morris”, “Scorcher” for example. Wonder why that is? There is just something quite special about those old cars I think, a grace or grandeur, timelessness, solidness, a glimpse of days gone by. All which make it easier to make such vehicles more “human”.

As Darrell and I drove up past Portland on our way to Scappoose we thought about the cars we have. Scorcher, Darrell’s 1958 Chevrolet Impala, is in the paint and body shop at this moment awaiting painting to restore him to his gleaming white. Nessie sits patiently in the arena, sad and yet stoically resigned looking as she waits her turn for some TLC. I am determined to save up my money in order to have her roof and boot repaired, maybe a new coat of paint in order to bring her back to her former glory… she is not forgotten! Since Scorcher went off to John Day, Pearl resides in the garage now. She is currently hoisted up in the air so I can crawl under her, most likely later today, in order to work on adjusting her brakes with Darrell’s expert guidance. A week ago I finally think I may have found, and hopefully fixed, her penchant for running away! My removal of her accelerator rod and linkage, replacing a missing grommet, adjusting things here and there then a good cleaning of her rather dirty carburetor seems to have fixed the issue. Now I need to inspect her brakes, discovering whether a mere adjustment is required or maybe total replacement of her brakes is in order.

I love these old cars… can you tell? It would be so easy to forego some of the other chores and projects that keep us busy in order to devote more time tinkering with these old jalopies. But alas, such tinkering requires funds and money does not grow on trees! Besides, what fun it is to look forward to my next session of working on Pearl. Having a project car to restore is in itself a rewarding enterprise, but actually doing all the work oneself is tremendously satisfying. Thank goodness I have my Darrell beside me who supports and encourages this odd bent of mine! I am sure at times he gets exasperated with me when I insist on doing everything little thing myself, but he is patient and a grand teacher!

Well, Lass is out there, noisily reminding me I need to get cracking on my morning milking chores. Water needs to be turned on in the garden, chicks and pigs and calves to be fed, then after a leisurely breakfast it will be off to the garage for a spot of tinkering on Pearl. A good Sunday morning is off to a grand start!

 

A Stumpy story

6.10.17

Seven weeks out from the injury that permanently separated me from the end joint of my left hand middle finger, really has been an experience and a half. Yes, the Stumpy Saga continues! This journey has been interesting in both the clinical sense and the psychological sense plus a good sense of humour about the whole affair has certainly helped as well.

The number of things one discovers the distal end of one’s phalynx of one’s left hand is useful for seems to be never ending. Despite being predominantly right handed, mundane things such as the plaiting of one’s hair or even washing of said hair, the tucking of a shirttail into one’s trousers, all seem to involve one’s left hand. Little things such as holding a teacup have to be relearned, grasping a saucepan handle to pour the contents into a bowl becomes an awkward chore and castrating piglets was cause for a jolly good laugh!

Yes, the latter was quite an eye opener! There were five little male piglets in the farrowing pen that were a good two weeks past the time when male piglets normally are divested of certain appendages here on the farm. Since they were ready to be weaned from mum there really was no putting off the deed unless we wanted to raise up a pen full of boar piglets. Darrell said he would help so an auspicious day was chosen. Piglets were subsequently trundled into the closed-in area of the barn, the girls separated out so as to be back in the farrowing area with mum Ramona, who had been given a very generous breakfast. This last was with the intent of keeping her somewhat occupied while her little lads underwent their “operation”. Normally it works like a charm, but not this time!

As a rule, the deed is accomplished with speed and precision with the subject piglet hardly knowing what happened to him. I have a great system. Begin by grabbing a piglet by a hind leg; swing them between my legs, which places their nether region in a perfect place for the operation. A quick couple of incisions made with a sharp scalpel, the “parts” popped out and snapped off with a quick pull before the piglet is unceremoniously dropped to the ground, happy to scamper away on all four trotters. Quick, easy, not too traumatic for the piglet and normally accomplished without too many squeals or struggles. Mum Ramona normally remains decently unaware of the whole procedure. As I say, not this time however. For lo and behold, I discovered I perform the main and most important part of the operation with… you guessed it… my left hand! Not only that, I normally perform this procedure on my own. This time however, since I did not have full function of both hands, I had to have Darrell assist me. This in turn was a tad of a challenge. How best to have him hold the rather large, struggling piglet? How best for me to safely get in with a razor sharp scalpel to do the deed without fear of nicking Darrell’s hand by mistake? All the while, the first piglet subjected to this experimentation was screaming indignantly at the top of his lungs! This definitely caught Ramona’s attention and to hear a five hundred pound sow trying to come to the rescue of one of her babies made one feel very thankful for the stout door between her and us!

Finally I resorted to plan number two, tipping the piglet onto his back on the floor, sitting on him and while Darrell held the trotters for me just so, I made two quick incisions. Drat! Seems I normally use my left hand to complete the task! All of a sudden I had to lay the scalpel down and perform the finishing touch with my right hand! Anyway, the deed was done, all piglets turned from little boars to barrows and happily reunited with mum. Add another thing to the list Stumpy has made me rethink!

Stumpy really seems to be healing nicely. He is a fat little thing, a tad swollen still and maybe always will be, very stiff and until a couple of days ago, still giving me the feeling he was being held in a pan of boiling water! Thankfully that sensation totally disappeared unexpectedly yesterday morning, hopefully never to return. I am diligently exercising him, bending and stretching, finding the limits of such movements for as they say, “No pain, no gain”! There are little beanie caps, fingers cut from various gloves, in all sorts of places around the house and in almost every vehicle, since Stumpy gets cold extremely easily. He has a tendency to a have a mind of his own too, a self-protective mechanism of sorts. If he thinks something is getting too close to him he will pop, or as I say, “Boing!!!” up in the air where he thinks he is out of harms way… unfortunately often bashing himself into something in the process. Ah Stumpy! Often, I find his most comfortable position is sticking straight up in the air since he is still not too keen on bending and curling down towards my hand like his fellow fingers do. Now this, as I am sure you will agree, can be quite embarrassing!

Imagine if you will, my driving down the road, left hand in its usual place on top of the steering wheel. Being unable to bend and wrap around the steering wheel like the other digits, Stumpy is fully extended and happily pointing straight up in the air, not a care in the world. All of a sudden, a car passes by and the thought hits me! Oh no! Did that driver think I was giving him “The Gesture”? You know, “The Gesture”… that single finger wave, which is not considered a friendly one! I do NOT do gestures! Never have and never wanted to, yet here I am as I drive along, suddenly discovering I am unknowingly giving everyone “The Gesture”! What has Stumpy done? What has he made me become? A permanent “Gesture” maker? Someone wants to look at my finger to see how my scar is healing… they get “The Gesture”! I am making a fist in a CPR class to illustrate a point and inadvertently give everyone “The Gesture”! Oh no! Bending exercises will definitely be increasing!

I also discovered Stumpy suffers from PTSD, yes, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now a few weeks ago shortly after the dismembering incident happened, I was browsing the Internet to see if I could find any good articles on rehabilitation after a finger amputation. There were loads and loads of articles on the psychological aspects of a partial finger amputation, how people suffer from PTSD after losing the end of a finger and how this can devastate their life, making them hesitant to shake hands, meet new people or even leave the house! Goodness gracious! “It is only the end of your finger folks, you still have lots more” was my reaction when I read some of these articles. Life should not end just because of the loss of part of a digit! I myself have found humour in what happened to me. Challenges yes, pain yes, but what happened happened and one cannot go back. So I do not have PTSD… but discovered Stumpy does! What is that you say? He does but you do not? Yes indeed I will answer. Let me tell you about it.

Last weekend I got the urge to do a spot of gardening and had Darrell do a bit of landscaping work on the tractor for me. As part of this urge to tidy up, I decided to dismantle the dog kennel and re-do it. Now the girl’s kennel run is made up primarily of hog panels… I think you may know where I am going with this! I would have to undo places where I had previously wired the panels together, pulling them apart and tugging hard to free the bases from where grass and weeds had ensnared them in place. I discovered something interesting for as soon as my left hand came close to a panel, BOING!!!! Stumpy would fly up in the air! I tried again… BOING!!!! … there he went again! He did NOT want to get anywhere close to those wire panels! This was ridiculous! Surely I had control over my own finger for goodness sake! Deciding I could force him to remain tucked in between the fingers on either side of him, I tried again. BOING!!!! Like a Jack in the box he sprang out of the way, he definitely did not want to get close to those wire panels! I just could not help it, I burst out laughing! Silly Stumpy!

Yes, this really has been quite the journey and I am sure it is not over yet. Do I have days when my finger aches and pains me? Oh yes, especially when he gets cold. Do I very much wish it had never happened? Absolutely! Will I still try to find humour in the situation? Why not! After all, there is so much more to be so very thankful for.

 

 

 

 

 

“That Look”!

6.4.17

I do not, emphasize the word not, like pack rats! These furry, somewhat cute looking rodents are the scourges of those who live in a rural area. Known throughout the region as “pack rats”, “wood rats” or by words, which I shall not repeat, these creatures soon lose their cuteness appeal when one gets to know them a tad better! Unlike “regular” rats, pack rats look like cuddly, fluffy small Chinchillas. They tails are covered in fur with a little tuft on the end, their large Mickey Mouse looking ears add a certain charm, but bottom line is they are dirty rotters! Off and on over the years I have had my fair share of encounters with pack rats. This year seems to be one that we may remember as a “rodent year” for already the mice and pack rats seem to be on the rise! The good side of the coin is having two grand rat catching Rottweiler dogs on the premises!

Brandy & Bella

Brandy is a whiz at finding and dispatching these creatures and Bella has quickly picked up on her mum’s technique. About a week ago near the bins on the back deck which hold empty plastic bottles and one full of the dog’s dry food, Brandy alerted and gave me that distinctive look that told me a pack rat was in evidence. She stands tense with ears cocked, eyes bright and gives you a very penetrating stare. This is her “There is a mouse in here” look! As a dutiful owner, I am then supposed to dismantle or move whatever happens to be in the way between her and said “mouse” as she will continue to give me that look as if saying “Come on! Get on with it!” If I do not immediately submit to her wishes, like a cat at a mouse hole Brandy will wait patiently on guard until I give in and comply. So when last week she gave me “that look” in conjunction with my noticing telltale blades of wilted grass protruding from the old rug that was rolled up near the bins, I knew we had a rat. Dutiful owner that I am I promptly started moving the bins that were in Brandy’s way. Quick as a flash a grey shape made a dash for freedom but Brandy was faster, dispatching the rat with a snap of her jaws and shake of her head.

Good job Brandy! Bella searched the area but no other rat was in sight so she had to resort to laying a few feet away from her mum, who was proudly guarding her kill. Bella was hoping Brandy would leave it for a few minutes so she could dash in, grab it, then hurry off to bury it. No such luck! Proud as a peacock, Brandy was content to just show off her prize like a first place winner at the County Fair.

Now once you have discovered one pack rat, you just know there will be more; such is the nature of the beast! Since it was not blistering hot yesterday, the urge to weed the flowerbeds by the house hit me. For the past while I have needed to dig out an old Potentilla (Cinquefoil) bush that finally succumbed to being chewed to death by puppy teeth. There was major weeding to be done, as well as a general tidying up that had been on the agenda for a while but kept moving onto the back burner. Landscaping chores were on my mind so I enlisted the help of Darrell to come in with the little tractor to push over some stumps and smooth out the area by the dog kennel, which for years has been a wilderness of tall grass.

While he was doing this I decided to clean up the kennel area since it had become a depository of all manner of hodgepodge items from chicken feeders to Brandy’s whelping box to gardening pots. An old set of shelves had sat for years behind the large wooden box that served as a doghouse. On these shelves an accumulation of odds and ends made the whole kennel area, dare I say it, rather shabby looking! The dog kennel area is located in the same little shed-roofed building that also serves as our winter wood storage area. In fact, the whole building was initially built for wood but it did not take long for me to wheedle out the need for part of it to become a doghouse! During this time of year the wood shed is pretty empty which is perfect, as it then becomes the temporary abode of new chicks. Each year we buy a few new layer chicks and some turkey chicks to raise up. Until they reach a size where they no longer need the benefit of a heat lamp, we keep them close to the house for convenience. A big box in the woodshed, covered with a screen so they cannot fly out, makes a perfect brood box! Since I was in a major cleaning up mood and the woodshed side of the building being obligingly empty, I decided to remove the old shelves behind the dog’s sleeping box. Brandy had been spending a great deal of time in her house, which was unusual for her… I discovered the reason why.

As I started tearing into the cleaning chore, I noticed a bunch of kindling wood that had been artfully, albeit untidily, crammed into every nook and cranny between the dog’s house and the old shelving unit. Fresh dandelion leaves, dog food, torn scraps of newspaper and numerous telltale pack rat droppings told me immediately why Brandy had been so engrossed in staying in her kennel. As soon as I started moving things out the way, she and Bella were at attention and giving me “The Look”! It was a chore to move the whelping box from atop their sleeping quarters; I did not remember it being this heavy when I made it! The reason soon was made clear; almost 30 pounds, yes 30 pounds of dry dog food had been stashed in it! Since a piece of wood had covered the top of the box, I had no idea it had become a pack rat pantry! I had thought the dogs were going through an awful lot of food! Once the box was out of the way, the dismantling of the shelves began. Brandy stood guard on one side and Bella on the other. With a final heave the shelving unit gave way and moved… two pack rats leapt out from their nest tucked way in the back, a mother and youngster! Bella, quick as a flash caught and dispatched both! Brandy came tearing around to nab the last remaining rodent. Good dogs! Both girls proudly showed me their prizes, little stumps of tails wagging like mad! At least those ones are gone!

But I have an idea this may not be the end of the pesky rascals! Last night, I heard the patter of little feet running along the length of the deck. Drat! Somehow I think Brandy and Bella will have their work cut out for them this season… or should I say we will, for it is us who toils away moving, dismantling and shifting things aside when the dogs give us “That Look”!

The girls after the words… “Where’s the mouse!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selling Casper

5.28.17

This morning, as I sit here with the first cup of tea of the day, I glance out my window and see the peach coloured sky signaling another warm day ahead. The Humming birds are already hard at work sipping sweet water from the feeders, wild turkeys are talking back and forth with each other and a peaceful feeling just settles on one’s shoulders. How good it is to be able to enjoy these special moments.

Casper, our Yorkshire boar, may be heading off to a new home today. I made the decision a few weeks ago to put both him and Ramona up for sale, waffling for a while as to if I should sell the whole herd of pigs or not. I do so enjoy my porcine companions and they really are not that much work as it is pretty easy to tailor one’s life around their needs. I decided we will keep them. Now, I like to have four girls on hand, which I feel justifies keeping a boar around as well. The thought has been with me to hold back one of Ramona’s daughters as a replacement sow which means Casper, who is her father, would have to go. So an advertisement was duly placed.

For folks who know us well, they know we do not tolerate grumpy animals on our farm of any kind. A grumpy animal will soon find his or herself “chilling out” in our butcher shop cooler! With my sows and boars I never have the heart to turn them into sausage links when their time with us is over, I much prefer sending them on their way to a new home on all four trotters. Such is the way it will be with Casper.

Now Casper, as some of my faithful followers will recall, came to us a few years ago as an untried young male pig that, although coming from a fancy show barn, had lived his entire short life on cement in a small pen. Imagine his delight at encountering dirt for the first time! He was in heaven! A spacious paddock became his abode with big old trees to rub up against, mud wallows to make and a bevy of beautiful girls housed next to him, albeit they have 10 acres to his quarter acre! He has been in proverbial hog heaven. Casper quickly learned the rules of having a good life here on the farm. Never push past or crowd people, come when you are called, move out of the way when you are told, never touch the electric fence. When a gate is opened, never go through it unless asked and when your belly is scratched lie down. Simple rules to follow really and Casper soon had them down pat!

A couple of days ago a call came in enquiring about Casper, his temperament being especially questioned. A young family farther east of us were looking for a replacement boar pig, the last one they had was a terror who put the run on his owner before being summarily being dispatched as soon as a gun was at hand! So temperament was paramount! That being said, it was arranged they should come out to just look at Casper to see if he would be a match for the family. Good idea I thought! Since it was made quite clear they needed to see him before making a decision, Casper got a late breakfast of a near five gallon bucket of whey along with his usual daily amount of grain, we were going to be gone all the following day so I gave all the pigs a jolly good feeding.

Well, pretty soon, a truck and trailer was spotted coming down our driveway. I assumed it was the folks coming to stay in the bunkhouse for the weekend as they were bringing a horse with them, but no, it was the folks coming to see Casper! They had decided to bring their trailer so if they liked him they could take him home… drat! I was not prepared for that! No worries, we would cross that bridge when we got to it. So down to the pig paddocks I went the mum and her young daughter to look at Casper. Since it was a warm day, Casper was laying off a ways with one of the girls, Daisy, in the middle of his paddock. I called and down he came to say hello to us… the little girl was amazed a pig would come when told to! Mum and daughter hesitantly stepped over the thin strand of electric fence wire that kept Casper from going through the gate, and tentatively came up to give him a pat. When the young lass realized Casper was a friendly boar that liked his belly rubbed, she became bolder about talking to and petting him. While mum and I chatted about his breeding and prowess as father, the little girl was starting to fall in love with this big, hairy creature! A trip to the farrowing barn to peek at Casper’s latest offspring, his gentle demeanor, seemed to seal the deal. They would take him.

Off went mum to get her truck and trailer, backing it into a convenient place in which to open the back door and hopefully coax Casper inside. Now normally when we sell an animal such as the size of a full grown pig, cow or bull, I hold off feeding them a whole ration the day before they are to go to their new home as this makes them much more cooperative in stepping into a strange trailer. Casper had been in a trailer once in his life, the long journey from where he was born to our home on the other side of Oregon! He was a good chap and really did want to oblige, but the combination of being asked to walk through a gate he knew he was not supposed to, plus really not being hungry enough to step into a strange “box” for the grain scattered on it’s floor… well, he just did not want to cooperate. Now had he been a considerably smaller sized animal it may have been able to shuttle him in there by means of brute strength, but he is a big chap and solid muscle! Plus, a pig is very smart. They have great memories and Casper is such a willing and gentle soul that I did not want to force or whack him to make him get in that trailer. After a while of following me right up to the back and almost stepping inside, he decided it was too hot, he was too full and it was time for a nap. Calmly heading back into his paddock he lay down and began to snooze.

I know this must have been a tad frustrating for the lady, she had driven quite a way to get here but as I told her, I would not push him or force him. She admitted she should have told me she was bringing her trailer with her, it was a last minute decision on her part. While we talked of options, her young daughter went into the paddock to rub Casper’s belly and talk to him. Since he just lay there contentedly, she sat down beside him then lay back, resting her head on his side, finally stretching out and all but laying on top of him… he just snoozed away. I should have had a camera with me, as that was the perfect picture of a gentle boar and a pig loving young girl! What a lad he is! Well, it was decided they would leave their trailer parked in the loading spot and come back another day to pick up Casper pig. Frustrating I know, but he is too good-natured of a pig to whack and bully just to make him load in what to him is a strange contraption of a box. When he is hungry I have no doubt he will follow me right in and be all the more happy for it. Hmmm… makes me wonder if I am doing the right thing in selling him. Oh well, if he decides not to load up I am quite happy keeping him for another breeding season. He sure puts nice long bellies and plump hams on his babies!

Yes, pigs can certainly find a way into one’s heart! Now off I go to milk. It is cream separating day today! Maybe some Rock Buns are in order to go with that thick, luscious cream!

The Note

5.21.17

It is funny how a simple little card received in the post can take a person back a few years in a flash. Amongst the bills and flyers in last weeks mail, a small, neatly addressed envelope caught my eye. A quick glance at the return address informed me it was from a young lady I know who resides in Palmer, Alaska. Seeing her name, albeit her married name, brought back a flood of memories. Combine that with the finding of a simple pin someone left in a cranny down at the arena stables goodness knows how many years ago and my mind zooms back to Pony Club days!

Upon arriving home, the little envelope was the first one I opened. Inside was a note card beginning with the greeting “Dear Rose,” followed by the following sentence, “You once reprimanded for washing a bunk house spider down the shower drain.” Goodness but that seems like such a long time ago! The letter, which brought tears to my eyes, was from a young lady by the name of Taylor who was one of my Pony Club working students years ago. She is now a married lady but to me will always be the young lass who, with whoops of joy, galloped my Willie horse flat out down the galloping track during a Triple H Adult and Young Rider clinic many years ago.

For over ten years our farm hosted an average of five riding clinics a year with folk coming from all over Oregon, Idaho, Washington and yes, even Alaska! Most clinics were a three-day affair but the Adult and Young Rider clinic tacked on an extra day or so. Each year I would take on two enterprising young ladies from the ranks of the many US Pony Club youngsters I knew, giving them an opportunity to come spend some time on our farm. They got to work with the horses’ everyday, ride with me, learn about the running of a horse establishment from arena grooming to building jumps. Plus there was the inevitable routine of whacking down thistles! Sometimes, for the first time in their young lives, they had to fend for themselves in a very self-sufficient manner. The bunkhouse was their domain and it was their responsibility to cook, clean and care for themselves. It was quite fun to watch these young girls come down to our house where they would pick out tinned goods from the pantry or grab packages of meat from the freezer, deciding what they wanted to prepare for their dinner. I did not cook for them! One day a week I would throw their dirty clothes in the washing machine but that was as far as my motherly duties went!

Taylor came down one summer to spend time at the farm as a working student. Her mum flew down to watch her take part in the Adult and Young Rider clinic before the pair of them headed back home. As with all the girls who came to the Triple H for a stint during the summer, Taylor was a hard working, diligent, happy young lady. She joined the ranks as one of “My Girls”, for although I have never been a mother, I have a special cadre of girls and one particular young lad who are very dear to my heart.

A few weeks ago, well before my finger incident, Darrell and I had been busy cleaning up the wreckage of the stable row at the side of the arena that had collapsed this winter due to snow. As we were working, something caught my eye, a glint of gold in a sunbeam. Nestled in a cranny near where a bracket was attached to a post for hanging halters on, was someone’s US Pony Club pin. How long it had lain there was hard to tell, to whom it had belonged was a mystery, yet there it was, a poignant reminder of days gone by. How many youngsters had used these stables? How many youngsters can remember coming out to ride in our paddocks and fields? Yes, that was indeed a magical time! Now, many of the youngsters who came to the Triple H are grown up, many are married and have youngsters of their own! Goodness that makes me feel old! Yet how wonderful it is to remember those fun times.

As I read through Taylor’s lovely note once again, it made me feel very privileged to know I have been able to be a small part of so many young lives. Mother’s Day has just passed us by and although no “Happy Mother’s Day” cards grace our piano or windowsill, inside me I feel as if I am blessed with scads of children! These days, through the means of social media, one may follow along the busy lives of those youngsters one knows. How they are off to college then graduating from college, seeing their wedding pictures then pictures of their children. Goodness but time flies! As I glance at our ‘fridge door I see many young faces staring back at me, yes, I have scads of children out there in this big old world and am proud of every single one!

Stumpy Saga Continues…

5.13.17

Well, it has been three weeks since the incident of the dismemberment of my digit and to say it has been an interesting journey so far would be a tad of an understatement! The loss of ones appendage, even a slight part of an appendage, gives one a whole new appreciation for the dexterity, sensitivity and needfulness of the last joint on ones middle finger. Yes this experience has been quite an eye opener!

The surgery to sculpt and sew up the end of my finger went very well. I did resort to taking a pain tablet now and then, as the feeling of having my hand sitting in a pan of boiling water was not a pleasant one! A few days later that sensation was accompanied by the impression of having someone stick a red-hot darning needle down from my stump to the middle knuckle… repeatedly! Ah! The nerves are starting to wake up and are not at all happy! But there is good news in that; at least they are indeed waking up and trying to heal. The first three days after surgery I was instructed to keep the dressing and bandage in place that had been put on after the operation. Following that I could gently soak it off so as to let the digit get some much needed fresh air. Yikes! That soaking and removal of the dressing reminded me I would never hold up under torture if fingers were involved! It was awfully painful but the deed was accomplished.

Still being very cognizant of having a very tender appendage to protect, Stumpy, as I started referring to him … yes “him” for some reason! … would get diligently swathed in bandages before I ventured outside, unwrapped when I came back in the house and swathed again before I went to bed. After a couple of days of being under house arrest by Darrell, the sun was shining and it was such a glorious day that I took myself off to the garden with the intent of pruning the fruit trees in the orchard. Stumpy was feeling pretty good so I thought a breath of fresh, sunny air would do him wonders, hence he was left uncovered. Not a brilliant idea when pruning trees! At first I was pretty good about keeping him away from the stiff branches but I guess my confidence got the better of me. Every now and then a branch would poke the end of the stump and an exclamation of “Bugger!” would burst forth from my lips accompanied by a hopping up and down in place motion that just made him hurt even more! After stobbing my damaged digit a few additional times, I must be a slow learner, I called it a day and went back to the house to nurse my very sore hand. Darrell once again put me under house arrest.

Over the next few days I discovered all sorts of things the last joint of my left middle finger was terribly useful for. Mundane things such as plaiting my hair, using a knife and fork, cleaning my spectacles, stirring cheese curds, picking up a cup of tea; things I had never had to think about before. But there were deeper thoughts that ran through my mind too. Out in the feeder pig pen were a couple of porkers ready to be butchered, a steer was patiently waiting for dispatch although he was totally oblivious to the fact! Trees needed planting, fences needed building, little boar piglets needed castrating and here I was, incapacitated for goodness knows how long! These thoughts played on my mind, waking me up in the wee hours of the morning, threatening to draw me down into the dumps. Then all of a sudden it dawned on me “So what!” So what if the trees wait another couple of weeks for planting or even if I let Darrell plant them without me. So what if the little boar piglets get to run around with all their appendages for another couple of weeks. So what if the steer gets to enjoy a couple more months eating grass out in the pasture before moving to the cooler and I am sure the pigs are quite happy remaining in the pig pen too!

With this epiphany came a sense of peace. Ah ha! Fate must have a hand in this dismembering disaster after all! Weird sense of humour Fate has, but definitely a way to let me know there are more things in life than working all the time. For even if things appear to be piling up on you, really, is there nothing so important it cannot be put off for another day? Once that thought settled in my brain and I cogitated on it for a while, I really did feel better, more able to acknowledge it is quite acceptable to slow down a tad.

A fortnight after the surgery to repair my stump, Darrell and I were back in Bend for the removal of my stitches. I had asked the surgeon if I could remove them myself but the reply was in the negative, they needed to make sure the incision was healed enough to warrant the stitches being removed. So a trip to Bend was made. I tell you, having those stitches snipped and pulled out was far more painful than the entire incident so far! The poor physician’s assistant who did the deed was shaking so badly… maybe it did not help that I was keeping such an eagle eye on him or had to point out he missed a stitch just before he wrapped up my finger! With admonitions of keeping the wound clean and protected we headed home.

Stumpy is doing well. I find I am still very limited in what I can do physically with my left hand and I have become very aware of that finger’s range of motion, or I should say lack of range of motion. He is stiff and often sore but at least the jabbing red hot darning needle sensation has subsided somewhat. Stumpy gets extremely cold, very cold very easily, so has a beanie cap to wear when I go outside to milk of a morning. Every once in a while he decides to try to do too much and pays for it by swelling up like a toad. I can see Fate snickering when this happens; a subtle, albeit painful reminder to slow down! Yes, this whole ordeal has been quite the experience. I must say however, through it all I really have tried to see the brighter and more humerous side of things. After all, it is rather like dropping a gallon of milk on the kitchen floor… there is no putting it back in the bottle, you just clean it up and move on…

 

 

Dismembered Digit!

4.21.17

Well to say the past couple of days have been interesting would be rather a large understatement! I have often thought it likely that I succumb during my life to a broken arm or broken leg but never in my wildest imagination… and those folks who know me know I have quite the imagination… never did I imagine I would ever amputate a body part! Yet that is what happened this past Wednesday morning.

Our young sow Sylvia had piglets due to be weaned and thus Sylvia was ready to be moved to the sow’s paddock while her youngsters remained behind in the weaning pen. Now as a first time mum Sylvia was not quite used to the journey between farrowing house and the main pig pasture. The other older girls know the routine and will happily trot after me once I let them out of the farrowing area, knowing a pile of grain awaits them in the pig paddock. Sylvia obligingly followed me out the farrowing house door and I deftly swung it shut behind her to stop her ten piglets from following. They were content to eat their morning breakfast without mum’s competition! Once out, Sylvia however was more interested in eating lovely green grass than following me with my handy bucket of pig grain rattling for her attention.

As with all pigs, it is much better to have them follow you rather than try to push or herd them along so I waited patiently for her to get her fill of the luscious green grass. Eventually she showed interest in the rattling grain bucket and started to follow me towards the open gate of the pig pasture. Since Spic pig was already in the pasture I had encouraged her to remain far from the gate by giving her a nice large pile of grain way off in the woods. Steer, Heidi’s last calf, was also residing in the pig paddock and although he had a nice pile of hay to keep him content, the dirty rotter decided it would be much more fun to come over and check out what I was up to rather than eat his breakfast. An open gate just seems to draw cows! Especially when you do NOT want them to go through it!

Since I could see it would be a challenge to keep Steer in while I encouraged Sylvia to go through the open gate, I decided to switch to plan B. Instead of moving Sylvia to the pig paddock via the main pig gate I would get her into a smaller area that is fenced off with two of those long hog panels. Now these panels are made of hefty, very sturdy wire. The panels are 16 foot long and we have some that are nearly 4 foot high, some three foot high, both with 5” x 5” square openings, which make a great fence. At the end of the alley where I wanted Sylvia to go I had two of these fences together, one of the 4 foot high ones and one that was only 3 foot high, thus when put side by side the openings in the wire were staggered, not symmetrical. Sylvia was being very obliging and heading for the opening I had made and just as she was almost all the way through, I reached over to swing the two wire panels closed behind her. Alas, as I swung the panels, the edge of one must have caught her on her bum… she immediately backed up and swung around faster than one would have thought a 400 pound sow could move! She zipped between the wire panels and me and that is when disaster struck!

I still had hold of the panels but did not realize my fingers were between two narrow openings of the two panels. When she hit the makeshift gate I felt a “pop” and saw blood spurt in the air. Drat! I thought at first my fingernail had been ripped off. Then as I looked at my hand, seeing the arterial spurting of blood out the end of the middle finger, I realized it was too short! I had amputated the top joint clean off! EMT training kicked in and I immediately grasped the finger with my other hand to create a tourniquet effect, initially looking around on the ground for the amputated part. I actually found it dangling on the fence! Leaving Sylvia to go back to munching grass I closed the pig paddock gate so Spic and Steer would not come out, still keeping pressure on my finger I managed to grab the amputated part and headed to the house.

Now Darrell was not at home. He had gone down to Kimberly to the Thomas Orchards to pick up apples for the pigs. I went in the house and after a few attempts, managed to get the telephone on speaker phone, dialed the hospital in John Day and told them my plight, letting them know I was coming in. Next, still not letting go of the offended finger, I managed to grab a paper towel, wrap the amputated digit in it, place it in a baggie along with a few ice cubes. I did not dare let go of my finger but even so left a trail of blood drops showing my progress through the kitchen. Switching from my extremely muddy willies into a pair less dirty, I got in the truck and headed down the drive… all the while maintaining a death grip on my finger!

Thank goodness! There was Darrell, he had just arrived home and pulled up in front of the barn. I jumped out the driver’s seat and hurried to the passenger side, cradling my hand to my chest, his face went white as a ghost as I told him I had hurt my hand and needed to go to the hospital. I tell you! It was one fast trip! Just outside Long Creek we realized we were just about out of petrol, so a quick dash into the garage for a few gallons and we were off again. Darrell was so worried about me and I was definitely a nagging “back seat driver”, constantly telling him to “slow down” and “watch the corners!”… Poor chap… I think he was quite relieved when we finally got to John Day!

Once in the emergency room, the efficient staff took brilliant care of me! Dr. Bailey came in and examined the stump, more or less concurring with my thoughts that it may be best to just close the stump rather than try to reattach the amputated part. An x-ray was taken and Dr. Bailey went off to consult via telephone with a hand surgeon in Bend. While waiting, ER nurse Doris obligingly snapped a couple of pictures of my hand so I could use the pictures as part of a trauma lecture. Next I was visited by on-call paramedic Mimi and her crew plus two young folk from local schools who were “job shadowing” and all got to look at my damaged digit. Before long, paramedic pal Rebekah Rand came in and was kind enough to take some great shots of my hand as well as the amputated part! What was really brilliant was when we encouraged the two young “shadowers” to pop on examination gloves and actually look and feel the dismembered digit! Rebekah gave them a lovely little anatomy lesson, which I am sure they will never forget.

After a short while, Dr. Bailey came back in the room to let me know the hand surgeon, after looking at the x-ray, had said I would need to come to Bend the following day for “amputation reduction” surgery. In other words, the ends of my bone required filing down and things tidied up before closing the wound. After scrubbing out the remaining stump of my finger, it was bandaged up and home we came with the amputated end of my left middle finger residing in a little tub of formaldehyde as a souvenir.

The following day, yesterday, Darrell and I headed off to Bend for the required surgery. Our appointment was for noon and the surgeon, Dr. Lilly, had actually seen me once before when I tore all the ligaments and tendons in my ring finger of the same hand a couple of years prior… also piglet related (see the story “Damaged Digit” in one of my books!) After looking at my hand she confirmed the need for surgery and was going to try to get us into her busy schedule as quickly as she could. Now the wait began….

Before we knew it, we were called and taken down to the surgical area and I was prepped for the procedure. The folks there at The Center in Bend are fantastic! As I was wheeled into the operating theater the nurses were great about propping me up enough to be able to watch what was going on. While Dr. Lilly concentrated on fixing my finger her assistant was kind enough to answer all my questions as well as explain what they were doing and why. The bone ends were trimmed, the finger shortened slightly, a small vestige of remaining nail bed removed as well as some nerves snipped before the whole thing was neatly sewn up. They said they had never had a patient who was so interested in watching what was going on before! About 30 minutes later it was all done, my hand swathed in a bandage and we were on our way home.

Today I am under house arrest, Darrell is pampering me like mad and I am feeling quite spoiled… or I should say… even more spoiled than usual. It has taken considerably longer to write this epistle than normal but at least it will hopefully give everyone a chuckle as you read it and know that all is well. As we often say, there is never a dull moment on the Triple H farm! Now a cup of tea is in order, maybe I will put an English murder mystery on the telly and give over to having a truly lazy day!