Sunday, June 27, 2010

Too Hot

I went to bed last night with great plans for today. I was going to go down to the bridge and start weed-eating the brush. I have to do this about two times a year. Once in spring and again in the fall. Notice spring has come and gone and I haven't done it. So the weeds are getting pretty tall. It took us weeks to clear it when we first moved in. We had to cut small trees and clear blackberries. A labor intensive job. I don't want i to get like that again, so I have to keep it up. Working full time at the library makes it difficult to find the time. We have had a lot of visitors and now it is so incredibly hot, so I haven't been able to get to it.

We bought a brush mower to help the first year. It was big and powerful and could cut through anything under two inches in diameter. Unfortunately it was also way too heavy, even for Lee. It wanted to run downhill when you were on a slope....and most EVERYTHING is on a slope around here! You had to wrestle with it on anything other than a flat surface and those we could get with the Bush Hog attachment to the tractor. I managed to get a lot of the brush cut, but it came at the expense of very sore muscles. I started to wake up with tingling hands, as though they had gone to sleep and it took some time to get them to feeling normal again. So we have gone back to the weed eater and clippers and loppers. I may get a weed eater on wheels, but after the disaster of the brush mower, I am afraid to put out the money. Roughly $400 to get a good one.

It was in the 80's when it was 8:00 this morning. Not a good start for a day of outside labor. So I chickened out and I am writing this instead. Sure, I can pretend this is work, but I still have to get to the driveway and I am not looking forward to it. We have worked in some terrible heat, but this is the worst ever. It is not just my opinion. This year has been the coldest winter and the hottest summer for years.

So, instead I am going to tell you about an experiment I am running. Libby has a terrible time with flies. If she is out without a fly mask, her eyes swell up something terrible. I always keep her in a fly mask during the day in hot weather. I used to do the same for Claire, but lately I can't find one that doesn't rub her raw. The one from last year that worked fine, gave her a raw spot this year. I thought maybe the accumulation of her hair on the fabric around the edges was causing the problem, so I washed it as well as can be done with soap and brushes in the barn. It still rubbed. I bought her a different mask and more sores. So I have just been putting a lot of Repel-X on a cloth and rubbing it around her face. It was OK, but not a perfect solution.

I needed to order some more Repel-X, so I went to , the site I usually use to order horse related items. They carry an item that I have often wondered about. It is called Equi-Spot. It is a small vial of liquid fly repellent. It works like flea and tick repellent for dogs and cats. You squeeze out some under their forelock, along their neck and back and the backs of all four legs. It is supposed to keep the flies off them for two weeks.

I put the Equi-Spot on as directed on June 19th. So far, I would say it is a success. I can see a few flies around them, but they are not covered as they have been. I am concerned as I have heard some reports from people that have used it successfully for awhile and then they developed a reaction of some sort and lost hair where it was supplied. So I will keep a close eye on them and see if it works as advertised.

Another thing we did to control insects, including flies, is we mowed the fields down a bit. There are spots where they won't eat and weeds they won't touch. When grass gets high and woody, horses prefer the short tender new growth. The dense, high grass contributes to the humidity in their pasture. It is also a lovely spot for ticks to wait for the unwary. Horses will not eat where they have defecated, so those spots are left to grow unchecked. So we try to mow down the high uneaten growth to make new spots for grazing. It also spreads the manure around and breaks it up. We switch fields when we do this and wait for quite a bit of rain to replenish the now fertilized grass. It seems to work for us. They have good grass clear until the snows come, when we have to start feeding in the morning.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer on the Farm

The farmer that cuts our hay has been busy. First he cut and baled half of the area that we cut, about 15 acres all together. Then he cut and baled the last half. He does this in case he gets a huge rainstorm, you might still save half of the crop. He came on Saturday afternoon to pick up his large round bales and one of his tractors. We were going to start putting our share in the barn, but it was so hot, we decided to wait until Sunday. I had looked at the weather report on Friday and it looked like the weekend would be clear, with thunderstorms forecast for Monday through Thursday. I learned a lesson about checking the weather every day when you are a farmer. In California, the weather was only important to us if it meant we couldn't eat outside or go to the beach. Now it can ruin a crop.

Saturday about 8:30 pm I heard some thunder off in the distance. Lee and I raced to the fields to gather the bales. Even though Aubrey makes smaller bales for us, they still weigh hundreds of pounds. We can load them on the front loader of Lee's tractor. They are too big to fit in the front loader, so Lee runs up to a bale. I push it onto the front loader and then we have a hay hook that we run through a chain. The chain is wrapped around part of the front loader. I hold everything in place while Lee raises and tips the front loader. It is important not to lift it very high. Lee's sister knows a man that lifted a bale too high and It rolled back to the driver's seat and crushed him. Not a good way to go. Because he doesn't lift the hay up very high. I have to walk off to the side so he can see me and not run me over. This would probably kill me and he would have a hard time explaining to the local police that it really WAS an accident! They always look at the husband, you know!

We got about 6 bales in the barn and the thunder kept getting closer. Tara called from about 10 miles away and she had been forced off the road, along with a lot of other travellers on the interstate, by rain blowing sideways and lightning that lit up the sky. She was waiting until the weather cleared before she headed home. By this time the lightning was so close that there was barely a delay from the lightning to the thunder, so we parked the tractor in the barn and raced up the hill to the house. Losing a years worth of hay was not worth our lives!

The rain came but it didn't last too long as the storm was heading to the east and we didn't get too wet. This afternoon Tara and I checked the bales still in the field. The were dry on the top, but wet where they lay on the ground. The bales we took in last night were a bit damp from laying in the grass, so Tara and I rolled them damp side up. We figured they can dry off and then tomorrow we can put them in the barn. We'll have to keep a close eye on them. Bad hay can kill a horse. A cow has multiple stomachs and can eat hay that horse owners have to throw away.

We lost some hay last year when it mildewed on the bottom, so we are going to place some concrete blocks on their sides and try to roll the bales up on them for better air circulation. There are blocks left over from another project we had going and so now there is another use for them. We have learned that farmers never through anything out!

We still have some hay stored in our barn from our second cutting last year. It was such a wet year that there was never a good window of opportunity for Aubrey to cut it when it was best, so he cut a bit later and the horses don't care for it. They pick through it and leave most of it. While the woody stuff is not appealing to horses, cows can eat that and the mildewed stuff and do OK. So we are hoping Aubrey comes back and gets it. He can have all of it, just get it out of our barn. Even with losing the whole second cutting and some of the first to mildew, we are just now on our last bale from the first cutting last year. This leads me to believe that we could get some more horses in here for boarding and not have to buy much in the way of hay. We still supplement it for the nutrients that we can't provide, but a boarding business is something I want to pursue.

Now, for our other crop. The small vegetable garden has really been producing. Last week Lee and I had zucchini and yellow squash sauteed with onions and we sliced some chicken sausage with mozzarella and garlic into the pan. Then add the thinly sliced basil. We had that over rice. It was so good. I bought some sandwich rolls to have with that again this next week.

We also have a bunch of green tomatoes. I kept looking for red ones and today we found a small red one and a large orange one. I picked a bunch of green ones and will make fried green tomatoes tomorrow. We found some normal sized zucchini and two BIG ones, so I may cut those up and bread them with seasoned cornmeal and fry them up with the tomatoes! My brother Roland, lives in Alexandria and Tara is staying with them, so I sent up a bunch of produce, including some basil and mint. Why the mint is for the mojitos that you eat while the tomatoes are cooking, of course!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


My Aunt Suzy came up to see me again this weekend. This time she brought her two granddaughters. They are my cousin Saja's girls. They are sweet and polite and unspoiled in a lovely way.

They love, love, love driving the Mule. The problem was that there was an undiagnosed issue that made it undriveable. So my wonderful husband fixed up the old riding mower for them.

When we bought this house, there was an old riding mower we found when we started clearing the brush. The riding deck was damaged, so Lee took it off and made it into a means of transportation. Granted it is slow transportation, but it was just right for Evan and Addison. Then he got out our real riding mower and they were tooling around all over the place. Two "cars", no waiting!

The next morning, Lee found and fixed the problem, a wire that was rubbing in the wrong place and shorted out. Now the Mule was available and off the girls went. We gave them our walkie talkies and they could keep in contact with "base" and we gave them the run of the place. I first showed them where it was safe and they were very good about keeping to the rules.

The best place for young girls is obviously at the barn, so multiple times a day they went to "check" on the horses. Fortunately the horses were fine so off they went exploring. They enjoyed the stream and waded through it. The nice part was that they took turns driving and we heard no complaints. It was a great visit. Now I need to find other kids to come enjoy our place....and maybe, someday, pressure!

An Avid Reader's Best Friend

I read huge, massive amounts of books. At least one a day. I have a data bank of books approaching 6000. This is a requirement for those that purchase books. I can't tell you the number of times I would get two or three chapters into a book and then realize I already read it. Now, if I have checked out the book from a library, I would just take it back and that would be the end of it. But if I bought it, actually PAID for a book, well, I would be very angry. Even though I RARELY buy a book new, even used books cost money and that is why I now keep a list of all the books I read and rate them to keep me from getting books from authors I don't really care for. That doesn't mean that I know the best authors in the whole world. That means sometimes I like some genre's and then I have to read something else for awhile. I hop from mystery to romance to suspense. I throw in a western and a bibliography every once in awhile just to keep things fresh. Some days I can't take a certain author and other days I adore them. (That's why my rating system is flawed. It depends on my mood.)

When I find a new author, I get very excited. This is one of the many perks of working in a library. I get to see the newest books and to see those that get requested a lot. This is how I found two of my newest favorites, David Rosenfelt and C J Box. If you haven't tried them, I highly recommend them. But here is where I tell you of the greatest assistance for an avid reader. This was taught to me by Cathy at work, so I can't claim that I found it on my own, but I love this site and tell lots of people about it at work. Now I am telling you.

There is a library called the Kent District Library. Their website is If you go there and scroll down you will see a small green box on the right hand side that says, What's Next. Click on that and it will bring you to a search site to find all the different series a particular author has written...IN ORDER. No longer do I have to open each book and check the copyright date. Or hope an author has their previous books listed on an inside page and that they are in order of when they are written. I can go to the site click on the proper series and then highlight and print selection and get all the books in order.

When you go to a used bookstore, you have to take the books as they come. And I can read books in this way, but I prefer to read them in order if I can. So, I print out the list and then request them from the library system and read them all in order in a gluttonous frenzy. Then comes the let down. They're all gone? But I loved them!

Next I go to the author's website, most have one. Just type their whole name as it reads on their books and add a .com. There you are. Check for upcoming releases and then you have to sit back and wait for the next one. Delayed gratification.

Hey! Wait a minute! Who's this? I haven't read HIM before. Sounds pretty good. I wonder what else he's written? Let me check Oh, man! He has a bunch! I better order number one and see if I like them.

And I'm off again.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Book I Won't Write

I moved my parents into a very nice assisted living facility a few years ago. I read a lot of mysteries. One day I began to wonder what would happen to a successful hit man when he gets too old to care for himself? Imagine a guy that made a lot of money bumping people off in such a way as to not get caught. Maybe he wouldn't have a lot of family or close friends being in the kind of business that would discourage that sort of thing. Then imagine what he would do to a caregiver that was less than caring, mean or hateful, even. Suppose it isn't even his caregiver that is so bad. My mother had an instance of a man that pulled her from her wheelchair up to a standing position and then let her go. She fell to the floor and he threatened her. She told everyone at her table. I got him fired, but what if Mom wasn't able to tell me. And he heard about it. That is the premise. Here is part of the unwritten novel.

Meals were the favorite part of Vinny's day. (OK, so he's a Mafia hit man.) The Villa's had a great chef and he always enjoyed breakfast, but the dinners were great. Prime rib, lobster, shrimp cocktail, all his favorites. Sure the meals were less spicy than he was used to. Not so much garlic or salt or even pepper. On the other hand, his stomach didn't much care for those things any more. Just like the other old farts. Getting old sucked.

Vinny glanced around at his table companions. At least he didn't have to eat in the dining room where all the folks with walkers and wheelchairs went. He liked the views up here and nobody drooled or anything disgusting like that. He had his story down pat, too. Retired businessman, a plumbing store that went under because of the big box stores. He could rail against Home Depot and talk about the good old days. His dad had been a plumber, so he could bullshit his way through. Secretly, he wanted to tell about his real business. Would any one believe him? If they did, would they remember it long enough to tell someone? It gave him a chuckle to consider it.

So what do you think?? Is there a story here? He could take somebody out and use the dumpster to get rid of the body, after all, he can't drive any more. Damn cataracts. Would he require help? Maybe he could recruit the retired General. Or the sweet little old lady could be the look-out. Now for the real question. Do I need some hot police detective to investigate and maybe has a romance with the beautiful daughter of one of the residents? Or do I keep it strictly Jessica Fletcher-y. Suzann Ledbetter has a series where she solves mysteries with the help of seniors from a retirement development, check out East Of Peculiar. It's a great series.

If I get some encouragement, I may write it for a lark. A chapter a week, like the old time serials. Any suggestions? It could be a group project!