Monday, March 31, 2014

Goldfish, Peonies, and Tadpoles

I am gonna pretend that Sunday was just a blip.  Spring is here, and fighting off Winter with all Her might.  She might be a little muddy now, Her dress might be torn, Her shoes, totally ruined.  But She did a smack down on Winter; because I spent this afternoon, and Friday afternoon without a coat, outside, watching Her shake out Her hair and wonder where Her hat is.

Okay, that was muddled, and there is a reason for that.  We are in the season for mud.  I am so glad I had all autumn and winter to come to embrace my muckers.  I wear them everywhere.  I keep a pair of "city" shoes in the car.

Anyway.  Oh, to be outside, in the sun!  What a joy!  The Boy and I took advantage of the dead and still-wintered weeds and vines surrounding the pond and followed the usually inaccessible deer paths... and it was worth it.  We saw the pond from the other side.  It was a fantastic view!

We observed no fewer than four schools of goldfish in the pond.  We came upon some really odd scat (that has defied my Internet skills to identify), and several animal holes along the deer paths.  We also took souvenirs:  I gathered several wild-blackberry thorns, and the Boy got his first tick of the season.

But it was worth it.  Observing the duck and his mate.  Figuring out that the goldfish were busily devouring floating eggs on the surface.  Coming across the slightly worse-for-wear snowdrops, and the fledgling crocuses.  And only last week, I took a moonlit stroll through the field and disturbed several splashy swimming things at the pond.  I couldn't see them, but I suspect that it might be otters!  There is no scientific basis whatsoever other than a whim.

Today (because I am ignoring Sunday, which was Winter's dying gasp), it was a school holiday, so the Boy and I spent the afternoon outside.  I did some long overdue clearing of the garden, and also used the net to clear out the pond...

You catch tadpoles that way.  Lots and lots of tadpoles.  I picked them up with my bare hand and dropped them back in the pond.

Did you read that?


After I did that the first time, I wondered who the hell I was today!  City Kitty doesn't go outside to pick up a fallen branch without gloves on.
Hydrangea buds; Dead heads

And yet, I continued gardening without gloves.  I clipped the hydrangea heads from last year, carefully clipping ABOVE all the buds coming out already.  There were even leaves.  I am ashamed.  And then I used a small rake to clear out the leaf piles...and found that the peonies are unfurling their stems already.

New and old peonies


And while I was doing all this, the Boy decided that he was tired of waiting on me to do the research on raising tadpoles.  He found a small tub, added water from the pond, placed a few rocks, and caught his tadpole.

I finally did the research.  We'll be raising a tadpole starting on Wednesday, I think.  First I have to boil lettuce.  It's a thing they like.  Apparently.

Can you tell that I needed a little bit of Spring?  I feel like I am buzzing on Spring.  I see green covering the lawns and, where there is NOT a mud wallow, pretty green spikes of bulbs pushing out of the soil.  

I feel like one of those bulbs, finally warming up, reaching for the sun, about to bloom...  Yep.  I am high on sun, the best drug of all.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Winter Is Out To Get City Kitty

See, I was just thinking I had a snow hangover.  You know what I mean.  Too much snow, too much ice, too many low temperatures.  My enjoyment of winter shot past the happy buzz place, into the I'm-falling-all-over-my-feet phase, and is now throwing up into the snow.

But Winter shot past the, "Ha ha, City Kitty lives on a farm, here's the real experience," to the, "Let's kill City Kitty because she's hiding in the farmhouse, missing the true misery we've been trying to inflict upon her, and now we need to drag her out by her hair and slaughter her."

The gloves have come off...literally.  Old Man Winter and the Weather Witch hooked up and have it in for me.

They found me in the sunroom...
I thought I was safe inside...
I'm scared...  I don't think a hairdryer is gonna save me this time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Chills, Thrills, and Squirrels

[Warning.  First, while this is NOT another chicken story, the chickens are part of the background.  Second, those sensitive readers whom I've not already scared off, might want to consider skipping this entry and wait for another spider story.]

Just a day, just an ordinary day.  The Husband teleworked today, and I was working at my normal spot in the breakfast nook, lost in my writing.  From this seat, I can see the little frog pond, and the pretty garden (that looks like a winter nightmare currently), and in the background, across the drive, the chicken coop.  I won't brag on the four foot snowpile to my left, because today was just too darned warm and sunny.

I came to from my writing coma to hear the strident clucking from Leia.  I looked up, and she was standing at the top of the stone chicken path, just outside the door.  Clucking like a fiend.  Now, she is kind of a drama queen, so I figured she was just calling to the other girls to wait up.  I watched her walk away, and dove back in.

Some time later, I heard another mad clucking.  It was Ginger or Peaches, doing the same thing.  Just standing at the door, making an ungodly amount of noise.  I finally got up to go to the door to see what was causing such a ruckus.  As Ginger (or Peaches!) strutted off, I saw the culprit.  A squirrel sat up on the roof of the chicken coop, and as she moved away, it scrambled down the side of the building and THROUGH THE CHICKEN DOOR.

Well, that bugged me like you wouldn't believe.  While chicken feed is not grossly expensive, it still costs money.  And at least the chickens are offsetting the cost by laying lots of eggs.  Little Squirrel, I suspected, would NOT be laying eggs for me.  I decided to take action.

I just happen to own a terrifying huntress.  She's taken down over a dozen animals in her life, and she doesn't even make a mess doing it.  She is a good strong animal, horrifying to all...  Her name is Amy the Killer... Black Lab Mix.

Yeah, she's taken down lots of rabbits and chipmunks, even a vole.  She's terrified the groundhogs, and even tried to take down the deer.  I thought she might just be terrifying to the squirrel.  

I got my muckers on, got the dog, and walked up, bold as brass, to that open door.  I leaned in, and found that squirrel just munching away at the chicken feeder.  He didn't even look up.  My crazy side took over.

"Hey, squirrel!  I see you!"

He jumped about a foot in the air, sending that feeder spinning.  He ran for the door... except I was standing there, grinning at him.  Amy was standing next to me, terribly excited.  The squirrel changed direction, and then ran for the door again.  I was still standing there.

And there we were.  I wanted Amy to chase it, teach it a lesson.  But Amy could not get through that door.  And the squirrel wouldn't go through that door.

And the reality of the situation hit me.  This was no cute little incident.  This squirrel knew what was there.  He could be chased away by me or Amy, but he would come back.  And he would eat just as much (if not more) than the chickens.

I decided to let Amy into the coop.

I won't regale you with what ensued for the next five minutes.  Amy kept that squirrel running round and round the coop, bouncing from roost to rafter to straw, behind the storage bins, and back.  Amy caught it once, and it bit her or clawed her such that she let out an outraged whine.

Eventually, though, he got tired enough that he didn't scramble quite fast enough, and Amy had him.  She subdued him, and carried him outside.  He wasn't quite dead, because Amy rarely actually kills anything, except by accident.  (She's just like Lenny from "Of Mice and Men":  I will love him and hold them and call him George... oops, he's not moving anymore.)

He wasn't dead, but he was barely moving, so we had to put the guy out of his misery.  I've had to do that on countless occasions.

I have done some reading, and I think I may start mixing chili pepper flakes in the food.  After all, one squirrel means Legion.

But, all in all, I am proud of Amy.  Even at 10 years old this year, she has still got it.  Go Amy!  We are proud of you!

"Killer" Amy and the Damsels in Distress

Monday, March 3, 2014

Spring is Coming!

Yeah, I know we're getting hit with another 10 inches today (depending on which forecast you choose the believe).  So what?  Another day, another snow.  I saw the snowdrops in bloom this weekend, and that is way more interesting than actual snowflakes!

Instead of moaning about the drifts of snow which will cover the drifts of snow from last week, I will describe all the drifts of seed catalogs, and the plans for our garden.  Because we will be preparing the gardens and starting seedlings this month.

In truth, the catalogs have been coming since November.  I recycled dozens in the afternoons before the Husband ever walked in the door to ask, "What's in the mail?"  All so I could say, "Nothing", since the mail had long since been sorted into piles for Country Kitty and family, recycling, keep, and shred, thus sparing me thinking about planting a garden four months away or more.

But, in December, he caught me.  So, the seed catalogs began going into a "save" pile.  I'd let the pile get to six inches before I'd sort the duplicates and recycle them.  (I like recycling!).  On through January...and into February.

Now there is a pile, and when March looms, you know April is close behind, and that is when you plant!  So, last week, the Husband and I found ourselves leaning over the kitchen bar, making non-committal noises as we flipped through various catalogs:  The Cooks Garden, Burpee, Kitchen Garden Seeds, etc. 
ME:  So, what are we planting this year?
HIM:  Well, you posted that corn, bean, squash companion photo online, and it's here in this book. (holds up "Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots")
ME:  (flipping through the "hot" peppers in one catalog) These peppers are lame.
HIM:  (handing me the Territorial Seed Company catalog) Well, look at this catalog.
ME:  Oooooo.  So, what are we planting this year?
HIM:  Well, what do you want to plant?
ME:  Six jalapeno plants was not enough.  I need more.
HIM:  I thought you said those weren't spicy.
ME:  They weren't.  I want to at least double it, but with serranos!
HIM:  Twelve?
ME:  Yeah, I am going through a pint of canned jalepenos in 10 days!  I need at least...maybe 20.  Yeah, 20 hot pepper plants.  That way I can do salsa too.
HIM:  Can we do some mild ones?
ME:  No, those are useless...
HIM:  (pointed look)
ME:  Unless you and the Boy might want to eat them.  Yes!  Let me start a list!

So, we started a list.

  • 15-20 hot peppers (Serranos and a few banana)
  • 8+ Romas... or any good sauce tomato
  • 1 Grape tomato... even though I don't keep up with them
  • 1 Early Girl, just because.

ME:  Okay, what else?
HIM:  The corn thing?
ME:  (scribbling down corn, pole beans, squash)  Oh yeah, I totally need to plant butternut squash again.  And double what we did last year!  Oh, and spaghetti squash!
HIM:  Cukes--
ME:  And zukes!  Oh, and peas.  And I want lettuce.  Maybe a salad mix, with kale and beets.  Carrots!  We could try onions again, why not?  Wanna do cabbage?
HIM:  Sure, but---
ME:  Oh, and we have to do the melons again!  Do the Alvaro melon, and canary.  Hmm, what about watermelon?
HIM:  Maybe, do you think---
ME:  The Boy will totally want strawberries.
HIM:  Did you want to buy all these as plants?
ME:  Noooooo!  We have to start these all from seeds!  Well, maybe not the tomatoes.  No, I can do it!  Although, I'm really lazy, and I don't know how many plants we need to start like that.  Hmm, I know Country Kitty left her seedling starters here  somewhere?  Sheesh, but I hate having so many seedlings that I don't use.  Oh, maybe, I could just start the melons directly in the compost heap.  Ha ha, just kidding.  Oh gosh, do you think the Boy will want to do pumpkins again?  Hmmm, is this list too long?  Well, we do have both garden plots this year.  I don't know, what do you think?

By this point, the Husband had wandered off, because his presence was apparently no longer required, as I'd already taken all the catalogs, the pad and the pencil.  Plus, I was doing all the talking.

So, the planning is going beautifully, and wow, we started before March!  We're ahead of the game!  Woohoo!!  Cuz, Spring is coming!