Monday, August 18, 2014

Cheers and Tears

The week began with tears.  

Last Monday, we had to sit down with the Boy and really drive it home for him that we are going to be moving.  He doesn't want to leave:  he's going to miss the farm, the fields, his school, but mostly the chickens.  I assured him that Country Kitty agreed to keep the chickens, and I was certain we would be able to come out and see them.

His tears hurt both our hearts a little.  All three of us have grown accustomed to the farm, and all of us will miss it in some way.  The Husband will miss it more than I will, since this is his dream.  However, the farm has grown on me.  I'll admit there are things I've come to like about living in the country.  But, we have to find a place to live until the right opportunity presents itself.  So, we are looking at places both in town and in the country, if the commute for the Husband won't be any worse.

In the meantime, we are all determined to enjoy life here to the fullest.  The Boy and the Husband cleared out the upper field on Saturday.  The Boy has been spending even more time outside, playing frisbee and unfortunately chasing the chickens:  he loves the sounds they make.  I've just suggested to him that maybe he ought to record them, so he'll have the sound forever.  Big smiles.

white peaches
The peaches in the barnyard have come in finally.  White peaches, sweet as can be.  I don't know if I am going to have enough to attempt canning any.  Sad, that.  But the pears are also coming in, and we all shared a beautiful but tiny apple.

fixing a broken handle
Early last week, the chicken waterer appeared to have been knocked down.  Alas, the red carrying handle had broken somehow.  I found a suitable object to set the waterer down on, but wasn't relishing having to buy a new waterer.  I grumbled about it for a few days, and was working up to a new one, when it occurred to me that I could fix it!  I found some heavy wire, a few plastic corks from wine bottles, and went to work.  It is really cool, and way more comfortable to carry than the other had been.  I haven't rehung it, however, as I am not certain if the wire will keep its shape if it is holding 5 gallons of water underneath.

Sheila, the Eastern black swallowtail
We are not only raising chickens here on the farm.  All our work to preserve some butterfly habitats paid off!  The boys discovered tons of caterpillars in the fields this weekend.  We captured one (now called Sheila) and put in the Boy's Butterfly Habitat.  Sheila didn't do anything much on Sunday, but this morning, I found a cocoon!  Very exciting...
rat snake skeleton
The boys also uncovered the remains of the snake we killed:  nothing left but bones.  

The bones make me think about what we leave behind, how we affect the world and lives around us.  We've been here a year now, and I can see signs of our presence here:  the reconstructed chicken coop with its big pen, the white laurel, the new path through the woods, Katt's grave, all those funny trails in the lower field, the trees we've trimmed from the paths, the new lawn near the sunroom.  

But, the farm is also leaving its own trace on us.  The Boy identifies plants and bushes, where once he asked if everything was poison ivy.  He has no fear of wild animals now, and indeed recognizes that the cute fluffy bunnies are evil beasts from Troll Planet X, and that the majestic eagles we've glimpsed are a danger to our chickens.

I've learned how to use a riding mower, and how to dodge potholes.  I automatically climb into my muckers when I leave the house to chase down the dog or check on the chickens.  I rarely leave the house without my phone, so I can snap pictures of cool spiders or weird scat or an unusual footprint.  Heck, when I walk into a spider web, I don't even shriek anymore.  
Well, not as much, anyway.

The trees are beginning to turn, and leaves are falling already.  My garden is past its prime, and I've been considering planting a fall crop of greens and maybe broccoli.  At every task or observation, I now remember fondly how I handled it last year.

Memories fade.  But I did two amazing things last year, and will benefit for the rest of my life from them.  First, I agreed to try this whole living-in-the-country thing.  Second, I decided to create a blog so Country Kitty could see what we were experiencing.  I've recorded many of the big experiences, and more importantly, lots of little ones.  I'll have this forever.

But, in the meantime, I have two more months to live here.

And I will be living it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Zombie Chickens and Fashion Statements

The law of averages dictated that the new hens would begin laying eventually.  I wasn't expecting this:

What the hell is that?  It was soft, and kinda meaty inside.  (I did NOT take pics of the autopsy--even I have my ghoulish limits.)  I found a few more a day later.  I looked at a million images online, and read dozens of chicken-owner blogs.  The Internet told me that it is a horrifying disease that will mean that the hen will never lay again.  It also told me that it could be a starter egg, from a young layer making some premature attempts to begin laying.  My personal theory (because I KNOW who produced such a disgusting thing), is that the hen who lays shell-less eggs is now laying shell-less FERTILIZED eggs, and she is now birthing a flock of zombie-chicks...and I am so not a scientist.  But it was kinda fun to poke at that nasty thing and try to figure out where the head was supposed to be.  It says something about me that my son hovered over, trying to remember what he learned about eggs in school as we poked and prodded at it.

But, to my amazement and delight, yesterday evening, the Husband came in from shutting the girls in for the night, and showed me this very welcome sight.

ABOUT EFFING TIME!!!  Although, I am a teeny bit disappointed that my zombie chick-ghoul theory was wrong.  I think they must have known I was considering this as an option...

In other news, yesterday I finally got off my lazy bum and canned tomatoes.  Rather than do another 7-8 quarts of my amazing arrabbiata sauce, we decided that I would can whole tomatoes.  But, being the lazy person I am, I decided to can half-tomatoes instead.  This meant that I didn't have to spend time trying to match sizes.  This meant I just chopped the wee ones in half, and the medium ones in quarters, and the big humongous ones in whatever size felt right.  So, I got 4 quarts and 7 pints canned, and put another two quarts in the freezer.  I was going to do some peppers, but I found that I am clean out of pickling salt.

Go me!

But, that burst of energy came after I managed to drive the riding mower into a tree as I frantically tried to wave off a big spider web I was passing through.  Fortunately, all I did was unseat the wheel... but it meant that I needed to take it to our local small engine place to get fixed, which meant I didn't get to practice my lawn meditation yesterday.  And boy did I need to.

In an effort to cheer me up (well, to stop me beating myself up), the Husband got me started on the big tractor.  I think he must be a brave man or a very silly one to let me on a big tractor after I managed to break the small one, but he gave me a lesson on the controls.  It went in one ear and out the other.  Then, he rode with me for a few minutes and told me to do a pass around the upper field.  I managed to do the loop without running into any spider webs or trees, and did not kill anything (that I noticed, anyway).  He snapped this adorable picture of me.  And yes, the tractor IS moving.

Notice the red circle.  City Kitty has had to amend her fashion-nightmare country wear.  When one is sitting on a riding mower or tractor, one cannot see the controls next to the seat when one has shirttails flapping.  The adorable knots manage the problem nicely.

And plus it looks kinda cute.

Monday, August 4, 2014

An Odd Thing

I live on a farm, and I've had all sorts of odd experiences.  Like having to drag my groceries on a sled through three foot deep snow to get from the car to the house.  Like watching a spider cricket grow to maturity in the utility sink, because he was stuck there and I knew that if I tried to free him, he'd just crawl up my arm.  Like searching for a walking stick that can double as a web-wand.

We can also include under "Odd Experiences" the time I ran out of my house barefoot to rescue a chicken from a fox, then chasing that fox into the woods, and finally administering first aid to the chicken.  Or, the time when the sump pump backed up due to ice, and I got to spend several hours wading in my own basement when I wasn't crawling under the front porch, armed with a hairdryer and a few buckets of hot water.

I hardly think about the odd things I do on a daily basis now.  I stepped into the shower the other day, and saw a spider on the inside of the plastic shower curtain.  I was already wet, and I didn't want to call for assistance, so I just gathered the folds between my hands and slammed them together, effectively squishing the spider.  I then took my shower.

This morning, I reached into the trash can to rescue the toast crusts that the Boy had accidentally thrown away:  the chickens love cinnamon toast crusts.

However, something happened last week that has captured my imagination.

One of my best friends came for the week, a last-minute trip that was so great.  She and I did some of the things that I have been meaning to do for a long time, but never got around to doing:  visiting the local distillery for the tour and tasting; hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail; and getting out on Friday night to hit the local First Friday event.

We also spent hours talking and laughing, enjoying wine every evening.  I gave my usual tour of the farmhouse, pointing out all the charming details (moss from the 1700s, ax marks in the log walls, adorable kitchen) and the places to watch out for (sloping floors, odd steps up or down, low ceilings). Of course, I also showed her around the farm and entertained her with all the adorably odd habits I've picked up here.

Her favorite was my web-wand.  We went on a walk of the fields, munching on the occasional blackberries, letting the Boy pick our route, so he could show us the new paths he mowed with his father.  (And they are hilarious.  Period.  Curves and twists...if I hadn't known that the Boy had done them, I would have thought that his father had been doing something with the weeds other than mowing them.)  Anyhow, my friend was giggling over my web-wand, and had already pictured Lockhart before I explained it.

Moments, later, however, we came upon the really odd thing.

We have rain and storms often enough, and we come across fallen branches and other assorted storm debris.  But this evening, in middle of the path, we found this nest.

It looked undisturbed.  There were no obvious nesting branches overhead.  No sign of a distressed mama bird.  Just a nest full of cloth fibers and a perfect egg.  Google failed us when we tried to identify it, although the closest match was a bird species so common I've already forgotten its name.

Who knows how it happened?  We'll never know, but for once, something odd enough happened that I actually recognized that it was odd.  And it made me think about how many things I have come to accept as just part of my day, that had once seemed so extraordinary.

So, I will go back to waving my web-wand and eating fruit right off the bushes, tormenting the local foxes and feeding my chickens slightly-rotten but organic cucumbers and tomatoes along with their favorite cinnamon toast crusts.  And I will look at it all and giggle at how far the City Kitty has come.