Tuesday, March 29, 2011

At Wal-Mart

I'm not sure what possessed me, but my first thought was, "I could take her."  She wouldn't stand a chance against me.  I could grab her perfectly fluffed hair and throw her down as she passed down the pizza aisle.  There wasn't much to her.  That buff colored jacket had to be a size two, and the high heels beneath her khakis would unbalance her with a good shove.  I didn't see if her nails were long and red, matching her big red leather purse.  They could be to my disadvantage, but I could totally bring her down.

I suppose the fact that I was in jeans and my Walmart t-shirt, hair that had gone flat with the weather, my scratched (and need to be thrown away) Clark mules, and a lack of swing in my step (it was, after all in the late afternoon and time for my daily afternoon slump), well, the un-Christian thought just popped into my head.  The moment passed and I admitted I could do a little more to look a bit put together.  I don't, however, suppose I could fling a sack of horse feed over my shoulder in that get-up.

Perhaps I need a vacation.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Chickens Falling from the Sky

It was a mystery as to how his corpse came to be in my front pasture as was the nature of his death.  It did not appear accidental, given that his head and neck were missing.  Three giant turkey buzzards circled what was left of him.

"Something's dead!" I announced.  Circling buzzards are a dead giveaway. Literally.

From the house, it looked like a white something.  I checked to make sure Louise was in the house.  Check.  Well, what about our one white hen?  I sent William out with his two girl cousins to investigate.  They returned with the verdict:  a murdered rooster.


If this were Louisiana, I would be worried.  As it was, how did a headless rooster come to roost in my yard?  My sister speculated that someone or something got tired carrying it home.  Using my best CSI skills, I found that the nature of the injuries indicated that he was likely killed by a racoon or hawk, both of whom rip the head from the body.  Perhaps, my sister continued, a hawk flying overhead dropped it?  Would that have not been a sight to see, a dead chicken falling from the sky?  I'd have to go in the house and light a candle and say a rosary or something.  Scary.

Of course, it fell to me to grab a trash bag and dispose of the poor thing.  I worried about which neighbor was missing his or her rooster?  Kristina?  Mr. Retired Wood Shop Teacher, or the guy down the road that also keeps turkeys?  Just today, I saw a house maybe 1/2 a mile that had a "Fresh Eggs" sign.  I need a neon sign out front so that I can change the message for passing motorists.  One day, "MISSING WHITE CAT" and the next, "FOUND:  DEAD WHITE ROOSTER".  At least the owner would know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Losing My Mind

I suppose I could blame it on my sister, Diane.  She started it on Friday night.  After her children's weekly piano lessons, she stayed the night at my house.  The following day was a piano recital in which William and her two girls would play.  We were to bring cupcakes for the reception.  She went the store to get last minute ingredients for her chocolate cheesecake creation, only to forget to add in vanilla and chocolate chips.  So, you see, she started it.

It must be a virus, for today, I made banana bread for our guests of this evening, "Doll and Pottie" (I told my daughter).  Daughter laughed, don't you mean Paul and Dottie?  Oh, yes.  And then I realized I'd forgotten to add sugar to the banana bread, making it taste slightly like stale bread instead.  I made another batch, which turned out better.

But last night, recital night, was the worst.   I sent William into the men's room to dress.  While he is in there, it hits me that I'd forgotten his tie!  Horrors!  He already was complaining about his new khakis, pleated and feeling different from other pants he owns.  I hold open the men's room door and avert my eyes, calling William out so that I can run to get my cell.  A quick phone call to the daddy driving separately caused him to stop and buy one, and arrive too late to give it to William now up on stage.  He played well, tie-less.  This is part of a plan to teach him not to trust me, rather to double check that he himself knows that we have all of his attire.

Tomorrow:  On Chickens Falling From the Sky

Friday, March 25, 2011

Overheard

I asked William to help his girl cousin, a year younger than he, to help her carry a toy barn full of molded plastic animals up from the basement.

Girl cousin:  It's heavy.
William:  Yeah, girls aren't really built for lifting heavy things.  Except maybe my mom; she lifts heavy things all the time."

Notes:
My sister is visiting.  We are watching her husband's name, Joe Thomas, on the leaderboard of the FLW Bass Tournament.  He's currently in 10th place.  The top twenty pros fish again tomorrow.  I am the editor of his blog, Surviving in the Reel World.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dead Ash

Dh cut down a tree out front today.  I'm always sad to see a tree cut.  This one was dying and it needed to go, but still sad.  I find it interesting to visit places I've lived, only to find that the trees look different, bigger.  Out back, we have a tree that is well over one hundred years old, and I often think about how it has been here to see all the changes on our land for over a century.  But this one, this marker, won't be there.



William came running in with his net, asking me to identify insects found near the tree.  As best I can tell, they were box elder insects, which besides maple and box elder, like ash trees like this one.  It is likely we'll lose a few trees this year due to past drought.  (See the evergreen in the photo.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

TNR

We finished the TNR (trap/neuter/release) project today, releasing two female cats to the neighbor's barn.  The Humane Society operated on them, treated them for ear mites and fleas, gave them rabies and the combo shot, provided food, medication and even litter.  They notched their ears so we know they've been fixed.  Hopefully, they'll all recover from the infections.  Likely, they'll not get another shot, but at least they'll have this year.  In all, eight females were removed from the breeding cycle and four males.  Five, counting Jefferson.

The full moon tonight lights up the front yard and Louise-cat has escaped to outside.  We'll have to get her inside before we retire for the night.  I've never thought about it, but of all the cats we caught, not one was pure white.  You don't see many stray pure white cats around here - I'm sure that the color puts them at a disadvantage, especially in the moonlight.  She'll come in though, I think she learned her lesson.

Anna and I took an hour of our day to go to town and browse two new shops, one another art gallery.  Not as much quality as the other art gallery, but it is new so we'll check back later.  And, a new arts and crafts supply store!  Anna was happy to find they carried her favorite oil paint and she bought two new brushes.  It is pricier, but with the cost of gas, it is worth paying a little more to not have to run to nearby big city.

I try to buy local when I can.   I bought William's baseball cleats from a local mom and pop store for about the same or perhaps, a little more.  There's a vacant store in town and I don't want there to be another.

Check out the moon tonight!

Reading:  Cleopatra: A Life

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blind or Deaf?

Most evenings, you will find me in the moonlight, walking my horses one by one to the barn.  It's my favorite time of the evening, especially in the spring.  Stars twinkle overhead, horses nicker to hurry me, peepers call to one another, the cat twists at my feet.  I listen to the BBC on the radio as I shovel and carry water.  It is in the middle of the night there, and it gives me a non-American viewpoint.  Finally, I shut the doors as I hear the horses, finished with grain, start munching hay.

The sounds of my life.  And yet, were you to ask me if, God forbid, I had to choose between blindness and deafness, I would quickly answer I would rather be deaf.  Helen Keller is quoted as having said, "Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus - the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man."   She was both, so had a unique perspective, yet perhaps because she was both, she had adjusted to both, and so her answer was colored by her lifetime experiences.


I have been asking people about me for their reaction to this question.  The answers sometimes come quickly.  My daughter, Lauren, a classical pianist and extrovert, quickly said she would rather be blind.  She could not lose music and talking to others.   Anna, my artist and friendly introvert, just as quickly decided she could not be blind over deaf. She could live more independently as a deaf person and technology and sign language could make up some of the challenges.  My husband, asked while in the middle of watching a TV show (my bad), answered quickly "blind", but during a commercial, rushed in to tell me he changed his mind - he could still play golf if he was deaf. As I continued to discuss it with friends and family, it became apparent that the things that were likely to cause the most loss in that person's life determined the answer.  A young girl that loves singing would, having to chose, be blind. Someone who loves to read, deaf. 


Myself, as I walked the horses to the barn in the dark, I was thinking of the difficulty, but not impossibility of caring for my animals without sight.  Yet, I value being able to do for myself and others.  Losing sight means less independence and ability to care for others.  Hopefully, if ever I have to face either, I'll rise to meet the challenge, but God willing, I hope not to have  the opportunity.


The question begs, however, what is important to you in this world?  Which would you choose?

Exponential

We released ten of the twelve cats back to the barn yesterday. Transported in the live traps and covered with old sheets, they fit neatly into old Eugene (the van).  With two that died on the street in February, one (female) that got away, that makes fifteen cats at that barn not counting Jefferson and his sibling, who the owners claim were not part of his barn colony based on color.

Of the ten, six were female.  That fits well with the current math unit of how many baby kittens would have been born this summer had we not spayed them?  (We're multiplying by six.) 18? 24? 30?  Make it 24.  And then assuming 50% of those are female, the following year you'd have 12 new females plus the original six females for 18 females times another four kittens per cat which comes up to 72 new kittens.  Adding the original 12 + 24 the first summer and 72 the next, you find the barn will have 108 cats by the second summer.  Now, of course they don't all live:  many run off, die of starvation, killed by the large tom, die of the respiratory disease they all have.   Not a great life, is it?  And of course, this count doesn't include the two newly trapped cats in my garage awaiting their operation tomorrow, and given their size and color, they are likely female.  And of course, there is still that tortie out there - a proven breeder.

William was very helpful, carrying the traps both empty and full, but he declined to come help me feed the cats and show the owners how to medicate cats this morning:  the canned food, used to hide the medicine, makes him gag!

Getting to know the neighbor through this project was a bonus.  Where I live, we often wave to neighbors, but given the lack of density and wide age variation, it is often hard to connect.  I stood and talked to the man and his wife for an hour this morning, the first real conversation though we've lived two doors down for thirteen years.


Notes:  SUN!!!
Every day, I feel so tired I day dream of taking naps.  Recently, I started taking 2000 iu of Vitamin D, approved by a doctor, and it has made a tremendous difference.  So would a trip to the Virgin Islands.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

TNR

The TNR (trap-neuter-release) project continues with all ten cats successfully making it out of surgery yesterday.   I hear, however, all are in terrible health, thin and with upper respiratory infections.  Two of the girls had bad uterine infections which (well, I'll spare you the graphic details).  One might have pneumonia.  They will have to be on antibiotics for the next two weeks.  Hopefully, the owner will step up and be willing to feed canned food with drugs (provided to him) to get these cats back to health so that my part in the project is complete.  It he is unwilling or unable, I guess my project continues for two more weeks.

Such projects on the surface seem to take a great deal of my time that we could have spent "schooling", one might think.   We learn more by doing.  William has accompanied me on this "hunting" trip, carrying cages, setting traps, and enjoying seeing the size and color of each one he caught.  And of course, there was the inevitable questions about why we were doing what we were doing, the surgical procedures for removing the reproductive organs, the differences between the males and females, what a mammal is versus birds and lizards that don't feed young from their body, how animals reproduce, including humans.  All precipitated by catching cats and so much more interesting and useful than the difference between a noun and a verb.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

By Comparison

Last night, as I walked down from the barn in the quiet dark, I reflected on how very blessed my life has been.  Neither my husband, I, nor my children have ever had to experience hunger, a lack of water, a need for a place to stay.  We have wonderful friends, a beautiful place to live, bounty enough to share with animals just for companionship.  The events of the past week illustrate how fragile life and lifestyle can be, how all can be gone in a flash, washed away.  By comparison, my distress at a long, gray and colder than normal winter is a small thing.  Today, I looked at the gray skies and the misty, cold rain with new eyes:  it's not so bad.

The horses sheltered all day in the barn.  They don't understand that it is nasty outside, dancing in their stalls, hoping to go outside.  I let them out to roam the barn as I clean their stalls.  Etta is particularly nosy, dumping over the garbage can and trying to open a bag of poultry feed.  The minis, when they have their turn, roll in the aisle way, rubbing away shedding and itchy hair.

William and I looked for Jefferson.  Unable to locate him in the house, we figured he'd slipped outside perhaps, and now it was cold and raining.  Dh asked if we'd found him.  No, no sign.  "That's a bummer," he said.  Wait, I thought we weren't keeping him?  Did I really think he would be like that, he asked?

Perhaps Jefferson wanted to return to the feral colony?  It isn't there:  with the Humane Society, we trapped ten cats over two days in live traps.  The cats now rest at the clinic in town, having been spayed or neutered today.  I'll release them back to the neighbor's barn tomorrow where they'll resume their free-ranging existence.  But Jefferson?  No, he didn't leave but he had escaped outside and was very scared when I found him on the front porch.  I suppose he'll stay awhile.

Notes:
People of Japan, my prayers go out to you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Different Angle


What if children are here on earth, not to be taught, but are sent as a way of teaching us?

The photo above was taken at a Suzuki piano performance class, where parents and children are listening to a story about John Phillips Sousa.  How many of us would take the time to learn as much as we do without the motivation of teaching a child?  Ask most any involved elementary parent, homeschooled or not, and they will tell you the joy of seeing the world in a new light - through the eyes of their child or how they learned something that surely they must have covered in their own elementary years, but had forgotten.

Today, increasingly, it becomes easy to disengage, to allow the TV and computer and gaming systems to replace the real world experiences.  Perhaps we all need to remember to see the world with the eyes of a child.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

To Crow or Not to Crow?

My husband's cousin writes about traveling to learn Kung Fu on a Chinese mountain top. Cloudia and her boat home survives a tsunami.  I write about....my chicken with a gender identity issue.  I have wondered about him (her?) since I heard his (her?) brother crow.  This particular chicken appears to be male:  he has a comb, and in Black Australorps, females do not.  He has wattles, tail feathers, he is larger than the female.


Notice, however, how pink his comb and wattles are.  His brother's are bright red.  Females often have smaller pink comb and wattles until they begin to lay eggs, when they will redden considerably.  Australorps seem to have a milder manner, not like other roosters which are aggressive even as chicks, puffing out their chests and flapping wings.

For awhile, he appeared to be sick, sitting down, back on his legs even to eat and unsteady on his feet.  Perhaps this has delayed his development?  He seems to have recovered from this.


Rooster on right, ? on left

Could it be possible, I wondered, for him to be androgynous?  I Googled it:  androgynous chicken.   I found nothing.  So, I tried "gay chicken", although he's done nothing to indicate that he prefers roosters over hens.

This is when I learned two lessons:   1. I am more naive about this world than I thought and there are things I don't really ever want to know, and 2. Innocent Googling can land you in some pretty awful places.  Little did I know that this was a game or terminology for a frat "game" (or depravity).  Were it not for the fact that my daughter thinks a good weekend is attending two piano recitals, a chamber music recital and watching old movies with friends, I would not be taking her back to college this weekend.  I erased my browser history of an innocent click, and used disinfectant on my keyboard.

Why do I care about the disposition of this chicken?  I have a home all ready to take him, but I want them to know what they're getting.  Is he sick?  Is he a she?  Is he neither?  It also is a curiosity.  I have heard of hens becoming rooster-like in the absence of a male, but will a rooster become hen-like in the presence of one?

For my local friends:  Tractor Supply has chicks this week!  Go look!


Rooster and his hen

Another chicken story from last year.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Academically Speaking

Anna is taking a physics course, and I have become her study partner.  I've had to dust off a few cobwebs (in my brain) and try to restart this old engine.  It has had a positive result:  I now have additional vocabulary to describe my life.

For example, I realize I have reached terminal velocity.  For those of you not (yet) studying physics, this means that my ability to accelerate or push back against the outside forces working on me has reached the maximum velocity.  I can go no faster.

Wanna lose weight?  Go to the top of a tall building, get in the elevator and push "down".  Instant weight loss.  Wanna lose mass?  That's another matter.

Did you know, that in the absence of air resistance that a piano shot out of a cannon will follow the same trajectory as a human shot out of a piano?  Do you know that my son's piano lessons at home sometimes make me want to try this?

Luckily, Anna is a good student and doesn't need my brain power (or lack of it) for most of the problems.

Notes:
Lauren's home!

I need sun.  NOW.

We officially have two roosters based on their looks alone.  Only one, however, has crowed.  The other acts like a hen.  Neither are chest-butting, aggressive chickens like previous roosters.  Perhaps it is the breed?  (Black Australorps)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Anyway

Many women of my age are now reaching their career peak.  If ever they were to be confident and powerful, it is now, at this age.  I run into them once in awhile:  the doctor, the owner of her own business, artist, professor.  I think, "I could have been that.  I'm smart;  I could have been somebody."  

Perhaps only lately, as changes fill my life, though William will still take quite a few more years of schooling, I wonder what I will be besides homeschool mom.   Hitting fifty makes one think also of all the paths not taken, the confirmations from the outside world that you are valued.  And yes, I realize that my family and friends value me.  I would, going back, not make different choices.  I only speak of that momentary feeling of needing to be important in the outside world.  Of knowing that for many paths that interest me, many lives I would have liked to have lived, it is too late.

At a visit to Indiana University, I looked at the small graveyard there.  All those people, forgotten stories, especially the women whose stones were dwarfed by their husbands' monuments and told only their names.

And then I read this:
                        
       "You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;  
         It was never between you and them anyway."


It matters not what they think.  In the end, my life will not be measured by this world's yardstick.  Being remembered is not the goal.

Note:
The above quote is from the poem, Anyway, widely attributed to Mother Teresa, who did not, in fact, write it.  She may have edited it, adding the last line, but even that is not proven, and only that she had hung this poem up in Calcutta.  The original Paradoxical Commandments was written by Kent M Keith, a 19 year old Harvard student.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Adjustments

There was a time I would have been jealous.  As it is now, I tossed the magazine in my husband's lap.  "Have fun," I said.  He smiled.  The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition had arrived.

What sport they claim to illustrate we'll leave for someone else's blog.  I never had hope to look like one who could drape myself across its pages.  But there was a time that I was toned, that I felt strong and looked good.  I think I was fourteen.

Up until my fiftieth birthday, there was the niggling thought that if I only carved out a bit of time, I could once again have a flat tummy, arms without wings, legs that are toned.  And then, I overhear friends chatting about how they hurt themselves sleeping and I join in with the time....until I realize, "Damn, I'm fifty".  I'm not ever going to get back to my fourteen year old self.  I'm not ever going to turn heads again.

It can be quite freeing.  I need not be jealous, for those creatures are so far removed from my reality, that we are a different species.  Much as I might admire a beautiful horse, I have no hope of ever being one, nor would I want to.

Still, I look forward, adjusting my parameters.  

Photo:  at the Wonderlab, mirrors mix views of my face with William's.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The "S" Word

Yes, yes, I know.  Not a word from me in weeks.  I can barely make it through the winter, and no blogs write themselves in my brain.  See, I don't write.  They write themselves.  And for some reason, "they" have been quiet.  Perhaps the winter killed them or they're in hibernation.  Today I had the first stirrings, so perhaps not all is lost.

We were in Bloomington these past two days, checking out Indiana University.  Seeking to find a diversion for William, who suffers the fate of being dragged along on college visits, we visited the Wonderlab Science Museum.  We had the pleasure of being there at the same time as two bus loads of first graders.  A cacophony of little voices greeted us, yet this was the only time we could be there so we persevered.  I'm glad we did, for we discovered many wonderful things, including a whirlpool generator that gave a "lab" to the History Channel program on whirlpools we'd watched the night before at the hotel.



What gave me greater joy, however, was the 45 minutes my son spent with an elderly woman and a snake. By now, the bus loads of kids had left.


With a snake draped about her neck, she talked about snakes, hissing cockroaches, and walking sticks.  They shared stories about snakes they've seen, and her dog that recently passed.


She sat at the saltwater aquarium, pointing out the camouflaged fish and shrimp.  


The snake helped show her humorous side and that this type of snake, a corn snake, was not to be feared.

They were enjoying themselves so much that her "quitting time" (she volunteers) came and went.  Suddenly, she looked at her watch.  Oh!  Past time for her to leave.

Why do I write about this?  So many times, I am asked how my child(ren) will be Socialized.  How will they know how to get along with others?  Mostly, what questioners really mean is how will they get along with kids their own ages?  But how many of today's 9 year olds sit and companionably spend nearly an hour with a stranger who is decades older in an even exchange?  (And, I might add, that I hope to be like this woman when I'm her age.)  Not that there aren't schooled children that do this - my nephew is one.  But not that we homeschoolers miss out.  We socialize and are socialized plenty.

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