Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oh, the chickens...

A few weeks ago I let the chickens out while I was moving hay. I have done this possibly a hundred times before. This time though, oh this time was different. I made my rounds with the tractor and it was nearly dusk when I dismounted and found this:

Yes. That is a massive pile of chicken feathers.

And this (and a lot more of the same, but you get the drift):
Seriously. Doesn't that look like a whole chicken?

Needless to say I panicked. I ran into the chicken house crying and begging the chickens to be alive. Seven out of eleven chickens were sitting on the roost.

I ran back outside and started trying to track the chickens down. I found a white hen bleeding and defeathered curled up in a pile of grass. There was a caramel colored hen missing side feathers wedged between two round bales. One hen, another red had wedged her head behind a square bale and her slightly less fluffy butt was still clearly visible from the barn door. There was only one chicken missing. Black Bart the banty rooster.

I ran all over with a flashlight, crying, and searching to no avail. I beat myself up the entire night about how scared he must be. He had to be cold and alone and hurting! There were enough feathers out there to stuff a pillow! He was probably dead, but I couldn't give up hope. After all, each hen had lost a lot of feathers and they were traumatized, but alive.

The next morning Cogburn the rooster crowed, and echoing from across the paddocks was Bart's reply. He was alive! Dad and I raced towards him from different ends of the paddock, but General the beagle decided to give chase faster than either of us could keep up. He chased Bart back into the woods. Moments stretched into minutes as we searched high and low for that little black rooster. Suddenly dad shouted. He had found him! All that was visible from between the gnarled roots of a fallen tree was a tiny bit of red comb. Bart had one heck of a hiding spot! I dug him out and returned him home.

I am happy to report that the chickens are all recovering; albeit funnier looking now (Just look at poor Bart! He looks like half a chicken!), and they no longer beg to be let outside their run.

Companion Farming. It is better than growing alone.

I have this weird fantasy where I secretly take pictures and videos of Captain America and I, and I edit them into a better commercial for FarmersOnly. You know, kind of like the Match and eHarmony ones, only with more cows. Oh and instead of the first date conversation being about our jobs it would be about what dead things the dogs drug into the yard lately (a whole deer head with eyes and all, thanks Susan…). Less giggling and more full out belly laughs. Fewer sly hair flips and more hands shaking and praying to not spill the wine. Heavy discussions about how many cows we wanted to have when we got older, or how much acreage we wanted to own. And the tagline for this? Companion Farming. It is better than growing alone.
Why Companion Farming you ask? A few months ago I was walking across one of Captain America’s fields carrying two bottles of tea; making a beeline straight for the tractor when it hit me. If I hadn’t drove the hour and a half to get there, and he had flipped the tractor or gotten kicked by a horse or whatever random farming accident, no one would even notice until it was too late.
The bottom dropped out of my stomach and I felt physically ill. I fought it down and hopped on up to make a few rounds as “tractor candy.” But it hasn’t been very far away from my thoughts ever since. As we made the rounds and small talk I found my thoughts wandering and toying with words, as they are frequently wont to do. I was thinking about how glad I was to be alive and in the relationship that I am in, and then I started being grateful for the opportunity to explore my hobbies and interests like companion planting, and I looked over at CA and thought to myself how lucky I was to have such a nice farming companion, and then the thought hit me. We were companion farming. I was put in his life to prevent him from an untimely tractor accident (or at least to cry a lot if it happened) and he was put into mine to help me too. Because let’s face it. In a few years I too would be farming alone.
Over the past few weeks my thoughts have been circling around this idea of companion farming as if it was an unruly cow and I REALLY wanted to pet her calf. Which is to say I will think hard on it and then lose interest only to come back a few days later and stare longingly at the cuddly little epiphany that is just barely out of my reach. Seriously, it is right there.
I have had a lot of thoughts that almost catch it.
We refer to loved ones, friends, romantic partners, and pets as companions. Ideally most of those relationships are symbiotic, and help each other, to create a better whole. To extend the idea of companion gardening into it, there are certain plants that grow well together giving support to sprawling vines or fighting off certain insects for their neighbors. Those companions don’t replace sunshine, soil, or water; but they go an awfully long way when it comes to boosting the liveliness and productivity of their sister plants. For example, squash can grow by itself, but it is much more susceptible to bugs without some radishes in its life. Much like I can grow by myself but am much more prone to bouts of depression without all of my companions around. Each one is specialized and good for certain things like conversation, hugs, devil’s advocacy, fun wild nights, shopping, or listening; much like certain companion plants are great for things like immune support, physical support, or even pest deterring.  
God is a gardener planting people in our lives to help us grow in certain ways. We must chose our friends as if they were companion plants (IE stay away from those black walnut friendships ‘cause nothing good will come of that [black walnut trees actually release a toxin into the ground that can kill rival plants]). Not everyone that will take from you also gives you back what you need. After all, what good is a little shade if you’re both starving and fighting for nitrogen? When selecting a mate you must choose someone that you not only grow well next to, but who also doesn’t steal too many of your nutrients, all the better if they add what you need back into the soil.
Any of those work? No? Well, heck. They don’t quite do it for me either. Maybe one day I will clutch that cuddly calf of insight and it will be as clear as day, but for right now it is still about as see through as lake water after a rainstorm. Geez, I am rocking the redneck analogies today. Sorry ‘bout that!
One way or another, I am so grateful to have my life so full of EXCELLENT companions.
And part of that is because of FarmersOnly. So watch out, Captain. It only makes sense that I should give a little back!
After all, who could resist a handsome farmer fake threatening
you with a knife as you snap pictures of him cutting bale strings for you?
C'mon! The ad will write itself!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Barnyard Tales Chapter 7: Kinky Cows

“He strode through the gate with an aura of confidence. His taunt muscles rippled beneath his skin, making it dance with power. His jet black hair shone in the bright spring sunlight. His scent was divine; a mix of sweat and pheromones that bespoke more masculinity than words ever could. It wafted towards me on the breeze and commanded my attention. I raised my head and stared, my mouth agape, as my sisters did the same. He was by far the finest specimen of a male I, or any of us, had ever seen. He walked slowly down the hill towards us with a grace and ease that I didn’t know anyone could possess.

It had been months since any of us had seen a male old enough to arouse interest, but here was one. And oh what a one he was!

I’m not sure who started moving first. Was it me? Was it Beulah? I guess it doesn’t matter anymore really. As one we raced across the field towards the male of our dreams. We weren’t jealous, really. I knew that there would be a second place in the race for his affections, but none of that mattered. We would let him sort it out once we got there.”

Excerpt from “The Bull of My Dreams, a Memoir” by Crooked Cow

You might believe that the above quote is an overstatement, but as I watched the sexy hunk of beef that was the rent-a-bull stride off the trailer and into the pasture I swear to you that the above paragraphs describe what the cows felt. Their head’s lifted in unison. Recognition flowed through them like an electric current. As a herd they immediately ran to meet their new beau an began licking him from head to hoof.

Licking him like a freaking lollipop. I kid you not. Those old girls are kinky like that.

And the bull? I could swear he did a chin tilt, “’Sup ladies.” He was THAT confident.

Needless to say we had a bumper crop of calves that year…

Meet Peep

I lifted broody hen and what did I find beneath? A fuzzy little yellow chick who peeped his bitty head off at me.

I have to admit, I fell in love. I held him all the way over to his new home at Captain America's house. At less than 24 hours old he is already spoiled rotten.

I kinda hope some siblings hatch, or I will have the world's most babies bird!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What is it about the chickens?

Last spring we got chicks. They grew into some fine young chickens and everything has been going great. Well, other than getting almost nine eggs EVERY DAY. I eat breakfast with my grandpa most mornings, so it isn’t like I am even home to try to keep up with the egg onslaught. The only good thing about it has been that we do not immediately wash the eggs, which allows them to keep well for extended periods of time outside of a refrigerator. The bad part of that is that I get a little lazy with gathering the eggs.

About a month ago that caught up with me. It had been a few days and when I went to gather them up I noticed a hen in a nesting box. I thought nothing of it, assuming that she was just laying and so I went about my merry. Two or three days later the same thing happened, and again I thought nothing of it. The third time around I realized the error of my ways. Yup. You guessed it. I have a wonderfully bitey mother hen. She went broody on me and now bites at me every time she sees me. Every. Time. Given my inherent fear of poultry I had just been letting her sit rather than agitate her. That worked great until last Friday when mom told me that I had to throw her eggs out.

Saturday Captain America and I spent all day installing new floors in my home and then went to a wedding. I had a few glasses of wine and was feeling pretty darn happy as we drove home and got started on the feeding. Like the dutiful daughter that I am I started out tossing away the very unhappy hen’s eggs. That’s when things got weird. Is it the beak induced welts that make it traumatic? The frantic clucking? You might guess so, but you’d be absolutely wrong. No, no, what made it one of the most traumatic things off my life was breaking an egg and seeing a semi-formed chick struggling out at me trying to breathe, trying to survive; and knowing that I had just destroyed its little chicken life. I left it broken and alone in the cold with my heart broken by crushing guilt and grief. I managed to not cry, which was a feat in itself.

As we walked back to my house from the farm I told the good Captain that I was going to change my stance on abortions; that having just witnessed, just CAUSED, a late term chicken abortion I was pretty sure that I do not support them now. He laughed a little. I don’t think he knew how much it had messed me up, but that’s okay. He was going to find out.

We went inside to get ready for bed. I brushed my teeth and walked into my bedroom where I saw on the floor, you guessed it a chicken feather.

Now I don’t want to say that I broke down, but when CA walked into the room he did find me curled in a fetal position around the chicken feather with a grief stricken look on my face. I was nearly catatonic over the damned feather. I think I looked at him with tear laced eyes and tried to explain to him that the chickens, or God, were punishing me for my crimes against them. I am not sure what happened next; but I think he ignored my frantic mumbling, hugged me and put me to bed. He might have also promised to kill any livestock from now on. Which given the situation was remarkably considerate.

Needless to say I did not kill the rest of the eggs on Sunday, and when I went to pick them up to try to do it yesterday one of them started peeping at me. I’m done. She can have chicks.

Mom is going to kill me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Playing Catch Up

Hello world! I’m sorry for the delay in posting this. Life has been nonstop go, go, go! The change in the season and in the relationship status has been fantastic, but not without their own challenges. Mostly time. I don’t know where it all goes!

My grandpa has asked me to help him mow, which takes a couple hours out of my weeks now. I think he is trying to start and no hole golf course. To mow his whole yard would easily take ten hours or more. It is pretty intense. I like the ability to do it for him though, and it gives me some much needed down time!

The garden has been producing wonderfully. Squash bugs seem to hate radishes. But even with that the squash season is going to be done soon. That’s okay though, because I have more than enough zucchini in my belly and my freezer to keep me going awhile! The corn is done too, and I am planning on making freezer corn tomorrow. If anyone has any need for cucumbers let me know! I have A LOT of cucumbers! I meant to blog about pickle making, but I haven’t had the time yet. Don’t worry though. Soon you’ll have a step by step dill pickle recipe that’ll knock your socks off! I have made a ton of pickles. (Okay, not a ton, just like 20lbs worth. But it feels like a ton!) Captain America and I borrowed my grandpa’s pressure canner over the weekend and canned a couple pints of tomatoes and okra and goat too. The tomatoes are really starting to run rampant so I’m going to be making several more jars of marinara, salsa, and stewed tomato in the coming weeks. Then maybe I will have a little time to get back to the herbal jellies that I love! I tell you, with produce and easy meals this handy I almost can’t wait until winter! Provided Captain America likes what happened to the canned venison and goat we are planning on canning some of the beef that he will be butchering too. If you haven’t ever had canned beef you are missing out. It looks gross, but oh my gosh it is delicious! And it makes its own gravy! Dump a jar into a pot and boil it with corn starch and you have the most tender beef and gravy you could imagine. Add some noodles and dinner is served! As if my freakish excitement about home canned goods wasn’t enough before now that I have an “assistant” it has gotten even more intense.

As if he wasn’t wonderful enough before; just add his ability to magically seal the pressure cooker, or help chop vegetables, or make wine while the canner is going. I’ve never had help with canning before, so it is pretty novel. That extra set of hands makes everything go smoother! It is really great to teach him about canning and then turn around and have him teach me about wine making. And here I thought he was spectacular just seeing him clear my fence rows, with a chainsaw, shirtless. I’m still torn between that and watching him roll out biscuit dough to make “kraut burgers” as to which was hotter.

The boy deserves a calendar. Hot dang. No wonder I have so little downtime. Thank God for FarmersOnly! Anyway, recipes are forthcoming. I will try to not stay away too long this time. But there are horses to ride, and memories to make, so I probably will be down to once every two weeks or so for regular updates and sporadic intense blogging sessions for recipes.

PS: The Captain America 12 month shirtless farm chore calendar is being held up in editing. Because he would kill me if I made it a thing ;). But it is still tempting as all get out!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I am exhausted. I am energized. I am up at 6 starting a load of laundry, pulling weeds and picking tomatoes. I am late to work because I get distracted by the bees meandering around my mint plants and my perfect moment of joy, being in tune with the universe, makes me not care one bit. I take a break to have breakfast with my grandpa and tell him about my day so far. We talk about his childhood and how much quieter things were when all he had to worry about was whether or not the harness was mended. I revel in being a part of his story. I am home at lunch with the dryer going, dusting counter tops, vacuuming my floor, chopping watermelon to throw in the food dehydrator with one hand and eating a sandwich with the other. After work I’m on the mower at my grandpa’s for two and a half hours before coming straight home to hop on a different mower to mow around paddocks until dark and then feed horses and chickens and stumble up the driveway under the most brilliant moon I have ever seen to take a quick shower and grab dinner before I turn around to finish up watering the horses to the sound of a tree frog chorus. Then it is home again to chop tomatoes and chat with my loved ones for an hour or two before falling blissfully exhausted into bed and waking up to start in again.

This is my life, and it is perfect.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Canning Swag

I really wanted to name this post: I <3 blue Balls. You know, the jars! But I didn't. Because I love you.

So, in other news, there is such a thing as canning swag. Who knew?

Let me introduce you to my new love, Ball’s 100 year commemorative blue pint jars. We met last night, and it was love at first sight. Captain America asked me to come in the house and presented me with a giant box and a pocket knife. What did I find inside, but 18 of these beauties all packaged up and waiting to be my partners in crime! Hats off to Captain America and his ability to pick up and act on my weird wants. All it took was me mentioning seeing them in my favorite blog, Chickens in the Road and they magically appeared!

Remind me to pickle him something next week. That boy is going to drown in jam and chutney. I mean affection, affection! *sigh* Food is "intense like", right?

Clear glass jars seem so plain next to them. I mean I can can tomatoes and they’ll look purple! Green beans are going to be SO green this year! My pantry is going to be a freaking work of art! I can hardly wait to try them. It’s a good thing that tomatoes are ripening, cucumbers are out in full force, and the beans are blooming; because next week, next week, these babies are being put to the test!

Can you see heaven parting, and light shining down?
Is that only in my head?
Ahhh-ahhh-ahhh <-angelic chorus

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It would be cute if it wasn't terrifying

Last week my dad brought home a baby bird that was hopping around the yard at work’s satellite facility baiting black snakes. He couldn’t find a momma or a nest, so he brought her to my mom. This is not the first time that we have had a baby bird; in fact we actually have raised up kittens, mice, opossums, turtles, whatever needs a mother’s love for whatever reason throughout my entire life. So, dad brings mom this bird, we google her type and what to feed her. Mom and dad left and I sat for twenty minutes trying to feed her moistened high protein dog food with tweezers unsuccessfully. An hour after mom got back from lunch the little gal had a paper towel nest and was chilling out inside my mom’s shirt. I know, I know, weird. She was happy and eating though, so it worked.
As a result of her love of my mom she has warmed up to people completely. She will now fly over and land on your head demanding food whenever you walk into the room.
Spoiled much?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Problem Solving with Lauren

I had great plans for Friday. I was going to mow grass and move hay in addition to capturing the horses for farrier day (equine pedicure) Saturday. There was a wrench in those plans though. First my grandma was in a minor car accident and I had to sit in the emergency room while the doctor told her she had whiplash. Then when I finally got home to mow I found a flat on the lawn mower. Initially I aired it up and had about fifteen or twenty minutes of mowing without problem. Then it went flat. Then it wouldn’t air up when I drove the compressor down to it on the four wheeler. Then the four wheeler wouldn’t start. This brings me to today’s blog, Problem Solving with Lauren.

1.      Discover problem
2.      Stare at it ineffectually
3.      Cry
4.      Curse
5.      Wander seemingly aimlessly around the farm while actually being on a quest for a certain tool that you know you own, but actually cannot find. Anywhere. In this case, a M***** F****** Jack. (Step five actually includes repeating steps three and four)
6.      Get pissed
7.      Turn into Farm MacGuyver and make a jack out of a stick and an overturned wheelbarrow

8.      Apply physics
9.      Shout, “Yeah, take that B****” at the inanimate object of your choosing
10.  Air up tire and go about your merry, feeling on top of the world until the next piece of equipment breaks

With a long enough lever man can move the world. Or a lawn mower. Take that Murphy. You know where you can shove your stupid law!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Baby pictures

Houston, we have squashes!
Aren't they adorable?
Grow, grow into a delicious dinner baby squash!

Seriously, they are so precious I don't know how I am going to eat them. Oh wait, with butter. Mmm mm. Garden fresh goodness!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

You don't have to be lonely...

It has taken me awhile to admit this...

W and I broke things off a few months ago. It broke my heart, and even though I know better I felt as though I would never heal. But after a great deal of crying, self pity, and internal debate I did it. I tried online dating a few weeks ago.

FarmersOnly.com is actually a thing. Believe it. Chintzy ads aside, it is pretty fantastic. Imagine if you will that you are fishing, and you know you want to catch a catfish. Do you go hang around fishing holes known for bluegill? No. You go down to the river and throw in your hook where you know there is a passel of channel cat. Dating is similar. I know that a lot of what I am looking for in forever has to do with a rural lifestyle, so why look somewhere else? Laugh, tease, and kid all you like, but for me FarmersOnly was like the Sears and Roebuck catalog of guys (who ALL LOVED and WANTED A RURAL LIFE). Score.

Now, there are some drawbacks to meeting “farmers, ranchers, and good ol’ country folk.” Namely different approached to grammar and in general an intense affection for hunting and beer. I am a self proclaimed grammar Nazi, so that was a bit of a hurdle. Though there aren’t so many guys there that mix up their, they’re, and there as there are in my Facebook newsfeed; so it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. I’m okay with hunting and beer as long as I don’t have to be outside in the early and cold, and as long as it is decent beer. Also, I’m not that picky as to what “decent” is either.

I met a few gentlemen friends on this site, and went on a few dates with mixed results. One guy in particular has stood out in the last two weeks. I have nicknamed him Captain America, and he didn't run screaming away when I called him it to his face. Or when I sang him his theme song. Or when I talked about random dead things on our first date. Bonus. Anyway, there was one other “drawback” that I hadn’t anticipated. Let me give you the back story:

I sent off for my  renewed Firearm Owners Identification Card in December. I didn’t receive it until this week, so I have been unable to previously purchase a firearm to protect myself from varmints or intruders. A few weeks ago my friend’s house was burglarized and I mentioned all of it in a text to the Captain. His response was a resounding encouragement to have a weapon in my house because the results of NOT having one and needing it would be much worse than having one and using it before my card came in. I agreed with him offhandedly and thought nothing of it as I went along my merry (continually texting him images of freakishly large snake sheds and angry bulls).

That is, I thought nothing of it until this week when upon telling him that my card came in; the boy brought a very nice revolver into my house, informed me that it was his snake killing gun and that it wouldn’t matter that I am a horrible shot, and asked me if I would like to keep it until we could go purchase one of my own. **Update: done and done!

To be fair, blithely telling him I was unprotected and then sending him a bunch of stories and pictures of things that could potentially kill me was probably a bad idea. Lookie! I am innocent, and helpless! Gah. What can I say? I am an awkward dater.

But here is the tricky part: we have been on several dates, he has cooked for me and I for him, I have met his horses and he mine, we have worked on his farm equipment a couple of times, and he offered to leave me a gun. Are we friends? Are we seeing each other? Are we dating? Is it exclusive? By accepting possession of this revolver would I somehow perform some part ancient redneck marriage ritual leaving me betrothed, or more? Seriously, it is a NICE gun. The thing could be a bride price, but wouldn’t that go to my dad? It is like Carrie with the shoes in the Sex in the City movie, only a revolver? What is proper etiquette when a guy tries to leave you a gun? Should I clean it? Oil it? Practice shooting so that I can hit the broad side of a barn? Is it like in the Princess Diaries where I am going to have to shoot a target through a flaming hoop to signify something? Because if I have to hit a target at 50 yards I am going to need a lot of practice. 

Also, when he asks me to come over to “help unload his baler” is that code, or did he just buy two balers? Why do you even need two balers? Oh yeah, spare parts, but still. Is it a euphemism? Do good ol' country folk even have euphemisms? Are they like the pick up lines in my last post? What do these things mean!?!? Is it intensely manly and attractive to kill snakes and make boots out of them, or is it creepy? Agh!

Geez, the things I never had to consider when I met a guy at a bar!

Thursday, May 30, 2013


I am a socially awkward dater.

I don’t go on many first dates because when I do I wind up talking about things like animal spines and deer skulls. I don’t know why. First dates turn me into some sort of sociopath. I panic when faced with a new person that I don’t know, and resort to discussing things I do know, like random dead things in the yard and dehydrated opossum carcasses in the barn. Sexy right? God. No wonder I can’t beat them off with a stick. <-sarcasm

I have found that in addition to the regular things that most girls look for in a guy I also have a weird ranking system that most other women do not have.

Normal                                                   Me
Buys flowers                                         Has hand raised baby (raccoon/opossum/cow/deer/etc.)
Respectful                                             Can fix farm equipment (bonus points if with bare hands)
Romantic                                               Finds hay stacking/cow checking/fourwheeling romantic
Good conversationalist                     Can use chainsaw and gun, preferably not at the same time
In good shape                                       How high can he throw hay
Cares about appearance                    Smells like: coal smoke, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid
Takes me to nice/cool places            Has sexy farm animals/tractors
Etc.                                                          Etc.
Needless to say I was devastated when Boyfriend and I broke up a few months ago. I felt a crushing sense of depression. I have so many weird little ticks and idiosyncrasies that I really felt like I would be doomed to be alone forever. The echoing moos across the hills would be my only music. Horse hugs would be the extent of my comfort. In short, since I was so dedicated to my farm lifestyle it was a choice between being alone and doing what I love, or being in love and doing what made me miserable. I chose to stick to my guns with my lifestyle choice, and lead the life of a hermit if need be. I pictured the ends of my days driving a tractor across a barren landscape hopping off to cut bale strings to the agitated bawling of newborn calves, and I was strangely okay with it. After all, I’m tweaked a little differently. I don’t particularly want a life of leisure, and if a guy can’t appreciate my work ethic and lifestyle choices I would probably make him miserable in the long run. I wouldn’t want to do that to someone I cared for.

So what is a girl with horrible dating skills to do? Use redneck pick up lines?

“You can come drive your t-posts at my place anytime.” Suggestive wink…
“You’re right. I don’t need vinyl fence boards. I need wood. Badly.” Come hither look…
“Would you like to follow me home and plow my field?” Hint of a suggestive chin tilt…

Somehow I really don’t see those working out for me. I mean. They’d work on me, but it would take a special someone for me to use them on. But then again, maybe when I find a guy that I can share a glass of wine and swap “things the dogs drug into the yard” stories with maybe he will appreciate those too.

Because I giggle like a moron every time I read them.

Maybe I should just become a nun…

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why May is awesome.

This pretty much sums it up. Have you ever had a homegrown strawberry? Get to a farmer's market and try one out! There is no comparison!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Batwings and Lake Monsters, oh my!

What a weekend! We were surprise attacked with a load of hay Friday night, which is why it was a really good thing that I had decided to have a stall cleaning party while the horses ate.

Ice down the water trough. It's a barn party!

I don't know why none of my Facebook friends took me up on the invite. Seriously. What else could they be doing at nine pm on a Friday? Sheesh. I know where the party is at. We could have thrown down... some hay. Because it was stacked so high on the trailer that the guys bringing it by took out one of the overhead lights. Can't wait to fix that one. Or watch dad fix that one. Tell you what, I either need to get a lot handier, win the lottery and buy a farm hand's service, or get on the whole boyfriend thing. My poor dad has way too much to do.

Which is how he talked me into facing one of my biggest challenges. Spatial reasoning. I royally suck at anything having to do with trailers, spreaders, mowers, you name it. If I can jackknife it, I will. Can I misjudge the width and wipe out fences? Yup. I am all over that. I give a new meaning to the phrase, "Cleaning the fence row."

Duh,duh,duh, na, na batwing!

Despite my poor driving skills and complete lack of spatial reasoning. I successfully learned how to use the batwing mower, and I only hit a gate a little bit! Given the fact that I single handedly ripped all the downspouts off the barn with a manure spreader I am going to count it as a win! I didn't even jack knife it and bust the turney shaft thing (PTO). I am such a good farmer's daughter that I scare myself sometimes. And probably the neighbors too because I wear a bikini to brush hog. Hey, a girl has to get her tan on some how. Don't judge.

It isn't as if I can lay out all day on the lake. Well, I could, but we seem to have a lake monster.

I was innocently taking photos of the horses to show Captain America when I noticed it in the background.

Duh na. Duh na. It looks like we have our own Nessie. Can you hear the jaws music?

Duh na. Duh na. Duh na. Duhna. Duhna. Duhna!

Seriously, who knew cows could swim that fast?

Friday, May 24, 2013

You probably don't want to let your hair down...

Cold wind battered the window frame. It sought out the smallest crack trying to enter the warm room beyond. There, curled beneath quilt and comforter slept a girl of perhaps sixteen. Her long brown hair splayed across the pillow. The icy wind found crack after crack in the old farmhouse’s side and permeated the room, driving the girl to snuggle deeper into the blankets to ward off the chill.

But the girl was not the only one chilled by the sudden wintery weather. Another small body wormed through cracks in the structure seeking warmth. Gently and quietly it wandered until it found the soft pool of brown that was the girl’s hair. Here! A haven! Its little heart soared. The small furred creature curled into the warm nest and snuggled up against the young woman’s head.

Something in that action stirred the sleep of the girl. One arm fought free of the blankets to itch at the disturbance haphazardly. Seeking fingers found a warm furred ball. Two sets of brown eyes flew open in alarm. The girl scratched frantically at her hair as the small furred creature leapt free of its warm nest and ran for its life.

“A chipmunk. I had a chipmunk in my hair. That’s the last time I am ever sleeping with my hair down.” And so it was.

Because once you wake up with a chipmunk tangled in your locks scrambling for freedom against your scalp you never get over it. Never.

I am honestly not sure which one of us was more traumatized.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pool time, cow style

Partying until the cows come home?

The record heat in southern Illinois over the past couple of days has lead to a strange occurance for May. My cows are being beach bums. Normally they at least wait until Memorial day like everyone else!

I guess it is time to add opening the pool to the to-do list, and start praying no one gets stuck in the lake again!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Death to Buttercups!

I have been away for awhile dealing a family emergency. I am really not good at being creative when I am stressed. Actually, I am not good for much except laying around in various positions of pathetic on the couch when I am depressed stressed; which is what I have been.

That is one reason I love being on a farm so much. It gives me a reason to get up. I can’t wallow all day in my pajamas. Well, okay I can, but pajama pants and hay don’t merge well together; and it is really hard to wallow when the calves are bouncing and the joy of the world in spring is beating your senses down. Stupid beautiful spring days mocking me with their serenity and joy when all I want to do is wallow. Ah well, inevitably the pretty days and responsibility win out and I am back to being normal. Albeit somewhat resentfully so when I came up from the depths again just as we had hay down! I kinda wish I would have wallowed just one more day!

Things in the garden are growing well. Sorta. We had both a record low (frost, YAY!) and a record high (why is it 93 in May? WHY?!?) Lettuce is up and ready to be thinned and the radishes are almost ready to be eaten! I actually snuck three last night and they were GREAT! Strawberries are starting to ripen, and blueberries are formed and ready to go. The winter garlic and shallots are almost ready to dig, and my potatoes are huge already. The corn is not coming up like I would like, and neither are the beans, but I am thinking of heading out to buy a packet of seeds or two and start again with them. The weird weather in southern IL might be the cause. Or birds. Or rabbits. Who knows! But I am blaming the super cold ground temperature for killing my precious babies. Oh well, that’s how it goes. Good thing I can still go to the grocery store if I need to!

In other news I started a low carbohydrate lifestyle change last Monday, and so far so great! I have had a few strawberry and apple cravings, but I have not missed bread at all. I think it is going to dove tail well with my desire to eat more in season fruits and vegetables out of my garden and from the farmer’s market. I didn’t realize it before but all of the lettuce, radishes, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, asparagus, peppers, and pumpkins are acceptable for a low carb menu. That works great for me, because I prefer cheesey baked summer squash to Kraft blue box any day of the week. I got both of my parents involved too, so I get the social aspect of eating with them without the Chinese take-out calories. Win win!

In other news, we spent all weekend updating the garden, trying to see what was going to pull through, and what was a goner. It was unseasonably warm, and I was a little too dramatic about being hot. Dad borrowed my grandpa’s tractor and used the manure spreader all day to remove Mt. Horseapple and the Cowpoopia Mounds from our landscape. Finally. Unfortunately, dad left the gate open when he got done. That inevitably led to the cows getting loose. Reports say that dad rushed inside because he needed back up and long story short mom had to herd cows in a bath towel. I am glad her super powers are still working (and that I was in a theater with my phone off, darn!).

We also identified the yellow flower of doom (IE Creeping Buttercup) which has taken over our pastures. It looks as if my Memorial weekend is going to be full of plant killer. That stuff is highly invasive, toxic to animals, kills grass, and it is very caustic when mown. It has to go. Good thing it should only take SEVEN years of spraying for us to eradicate it. Ugh. There goes the fence fixing or barn cleaning that I had planned!
Death to Buttercups!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reduce, reuse, and recy - play yard pong!

A few months ago a friend and I decided that we wanted to have a Cinco de May-O (spelled that way because we were going for a redneck theme) party. Because who doesn't want to celebrate a Mexican holiday with beer in a water trough? That party was on last Saturday, and I am pleased to say that it went very well.

One good and bad thing about hosting a get together is that it motivates you to get all of your little projects done. Like installing new laminate flooring and learning how to miter quarter round so that you can put a bed in your newly remodeled back bedroom two days before you are going to have guests staying in it and you also have to get all of the herbs planted that you bought at the botanical garden and mulch them in so that your yard doesn’t look like you held up a garden supply center at gun point.

Which is kind of what mine looked like at the start of last week. I hadn’t mown, there was a large pile of brush that I had earmarked for a bonfire along with a bunch of extra newspaper and empty cereal/cat litter boxes that I had saved for fire starters, I had probably close to thirty or forty plants laying around, ten bags of mulch in my back seat (Mercury Milans are surprisingly spacious. I can fit about four straw bales in there at once too.) and I had laminate scraps and the carpet I had ripped out laying around the yard. Actually, given the theme of the party I probably should have left it. Though redneck and white trash aren’t exactly identical…

Long story short, I was a little stressed but it all came together with the help of my friends from out of town. They took to helping me set up, cut trees, and cook with the kind of enthusiasm that makes me want to cry tears of joy. They even helped me put a stallion out on pasture the morning of the party. I have the **BEST** friends.

Having a party like that means that I have been slacking on the blogging front, and I am sorry. But it was a great time, and a fantastic way to develop new games. Like Yard Pong. Which combines the classic drinking game beer pong, with finally finding a use for all of the empty mineral tubs we have laying around. Sustainability and alcohol. It was a great combination.

Yard Pong
2 beach balls
12 empty mineral tubs
Drinks of your choice
Four players

Set the tubs up in a triangle (one, two, three tubs per row) with the tops of the triangle about 10-20 feet apart depending on your athletic ability. Take turns trying to hit the beach balls into the tubs. Use one ball per person on two, two person teams. The scoring is as follows.

If you hit the ball into the tub the opposing team drinks one drink for whichever score it is, first tub = one drink & sixth tub = six drinks.
If you don’t hit any tubs you take one drink.
If you bounce the ball off of a tub the opposing team drinks once for every time the tub is hit, beach balls ricochet well.
Two re-racks are allowed.

Needless to say we had a ball, and I am going to start selling used mineral tubs to college students. That’s one way to recycle and recoup the costs, right? Maybe? There is a whole market here just waiting to be tapped!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ticks and DIY repellent that will knock your socks off!

I think I have a tick borne illness.

One downside to mushroom hunting and gardening, or just living on a farm in general is all of the ticks. I think I had about ten of them on me after last weekend. Normally they don’t bother me too much, but judging by how much my joints hurt and the slight fever I have been running one of the little suckers must have had something. I need 100mg of doxycycline 2x a day, and I need it stat!

I have had this before on a much worse scale, and the doctor refused to give me anything until after my blood tests were back. By then I was asymptomatic, so I didn’t get any antibiotics anyway.

So… what does this mean to you? A blog post dedicated to tick deterrents and bug bite solutions! Be excited!

Vinegar based repellent – the smell goes away. I promise! You won’t smell like vinegar all day. (I wish I had tried it BEFORE the bites, but so far I haven’t had any more.) This is based off an old recipe thought to have been used during the Plague.

32 ounce bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar
2TBSP Each Dried Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme, and Mint (any varietal works but I prefer Peppermint or Spearmint because they have a stronger scent)
Quart Jar with Glass Lid

Put the vinegar and dried herbs into large glass jar.
Seal tightly and store on counter or place you will see it daily. Shake the heck out of it each day for 2-3 weeks.
After 2-3 weeks, strain the herbs out and store in spray bottles.
Whenever you need it dilute it by half with water and spray freely knowing that nothing in the bottle is toxic! This is so easy!

Soothe those itchy bites

Tea Tree Oil, Lavender Essential Oil, Witch Hazel, or Emu Oil

Dab a few drops on the bite for immediate relief!

Do you have any tried and true suggestions! Please share!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The morel of the story.

It is spring in southern Illinois, and that means mushroom hunting. In case you didn't know, finding fungus is a BIG past time in many rural areas. I know some people that spend hours and hours combing through the woods seeking out all sorts of edible wild mushrooms, but the crowning glory of wild edibles is the morel. They have a very unique flavor and texture, and are nearly impossible to grow on purpose. A pound of morels can sell for upwards of thirty dollars around here, but luckily for the average consumer adventurous enough to brave the ticks and snakes they can be found in almost every woods. But they are crafty little things.

It is the perfect excuse to enjoy the woods in spring!

Over the weekend mom and I engaged in this past time, and by engaged I mean she found mushrooms and I found just about everything else...

I found flowers.

And a turtle...

Some Jack in the Pulpit...

Some pretty mystery plant...

And about that time I had just about given up. Mom was walking around with a bag full of mushrooms, doing her "mushroom meditation." Which, though I want to mock, I can't give her trouble for because, you know, I found a turtle and she found a bag of morels. Go figure.

I found a wild Susan in her natural environment!

But the moral of the story with mushroom hunting, farming, and life in general is patience and perseverance! (Also enjoying the journey and not just the delicious and delectable destination!)

Happy hunting!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Barnyard Tales Chapter 6. Death Wish

Have you ever pictured the great moments in your life as if they were in a book?

“The weathered barn wood slipped past her fingertips. The texture immortalized itself in her memory even as the sensation flew past. It was gone in a moment, but that moment lasted forever. The sensation of hand hewn wood would be with her forever; always drifting right past the ridges and whorls, always right out of reach. Her body turned with the effort of reaching for the wood. One leg struck a board catapulting her sideways; saving her life.

Milliseconds to outsiders felt like slow motion to her. Every sense was alive. The air rushing past her face. The delicate sensation of her foot slamming into oak and sending her shoe flying helter skelter. The hard shove of a stair upon her back and the finality of her concrete bed as she gazed up towards the heavens from whence she had come.

The girl was dazed, confused. She stared towards heaven wondering that she was alive. Golden straw peaked around the edges of the gaping space. Like a gilt picture frame on her demise. Pain was distant then; but the longer she lay the more her muscles cried out in agony, the stronger came her bodies cry. Soon it would be insistent. Soon she would not be able to ignore the call. The girl debated lying there longer. But who would come? Who would hear her pleas and cries?

No one. She was destined to be her own white knight. She rose, shakily at first, but more confident with each passing second. Rough barn wood was again beneath her fingers and hands she levered herself up and slowly climbed the stairs. Her jeans were ripped. Her body torn. Her eyes swam with concussive force.

Slowly she walked towards the house. Slowly she climbed the stairs. Slowly she entered and stoically she took what came.”

Actually, no, she didn’t take that stoically. As soon as I told my mother that I had fallen through the barn loft it went something like this:

Mom: “Are you okay?”

Me: “Yeah, I think so.”

Mom: “Is anything broken? Do you need to go to the hospital?”

Me: “I don’t think so.”

Mom: “Well, that was stupid. You won’t do that again will you? I told you to be careful up there. Now get your ass back outside and finish feeding the horses.”

And then I cried. Not the pretty stately crying, but the "is that girl sobbing or beating a dying moose to death with a sick eagle" kind of crying. Because I make a sucky heroine. But I did go find my shoe and finish feeding the horses. And I did become really sensitive to falling off of things, like straw bales, in barn lofts, when there are access holes cut in the floor that lead directly to the barn basement. Because, I LEARN.

Except, maybe not because I fell through another barn just last year. Damn. I really am a sucky heroine. I'm like, hand me the flashlight and let me take a shower by myself in the haunted house with a lightning storm. Nothing bad will happen this time. Really! As much as I go into run down barns it is apparent. Clearly I have a death wish.

An amusing side note: I also only landed one half of my body on the step and I got a hematoma the size of a softball on one side of my butt. My parents both thought it was hilarious to say, “Only Lauren could fall through a barn and do a half assed job. It would have killed anyone else.” *snicker, snicker*

They’re so sympathetic.