Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shooting Blanks or Missing the Mark!

Well, our Tom Turkey does have notions.  But at this point he's all hat and no cattle.  Or maybe more like, all talk and no credible action!  So far MM has found four lovely, large speckled eggs--about twice the size of a chicken egg.
 Each egg was laid in a different spot but in the general area of the nesting place we had prepared.  We've purchased an incubator with the hope that Tom will get the idea sooner rather than later.

If you've read Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, you'll identify with both her and us as the topic of turkey sex becomes a platform for ribald comedy!  Kingsolver's descriptions are priceless.  You see, domesticated turkeys don't know how to "do it."  Virtually 99% of all turkey breedings nowadays is via artifical insemination.  And, what's worse, is they are losing the art!  Their turkeys' brains--not too swift to begin with--have failed to store essential information on reproduction.'s up to us.

We have the domesticated Broad-Breasted Bronze.  They LOOK like the wild ones, but with a much broader, heavier breast.  Emphasis on "heavier."  Tom was practicing close by the other day when MM and I were out pruning the grapes.  The poor hen underneath him was gasping for air, mouth open (not in passion, mind you!) and finally, taking one big gulp of air, unceremoniously dumped poor old Tom off her back and onto his.

After four eggs, we decided it would be best to determine whether any of the eggs so far, laid out in the cold, had a remote chance of being "fertile."  So, we built a crude candler.  I took an oatmeal box, cut a whole in the bottom about the size of a fifty-cent piece (if you can remember what those looked like!); set a flashlight on end, held up in a drinking glass, and turned it on in a dark closet.  By this means, I should be able to determine whether an egg is fertile or not.  But it's a bit tricky.  All the websites on candling eggs state that if you can detect a darker region in the egg, or a dark "spot" then you know Tom struck pay dirt.  If not....well, try, try again.  The size of the spot will grow as the days pass, so says eHow.  By the 8th day after laying, there should be some sign that the egg has fertility. 

There's only one problem.  The hen has to have been SITTING on the the egg, keeping it warm.  No such luck.  Henny-Penny hasn't a clue what she's supposed to do! So our challenge is (1) to have the Tom "in gear" (2) the egg laid in a nest and the hen sitting on it (3) snatching a WARM fertile egg and putting it into the incubator...and then (4) tending that incubator without ceasing.  No excuses! 

I have a rather dubious attitude at the moment about the eventual success of this endeavor.  Wouldn't you?

Final note, here:  I have no idea when my "posting voice as Elora" will return.  It takes 60 days for Blogger to permanently delete another blog.  So, on your blogs, you'll see me as Anonymous; on my own blog?  Well, I am the Ballengee Community Blog!  Not to worry.  It's me!  Same as always, Just Off The One Lane Road.  I can't seem to find anybody or any way out of this mess except to wait it out.  I would recommend to anyone thinking about doing a second blog, to consider other platforms.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Just a note to let you all know that something fishy is going on with my commenting on your blogs. And on my own, as well!  

I decided to start working on an idea I've had for some time:  a community blog.  A place resembling the old-timey local radio stations, where you could find out info about the community, lost and found, services know the kind of thing... but in an updated format:  a blog.   I have not made a firm decision to do this, but have stuck a toe in the water, testing the temperature of reception for the idea.

All good and well for the first part:  easy stuff.  Blogger does it all.  Essentially. Oops. Not quite.

After working on it for awhile, I took time to visit several of your blogs to read and comment--Barbara's Folkways Notebook (wonderful post on community newspapers!), Vicki's Vicki Lane Mysteries (great post on a book and blog cleaning!), Ruta's Notes from North Devon (gorgeous shots on clouds and a neat topic on an Owl cam she has set up for her students!), among others.  But the same thing happened no matter whose blog I was wanting to "talk" on!  I invested several minutes in each one with commentary and then clicked the "submit" button.

Guess what.  The name attached to the comment, was the name of the new blog rather than Elora. And that persists despite having deleted the Ballengee Blog! Despite trying to rearrange things and re-do it, my efforts have been frustrating, to say the least and to no avail.  So, folks, bear with me as I take on this latest tug-of-war with Blogger!  Apologies not to be exchanging words with you, but at the moment, the only words I am exchanging  seem to be with the phantom, Blogger!  And they aren't pretty!

So, I believe I will --for the time being -- post comments as "Anonymous" and then sign my name.  Quicker anyway!  But I did want to let you know that it's still me...just a different moniker! For the time being until I can figure out how NOT to be posting as The Ballengee Community Blog! Anyone know what to do?  Feel free to instruct!  Meanwhile, we are coping...barely!

Another Point of View

Don't you sometimes get the feeling that we're all shouting at each other in today's world?  Oh, no.  Not you and me...but, the world...our country as a whole...Do we listen to each other any more or are we simply waiting for an opening in the other's dialogue in order to repeat our own hardfast opinions?  Legislators and Congress-people used to  share opinions, consult with one another across differences;  they used to debate, not overpower.  Opponents weren't "evil."  Disagree did not mean "dismiss."

Now, it seems, we only have the gotcha-game.  And that game is going to stifle all attempts to move beyond the current morass of a government that benefits the few rather than the many.

I got to thinking yesterday (and yes, it was a "thinking" day...) that dogs have a very different view of the world.

They see this.....
And this....

Maybe each of us needs to nominate one day of the week, for several weeks running,  during which we see the world from a different angle...reach toward others' viewpoints and listen carefully to what others are saying...analyze what they are offering as opposed to telling them what we we all have to "tell" or can we listen?  Deliberate?  Share instead of shout? 

MM and I have been watching a series via NetFlix that I have wanted to view ever since I saw it listed on NF.  It's an incredible six-episode program entitled "Wild China."  Many of you have probably already seen it (we're so "behind" out here JOTOLR!) It was produced by the BBC. 

Beyond the breathtaking photography and the opportunity to see China in a whole new light, the series highlights ancient cultures that still survive--albeit tenuously--and are continuing to evolve.  It's well worth a few evenings of viewing time!  Best of all it shows a different view of the world, only hinting at the rare opportunities we have to share and promote the good things rather than perpetuate the noise of hostile dissent. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Winter Interlude

Hold your horses, Spring!  Not yet.  It's been snowing off and on, today, but nothing serious.  Just one of those little reminders that we're only peeking over the edge of warmer weather.

For me, today has been one solid day of technical navigation!  I am not a computer nerd, but it turns out that by default, I am the go-to, in-house technician out here JOTOLR when it comes to things electronic. JOKE! I'm all alone in this position and it's positively scary.  Alone that is, except for those fabulous gurus from Frontier (what GREAT tech support!!!) and (ROKU Wonderful help, there!) and last but definitely not least, NetFlix (great people to work with!).  All were willing to help this old lady to get on down the road with success.   With help like that,  we have been able to join the modern world!!  Nonetheless, I have been doing computer since 8:00 a.m. this morning, trying to get everything coordinated and connected and playing!  We have now watched our first movie on NetFlix compliments of Frontier's DSL high speed internet.  We chose Whale Rider.  Yes, I know it's a 2003 movie, but I had wanted to see it back then, but never did.  It was wonderful!  Having lived in NZ for a short time, made it all the more enjoyable.

But, for two old fogies, this computer-based entertainment challenge is its own high drama!  I've made a growing LIST of not-to-be-missed movies and documentaries, plus TV selections, as well.

This all came about because of the sudden unreliability of PSB.  We don't have cable.  But technically speaking our high-performance TV antenna should work.  But it doesn't.  Ever since PBS's inception, MM and I have faithfully supported it, enduring the doo-wop and wings-over-whatevers "specials" and dutifully sending in our contribution semi-annually.  We were fans of Nature, Frontline, National Geographic know, all the good stuff.  But ever since this country switched over to digital we never know when we can/will be able to receive PBS.  It's No Signal No Signal, etc. more often than not.  If it's cloudy, No Signal.  If it's snowing, No Signal.  Too windy?  No Signal.  Every little excuse and it's No Signal.  Funny thing, too.  It always happened right after we'd sent in our $50 contribution.  Lights out.  Sorry. 

That has happened twice.

Well, this time, I decided to opt out.  With Net Flix, we can get British Comedies, Documentaries, first rate movies....all at our convenience and mostly reliably.  So, our $100 contribution has been redirected to NetFlix; we invested $80 for the Roku player, and we are now enjoying the luxury of on-demand entertainment.  Most of the U. S. probably takes this for granted, but not us out here JOTOLR!  This is a real treat!  Inside Job coming up this evening, followed tomorrow by The King's Speech...and the beat goes on!  Thank you Frontier, Roku, and NetFlix!

Not to mention the fact that it's a great picker-upper with which to get over not having spring just yet!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It Was a Dark and Gloomy Night

I love the drama of spring!  Even if none of the weather bureau's hyperbolized prognostications materialize...

 Not that I would wish a tornado on anybody, but the dire warnings of "SEVERE" and "GOLFBALL-SIZED HAIL" and "60 mph winds" do get the blood racing in my arteries. 

Fortunately for us, our farm JOTOLR is mostly protected by the undulating landscape.  We have never seen a "real" tornado, despite the rapid-fire warnings coming across the airwaves that always include our county and surrounds.  This time there were no corpulant cumulus clouds.  It was a front that blew in, fueled by the clash between the visiting 75 degrees and the univited 25 degrees barreling down from the Canadian Arctic.  It's that 50-degree gap that gets Mother Nature all stirred.

The "golf-ball" sized hail had me a bit worried.  So, I suggested to MM that we park the van under cover.  The drumbeat of terror from the Weather People, seemed to intimate that taking cover in the basement would be a good idea, too.  We'd be OK, there.  Lots of canned good to eat!  But that, as far as I was concerned, was carrying things a bit too far.

The movement of the front was apparent.

It crept across the northern sky like a line of greedy little mouths, nibbling our summertime termperatures until they were pared back down to a reasonable level.  I saw one flash of lightning.  Heard one clap of thunder.  That event sent MM to the basement to pull the plug on the pump.  Yes, we have a breaker at the house.  However, the last pump meltdown occured when we were depending upon the breaker's sensitivity.  So, from then on, the equation is THUNDER=3 P's:   PULL THE PLUG ON THE PUMP.

But everything quieted down right after supper, and that was it for the "SEVERE" warnings.  No tornados.  No golf-ball sized hail.  A few strong wind gusts followed by a precipitous drop in temperatures, with our tropical weather-guest sent packing.

Still, this morning, except for the afterglow of moonlight, it was a dark and gloomy night....!! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another...

Spring just does this to me!  Thoughtfully, I make a list of things to do outside, intent on making an orderly progression of tasks completed.  But as I cross off each accomplishment, the list grows fourfold!   With a mind of its own it leapfrogs  into a cascade of tasks I never even knew I had when I set out to do one thing on the established list.  For example, here is one of MM's wonderful birdhouses... we put it up, together.  As I stood on the ladder, though, holding the birdhouse...

I got a bird's eye view of the woodpile... needing attention (re-stacking) and the scattered mini-piles of sticks left over from winter needing to be hauled to the woods before the grass grows through.  Also, I took note of the blackberry canes on the ground resulting from my attack on the row the day before.   Birdhouse in place, I climbed down and headed to get the trailer, so I could gather the leftover sticks and deliver them to the
...woods.  On my way back,  I am thinking, surely we could mount another birdhouse at the gate on the west side.  MM agrees.  The ladder is still where we left it from the previous birdhouse installation.  As we are completing that task, it occurs to me that the pinkish gate is rusted and looking pretty sorry.  I have some red Rust Oleum in the shop.  It wouldn't take very long to paint it, but it's not critical so I'll add it to the list to be done in the next few days...or so.

Taking a break, I walk to the mailbox.  There, I see the board fence needs a coating of stain; I know the numbers on our newly configured address (by the 911 people), need to be applied...but the mailbox post needs re-staining, too, and I should transplant some of those daffodils this year after they bloom as they are way too thick.  Oh, and there's that group of tulips I moved over here ten years ago--maybe fifteen--that are now needing transplanting to the house, as well. And, I want to get a farm sign painted and put up.   The beat goes on! 

The list seems to have a life of its own!  Rather like the mops in the Sorcerer's apprentice segment of Walt Disney's Fantasia where Mickey Mouse's good intentions go awry as the mops take over.  

Just who is in charge, here??!!  

By day's end I try to think back to what I accomplished.  My creaking bones are truly letting me know I must have done something!  But I've managed to cross off two items on The List, but have added six!  And MM's added four.  Our lists must be breeding!  In the midst of it all, I have to remember to take time and.....   
...smell the daffodils.  That's right, daffies!  My nearly 100-year-old pretties have an unbelievable fragrance.    They are  the old timey ones.. more like ruffles than the typical trumpet daffodils of today.  These probably date back to the early 1900's. They were here when we arrived and I've gradually transplanted groups (leaving a few behind) to our yard. 
And they have the most divine scent.  They almost look busier than the more modern types.  Like they are delightfully confused and can't quite focus on where to direct their energies....kind of like me in the throes of spring!

Monday, March 21, 2011

March Madness

Well, today, March is a little mad.  I'm not, though.   The power went off around 2:00 p.m.  Just came back on.  I always thank the power company for the work they do.  I know that sooner or later the power will be restored and were it not for the brave ones who can handle electricity, climb poles amidst swaying branches and falling limbs,  rural electric would be only a nice dream.  I appreciate the repairmen who answer the call.

Today, the March winds are typically...well...March!

They were waaaaaaay too strong for Sally and me!  So, this is last year's photo.  So much fun to fly a kite and photograph it one-handed at the same time!  But you need gentle breezes, not gale force!  Today was a bit much!  But I haven't given up on flying it before the end of March, though.

And finally, this was the suitably ominous Supermoon on March 19.  Kind of eery, wouldn't you say??  Apparently the "geological window" is still open.  The increased potential for another earthquake according to some predictions runs until March 26th.   

Friday, March 18, 2011


Have a peaceful weekend, friends.  Thanks for your company this past week!
Enjoy each moment of every day!
See you Monday.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Tails" from the Iditarod Trails

A friend reminded me the other day of the Iditarod Race which has been on-going these past several days.  The event is of particular interest to MM and me as we lived in Grayling, AK for one year and taught school there.  The Iditarod Race runs right through the middle of this tiny Native Alaskan village perched lightly on the shores of the mighty Yukon River. 

We were witnesses to the "greats" of dogsled racing.  They all came through Grayling.  I have still photos in an album that feature Dee Dee Jonrowe, Martin Buser, and Susan Butcher among others.  It was exciting to watch the teams come in to Grayling,  where the racers re-stocked their sleds, tended to their dogs needing assistance,  rested, and then hit the trail again, without wasting too much valuable time.

Some feel sorry for the dogs.  Don't!! These dogs love to run!  Remember, mushing is not just racing, either.  Dog sleds provide vital and reliable transportation in the harsh conditions of the frozen Yukon.  And, in MHO sleds pulled by dogs are far more reliable than the noisy, smelly snow machines.  I've had to hike several miles in partially melted snow on the Yukon River when the snow machine quit on several occasions.  It wasn't any fun, believe me. Totally exhausting!  I have great respect and love for the dogs of the Far North!

There are dangers in the Iditarod race.  The racers are at the mercy of their wits, their preparation, the weather.  Here's a story from this year's race:

The dogs wear "booties" on their feet to keep their pads from being abraded by the ice on the trails, as it thaws of a day, and re-freezes at night.  One of the jobs of the support teams is to sew many, many sets of "dog booties."  I found a couple of them in the village after the mushers went through, and I treasure them!

Both dogs and mushers are a breed apart!  They are tough, meet life head-on, and survive on the slimmest of margins! Have a look at this story from this year's Iditarod (we spent several nights with friends in Anvik, by the way):

Living in Grayling was an incredible I would not want to repeat, but one I am glad I lived.  Life in the Great North is life on the edge.  Mother Nature can be harsh.  I remember walking to school one morning, past the village thermometer.  It read -72 degrees F.  That's right.  It was 72 degrees BELOW zero.  It is with this knowledge that I salute the Iditarod racers, as well as those who are permanent residents of the Far North. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Faux Bitters Bottles...

In the absence of other--much damper--subjects outside, and the unpleasant chill, I went back to my love of glass and stayed close to the fire, here, JOTOLR.  These little bottles are not worth anything, monetarily.  I checked.  Went to a site for identifying old bottles:

The site, itself, is worth a look if you're even remotely interested in glass containers of one kind or another.  It turns out that I am probably classed as being part of the "uninitiated" and may have overspent on these.  They are "bitters bottles" but not the genuine article. So, just what ARE bitters? 

From Bottle Books (above) here's a short excerpt from their history of "bitters:"

Bitters were alcohol disguised as medicine. The practice of adding a small amount of herbal bitters to gin in order that it might be sold without taxation under the guise of medicinal liquor .appears to have originated in England. Bottled bitters became popular in this country in the period from 1850-1870, when a bitters binge was spurred on by laws which taxed liquor, the popularity of various temperance movements, and local restrictions on the liquor trade. The civilized man of the 1870’s could sate his desire for strong drink without bringing condemnation down upon himself from the temperance union or from his neighbor for squandering his family’s money by taking his libations in the form of bitters. Everyone knew that a dose a day of Hosttetter’s Stomach Bitters was not only respectable but would keep one in good health as well.

The bitters trade reached its zenith in the 1860 to 1880 era. Competition was tremendous. Thousands of brands were introduced creating a climate in which proprietors needed to go to great lengths to capture the public’s attention. Bottles of every description and for every malady appeared on the market as entrepreneurs vied for a share of the multimillion dollar industry.

But, as I said, these are not the "real thing."  Instead, they are replicas of originals, manufactured in Taiwan specifically for purposes of tricking people like me into thinking I had (for 25 cents) found a real treasure.  (Rather like a remarkable Antiques Roadshow "find.")  But, in reality.... I tricked the  manufacturer, never having known that either the originals or the copies even existed.  I simply thought they would look lovely in my window. 

And...they do!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Quick Post on a Damp and Cold Day

Dearest Readers,
I know you'll recall my mentioning Elora occasionally.  It does seem a bit odd that I would be writing to myself, doesn't it!  Well, there's "another Elora."  And she loves photography at least as much as I do.  A couple of weeks ago, she asked me if she could feature me on her Photo Blog.  I told her I would be honored for her to do that.  So, together we gathered a few of my photos, which you've probably already seen, and they are now up on Elora Daphne's Photo Blog, located at:

Elora also writes about how we "met" one another...even though we've never "met" one another!  The Internet is so much fun!  And, BTW, just so you'll know, DPS stands for Digital Photography School, a GREAT place to suck up lots of information, technique, and all the elements that invite you to be a photographer.  Two thumbs up for this web site!

You'll enjoy Elora's other blogs, Canadian in Italy and Photo of the Day, as well.  You can find them both referenced on her Photo Blog.  If you get time, have a quick look at the photos and copy,  and then let me know what you think.  Also, keep tabs on this lovely lady!  She's headed for great things!  Right now, she is teaching school in Italy.  She's a busy lady, and you know what?  She's very inspiring, herself!
Thank you, again, Elora!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Now we can call everyone...

...everyone, that is, within hearing distance!  Used to be that old-timers kept a bell on the farm for communication of all kinds:  a call to dinner; a call to church (from the churchyard's bell); a call to help control a fire; a call for immediate return to the house for any number of reasons.  The farm bell was not a yard decoration.  It was a vital means of calling the family home. 

Since the early 1970's I've had an old cast iron bell knocking around the farm.  I bought it at a flea market for $30, and Monte dutifully made a post and set it up at the old farmhouse across the road.  When we moved from that side over here, the bell went with us, but I'd never gotten around to re-planting it.  So, it's been languishing in various corners of the farm, gathering cobwebs and providing wasp-houses.  Finally, I decided it needed a permanent home. 

Enter one bracket: (plus a husband willing to dig a hole, plant a post, and chainsaw-shape it to the requirements of the bell)

and one BIG BELL with fist-sized clapper (15-inch diameter at the bottom).

Add paint to spruce it up a bit; then mount it on the post...

And we have the best calling center one could imagine!  Of course, it only does high speed interfarm, rather than internet.  And it doesn't do email.  Only Amail (auditory mail).

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Moment in Time

I don't know about you, but after watching all those horrific videos of Japan, I feel I'm beyond my ability to use words to describe or console or be thankful...or anything. So I think I will end the week sending as much love as I can to our Asian friends who are suffering mightily in the wake of still another "natural" disaster.  Is it simply the "close-up" of it all, with the Internet access to "live" coverage?  Or has the world had more than the usual complement of these moment-in-time events? 

Thank you all, for visiting this past week!  Time to "ketchup" this coming weekend!  Promise!
Hope your Saturday and Sunday are superb!  Don't forget your clocks!  Spring ahead!  (Lose an hour of sleep!)
See you Monday! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Call of the Wild

Let me introduce you to a couple of our most engaging and permanent (though wild)  residents out here JOTOLR.  This is Mr...........

and Mrs.......

Wood Duck

And, I confess, these are not my photos but from Wikipedia.  Our Wood Ducks are shy.  I've tried on many an occasion to photograph these wily birds, but they've always been one step (wing) ahead of me, as they are wary, on constant guard, and very good at issuing their warning cry when the smallest twig-snap causes them to lift off the pond and whistle off into the brush. 

But they always come back.  That's because we have an ideal Wood Duck habitat when it comes to nesting and feeding sites.  First, here are a few descriptive facts about the wood duck:

"The Wood Duck is a medium-sized perching duck. A typical adult is from 47 to 54 cm (19 to 21 in) in length with a wingspan of between 66 to 73 cm (26 to 29 in). This is about threequarters of the length of an adult Mallard. It shares its genes with the Asian Mandarin Duck  The adult male has distinctive multicolored iridescent plumage and red eyes,with a distinctive white flare down the neck. The female, less colorful, has a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both adults have crested heads. When swimming, Wood Ducks bob their head back and forth in a jerking motion, which makes them easy to spot.  The male's call is a rising whistle, "jeeeeee"; the females utter a drawn-out, rising squeal, "oo-eek," when flushed, and a sharp "cr-r-ek, cr-e-ek" for an alarm call.

Their breeding habitat is wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes or ponds, and creeks in eastern North America, the west coast of the United States and western Mexico. They usually nest in cavities in trees close to water, although they will take advantage of nesting boxes in wetland locations if available. Unlike most other ducks, the Wood Duck has sharp claws for perching in trees and can, in southern regions, produce two broods in a single season—the only North American duck that can do so.
Females typically lay between 7 and 15 white-tan eggs that incubate for an average of 30 days.   However, if nesting boxes are placed too close together, females may lay eggs in the nests of their neighbors, which may lead to nests which may contain as many as 40 eggs and unsuccessful incubation, a behavior known as "nest dumping".

These birds feed by dabbling or walking on land. They mainly eat berries, acorns, and seeds, but also insects, making them omnivores." 

Besides the drake's dazzling color, probably the most amazing thing is when the ducklings, after hatching decide, as a group, to launch themselves-- literally-- into their new world.  Single file and one by one, they jump from their nest to the ground or to the water surface below the nest.  We have a big pine tree and the branches hang low over one of our small ponds.  The Wood Duck always builds a nest in that pine tree, and the ducklings have a perfect launch pad when nest bail-out takes place.

From Wikipedia, again:  "After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of up to 88 metres (290 ft) without injury. They prefer nesting over water so the young have a soft landing, but will nest up to 140 m (150 yd) away from the shoreline. The day after they hatch, the young climb to the nest entrance and jump to the ground. The ducklings can swim and find their own food by this time."

When we were in Southeast Alaska, we watched a big family of Wood Duck youngsters jump from a tree into a waterfall and slide down the rocks on the thin layer of water, twirling and re-setting themselves as they were propelled by the water (not themselves) to quieter water at the bottom where the parents were waiting.  It was positively delightful watching the mostly yellow little fluff balls doing Nature's bidding according to a time frame they carry in their DNA.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Group Think

Maybe....just maybe.....if we all put our heads together and think probably won't make a bit of difference!  Oh, well....April showers are coming again in the next few days (in March), so at least we're ahead of schedule, and the water table is gradually being restored.  A few timid croci are testing the atmosphere above ground.  Of course, the snowdrops are already convinced they made a good decision.

On the other hand, there's an insipid sun overhead, today, too shy to make a declarative sentence.  Instead it's cowering behind a wall of anemic clouds, awaiting further instructions from the rain-god.  MM started building a few birdhouses yesterday.  This particular size is designed to house both tree swallows and bluebirds.  They'll offer extra apartments to the avian population around here, which seems to have skyrocketed in the last couple of years.  No foreclosures here!  Guaranteed!
By the way, if you are trying to cultivate Purple Martins, now's the time to take DOWN the Martin Motels and clean them out.  Leave them down until you see the first Purple Martin this spring, and only then, put them back up.  If you leave your Purple Martin motel up, the English Sparrows, or the Tree Swallows, or other non-desirable birds will occupy the housing and you will never have a Purple Martin live in it.  They come late.  And it's heartbreaking to see them swooping past your already-filled birdhouse.  So, keep a watch out for them, and then put up the lodging (with a For Rent sign!)
Oh, and I checked on the Peepers yesterday.  They're still singing loud and clear.  So, there's hope!  Spring's a-makin'!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Not Yet!

Well....that'll teach me (and the peepers) to get cocky about singing spring.  Whoa! Snow!
Three inches!  Then C-O-L-D.  Twenty-six degrees of COLD.  So, it doesn't pay to  get too confident that we've given the broom to winter. 

I spent yesterday snipping apart Wax Begonia leaves and stems for propogating more.  All the while,I watched the huge duckfeather snowflakes wafting down and piling up.  Then the gusty March winds added a little spice toward evening, rattling the limbs in the Ash trees beside the house.  We had had over two inches of rain and then followed well-below freezing temperatures and now, this morning...bright sun! 

Clumps of ice had settled onto the shrubbery overnight and it was a be-jeweled and glittering morning when we headed out to milk Marigold.  So, we're "on hold" for spring, awaiting some positive evidence that freezing temperatures are gone for the year.  Hah!  Not until May 15th! according to the local garden calendar.  So we don't want to get our hopes up...not yet, anyway!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Egg-O's Oh, Eggs!

Anyone got any good recipes that use up a ton of eggs?  It's that time of year when we are "awash" with yellowy, yolkie, yikes! EGGS!  I made a brilliant golden pound cake yesterday; we had scrambled eggs for dinner the night before; Jessie gets eggs with every meal....we are RICH with EGGS!, too? 

Those of us who live on farms know that springtime equals regular laying by the hens.    It's hard to recall the time just as we were heading into winter, when eggs were as scarce as.....HEN'S TEETH!  (Did you ever see a chicken that had teeth??  Me, neither!)

The only thing we don't want, in the way of an egg reduction program, is an egg-eating chicken.  We've had our share.  So, now, MM carefully monitors the egg production, visiting the hen house several times throughout the day, collecting those eggs laid, and encouraging the sitters to finish up!

It's those little hens pictured last June...the ones we raised from biddies, now in full production.  Lovely, medium-sized brown eggs.  I think the white ones look anemic.  I know they're just the same as brown ones, but browns are better somehow.  Don't they taste better?  At least they look "farmy."

So we do have egg on our faces!  And I hear another egg cackle as I write this.  Time to go check the coop!

Have a restful weekend!  Thanks so much for visiting during this past week!  It's supposed to rain a bit on Saturday and Sunday.  We still can use the moisture, so we won't fret!
Take care!
See you Monday!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Welcome Friends!

Today, we're having some dear friends over for an early supper.  You know, the older I get, the less I want to be out on the (mostly one-lane) roads late at night.  I believe our aging friends feel the same.  And. since most of us are retired anyway, we can choose days in the middle of the week (not having to get up to go to work); and in the middle of the day:  friends are arriving somewhere around 2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  And it's so relaxed.  The only thing needed is sprucing up the place a bit (we get careless about putting stuff away, and the house--if we're not careful--begins to LOOK like an old person's home!  So, MM volunteered to cut the dust kitten complement in half, while I baked a cake, and put a BIG chicken in the oven to roast....before they arrive.  We haven't seen them in well over a year, despite the fact that they live only a county away. 
It's like welcoming home family. We're gradually coming out of hibernation.  And everyone's glad to see the sun shine!  Even the first-to-bloom maple tree is happy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One Day From Start to Finish

Taken this past Monday beginning with this....

...and ending with this.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jeepers, Creepers, Did Ya Hear Those Peepers??

It's spring!!!  No question about it!  As I was hauling a bale of hay out of the barn last night, just after milking, I heard the peepers down at the big pond!  Spring's for real!  Then again, it's 27 unkind degrees this morning!  Hope they didn't get frostbitten!

Have you ever heard them?  They're LOUD!  In the event you haven't, go have a listen:  Peepers

As to HOW they "sing" they have vocal pouches that vary in size and stretch like balloons. These sacs serve as a resonating chamber, allowing the frogs to SING! 
Male frogs vocalize by squeezing their lungs with their nostrils and mouth shut. Air flows over their vocal chords and into their vocal sacs blowing it up like a bubble gum balloon.  This increases the volume of the sound, reaching out to female "ears."  There's a great searchable website called "All About Frogs" that has tons of information: All About Frogs

One day long years ago, when we were living across the road in the old farmhouse, I took a walk down to one of our ponds to see if I could catch a peeper.  No small feat, believe me! 

I wondered at their size....or, maybe more to the point, just how many there were!  The chorus was ear-splitting close up and shrill.  There must have been hundreds, maybe even thousands ringing that pond.  Their blended voices are an eternal feature of summer.  I know you've all heard the sound, at least in movies as background outdoor noise.

Searching for one in "real time" I got down on hands and knees, stealthy as all get out, and sneaked (I like the word "snuck" better, but it's still listed as "improper usage"...but "snuck up" seems to nail it) up on the sound.  Even with all my soft stepping, they still heard me and all went silent for a moment.  But I held my ground and my breath and waited.  Soon, they started up again, and I set out determined to snag one.   As I got closer and closer the peeping stopped again.  I froze.  I was halfway to that grass clump where the piercing sound was coming from and nary a peep.  I waited and waited.  Finally, one timid peep; then another.  I zeroed in on the sound coming from the clump.   Patiently, I waited, and before long the entire chorus was in full throat once more.  I exhaled.  Sneak. Sneak. Sneak....hold still.....POUNCE!  And I got him!  

Slowly, I opened my hand, just enough to see him. without losing him.  I could not believe how tiny he was!  About 3/4 of an inch and smaller than the tip of my little finger!  All that noise coming from this little creature? 

From a museum in Nova Scotia, here's a broad description of their emergence:

"These thumbnail-sized tree frogs leave their woodland hibernation sites as early as late February or early March.   Perched on grasses and sedges at the edge of ponds or roadside ditches, the males call mates with a shrill "peep peep peep". Their brown or gray colour, always with a dark stripe on the sides of the head and dark markings on the back provide excellent camouflage against the dead spring grasses. If the night is cold, Peepers retreat under leaves and stems. You'll likely hear hundreds before you ever see one."

And I can personally vouch for that last fact.  They're a noisy bunch!  And they're awake!  I only hope last night's cruel temperature plunge hasn't discouraged them. It's supposed to warm up today. Welcome back, Peepers!