Wednesday, May 31, 2006

We're Expecting!

Yes, it's true! We'll soon have adorable squash to harvest from the garden! This is a sneak-peek view into the "maternity ward" that is nestled safely beneath the plant's large leaves.

Although no sprouts are showing yet, the green beans are showing great growth. We constructed a pergola-type trellis to support the runners that are in the marathon. In FarmGirl fashion, discarded plumbing parts were used to weight the strings.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Three Became Two

It's been a busy few days around our place. Priority #1 was to find a home for the Cockerel Formally Known As Xena. There was no denying that our Barred Rock was a male. The crowing practice continued and became more frequent. Thanks to a post I made on our local Freecycle site, I found a farm home for the big guy. He won't become dinner and even though I enjoy eating chicken, I wasn't ready for one of mine to become the evening's entree. Instead, his new mama Laura will be taking him to a farm she just bought in Tennessee. I couldn't have hoped for a better situation for the mean man-bird.

So now, the three have become two. Ginger and Ella showed signs of separation anxiety for the first, oh, three minutes then fresh raspberries helped ease their worried minds. Today they're roaming the yard as though nothing has changed.

There's talk of adding a third back into the family. For social reasons, I think it'd be wise for them to have another sister in the flock. I seek advice on adding a new chick considering the age of the other two. The third bird will most likely be another Buff Orpington (Ginger is a dream when it comes to personality and temperament.) or possibly a Red Sex-Link.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cockadoodle What?!?!

If I just heard correctly, Xena just attempted to crow while free-ranging in the backyard. Now that is cause for concern because Xena shouldn't be crowing. She shouldn't even know what crowing is let alone practice doing it. If my ears haven't failed me, then Xena is Xander and that's not good. Roosters are not allowed. Well, chickens aren't allowed for that matter, but that's beside the point. Fortunately for us, we have a couple people interested in it, him, if it turns out to be him. Unfortunately for it, dinner will become its new name. And unfortunately for Ginger and Ella, their little family will be broken. It really is a bit heartbreaking because even though Xena has some anger issues, we enjoy having her, it, in the family.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I'm OK, Really

Should I be concerned? Is this to be expected at "my" age?

I awoke with ease today at 4:35 a.m. when I heard the bricks rattle. That alone is quite odd because I am a professional sleeper. But when I heard the sound, I grabbed the flashlight from the nightstand as though it was routine. Without pause, I leapt to the bedroom's sliding glass door to peer into the darkness, trying to determine what made the bricks rattle in my makeshift herb garden outside on the kitchen steps. I had an idea but I needed to confirm with my own eyes.

For the last week or so, some of the young corn plants have been found in the morning standing at an extreme lean. Sunflower leaves snatched from their immature stems. I just knew that before too long, once the vegetable garden matured, crop circles would be formed in the 4'x20' raised beds. There have been tell signs of continued nightly visitations and I wanted to see for myself just what was after my garden.

Sure enough, it was the bandit, a raccoon.

In retrospect, I am concerned about my hunt for this nuisance. I should have just gone back to bed but no, I had to go outside with flashlight in hand to have a conversation with this critter of the night. After setting the fallen glasses back onto the bricks and replacing the young tomato starts into their temporary homes of water, I grabbed the garden hose that was near the patio. Armed with light and H2o ammo, I went to the tall oak tree at the back of the garage where the raccoon sought refuge. I briefly explained my stance on the situation and for some reason unknown to me, I sprayed the cute rascal with the hose. All it did was slowly move to the backside of the tree trunk as if to say, "talk to the tail, lady". I knew my action meant nothing so I called a truce and went back inside.

Several hours later, I find myself concerned. Not for the return visit by the raccoon but for what has become of me. Am I going to be that lady with the cats and chickens that the neighborhood kids make stories about? Is my husband going to look for a permanent vacation place for me to go to so I can make art all day and look at the pretty flowers??! This didn't happen before Sunday. It didn't.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


I don't look 40.

But, my official papers say I am.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Special Needs

These are Xena's feet.

Because her toes are curled, she has special needs as far as a perch is concerned. She's not able to wrap her toes around and therefore has difficulty getting a grip. Ella and Ginger aren't show-offs but they have no problem perching and choose to do so any chance they get. Xena, well, she has a bit of complex about this and we're trying to work through it together. She feels tremendously insecure about her disability and it causes a bit of stress for all of us. When Ella and Ginger perch, Xena will pace rapidly beneath them. Back and forth. Back and forth. Her comb, wattle and ears turn tomato red as her frustration grows. Back and forth. Back and forth. She gives the perch the ol' one eye and calculates the jumping distance and questions her ability to leap with a sound landing. Back and forth. She is positive she can't do it so Ella and Ginger get pecked to the point of losing a tail feather or being pulled down. If she can't do it, neither can they. She's the Big Chicken and what she says goes.

*click Little Ella's picture to get a better view of how pretty she's become...oh, and her one white toenail*

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Woodland Butterfly Gardening

The plant selection for the garden to go in the northeast corner of the backyard is complete. I've chosen shrubs and flowering plants in a variety of colors to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Besides being beautiful, fragrant and relaxing to sit among , these plants will serve as host plants and nectar sources for a myriad of butterfly species. *click photos to enlarge*





Butterfly Bush

Stokes Aster

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Exercising My Right

My voter registration card arrived in the mail over the weekend, interesting timing. I'd recently told my husband that I want to change my current party affiliation so getting the card in the mail served as a reminder to do it now. With the help of the internet, I was able to complete and print the required form so I can mail it. No visit to the Supervisor of Elections required. Nice.

So what's prompting this effort? For a long time I've not felt comfortable giving my vote half-assed. I've always weighed pro's and con's, taking inventory of the hot topics and determining which candidate best met the mark on most issues. As I see it, there hasn't been a candidate that has earned a high enough rating to deserve my vote but I've still casted one all the same. I don't want to be that kind of voter any longer. I also don't want my registration to count to any party's benefit. There isn't a party that fully deserves my number in their members' column.

There are many choices to consider. Here's a sampling of Florida's political parties:

American Poor People Party
Possibility Party
Prohibition Party
Surfers Party of America


Monday, May 15, 2006

Gettin' My Anger On

I've been angry for the last few days and it makes me angry that I have been. I prefer not to waste energy on such negativity but I have to face the reality of feeling those feelings and letting them run their course. I step in to make modifications where I can and where I should, but overall, I free myself to feel.

A couple things in close proximity that have chapped my ass as of late:
  • A neighbor -- My neighbor and his goal of eliminating just about every damn tree in his yard urks me to no end. It's generally none of my business what he does in or with his yard, I realize this. I suppose it's just the contrast with my goals that makes it something that I find myself thinking about. In my yard, I'm planting or watering or caring for something that is growing every day. I'm promoting growth, food production, culinary flavoring, flowering plants to promote pollination and in general, nurturing an area to become my own private sanctuary. On the other side of the fence, my neighbor had 8 trees removed over the weekend so he can have a pool in his backyard. The removal of those trees means fewer homes for the birds and squirrels that call this neighborhood their own. It means less privacy between the two yards because the natural screen that filtered sight and sound is there no more. That means I have more planting ahead for my yard. That's all fine and dandy, I wanted to plant a couple of citrus trees anyway. I just hope they fill some of the gap before his family is up on their pool's decking peering into my yard. I know this particular neighbor is a peerer. He recently expressed his outrage about the neighbor on the other side of him. Apparently, that neighbor was lounging by his pool with only a newspaper. No clothes. That didn't go over well. (Thank goodness he didn't see us bathing nude in the rain when we lost our power due to a hurricane. We're on a well so when the power goes, so does our water.)
  • All of my neighbors -- Nearly every home on this block uses chemical fertilizers on their lawns to keep them green and lush, picture perfect. That yanks my chain because we are all on wells and they fail to realize what happens to those sprays, powders and pellets after they're no longer on the grass surface. We're just too close for comfort when it comes to such things.

It's the combination of those two things plus the constant development of my neighborhood's boundaries that continues to remind me that I really want space, rural space. For now, however, I will learn to move beyond the anger and find contentment in getting my hands dirty. Eventually the natural screen will be replaced and I'll find the comfort I'm working to create. Then some of the anger won't seep into my space and I'll be free to enjoy my surroundings.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I've Been Flickr'ed

Trendy, I'm not. I'm one who usually waits to jump on the bandwagon of things that are hip and cool, if I manage to hop up at all. One thing that I think is pretty high on the cool scale is Flickr and I've been meaning to post there for quite some time. Well, consider me Flickr'ed. I posted a few photos today but have many more to add so if you're ever in the mood to browse through someone's photo album, consider mine. *preview with a link on the sidebar -->*

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Farmer's Markets

On my way to meet a friend for lunch today, I stopped off at a farmer's market. It's a new market and very small. Today's sellers included five vendors, that's really small.

The first tent I stopped at was selling fruits and vegetables and some bottled products made by
Manning Farms located in Lyons, GA. I bought a bottle of steak sauce and cheese caesar dressing, both for $2 a piece. Good deal. Additionally, I picked up some white grapes, red bell peppers, cucumbers, corn and tomatoes. I asked the seller if she grew the produce and she said no, they go to the farms to pick up the goods. They must put a lot of miles on their vehicle, I assumed, since I saw Grown in Mexico stickered on the green bell peppers. I guess I was to take it as the gospel truth since the man seller was sporting an I LOVE JESUS cap on his head. I decided not to get into a Q&A about it since they had several shoppers waiting to pay. I was making a purchase and decided to leave it at that.

I bypassed the scented stones that looked like ice and supposedly smell good when you add them to a specially made hot bowl that serves as a lamp. I also skipped the fresh cut flowers and the guy giving massages for a buck a minute. My next and last stop was at the lady selling blueberries. She's a local grower and took a few minutes to advise me on the bush I told her I had yet to transplant. I told her about a blueberry drop cookie recipe I tried out on Sunday while I purchased a couple containers of her berries.

The big farmer's market in town is one that I visited once many years ago. It was long before I paid any attention to the produce I buy. It's not conveniently located to where I live but I'm interested in visiting again in hopes of making the drive worth my while. There's also another one in St. Augustine that I'd like to go to as well. I am aware of at least one vendor who sells organic produce which is what I'm mostly interested in buying.

If you're curious about farmer's markets in your area, check out Local Harvest for more information.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Good News, Bad News

The good news from yesterday afternoon was that it rained! We've been hot and dry here for several weeks so the precipitation was more than welcome. The garden veggies were depending on our hand-watering and although that is relaxing for the waterer, it is just one more thing to add to a day's To-Do list. The tomatoes are blushing and the green beans are preparing to relocate to the new garden bed. I could almost see the smiles on their faces.

The bad news from yesterday's rain was that the chicks were outside, free-ranging as they do every day. I left them thinking I'd read the radar images correctly and the rain had split to go north and south of us. The girls typically take shelter from the hot sun by slipping under the azaleas or sneaking under the BBQ grill and its cover. I even put their food under the grill, smirking, knowing that it was unnecessary. I drove to work with fingers crossed that any impending weather would at least hold out until the mister got home. Then, I heard the thunder. Those damn weather guessers got it right with a 40% chance of rain. Just the day before it had blown right by, so I guessed it would again. (I obviously didn't miss a career calling there.) When Jeremy got home, he found the threesome wandering around the patio, soaked to their gizzards. They proved, yet again, that they're not avian geniuses. They spent the evening drying under a warm lamp, bragging to each other about how they weathered "the big one" and complaining about what a bad mama I am.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Please Don't Cry

Of all the things that can bring tears to my eyes, listening to my cats cry/howl/scream for the mercy of veterinarian science is high on the list. I had to take Zoe to the vet this morning due to her weepy, goopy, massive eye-boogeries. One of her eyes was a little weepy here and there and then BAM! both of them started producing maximum goop late last week. My attentive wiping and head rubbing didn't cure what ailed her so a visit to the vet was in order.
Trying to coax a cat into a carrier is like trying to get me to say "no" to ice cream. It is impossible. Somehow, without the use of ropes and chains, Zoe relaxed and let me shove her into the carrier so we could make it to her appointment on time. As always, she was making the 10-minute drive a living hell but I held my ground and didn't cry. To hear my girls meow with their pitiful cries is absolutely heart-wrenching. So there I am, driving the speed limit, like that's going to ease her discomfort. Telling her, "It's going to be O-Tay pretty girl," didn't put an end to wailing, either. There's just no way to comfort a cat who remembers the carrier. They know the last time they traveled in it, bad things happened. Going to the vet is never just a friendly social call where treats are given. Never.

The three mile drive felt like thirty but we made it to the appointment on time. Zoe was as reluctant to come out of the carrier as she was to go in. She wasn't home and she knew it. I think the smells of Clorox and other cats that suffered before her were the telltale signs. My mistake was telling her that they're going to weigh her when she comes out. No female wants to hear that. She wasn't particularly fond of the thermometer up the pooper but I knew better than to tell her that was going to happen. She just had to find out on her own. Bad mom, I am.

After answering the 16-point inspection questions asked by the vet, it was determined that Zoe is dealing with an allergy of some sort. They drew blood to run tests just to rule out anything that might not be evident and that was fine by me. She is 11 years old and a thorough checkup is always a good idea at her age. For now, she will be treated with an antibiotic to help eliminate the weeping and to curb any infection that may be an underlying cause. Oh joy. Have you ever had to give a cat a pill? It ranks right up there with ramming your toe into a furniture leg. The good news is, Zoe's pills can be smashed and given to her in food so the big girl will be getting special treatment for the next two weeks, twice a day, in fact. Oh the other two will be SO jealous! They never got treated so well after having to endure the carrier.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Life in the Fast Lane

I feel as though I took my life into my own hands today. Actually, they were in Stan's hands. Stan was "my driver" from the Jeep dealership where my Jeep still sits waiting for parts. That's always the case... wait. Wait is what I did today. I dropped the buggy off at 9am and didn't get home safe and sound until 12:30pm. You do the math, the dealership is 20 minutes away.

While sitting in the service waiting area, I learned that the driver, Stan, was out and about shuttling people around without any rhyme or reason to his routing. I could have easily highlighted a map for this guy so he could have an efficient day's run, but no one asked me. I was just to sit and wait.

Once Stan, the retiree, picked me up, I had the ride home from hell. The guy had to take a break just from climbing in the minivan before we could take off. I thought he was in need of medical help there for a second but he finally gave a sigh and heaved the rest of his it-looks-like-he's-pregnant belly behind the wheel. I started to hear my heart beating in my ears. It was my blood pressure, I just knew it.

When he finally got his seat belt on, he started telling me how disappointed he was with this job. "They just don't pay me enough for all this stress," he said. Stress? Let me tell you about stress, Stan.

He continued telling me how he could be fired today and it'd suit him just fine. He has no issue with becoming a Wal-Mart greeter and he starting practicing right then and there. "Hello, welcome to Wal-Mart," he said repeatedly. Well Stan? Guess what buddy, I just may help that dream of yours come true.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not out for the senior members of our society. That is far from the truth. I am out for people who are a threat to others and I can soundly say that Stan is one of them.

He hit 80 mph in a 65 mph zone and although I'm one to usually keep it a little over the limit, I wasn't comfortable with Stan's speed, even if his turn signal was blinking the entire time. It was the 80 mph mixed with the bumpbumpbump I kept hearing as he rode the lane dividers. He didn't seem to pay them any mind as he ripped down the highway taking up parts of two lanes. Blood pressure definitely on the rise.

Stan tried to be a bit conversational so I told him I was needing to get home to tend to my chickens. He said, "What?" I don't talk shyly so I knew he had a hearing issue. At that moment, so did I. My heart was beating so loud that it was hard to hear anything over that and the bumpbumpbumps.

Finally, I said, "I have chickens at home and they need to go out."

He paused and said, "My mama raised guineas. If you didn't like guinea eggs and yella grits, then, well, you went without. Why you have chickens?"

I thought, I don't eat any grits, no matter the color. It was at that moment, while the bumpbumpbumps thundered below us that he started opening his honey mustard dipping sauce from McDonalds. I could very possibly throw up.

Talking about food might encourage him to start grabbin' for his nuggets which were in the bag on the floor between our two seats. I decided against that discussion. I just sat quietly, hands pinching my thigh and the armrest on the door, telling myself I'll be home soon, soon.

Realizing we'd been talking about chickens and I never answered his question, he asked, "Why ya want chickens?"

With my eyes wide and burning into the pavement quickly passing before me, I said, "For the eggs."

He licked the lid of the honey mustard and asked, "Who's Ed?"

If Stan is the shuttle driver tomorrow, there's a high chance that I won't be picking up my Jeep til another day and time. It's just too stressful, I can wait.