Wednesday, November 30, 2011

rub-a-dub-dub

My winter workout has officially begun.  I spent my morning lugging leaky buckets of water out to the sheep, sloshing water down my pajama pants and covering my boots with mud (and other unmentionables).  The ground, as well as the woolly backs of the sheep, was covered in a glittering layer of frost.  The hose and the water in the chickens' and rabbit's water bottles was frozen.  The only good bucket we have was, for some reason, in the middle of the pasture that Dodge, the ram, is in.  And there was no way I walking out there in the open, exposing my pajama-clad backside to the bombardment of Dodge's rock-hard skull.  Joey can risk his butt for the bucket.  So my only other choice, since all the other plastic buckets seem to have cracks in them, was an old metal bucket.  And it it dripped water in a path from my bathtub to my backdoor because I couldn't get the hose off the spigot on the side of the house.

While I was sweating and carrying buckets, Jip got up on the kitchen table and knocked down two drinking glasses, shattering glass on the floor.  Later, as I was trying to make a pb&j to take for lunch at work, I let Daisy out to go to the bathroom.  She came back in smelling like a dead, rotting animal.  She had rolled in something atrocious.  Since she is too heavy for me to haul into the bathtub, I cornered her in the bathroom and scrubbed at her with a wet washcloth and soap, gagging at the smell the whole time.  She's probably still covered in all the soap I slathered on her back so Joey will have to give her a real bath after work.  And then clean out the bathtub.

Out here, the bathtub has many uses, from watering sheep and chickens, bathing dogs, and giving ducklings a place to swim.

Muscovy ducklings

Four Dogs, Two Hunters

Two nights ago my house became a hunting lodge for Joey's friends who needed a place to crash so they could get up early to get spots for duck hunting at a preserve near us.  They had their two yellow labs with them: Lily and Millie.  Which means there were 2 yellow labs, 1 black lab, and 1 australian shepherd in my tiny kitchen at one point.  But they were very well behaved.  The hunters and hunting dogs squeezed into a bedroom upstairs with two twin beds, slept for a few hours, and were out of the house by 4:30 am.  I never even heard them get up and leave in the morning.  And now Joey is 30 cans of beer richer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thankful

I know it's a little late, but here are the things I am thankful for, this season and every season...

My education

Travel

Adventure

Marrying my high school sweetheart

Friends

Hammocks

Newborn Lambs

Lazy dogs

Puppies

My garden

Steam Engines

Madeline Island


Sunny days and laundry on the line

Owning my own home

Family

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What can I do?

Counting the hours until I can close the library tonight and begin our trek home for Thanksgiving.  For a three-day week, it seems to have dragged on for eternity.  The library hasn't been too busy, except for a bunch of kids after school.  I feel more like a babysitter than a librarian, watching YouTube videos over their shoulders from the circulation desk, making sure the videos are appropriate...for the public library as well as their age.  I asked a kid once to turn off a video of Spongebob dubbed with swear-words and questioned whether a kid who looked to be around 12 should be watching LMFAO's "I'm Sexy and I know it" music video.  But what is my responsibility here?  I'm not their teacher, I don't know who their parents are, but should I tell an 8-year old kid he can't watch WWF wrestling videos because they are too violent?  The poor kid isn't even wearing a coat in this 40 degree weather, and his nose is running.

Maybe it's just small-town life, but to me, it seems that a lot of children roam around town freely after school.  Maybe my parents were overly protective, but I get the feeling around here that a lot of parents don't really know where their kids are or what they are doing.  Most of the children that come in after school are alone.  Should I be glad that the library is a warm and safe place where they can hang out?  Maybe I don't know the whole situation, but I sometimes feel like there is a lot of neglect.

I know I was raised in an upper-middle class environment where most kids went to preschool and baby gymboree, and our parents drove us around to a different lesson or sports game every night of the week.  We got brand-new clothes when we wanted them and we always had an after-school snack.  I know it's naive to believe everyone was raised with ballet and horseback riding lessons, violin, and piano, and vacations every year.  I know that people aren't good parents just because they have money.  I don't have any kids, so I know my opinion doesn't count for much.  But it makes me sad when kids spend 3 hours alone after school at the library watching YouTube videos.

What more can I do as a librarian?  What more can I do for this community?  How can I use my loving and supportive upbringing, my education, and my gifts to help others?  Or am I being too judgmental?  Am I out-of-line, have I misunderstood?

Monday, November 21, 2011

procrastination

Nine months and some odd days later, I have finally completed and ordered my book of wedding photos.  Now, I just have to get a new social security card with my married name...sometime before taxes come around again.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

From the Earth, Back to the Earth

I'm sitting here with a mug of hot cocoa for breakfast, listening to our flannel duvet cover rotating in the dryer.  Winter is on its way.  This weekend is one of our last chances to settle this little farm in for the cold and snowy season ahead.

Yesterday, Joey was off of work because it was the opening day of shotgun deer season.  Yes, this is the country folks, opening day of shotgun season is a holiday around here.  This backcountry was crawling with guys in cammo yesterday.  There is an outfitter down the street from us, and our small town Illinois street is clogged with trucks with Pennsylvania license plates.  I can't imagine driving that far just to shoot something, but at least it brings some extra revenue to our two local drinking establishments and our tiny convenience store.  They are pretty much the only places you can put your out-of-state money in this town.  They're the only places you can put your in-town money, for that matter.  Unless you count buying stamps at the little post office.

With the day off, Joey hunted for a few hours in the morning and then came home to work on our 2 acre cornfield.  He borrowed our neighbor's manure spreader and hooked it up to his 1944 John Deere A.  He also borrowed some of our neighbor's manure, which I am sure he was happy to give away.  He spent the whole day going back and forth from our neighbor's to our field.



Farmer Joe


Since I didn't have work until 2 pm yesterday, I joined Joey outside.  I worked on my garden, putting away tomato cages and picking the rest of the carrots and beets that have been waiting patiently in the earth since spring.  

purple dragon carrots

chioggia beets

After spreading manure yesterday, Joey woke up this morning and got out in the field to plow with his two-bottom plow.  It's slow-going with vintage equipment but the sound of the old tractor feels like it could transport you back to better times.  When farms were still small, and family-run.  The John Deere A looks like a toy compared to the tractors Joey runs at work.  



Next on our list of weekend to-do's is to check all of our windows, make sure they are ready for cold weather and insulate some with plastic if necessary.  Owning a house and 4 acres is a lot of work, but I am glad to have the work.  We are learning so much with every season that we own this house.  






Thursday, November 17, 2011

Water for Sheep and Confused Chickens

This morning I had to break through an inch-thick layer of ice on the top of one of the sheep water troughs.  I needed to add water to the trough on the left side of the barn, where the ram has been mingling with his girlfriends and the cow has been devouring hay.  I turned on the water on the side of the house and then followed the hose the length of our yard to the sheep pasture gate.  But the hose was stiff with ice and no water would come out.  Hopefully, the sun will have melted the ice in the hose by the time Joey gets home for his lunch break.  Pretty soon, we'll have to haul buckets, I suppose.  


I filled up on water for the bunny and the chickens in the house.  The chickens had to drink out of a metal dog food bowl because I didn't feel like getting chicken poop in my bathtub this morning by toting their water feeder inside to fill up.  It probably wouldn't be the worst thing I've scrubbed out of the tub between the dogs, sheep, chickens, cow, ducks, and deer hunter that I live with, but scrubbing the tub is not my ideal activity before going to the library for the day.  So the chickens got to pretend they were dogs.

I think Georgia, the little red hen, is already confused, dog bowl or not.  I found her pecking in the leaves around the outside of the chicken coop again today.  At least this time I had Jip on a leash so I could drag him inside rather than play ring-around-the-henhouse with puppies and chickens again.  My neighbors got to enjoy that spectacle once already.  So I put the dog in the house and then went to have a conversation with Georgia about how she keeps escaping the coop.  I know she is the only hen left from our original city chickens, the other two hens and the rooster were born and raised a couple blocks away, so maybe she feels left out.  Or maybe she is just a chicken.  Either way, whatever you say to her, she just looks at you with her beady chicken eyes and squawks, "whaaaat?" or "whhhy?" in a very endearing way.  Sometimes Joey puts her on his shoulder and they have lengthy conversations along these lines.  I would hate if she got out and wandered away.


Georgia in the spring garden

So I'll have to add "secure the chicken coop" to my weekend to-do list.  Any other 24 year old woman out there have that on her weekend schedule?  Like before your manicure, or dinner and a movie?  My weekend list also includes raking leaves, scrubbing the kitchen floor, and eradicating the mice from my upstairs by any means possible.  It may also involve a trip to the FarmKing.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Creature Was Stirring...

Let's admit it: mice are cute.  In the movies.  And in books.  Not in my closets.  Not on my back porch.  And especially not when I find them eating the corn intended for the sheep.

And I really don't like to sit down on the couch after a long day of work, sink in and relax, and then hear the scampering of little feet running across the wooden floors upstairs.

I've spent the last few weekends cleaning out the closets upstairs and unpacking all the boxes that we shoved into the un-lived in rooms and closets when we moved in a year and a half ago.  I've done a lot of trips to Goodwill.  I figured if I could live without this stuff that's been in boxes for the last year and a half, I can probably live without it altogether.  It's been quite cathartic to shed all this extra stuff, clear up space, and actually start unpacking a little.  The upstairs is still nowhere from being finished, and we just decided to make a stairway project into an even bigger project by knocking out a wall, which in turn, means we have to open up the ceiling.  Which may actually reveal the electrical wiring and help us figure out why some of the lights upstairs work, and others don't.  In other words, we've got our hands full with this house.  And it's also full of mice.

Luckily I haven't seen any sign of them downstairs, or in the kitchen.  But they definitely made their mark in the closets upstairs.  Disgusting.  I read that mice hate the smell of peppermint and that if you soak cotton balls in peppermint and place them around your house, the mice won't come in.  I used half a bottle of peppermint extract.  A few minutes after I put the cotton balls around the upstairs, I actually heard a mouse (or mice) squeaking.  Joey didn't believe me when I told him the mice were shrieking over the smell.  The upstairs smelled really minty for about a week.  And then the mice were back.

I've also read that you should go around your whole house and plug up any holes bigger than a quarter so the mice can't get in.  The only problem is I don't know where they are coming in since I've only seen them upstairs.  Plus, how am I supposed to find every single crack around my old house?  I'm sure there are tons of them.  The mice in my house have probably been living there since 1908 when the house was built.  They are thousands of generations separated from their 1908 mouse ancestors.

While I was shopping at the FarmKing Monday night I picked up some new mousetraps that are plastic and look like something you use to keep your bag of chips fresh.  The are supposed to be more "sanitary" since you don't have to touch the mouse, just squeeze the chip clip open to release.  Either way, it's still Joey's job.  And I'll avoid the room at all costs until Joey disposes of it.  And with curious dogs in the house, I would never consider using poison.

However, I did see something at the FarmKing that looked like it was in the same vein of thought as the peppermint-soaked cotton balls.  They were bags of scented herbs that were supposed to repel mice.  But they were $15 and I was feeling cheap.  Maybe next time.  I certainly wasn't shelling out $35 for an electronic noise-maker that is supposed to repel mice through sound.

And so the saga continues.  Maybe we should just go with the option Joey read to me last night out of the classifieds:  Free calico cat to a good home. Between 1 and 2 years old.  Very nice and playful.  Grandma has too many cats.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jack Frost nipping at your nose

After shivering in my pajamas when I let the dogs out this morning, I wore my winter coat and boots when I went out to do my backyard chores.  I had to break through a sheet of ice with the end of the hose to fill the water troughs in the sheepyard.  The sheep snuggled together out of the sharp wind in the lean-to barn and the cow stood out in the pasture, the wind ruffling her starting-to-get-shaggy black fur.  (Is it called fur on a cow?  Her hide?)

Dodge, our merino ram, is in with the ewes.  For the last few weeks, he had been pacing the fence line that separated him from the girls, sticking his nose in the air and curling his upper lip in an Elvis-like way.  Hopefully, he'll do the same job he did last year, and we'll have lambs in late March.  Last fall, when we put him in with our four merino ewes, we never saw him actually "get down to business" and when spring rolled around we weren't actually sure if all or even any of our ewes were pregnant.  We had bought our Border Leicester, Phyllis, in January, already bred at the farm she came from.  So we knew we would be having at least one lamb.  And then we got six.  Each of our four merino ewes had lambs, and Margaret had twins.  So Dodge earned his keep on the farm.  We're hoping he'll do the same this year.

The best thing about moving to the country and living on a couple acres with gardens and animals has been the connection to the seasons, the changing weather, and the end and renewal of new life.  I have been brought closer to the earth, the soil that sustains our vegetable garden and our cornfield, the pasture grasses that feed our sheep, the sunshine and the wind that dried my clothes this summer, and the growing seasons that affect Joey's livelihood.  Never in the suburbs were our lives so intertwined with nature.  We make decisions based on the weather, our lives revolve around animal's reproductive calendars, and today I went to work with mud (or maybe sheep poo) on my jeans where I wiped my hand after giving the sheep water.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

That's life.

Yes, I know, I have been missing in action for the last few days.  Life kinda got in the way of blogging the last couple of days.  Nothing too spectacular, just ordinary, everyday, life.  Life with dogs that roll in unmentionable things, husbands that spend long hours in a tree-stand hunting "the biggest buck ever," and mysterious flu-bugs that show up on rainy days.

It's only Wednesday and so far this week, I haven't worked a full work-day.  Monday, I went home at 2 pm feeling sick and laid in bed and watched movies on my computer for the rest of the day.  Joey got home at 4 pm since the harvest is over and the hours are shorter.  At 5:30, we felt as if it was 9 o'clock already because it was so dark out.  If I hadn't gone home early, I would still be at work until 6pm.

Yesterday, I left work around 2 pm to meet an electrician at my house to check out what is going on with our lights upstairs, and found out that our entire electrical set-up is completely out-dated and the electrician called said it was "not even safe."  He also told me his estimate for just updating the electric in the basement would be $2,000.  And then I felt bad about missing so much work this week.  And then I thought about all the peanut butter and jelly we will be eating for the next few months to pay an electrician.

It's bad to hear that something that is absolutely necessary for the safety of your home costs so much.  It's even worse to hear it on a week where you miss 10 hours of work because of sickness, electricians, and no paid holidays.  It's also bad to hear it the week that your husband's farming job starts to slow down for the winter.  And two months before Christmas...

Anyone else get caught up in this crazy thing we call life/home-ownership/owner of two bad dogs this week?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

dogs in the morning

Jip's internal clock does not follow daylight savings time.  He woke me up this Sunday morning by barking at his usual time, which used to be 7:40 and is now 6:40.  He better figure out soon I don't get out of bed before 7:40.

I don't know why, but for the last couple days, as soon as Joey leaves the house in the morning, Daisy has been jumping up into my bed and curling up at my feet and falling asleep.  The first day, she might have not realized I was still in bed and decided to sneak a nap while Joey was gone.  But by now she has to know, because I warm my toes under her for an hour until Jip wakes us up again with his incessant barking routine.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You know you're a country girl when...


.....you have to explain to your colleague that you're late for work because your dog was chasing an escaped chicken around the yard and you had to distract the dog with treats, pick up Georgia the little red hen, put her back in the coop, and then try to persuade your dog to get back in the house by waving the laundry basket around and shaking the box of dog biscuits while calling his name.

Just a typical day in my life with 2 curious dogs, 11 hungry sheep, 1 loud cow, 1 jumpy rabbit, and 4 flighty chickens.

Every morning for me is like a circus act.  I'm sure my neighbor's think I'm crazy.  My colleagues may think that too.  Sometimes I think it about myself.

Trick or Treat

A few Halloween tricks were played at the library this week.

On Monday, to add to all the hysteria and stress of the weekend and holiday, I found that the book drop box had been completely filled and a stack of books had been left on the top of the box.  Usually, the big metal box outside the front door is filled with a handful of books and a few newspaper subscriptions.  Sometime over the weekend, someone had filled the entire box with donated books and left the rest on the top of the box.  I had to drag the library cart outside to haul all the books inside.  Of the hundreds of books, I can use maybe three, and the rest are either outdated, irrelevant to the interests of the patrons, or textbooks.  Thanks mystery book donor, for adding to the ever-increasing mess of books I have to sell or recycle in the back room of the library.  At least the drop box wasn't filled by something disgusting, no library books were harmed, and no animals were abandoned, like Dewey, the kitten that was left in a library drop box and then adopted by the library. (true story)

However, there was a dog in the library on Monday afternoon.  Not a seeing-eye dog.  A dog that followed a bunch of trick-or-treaters into the library and then ran around the stacks and couldn't be caught.  All the costumed kids chased it around the bookshelves and I chased it out from behind the circulation desk.  It was a wily creature and was having great fun eluding capture.  Finally, it followed some miniature batmans and vampires back outside.  It reminded me of the time Daisy jumped out of my car and ran around inside a gas station convenience store.

Anyone else have strange things happen to them on Halloween?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We Can Do It!

This last weekend I survived hosting a Haunted Library event at work, travelled back home to see visiting relatives, came back to the country to host my in-laws for the weekend, made it through hordes of candy-hungry trick-or-treaters at the the library, and then hoofed it home to hand out candy at my own house.  Needless to say, I need all the sugar from the leftover halloween candy I can get my hands on to keep me going today.


The sweet spread at the haunted library


Making a witch's brew with the kids
After the library event Thursday night, I took an early morning train Friday back to the suburbs to see my aunt, uncle, cousin, and her husband and baby, Molly, from Texas.


Saturday afternoon, I drove with Joey's parents back to my house in the country.  They stayed Saturday night through Monday morning.  Joey's mom wanted to go to church on Sunday so I took her to a church a few towns away that I had visited during the Spoon River Scenic Drive.  After our warm welcome and an interesting and informal service on integrity, we picked up Joey and went out for lunch. Afterwards, we had to go pick up my car from the train station in town and picked up some ingredients for dinner.  We did a lot of driving and Joey's parents got to see a fair amount of countryside on their visit.  Sunday night, the whole family got down to business and worked on putting the dryer together.  A lot of confusion and an hour later, the dryer was screwed together and back in business.  It only took my dad to take it apart, my mom and I (and a few youtube videos) to put the new dryer belt on, and Joey, and his parents to put it back together.  6 people. 

Yesterday morning, I donned my halloween costume and left for work at the library.  Joey's parents came with because they had never seen where I work before.  It was like take-your-in-laws-to-work-day.  They explored the library for an hour or so and then left to say goodbye to Joey out in the fields.  I was left with a quiet library for a few hours until the kids started trick-or-treating.  Because the town is so small, the businesses also get into the act of shelling out candy so the kids could come to the library to add to their pillowcases.  Although I don't think I actually saw any pillowcases of candy.  Or too many of those orange plastic pumpkin buckets.  I did see a lot of bags with those "Spooky Buddies" puppies on them.

Can we survive a whirlwind weekend of library events, family from both sides, and sugar-hyper kids?  Yes we can!

Rosie the Riveter
It's a good thing the walls in my living room are painted yellow...

We Can Do It!

My dad offered to let me borrow his riveting gun to add to my costume...