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Rocky’s take on writing, reading, and farming for the fun of it

The Case of the Missing Cow

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Princess Buttercup and Aunt Pittypat

Princess Buttercup, one of our two new heifers, disappeared without a trace the other day.  It’s not like a cow to just wander off by itself.  If one manages to bust through or hop a fence, she’ll usually follow the herd along the fence line, bawling her head off to be let back into the safety of the pasture.  We’ve been so busy with wrapping up the semester, it was a day before we noticed we were one brown cow short in Ole 29’s harem.  Besides, we’re in an enclave of farms flanked by a natural wetland area (i.e. a swamp);  there’s not a lot of options for a wayward bovine.

In other words, it’s hard for a missing cow to stay missing.  We did have one little gal emerge from the stock trailer only to be chased by that crazed Richard Marx, the meanest miniature jackass of a pony this side of Fish River.  She hoofed it the length of the pasture, hurdled the south fence like a track star, and was never seen again.  Poor Russ lost his money so fast he might as well have lit fire to it.  As for Richard Marx, his endless summer nights were soon to be found at somebody else’s farm.  Good riddance to that swoopy-maned jerk of an animal!

So, while we were both tracing the fence lines looking for evidence of a breakout, we were hoping that a disappearing cow would remain a once in a lifetime experience.  Really, what are the odds?  Even though it’s been cold and the snakes should be in torpor, I walked lightly and carried a big stick.  I’m a little leery of Ole 29 without a fence between us.  He kept his distance, but I could feel his eyes on me.  He stayed by the hay bale, but like one of those creepy portraits that appears to be staring you down wherever you stand, he let me know he is all bull.

This is the sad part.  Russ finally found Princess Buttercup wedged up under the tractor.  Somehow, she squeezed between the fence and the machinery, fell, and got trapped.  Her predicament defied logic; even idyllic farm life has its hidden dangers.  She’s busted up pretty bad and things are touch and go.  We’ve made her as comfortable as possible in our little cow hospital.  She is eating and being doctored, but if she can’t get up soon, I fear the worst.  We have been loving on her and keeping her company.  She puts her giant head in my lap and lets me stroke her, tracing the sienna tufts of her forelock.  If she pulls through, she will graduate from stock to family pet, bless that little cow’s heart.

Like I’ve said before, this farm lifestyle ain’t for sissies. It can be heart-wrenching, but I wouldn’t trade it.

 

What the Dickens?

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Christmas Past

 

The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet To Come swirled about the classroom as the genius of Dickens wrought its magic.  Sure, the students understood allusions to Scrooge, but I was surprised by their corporate ignorance of the plot line (and, consequently, the message) of A Christmas Carol.  After using a combo of rich oral reading (of course I “do” the voices) and sheer force of cheerful will, I was bound and determined to foster some sort of appreciation for this timeless story.

This story is ingrained, etched upon my heart as indelibly as the spirits of Scout Finch, Huckleberry Finn, and the Ingalls family.  It was eye-opening to watch my students respond to the power of Fezziwig and the pathos of Want and Need clinging to the ghostly robe of their benefactor.  They gasped when Scrooge’s early words came back to haunt him, and wondered aloud as lots were cast for a dead man’s bed curtains.  I’d like to say I had them…teachable moments stacked clear to Christmas…but it was Dickens who held them in thrall, his fireside read-aloud reaching across centuries.

As capricious as teens can be, sometimes they ask questions with enough poignancy that I can almost see their intellect expanding.  Sometimes, they ask questions that teach the teacher a little something.  One student in particular was going on about the transformative nature (his phrase…insert teacher back handsprings here!) of A Christmas Carol when he asked me the title of the most influential book I’ve read.  I asked for some time to contemplate his question, explaining that our characters are not just multi-faceted but our mindsets transform as a function of life stage and maturity as well.  By the next class, I was ready to go.

Today, Gentle Reader, I’d like to share the 5 most influential books I’ve read.  These are the ones that led to transformation, for better or worse.  Please note that although The Holy Bible was my gut reaction by nature, nurture, and virtue of growing up in the Bible Belt, I chose to omit it from this list.  This is not an ordinal list, and may hold surprises.

  •  A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving  This is the one that set the bar for storytelling, made me want to be a writer, and showed me just how inadequate my own scratchings can be.
  • French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Giuliano  If nothing else, this book started my love affair with leeks.  No kidding, they are divine!  My youngest caught me reading this awhile back and said, “Face it, Mom.”  I thought, “Here it comes.”  Sure enough, her hand went on her hip as she tossed her head.  “You’ll never be French.”
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley  This book taught me how to read…really read.
  • The Total Money Makeover  by Dave Ramsey  My record with Financial Peace University is 01-02 and a forfeit, but I either bless or curse Ol’ Dave with every major purchase.  If I could keep my debt snowball from melting from the heat off those card readers, I might be alright.
  • The First Days of School by Harry Wong/ A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne  Okay, that’s two books, but these two are the ones I credit with teaching me how to teach.  That first one by Ron Clark comes in pretty handy, too.  His name was mud in our house while our first two were little!

So, now I put the question to you:  What book(s) do you consider influential?

 

Yuletide Solitude

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Selfie with a lit reindeer

I was smiling and waving to beat the band.  I had a fancy coffee in hand…one that boasted an almost Starbucksian price tag without the presumed political posturing.  I waited for the coffee to cool a bit as I pushed up the sleeves of my red shirt and pretended not to swelter as the South Alabama sun beat jollily down on the town’s Christmas parade.

My spot was well-chosen.  I sat on the backside of the parade route with the nearest onlooker a good 50 feet away.  I thought the gutter beneath my feet might discourage candy throwing and heard several mothers admonish their float-riding darlings not to toss candy my way for fear of wastefulness.  I got pelted anyway!  I do admit, many a piece of candy did make its way down to the dark infrastructure.  I didn’t try too hard to catch the starlight mints or the Halloween-wrapped toffee (C’mon, people), but I did make a rather athletic save for a Reese’s Cup and managed to juggle two rent-a-center plastic cups and a string of Mardi Gras beads without dropping them into the abyss.

The parade had everything you’d expect in a Deep South promenade:  ROTC cadets, the high school marching band, the mayor and other dignitaries, an antique tractor brigade, beauty queens, cub scouts, politicians, tiny majorettes, military vehicles from the national guard armory, tankers from the fire station, and floats from local churches and businesses.  Most of the marchers sported rosy red cheeks, not from Old Jack Frost (who was positively melting by the time he passed by me, but playing his part to the hilt) but from early onset heat exhaustion.  Trust me.  Santa hats with temperatures rising near 80  is flirting with disaster, especially since the parade route is long enough to be a good haul for even the kids.  Santa Claus himself brought up the rear, looking jolly despite his thick red coat and boots.

So there I sat on the curb, all alone, in the midst of a parade.  And, do you know what?  I wasn’t lonely at all!  I greeted and was greeted by friends as they walked or rode by.  I “Merry Christmas’d” my guts out!  I watched my own kid march with the band while the other was across town playing in a basketball tournament.  I hopped right up after waving enthusiastically to Santa and hoofed it over to the town park for the parade after-party.  The park was packed and the sounds of laughter mingled with the high school steel drum band playing holiday tunes calypso-style. Kids shouted as they hurled chunks of snow–hauled in by 18 wheelers for the occasion–at each other and any unsuspecting adult who wandered too near the cordoned snow zone.

What a content way to watch a parade!  The weather may not have been Christmassy, but it was beautiful and clear.  There was no bickering over candy or those silly plastic beads.  There was no pressure to make lasting Christmas memories (or else!).  There was no meltdown over which child Santa waved to.  Between the parade and the basketball tournament, there was no time to do my usual Saturday shopping chores.  For a couple of hours, it was just me and that was just fine.

 

 

 

 

Hamstrung, Hampered, and Ham-Handed

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Putting Thanksgiving and a little post-game frustration away

It’s November 26th and there’s still no sign of Christmas at Moore’s Creek Farm.  In Coastal Alabama, the trees don’t really change color to signal the final hurrah of fall.  The greens lose their verdancy, the oaks their acorns, and the ground becomes littered with inky pecan husks.   You are more likely to see us in flip-flops than Uggs, unless the temperature drops below seventy.  Then, it’s an all out boot and sweater parade.  The operative word there, of course, is sweat.

Our rite of passage into the Christmas season is the Iron Bowl, our longstanding college football rivalry tradition.  Like our waistbands, the Thanksgiving leftovers have been stretched to the limits of good taste.  Families gather for a few final hours of togetherness  tinged by the threat of botulism as everyone pretends that Aunt Eloise’s Crimson Jell-O Salad hasn’t separated.  Nerves have been stretched to the limits of good manners as ESPN Gameday has been playing on a continuous loop since dawn-thirty.  It was a good thing we had the 2:30 PM kickoff slot.  I’m not sure the family could have remained on speaking terms had the pressure mounted to 7PM (and we all root for the same team!).

This year it won’t be my team dashing through the SEC championship and I’m more than a little bummed. I was, after all, wearing my favorite sweatshirt and decidedly uncomfortable team underwear.  Seriously.  I’m gonna iron the team logo onto a decent pair of panties next year.  Win or lose, at least it won’t chafe.

So, when I got up this morning, I was still wallowing in the self-pity of loss.  I decided to put Thanksgiving behind me as handily as those other guys “controlled their own destiny”, according to the prognosticators’ loop reel.  I pulled the ham, already battered from previous gnashing, out of the backfield of the refrigerator and proceeded to thrash it.  Like my beloved team, it was pretty much defenseless against the determined onslaught.  There was no stopping me.  60 minutes later, ham stock for soups, ham bits for casseroles, and ham slices for future biscuits neatly lined my deep freeze.  If I were a pioneer woman, I wouldn’t have stopped there and rendered the leavings and bones into soap or something.

I still wasn’t over it all.  The deep freeze needed defrosting, so I took a hatchet to it.  Some tactful tapping and I tackled the job, unlike my beloved team.  The underside of the freezer drawer on the fridge was iced over, too, and I laid out on the kitchen floor– hatchet in hand– to do my work.  It felt good.  It felt right.   Now, all I needed was to get right with the Lord since I had thought (and maybe hollered) some pretty un-Christian things concerning the opposing team last night.

I dressed neatly in a houndstooth jumper, fixed my hair with a curling iron, and applied my finest crimson lipstick.  I held my chin high and knelt shoulder to shoulder with folks decked out in victory colors.  That’s the thing about the Iron Bowl:  it’s not “a” game;  it’s “THE” game.  Whether we roll with the Tide or roll Toomer’s Corner, this rivalry is as much a Thanksgiving tradition as Aunt Eloise’s Jell-O Salad…which will be orange next fall.

 

In Defense of Thanksgiving

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Turkey Day Aftermath

Before it’s even time to thaw the turkey, I find myself  bombarded with images of Christmas.  My daughter wants to skip Thanksgiving altogether and get on to the eggnog days.  She is a fool for eggnog.  I have to disguise it in the fridge so I can get a cup in edgewise.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love the Christmas season…just not yet.

We’ve got important business to attend to first.  The Thanksgiving Feast is a sight to behold.  Tables groaning with sumptuous foods made from treasured recipes that we pretend our grandmas didn’t just crib off the back of the semisweet chocolate chip package.  It’s the only time of the year Jello comes into play, cleverly disguised as salad.  It’s a celebration of gluttony in which we thank the Lord for four kinds of pie, three kinds of roasted meat, two kinds of dressing, and the one thing the kids will eat:  rolls.

Thanksgiving brings the family together around the table and the TV, preferably in the same room. It’s hard to digest all that turkey without the comforting smack of football helmets and the lulling roar of a crowd who “got to go to the game instead of being stuck at home with (insert name of elderly relative) snoring in the BarcaLounger”.

Thanksgiving, of course, changes according to what stage of life you’re in.  That’s what makes it so interesting and worth a looksee before rushing headlong to the Christmas tree farm.  Before I entered into the blessed state of matrimony, Thanksgiving was a sort of progressive eating event that started around 10:30 AM and ended four houses and a passel of relatives later at suppertime.  We feasted, watched football, played football, and shot every kind of gun you could think of.  The traditions took a decidedly different tack once I left home.  The dinners involved cloth napkins and round robin statements of thankfulness before the menfolk could slink away to watch the game.

What remained the same, however, was the crying. Someone always squalls at Thanksgiving.  Some years it’s out of frustration–like the year my grandma forgot the rolls and about smoked us out of the house.  Some years it’s out of the sadness of an empty place at the table, but most years somebody will get weepy over the sheer weight of family.  We’re thankful for all of it:  the good, the bad, and the just plain belongingness.

Nope, you won’t find me hauling out the holly until after the Iron Bowl.  I won’t want to deck the halls for another whole week…it won’t even be December yet, for goodness sake, but the girls will be impossible to hold back.  How can they wait with the radio station looping that gravelly “Santa Claus is comin’ to town (on a bender)” song and every TV commercial hawking some overpriced holiday wonder, or the endless lineup of crappy, sappy all’s well that ends well movies flanking yet another Harry Potter marathon?

Back in the dark ages when I was growing up, my mother never decorated squat until December.  She mellowed a bit in her later years, getting totally into themed Christmas trees and breakable ornaments.  I used to race my brother to hog the chocolate in the advent calendar. Poor Baby Jesus would be robbed blind by December 14th, and then the blame game began.  Talk about some knockdown drag-outs!  It was SO HARD to be good for three whole weeks.  It wasn’t Christmas without a complete meltdown and the threat of not only no toys from Santa, but the disappearance of the ones we had already but didn’t appreciate.  Nothing straightened me up faster than the idea of an all-clothes Christmas, which I actually got once.

That’s why I don’t really want to roast any chestnuts quite yet.  Are you kidding?  Five weeks of you better watch out, or even worse, that creepy elf on a shelf?  That’s too much pressure for even the best of kids. Instead, I’ll give them a heaping helping of family along with enough rolls to keep them from starving when they sneak their servings of casserole to the dogs.  I’ll give them lazy afternoons, football games, and by golly…some target practice.  We’ll hold off on the tinsel, glitter, and twinkling lights just long enough for them to get a good, long look at what family really is.

Christmas will keep another couple of weeks and be quite merry in the making.

Thanksgiving, that literal and metaphorical smorgasbord of love,  will not be overshadowed on my watch.

May you and yours have a very happy Thanksgiving!

 

*This post expresses the author’s opinions (it being a blog and all) on celebrating the holiday season and in no way looks down its nose at those of you who are already rocking your jingle bells.

Nut Job: Mysticism and Morality

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Shelling  Pecans

The principal’s voice reverbrated over the intercom to inform us we were about to have a fire drill–yeah, I don’t think they’re supposed to work quite that way, either, but that’s a blog post for another day– and I calmly named the pecan tree out front as our muster station.  “Wait…pecans come from a tree?” asked a particularly bright student.  No kidding, this kid will probably top a 30 on the ACT and be excising your overwrought gallbladder someday.  The student’s earnest question made me think of the relationship between education and knowledge, and whither the two shall meet.

I’d like to share (put it in a nutshell, if you will) what I’ve learned from the act of shelling pecans.  What do knowledge, a little know-how, luck, and perhaps even some wisdom have in common? That’s a hard nut to crack, and I’ll leave it up to you, Gentle Reader, to get at those sweetmeats inside.  Okay, okay.  I’ll stop with the nutty puns already.

  1.  Pecans are a microcosm of the human condition.  They look pretty much the same on the outside, but once you break through the hard exterior, results vary.  Some come already cracked; some are sleek and perfectly formed.  All are fallen-how’s that for a theological twist?  The trick is to crack the nut without damaging the meat.  Sometimes you get two intact halves; sometimes part of the interior is rotten, waterlogged, or dried up;  sometimes you crush the whole thing in your pliers.
  2. Pecans are a model of the mind.  This becomes evident on the ones you crack without damaging the interior.  The nuts consist of two grooved halves, connected on one end, with a woody hemispheric separator.  The grooves sometimes have woody bitters tracing their paths.  Those are the nuts with regrets.  That woody partition is inedible and leads one to wonder just why the two sides must be kept apart.  Is is a left-brain/right-brain thing?  A Mars/Venus thing?  An East Coast/West Coast thing?
  3. Pecans are an object lesson in work ethic, Puritanism, and yes…the American Dream.  It takes labor, patience, and a bit of panache to harvest enough pecans even for a homemade pie.   Picking up pecans is time-consuming, achy-breaky work, even with a pecan picker-upper tool.  Once you get them gathered, you have to crack them and then pick the meat out of them.  A quick Google search (my students swear that Google knows everything so they can just concentrate on their Instagram stories) reveals any number of pecan harvesting products designed to make the task less, well, task-y.  But, perhaps, the task is the point.  And perhaps, in that point, we can find a little something a freezer case confection just can’t give us.

Maybe I’m just kidding myself, but there’s something soul-satisfying about sitting on a swing cracking pecans.  You see the results of your labor piling up in the bowl in your lap and in the crunch of discarded shells underfoot. The work, both mindful and mindless simultaneously, gives you the opportunity to think, to be grateful, to find your center.  It gives you the gift of time, something fewer and fewer of us seem to value. If you’re lucky, you recognize the whispers of grandmothers long passed in the fall breeze, kissing the treetops as they sweep down from Heaven for that shared moment where the past, present, and future all congregate over a labor of love.

 

Ode to Preservatives: The Mostly True Story of a Sausage and Its Quest for Immortality

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It all began back on September 11th when I decided to try out the microwavable mini sausage biscuits I’d been pumping down my kids ever since that really good BOGO at the Winn Dixie.  They were portable, kinda cute, and smelled pretty good coming out of the plastic steam bag.  The kids were acting appropriately grateful for a mom who went to all the trouble of “cooking” a hot breakfast before school each morning, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

One bite and I about ran my Jeep into the ditch with all the gagging going on. It was hot;  I’ll give it that.  But beyond temperature, that micro mini biscuit was unrecognizable to the palate. I wasn’t yearning for gourmet, wasn’t even hoping for it to touch a Hardee’s biscuit; so my expectations were, well, less than refined.   With something like a pizza roll or a hot pocket, you know what to expect and you count on enough pasteurized processed cheese product to give the thing a little flavor.  Not so with these convenient little breakfast bites.  The biscuit had the texture of a worn out bandage and the sausage did not taste like it came from any animal ever even resembling a pig.  I spat and sputtered, whipped into my parking spot at school, and tossed that nastiness on the grassy median with a “Get behind me, Satan!” thinking it was biodegradable and some dog or bird would take care of it.  I thought wrong.

Buzzards gotta eat, same as worms.  The buzzards, the worms, and even the ants all gave that sausage biscuit two thumbs down…way down.  My mama once said that if flies won’t light on it, it ain’t food.  That’s how she broke me from my habit of spooning Parkay out of the tub like it was ice cream.  That sausage biscuit just lay there…for weeks…completely intact.

It lay in the Alabama heat of September, sweating out unpronounceable ingredients.  It lay through downpours, humidity, and the dead of night.  It lay through a hurricane, for goodness’ sake, before the flour in the biscuit (if flour was an actual ingredient) finally gave up the ghost and exposed its meaty innards.   It lay unmolested by critters, insects, or microscopic organisms.  It lay unperturbed by the elements of nature.  It lay on the ground, a “living” testament to resilience and the glory of preservatives.  It lay there until Friday, November 3rd.

I buried the remains of that microwavable sausage biscuit right there in the grassy area it had clung to in its post-nuclear afterlife.  I took my garden spade and uprooted it from the ground where it fused itself with the ooze of exposure.  I stabbed it through its webby heart with a stick, spat in the hole, and buried it facedown in the grave like you would a vampire.  I tamped down the earth, asked Nature not to upchuck it from Her maw, and marked the spot with a leftover Halloween headstone graciously provided by one of my teacher friends.  Several cars filed by in slow procession, but no one cared enough to stop and pay their respects as I did my grisly work.

Requiesce in pace, o farciminis.

 

Piddling Things

 

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Mug shot

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

“It’s all small stuff.”

“Don’t let things get to you.”

“Don’t bottle it up.  Speak your mind!”

Stand up.  Sit down.  Follow the rules.  Forge your own path.  Be happy.  Life’s not all sunshine and glitter.  Differentiate while you standardize! Carbs will make you fat.  Carbs will give you energy.  March to the beat of your own drummer.  No, not that beat.

I believe I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody knows what the H. E. double-hockey sticks they’re talking about.  One of my favorite quotes comes from that great philosophical classic The Outlaw Josey Wales.  “You must endeavor to persevere.”  My father always sounded particularly nebulous and wise when he threw out this little gem in my childhood times of trouble.  I’d ask what, exactly, that meant and he responded with the equally obtuse “When you know, Grasshopper, you will be ready to go.”

Great.  The foundation of my psyche was apparently built on a vigilante, a Kung Fu loner, and a heaping helping of Yoda.  That’s why sometimes I can’t decide if I want to ride off into the sunset or Force choke someone.

Take Friday, for instance.  Two piddling things, trifles really in the grand scheme of this thing we call life, happened that profoundly colored my attitude and general faith in humanity.  Some sorry mug stole my “pet” coffee cup off the drying rack in the teacher workroom.  Not out of the extra dishes box, mind you, or off the fabled give-it-away table, but right off the drying rack where stuff clearly belongs to somebody.

My first impulse was to conduct a room-by-room search and show some masters’ degree-holding snit a little Sand Mountain justice (See, that Josey Wales stuff is ingrained).  But lunch period is short, and by the time I rounded up a bowl to heat my mater soup, I had a roomful of freshmen waiting on me.  One precious soul inquired about the contents of the bowl.  “Blood of my enemies,” I deadpanned.  The freshmen worked hard, especially for a Friday.

Fortunately, I had a standardized test analytics session scheduled for the remainder of the school day, which, as you can guess, cooled my boiling blood into a torpor.  I sent out a sweetly worded APB for the kind return of my coffee cup. Only those who know me well could read the Liam Neeson between the lines…”I want my coffee mug back.  I will hunt you down.  I will not stop.”  At the end of the day, my mug was still at large.  Come Monday, if it hasn’t re-appeared, I’ll start my campaign. Something along the lines of “I hope you’re enjoying my polka-dot mug.  It was passed down by my dear departed grandmother, who kept her teeth in it.”

Yeah, it’s a cup.  I get that.  It’s a piddling thing.

The second trifle came in the rush to get ready for the football game.  This week required me to drive 20 minutes east to get home and transform from a pirate to a lion only to rush back west an hour, choke down some bad pizza in a seedy part of town, and make it to the stadium in time for the pre-game heraldry.   Not only do we not miss a down; we greet the team/band/cheerleaders/chain crew fieldside.  It’s great!

So, imagine my surprise as my beloved, exhausted from his own school day and rushing to get the farm animals fed before we speed across the bay on a quest for football glory, plops a single bloom on the counter as I’m getting my game face on.  “Your new gardenias are starting to bloom,” he says and is off to find a sweatshirt before I can thank him.  The heady, aromatic scent of the gardenia wafts through the air and I crush its petals against my wrists, a balm alleviating the hectic stress of the day.

It was a singular act, simultaneously thoughtless and thoughtful. I can’t tell you the last time he bought me flowers…that’s not the way we quantify our marriage, as if there must be some sort of floral manifestation of love to make it believable.  That solitary bloom, however, held the promise of endeavoring to persevere.

Yeah, it’s a gardenia bloom.  I get that.  It’s a piddling thing.

Predators, Studs, and the Art of Pasture Maintenance

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We SO much wanted the kids to love horsemanship.  We went 0-4.

Living on a farm is a real “Circle of Life” kind of experience. Papa from A Day No Pigs Would Die said, “Dyin’ and getting bornt is dirty work.”  He wasn’t exaggerating.  Raising animals, kind of like raising teenagers, can get downright grisly.  I’m lucky enough to get to do both!  Here’s what we have going on at Moore’s Creek Farm these days…

OUT of the Egg Business (at least this season):  My chickens and laying ducks got plucked off one by one by a gang of renegade raccoons.  The ruffians would lure the birds into sticking their little heads out of the fence, grab ’em, and start a sick game of tug o’ war.  The poor victim couldn’t scream because of the stranglehold and would come out the other side of the wire dead, divested of its feathers, and ready for eating.  At least that’s what the evidence points to.  We do have the designated survivors sequestered in a pen-within-a pen setup;  they are safe, but my egg business is kaput.

We aren’t ignorant folks, but it can be surprisingly challenging to thwart coons, snakes, foxes, coyotes, owls and the like.  We plan to relocate the hen housing to an area on the farm where the predators will have to run the Great Dane gauntlet to have a go at the birds.  This more open-concept design will sacrifice shade for our feathered friends, but should offer another layer of protection.  I expect shiplap to be involved in the renovation.

We ordered a replacement flock of chicks.  They will come by US Mail in cute little chirping boxes.  The babies will stay in the barn nursery until they feather out and become big enough to start trying to kill each other in the small cages.  The barn is relatively safe, but we must be careful not to leave the door ajar…that looks like an open invitation to a feast for rat snakes.  With a little luck, I’ll be back to providing farm fresh eggs for multiple families by spring.

Ole Number 29:  We have a resident artist here at the farm for a few months.  He’s a gorgeous Black Angus bull with an ear tag that identifies him simply as 29.  I am tempted to make a Weinstein joke here, but perhaps it’s too soon.  You get the idea.  Ole Number 29 is most assuredly serious about getting his job done, and he practices his…um…creativity with enough gusto for us to feel pretty confident we’ll have a couple of calves running around the farm before long.  He’s friendly enough to come right up to the fence for a head-scratching, but I’m just going to let that fence stay right between us.  I’m not sure I quite trust that glint in his eye.

Winterizing:  Russ spent a good part of the day yesterday on the tractor bush-hogging the pastures.  Next weekend, winter grass will get planted so that hopefully we won’t go broke buying hay for the cows and our guard donkey Jack the Ass.  The way this usually works is that we spend a bundle to keep from spending a bundle.  Once the seed is planted, that will cue the driest fall season in Baldwin County history.  Nary a blade of new grass will grow and we’ll get to help support the haying industry…or we’ll get a gorgeous stand of green and the cattle will munch contentedly throughout the winter.  It could go either way.  That’s part of the fun and frustration of farming.

Fencing:  One of my greatest pleasures living out here on the farm is the “chore” of checking the fences.  My job is to walk along the fence lines of the pastures to make sure there are no security breaches. What it really is, though, is an act of love.  Russ keeps a strip along all the fences mowed so that I have a clear path (and a jump on any snake sightings) as I walk.  Naturally, he fixes any fence problems as he does this.  What I get is a tour of the farm, a pleasant bit of exercise, and a daily reminder of the blessing of elbow room.  Smart man.

Folks can take their McMansions, planned communities, and even their beach houses.  Those are all great, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have fantasized about each.  But when I really get to pondering, there’s no place I’d rather be than right here, mad raccoon raiders and all.

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