the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Worming Horses - and Making it Taste Good!

This is never my favorite job, but for the health of my horses, I can't put it off.  I use different wormers at different times of the year.  This particular paste is effective against large and small strongyles, pinworms, and large roundworms.  And to entice the horses, it's apple flavored.  Yum! know how some children's medicine is supposed to be cherry flavored, but even when the poor kid holds his nose, he still makes a horrible face after he swallows?  Worming paste is like that, only much, much worse.  And a thousand-pound animal can protest a lot more effectively than a forty-pound kid.  The object is to shoot the contents of this syringe  - about 3600 mg - into the back of the horse's mouth:
Big surprise - they hate it.  And they know why you're putting their halters on and unwrapping that crinkly paper cover.  I go through a good amount of apples and carrots in bribery and rewards.

Except with Fritz - he LOVES worming day.  That's because he's the only horse smart enough to take it in a more pleasant way.  I cook up an oatmeal mash (one cup whole Quaker oats, 2 cups water, and about one-quarter cup brown sugar), cool, squeeze the whole tube of wormer into it, mix with grain until thick, then scoop big globs of it into the feeder.  All my horses have been suspicious of that soft, gooey feel of the mixture and refused to eat it.  But not Fritz.  He knickers as soon as he sees me coming with the pan of oatmeal, and doesn't stop until he can dive into the sticky mess and lick up every last bit.  I don't feed my horses sugar cubes or peppermint candy, so it's the only time he gets to OD on sugar.  He can't wait.

If anyone has any other good ideas for making worming more pleasant, I'd like to hear them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Disguise

New author photo!  I'm either dressed to rob a bank or do barn chores in December:

It's a wonder I don't scare the horses.  But they don't care who feeds them - as long as I scoop grain into their feeders, they don't care what I look like.  Cats are more particular.  When they come outside to meet me and I'm all wrapped up, they'll stop and wait until I talk to them, and they recognize my voice.  There's no way they're going near a stranger who looks like that.  Proof of superior intelligence!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snowy Dirt Roads

Not quite the same as that summer picture I posted here, but it still has the same calming effect on me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

After the Snow

If anyone wants to know why the next book I'm writing takes place in mid-summer, it's because I'm writing the full synopsis for it today.  When I took this picture at 9:15 AM it was 4 degrees with a wind chill far below zero.   

The horses were outside this morning, soaking up the sun, so that's where they got their morning hay.  They were even frisking around in the snow later; clearly their winter coats are warmer than mine.  I don't think the chickens are quite so happy.  I'm not sure they can even see the sun through all the snow clinging to the wire over and around their yard.

Despite all the cold and the work involved in digging out, I love winter in Michigan.  If only for today, I have conquered the elements!  Admitedly, there's also this.  Without it, forget summer, my next book would take place in a tropical jungle!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Winter has come gradually this year, with no sudden blast of snow and arctic cold.  But it's finally here.  This morning we were in the early stages of a winter storm, with a couple inches on the ground and temperatures barely at freezing, so the horses still ate outside.  Code Red and Remi, below:

By night it was a different story, with six and a half inches of blowing snow and temperatures in the teens.  The horses have access to their stalls and were waiting for me inside, which I took as a strong hint that they didn't care to dine outdoors tonight.

Fortunately, I hadn't planned to write today, because I couldn't if I'd wanted to.  We spent most of the day plowing the 900 feet from the barn to the road, then doing it over again after it drifted over.  We'll probably do it again tomorrow, since it's still blowing hard outside.  But I'll have to write, too.  Mondays are work days.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Alpha Males

I wish I had a picture for this one, but the reason for the post is the reason for not having the picture...

Romance books are littered with alpha heroes, the men who fight off the bad guys with amazing skill, stopping only to kiss the heroine into a swooning puddle of mush.  They've never been tied to just one woman.  Beta heroes are out there too.  They're the guys more inclined to use brain power to win their battles, attracting women almost by accident with their quiet competence.  Think Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.  (Who knew watching Star Trek would be more useful to my future career than that English degree?)

I have an alpha male living in my barn.  Not the human kind - but wouldn't that be handy?  Freddie is a cat, named for Freddie Mercury.  Remember Queen's song, "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy?"  That's Freddie in his swoonable, loving mode.  A shameless lover boy.  Intact, as they say; Freddie never took that life-altering trip to the vet.  He came to me that way, and since there are no un-spayed females on the farm, I put off that little traumatizing vet visit (along with the tramatizing bill.)  Meanwhile, in between all the stroking and cooing he begged for, he would disappear for a few days of debauchery with some other woman, and indulge his testosterone-driven side by fighting with the stray tom cat who sneaks into the barn.  (A true alpha has to keep the Klingons at bay.)  But last week Gray must have landed a lucky punch, because Freddie had a few scratches and a badly inflamed inner eye lid, swollen and oozing blood.  He was miserable, and I couldn't put off a vet visit any longer.  They pumped him full of antibiotics, pain killers, and steroids, plus a broad-spectrum wormer to boot.  No neutering - he was too sick for surgery.  Freddie purred at the nice vet techs through his pain, because that's what alpha males do.  (Did injury ever hamper Capt. Kirk's desire?  Heck no!)  And he purred again when I deposited him back in the barn, his condition greatly improved.

Then he left me!

The little so-and-so disappeared that afternoon on one of his secret "trips" and hasn't been back since.  Since Gray moved in to fill the vacancy, I suspect another woman.  That's the loyalty you get from your typical alpha male - love 'em and leave 'em.  If this were a romance book, Freddie would finally find the one female who can tame his wild side.  Guess that's not me.  And it's not the two other barn cats, Sophie and Zoe.

Is there a moral here?  Not really.  Just the thought that I'm glad most human males are neither alpha nor beta, but a mix of both.  They can defend home and hearth and do good deeds without continually fighting and tom-catting around.  These are the stable, wonderful guys we marry.  But just like the romance readers who understand the attraction of the "bad boy" hero, I have a soft spot in my heart for Freddie.  And when he shows up at the barn - as he undoubedly will - I'll love him until he leaves me again. 

But next time I'll get a picture of his handsome, studly self.  Until then, you can look at my book cover for THIEVES LIKE US in the sidebar, because that guy has a lot of drool-worthy alpha goin' on!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hot Book, Warm Water

Today was the Big Day when THIEVES LIKE US hit the bookstores, so I scraped off the barn dirt and the eau de horse, and went down to my local Borders to sign their copies.  They had twice as many copies of this book as the last one, because they said the last one sold out in a few days.  Cool!

And back at the barn, I've made the last step toward winter, plugging in the water heaters.  The horses have a submersible coil in their large water bucket, and the chickens have a heated base for their water can, pictured below.  The little dish next to it is for Zoe, the cat who sleeps with them every night.

Monday, November 29, 2010


If you didn't see the previous post on the grape vine root we were hacking out, you'll have to go back and read it to appreciate today's post, because...I WON!  The Beast is dead!
And because I'm so proud of my kill, here it is again, with a Coke can for comparison.  If there were only a way to mount it and hang it on my wall...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Botany Lesson for Writers

A tip for all the writers out there:  The next time you want to describe a character putting down roots, and you want to make his connection to a place sound really tenacious and permanent, forget all those comparisons to big oak trees with deep roots.  Turns out they've got nothing on grape vines. 

We've been clearing vines from the strip of trees by our road, and found they all connected to one big mother vine.  Grape vines grow back as fast as you can cut them, so we decided to get the beast at its source and dig out the roots.  If you've ever tried this, you're no doubt laughing hysterically right now.  Roots are a euphemism for the insane things a grape vine does underground.  Those suckers are twisted beyond belief, like they didn't know which direction to grow, so they tried all of them.  This is the monster and its many tentacles that lay just below the surface:
About half an inch of the little swirl at the top is all that showed above ground.  The rest is a tangle of roots fused into one freakishly deformed mess.  Our next step will be to take an ax to the root that starts at the bottom center of the mess and dives down to the right, then up again.  It's as big around as my upper arm.  God knows how many more like it are tunneling off in other directions.  I suppose at this point we could throw a gallon of herbicide on it and cross our fingers, but after all this effort, and all the miles of vines we yanked out of the trees, it's become personal.  This monster will die at our hands, and we will drag its splintered, hacked-up body to the burn pile and set it on fire.  And dance around it.  And laugh.

I'm all right.  Really.

Friday, November 19, 2010


When I can, I like my posts to reflect what I'm writing.  And this one sure fits!  My hero and heroine are not hiting it off well at all, having prickly conversations filled with verbal barbs.  So today I give you...(drum roll)...barbed wire!

A lot of our property used to be pasture land, most likely for cows or sheep.  The fences were never taken down, so all along the perimeter, mostly overgrown with saplings and shrubs, we still have metal posts with 4-strand barbed wire fencing.  It's vicious stuff, and not any less so now that it's all rusty.  The deer constantly step over, under, and through it, and if they do it at a dead run I can't believe there aren't some accidental entaglements.  I've worked over the years to take down what I can, and most of it is gone now.  This is the last section I worked on, with the wires already cut from the post on one end.
Each strand is about 10 feet long.  I fold them back and forth in one foot lengths and put them in the trash.  Leather gloves are a good idea.  Also a tentanus shot.  (My hero and heroine aren't quite that nasty.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


If I hadn't stopped working on my new book today to answer the phone, I never would have been looking out the window and would have missed this group of turkeys crossing my pasture.  It was eight hens, all walking in a row.  I grabbed the camera and raced outside, through the barn, and stepped quietly out the back barn door.  I got there in time to see the leader stop, let the others bunch up while she consulted Mapquest, then lead them in a U-turn into the tree line, back the way they'd come.  I don't see them often - they seem to prefer heavy brush and trees to open pasture.  Someone should tell them that a week before Thanksgiving isn't the time to take a stroll out in the open.

This is the lady in charge, looking back to see what's taking the others so long to cross the pasture:

These are her friends, milling aimlessly while the leader re-thinks her decision to head across another field.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Characters and What Lies Beneath

I'm just beginning to write a new book now, and letting the characters take shape in my mind.  It's a process of layering - outward actions are driven by inner motivatons and conflicts.  What lies beneath the surface is what determines the real character.

So this was timely:  Hauling manure past a large bush in the pasture, I saw what the outer leaves had hidden all summer - a baldfaced hornet nest.
 The hornets are gone now, or dead.  But it might explain a couple hard lumps Remi had on his neck earlier this year.

What's hidden under the surface in not always nice - in people and shrubbery!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Romance...of a Sort

I recently finished writing a romance novel, the first in a two-book contract.  I've just started writing the second romance novel in that series.  And in between I've been reading.  Yes, romance novels.  So I'll admit it's on my brain a lot.  But I'm not the only one.

Yesterday I spotted a big doe in our side yard between the barn and the house.  Does and fawns walk through there all year long, cutting between one field and the next, so it wasn't unusal to see a deer there.  But this one was alone, and didn't seem interested in nibbling the grass or checking out the apple trees.  She stood still as if listening, very alert.  Then she trotted quickly toward the house and cut into the field next door.  She wasn't gone fifteen seconds when I looked up and saw another deer standing exactly where she had been.  This one was a buck.  Despite all the deer around, we rarely see bucks except for brief sightings in the fall.  And never near the house.  Although I'm not sure he really cared where he was; that wasn't what he had on his mind.  He stood as still as she had, sniffed the air, then started forward at a slow trot, looking around as he did and showing off his perfect, if modest, three point antlers.  As he neared the field where the doe had gone he must have spotted her because he suddenly broke into a run and was gone.

Obviously, the doe knew he was following her.  And although she was coyly leading him on, she wasn't trying to get away.  I wouldn't even call it playing hard to get.  Just making him work for it a little.  It's not like the heroines I write about, but it's still the same game.  Romance.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


My new passion is splitting firewood.  No, really, I love it!  There's nothing more satisfying than the thunk of an ax digging into a log, making it fly apart into neat sections.

I should probably emphasize that my husband doesn't make me do it.  In fact, I'm pretty sure he's grinding the enamel right off his molars at the thought of me alone in the barn, swinging an ax.  That's where I split wood, usually while I'm waiting for pokey old Fritz to finish his grain.  It's just as relaxing as petting the barn cats, and more productive.  We need it - our wood stove helps reduce the amount of propane we use to heat the house all winter.

My work area, with a stack of last year's wood behind it and kindling-size pieces on the oak-plank block:

We keep seasoned wood in the barn so it's always dry when we want it.  The rest of it is stacked outside to dry in the air and sun all year.  In the winter, it's covered by tarps to keep the snow off, because we'll use at least half of this stack this coming winter.  I'm working on filling that front center section between the trees next:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fourteen Years of Spiders

This is not creepy-crawly, I promise.

There's an old cabinet in our barn that was there when we bought this farm.  It was once a decent piece of furniture, with its wide shelves and sliding glass doors.  Probably sat in someone's dining room.  But somewhere along the way it absorbed a spill that give it a vague odor of insecticide when the doors are left closed.  That must have been it for the dining room.  We let it stay in the barn, but only use it to store metal things like chicken water cans and water heaters.  With the doors open.  It stands near the wall, with some old stall doors we stuck behind it 14 years ago.

This morning, for some reason, I looked behind the cabinet while the morning sun was shining in the open barn doors at just the right angle to hit behind the cabinet.  And for a moment fourteen years of spider webs were touched by brilliance, turning dusty old webs to spun silver.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Smells Like Fall

I know, I know, it's air pollution.  But there are too many leaves to mulch around here.  Besides, it's like burning a pine-scented candle at christmas; THIS is what fall smells like.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nap Time

It's a rough life down on the farm.  That ground can be hard.
Fritz, standing.  Code Red and Remi down for the count.

Monday, November 1, 2010


...or rather, it's evil cousin.  This bittersweet came from Asia about 150 years ago and is invading the territory of our native bittersweet, and worse, killing our trees.  It's a pretty death - the vines are loaded with orange berries this time of year.  Last month they looked like this as the outer shell was just beginning to peel back from the berries:
Now the leaves have fallen off and the shells have peeled off the berries, leaving a gorgeous tangle of orange:
It's beautiful, and before next spring I'll rip out this vine and begin the endless battle to keep it from returning and choking out another tree.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


The high winds earlier this week brought down a few small trees onto our neighbor's hay field.  Since they let us use the field to exercise our horses, we do them the favor of cleaning up deadfall.  There's more than enough to keep us in firewood, which I suppose is good.  The reason why isn't so good - these are nearly all ash trees, which are being killed by the ash borer beetle, native to China.  We've lost dozens of trees, and I expect them all to go eventually.  The only winners are the woodpeckers who drill all over the bark for the yummy (one assumes) beetle larvae - the tree killers.

The two prematurely dead ash trees we cut up today:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blowing in the Wind

It happens every year - a fall day when the wind blows so hard all your leaves end up in the neighbor's yard.  Works fine if you're not surrounded by trees, like I am.  Today nature traded my leaves for someone else's.  But fences helped catch them, making the eventual raking job a bit easier.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Frost

Our first hard frost was predicted for last night, but what we got was mild.  By 8:30 AM the frost was arleady off everything touched by the sun, but the lowest part of our pasture was still in shade, and looked silvery compared to the brightness around it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nearly Naked

One of the aricauna chickens suddenly dropped her feathers, too.  On the bare spots you can see the hard white shaft of the pinfeathers coming in.  Fortunately it hasn't been too cold this week while the girls are running around without feathers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fresh Eggs

I'm not a connoisseur, but I maintain there is no difference in taste between fresh eggs and store-bought eggs.  There is, however, a big difference in color and firmness.  Pretty soon my hens will stop laying eggs for the winter and I'll be buying them at the grocery store, but for now, I have fresh eggs with a deep orange-yellow yolk.  Fresh egg on the left:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Molting, con't.

If you didn't see the post of this hen beginning to molt, check back two postings.  Because this is her this morning, less than two days later.  See that tail?  No?  That's because it isn't there.  Just one feather left.  And we're not done yet!  The temperature will be in the low forties tonight.  She'll be inside, but there's no heat, and oddly, this one has chosen to spend the night huddled next to an open window lately (covered with chicken wire.)  She could also be in a protected, hay-insulated corner, so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about her choice.

Just for fun, I took another shot of her to catch the deer in the background:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Color Coordinated

All our horses have always been bays or chestnuts - basically, some shade of brown.  That's usually a dull color, about as dull as you can get.  But brown looks so good with the oranges and golds of fall.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I always thought nature got this a bit wrong - when the weather starts turning cold, the chickens get naked.  Their feathers drop off as new ones push their way out, and cold weather combined with shorter days seems to be the trigger.  A perfectly good system, except new feathers take a couple weeks to fill in, and in the meantime it's cold outside and the chickens have lost their insulation.  Plus, the chicken yard looks like the scene of a masacre, with all the feathers lying around.

One of my chickens has begun molting.  She looks fluffy compared to the others, and you can already see a bare spot in front of her wing.  Stay tuned - this is only the beginning.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


A year ago we adopted a cat, tiny in stature but bursting with personality.  I named her Harley for her loud rumbling purr and her badass personality.  Her long black fur might as well be leather, she's that tough.

Harley fears nothing.  Not other cats, not dogs, not even that terror of felines everywhere - vacuum cleaners.  We usually introduce a new cat to our menagerie gradually.  Not Harley, not after she walked up to T.C., the CAT IN CHARGE who is twice her size, got the flat-eared hiss that melts cats and dogs in their tracks, and sat down with a look that said, "Is that all you got?"  After that, making herself part of the family was a piece of cake.

Today we had new carpeting put in.  Three men moved the furniture, ripped out old carpet, installed new, and vacuumed afterward.  Much clomping around and noise-making.  All the cats hid in terror - except Harley, who thought it was THE BEST DAY EVER!  New people and new activity in every room!  The best part was the furniture that got piled in the family room, kitchen, and master bedroom while the other rooms were done.  Everything had to be climbed on and crawled under, because everyone knows if you move the living room couch into the kitchen you're going to get an entirely new view from the back.  She tried it all, in between helping lay the carpet.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


These two were on my front lawn - again - for several hours yesterday, with  no sign of mom.  Apparently I am still babysitting while their mother is off cavorting with some handsome buck.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chicken Zoe

Zoe is a little black cat, a stray who adopted us about seven years ago.  She's very sweet and small, which makes her the perpetual victim if any cat is feeling territorial about the barn.  Years ago she decided the best place to spend the night is the chicken coop.  She's locked in all night and can get a full night's sleep without looking over her shoulder.  At first it was just in the winter, when she would sit on the shelf where the chickens slept, cuddling up with them for warmth - the only time she even acknowledged their presence.  Gradually she started showing up year round, waiting to be let in when I close the coop up for the night, then let out each morning when I feed the chickens.  I made a shelf by one of the windows so she can catch a breeze and watch the yard.  Since our nights have turned chilly, she's taken to curling up in the nesting box in the warm corner where the hens lay their eggs.  If I forget and leave an egg in there at night, she'll just lay on top of it like a chicken.  She never breaks one.  The hens won't lay anywhere else, so until she gets up in the morning, they can't lay eggs.  No one seems to mind, so neither do I.  This is Zoe in the nesting box this morning:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


When the horses took a late afternoon stroll back to the barn, Code Red looked like this:
A bloody nose in a horse can be a sign of something serious, or the result of a strenuous workout, but one like this is most likely from horseplay - a simple bump on the nose.  Earlier in the day I watched Code Red and Remi nipping at each other's faces in play.  They dodge those nips pretty well, but still, when a thousand-pound animal swings its head around for a playful nip, you'd better be ready to duck.  I'll be watching Code Red to make sure this isn't a frequent occurence, in which case the vet will have to investigate.  But my bet is the cause of this little nosebleed is Remi.  Boys.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Most of the barns around here look like mine - metal pole barns, usually a simple elongated A-frame in the traditional red.  Mine is pretty sturdy, with steel beams and a thick concrete floor, yet I don't expect it to be here a hundred years from now.  Eventually it will rust beyond what can be covered by paint.  They don't make 'em like they used to.

The barns built a hundred years ago are still here.  If they were well-cared for, they look like this,
beautiful, proud structures with dirt floors and heavy oak beams.

Often, after the farms were broken into small parcels, the barns fell into disrepair.  Some still stand, sagging, missing boards, with trees sprouting from their crumbling foundations.  One of those stood about a mile from me until this past week, when it was finally torn down.  For the fourteen years I've been here, the old barn looked the same, gaping holes revealing the last rotted harvest of hay inside.  Nature had nearly taken it when man finally finished the job with heavy machinery.  This is all that's left:

It's hard to see the silo behind the trees, but it's there.  It always is.  It's the last to go, like the barn below that has nothing left but its foundation and silo.

There's something sad about them, and beautiful at the same time.  And if you listen over the birds and the rustlings in the weeds, you can hear the ghosts of the past.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Parenting by Luck and Darwin

I'm a mom.  I know that sometimes you can't turn your back on kids, not if you want them to survive.  There are just too many bad things that can happen.  That's what I think about every time I see something like this:

These twin fawns showed up on the front lawn at dusk (hence the poor quality photo).  They're pretty young for this late in the year - still covered with white spots.  I never saw their mother.  Did she say, "Go hang out under the crab tree until I get back?"  Or did they sneak off while she wasn't looking?  Are they two of those suspicious kids with a can of spray paint behind their backs, or are they the responsible kind who wave goodbye to mom, lock the door, and settle back with a good algebra book?  Is it just luck that fifteen minutes later they wandered off into the trees without having been spotted by a coyote?

The same with that mother turkey I accidentally scared out of a tree in my back yard.  She left five or six baby turkeys scrambling around and finally flying off in different directions until the family was spread out over several acres.  Do they have an unerring way of finding each other again?  Or is it natural selection, culling out the ones who are too stupid to live?  I like to think it's the former.  But nature can be heartless, and bad things happen.  Keep an eye on those kids, damn it!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Horses for Breast Cancer Research

My old horse Fritz eats Equine Senior, a special blend of grain for older horses made by Purina.  I buy it in 50lb bags that are usually reddish-brown and white.  Except the ones I bought yesterday were suddenly the ubiquitous pink of breast cancer research.  So I am pleased to say that even Fritz is doing his part to find a cure for breast cancer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Plum Dumplings

This isn't a rural tradition.  In fact, I got it from family members who came here from Austria.  I don't know where it originates, but I've rarely met anyone who has had this FANTASTIC food!  If you like plums, this is plum ambrosia, and you can only make it for a few short weeks in Sept. when prune plums are available.

Make dough:  1 cup flour, 2 small potatoes, boiled and peeled, 1 pat butter, 1 egg, dash salt.  Mix and roll out like a pie crust.  Pit about 15 ripe plums.  Fill with 1/2 tsp sugar.  Cut small pieces of dough to completely wrap plums, sealing tightly.  Place in boiling water until they float.  Spoon out into shallow bowl or pan with bread crumbs on bottom.  Sprinkle generously with sugar and roll in bread crumbs until coated.  Brown in melted butter, adding more bread crumbs and sugar as needed.  Indulge until bloated and supremely satisfied.

If anyone has had these, I'd love to know where your recipe came from. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

The End of Summer

There are signs.  These are three I noticed this week:
Wooly bear caterpillars are all over the place, usually crawling on the ground inches from my feet.  Once I see one I can't not look down for fear of crushing one of the furry little things.  Me walking across the pasture looks like step-step-awkward, startled hop-step-step.  I know the caterpillars just turn into plain-vanilla Isabella Tiger Moths (the fanciest thing about them is their great name) but they're so cute.  And I know they would make a big squish.  So I watch the ground and do the wolly bear dance.

Another sign - my bats are gone.  All summer they dip and dive around the pasture at dusk.  Just for you, I looked up facts so we can all be smarter.  The little brown bat (my guys) eat hundreds of insects each night, which explains why they crowd the airspace over my manure pile.  Lots of flies and mosquitoes there.  When flying insects die out, the bats migrate south and hibernate.  So my missing bats is a sign that summer, with its delicious mosquitos, is over.  But the same guys will be back next year, because bats live up to 30 years in the wild - I know, I was shocked, too!

One more bittersweet sight to mark the end of summer - my neighbor's hay field is finally cut and baled in rolls.  They used to use it for their horses, and then for another neighbor's cows.  But both the horses and cows are gone now, and they just cut it down at the end of the season and take the bales away - I don't know where.  But I know these bales mark the end of the hay season.  Taking the picture at the end of the day seemed appropriate.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Terminator Cats

(All bleeding heart, liberal, no-kill rodent lovers should skip this entry.)

Farm cats kill things.  Frankly, I need them to, or I would be overrun with mice.  I can cover feed bins, but horses drop grain in their stalls.  Chickens have cracked corn and fresh water constantly available - a veritable smorgasbord for mice. 

I love animals - have I mentioned that?  I'm quite willing to extend that love to rodents.  One mouse by itself is adorable, all furry and sweet like Mrs. Brisby from The Secret of Nihm.  A hundred mice - not so cute.  At one time when I only had two cats patrolling the barn and coop, dozens of mice would scatter every time I opened the door to the chicken coop.  It became a game for the two cats who would wait eagerly at the door, then dart inside when I opened it, and run out seconds later with a mouse clamped in their mouths.

There are now three cats living in the barn and two more that cover the perimeter.  The only mice I see are the dead ones that the cats were too full (or too fussy) to eat.  My cats are pros.  The MVP of their team is Frieda, rodent killer extrordinarie.  At least once a day she stands on the front window ledge with a mouse (or shrew, or mole, or chipmunk) dangling from her mouth, muffling her plaintive meows to be let inside.  She wants to share.  Isn't that sweet?  The answer is always no, but she never quits asking. 

I will spare you the gory part.  This is Frieda, Terminator Cat, on patrol: