the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Feed Bag Heritage

I just bought a new bag of chicken feed, what they call "scratch."  It's mostly cracked corn, with some sunflower seeds in the mix.  They also get a granular "laying mash" to get better egg production.  Both come in heavy paper bags like this one.  Couldn't get more plain and practical.

Decades ago, feed for chickens and other farm animals came in cotton bags.  Once manufacturers realized thrifty farm wives were using the material for clothing, they began using attractive prints (like those at the right) and smaller labels, or paper labels that could be torn off.

I don't know when the practice ended, but they were still doing it in the 1950's when my father took his new, city-bred wife to live in the country, where they kept chickens and rabbits.  My mother never took to farm life and it didn't last long, but she lived there when she became pregnant with me.  And though she never could stand to kill and dress chickens, she could sew anything.  (Still can.)  So she used the feed bags to make a quilt for her first baby, using the appropriate theme - chickens, with a quilted pattern of chicken wire, which you can see on the left side of the picture above. 

When I had my first baby I tried my hand at quilting, but I'm afraid Mom didn't pass her sewing talents on to me.  But my mother's baby quilt hung in my daughter's nursery, and hangs in my bedroom today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Most Fearless Cat Ever

If you want to jump out and scare the bejeezus out of your sister, you hide in the last place she would expect to find you - in the closet with the Machine That Eats Cats.  (Come on, it's OBVIOUS what this machine is capable of.)  You must be willing to laugh in the face of death, to practically sit on top of the Machine That Eats Cats as you wait for your sister Penny to come up the basement stairs.  You must be THE MOST FEARLESS CAT EVER.

That would be Harley.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tranquilizers, Power Tools, Pliers, and a Horse

You think you had a bad day at the dentist?  Pull up a chair, son.  Fritz would like to have a beer with you and tell you what a real dental nightmare is like.

Today was the annual spring vet visit.  This is mainly for innoculations - rabies, Potomac horse fever, tetanus, and two varieties of equine encephalitis.  All that is in two shots, placed on each side of the neck.  They either take it stoically like Code Red, or they jump like a bee stung them - that would be Remi, the big baby.

This year we added floating Fritz's teeth, which generally means filing off the hooks and rough spots that develop as horses age and teeth keep erupting.  However, it turned out to be a bit more.  Because Dr. Ryker is a very understanding (and outstanding) vet, I have it all in pictures.

First, because Fritz objects strenuously to having someone yank his tongue aside and power-file his teeth, he had to be tranquilized.  It only takes a few minutes to turn him into a drugged-out pussy cat:
Getting a horse to open wide is another matter.  So once he's cooperative, Dr. Ryker and Jodi, a 4th-year vet student assisting him today, fit a device on him that prevents him from closing his mouth.  I think it was designed by Hannibal Lecter.
It can't be comfortable, but those drugs are working, and Fritz just wants to catch a few Z's.
When we're ready to go, they prop Fritz's head on a support pole.  Now, let's see what we have to work with, from Dr. Ryker's view:
This is not good.  Fritz has already lost several teeth, and three more are loose.  He can't chew comfortably with loose teeth any more than you could, so all three have to come out.  The remaining ones will get their sharp edges filed down.  The main dental equipment consists of this portable generator with an on/off foot pedal.  The vet straps on the equipment that allows him to use different grinding attachments.  I get to help - I hit the foot pedal on command while Dr. Ryker files the teeth and Jodi holds the dopey horse.
When the back teeth are done, it's time to pull those loose teeth.  Imagine the pliers from hell...

It only takes a couple seconds to grab and pull...
...and they're out.

It's a little bloody after that, but Jodi gets to try her hand at finishing off some teeth because THIS IS WHAT SHE WANTS TO DO FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE.  Well, this and other messy, difficult things that horse vets do.  You gotta love horses to understand.
There's a little more grinding on the front teeth to ensure an even bite.  Fritz will be on soft food for a couple days, then he'll get by on Equine Senior for the rest of his life because chewing hay with the few teeth he has left is a pretty futile effort.  All in all, that's not bad for a horse who turns 29 in a couple weeks. 

Now the last part - writing up the bill.  Farm call, shots, and extensive dental work came to $385.  I toughed out my part without tranquilizers.  Fritz is worth it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Horse + Dog + Fence = Repair Bill

We had an unexpected fence repair today.  Yesterday I woke up to Nikita's excited barking and looked outside to see...absolutely nothing.  Fritz was dozing, while Code Red and Remi sniffed curiously at something on the ground.  "Something" turned out to be about 50 feet of wire field fencing that had been pulled loose from the board fence where it runs along the back yard.  Two other clues:  Code Red was missing a front shoe, and his side was plastered top to bottom with mud.  Whatever happened obviously involved a hoof getting hooked on the fence, and Code Red going down in the mud.  It wasn't traumatic, because the horses merely looked puzzled.  If they'd been scared they would have been a hundred feet away, nostrils flared as they snorted at the monster that had attacked them.  But, no matter - it involved a horse going down, and if you're a Siberian husky, not far removed from your wolf ancestors, a downed animal is a your BIG OPPORTUNITY.  Nikita was so delirious over her impending kill she didn't even notice that the wire fence keeping her out of the pasture was gone.  I never said she was smart.

So today the fence guys came to do repairs, also replacing boards that were starting to rot.  The fence is 15 years old, and the boards are oak, painted with an equine fence paint, which is quite thick, a lot like creasote.  Not fun to apply, but it looks like I'll be doing some soon. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sexy! Suspenseful! A guaranteed good time!

A break in routine today - I have to review cover copy sent by my editor for SILVER SPARKS, my next book.  That includes the back cover blurb written by the marketing people, the author bio inside the back cover, and quotes chosen for inside the front of the book - you know, those lines lifted from book reviews that make me sound like the most brilliant romance author ever.  Snappy, sparkling, sexy, clever story lines...gosh, I'm blushing. 

I don't think it has a parallel in any other profession.  It would be like my engineer husband soliciting quotes throughout the auto industry on the wonderful work he's done in the past (His spec changes on sensors are inventive and fun!  His release reports are riveting!) then submitting them to the client along with his new designs.  I don't see it happening.

However, it would make for an interesting program meeting...

Friday, March 11, 2011

The First Potholes of Spring

Or, Why it won't pay to wash my truck for the next two months.  This is what the road looked like today directly in front of my house...
                                                                                    ...and for miles in either direction.  The closest pavement is over a mile away.  That's two minutes in dry miles; ten minutes in mud miles.  In town I drive by the two car washes and sigh, thinking how nice it would be to see the paint beneath the mud on my truck.  But what's the point?  By the time I got home it would be mud-brown again.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tough Guys

My WIP* has a fight scene coming up soon, and my hero is the one who has to break it up.  Of course, it won't be that simple.  It'll be two burly guys - or maybe more, I haven't decided.  Gotta keep things tough for him.  They're drunk, mad, and mean.  But a hero can't hesitate to do the right thing, especially if others are in danger!

Still being my inspirational role model, TC demonstrated that a true tough guy isn't afraid of anything - not even snow or big dogs.  That's his "Come on, get me.  I dare you" move.  It never works - my dog isn't brilliant, but she's not that stupid.  Not when a cat is pointy-side up.
* Work In Progress

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Someone Doesn't Like to Share...

This is part of the local deer herd, nibbling on feed put out by our neighbor.  One doe is a little bitchy about sharing, and a few of the others don't seem to mind giving her a hard time about it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

After the Fall

The end result of the previous blog, looking from the other end of the barn.  The posts in the foreground are 4 feet high.