Sunday, December 17, 2006

Breakfast time

The white-breasted nuthatches laid claim to this feeder full of plain old wild bird mix. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Shy birds

The male cardinal draws the eye with its flashy color and bold behavior. Spotting them is easy, particularly when snow blankets the land. The females intrigue me with their subtler coloring and their caution. They're more challenging to photograph, and they're more interesting to watch. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Drought busting

First it rained. A lot. The ducks and geese rejoiced and dabbled in the puddles all day. I wore my knee-high boots to wade through the little creek to get to the greenhouse. The dogs seemed disturbed by that. Apparently that upset their sense of order -- people don't belong in the water.

Then it snowed. A lot. Twelve inches is a lot for my corner of the edge of the Ozarks. I got the truck stuck in the driveway three times. UPS and FedEx refused to come up the driveway. Both drivers left my packages at the gate. The geese retreated to the barn. The ducks gathered close for warmth, but only three took advantage of the shelter in their pen. The rest didn't seem to mind the snow much.

The dogs were belly deep in the snow, even the 80-pound English Shepherd.

Then the melting began. The process lasted days. Now there's mud, mud, everywhere. The geese don't mind. The ducks are delighted. I'm not complaining. Mud means moisture, and hopefully the end of the drought cycle.

Life is good.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

They're thankful...

It takes so little to make an old goat happy -- a few cups of cracked corn in a pan each morning, the occasional scratch along the jawline, clover hay...

Francesca, on the left, is 10 years old and still frisky and playful. Katrinka, right, isn't as sprightly, though she'll perk up and run through the gate fast enough to swipe a nibble from the rose bushes. Little Girl, middle, is Katrinka's last kid. She's a sweet, flighty thing, much the opposite of her attention demanding herdmates. She jumps fences at will but is too shy of people and dogs to make a pest of herself in the yard or garden. Her rambles mainly consist of excursions into the sheep pen to see if they're getting better snacks. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Today's prize?

Every few days Bebe brings a new treasure to the yard. This one, at least, doesn't reek, and whatever rotting occurred was finished years ago. I think it's a tailbone from one of the weathered cow skeletons in the woods. I could be wrong.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Hammock time?

When I took this photo a few weeks ago, I felt a little sad because it seemed the end of the season for my beloved hammock. We've had a couple of frosts and one quite cold night since. There's no green left in the trees. Yet all this week the air was warm, the breezes mild. And so when it was time for a break from the sweaty work of cleaning out barns or putting the gardens to bed, I retreated to the hammock to enjoy the view of the clouds.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Almost finished

It really looks like a greenhouse now that the plastic covering is on. We used a special 6 mil greenhouse plastic that's UV treated to resist sun damage. It's supposed to last 4-6 years.

It's not a fun task to maneuver a sheet of plastic this size (32' x 60'-plus) over 10 ft. tall arches without snagging and ripping it -- and then attach it firmly, evenly, stretched tight -- and hopefully all before the wind kicks up. The top portion is one solid sheet. It attaches to a 2x6 board that's bolted to the arches. Another 2 x 6 is clamped to the metal framing at ground level, and the plastic to enclose the sides is stretched between these two boards. Eventually we plan to add ventilation panels along the sides which can be opened and closed as needed. For now, I'm just happy to have it enclosed. We still need to cover some small sections of the ends, located beside and below the windows. After that...soil prep, laying out the beds and paths, planting, etc.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tracking mud...

I grew up reading tales of pioneers, trappers, and Indians (we weren't into the whole politically correct terminology thing back then). I loved tales of woodsmen who could track game -- and people -- by the evidence left on the trail. Broken twigs, a few turned leaves, and of course, footprints. I studied animal footprints I found in the woods and compared them to drawings in the books I checked out from the library. But of course, those were dry tales, just facts without the adventure and all the other interesting details that made those stories about wild places and those who dared travel there so fascinating to me.

So I never learned to track, and I've forgotten a lot of what I memorized from those books. Yet an awareness lingers. Now and then I see a set of tracks and wonder what passed there and what adventures are occuring.

These muddy prints appeared on the newly painted foundation by the chimney after a rainy night. There's a small, brick shelf there where the cats like to nap in the sunshine. The rosebush casting the shadow in the morning light had a broken stem and a few bruised leaves. A struggle? A stray cat, fleeing the farmcollies? Or just a misgauged leap by one of the housecats who's put on an extra pound or two?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stuck on sunsets

Yesterday's sunset view from the front of the house, near my bedroom window.

I'm stuck in a sunset rut.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sunset from the edge of the Ozarks

Pretty colors, huh?

I climbed to the top platform of the big deer stand in the back pasture last weekend for a better view of the fall foliage at sunset.

I think the view was worth the effort.

Monday, October 23, 2006

More progress

The doors, windows, and peak vents are in, and the genius husband is finishing the framing so we can put up the plastic.

The black tarp over the center section is the old, leaky tarp that covered the above ground pool when we moved here. We salvaged it and have found various uses for it, most recently as a bit of shelter from the weekend's scattered rain showers. It wasn't in the right spot for working, but at least we didn't have to haul all the tools back to the house at every cloudburst.

Proof that the genius husband isn't the only one working on the greenhouse.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A work in progress

My genius husband got the side rails and the arches up for the new, improved greenhouse here at the farm. The arches themselves were purchased used a few years ago and already have been through one incarnation at our last home. This time, it will be taller, longer, and sturdier, thanks to the adaptations my husband made. Thanks, too, go to my father-in-law, who helped dig the 32 holes for the ground posts. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Another new baby

This one's not mine. I spotted this cow and her newborn calf while en route to the feed store. Since I had the road to myself, I parked the truck for a moment and snapped a few photos of the calf taking its first few wobbly steps.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another sunset

I took this photo from a roadside overlook at the junction of the Sauk and Osage rivers near Osceola. I've passed the spot dozens of times. Usually I've forgotten to bring a camera, or I miss the turn among the curves and trees. Monday evening I was prepared and lucky. It wasn't the most magnificent sunset ever, but it was a most fitting end for a mild, pleasant day.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

We're waiting...

for tomatoes....Toss them over the fence NOW.

There's nothing happier than a duck with a tomato.

Both ducks are Pekins, but the one on the right might have a bit of Crested Pekin in his family tree. Note the puff of feathers - he looks like he has a cotton ball stuck to the side of his head. Guess that makes him an odd duck.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Happy little seedlings

They were happy and healthy until the blister beetles came along and chowed down on them. Then the ducks chowed down on the blister beetles...and anything else that looked yummy. Just another challenge in the life of a gardener.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

There's an old pond near the house. I took this photo earlier this summer when the first flush of leaves fell from the trees in response to the drought. At the time, the pond's surface and the treetops were the only green in that part of the pasture. The pond has since dried up, and the leaves in the surrounding trees are yellowing from thirst.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


The morning view from my back porch.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hummingbird art?

I've been playing with the photo editing software again. Fun! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Last July, I spotted a hummingbird sipping nectar from flowers on the terrace garden, so I bought a feeder on my next trip to town. In time, I could identify five different hummingbirds that regularly visited the feeder. Hummingbirds aren't as thick as ticks here, but they're common enough. My neighbor's feeder would be empty within an hour or two of refilling. We just got the overflow.

This summer, the original five returned with friends and family. They buzz through, buzz one another, bicker, chatter, and occasionally three or four will actually feed peacefully from their separate perches on a single feeder. They flit from branch to branch, and contrary to conventional 'wisdom', they do sit still now and then. They perch on the branch tips of the oaks, on the wrought iron plant hanger, and on the feeders. This one posed quite nicely, don't you think?

And again, landing on the perch for a snack a while later.

Pretty back feathers.

And a speckled throat.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The reaper

My new favorite tool is a European style scythe from Scythe Supply in Maine. I've been interested in various archaic crafts for much of my life, and in the simple tools of farm and home life.

I remember my father using a scythe for trimming tall grass when I was a child, but his was an unwieldy metal tool without grace or character. I asked him about it recently, and he said he hadn't used it in years. His lower back hurt badly after each use.

I'm told by those who seem to know about such things that American scythes have earned a bad reputation because of mass production. Factories could produce more, faster, and cheaper, and of course they were designed to accommodate the production process and not each individual. And thus were lost the finer points that make a finely crafted tool a pleasure to use.

After much thought and investigation, I chose a European style scythe with a hand-made snath (handle). I followed the guidelines for proper fit and provided my measurements from hip joint to floor and from elbow to the tip of my outstretched middle finger (cubit). When it arrived, I carefully waterproofed the snath with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine. I clamped on the blade, and took the scythe to the tall stand of grass and blackberries near the larger of my garden patches. Working in short sessions each day, I practiced my stance and swing, and gradually began to make sense of the instructions I'd read in various articles. I cut a respectable area and let the hay dry in the heat. I raked it into windrows, turned the windrows, and finally deemed it finished. I hauled four heaping loads in the old dump cart to the rabbit stall in the barn. The stack filled a corner, six feet tall.

It's good hay, or at least the rabbits think so. And it makes good use of the best corner of what used to be a pasture and now is the fringe area along my young orchard and the gardens. I could keep that area trimmed with the lawn mower, but the clippings aren't so nice as this long-fibered hay. And then there's the noise and the exhaust from the mower engine to consider. There's a certain peace to be found in the rhythmic motion, the swish of the blade through the grass, and the sounds of the countryside. It's not a bad trade-off, and there's always the lawnmower when I'm in the mood to just get the job done in a hurry. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


We seldom see any of the whitetail deer that live here. When we do, it's usually at a distance. With three dogs at my heels, it's unlikely I'll be able to slip up close enough for a stunning photo. What I usually see is the white flag of their tails as they leap into the safety of heavy underbrush, followed by the sound of them crashing through said underbrush. A few days ago, I was lucky enough to be downwind and standing behind a tree when I noticed this doe approaching the fence. But alas, she spotted me. She paused only a moment, sniffing the wind, then gave me a glimpse of that familiar white flag as she ran away.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Wild plums

Before the heat wave, the wild plum crop appeared promising. In the last week, most of the fruit have dropped off. Sigh. I was so looking forward to adding wild plum jelly to the pantry shelves. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Heat wave

It's 103 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade here. I do not even want to know the heat index. The ducks have retreated to the shade under the trailer, which already was in the shade of a pecan grove. Notice the panting...notice that you can see right through the nostrils of one duck. I never noticed that before.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Jewelry for geese?

I must be more careful what I toss onto the compost pile. The poultry dig through for snacks there . . . and apparently neckwear. I found this goose sporting an old peat pot one afternoon last week. She (he?) didn't seem to mind. She grazed a while, napped, had a swim in the big water tub. Eventually it tumbled off while she was snacking on clover. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Color in the garden

I've never grown such lush, happy eggplants before. The huge leaves concerned me at first because I feared I'd been too heavy-handed with the compost this spring and would have all leaves and no fruit. Not to worry. They're setting fruit now, and still the plants grow and grow and grow. I planted two varieties, Apple Green and Ichting Long, I think. Unfortunately, the goslings 'helped' me weed the garden one day and took great delight in plucking most of the markers from the ground. Fortunately, they found the markers more interesting than the plants. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Wild cherries

If I were 20 feet taller, I could harvest this thick crop of wild cherries. I picked a modest amount from the branches I could reach, but they grow much thicker in the sunny treetops. I've also been picking wild blackberries and the fully ripened deep purple gooseberries. The ripe gooseberries are quite tasty, much better than the green stage that's more commonly used in this country.
Wild berries are small, though. It probably takes me three or four times longer to pick enough for a batch of jam as it would in a cultivated garden of domestic fruit. But ah, the flavors!  Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 10, 2006

English roses

'Eglantine', a David Austin variety of English-style roses. My daughter took this photo in my new flower & herb garden next to the house. This garden is rather sparse now, just half-planted, and with only a couple mature plants. Thus, these blossoms stand out particularly well. The fragrance is heavenly, too. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Summer flowers

Months ago I spared a weed that I thought might be something more. It spread at the base and grew into this lovely patch of brown-eyed Susans. Last weekend my older daughter snapped these photos.
A closer look...busy, busy bee.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Solstice visitors

Two peahens showed up at the farm today, though they may have been lurking in the woods for a while. We've been hearing odd noises....

'Congratulations, you have peahens!' said the guy next door. I'm less than thrilled. They're pretty, but I'm not enamored of those special peafowl shrieks. None of the neighbors claim them, and no one has a clue where they belong. The geese are certain they don't belong here. There has been much squawking and flapping of wings. The dogs have kept the peace by flushing the peahens into the trees every time a disturbance erupts. Posted by Picasa