By the time I finished wrangling cows I decided I might as well stay up for the day. I love rotational grazing and having belly high grass for my cows. It’s a pretty sight, even if I was denied much needed beauty sleep.
|Kim Carr Photography - Hybrid Hollow Production||
Yesterday morning I had grand plans of sleeping in and being lazy...However my cows envisioned the day going a little differently. Apparently they can read my mind as I had plans to move them to the front pasture this week. As it ends up, eight of the thirteen set themselves free, ran about the farm fertilizing everything, then put themselves into the front pasture. I just had to shut the gate behind them...then wake up the other five and convince them it was time to moooove.
By the time I finished wrangling cows I decided I might as well stay up for the day. I love rotational grazing and having belly high grass for my cows. It’s a pretty sight, even if I was denied much needed beauty sleep.
As a farmer, it’s a given...you do chores in the dark. I don’t mind the dark and can make my way around the farm without much trouble getting my chores done. In general I try to get out once the sun is down but you can still easily see to water cows, collect end of day eggs, fresh water for the ducks and my pet, wild snake Spot. By the time I get these task done it’s generally dark enough everyone has gone to roost and I can shut houses before it’s pitch dark outside.
I like to have my hands free to do my work so I don’t carry a flashlight even though my aunt got me one I can wear around my neck. It’s usually to late and I’m too lazy to go back to the house and fetch it by the time I start wishing I had it.
On the plus side of life, I have the ability to forget bad bad things. Then I’ll run into someone and they’ll say, “Don’t you remember when this and that happened?” And...I’ll say, “Nope”...at which point they start going into detail...I then tune out, or change the subject, or say, “nice seeing you” and exit lickity split. However, sometimes I guess it is beneficial to remember bad things...like collecting eggs at night is not good. I know this, but guess I needed a reminder...so blinking my eyes numerous times trying to adjust to the dark, I felt confident the nest box was safe to check for eggs...however the black snake was so offended by my obtrusive behavior as she tried to consume her dinner of fresh eggs, she rattled her tail at me while promptly projecting poop across my face and arm. In defense I promptly tried to pee on her, only I forgot to aim or take my shorts off. So my animalistic defense methods need some tweaking.
For anyone who’s been pooped on by a snake, it’s not as bad as being sprayed by a skunk, but it will test your gag reflexes in case you were wondering if they still work. As a result I had to hose my pajamas off in the driveway and take my second shower for the evening. I also have this memory clearly burned into my brain...No collecting eggs in the dark!!!!
By morning I’m feeling energetic as my self administered stress test, proved that my heart was strong. Having slept with a health slab of Vick’s up my nose, it had me believing I smelled okay and I went about my chores with a little speed in my step as I had a meeting to get too.
Things were all fine and dandy till Zak and Marilyn spotted some chicken feed stealing squirrels! Their ferocious barks and chasing of the rodents up a tree caused Lucy to jump the fence. As soon as the three realized they were all FREE...into the woods they ran. UGH...I don’t have time for this. I call and call and call as I throw out feed. With no reply I head to the house for keys and jump in my truck to try and catch up with them. Up and down the road I go four times....no such luck. I decide to hear back to house and change from pajamas to my meeting clothes and to take the seven mile drive around the neighborhood in search of the wanderers.
I drive, I call, I whistle...no sign of them at all. I get back home...nothing...So I make the loop again. Same results...drive, call, whistle...nothing. Back home I get out and start calling as loud as I can call a dog that is in lots of trouble once they get home. Look at the time and I should have left fifteen minutes ago for my meeting...GRRRR.
I decided one more lap and if I don’t find them, I’m skipping my meeting so I can hunt dogs. I head out on my lap around...I make a quick stop to help a turtle across the road...then about half a mile before you hit Hwy, all three dogs stepped out of the woods into the road in front of me about four miles from home! While I’m angry, I breathe a heavy sigh of relief. Now for the next problem...I’m driving a small pickup and have three large dogs as well as myself to get home.
I put Lucy in the back because I knew she would be the most likely to stay put. She jumped in the bed and seemed grateful or the ride. When I opened the door to the cab Zak was more than happy to get in but wasn’t sure of the small space. I got Marilyn loaded and she didn’t like the small space at all and jumped out the window before I could roll it up. So now I’ve got two loaded and I’m trying to catch Marilyn who doesn’t want any part of this at all. It took some convincing but I finally caught her and with much resistance I had to pick up the wet, dirty hound while in my meeting clothes...which basically means...short and T-shirt...but they were clean when I started out.
During the drive home I had to stay in second gear because half the time Zak has his butt in my face as he tried to sit on my shoulder, I was unable to reach the gear shift as Marilyn tried to climb up on the dash thinking she could squeeze past Zak and I, and jump out the window again. So with no air conditioning and unable to roll windows all the way down, the dogs took turns drooling on me, stepping on me, and just griming me up as much as possible.
Once home, a shower and change of clothes along with a text that I would be LATE!! The bonus for the morning a well behaved cat sat in my lap for awhile during the meeting only reinforcing that, Cat’s Rule, Dogs Drool.
When doing chores Tuesday evening I heard some chirping, so I checked under Daisy. Sure enough her eggs were starting to hatch. She had one little baby and three more eggs. I originally put seven eggs under her, but have no idea if a snake or something else got the others.
Yesterday I found two more hatched and called upon my friend Barbara to help name them...so please meet... Camellia, Rose and Bluebell. 😍
Today I’ll see if the last egg has hatched or if it’s a bad egg. No pun intended. It’s always fun to have babies hatching and being born. So far one calf this year, now eight chicks, and oodles of ducks. I’m not sure of the exact number of an oodle...but it’s between a couple, and a ton.
Years ago...Early 90’s...I worked for Hartke Nursery in St. Louis. The owner would let us take home the scrub plants and see if we could revive them instead of tossing them in the dumpster. I brought home clumps of dirt with withered roots and did my best to give them new life. As a result of a little time and tender care, I ended up with beautiful flower beds of mums, lilies, and iris...some gorgeous roses too. However as my gardens grew, so did the number of critters I had. Unfortunately my fence building skills did not grow or improve during this time, which meant cows, goats and my mule often roamed my yard grazing upon mums, lilies, iris, and roses. Apparently they taste good...thorns and all.
So over the years my flowers disappeared, but I enjoyed the beauty of my critters grazing the fields around my house. Now on the farm, only the hardiest of flowers and blooming plants remain. The Mimosa I transplanted as a baby from my side yard into my moms yard about 12 years ago. It survived mainly because we kept her yard fenced and mainly livestock free for a couple years...gave the tree a chance to take hold.
The lilies I’ve transplanted from the woods. There’s a very old, crumbled foundation in my woods where a house once stood...probably 1800’s as you can see the old wagon train trail if you look at old, old photos shot from the air. The trail now grown up with old growth trees shade the foundation and a bed of lilies that were probably tended to by the landowner many years ago.
Years ago I dug up some of the lilies and planted clumps along my driveway and along my moms fence. The cows don’t seem to think much of them, perhaps this is why they have survived centuries...they look good but taste bad. So I don’t have anything left from the nursery, but I do have a funny story....One day I was working and an older gentleman stopped by the nursery and headed towards the shrubbery. I went over to see if I could help him find anything. He told me he was looking to add some new bushes to his yard. We chatted awhile and I found out about the sizes he was looking for, if they would be in full sun or not, drainage, did he want something to bloom...all the things I needed to know to help him with his selection. We even visited the rows of roses. All the while, the guys that worked at the nursery started following us from shrubs, to roses, to trees. I wondered what they were up to, but shrugged it off as they were just silly guys.
As the gentleman went in to pay, I carried his selections to his car. The guys at the nursery come over and start asking me if I know who the guy is? I shrug my shoulders and I’m like..Nooo, but I assumed they did with the way they were falling over each other. Ends up, I had been helping baseball Cardinals player Stan The Man Musial select bushes and roses for his home. Not being a baseball person, I didn’t know much, but could tell the guys were all gaga about him being there.
When Mr. Musial came out from paying, the guys scattered away from his car as I stood there waiting to help him load up his new purchases. I guess he had seen the guys drooling by his big long car with the fancy fins....he motioned at the guys to come on over and smiled as he popped his trunk where he had a collection of bats, balls, and gloves. He very kindly pulled out a marker and autographed something for each of us. He asked what I would like and I was truthful, that I didn’t know much about baseball but my brother was a huge fan and I had a young nephew (I think Brandon was maybe 2 at the time)....so Mr. Musial signed a bat to my nephew for me. I got baseball fever then because I knew it would be one of the coolest gifts I could ever give sports lovers like my brother, and I knew he would raise my nephew to be the same.
So even though I don’t have any plants that made it through from the nursery, I still think of the day I met Mr. Musial every spring when the hardiest of my flowers start to bloom.
Years later I met another sports star but the story went a little differently. I was driving for Schwan’s, doing home food delivery. I had a ten day route which covered mostly St. Charles county. I would visit a customers home every two weeks. I quickly learned the bigger the home, the lesser the customer would spend....or you wanted neighborhood routes with big, old trees. Subdivisions with little trees tethered and staked meant the people were house poor. Of course my guidelines are not 100% accurate, but as a Schwan’s driver...it was pretty accurate.
When I was given a route in Castlewood Estates where the homes started at 800 THOUSAND...most people would of thought JACK POT!!! Cha-Ching...hahahaha. I had customers with glass elevators in their home. I had one customer who would buy $15-$30 of food each trip, then the next visit give me a box with one fish filet left in it and tell me it had a bad taste and she wanted a refund. Despite the fact that her house and car cost more than I will make in two lifetimes.
She nearly ran me over twice, and apologized because the souped up, bright red sports car just came off the boat from Italy and she wasn’t familiar with how to drive it. I thought about letting her know the pedal on the left acted like a brake, and the one on the right would make the car move...much like cars made in America....but I bit my tongue as I limped back to my truck.
Another lady would have me come to her home every two weeks in a very well to do neighborhood. She would have me stand just inside the doorway were she would look through the catalog page by page as if she were contemplating a big order. After twenty minutes or however long needed for the neighbors to take notice that the Schwan’s truck was at her place...then she would order one box of Banana Popsicles. While waiting on her to make her selection of Banana Popsicles I started to notice a pattern between those who have, and those who have not. Those who have not...such as this lady...have a humongous house, expensive car, super large tv, a leather couch and not much on the walls, but to the outside world they’ve got it going on. To me, those who have...had modest homes, a vehicle that is more for getting the job done and less for looks, the sofa had a pet of some kind, family pictures on the wall, shoes piled by the door, maybe a couple bikes in the front yard. These customers wouldn’t have me stand just inside the door...they invited me in, offered me a seat and a glass of water while they looked through the catalog, or they would have their list of groceries ready. I had a couple ladies that always sent me with some baked goodies every visit.
One of my customers lived on a house boat...that was pretty cool, and another lived on the river in a house built on stilts. When the river flooded he would leave a boat tied to a tree. I would paddle out to his house and tether the boat to his staircase. We would stand on his deck and I got to watch bald eagles hunt fish while he made out his grocery list. It was the first time I ever saw eagles in the wild...that was pretty cool too.
Ok...I’ve gotten off track...One of my Schwan customers was a starting player for the St. Louis Rams, I don’t remember his name, probably because it wasn’t a pleasant meeting. I had been going to house for several months. I had never met him, his wife always answered the door and placed the order. She was very sweet and we would chat as she would order several packs of our best steaks. As it was, I would often arrive at their home late in the evening. On this particular evening it was after dark, which wasn’t uncommon. As I pulled up and parked in the street as I always did, I could see his driveway was shiny and black, and I could smell the tar...but there were no orange cones or anything blocking the driveway...so I figured it safe to walk on the drive instead of trying to navigate the yard in the dark.
I rang the doorbell and no sooner does the wife open the door for me, this giant of a man comes barreling towards me screaming about his driveway. I grimaced and ducked as his wife, who was maybe 100 lbs on a good day, steps between us. He continued to yell about his driveway and how he spent hours sealing it, and I better not of messed it up or else. His wife put her hand on his chest and pushed him back while telling him if anything happened to his driveway it was his fault for not putting up cones like she had told him to do. She continued to push him down the hallway and him to go find something else to do. When she came back I think my eyes were still stuck wide open, and my jaw may of been hanging open. She apologized for her husbands behavior and ordered his steaks. She told me it was just fine to walk down the driveway. As I headed out to the truck to get their steaks, I could see my prints were I had come up the drive...at least I had kept to the edge and didn’t walk up the center of his drive.
While at the truck pulling their order all I could think is..Lord have Mercy...please don’t let him come out and see my tracks on his driveway before I leave. I was sweating bullets trying to get out of there as quick as possible. It’s kinda ironic that I left my footprints on this football stars driveway, a lot like a star leaves their prints in the sidewalks of Hollywood. On future visits my nose would automatically scrunch up as I giggled inside...partly out of fear. I always hoped he would not be home. I even entertained the thought of asking him if he would like my autograph to go with my prints, but I figured I better not push my luck.
AROUND THE FARM: Did an accidental experiment yesterday. Collected tons of dirt and debris with my eyeballs while mowing. This morning I had made several mini mud pies that baked overnight and collected like little crusted jewels in the corners of my eyes.
Today’s special: $1 per pie. Caution these pies are fragile and may not travel well. If your envelope arrives with just grains of dirt, add a couple drops of water and set in sun. Envelope will act as oven and you’ll have your mud pie made by the eye, in no time at all.
Warning: These pies were not made in a commercial kitchen and are not for human consumption. They are merely a means for me to raise vacation money so I can go somewhere less hot and dry. This has been a public service announcement.
My photography makes great birthday gifts! Happy Birthday to Katie...and Thank You to fellow artist Patrick Weck for choosing to gift his girlfriend Katie with some of my art.
You can follow Patrick on Instagram under BlueMaskArt...and you can catch him this September 7-9 under the Emerging Artists tent at the St. Louis Art Fair.
Congratulations to Katie...I hope she has a fantastic day!
AROUND THE FARM: When doing chores, I’m always finding pretty feathers from my birds. I like the markings on this one.
Last night during evening chores, I enjoyed watching the pink clouds before things turned dark on me.
I was surprised some of my lilies were still open when checking beetle traps. I do know the beetles love to eat roses, but not lilies....guess I need to plant more lilies this fall.
The frog made me think of my great nephew, Brycen. Last month when he was out, we hunted for tree frogs every night when closing chicken houses. One night we spotted three! He’s not willing to let one crawl on him yet, but Aunt Kim will work on that. I think tree frogs are pretty cool. I hope they eat beetles.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy 4th.
AROUND THE FARM: Something cute and fuzzy today. 😍 One thing is for certain, my Muscovy ducks know how to beat the heat. It appears the majority of my Momma ducks have taken their babies to the lagoon instead of the pond. The lagoon has lots of willow trees for shade and it’s fenced which prevents coyotes and foxes from running up on them. Plus the tree growth is so thick it is a deterrent to hawks and owls too. Seems like a good place to raise babies to me.
I carry food down to them everyday so they don’t have to trek back to the house and risk loosing someone on the journey...even though it’s only about 200 foot from the main chicken house, that can be a long and dangerous journey for a baby duck. So I’m doing my best to make sure they don’t have to make the trip till they are older.
After getting caught out in last week’s ice storm and taking hours to get home safely, I decided on Sunday I would reschedule my Monday errands. Out here in the country you might see a road grader twice a year and that's not when you have snow or ice. If they do plow your road for snow it's only because they are bored and have done every other road in the county...and there's no snow in the forecast for at least a week. Living on a dead end road with only us and the one neighbor...our road is not a priority. They are going to clear and maintain the roads with the most residents and traffic. Only makes sense, and once you have this figured out, life in the country, well it's not easier, but more manageable I guess.
So Monday my plans were to have a quiet day at home since our gravel road wasn't safe to travel. Up an ice covered hill and then down before I could even reach the next gravel road. Not worth risking going off in a ditch 300 feet from the house. I've done this on more than one occasion, good thing is…it's an easy walk home. Bad thing is my vehicles stuck and now I must wait for spring thaw. In this case, always good to have at least two vehicles and enough sense not to even try to venture out again till the gravel is drivable. Of course within 2-3 days, unless continuous bad weather has been happening, the roads a mere two miles away are clear and drivable, but those two miles to get there...well that's what keeps me at home. So Monday with plans of a quiet office day, working on my very long "To Do" list, my mom threw a wrench in my plans before I even headed out for my morning chores. She said a calf was standing by itself outside the window with no one around, looking very chilled. As I readied to go outside she gave me updates, the calf was still by itself with no momma in sight. By the time I bundled and headed out, the report was the calf had wandered off and hopefully with his mom. So I set about my outside morning chores at 8:40, made much more challenging due to -2 temps. While opening houses to let the chickens go out if they dared, I saw a small black figure under the lean too out in the field with no cows around. So, I set everything down and headed out to investigate. There was Pretty Boy McFloyd barely curled up, stiff and showing little signs of life. Me, with a knee that's been locking up and a slipped disc in my back, I wondered if I could even lift him…but I knew if I couldn't, he would die.
I have no idea how I hoisted him up and over my shoulder, but I did. I guess it was pure determination to keep this calf alive. The trek up the hill was a lot like Thomas the Train....I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. The thought of settling him down so I could rest and catch my breath, crossed my mind several times, however those thoughts were squashed because I lacked confidence that I would be able to hoist Pretty Boy up again, to get him to the house. In true farm fashion the latch on the closest gate was froze, which forced me to head to the farthest gate. I was so thankful once I made it out of the field and into the yard. I headed into the house carrying Pretty Boy while hollering for my mom to grab a blanket. Initially I was going to put him in a dog crate to warm up, but once in the house I realized that wasn't going to happen….too big and his body was too stiff. I decided to place him in my bathroom. I threw everything in my tub and my mom spread out a blanket. Hours later I would come to realize placing the toilet paper holder in the tub was not a good idea, as I have short arms. Lesson learned...when housing livestock in bathroom, you still need to keep toilet paper within reach of the toilet.
With Pretty Boy safely settled in, I turned off the lights to keep him calm. Shutting the door, I secretly hoped he wouldn't destroy my mom's house. With sweat running down my face I headed back out to finish chores. The day was on a warming trend, it was 10 degrees now…not a record breaker but certainly the temps were going up. Apparently if I wrap myself in two pairs of socks, two hoodies, plus a coat, face mask, sock hat, long underwear, bibs and gloves….I will sweat even if it is only 10 degrees.
Outside again Macy was not looking for Pretty Boy. This gave me concern, but it also gave me time to work on some of my chores. As long as she was content I could try and get chickens fed and watered while I figured out what to do with Pretty Boy McFloyd. Once I headed to the barn to pitch hay for the cows and other livestock, I had decided I would move Macy down to the house. This way I could put her in the puppy pen I had made for Lucy’s pups. It should make it easy for me to care for Macy and keep an eye on Pretty Boy. He would have the Hensiek Hotel (one of my chicken houses) as shelter. While pitching hay I notice one of my other cows, Keely acting funny. She charged Lucy a time or two then laid down. Instead of munching on the fresh hay, she was restless and agitated. As I continued working…busting ice, dragging and draining my water hose....I thought….that dang cow is gonna calve today!
As I continued to work as fast as I could, I was trying to figure out where I might pen Keely so she could be out of the weather to calve, and I could easily care for her. Hauling water and food in this weather is not an easy task. While still pitching hay, Keely took off out of the barn lot and across the field. I knew then it was going to be a long day. At this point Macy starts bawling for her calf, Pretty Boy McFloyd. She walks out of the barn lot and heads down behind the house. I’m hoping I can catch her at the lower gate and let her loose so I can direct her into the yard. As I head back down to try and head her off, I see that Kate and her new calf, McKayden are also heading down the fence line. I decide I will set them free too, and work corral them into the yard with Macy. I run grab a scoop of grain to try and entice the gals through the gate. Of course Darby Brook and San Antonio Rose decided they would come down to see what was going on. The open gate looked wonderful to them. Rose dashed right out. Macy and Kate held back because of the icy patch at the gate. I had to do my special dance to try and get them to head through the gate. As Kate went through the gate, McKayden decided to turn and head back up the fence row towards the barn. I took off at a full sprint to cut the calf off like a well-trained cattle dog. I must have been pretty good as the calf stopped and turned back towards the gate. He tried to cut through the fence so I was able to grab him and carry him through the gate, across my yard and into my mom’s yard. Kate stayed right with me as I entered the puppy pen. I went back to try and get Macy in my mom’s yard but she and Rose had headed up the road back towards the barn. Macy hollered a time or two for her calf, then went to grazing on the grass across the road.
Since Macy still wasn’t searching hard for Pretty Boy, I figured I had time to get things set up for the momma’s and babies. I checked on Pretty Boy in the house and he seemed to be doing a little better. I had my mom turn the heat down some so he wouldn’t get too warm and we blocked the bathroom door off with a doggie gate. He was still very quiet, but his body was more relaxed. Knowing Pretty Boy was doing okay….I grabbed my truck keys, three towels and headed back outside to look for Keely. I wasn’t sure my truck would make it on the snow and ice, but it did, and we made it up the hill. I pulled off the road and jumped the fence. There wasn’t much fence to jump. The cows have it pretty wore down, which proved to be a good thing for this single moment. Again, in true farm fashion, Keely was at the farthest point on my property that she could get too.
As I headed towards Keely, just before noon….I could see the steam rising, lots of steam. When she shifted around to look at me I could see the newborn baby standing there like what the heck....out of the oven into the freezer! All the sac wasn't even off of him, Keely still had after birth hanging from her and she was in no mood for me to be coming after her calf. When you have a large animal with horns swing her head at you, well you tend to work with a purpose and you don't dilly dolly around. With the frigid cold I didn’t want to keep the calf out in the open air any longer than needed. I rubbed the baby down quickly with a towel, cleaned his nose and mouth of fluid and membrane, then tried to wrap him up in the other towels as I hoisted him onto my shoulder. Understandably Keely was not happy. It took some coaxing to get her to follow me, she kept wanting to go back to the spot where she had calved. When she would realize that I had the baby, she would run up on me and bump me. A couple times I had to stop and set the calf down. It didn’t have its legs yet so it wouldn’t stand, which made me feel bad….I did not want this calf laying on the frozen ground….so, I hoisted him up and took off across the field again. It’s quite an experience to carry a non-willing calf across a field of snow and ice with a worried mom with large horns glued to your hip. A couple times I felt Keely’s horn press against my back or arm, and I just kept hoping that if she knocked me over, that I wouldn’t fall on the calf and hurt it.
Making my way through the gate I decided to take the calf and Keely to the Big Chicken House. I had to remove my chicken feeder and move some things around, but it was a safe place to go with them. Keely was not happy to be in the chicken house, but she went in to be with her calf. The calf was definitely chilled as it had a jerky shiver going on. I ran to the house and again hollered for my mom, this time I needed her to throw towels in the dryer to heat them up. Back out to the Big Chicken House, I went to work drying the calf. Keely was a little more aggressive with her horns and didn’t want me messing with her calf. With the bone chilling temps there wasn’t much of a choice, she would just have to put up with me and I would just have to dodge the horns. I went back in the house three more times for warm towels. I draped them over the calf head to tail as he started to find his legs. He looked pretty funny wobbling around with his warm towels, but they did the trick…..I had him dry and starting to nurse within an hour of being born. Not bad, not bad at all.
With Keely and her calf safely in the Big Chicken House, Pretty Boy McFloyd in the bathroom warming up, and Kate and McKayden in the puppy pen I headed into the house and had my mom help me get coats on the dogs…. figured I could get their walk in as I went to fetch my truck. The dogs and I headed up the road. Once I got my truck back I headed back up towards the barn. I loaded the back of the truck with hay, I would do this three more times so I could stuff both chicken houses full for a nice warm bed and to make piles for the cows to eat from. I set up water tanks, hung heat lamps and ran extension cords. Just after 2:00 my mom said that Pretty Boy was starting to stir a little and had given a couple moo’s. Outside Macy was starting to look for her calf too. The only way to get her to come down to the house and into the yard was to bring Pretty Boy outside. Once Macy heard him moo, she came at a run. I opened the gate to the yard and in she came. I picked Pretty Boy up again and carried him into the puppy pen, where Macy followed me as I put him inside the Hensiek Hotel under a heat lamp. With chicken waters froze, I busted ice and re-watered before heading into the house just after 3:00.
Inside my mom had already cleaned up my bathroom and fixed lunch for me. By the time I finished eating, we had to laugh because I would need to go back outside in an hour to shut chicken houses, check cow waters, and check on all the momma’s and babies. Back outside I had to catch Justin Gobble, my big tom turkey. He sleeps in the Big House and can’t fit through the doggie door. With the big door closed because of Keely in the house, I caught Justin and set him inside the chicken house. Keely did not like this big creature in “HER” house, so while avoiding Keely’s horns, I rescued Justin and carried him to the Bungalow to sleep for the night. Luckily, no one else was misplaced due to momma cows and calves taking over the chicken houses. Three calves in sixteen days, with the coldest temps of the year, is making for a very interesting winter to say the least.
With everyone settled in for the night I made it back in the house for the night just before 7:00. Without a doubt it was a long day. In a way the winter storm did me a huge favor. By keeping me at home I was able to save two babies. No matter how tired I was.....it was a pretty good day.
In all the excitement of having my great nephew for the Easter weekend, I forgot to share Poppy's 5th Birthday! Born here on the farm a twin, Poppy's mom wasn't able to care for both babies. I found myself with a house guest until she was big enough to master the art of leaping the couch in a single bound, then tap dancing on the coffee table. I named her Poppy because when I first started out with my photography and my note cards, a friend of mine, Jacqueline Fernald, lived in Columbia, MO. She was in Poppy shopping...the gift shop/boutique on Broadway and 10th Street. Jacque saw the huge selection of note cards and stationary items and thought I would be a perfect fit. She struck up a conversation with the owner, and now dear friend, Barbara McCormick. The two agreed I should bring in a sampling of my cards for Barb to look at. Well the rest is history. My cards have been at Poppy since I first began my journey as an artist.
Barb has since retired after 32 years at the helm of Poppy. Before she, her husband John and their faithful dog Mulligan relocated to sunny California, they invited me out to their farm just east of Columbia. It is here that another major milestone occurred in my career as an artist. Barb learned that I was a huge fan of donkeys and mules. It just so happened that she and John had three miniature donkeys along with a few horses. I, of course, jumped on the opportunity to visit their farm to photograph their critters. Barb led me through the barn and down the hillside into an open pasture where the three minis where grazing. She left me to photograph them at my own will after introducing them as Sophia and her two sons, Leonardo and Piccolo. There was snow on the ground, a chill in the air and the donkeys had on a nice thick winter coat. The two boys were more standoffish towards me, preferring to keep their distance. However, Sophia was very curious and followed me as I moved around the field taking pictures. I was trying to get Sophia over with the boys so I could get a family picture of all three together. As soon as I would start to walk away to try and get them all in one shot, Sophia would follow me, sticking by my side looking to be petted and talked too. I had a roll of candied Sprees in my pocket that I used trying to gather all three donkeys together. The boys looked in my general direction but kept a distance from me; they were not falling for the candy trick. Sophia didn’t seem to mind that the boys were being aloof, and she would eat all the candies I had to offer. She ate two or three while we bonded in the field. I tucked the candies deep in my pocket and tried to walk away from Sophia so I could get some shots. I decided to lay down in the snow and wait for her to walk away, hoping she would go join the boys. Instead, she stood over me waiting for me to scratch her nose. I was laughing as she nibbled a little grass through the snow next to me then nudge me to rub her face. After laying in the snow for a while, I could feel the wetness soaking in and was starting to get a little chilled. Sophia was still standing over me, so I just rolled over onto my back. I scooted over a tad because of the sun, framed Sophia’s face and snapped. Again, for me….history made.
People ask me all the time what kind of camera I was shooting with. They figure I had some big fancy lens, high dollar camera because of the clarity and detail in the image I now call Sophia Smiling. Truth is, I was shooting with my very first digital camera, a little Fuji XP pocket camera that I got for $108 brand new at Best Buy. I had always shot with film until my brother gave my mom a little pocket digital camera for Christmas the year before. I had never shot digital, but I liked the compact size and portability of this little camera that I could put in my pocket. I decided I would give my mom’s camera a try on my first outing in a kayak. I had done several float trips in canoes, so when my friend Jacque offered me the chance to go kayaking for the first time, I jumped on that opportunity too. How different could it be? As we put the kayaks into the water and packed our snacks, I pulled my mom’s little digital camera from my pocket to verify I had it. Jacque asked me if I was sure I wanted to bring the camera on my first time out in a kayak. I assured her, yes everything would be fine…I would be staying dry as would the camera. Thirty seconds later, I found myself upside down underneath the kayak in about two feet of water that seemed like twelve feet. Perhaps it was the fact that it was early spring and the water was freezing or maybe it was because I had on jeans, two hoodies and boots that I sank like a log. I seemed to lack the strength to free myself from the bottom of the lake due to my added water weight. Or maybe, just maybe, as I floundered in the freezing cold lake in water- logged clothing, it was the thought of how my mom was going to kill me for submerging her new digital camera in water that I immediately sprung to my feet and ripped the camera from my back pocket. Despite all efforts to save the camera, I lost the battle to the frigid lake waters. We continued on with our journey, the camera dead and me soaked. Several lessons were learned that day….the hard way.
Out of fear, I decided I better get my mom’s camera replaced straight away. This time, however, I decided she needed something a little tougher. This is how I ended up with the Fuji XP. It’s waterproof, dustproof, shockproof…all the features my mom would need….(insert image of sheepish grin on my face). So it is the little Fuji XP that I used to capture two of my very most popular photos -- Sophia Smiling and Two Eggs and a Chick.
Since then I have replaced my little Fuji XP with my IPhone. I love the convenience of having a camera in my pocket. Although I have limitations, I just learn to use it to my advantage. Early on I was also able to purchase a used Canon Rebel from a friend who was upgrading. I like to use my Canon when photographing my chickens or other critters that I don’t want to get too close to and interrupt their general behavior. It also has a nice zoom for bringing things in closer and maintaining quality of image.
Another happy milestone, which is a direct result of my relationship with Poppy, is that I was able to land a deal with Avanti Press, the card company. About two years after I first took my photo of Sophia, Avanti Press contacted me. They had seen my photo on a blog post of funny animals. As a result, I have leased the image to them to use for five years in their line of “Seriously Funny” greeting cards. My photo of that very personable little donkey has now gone nationwide. She has been spotted in drug stores, pet stores, hospital gift shops and party stores far and wide.
Looking back, I had no idea of how things would unfold. Who knew how getting my note cards into a little mid-Missouri shop would help get me to where I am now. One path has led to another, which has led to yet another. I am grateful for how the journey has unfolded and every time I look at my sheep, Poppy, I am reminded of a beautiful saying….
”Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” J. Johnson.
Earlier this month, I kicked off the 2016 art fair season at the Artists Boutique in Kirkwood, Missouri. This is the start of my sixth year of doing art fairs. It has been a slow progression from selling a handful of note cards from the back of my pickup truck at the Farmers Market to last year, showing in some of the top, most respected shows in mid-Missouri. Though it has been a slow climb and immersion in to the art world, it has been well worth it. I am a person who learns by doing. I can read all the books in the world, watch all the videos and sit in on all the classes, but fact is, I learn best by doing. The knowledge and friendships I have gained along the way are priceless to me in so many ways. I feel good about where I am on my career ladder. I’ve come about my success honestly, fairly, and with hard work, not to mention a tremendous amount of support and help from others for which I can truly say, I would not be where I am without their help.
It took a long time for me to readily accept help from others, even though I have always been one to try and help others. I finally realized that others enjoy helping me as much as I enjoy helping them. With this new outlook on life, it has made my transition from blue collar, lower level management to independent entrepreneur a much more rewarding
journey than anything I have ever done before. Old friends and new friends alike have rallied around so that I truly believe I can do anything I set my mind to.
Last year, just two days before Thanksgiving, I was bundled up outside doing my farm chores. My phone started ringing and I fumbled trying to get it out of my pocket. It was my next door neighbor. She generally calls when she has a raccoon in her garage eating all her cat food, my cows are loose and in her bird feeder, or she would like me to let her dog out while she’s gone for the day. However, this time you could tell she was rattled as she stumbled to get all her words out. She had just returned from taking her sister to the doctor. They were told to get her to a specialist immediately as she had a blood vessel that had burst in her eye. My neighbor was too upset to drive, and her elderly sister was in no condition, nor capable of driving such distance. So within fifteen minutes of her calling me, I was picking up her sister who lives about a mile away.
Despite living only a mile away, we had never met. Over the course of twenty-six years, we had passed here and there along the gravel road as I was driving into town and she was out for her daily walk. When I was a kid, everybody knew everybody or at least we acted like we did. We would sit on my grandparents’ porch and wave to all who passed by. It’s a different world now; so when I would pass, she would step off the road and look away. So although I knew where she lived, I really knew nothing about her other than she was related to my next door neighbor.
When I pulled up to her house, she came out wrapped in her coat and clutching a small handbag. I got out and helped her in the car. As we headed to the doctor in Columbia about an hour away, we shared some small talk about the weather and such. I tried to keep the mood light to keep her mind off of the seriousness of her condition, not to mention I have a weak stomach and human pain to others is perhaps my greatest fear. That’s correct; I can’t handle pain of any type to others. The mere fact that I was driving and accompanying my neighbor to the doctor was some sort of miracle in its own, but there were really no other options available. I had to step up.
Once inside at the doctor’s office, I helped my neighbor to a seat. After letting the front desk know I had brought my neighbor in, they handed me four sheets of paper work that needed to be filled out. I sat down next to her and asked if she could fill out the forms or if she needed me to.
She asked that I fill them out for her. So I turned to her with a big smile on my face and said, “You know what, I don’t even know your name”. We both got a chuckle out of that. Her name was Dorothy. So we proceeded to fill out her paperwork as best as we could together. I was able to fill out some very basics such as address and birthdate (in her 90’s) from her ID, however the rest of the forms were more of a challenge. Did she suffer from this or that, did anyone in her family suffer from this or that? It was all pretty much a guessing game as Dorothy didn’t really remember if she had any of the ailments listed or if anyone in her family ever had. She told me to write on the forms that she was still alive so she must be pretty healthy. I agreed with her. Dorothy said she walks over two miles every day so that should tell them something. When asked about what meds she was on, Dorothy pulled a crumpled piece of paper from her wallet that we soon realized was outdated. We ended up leaving it mostly blank too. It made me realize the importance of keeping a list of current medication on hand especially for the elderly. I let the receptionist know that I was only a neighbor and we pretty much guessed at all the answers. I asked them to contact her sister for an accurate listing of medical history.
When the nurse came to get Dorothy, I told her I would wait right there for her to return. She grabbed my arm and told me to come along. So for the next four hours I sat through Dorothy going from test to test— injected dyes, dilation, scans, etc. In between tests, we would tell stories and laugh. My ulterior motive was to keep her calm and to keep me from throwing up. Just standing outside the doctor’s office, my stomach started to flip so I did everything I could to take my mind elsewhere. My telling silly stories and asking her to tell me silly stories, probably served us both well. I did my best to explain the necessity of all the different tests in as much as the results were leading to a procedure to be done right then and there.
The doctor told Dorothy she needed a procedure in which they would stick a needle directly into her eye and inject medicine that could cause infection, floaters, redness, itching and a whole set of other horrible- sounding side effects, but it was the recommended course of action. After listening to the doctor and taking notes, reading the brochures and chatting with Dorothy, we decided it was the best course of action to take as it would need to be done sooner instead of later due to the bleeding in her eye. While waiting for the doctor to return, I decided it was time for more stories and jokes as I stared at charts of eyeballs on the wall. I now have an even greater appreciation for those in the medical field who hang art on their walls. As I tried not to think about what they were going to do to Dorothy and her eye, I desperately wished there were paintings or photos of waterfalls and fields of flowers in the room instead of the medical junk.
When the doctor came in with the big, humungous needle, I tried to step out of the room. The doctor stopped me and said I could stay. Secretly, I wondered if he could tell I was contemplating passing out so I could avoid the whole procedure. For Dorothy’s sake, I sucked it up. With tears in her eyes as the doctor and nurse prepared everything, I got up from my safe chair and stood by Dorothy holding her hand. For 90-something years old, she has a great grip which helped ease the queasiness in my stomach. She was a trooper. I can’t say that I would have handled things the same way…actually, I’m 100% positive I would not have handled the whole day as well as Dorothy did. I would’ve asked them to knock me out directly after they took my weight. Her toughness and true grit reminded me a lot of my own grandma. I know we were both relieved when the doctor finally gave us the thumbs up on the procedure, but my stomach flip-flopped when he told Dorothy she would need to come back every 4 weeks to do it all over again. Throughout the day, I felt an extreme appreciation for my good health and felt a huge sense of empathy for Dorothy. She took it all in with a smile and positive attitude.
Starving, we stopped and grabbed a sandwich for the ride home. We made it back to her house after dark. I offered to stay with her until family could arrive, and she seemed grateful that I offered. I cleaned out her medicine cabinet and went through each container and made a list of what she was on and what the doctor had added. I made out a time sheet for her so she could manage her meds and went over the handouts from the doctor. She showed me family pics on the fridge held up with old magnets and showed me a favorite passage in her ear-marked bible. We chatted until family arrived. I was profusely thanked for all I had done, but it had been my pleasure. I enjoyed getting to know Dorothy and felt good that I was somehow able to help her when she needed it.
A few days later Dorothy’s family delivered a nice little note card along with a gift card to Walmart as a token of appreciation. It wasn’t necessary, but it was a very kind gesture. I’m not a big fan of spending money on myself too often; I’d rather invest it back into my business, but I had been needing new gloves for my farm chores. The gift card allowed me to stock up on gloves and a new watering hose for the cows—all for helping a neighbor in need.
You may wonder how this all play into, “put good in – get good out”? Well, it would be impossible for me to count the number of times others have helped me in my time of need. So it feels good that I was able to help someone when I could. Just a week or so after helping Dorothy, a fellow artist, Linda Sutterer, contacted me saying she was downsizing her art fair vehicle and offered to sell me her van. Oh my, what a fantastic opportunity for me. I have been hauling my art work in the back of my little pick up truck or strapping booth items to the roof of my mom’s car for the past five years now. I have been dreaming of a van or utility trailer for some time…the day when I could fit everything inside one, safe area and haul it to a show without worry. I rented a van in desperation last year when I overbooked myself and had two art shows to set up for in one weekend. There is no way I would have survived that weekend without the help of others or without the use of a van.
Earlier this month, the Artists Boutique in Kirkwood was my first opportunity to travel to an art show with my new van. She’s twenty years old, but she’s new to me. It was such a great feeling to load everything inside the vehicle and shut the doors…no climbing on a ladder and strapping tables and card racks to the roof.
What a relief! I am very proud of my new van and am looking forward to (hopefully) another fifteen shows this year if I get juried into everything I plan on applying for.
In my eyes, when you put good into the universe, good comes back. Perhaps it’s the rose colored glasses I tend to wear. Either way—Life is Good.
I know everybody has had one of those days. One of those days where everything just seems to click and go right......or one of those days where nothing seems to click. Last week I had one of those days. Now lets knock on wood, nothing was major, I all good, my critters are good, my family is good....it was just one of those days.
Sure I'm use to deadlines and being in a crunch, but I'm not a fan of feeling rushed. Admittedly I am a fan of reality television, especially shows like Amazing Race, Top Chef, Face Off and the likes. Sitting at home it's easy for me to think, just slow down for a second. I know it's probably wrong, but I get a chuckle out of a contestant scrambling and fumbling trying to hurry through a task. I always wonder how the folks on these shows don't get hurt....chasing after a cow to get a cup of milk, frantically trying to lead a horse through an obstacle course. It's common sense, certain task require a calm, easy going manner. The television shows crack me up because you now things are not going to go smoothly and there is humor in that.
Last week I had a day that started like every other day. I have a casual routine that I adjust as needed. This allows me to not only operate and run a small farm, but it also gives me the opportunity to work on my art and grow my business as a photographer. I bounce back and forth between the two all day long. Both provide me with a full day of activity which I have learned to balance....most days. There's always a sense of what needs to be done. Task I have time to complete, what I can put off to another time, and what must get done TODAY. Although I often work under a sense of urgency, on occasion it becomes more sitcom like than real life.
When I awoke Wednesday of last week, I knew things would be a little different. My little dog, Ms. Robbie hadn't been feeling well for a day or two and I decided in the middle of the night I would make a vet appointment for her when we got up for the day. I usually try and make my appointments for the afternoon so I have time to get my farm chores done before I do any running or errands for the day. The start of the domino effect began when I called the vet and they only had one appointment left....it was in one hour! Here I am still in my pajamas, I haven't eaten yet, I haven't opened chicken houses or watered, the dogs and cats haven't been fed....nothing has been done yet.
Basically I have three types of outfits....chore clothes, house clothes (pajamas), and off the farm / town clothes. While doing chores in the winter I dress in bib overalls, a couple hoodies, boots, gloves, ski mask and a hat. Through constant wear, my bibs are dirty enough to stand on their own...maybe an exaggeration, but they are pretty well worn. I didn't feel this was a good outfit for taking Ms. Robbie to the vet, and I knew I wouldn't have time to change into town clothes if I ran out to open chicken houses. So I opted to go ahead and put on my town clothes as I prepared to hurriedly open chicken houses and give them water before I headed to town. With the bitter cold I try to make sure my outdoor critters get fresh water a couple times a day at least. Water is a big challenge in the winter. Keeping fresh water for the assortment of critters that I have, well it is a major chore. I often find myself breaking ice in water bowls ten or fifteen minutes after I just filled them. Staying ahead of the freezing water can be a full time job on the bitter cold days.
In an effort to let my chickens, ducks and guineas out for the day, and to give them fresh water before I headed to town, I went out to do chores in town clothes. Since I had less than an hour now before my vet appointment and the drive alone being 25 - 30 minutes....I found myself in a RUSH. Just like a reality television show, let the comedy of errors begin. Rushing is never a good thing and I know this, but sometimes life requires us to kick it up a couple notches.
With limited time before I needed to be at the vets office, I was trying to rush over the ice and snow, hurrying from chicken house to chicken house to get them open so everybody could get out and run around if they chose too. Being in a hurry I had to struggle with doors froze shut and a frozen water faucet. As I became increasingly rushed to get houses open and chickens watered, I came around the front of the big house, caught the toe of my boot on a ice chunk and down I went. It seemed to be in slow motion. I actually tried to will myself to return to a standing position....but that didn't happen. Boom, face first into the chicken poo speckled ice and snow. To top it off, I am in my town clothes. Not having any time to waller or cry, I jumped right up and hurried on my way.
Returning home after a back x-ray and some pain pills for Ms. Robbie. I realized I had forty five minutes till my very first webinar. Of course I have been putting off attending a webinar because I really didn't know how they worked. I am old school and often slow.....very slow, to try new things. However I had decided it was time to take advantage of an opportunity to learn what I could about marketing on Etsy. Now I faced the challenge of getting signed in for my first webinar in forty five minutes but I still have not watered cows, pitched hay, re-watered chickens or fixed myself something to eat. Again, I find myself in a rush.
After changes out of my town clothes into chore clothes I head outside to work on chores. The water faucet is still froze so I carry jugs of water for the chickens from the house. I run (fast walk) house to house throwing out feed for the chickens. As I head towards the cows up by the barn, I chuckle, how much farther it seems in the winter. Weighed down with a ton of clothes, looking like the country cousin of the Pillsbury Dough Boy, trying to make it through the snow and ice, it seems to be a workout designed for those who do not have access to a proper gym.
It would of been nice if I had, had a bale of hay that was already started and easy for me to roll out, so I could pitch hay. No....that was not happening. I would need to get a fresh bale started, which is a chore in itself, as the outer layer of hay is always crusted and hard to get through. I look for my pitchfork but cannot find it. Then I realize I had taken it to the big chicken house the night before so it would be out of the weather and stay dry. I know it may seem odd to keep a pitchfork out of the weather so it can stay dry but when the handle is snow covered and it's bitter cold outside, it really does make a difference. I will soak through a pair of gloves and my fingers are froze before you know it. There is no way I can feed the cows without my pitchfork so I head back down to the house, grab the pitchfork and head back to the cows.
With the freshly fallen snow on top of the older trampled snow, I am having trouble getting the large bale to budge. I've worked and worked on the bale trying to get the crusted layer of hay pulled off, but now I need to roll the bale to get the remainder of old hay off and so I can peel off fresh hay. The cows have all gathered and have broken into some sort of war chant......feed us, feed us, feed us. I'm sure their moos can be heard in the next county and add to my urgency as they begin to push against the gates. My biggest fear is that someone gets hurt as they crowd around to be fed. I jab the pitchfork in the hay trying to use it as leverage to get the bale rolling....nothing, it wont budge. I must resort to brute strength. Again, I jab the pitchfork into the bale and I lean into it with my shoulder. I try to push my way up under the bale with my knee as I lean in pushing with my shoulder and with the pitchfork jabbed into the top of the bale. Nothing. I now try to employ a rocking technique.....nothing. This bale doesn't want to budge. I work at trying to peel more hay from the outer shell but it acts like it has been woven together with strands of rebar.
Time is ticking, cows are mooing and I need to get them fed webinar or not. I jab the bale again, lay my shoulder back into it and try again to get it to roll. As it starts to move a little I prop my knee against it and I'm able to push it up a couple inches. I dig in a little deeper, I now have the bale starting to head in a forward position but I have wedged myself under with my knee and shoulder. I am holding the weight of the bale against me trying to keep it from rolling back into it's little cubby hole it had made in the snow. In the process of trying to push the bale forward my right foot had started slipping out of my boot and both my socks had fallen down and somehow made their way into a wad around my toes. My flesh against cold rubber boots in the frigid cold became a distraction as did my frozen fingers as I tried to push on the pitchfork while wedging myself more and more under the bale to get it to tip forward. I was stuck. Afraid if I tried to back out, not only would I loose what ground I had made in getting the bale to move forward, but that most likely I wouldn't be able to move fast enough to get out of the way.....becoming trapped under the hay.
As I tried to regain my breath and my strength, still wedged under the bale of hay with my boot half on, my socks around my toes, fingers freezing....sweat started to roll down my face as my glasses fogged up. What to do, what to do, what to do? Mustering up the last bit of strength I pushed, dug in a little deeper, pushed, dug in more, pushed and I found myself at the teetering point. I was able to hang onto the bale with the pitchfork as I straightened my back and stood up. I pushed my glasses down my nose so I could see over the tops. My breath had not only fogged them up but it had created a layer of frost on the lens. Now I could push the bale forward over the little snow ledge. It was like the heavens had opened and music began to play as the bale rolled gently across the snow.
Farming is filled with challenges, some more frustrating than others but I try to maintain a positive attitude. I find myself amused at many of my own daily adventures. They are not always funny at the time, but I do get a chuckle later, especially when I think how my life seems to play out like a reality sitcom at times. All in all, everything ended well. I made it in the house with six minutes to spare before my webinar was to start. Just enough time to change into my house clothes (PJ's), throw a tv dinner in the microwave and get logged in! Whew.
Join us next week for the continuation of Around The Farm, featuring Kim and her critters. Now for a word from our sponsors....
Yes, winter has arrived. Guess I can count myself luck, after all, it is January. It’s not that I don’t like winter or snow, it’s just they do make chores harder and I’m not a fan or being cold. Undoubtedly though there is little to compare with the beauty of a fresh fallen snow.
Yesterday our first snow of the season started early in the morning and lasted most of the day. My geese and ducks didn’t seem to mind the ground being blanketed in white and the colder temps. I shot this photo of them on the pond, acting as if they didn’t have a care while I did my morning chores. Today they still played in the waters as the edges started to freeze and a misty fog rose off the warm waters.
Years ago, maybe fifteen or twenty years….I had several ducks, mostly Peking’s, Runners, and Swedish. Sadly, I would lose most of them, if not all, every winter. The ducks had a tendency to bed down on the icy pond at night, leaving them vulnerable to every coyote, fox and bobcat around. One morning after a very cold spell I went out to do chores. Out on the ice was a duck in a pickle. Apparently with the group of ducks bedded down together on the ice, it had melted some. You could see the indentations in the ice, however I guess with the chill the ice had refroze, sticking this duck to the ice and unable to get himself free.
Not wanting to see the duck struggle on the ice only to freeze to death or to be caught up by a predator…I decided I should crawl out on the frozen pond and do a duck rescue. Now this was back before cell phones, before my mom lived out here, and before I had any common sense. With extreme ninja stealth I lay on my stomach and started my army crawl across the frozen pond. The stuck duck did not appreciate my approach or my trying to retrieve him. My efforts to be a still as possible were tossed into the wind as the duck tried to flog me to death with his wings. In the struggle I became keenly aware of the gurgling ice and water bubbles rushing underneath. I decided enough was enough, reaching out for the duck as I turned my face away to keep from getting scratched to pieces, I snatched the duck free with a bear hug. He was minus a few feathers but alive. I let loose and lickity split he was across the ice and back on shore where he met up with his buddies.
Still on my belly, staring back at shore, the distance back to safety seemed to double. It was probably only thirty feet or so but it seemed like a mile. Adrenalin had gotten me out to the duck, fear would get me back to shore.
I have since switched to Muscovy ducks for the farm. They tend to hang close to the house in bad or freezing weather and they will also roost in the trees...keeping them safe from ground dwelling, night predators. Muscovy’s are also capable of great flight which also gives them an advantage over other ducks typically found on small farms. To date I have not yet had to save a Muscovy…knock on wood.
Saturday presented us with our first snowfall for the year, and Sunday I saw my first Robin. I wonder if that means we will have an early spring? I will keep my fingers crossed, but until then I will enjoy all the beauty that comes with winter, after all it was bound to happen.
NEW TRADITIONS - A Christmas Recap: This life as an artist takes a little getting use to. I have no complaints as my schedule now offers me flexibility like I have never known. Up until five years ago I have worked most holidays. When I was lucky enough that I didn't have to work Christmas, I was at home celebrating with my mom, grandma, brother and two nephews. With my grandma gone and my nephews grown, the holidays are getting a little shook up with new traditions or "fly by the seat of your pants" plans being made. We will now celebrate a little here, and a little there. As long as we get to see everyone and enjoy the spirit of the holidays together at some point in time, it's all good.
Despite the holidays, being a farmer means chores must still be done everyday, critters fed, water bowls and tanks filled, hay pitched. It's just part of life on a farm. With chores done, my mom and I headed out Christmas Eve to celebrate with my brother, oldest nephew and his baby boy....we had packages wrapped, games packed, and even stopped by Bob Evans and picked up a meal that I had pre ordered online. Had never done anything like that before, but wow...I recommend it, easy and delicious.
On the way in to St. Louis we commented how packed Walmart and some of the other stores were. We were glad we were not in that mess, but my mom mentioned we probably did need to pick up dog food. We decided to do it on our way home, hoping they would be less crowded. So we made it to my brothers and had a wonderful time. Amazing how much fun and excitement having a little one around brings to a get together. I am looking forward to lots of fun times ahead with my great nephew. I'm sure there will be lots of dirt, animals, and outdoor adventures in our future.
After a day of fun, my mom and I headed home. Taking our time going through the subdivision to enjoy the lights and decorations. Not even thinking about anything being closed we hopped on the highway and headed home, planning on stopping at the Walmart closes to home for dog food. By then we also decided we had enjoyed the ham so much from Bob Evans, we would also grab a small ham and a couple fixings to go with it so we could have a nice meal at home Christmas Day.
So with tomorrow's meal already on our minds and a need for dog food, imagine our surprise to find Walmart closed at 9:30 pm! The lights outside were off, but the inside was lit up. It looked like a ghost town with three cars in the whole lot. A guy stood out front on of the doors having a cigarette. We drove up to him, rolled down the window and in amazement said, "Wow, You guys are closed!" and he happily said, "Yes, For Christmas." We were happy to see that and wished each other a Merry Christmas. So as we drove across the empty parking lot we were trying to decide if we should head back towards St. Louis to see if something in a bigger town would be open, but then we thought what if Walmart had closed all their stores so employees could spend time with their families! Still in shock we pulled to a stop light where we could see the Walgreens sign was a glow. I don't know that I've ever seen a Walgreens that busy. Apparently we were not the only ill prepared folks out on Christmas Eve. A valuable lesson was learned as I paid half the price of a large bag of food on a bag one-fourth the size. Next year...shop before the holidays!
It appears I have adjusted well to life on the farm. Once you get away from the hustle and bustle of the city a couple years, you loose track of how fast things really do move. Since making the career switch of blue collar worker to artists, life has taken on a new pace. It's just as busy and I work just as hard, but in a different way....and I like it. I no longer spend time in a mall shopping for Christmas presents, instead I make them or I shop at Art Shows, Galleries, Craft Fairs, and Mom & Pop Shops through out the year....stashing goodies away until needed.
I no longer have to battle the day to day traffic or punch a time clock. I count myself very fortunate to be living a dream. I look forward to what 2016 has in store. My hope is that everyone has enjoyed the holidays and are as excited about the new year as I am. Times change, new traditions are born, we adapt, move forward, make the best of what you have been given or do all that you can to change it. Here's to a new day.
Sometimes when I think about it, I'm amazed at what all goes on in 24 hours here on the farm. One thing that is guaranteed, I have never been bored a day in my life and at this rate I think I'll keep that streak going.
Last night as we were getting the house critters settled down for the night, 2 cats and 5 dogs....I didn't see Charlie G. Jefferson (one of my rescued cats). Normally he is curled up in his lounge chair with Pamela, the other cat. But he was not there. I stepped outside and called for him as it's not unusual for him to go out at night to hunt, however the temp was dropping and they were calling for rain, so I wanted him in for the night. After calling him a few times and he was a no show, I came back inside and checked the closets and basement....still no Charlie. After twenty minutes or so I decided to put on my coat and boots and head out to check a live trap I had set for a sneaky Raccoon or Opossum that has been terrorizing my chickens.
Of course I'm in my pajama's and I don't have a flashlight so I'm headed out into the dark using my iPhone for light. I always wonder what creature is hiding in the shadows watching me and I hope I do not look tasty to them. So far, so good. With the chilly wind blowing and I trying to negotiate an uneven landscape in the dark, I could see the trap door had been tripped. There sat Charlie, curled up and looking rather chilled. When he realized it was me, he let out a big ole yowl and ran like the wind when I opened the trap. He was sitting at the door waiting to get in by the time I made it back to the house. Hopefully he will stay out of the trap now, but to be safe I will bait it with marshmallows for now on.
Tonight, once again Charlie was not in his lounge chair, but I didn't have far to go this time. Charlie was snug as a bug in a rug, curled up underneath the Christmas tree. It's hard to believe a year ago he was a stray cat in danger of being euthanized at the shelter. He has been a true gift to our family and we are happy to have Charlie celebrate his first Christmas here on the farm. He seems pretty comfy and content with his new life.
When I went to bed last night I was happy both the cats where in the house, especially after thunderstorms moved in overnight. I don't know how much rain we got, but it was enough to leave mini ponds around the yard and fields, while streams of water made their way down the road and through the pastures. I knew chores would take me longer today as I had a gentleman coming out to pick up three of my heifer calves. I wasn't sure with all the rain and mud if he would still show up, so I was moving slow in the mud and in the middle of setting things up to sort cattle when he arrived. Despite not having any equipment or a working cattle dog, which would make the job much easier....it does get done just by being quiet and moving slowly. Of course there's always a bit of comedy involved. All the while, the sky was drawing darker and it started to sprinkle as I sent the farmer on his way after about an hour and half of getting everybody moved and sorted.
Just to add a little extra spice to the day my cow Macy calved! I'm excited that the weather is a little warmer but not about the rain. I'm thankful we are not having typical December weather but it's still chilly enough I felt the need to dry the new calf off with my jacket. With rain in the forecast I decided to carry the calf out of the pasture up to a lean to for shelter. Once I got the calf settled I then had to try convince Macy to come claim her calf. I spent the next couple hours hauling hay to the new mom, moving fences, and such. By the time I finished my morning chores I was able to come in and sit down to breakfast just after 2:00 in the afternoon.
It was a busy day and I didn't necessarily get everything done that I had initially planned, but that is how life goes. I'm happy Macy and her calf are doing well. I usually have a naming contest for my new babies. Winner will get a 12 pack of my photography note cards. Only catch, the name needs to start with a M since his mom's name is Macy, or it can start with an Mc like his dad, McReid. You can comment here. A winner will be picked Monday evening. Good luck.
24 hours....who knows what can happen in that amount of time? On the farm it can be very unpredictable but we all know....at least I'm not bored.
Hilary and Lori Lynn share a little time at the breakfast bar with David Cicero. They chatted about how nice the weather has been, but all agreed they would hang onto their winter coats for now.
Two of my roosters take patrol duty very seriously as they guard against trespassers. All bugs shall be immediately consumed and should you throw some stale popcorn out...they will take care of that too!
I believe they are also fond of our Christmas window decorations, especially the little red bird.
Ranger is delighted by the mud puddles left behind by the other days rain. He never leaves the yard, so he has never swam in the pond. Despite the fact that the pond is a mere 150 foot away, Ranger likes his self claimed territory and proudly boast....There's no place like home.
I am a Mid-Missouri farmer with a passion for photography. My critters often serve as my inspiration for fun, light hearted photos that I utilize for a line of note cards and wall art. I also enjoy on location photo shoots, specializing in pets, farm animals and rural settings. www.kimcarrphotography.com