Monday, August 17, 2009


We lost our last turkey this morning to a coyote. In loving tribute to my sweet pets, here is their story:

It was March 27, 2008. It would have been my father's 74th birthday, but it was Day One of my life as a non-employee of Wyeth. I had been laid off the day before and was devastated. I had been taken out to lunch and we made a stop at the feed store. Doesn't everyone? Springtime means baby chicks ... and ducks ... and geese ... and TURKEYS! I sure did want something to care for and take my mind off of my unemployment. Big John was working in the Valley for a couple of weeks, and I KNEW he would say no to any baby poulty ... but maybe not to turkeys! Sure enough, when I brought it up that night on the phone, he agreed. I think he was feeling pretty bad for me - Lord knows, I was feeling sorry enough for myself.

The very next day, I hightailed it back to the feed store and came home with 7 baby turkeys. They're adorable as babies - about as big as a 4 week old chick, but these were black with white specks on them.

Here's a picture of them at about 2 months old.

I was at home with the turkeys - and no job - for about 2 weeks. We bonded! They started out in a small oval galvanized trough in the extra bedroom in the house so that I could regulate the temperature and keep them out of the range of cats and coons. Once it warmed up enough outside, their trough moved into the garage with a chicken wire cage over it - Pancho proof! In the meantime, I was able to talk my way into some baby chicks. It had been a few years since I'd had hens, and I sure did miss seeing them around the yard. (No matter what image Big John tries to portray, he's a softie at heart!)

Six turkeys (we lost Sweet Pea early on - he/she just got sick) and ten chicks meant we needed a chicken coop - and FAST! Big John never does anything halfway. This coop is not only beautiful, but it's built to last! If you're looking for me after the next hurricane, I just might have moved all the animals and me into the hen house! We set the posts in concrete, put up the siding, added chicken wire for circulation, and gave them a little run, too. I painted it to match the house, and the Poultry Palace was complete!

(That green stuff on the ground is GRASS. Seems that it used to grow here - back when it rained.)

Everything went wonderfully. The turkeys grew - much too large for their own good, I've come to find out - and the chickens grew. Everyone got along famously. Out of the 6 turkeys, we had 3 pair - 3 males and 3 females. They even hung out in pairs! We weren't sure what we had for quite a while - until we found turkey eggs! They laid beautiful big eggs - offwhite with tan speckles. They were pretty tasty, too. It became a race between Tick and me to see who could find them first! Her coat was pretty shiny there for a while!
Now I might be partial, but I had outside proof that these were some beautiful turkeys! We had seen some wild turkeys around, and one morning they decided to come in for a closer look! Our turkeys were a little smaller - and definitely less savy in turkey fighting. We got some cool pictures of the alpha males (do they have those in turkeys?) fanning out across the yard fence from each other. The whole group went out to show support! We only wished we could set some music to these pics - "They're ready to RUMBLE!!"

Can't you just hear it? The theme to "West Side Story" or "Grease?" Fingers snappin' and hips a-swayin'! I'll bet there was some trash talkin' going on here!

And if that weren't cool enough, Big John called me one day to let me know he'd "caught" a wild gobbler! It seems that this gobbler wandered into the yard and found his way into the chicken coop. Big John cornered him in the chicken run and shut the little gate, hoping to keep him long enough for me to get home and see for myself.

Unfortunately, captivity was not what this turkey had in mind, so Big John set him loose before he killed himself trying to get out. Unlike our big fat turkeys, this bird FLEW up into the top of an oak tree across the creek - a very safe distance away from us!

Fall was upon us, and I'd had a great idea for Christmas cards. Most of you reading this know the outcome - you got one in the mail! I headed to Hobby Lobby to find some "props" and had a dress rehearsal to see what would look the best. We had so much fun trying on the costumes! I finally settled on Santa hats and the slogan, "Hope you survive the holidays!" Get it? And NO, IT WASN'T PHOTO SHOPPED! No turkeys were harmed in the making of these Christmas cards!

Once the girls started laying, they began to try to find better hiding spots for their nests. It became a daily evening chore to track them through the pasture and herd them back home. Ever hear of "herding cats?" It's kind-of like that! I tired my hardest, but there were occasions that I couldn't find a turkey and she spent the night out on her nest. It never failed, though, that she'd be waiting for me by the chicken coop door early the next morning. Until the time that it did fail. I found feathers from the first massacre. It was pretty awful. And then her mate was next. Again, more feathers by the road.

We were down to four at this point, 2 males and 2 females. About the time the hens started laying, the jakes began to grow their beards. We had one that was about 2 inches long and curled up at the bottom. The other jake had a longer straight beard. We named him George (Strait) and his mate was Norma. They were by far the most docile of the bunch. If you sat out in the yard, both of them would come right up to you and get in your lap. That's not as easy or comfortable as it sounds, as they each weighed 15 to 20 pounds! George and Norma turned out to be the two on the Christmas card.

As time went on, we lost another female - to the coyotes, I'm sure. She had a nest of 16 eggs by the time I found it out in the pasture behind the house. It was like pulling teeth to get her to leave it and come to the coop at night. Turkeys can get down low in the brush and are very camoflauged. She escaped me one night, and we never saw her again.

The next loss was the worst. George, by far everyone's favorite, was run over by one of the horses. Not only are the turkeys too fat to fly, they're also too fat to move quickly. If you've seen turkeys in the wild, you know they can run like the wind. And when they can't outrun you, they just fly away. Well, George could do neither, and I witnessed the awful incident. He had a compound fracture of his ankle joint, and almost bled out in my arms while Big John was racing home. He had to be put down, as there was nothing we could do to save him. He was sorely missed by all.

The last two girls hung pretty close to the house - and to each other for a few weeks. Then the urge to nest hit again, and one disappeared in a matter of minutes. They were both on the patio one evening, and when I went out to put them up for the night a couple of hours later, one was gone.

So we were down to Lucky. She finally had a name - turns out there aren't really any identifying marks on turkeys. We gave her the name in hopes that it would be a good luck charm. Instead, it turned out to be a bad omen. Lucky was very lonely, as the only one of her species left on the farm. She spent a lot of time on the patio and became less affectionate as time went on. She'd have her moments of crawling up underneath you to be petted, but would just as quickly start pecking you for no apparent reason. She loved eating cherry tomatoes from the garden, and got along famously with my sister last month when she came to watch the animals during our trip to Arkansas. It was hard to blame Lucky for her moodiness. I'm sure she was wondering what we'd done to her clan and when her time would be up. In the last couple of weeks she'd started wandering farther out in the trap toward the pasture. This morning as I was getting ready to go to school, I just happened to look out the window at the wrong moment. I saw Lucky being carried away by a coyote, followed by the rest of the pack. There had to be 5 or 6 of them. My first instinct was to go after them (much to my Trooper-husband's dismay, it was not to grab the shotgun by my bedside table.) I ran out as far as I could, but was in no danger of catching them. At that point, I knew I couldn't save Lucky, so I went back in and got the 12 guage. I got a shot off in their direction, but was no where near close enough to hit anything. The shot scared them off for the time being. I'm sure they'll be back tonight. The drought is so bad that they are hunting CLOSE to the house in broad daylight. Big John is planning a couple of nights of varmint huntin' this week. There will be a few less coyotes in Jackson County by week's end.

So that's the story of my pet turkeys. They were wonderfully sweet animals with distinct personalities. Who knew? I just hope they enjoyed their time on the ranch as much as we enjoyed having them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


It rained on Saturday - for 1 minute and 23 seconds (I timed it.) Needless to say, it wasn't helpful. Due to a badly planned summer spraying (not our doing), even the saltgrass is dead. There is literally nothing for the cows to eat. On the upside, farmers are baling corn stubble and selling it as fast as they can bale it. Wish I were a corn farmer this year. Please continue to pray for rain to come our way. Isn't it hurricane season? Seriously!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


And we didn't even know we were expecting!

Meet Daisy, the newest addition to the Funny Farm! Her registered name is Carancahua Creek's Stormin' Daisy, but just Daisy for short.

A couple of months ago I received an email from my best friend, Su ( Their beautiful chocolate Lab, Penny, had just had a litter of 9 black Lab puppies! As you can imagine, they were eager to start finding homes for them. Both the dam and the sire have EXCEPTIONAL bloodlines, with champion, grand champion, and master hunters on both sides. Big John had been thinking it was about time for a new puppy, as Tick is almost 10 years old. She's a wonderful dog, and he trained her well, but she's a tad overweight and is having some hip problems. I quickly and constantly squelched any talk of a new pup, as I know good and well what that means for ME. With Big John's crazy work schedule, I'm the one who does the chores 95% of time. Mind you, 95% of these animals were my idea, so I guess that's what I get!
If you've seen the post on my new bathroom you'll know why I did what I did. Big John worked his butt off and managed to make every one of my wishes come true. Who could deserve a new puppy more than him? Once he saw the email, it was all over! We made a detour through Vernon on the way to Arkansas and John got a good look at the litter. On the way home from Arkansas, we stopped back by Su and Dyke's and picked up little Daisy! She's cute as a button and has made herself very much at home in South Texas.

Tick and Daisy became fast friends, and Tick is getting more much-needed exercise trying to keep up with a puppy. Daisy has already learned "sit" and also what happens to puppies when they get Susie's chickens by the tail. Not good.

I'll bet she misses the low humidity, rain, and green grass. Hopefully one day soon we'll have rain again, too.

Monday, August 3, 2009


After 40+ years, every bathroom deserves a facelift. And after seeing what I'd been bathing in all my life, I realized that I deserved a bathroom facelift as well.

The before: These are the same fixtures that were here while I was growing up. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Or refinish it, or remodel it ... My philosophy is a little different!

The after:

Clawfoot tub salvaged from my favorite uncle's barn - refinished and painted
Antique vanity and copper sink.

The original louvered door to the hot water heater closet - 40+ years of lead paint sanded and stained. NEVER AGAIN!

Big John is a hell of a handy guy. He's proven that time and again over the last 14 years. He should have known what he was getting into with me from the very beginning when he had to completely rebuild the front porch of my farm house in Jarrell. I had put it up for sale so that we could move back home, regardless of the fact that termites had feasted on that porch for years. The expression, "hanging by a thread" comes to mind! He sure did a good job. We got it sold, moved back, bought the family home, and started changing everything! My bathroom was the last hold-out. (I'm convinced that separate bathrooms are the way to a happy marriage. Try it, you'll see what I mean!)
I know Big John needed a break from bringing all of my designs to life in the rest of the house, but it just gave me more time to dream BIG! We went all out on this one, and it's every cowgirl's dream. So here's the story of how an ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan ...

Our agreed-upon plan was to start demolition of this small space - only about 90 square feet - on the last day of school. Big John had taken off about 10 days to get the job done. Plenty of time - this ain't our first rodeo! If we waited until school was out, I wouldn't be stressed about having to look and smell presentable to the public. (But with the way 6th graders smell, especially in May, I doubt that anyone would have noticed if I weren't rosy fresh!) I came home 2 days PRIOR to the end of school to a big surprise - a gutted bathroom. Apparently Big John decided to get a jump on the project. Looking back, that was probably a real good idea. It went downhill fast.

A day later, as I was heading to Big John's bathroom to shower, he mentions, "By the way, my shower has been draining a little slow." Good to know. Not pleasant to stand in, but good to know. By that Friday night, the only functioning shower in the house was no longer draining "a little slow." It just wasn't draining. Now you might have figured by now that Big John can pretty much do it all. I say pretty much, because the month ahead would prove to me that he CAN'T do plumbing. He spent the next 3 days cussing, throwing, slamming, and hollering. And I spent the next three nights taking a water hose shower in the back yard. Boy was I pissed! (Word to the wise: if you find yourself in this situation, be sure you're the first one to the hose. The warm water runs out FAST.) Nothing Big John did was going to get that water to go down the shower drain. The last ditch effort was to pour sulfuric acid down it. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. We were immediately driven out of the house by the noxious fumes. Throughout this whole-house remodel we've inhaled our fair share of asbestos tile dust and lead paint particles, but we were no match for sulfuric acid gases. I did manage to grab my phone on the way out of the house. An ultimatium was issued: "I'm making a phone call. You decide - do I call a divorce lawyer or a plumber?" We settled on the plumber. Unfortunately by then it was 4:30 pm. I could have sworn I heard the man who answered my phone call choke back a laugh when I asked if he could send someone right away. "Nope. We MIGHT get there tomorrow." Two days and $1000 later our drains were flowing freely again! Hallelujah! That was the best money I've ever spent. But now Big John knows how to unclog a drain, so I'll probably never see a plumber again. Oh well.

With that problem solved, it was time to work on the project at hand - rebuild a bathroom from the ground up. So we did.

It all started with the tub. My favorite uncle had an old clawfoot tub in the barn for as long as I can remember. Being the antiquer/junker that I am, I've had my eye on it. No matter that it only had 3 legs. They were the most beautiful, rusted clawfeet I'd ever seen! And as a matter of fact, they seem to be the only 3 of their kind in the world! Scratch that idea of "just finding another one somewhere. They're all over the place, Big John!" No matter that it was a rusted, scratched up mess. We'll just get it refinished. No fixtures? No problem! I've seen hundreds of faucets in antique stores. I'll just grab something that will work. (Now is a good time to let you know that I'm not as good with the details when it comes to design. I'm more of a "big picture" kind of girl!)

With a full summer vacation ahead of me and optimism on my side, I set out on a mission to find the missing foot. The internet was my tool of choice, and I searched high and low, far and wide, coast to coast for this damn foot. In case you're wondering, this foot is "special" because the ball part of the ball and claw is a full ball - it's a sphere. EVERY single clawfoot I've seen is only a half-ball - only round in the front. The backs are all hollow. This was a glorious discovery on my part - at first. Surely that means that mine is older, more authentic, more valuable. Now I'm convinced it only means it's extinct. I'm still waiting to hear from a guy in New York City as to whether he's got a match or not. For now - likely forever - the tub sits on 3 beautiful feet and 1 hidden 4x4 post. You work with what you got!

The next "issue" with my beloved tub was the fact that we had no faucetry. I knew it would be a cinch to find that - people use old clawfoot tubs all the time. I went back to the Internet and started searching. The more I looked, the more confused I became. You see, it turns out there are many types of tubs, and each one seems to have different types of faucets in different configurations. I was having trouble finding anything that seemed to match up to the holes in our tub. I was sure it was just a matter of looking in the right place. By this time Big John realized that I was dead set on having THAT tub in my new bathroom. I have a penchant for old things - and most especially old things that have a link to my family. I was using this tub, come hell or high water. Poor Big John. With no luck on the Internet, we went to town and started looking at some of those high dollar design shops. Try as I might, I couldn't stop the helpful little salesgirl from telling Big John that the set-up we were looking for would run us at least $1500. (I'd pretty much figured that out through my "research," but had thought it best to keep it to myself until just the right time - you know, when it's too late to turn back. I've learned a thing or two in the last 14 years!) Once I picked Big John up off the showroom floor and put him back in the pickup, we agreed we needed to do whatever it took to get that tub in working order. Thankfully I found a place called Signature Hardware online. They're sales associates were so helpful, and we were able to get all that we needed! The only part of this tub project that went off without a hitch was the refinishing. We had a great man from town come out and work his magic. He was even able to fill in an extra hole in the tub that we decided we didn't need (still not sure what that one was for.)His work has a 5 year warranty - but he let us know he's retiring in a year, so ... That's my kind of luck!

With the tub complete and ready for installation, we turned our attention to the floor. Once the floor was done, we would be able to move the tub into the bathroom through the old doorway, which was going to be walled over. The new doorway - an old closet entrance that was taken into the bathroom - was only 24 inches wide. Once the bathroom furnishings were in, they weren't coming out! I had my heart set on hardwood floors - specifically some left from our freinds, Su and Dyke, that they gave us when they moved to Vernon. At the last minute, Big John decided we didn't have enough. On a whim, we chose tiger striped bamboo flooring! Amazing! We ordered it, waited a week for it to come in (during which time we got the walls completed), and then set out to install. Now we've put down about 15oo square feet of hardwood so far in this house reno, so we planned on getting the bathroom floor done in half a day ... with our eyes closed ... and one hand tied behind our backs. No big deal. Piece of cake. Or so we thought. We'd bought the nails, rented the nailer, put down the sub floor and moisture barrier. We were ready to lay some floor!

Can you already tell where this is going? It didn't turn out quite as we'd planned. (Hint: when laying bamboo flooring, read the instructions.) The first hit on the pneumatic floor nailer - the nail didn't go in. Okay, we were a little tired by this point. Big John just needs to hit it harder. Second (hard) hit on the pneumatic floor nailer - that nail didn't go in either. Things are getting tense. Third time's a charm. Fingers crossed. Third BANG on the pneumatic floor nailer - that nail didn't go in and we've got a problem. Big John is MAD. Something's got to be wrong with this damn rented floor nailer. He called Home Depot and decided that I need to take it back and get a different one. That's an hour trip - one way. But I'd do anything to calm Big John down - and get out of earshot of the hollering. So I packed up and headed to town, switched out nailers, and got home with renewed hope. Surely we can get that floor done before we hit the sack tonight.

Well, I could bore you with all the details, but just suffice it to say that it wasn't the nailer. The new floor nailer didn't work either. So we did a little research and found that bamboo is a VERY hard hardwood. The manufacturer recommends using 1" to 1 1/2" nails (read the directions first!). Okay, at least we knew it wasn't us or the nailer. We set out in search of shorter nails. Four days later, 2 trips to Austin (3 hours each way) we found some nails, rented another nailer, and laid that floor. It's beautiful, but I kind of wince every time I look at it. Memories!

This may not be the bathroom of your dreams - my taste is pretty specific - rustic, country, cowboy. But as my best girlfriend told me recently, "Learn how they spell LOVE." I think Big John spells it like this: Susie's Bathroom! Thanks, Big John. I love you too!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


This is Penny. She, along with Henny - a beautiful Barred Plymouth Rock - are the two who rule the roost. With 10 hens in all, 6 Barred Rocks, 1 Rhode Island Red, 2 New Hampshire Reds, and 1 Ameracauna, we all had it made. They provide enough eggs to eat and sell, keep the bug population down, and are just plain fun!

BUT ... I just couldn't leave well enough alone, so in May three teacher friends and I ordered some pullets (baby girl chickens). None of us wanted any more roosters - the hens have to live with featherless necks from all the lovin', and you never know when you're going to get a surprise in your scrambled eggs! A fertilized egg doesn't look too appetizing. Yuck! We ordered a wide variety of 35 pullets, all different breeds. I ended up with 14 and am now down to 12. And I DIDN'T end up with all girls, either! How do you sex a baby chick? I sure as heck don't know, and it must not be fool-proof. We've come up with the prettiest little rooster you've ever seen!
What's wrong with this picture? Hen on the left, rooster on the right!
I just wonder if he'll make the cut - or make the soup pot? Only time will tell!
I can't wait to get back to school and see if anyone else got a "rooster surprise" in their order!

This little hen is a Blue Cochin, one of two of that breed that I got. They are both just puff balls of feathers! So pretty!

One of two Spangled Russian Orloffs, this pullet has very pronounced ear muffs on each side of her head.

On the left is the other Blue Cochin, but this one is actually almost white. You can't really see her, but on the far right, lying down, is the Ameracauna. She will lay blue-green eggs, just like Elvis - the Ameracauna we already have. They're sooooo cool! Green eggs and ham, anyone?

Meet Elvis, our mature Ameracauna. She's the one responsible for the beautiful blue-green egg above. She was named because of her striking resemblance to the one and only Elvis Presley during his mutton chop sideburn days. Do you see it???


What a wonderful day to start my blog! It's our 14th wedding anniversary! It feels like so much longer than that - but in a very good way. It seems that we've been married forever! My "soul mate" came into my life right before it all went crazy. There have been so many traumatic, life-changing events in the past 14 years, and I can truly say I don't know how I would have gotten through them without him.

Although Big John isn't a country boy, he has taken to this life eagerly and without looking back. Three months into the second marriage for both of us I uprooted him from his childhood home near Austin and moved back "home" - my home, the Texas Gulf Coast. Home for me is, and always has been, about 2500 acres of ranch land, cattle, horses, and a modest ranch house. We bought the house I grew up in after the unexpected death of my father, and have been making it my dream home ever since. Who knew he was so handy? We've made over every inch of the house ourselves, and I'm almost ready to admit I'm a lifetime remodeler. This is one project that may never be finished! Let's hope Big John doesn't read this blog!

I have to say the journey hasn't all been about me. What better place for a fisherman to live than on the coast? Four boats later, I still hate fishing, but can enjoy trips down the river behind the house in our little 15' aluminum rig that was a wonderful gift from my father-in-law! And Big John is the proud owner of a sorrel gelding, Ranger, who is a pretty good cow horse and becoming an ok drill team horse. They are learning to get along, communicate, and enjoy the ride. I might make him a cowboy yet!

Now after 14 years, I just don't get that worked up over cards and presents. I'm dead set against $50 flowers - just pick some up at the grocery store. As long as he remembers the date - and he hasn't forgotten YET - then we're good. We just returned from a trip to visit his family in Arkansas, and I made it my mission to stop and shop at every antique/junk/thrift/pawn shop on the way. We're firm beleivers in supporting the economy (our CPA said, "You're consumers."), and we get what we want/need when we want/need it. Two good jobs and no little kids at home allows us to do that, I guess. So we made a PROMISE not to buy each other anything for our anniversary. A PROMISE, mind you. We were taking the lawnmower in to get it worked on, in hopes that would make it rain, and stopped at a gun store so I could sign up for my concealed handgun class. Well, we walked out with a new back-up weapon for Big John. Happy Anniversay! The next stop was the resale shop to see if I had any money to pick up. Somehow I left there with a beeeautifullll turquoise squash blossom necklace. Happy Anniversay! For sure NEXT MONTH we're going to start saving ... for the 20' aluminum gooseneck stock trailer, the 95 hp tractor with batwing shredder, the new wood shop/craft room, the stud fee for my bay roan mare, 3 days x 2 people and horses to attend Clinton Anderson, and the list goes on and on and on!

So I hope y'all have a wonderful Sunday. I'm going to finish painting a dresser for a friend, play with the new lab puppy, work Roxy in the round pen, pet on the new hens, and maybe do some crafting! That's my perfect way of celebrating 14 years of marriage! Big John is sleeping - working nights shortens the daylight we have together, but I did beat him to the anniversary wishes - that's the game we play every year. Who can say it first? I taped a "Happy Anniversary" note to the door! I was really being selfish - I didn't want to have to wake up at 3 am and say it! Especially since a late night arrest put him home at 4:30 this morning.

Enjoy your day and send some rain our way. We'd sure appreciate it! Happy Anniversary Big John!