Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Just the other day (Sunday, to be exact) I started prepping Big John for the inevitable. We were in need of  new cookware. The old set - the best we could afford 15 years ago - was starting to shed it's life-time warrantied, no-shed, non-stick surface. And if I hadn't done everything in the book to void the warranty (using metal utensils, burning stuff, scrubing with sandpaper to get off the burnt stuff), I'd sure try to get a new set free.

 Now this is not the kind of news most men want to hear, especially at the holidays when ridiculous spending is at an all time high. But I figured if I started talking about it now, it wouldn't come as such a shock in June or July when I decided I'd had enough and headed to the mall.

And then this morning, as I was bemoaning the fact that my sauce pan was pitiful and wouldn't hold up to the homemade caramel recipe I was about to try ... Big John brought in this GORGEOUS set of stainless steel pots and pans. WOW!! And my birthday is still two days away!

Here's the gifter himself. My husband, my hero, my one true love, my knight in shining armor - I could go on and on and on. But you get the picture! (Big John's reading up on "how not to burn stuff." He's going to give me a tutorial!)


Sunday, December 12, 2010


Lights have been strung.

Wreaths have been hung.

The tree is up and presents are bought. The house is filled with the smells of sugar cookies, rum pecans, and chocolate-almond toffee.

I don't think I've eaten a meal in 3 days - I'm too full of dough and sugar and nuts. I may be ready for my New Year's diet by next week!

Friday, December 10, 2010


We've had a bad run in the animal department these last few days. I decided yesterday that it was time for Cloud and the three chicks to be outside on their own. Big John didn't say much when I announced my decision - I guess he knew it wasn't the best idea. The blue chick went missing yesterday afternoon - probably supper for a hawk. This morning Daisy made the mistake of eating one of the banties we hatched this summer. They've been out with the big chickens for months now, with no problems. Daisy has paid the price for her snack, and we'll have to be much more careful with her and the chickens. That's the problem with Labs...

We had to put Mischa down the week after Thanksgiving. She'd spent many days of the previous two weeks at the vet with kidney issues. We brought her home, she seemed better, then went down fast within a day.

Mischa was a rescue, of sorts. She'd been given to our vet by an owner who couldn't keep her any longer. The story of her past was a little unclear, as was her age, but no matter what, she defiinitely needed a home. And we always have room for needy animals. Misch was very much a one-man cat. She took to Big John like flies to honey - and the feeling was mutual. Many a night, I'd find them settled into the recliner watching "Cops" or "Border Patrol," Mischa gazing up at Big John's face with unashamed adoration. She'd sleep by him, sit in the chair by him at supper. They bonded, for sure. She tolerated me, but her love was for Big John.

Mischa also took a shine to Uncle Dick while he was here with us. Uncle Dick was in bed most of the time, enjoying air conditioning and satellite TV for the first time (another story for another day.) Once Mischa discovered we had a house guest, she took it upon herself to keep him company all day long. She claimed the far corner of the foot of the bed - just out of reach of Uncle Dick's toes - and made herself at home on top of his boot box. She'd stay in that one spot until we got home. I think she enjoyed another body in the house while we were off at work. Uncle Dick claimed he didn't want her in there - said he even kicked at her under the covers - but we were convinced he was trying to reach her to pet her. Didn't matter to Misch. She spent every day for months watching Uncle Dick rest. And for weeks after he died, she continued to sleep on that boot box. She missed him as much as we did.

It's always hard to remember those last moments of a beloved pet's life, when the suffering becomes greater than you or they can bear. Mischa brought many joyous moments to our lives - we hope we did the same for her. Rest easy, Sweet Mischa.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Yep, I've been waiting to use that one! Ever since we planted those darned things, the song's been running through my head. Late pumpkins and an early frost meant we had ... frost on the pumpkin! Click here to hear: Cal Smith's "Country Bumpkin" on That Good Ole Nashville Music. (Just hit your back button to come back to the blog.)

Colder weather than we anticipated meant Big John and I had to cut our Thanksgiving trip to Dallas short, race home, put Brownie's blanket on, and try to cover as much of the tomatoes as possible. We ended up with a low around 34 degrees, and a pretty heavy frost. We lost the tops of basil and tomatoes, a few bell peppers, and probably the spaghetti squash. Everything else looks ok.

We've spent today cuttin' up some firewood for the fire pit. Guess we'll be getting winter pretty soon. Tonight we'll enjoy the cool weather, cook some fresh cut pork chops on the fire pit, and enjoy a beautiful sunset - country livin' style.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Get your Thanksgiving decorations today! Last 4 days of this amazing sale - Buy 1, get the rest of the wagon-load FREE!!
Can't beat a deal like that!


I've been "workin' a deal" on some chickens, and this Saturday everything fell in place. These pretty birds now call our place HOME.

A friend and co-worker ended up housing some chickens for a young relative - I think it was one of those school projects that suddenly end up with live animals needing a home. While she loved the fresh eggs, the chicken poop left daily - hourly - on her patio proved to be more than she had bargained for. We discussed sending these chickens down the coast to live with us, but the rooster involved kept holding me back. Sambo is a very happy guy, with no one but Tribett to fight with, and we really want to keep it that way. My lack of egg production got the better of me though, and fast and furious emails ensued. In the meantime, two hens had vanished (it's never the rooster that 'goes missing'), so I figured I'd better act now while there were some layers left.

We caught them all fairly easily, and I brought them home in a pet carrier. For a couple of weeks, they'll live in the dog kennel. The dogs are more than happy to relinquish their prison to chickens. They hate being penned up and avoid it like the plague! This will give all the fowl a chance to get to know each other through the safety of a fence, and hopefully keep any of them from getting sick.

Meet Nathan, the rooster. He crows A LOT - and really, really early!

                      This is Star. It's said she has a bit of an attitude.

Boots - 'cause she has feathered legs.

And Sunny. As you can tell, she's very friendly and inquisitive.

The names came with the poultry. They happen to all be names I would choose - except for "Nathan." But it's growing on me. He's a very grand bird, but not in stature. More in attitude. My friend knows the probable fate for Nathan, and she's ok with it - as long as she doesn't hear about it. I also "know" the probable fate of Nathan, but hope springs eternal in my mind! What if Sammy and Nate become best rooster friends? Who needs chicken to have soup?

All seems well with the new birds, and I've already gotten an egg from one. At least they're earning their keep .... hint, hint, hint.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Big John was discing the other day and came up on a rabbit den. He found 2 babies, and brought them into the chicken coop - where else!!

We've since stocked up on bunny-survival gear and are trying our hand at keeping them alive long enough to turn back out. Bottle feeding hasn't gone over too well, but they seem to enjoy fresh lettuce and cabbage leaves.

Man, these little ones can kick!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Just a cute pic of Poppy with Pepper "under her wing." All is well on the farm tonight.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Just a look back at this year's hatches.

                                                     The banties: July 28

Pepper: September 29

                                        Spot, Smokey, and Boo: October 30

We have no plans for more hatches this year. It will be getting colder than I'm comfortable with, and we're running out of places to put chicks! I'm hoping these are all pullets and my egg inventory will soar one day soon!!


I had to bring in a steer to doctor his foot, and we decided to go ahead and wean a couple of heifers at the same time. They've taken to feed quite well, and don't bawl nearly as much for their mammas. The cows got over their separation anxiety pretty fast and have enjoyed putting some weight back on. This gives meaing to the saying "get off the teat!" We'll ship the steer once he gets some weight on him, but for now, he and the girls are loving life! Yum, yum!


Another month - and then some - has blown by, and my blog is lagging behind. This school year has turned out to be a very trying one, and I guess something has to slip. Better the blog than anything else!!

So many things have happened on the farm since fall arrived. It's been cold and windy - unusual - and hot and humid - the norm - off and on all month. The heat worked a number on our lettuces and many of them bolted, but we've replanted and they seem to be doing ok. Most everything that made it through the summer seems to enjoy the cooler weather. Bell peppers are growing like crazy, as are the eggplant. Tomatoes are green on the vines and the cilantro is going to town! We can see another big batch of hot sauce in our near future!! All those cold-weather vegetables you think of - cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces, spinach, radishes - are coming right along. After reading a couple of blogs from other growers nearby, I'm wondering why we don't have squash or peas left, like they do. There is so much to learn about this gardening business that it sometimes seems overwhelming. But I look back at how far we've come, and I'm amazed! Big John has revised, yet again, our watering system. We've come from above ground sprinklers to in ground - popup sprinkler heads to soaker hoses to a new system now that will carry the water along the fences to spigots spaced every so often down into soakers for each row. After we purchase a pump, this will allow us to use all that water we saved from the summer downpours. Wow!! He must think of this stuff in his sleep! If it weren't for Big John's ingenuity, I'm sure I'd still be watering this garden by hand!

In homage to Uncle Dick, you may recall we planted a pumpkin patch this year. Uncle Dick was known far and wide for his giant glorious pumpkins (among other things!) He'd give them away to those he loved, and it was so much fun for all of us. Turns out, we planted about 6 weeks too late for "the big day," but we've got orange in the field!! I've already sold several pumpkins for fall decorations, and have other orders lined up. Big John and I have thoroughly enjoyed pumpkin farming, and people seem amazed that we "grew them ourselves!" Next year, we're going all out with the pumpkins.

The most fun project of all recently has been our growing flock of baby chicks. We had the three banties hatch at the end of July, Poppy hatched Pepper at the end of September, and then Cloud, pictured below, hatched 3 little ones on October 30th. Cloud is a Blue Cochin (although she looks white) so I'm thinking that blue chick might have been one of her eggs. The babydaddy is Sambo, and all of his chicks - even the one Jody and Douglas hatched - have feathered legs. It must be a strong trait! I've spent more time than Big John needs to know just watching all the baby chicks! I'm even thinkng of starting a chicken ranch!!! HA! HA!

It's been quite a struggle trying to move around all the fowl. We're just not set up as a hatchery, but we're thinking on the run and using what we've got. The banties spend their days in the covered dog kennel. They were outside in the yard all day yesterday, but it's a little scary with all the hawks around. They would be easy pickin's for a hungry predator.

Cloud and the babies are getting the run of the brood pen, since they outnumber Poppy and Pepper, who are relegated to the pigeon cage during the day.

As soon as I get home, I'm able to lock the dogs in the garage and let Poppy and Pepper into the yard. This evening, Poppy made her way into the nesting boxes - I'm hoping she's ready to get back to business - and Pepper flew right up in beside her. We're going to leave them for the night.

I'm sure I'll be up 2 or 3 times during the evening to check on them. This chicken business is hard work!! Thankfully we have no other broody hens right now. I need all the layers I can get, as egg orders are more than I can keep up with! That's a great problem to have!!

Ranger made it back from his latest knee injury-induced stay at the Equine Hilton. I'm wondering if he's enjoying these mini-vacations to the vet - there must be a cute mare that stays up there. He was confined for several weeks, which by default meant Roxy had to be penned as well.

The only thing worse than moving chickens around is moving horses around. They've since been released and are loving the freedom to roam. Ranger is safe from any real work for a while longer, but his free-loading days should be coming to an end soon. I see a sore rear end in Big John's future!! Let's pray there are no rodeos!

As always, life is great on the farm! The cooler weather has everyone feeling their oats and loving life!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Here's a first look at Pepper - the first chick we've hatched from our own hens and Sambo. He/she hatched today - right on schedule! Poppy's got 3 more eggs under her, so we're keeping our fingers crossed for 3 more pullets!

What a great day to be born!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Well, it happened again! A new school year began and time slipped away.

 Looking at the blog I see it's been almost 2 months since I last posted. It might seem there was nothing going on, but as I think back on those months, I'm amazed at what all has occurred. Updates follow!

the garden: Big John and I spent our anniversary cleaning out the last of the summer garden.

About 20 inches of rain this summer - seriously - made weeding an exercise in futility. By August, we'd given up on almost everything south of the eggplant. Tomatoes had quit, squash was waterlogged, melons were lost in grass. It seemed the best way to get a handle on things was to start over. We left peppers and eggplant, but most everything else was put in the compost pile.

It wasn't long before we found some fall plants at our favorite places - feed stores, hardware stores, the grocery store - and we're officially in fall gardening mode! In between floods, we managed to plant some peas and winter squash. Lack of water has NOT been an issue this summer, so those have done very well!

Unfortunately, daily rains have kept us from getting everything planted. Our most desired fall delights (tomatoes, cabbage, and lettuce) are patiently waiting in their peat pots for their turn to grow.

They aren't looking too perky - they've been there for WEEKS - but it hasn't rained all weekend, and no rain is forcast for the entire week. I think their wait may finally be over and they'll get in the ground this week! Hopefully we'll have enough growing season left for those tomatoes to make.

Ranger: Ups and downs on the horse front - Ranger had made a full recovery from his May knee injury. The constant summer rains and Ranger's spoiled disposition made it really tough to keep him "stalled" for his 6 weeks of rest. I think we made it a full 5 before Big John deemed him healthy enough to be turned out. Boy was I glad! As the one home for the summer, it was my job to keep him out of mud, watered, shaded, and with enough grass to make the day. I spent many hours hauling panels here, there, and yonder to make him temporary pens. It was a pain in the butt. Once turned out, he did fine - running, bucking, acting a fool - until a couple of weeks ago. I just happened to look out the window one morning as he and Roxy flew by. He was definitely favoring that same leg. Big John took him back in, and the vet drained 70 ccs of fluid off the knee to be sent in and analzyed. He was sent home for another week of stall rest (oh, boy!) until the results were in. We got 4 inches of rain that day and the next - Ranger was stalled in mud, which was worse on his knee than just running. After a consultation with the vet, Big John decided we'd be better off to board Ranger there while he's being treated. We can't wait to get that bill!! The good news is that the injury doesn't seem to be related to the hole-in-the-knee episode from May - just a coincidence. He is being treated, responding well, and should be able to come home soon. We're trying to decide who sells a kidney to get him out of hock! He's Big John's horse, so ....

Roxy sure does miss him. She spends most of her time visiting with Brown and Gary or waiting at the gate, hoping he'll pull up in the trailer!

Daisy: Just when you think a lab puppy has outgrown the "puppy stage," they prove you wrong! Daisy spent many summer days driving me nuts. She got a little better with time, even cutting down on the amount of licking she does. (And she's a very pretty dog.)

And then things like this happen:

Big John dropped his phone in the yard one evening. Daisy found it. We wonder if she was trying to call Jess and Penny up in Vernon!

Chicks: Out of our 4 banty chicks that Broody hatched at the end of July, we've got 3 left. One developed splayed legs, so Big John had to put it down.

 A couple of days before school started, an amazing teacher friend brought an aviary she'd refurbished, complete with dove and pigeons, for our school garden. She had the cage the pigeons had been in, and was ready to dump it. I was in desperate need of a new home for the chicks. They were too big for the galvanized trough, and had found their wings. Escape/certain death was in their very near future! This cage was literally their life-saver!

We lost Broody and Stormy a couple of weeks ago, for no known reason. Stormy was dead on the north side of the house, and Broody didn't come in one evening. Blackie had gone broody about a month ago, so Big John and I decided to give our own eggs a try. She was ousted from her "mom position" by Poppy.

Now Blackie sits in vain, as we can't afford to give up any more eggs. Thanks to their deliciousness (and the salmonella outbreak) I'm constantly sold out of eggs! Blackie's/Poppy's eggs should hatch on Wednesday. I believe there are 5 left out of the 7 we set, so we'll see how it goes. Thankfully we have the pigeon cage to raise them in!

the rest of the gang: The pets are doing well. Tick wormed her way into the house again this summer, even getting a couple of new dog beds out of the deal. Daisy somehow gets to come in and join her, though she hasn't fully grasped the idea of "come in, lay down, and DON'T BUG ME." Occasionally she naps with Tick. Mostly she roams the house and eats all the cat food she can find.

Blue has the hang of napping. Maybe Daisy could take notes!

Mischa and Belle have gotten their summer haircuts - twice each. Fortunately Mischa doesn't know how she looks without hair. We try to keep her away from full length mirrors! There's a reason Persian cats have all that hair!

Walker and Tribett continue to serve no discernable purpose. Every so often (emphasis on "often") Big John and I will look at each other and say, "Never again." Geese are VERY LOUD. They're kind of like my kids at school: the louder you talk, the louder they talk! I love them - 'cause they're animals, and that's what I do - but I don't think I'll have any more geese. Lesson learned!

Poco has recovered from two snakebites this summer. He's finally regained some weight and resumed his "catwalk." We thought we'd lost him twice, and it would have been very lonely without Po. He's a survivor!

And Bootsie is still Bootsie - pretty as all get-out and skittish as hell. But she's our Boo - ready to flee at a moment's notice!

our stand of grass: if you remember, we got that acre and a half of grass planted the day the 10 inch rain started. Little did we know, this would be the wettest summer in recent memory. We sure wish we'd stretched those bales farther, but we do have one hell of a stand of grass! Roxy and Ranger have spent many hours in belly-deep grass, enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Days are filled with the joy/struggles of teaching 6th grade math. There's little time to spend outside, and soon the days will be so short I probably won't even see the farm in daylight during the week. We're still enjoying our summer harvests - pickles, hot sauce, veggies from the freezer. We haven't visited the produce section at HEB in quite a while - and you just can't beat the taste of home grown goodness! Life in the country is so good!