Saturday, July 31, 2010


Big John had the honor and priveledge to participate in the local Hunts for Heroes fishing trip this weekend.

This is an opportunity for local fishermen to take wounded soldiers out for a couple of days of fun on the coast, casting for anything from big reds to triple tail. This is our first time to be involved with this organization, but as we traveled through Texas this past week, we noticed similar programs in many towns - from hunting trips to fishing trips - all of them just a way to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to the men and women who make such tremendous sacrifices so that we can enjoy the many freedoms of this great nation.

The soldiers were escorted through town by a motorcycle brigade, met with flag-waving citizens lining the streets. They gathered at Serendipity Resort in Palacios, where they were treated to refreshments and given the key to the city.

Big John's fishing partner-in-crime, Douglas, was his first mate. Together, they know the good spots to fish!

Friday evening's trip included about 3 hours of fishing with three soldiers. Big John said they didn't catch a thing, but the men had a blast just being out on the water!

Saturday was a full day on the water. The fishing was better, with the soldiers bringing in redfish and speckled trout.

Even Big John got in on the catch - although this "big one" probably didn't invoke a lot of confidence!

This was a wonderful opportunity to give back to those who give so much for our country. Big John and Douglas had a great time - and are already signed up for next year!



"Peep, peep, peep!"

What a wonderful Welcome Home song to greet us as we arrived! Before the Jeep even stopped rolling, I was out checking on the animals. I headed for the chicken coop and heard the cutest little sound! Broody had been ousted from her nest, but a big (mean) Barred Plymouth Rock was in her place. I wrangled her out of the box to find two baby chicks huddled in the corner and two more caught up under her wings! Out of the ten eggs we set, two had been busted earlier, 3 chicks had hatched - or almost hatched - but didn't survive, and 4 hatched perfectly. We've got one egg left. Unfortunately, Broody did her job and now wants nothing to do with eggs. The Barred Rock is not as dedicated, so this egg isn't staying as warm as it should. I don't have high hopes for a hatch on it but we'll give it a couple more days.

We were able to put the brood pen to good use! Those baby chicks have found a home in the galvanized trough we call a brooder. A mad dash to the feed store (the chicks came a couple of days before expected!) netted us some shavings and chick starter. Since we're raising chicks anyway, I'm on the verge of ordering some Ameracaunas. Four or fourteen - what's the difference!

Welcome to the world, little chickens!


We've made it home from our annual trip to Arkansas. It's sure good to be home!

Big John's dad, brother and his family live in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, on the White River. If you're any kind of fisherman (and I'm NOT) then you just started drooling when you read "White River." It is home to some of the best trout fishing in the country. We try to make the trip every chance we get - and for a schoolteacher, that means summertime. As a straight shot, it's a good 12-hour drive. Fortunately my sister gives up a week of her life to come down and animal-sit, allowing us to travel worry-free.

For the past two years, we've made a little detour - through Vernon, Texas. This gives us a wonderful chance to see Su and Dyke.

We sure do miss them here - Dyke and Big John were big fishing buddies, while Su and I were partner teachers, and junkers, and crafters, and ... It was a match made in heaven! Vernon is at least 8 hours away, so we can only make that trip in the summer, too. But it's worth the drive!

If you'll recall, Daisy was one of Su and Dyke's puppies from last summer, so we had a chance to see Daisy's family - mom: Penny, sister: Jess, and loveable brother: Tuff. If Su hadn't been there to say NO, Tuff might have come home with us. He's a big ol' bear - and not much of a hunting dog, according to Dyke. He sure is good at digging holes, though!

That's Penny on the left, Jess in the front, and Tuff in the back. Daisy looks just like them!

For some unknown reason, the camera stayed in the back of the Jeep 95% of the trip. I'm usually great about taking pictures, but this whole trip felt a little rushed and I just didn't think about it - until we'd zoomed past the gorgeous old courthouse or the Red River or the amazing mountain. Because of an "unexpected" route this year, we saw sights I'd never seen before. But none of that is captured on film. I did finally take one picture of the Ozarks when we stopped for gas.

Not very scenic.

It seems that every return trip from the Ozarks means we're packed to the gills with "stuff" to bring home. It doesn't matter what vehicle we take up there, it will be full when we get home. This year's haul included a bobcat that Big John's brother killed. Kevin's wife isn't interested in storing "Bobby," so he's been relocated to South Texas! He's going to have a fantastic home above the sailfish, with the promise to return to Arkansas if he's ever wanted!

We were quite a sight traveling down the highways and byways with this load!

And yes, those are 3 crates of Arkansas peaches - second only to Texas Hill Country peaches! We missed peach season here (busy building stuff!) and had planned to bring back plenty of peaches from Arkansas to put up for the year. Looks like I'll be busy for a couple of days! Yum!

It was a wonderful trip - beautiful sights and awesome times with friends and family - but like Dorothy says, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home." I clicked my ruby red Yellowbox flip flops together 3 times, and closed my eyes. Just like that, we're back at the ranch!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Do any of you remember that TV show, "Petticoat Junction" from the '60s? That's the first thing that pops into my mind when I see our outdoor shower!

My friend Smiley (aka: Wendy) has had an outdoor shower at her house for quite some time. She goes out for a run in the mornings, then rinses off outside when she's done. So cool and refreshing - it sounded like just what we needed here at the ranch. With all the gardening and construction, we've have some mighty filthy days lately. Big John was in agreement, so we set out to build ourselves an outdoor shower!

Initially, Big John just ran a pipe off the water faucet on the end of the house, screwed a shower head on it, and we were done. It served the purpose, but it wasn't very pretty. The wheels began to turn, and before you knew it, we'd come up with some improvements to the outdoor shower.

It began with pouring a little slab (ANOTHER little slab) and setting Mexican beach stones in it. I had found some pebbled floor tile, made for shower floors, that would have cost over $100. This was Big John's $20 solution - and it's MUCH prettier!

Next we set the four corner posts (more mixing of concrete - ugh),

ran the cross pieces and screwed on the pickets.

A door was built and installed

and viola! We have an outdoor shower! Future plans include a pull-chain (think: haz-mat shower) so that you can get a blast of water when you need it. I'm told that might enable me to have a warmer outdoor shower experience - as long as I'm the first one in!!


We've now officially gone from "Poultry Palace" to "Chicken Mansion" to "Fowl Complex." This thing is huge!

That was then:

This is now:

Tuesday's fishing expedition was cancelled, so we took that opportunity to whip out a goose pen (and when I say "we," I mostly mean Big John). The posts had set a couple of days before, so we ran the cross boards and rafters,

 screwed down the tin roof (in a pretty strong South wind - tricky),

and stretched the wire.

That's all there was to it! Except that the nail gun picked this moment to quit working. Nailing into treated lumber, in the 100 degree heat, with 100% humidity is second on the Fun-O-Meter only to pouring concrete. But we're done (that is really never true around here, but it makes Big John feel better to hear me say it!), save for the door. We stretched wire over the door opening for now, as we (Big John) won't have time for any more construction until we return from Arkansas. I'm going to surprise him this weekend by building the door myself!! Stay tuned for that adventure!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


... or something like that!

With the hens and Sammy in their new digs, Walker and Tribett were feeling pretty left out. And if you've ever had geese, you know they can get vocal. At least that's what I think they were saying. So Big John and I set out to "enhance" their living quarters. What had started a couple of years ago as an enclosed run for chicks quickly became "the goose pen" once Walker and Tribett were big enough to need a permanent night-time enclosure. It was fine - a little saggy in the middle, but they didn't really seem to mind.

As I've gotten older (in the past two years), it's become harder to crawl through the teeny tiny, itsy bitsy door that separates the hen house from the goose pen.

Occasionally I would squirm my way through there only to forget that the enclosure was only 3 feet tall. I'm alot taller than that. (I swear I passed out for a couple of minutes one time from banging my head on a "rafter." Big John was at the barn, though, so my theatrics were wasted. No one came to check on me and I'd fallen in some "stuff" so I got up and pouted for a while. Sometimes a girl needs to be fussed over.)

We started today with demo. We tore out all the wire and boards, then pulled out all the cedar fence posts that we'd used in the initial construction.

Deeper holes were dug by hand (precision work!), posts were set, and MORE concrete was poured. I am REALLY getting tired of pouring concrete this summer. That was it for the first day. The posts will set up overnight, and we'll start framing tomorrow. The plan is to build the goose pen with the same profile as the coop. It will even have it's own door - for tall people! No more concussions! This will be a great daycare for chicks that are big enough to need to run around. Let's hope Walker and Tribett approve!


We've had a broody hen for quite a while now. We call her "Broody" - original, I know, but she likes it!

The cochins have each gone broody before, but it didn't last long. This one, a big, beautiful Black Langshan, really has the drive. I tried contacting some people to get Ameracauna or Maran eggs - so I could have some more blue or chocolate egg layers - but no one called me back. I decided we'd set her with some of our own eggs right before we left for Arkansas, so we'd be sure to be home by the time they hatched.

But then Jody called (The Egg Lady, I call her) and wondered if I wanted some Banty eggs. I know, it's really Bantam. But here in the country, we call 'em Banties. I figured we'd give it a go. It breaks Broody's heart every evening when I gather all the eggs she's sat on all day long. Why not give her some joy? So we set her with 10 pretty little Banty eggs.

Cute as can be, and Broody's a happy hen! She hasn't moved off that nest very much in the last two days. Good momma!

If all goes well, we should have some chicks start hatching on July 30! Why buy an incubator when the hen's free? I hope they're all pullets ...

Saturday, July 10, 2010


My love of all things oil rubbed bronze ("ORB," as the professionals call it) has spilled over into the kitchen. For no good reason at all, we replaced the old white cast iron sink with chrome faucet:

with this gorgeous chocolate brown composite granite sink and amazingly beautiful farm-style oil rubbed bronze faucet:

(The hole in the left corner is for a drinking water spigot that is on order - in ORB, of course!) I'm new to these composite granite sinks - always been a cast iron girl - but a friend of mine has had one for 10 years and loves it! My ultimate dream sink would be an apron front (farm sink), but this is a close second.

Hope you like it!

Friday, July 9, 2010


She's in! After a ('nother) quick trip to town for supplies, we made it home in time for the electricity to go out! We've had another 3 inches of rain - for a total of 1 foot in the last 7 days - so that may have had something to do with the outage. Or a cloud passed overhead. It doesn't take much out here.

We set to work anyway to get the new sink/table installed. It wasn't as easy as Big John made it look, but for the first time in the history of Big John and plumbing, there were NO leaks! NONE! That never happens! Isn't this "da bomb!"

Oh, and we brought home this little gem, too! No sink under all that junk - just a table. This will go behind the chicken coop where Big John has his fish/hog/deer/gator cleaning station. Pretty nifty!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


It's not what you think. You've got to watch them!

I tried to add a couple of "movies" of Belle and Daisy huntin' gophers here on the blog. But because of the template I use (or more likely, my non-knowledge of all things tech) they were messing up all the posts under them.

So Big John suggested I put them on YouTube! Hmph. I'm still a Facebook holdout. I don't completely trust that internet thingamajiggy. (Please stop laughing if you know how much I ebay.) But I decided to give it a whirl. If it doesn't work, don't be at all surprised.

I've posted two short (minute or less) clips at and at

Check them out. Let me know if I did it right or if I should just hang it up and be old!

***DISCLAIMER: No gophers were harmed in the making of these videos. However, several holes were dug and a couple clumps of grass met their end. Notice how Belle is making sure she's NOT THE DIGGER! Better to let Daisy take the fall for that!


Okay, on May 9th I posted my mental summer to-do list. What was I thinking???? Like I had a summer off or something? Come on.

I was so proud of myself this morning. While Sleeping Beauty slept the day away (Big John's working nights and it drives me nuts) I set out to get SOMETHING on that damned list done. I knew I had deliveries and errands after lunch, so the only 1/2 day job I could think of was to clean out the garage.

Now I AM Miss Organization (I should have a crown and sash.) No really. Ask anyone who knows me. My compulsive need for order and organization very often gets in the way of getting the important things done - grading papers, doing taxes, being creative. I thrive on the expression "a place for everything and everything in its place." Really, the world would be better off if everyone would just put stuff back where it belongs ...

Anyway, back to the garage. This is on Big John's side. His Jeep is almost always parked in front of this disgusting, embarrassing mess.

But I know it's there. Every minute of every day of my life, I KNOW it's there. And it eats at me. So today was THE DAY.

I had "helpers." Lucky me.

They were ALMOST as much help as Sleeping Beauty.

And in the blink of an eye (4 hours and a bucket of sweat later), the job was complete!

Now THAT'S  a garage. Organized, orderly, free of mouse poop and dog hair (for the next 10 minutes or so). "A place for everything and EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE." Words to live by.

Oh, and guess what! I went back to mark "clean the garage" off the Summer To-Do List. IT WASN'T EVEN ON THERE.

The only thing I love more than getting something done is marking it off a list. Find the joy, Susie, find the joy.

***(And YES, Big John, I DID get rid of alot of that paint. So there.)


My good friend Wendy, aka: smilingthruitall, made a wonderful comment about my Top 10 Reasons to Live in South Texas in the Summer.

Her #1: "That's where the people you love most in the world live."

Now that's a perfect #1! Sure does make the heat, humidity, hurricanes, and MOSQUITOS (they've hatched - in a big way) worth it!

Thank you Smiley for keepin' it real! And as your momma says, "FIND THE JOY!" (My joy is between the forks of the Carancahua River with a big can of OFF!)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


This will be the final (ha!) accoutrement to the chicken coop. It hit me that I needed a set of cabinets in there - a place to keep all my poultry supplies. (Note to self: get some poultry supplies.) But I didn't need just any old cabinets. I needed some vintage metal cabinets. Ideas come to me like that - in specifics that usually include old, vintage, family, historic - and a shopping trip/scavenger hunt. Drives Big John crazy!

Given my penchant for old things with family history, I'd had my eye on two sets of such metal cabinets in the barn - been there since I was little. Big John has been keeping oil and grease in those cabinets, so they needed some work - lots of degreaser and scrubbing. I decided one cabinet would probably do. I mean, how many poultry supplies can one girl have?

Here's the before:

Here's the during:

Does it really look any better????

I had planned to paint them barn red, but it looks like one of the more recent colors is this pretty deep blue. I might go with that - keeping the history!

And here's the after (barn red won out over that pretty blue):

Alright, we're (probably) done with the coop! Reno complete - for now!

***UPDATE: I had plenty of existing poultry supplies to fill up this cool cabinet - no shopping trip to Tractor Supply. Darn!