Saturday, November 10, 2012

A November gift

Today was a gift.

I suppose that every day is a present that God gives us, but he gift-wrapped this one even more special than normal.  If this mid-November Saturday had been gray and rainy no one would be surprised.  After all, we are in the waning days of fall, winter is looming on the next calendar page.

But today is one I dream of all year.  Perfectly sunny, warm, and all in tints of yellow.  

I walked around the yard soaking up the sounds and views around me.  The slope to the boat landing leads to the back waters of the Alabama River.  Much of the year it is muddy, but today the water came up to the bottom of the landing.  It is hard to tell, but the shiny place at the bottom of the picture is the river.

The birds and squirrels accepted today's gift with a playful attitude.  They sang more, chattered to each other, played in the big oak.

I've always heard that robins signal the coming of spring, but that would be if you live in more northern climates.  Our yard was full of robins today. 

As I roamed around I found my way to the top of the hill in our yard.  We share a driveway with Daryl's parents.  This is where the drive splits, theirs to left, ours to the right.

At the back of our hill is a small burial plot.  A few years ago when Jackie's cat, Scarlett, died I buried her at the base of a tree.  It was just me and her on a rainy day I'll never forget.  I placed a small piece of flagstone on top of her grave as a marker.

When Shiloh died we buried her next to Scarlett.  They would never have been this close to each other in life :)   Scarlett's stone stayed flat for years, but Daryl stood the stones up and I like it that way.

One day I'd like to put a place to sit and reflect and enjoy the beauty on top of our hill.  And when I am gone and cremated I want my ashes scattered or buried there.  Not because I want to be buried next to my dog, but because I can't think of a better resting place for the earthly me.  

The eternal me will already have gone on to endless days just like this one.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nut farm

This week I was using our lawn mower to clean up the yard.  Kind of a once a month weed cutting and leaf mulching chore.  For the first time in the ten years we have lived in this house I was struck by how many nuts we grow around here.  

I have mentioned the black walnuts several times.  They are green when they fall from the tree and the ones in the picture are just a little smaller than a baseball.  After they lay on the ground for a few days, they begin to turn black and you can see that on the one on the right.  The black part eventually falls off and leaves a hard shell with a walnut inside.

We also have several hickory trees.  The outer shell of the hickory nut is very hard, thick, and just like a round wooden box.  It is in segments and falls off leaving the softer shell with the nut inside.  This is a favorite of the squirrels and we can hear the hard shells falling from the trees all day long.

The pecan crop in our yard is pretty good this year.  In most years the worms get to the pecans before we can pick them up.  This year, we seem to be ahead of them.

My favorite nut in the yard is the acorn.  Most of the oak trees around here are in the woods, but we have a couple of them at the edge of where I mow.  In my very limited experience, the larger the tree, the smaller the acorn.

Here is why I like the acorns best:  they are just so cute!
I can either look at it like a beautiful, intricate creation of God,

or I can think of it as a little VeggieTales-type character wearing a funny hat knitted by his grandmother:)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I voted for Twinks

About 30 thirty years ago Daryl and I were part of the Farm Bureau Young Farmers, which at the time was an accurate description of us:  Young Farmers.  I don't remember the entire purpose of the organization, but I do know that it was an attempt to promote farming in our area.

One year we organized a beauty pageant.  I have no idea what that might have had to do with farming, unless we were attempting to recruit beautiful young women to drive tractors and ride horses.   And, while I don't remember very much about that event I do remember the name of the winner:  Twinkle Andress.

Daryl fell in love with the name Twinkle and decided that day that if he ever had a daughter her name would be Twinkle Greer.  I, on the other hand, was not so sold on that name for our daughter.  I have forgotten the story that the original Twinkle told us about her name, but we had no such story and the name didn't fit in with our other children's names.

How would it sound to say, "I'd like you to meet my children, Ben, David, and .....Twinkle."

Daryl was serious, though, and I tried to find names that would work with Twinkle.

Twinkle Ann.  Twinkle Louise.  Mary Twinkle.  I was trying.

As it happened, though, when we had our little girl, level heads prevailed and we gave our daughter two family names: Jacqueline, after my dad, Jack, and Anne, after me.

Jackie grew up knowing that her "almost" name was Twinkle.  In fact, Twinkle was one of her nicknames.  Other people heard about that and started calling her "Twinks."  Twinks was part of her email address for years and sometimes, even now, a friend at church will ask me how Twinks is doing.

It seemed a shame to have a name be such a part of our lives and never have a family member wear it.  So, when we named our cat, Twinkle was an easy choice for us all.

The original Twinkle grew up from her beauty pageant days and became a wife, mother, business owner, and....a politician.

When I saw her name on the ballot today I did the natural thing:

I voted for Twinkle!

Monday, November 5, 2012

No eggs

I have chickens for one reason: Fresh Eggs.

As a side benefit, it is fun to have them around.  They are interesting to watch, they eat my scraps, and it makes our little space feel like an old fashioned farmstead.  But, they aren't smart, they aren't pets, and they are a lot of work and expense.

So, without the eggs we just wouldn't keep them around.  Over the past couple of months their egg production has gone from a dozen a day, down to five a day, and now only two chickens are laying occasionally.  And we are feeding 25 of the little girls!

It isn't their fault, though.  They are just too old to lay eggs.  Over the years we have found that chickens are good layers for about a year and a half.  For six months after that, they do okay.  By the time they are around 3 years old, their working life is over.

If I had been paying attention, I would have added some young hens to the brood about a year ago.  I wasn't though, so here we are -- store-bought eggs in the refrigerator.  Yes, it's true.  I had to buy eggs.  In the past 15 years that has happened to me only one other time!

About three weeks ago I placed an order for 25 baby chicks.  I chose three different breeds:  two of them are good layers and don't mind the cold weather and the other breed lays the green and blue eggs.

One morning last week at about 7:00am, we got a call from the post office asking us to please come pick up our baby chicks.  When I walked inside, I could hear the little peepers.  All 25 of them came in a box that is about 12x10x5 inches.

When I first set them up in their box in the basement, they were so noisy that I could easily hear them all over the house.

As it turned out, they just weren't warm enough. I turned on their heat lamp and aimed it into the box.  They grew calmer and quieter.  Within a few minutes they were all just standing still soaking up the warmth.  As they got warm, they got sleepy.  One by one they began to close their eyes -- and lose their balance!  One would fall over and knock down the few standing next to it.  Then they would stand and start the process again.

The poor little critters were just exhausted.  Within a 48 hour period they had been hatched from an egg, put in a box with strangers, shipped from Texas to Alabama on a truck, spent the night in a post office, and then plopped down into a cardboard box.  With full tummies and a heat lamp they settled in for a nap.  When I went back down to check on them, they had all spread their little wings and laid down flat on their stomachs, heads stretched out in front.

I would find myself tiptoeing around the house, trying not to wake the sleeping babies.  I was careful not to bang any pots while I was cooking.  That lasted about a day and then I remembered --they are CHICKENS, for Pete's sake!

Do you know how long it takes a baby chick to get old enough to lay eggs?  SIX MONTHS!  Due to my mismanagement on the farm, I'll be buying my eggs for six more months!  I don't plan to let this happen again, though.  In fact, I am pretty upset with myself to be in this position!

I feel a little like Scarlett O'Hara in this clip:

"As God as my witness, they're not going to lick me.  I'm going to live through this.  And when it's all over, I'm never going to be hungry again, no nor any of my folk."


In some of Scarlett's other words, "Fiddle-dee-dee!  I'll think about that tomorrow."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

October full moon

It was the night of my favorite full moon, the one in October.

He called me on the way home from work.

"I'm bringing home a party.  Wieners, buns, marshmallows, Hershey's bars, and graham crackers."

He cut some firewood, pulled up the fire pit, a chair for him, a chair for me, and built the fire.

Then he waited for the fire to get to the perfect wiener-roasting temperature.

We made our hot dogs and smores, drank our Coke and root beer.  As the beautiful, huge moon came up, we saw it through the trees.

And we celebrated autumn.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

My lizard handler

When I found a gecko climbing the stairs last week, I had just the boy to take care of the intruder for me.

Daniel loves bugs.  Lizards, too.  And he is totally fearless about picking them up.

Even when they turn on him!