Posted in Animals, Family, life

Remembering Drew Miller

imageWe had to say good-bye to one of the finest dogs there was.

Our Drew Miller.

Our Drewby Dooby Doo.

He was somewhere around 11 years old. Give or take a year. He was named after a preschool classmate of Ashlynn’s. He was her second puppy after her first Drew Miller met an unfortunate end under a car tire. So when asked what to call the new puppy, he was Drew Miller too. Or Drew Miller #2. I guess technically he was Drew Miller #3 if you count the classmate.

He had the manner of a cat, not giving a flip if you pet him or not. or if you liked him or not. He was not a man’s dog. He was not a companion dog. He was a dog’s dog.  Unlike most dogs that eagerly run to greet you, if he was feeling generous he might raise his eyebrows and thump his massive tail no more than four times on the ground in greeting.  That was as good as it got. He wasn’t one to be bought or tricked or persuaded.  Not even with steak.

He was a large fellow, narrow through the hips and broad in the chest. Built like a Marine but with an awkward gait that showed something wasn’t quite right in his hips. He never allowed that to stop him on our outings and he would run as far and as fast as he could before slowing to a crawl and lagging far behind. Tongue lolling. Then when you least expected it, here he’d come blasting past with renewed energy. He was rescued from the humane society and was labeled part border collie, which couldn’t have been the farthest from the truth. Part beaver and part killing machine was more accurate.

 

He was a wood chewer and loved a good stick to chew although fetching one was out of the question. He practically ate our house down to the shingles as a puppy. “You can’t fault him for being a dog,” my dad replied after my complaints

He loved to be outdoors in any weather and often had to be dragged inside with a leash on a frigid night.

imageHe had the heart of a warrior, fighting anything that threatened his territory.  Porcupines, badgers, skunks, possums, and rats. He was proud of his kills and laid beside them until we took notice and patted him on the head. He alerted us to snakes and strangers; yet was gentle around all things important: chickens, cats, and kids. His tail was a weapon in itself if he ever whacked you alongside the thigh on his way to chase a rabbit.image

 

He was a country dog to the core. He lived a good life on many adventures with J-dub and me from the prairies of Texas to the mountains of New Mexico. He spent his golden years running, chasing, and occasionally catching out in the open range. The wind in his face. Untethered. Just being a dog.

He will be missed.

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Posted in Animals, life

The Mystery of the Clankety Clank Under My Hood

 

In the panhandle of Texas the weather is notorious for being unpredictable. Last month, in November, we had four tornadoes come through our area. And over Thanksgiving just a few days after the tornadoes, we had a major ice storm. And today, two weeks before Santa Claus takes flight, it’s predicted to be 72 degrees.  One might say Mother Nature definitely has some mood swings around these parts.

I didn’t drive my little yellow vehicle La-La during Thanksgiving break, the ice storm, or several days afterward. It sat in the nice, warm garage and took a break while I drove a different vehicle that traverses better on our roads. Icy roads that in time turn into slushy roads, that in time turn into muddy roads that go to and from our house.

Now La-La is a good vehicle. She was penned La-La last year by EK after a short stent with the dreaded Tele-Tubbies. La-La being the yellow Tele-Tubby. My vehicle is almost 15 years old, has nearly 200,000 miles on her, and has journeyed with me many miles and memories.

So when I decided to crank her over the other day, I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear a  noise. Something like a clankety clank, GRRRRRR, RAWRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTTTTHTTT. I immediately thought our cat Rocky muffin, who lives mostly in the garage,  was toast. I knew she must’ve gotten under the hood and that was the end of her. But since there wasn’t any blood and guts hitting the windshield I dismissed that idea and replaced it with the possibility of a broken belt (being an under-the-hood expert and all). I checked the clock, noted I was running late, and put her in reverse and left anyway. I’d worry about the broken belt when I found myself on the side of the road, but as long as La La rolls, then roll we shall.

The next time I cranked La-La over, the racket was gone and I didn’t notice it again until the next day when I got out of my car to check the mailbox that sits beside the highway about a mile away from the house. This time she released a long series of clack-clacks.

I arrived home and got out of the car and noticed a leather strap lying on the ground where she had been parked. I thought this had probably come from under my hood, although I’ve never seen brown leather automotive belts (being an under-the-hood expert and all).

Nevertheless, I had a mystery on my hands. The case of the clankety clank, GRRRRR, RAWRRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTHTTTTTHTT noise under the hood. When J-Dub came home, we put our sleuths hats on and popped the hood. What we discovered  wasn’t Rocky Muffin in bits and pieces. Nor was it a broken belt.

It was a rat’s nest.

A literal rat’s nest.

A gigantic, well constructed, literal rat’s nest perching right up on the intake manifold or something (being an under-the-hood expert and all).

 

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After the initial shock and further inspection, I assume this was a pack rat, because of the plethora of packings that had also been carted under my  hood. Namely, lots of leather straps. Leather straps that made the clankety clank, GRRRRR, RAWRRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTHTTTTTHTT noise under the hood. Leather straps that we soon discovered had been chewed right off J-Dub’s saddles that are also stored in the garage. Tie strings, stirrup hobbles,  pretty laces that hold saddle conchos in place. Chewed right off by a sorry no good piece of dirt shyster.

 

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Plus there was at least a cup full of  bird seed and cat food that he’s storing for his long, cold winter. Not to mention a very big stick. Most likely the one he used to fight off the cat Rocky Muffin, who apparently is not doing her job AT ALL. I’ve decided she must have just made peace with this large rat,sat back and watched him as he carried off her salmon flavored kibble.

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Now J-Dub has an expression he uses when talking about any body or anything who is a  sorry no good piece of dirt shyster. Anybody or anything that chews up his saddles.

A Rat Bastard.

In this case, it is very fitting. After discovering his chewed up saddle, J-Dub has declared war against the Rat Bastard.

The Rat Bastard is as good as dead.

We’re still debating what to do about the cat. For now, her salmon flavored rations have been cut until her work performance improves. Living with rats is not acceptable behavior for sure.

The only good news is that the clankety clank, GRRRRR, RAWRRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTHTTTTTHTT mystery is solved and La La is purring like a kitten once again.

Posted in Dear Diary

Holy Moly! Where Has the Time Gone?

It’s been three months since I’ve blogged. I am partly ashamed and partly surprised. I can’t believe it has been that long and at the same time I can’t believe I have neglected this little corner of my world so badly. I have never ever gone this long before. Needless to say, it has been a busy, hectic summer.
So what in the world has been going on with me?

I have not fallen off the ends of the earth, although I do have a new address. We made a move in the middle of June back home to the wide open spaces, glorious sunsets, and scalding hot summers of the Texas Panhandle. We had an enjoyable couple of years in Ruidoso, got more than spoiled with God’s beauty and mild temperatures, but it was just time to come home.

Boy, was moving a chore. Neither J-Dub nor myself recalled the move to New Mexico as trying, aggravating or long processed as the move back. It took quite a few trips and quite a lot of grit to get it done, but we finally arrived in one piece. After that heinous ordeal, and after searching for a solid four weeks for the iron, I decided that we had too much stuff. I mean, really. I read a little book called “The Magic Art of Tidying Up” and with that new knowledge I have released a lot of my possessions in a serious act of purging. I still have a ways to go, but I at least feel like I have a good handle on it, although we still can not park in the garage yet. All in due time my pretty, all in due time.

What else has happened? In order of events, here’s a quick run through.

1. I joined Stitch Fix! I was so excited to get my first fix, and had every intention of blogging about it, but then I saw the pictures. ACK! EEK! Couldn’t do it, but maybe next time, which is coming up very soon.

2. I spent way too much time and frustration attempting to get my Texas Driver’s License. I will never let it go again. No matter what. I am convinced the government makes things so difficult, that it is easier to just be an outlaw.
Angel the Kid.
Kinda has a nice ring to it.
Or not.

3. We inherited three ducks.

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The only thing I’ve learned about ducks….they’re not chickens.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

4. EK is as beautiful, smart, funny, and wonderful as ever. She’s had a summer full of growth. She’s learned how to tell a pretty mean knock-knock joke. She attended a Princess dance camp and was left by herself for the first time with “strangers”, and loved it and wanted to go back. She is getting braver all the time, not peeking out from behind her momma’s skirts as much as before. She went to VBS at church and loved it! She’s been riding horses with her daddy and I couldn’t be prouder of all that she is and all she is accomplishing.

5. I took a job. I think. There’s a bit of hang up with some paperwork, but I think it’s okay to announce it. It’s part-time at the Alternative School working with at-risk teen mothers in the homebound program. Yeah, it’s going to be so different from anything I’ve ever done. If emotions were candy, they would be a bag of Skittles. I have an emotion of every color surrounding this new adventure. Both professionally and personally. I can hardly wrap my mind around the change that this will bring in both me and our family dynamic. As we speak, I am officially finishing up my last week as a SAHM. In everything there is a season, and with the end of one, there is a process of grief for me. It was a good run and I am so thankful and blessed to have had the opportunity to spend these last three years with EK. There is so much I’m going to miss, but I won’t think about that now, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Well sweet friends, the sun has set, the cicadas are humming and the world is peaceful here. Before I began blogging tonight, I had just finished a really great book “Eleanor and Park”, and I’m itching to open another one up before it gets too terribly late. It felt really good to write to you. I’ve missed it.

Until next time,
Angel

Posted in Animals

The End of my Chicken Ranching Era

It happened yesterday.  The end of an era.  But yesterday was a joyous day of remembering the birth of EK, that I couldn’t allow it to spoil the day, regardless of how sad I felt about it.

I found my last one chicken dead yesterday shortly after dawn. Actually, dead is such a mild word when what I really mean is murdered.  Viciously attacked by a raccoon I am sure.

The chicken herd had been dwindling by about 3-4 chickens a year due to various causes of death.

I had my last two remaining chickens, one yellow and one black and white, for a good long while up until around Thanksgiving.  That’s when I found the yellow one eaten in the yard.  The dogs had been brought inside for the night, so there was no protection for them so I wasn’t sure what had happened to the chicken until the next night when we were awakened by a ruckus.  Drew Miller, AKA Killer, stayed outside and engaged in a terrible brawl with a raccoon.  JDub woke, put on his slippers and witnessed the entire battle royal, attempting to stop it but failing.   Drewby Doo gave that coon a run for his money as the coon did Drew.  Drew has some fresh new scars on his snout to prove it.  We surmised by all this, that the raccoon more than likely killed the yellow chicken while the dogs were inside the night before, then came back for more the next night, only to be caught off guard by the dog.

A couple of months have passed since the death of Sassafras.  In that time Drew and the black and white chicken, Freedom, have become the best of friends.

Freedom and Drew
Freedom and Drew

It was as if Freedom knew Drew, and only Drew had and would save her.  If you’ve been a reader for long, you’ll remember Freedom the chicken.  If not, you can read about her here and here, among others.  I’m not entirely convinced it was Freedom as I never tied a string around her ankle or anything, but in my heart I believe it was.

Two nights ago, I was driving home after dark and I saw the raccoon.  Big as a bulldog crossing the road at the river just a half a block from our house.  He must have forgotten the whoopin’ Drew gave him, and luckily for him Drew was inside for the night.  But unluckily for Freedom.

I cried when I found her.  I cried because she was my favorite.  I cried because she was my last.  I cried because of the savage way her life ended.

I sat with Freedom the day before she died.  I sat in a lawn chair and she jumped up on the arm and I stroked her and she pecked my shirt, making me all kinds of nervous as she always did.

I don’t know when I’ll get more.  I don’t know IF I’ll get more.

They brought me delight, truly they did.

I hope there’s a chicken heaven.  If there is, my girls are there.  May they be ever happy in a land of green grasses and big worms.

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Posted in Animals

The Chicken Chronicles: An Update and Addendum

The month of March is upon us and with that comes an anniversary. Or a birthday, rather. My chickens turn three years old. Happy, happy birthday girls!

It’s a landmark, a milestone, a big deal to have three-year old chickens. At least I thought it was until I googled the life expectancy of a chicken and found it to be 8-10 years for backyard hens and some have lived up to 20!!! What???? 20 years. I’ll be drawing medicare. Almost.  It’s only a big deal to be a commercial chicken and live three years.  Just chalk that up to my list entitled, I thought I did well, until I found out I didn’t.

Given that enlightening statistic, I am not doing so well with my backyard hens. I’m down to only 3. I know, I know. If you’ve been hanging around this blog for long you might remember I started with a lot more than three. More like 15. But you know, life happens. There have been accidental deaths, malicious deaths, unexplained deaths, and drownings. It’s been quite the ride.

And if you haven’t been hanging around here long, here’s the dealio.  These girls were raised in the house, yes you read that right, in the house! First in the bathtub of the extra bathroom then in the spare bedroom/office. A cardboard box served us well as a brooder until they were old enough to go outside. Looking back I realize I might have been a bit overprotective. They would sit on our hands and sit on the desk with me.  Looking back I realize I didn’t realize little chicks could put off so much dander.  Woowee, the dusting I did once they were outside.  Then as they got older, they were treated to earthworms bought from the bait store. I watched them grow from little fuzzy chicks to the awkward ugly teenagerish stage before they turned into hens.  They would fly on our laps, hide eggs willy nilly.  They learned to get along with the dogs or rather the dogs learned to get along with them.  One even hitched a ride with J-Dub to church and was walking around in the church parking lot.

These chickens have traveled with me, moving from Texas to New Mexico in the back of a truck because I couldn’t bear to part with them. They are dear to my heart. They have given me hours of enjoyment. Just the other day, I was throwing sticks for the dogs in the backyard and one of them attempted to fetch with them, running out behind them after the stick, hoping it was something a bit tastier, a Slim Jim perhaps. Of course I tried to get a video but by the time I ran to the house and grabbed the phone, everyone (dogs and chicken) had lost interest in my game.

These chickens are tough.  You have to be to live around here.  Just the other day I accidentally pelted one  in the head with a pine cone.  Pure accident.  Trust me, I didn’t miss my calling playing softball.

Recently we’ve been dealing with our new dog Ozzie, the chi-weenie, really giving the chickens fits. There is one hen in particular he likes to bully and we’ve taken to calling her mangled back because he literally will get on her and attempt to pluck her alive, leaving her down exposed. Her back is a mixture of yellow and white soft feathers. He is punished harshly when he is caught but he is proving himself to be a slow learner in regard to the chickens. I didn’t know what to do and I almost gave him away but J-Dub, seeing the distress it was causing me and EK both, built a portable chicken tractor/coop for the chickens. Before that, they roosted in an old well house but were free to come and go and roam as they pleased. With this new chicken coop on wheels they are enclosed constantly but safe from the terror of the chi-weenie.

I prefer them to be free range. They prefer to be free range. But it puts me at ease to know they are safe when I can’t watch them closely. Each day I  let them out to roam about and forage and I put the dog up.  All animals are treated equally.

J-Dub worked a long time on the chicken tractor and I am so happy with it. These contraptions range anywhere from a couple of hundred to thousands of dollars. We tried to be as economical as possible and also reuse things around the place. Upcycle if you will. We can actually call ourselves green now.

He bought the lumber new and built a 6 foot by 6 foot frame. He covered it all in wire, bolted  two wheels on the back (which may need replacing) and a handle on the front to push/pull/heave it around. There is a door to let the chickens in and out. On the back he built a box for them to nest in, equipped with their own little ladder to climb. The nesting box has a lid that opens up so I can reach in and get the eggs. He covered part of the top with tin and yes, he did, he added rain gutter which flows into the watering trough. On the opposite end is a feed trough with a trap door so I can dump hen scratch in easily.

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And no, I don’t have trick chickens that lay oblong, funky shaped caps of some sort.  That’s just a decoy.  It worked.

Basically it’s a chicken dream house.  And I’m really getting the itch to stock it with some babies.

Posted in Animals

A Broody, Moody Hen

I’ve got a broody hen.  In other words, she wants to be a momma.

This hen in particular sits in a wheelbarrow.  Day after day.  Night after night.  She won’t eat.  She won’t drink.  And if you go near her, she puts her hackles up and makes a noise that frightens me.   I’ve never been harmed by a chicken, and yet I still am frightened.  It is an unwarranted fear that I can not explain, especially considering the fact that my hens are darlings.  Perhaps it dates back to when I read a children’s book, “Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in her Pocket” and Junie B. was worried that the chickens were going to peck her head into a nub, and she would have to walk around in a pair of overalls with a nub as a head.  I’m sure that is it, since that is so very logical.

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So day after day, night after night, this yellow chicken sits in a red wheelbarrow hoping beyond hope that the egg she ISN’T sitting on will hatch.   Crazy chicken.

It is  impossible that she will ever set a nest and have a baby chickie because:
1) there is no rooster here to fertilize her egg, so no matter how long she sets a nest, it will still just be an egg.
2)  There is no egg that she is setting since we removed it from underneath her weeks ago, hoping she would be about her business.

No such luck.

Day after day, one of us, (mostly Ash, but sometimes me if I’ve had a shot of whiskey first) will pick up the hissing, pissed off chicken, afraid that her head is going to spin around and start pecking me to a nub and throw her out of the wheelbarrow, so she can get a drink of water and maybe a bite to eat.   And as soon as we do, she lets us know she is not a happy chicken.  And as soon as she can, she makes a run for the water trough, gets a drink, and before you know it, she is back in her wheelbarrow on her imaginary nest, dreaming of waddling babies.

But if you were ever wondering where the expression  “got her feathers ruffled” originated, my belief is it came from an insane broody hen after she was tossed from her wheelbarrow.

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Posted in Animals, Children, Faith, Family

The Hummers

I overheard them talking in the doctor’s office a few weeks ago.

You need to get ready for them.

They’re here.

We saw some at our place yesterday. 

Hummingbirds.

So I heeded their advice and went to The Walmarts to buy a couple of feeders.  I googled how to make sugar water (4 parts water to 1 part sugar), and I filled my feeders and hung them on the patio.

I doubted they would come.  Just because I doubt most good things will come in my life.  It’s a huge weakness in my character.  But lo and behold, as Emma Kate and I were outside enjoying the day, the dogs, and the chickens, they came.  They did!  Two of them hummed their way over to the feeders and got a drink.

I was thrilled.  Absolutely thrilled.  I ran to get my camera and of course, as in the way things happen, they flitted away to the trees.  I could still hear them tweeting and buzzing around, but they wouldn’t come to the feeders again.

I waited and waited and waited.  Some might find waiting on the hummingbirds tedious and boring, their minds filled with a laundry list of to-do’s that they would rather be doing, but the simplicity of the afternoon overtook me and as I waited on the hummingbirds, I sat in the sun and let it warm me all the way to my insides.  There’s something healing about a little sunshine warming the innermost.

I watched my darling daughter play in the animal’s drinking water.  We have a waterer for the chickens and a big bowl for the dogs, but they don’t seem to understand the distinction, so the dogs drink after the chickens and the chickens drink after the dogs, and Emma Kate drinks after both.  It’s good for the immune system I say.

She got pine needles and dunked them through the water and sucked the moisture off, she splashed, and she laughed.  And the laughter from a little child on a sunshiny spring day is music to the ears.

She herded chickens and hugged them from behind and Grace, our heeler dog, herded right along with her.  Ever vigilant to protect Emma from chicken danger.  Meanwhile, Drew, who’s a couple milkbones short of a full box, chewed on a pink bone and didn’t ever once feel his manhood threatened.  Real dogs chew pink bones.

And finally as the day drew to a close, and the sun dipped behind the house, and the shadows grew longer, I got a halfway decent picture of a hummingbird.  But my true treasure is the several decent pictures I got of a simple day in the backyard that soothed and healed my soul.

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