March 2008


My son’s college roommate died yesterday.

His name was Valentine, and he was about 2  1/2 years old.

Valentine was an albino teddy bear hamster, and he was a Valentine’s Day present to my son from his girlfriend (hence the name-Valentine!). Most college dorms don’t allow pets, or at least ones they know about! So, hamsters or fish seem to be the pet of choice.

“V” had a great life, as he moved from house to house with my son. His next to last residence, before moving back home with him, was probably his favorite – because he was allowed free (tho supervised) run of the bathroom and closet. It was like Valentine’s vacation home – he had some bedding that he had meticulously arranged (as hamsters do) in the closet, a night light, and extra food with rice krispie snacks. He could snuggle in the closet, or wander around the bathroom, and USE the bathroom.

 It was kind of like a timeshare condo- he would rotate use of this coveted area with the son’s girlfriend’s hamster. They could not live together, being solitary creatures (unlike my son and his girlfriend!), the two hamsters would tolerate each other for about 2 minutes, and then all h***  would break loose – hamster style!

When the son moved home, Valentine came too. He was older, and his activities were restricted. Even if he had the energy, he could not have free access to the house, he would be in danger of becoming a doggie hors d’oeuvre!  He spent more time sleeping in his tissue box condo, and when he felt the need to exercise, would run in his wheel, or step out to visit and watch tv with the son on his bed.

Not too long ago, his eye started to tear and bulge. We cleaned it for a few days, it looked better, and then one day it looked horrible, so the son said his goodbyes (just in case) and the mom took Valentine to the vet.

The kindly old vet pointed out, the humane thing to do, as he would do if it were his hamster, would be to euthanize Valentine. He had apparently developed glaucoma, the eye was no longer viable, and would soon rupture, and become infected. That infection would kill him. Valentine was elderly and such a tiny creature, and would very likely not survive an operation to remove the eye.

So Valentine came home to rest, and will be joining a long line of family “friends”, who have aged all around the same time.

Since we have moved out to the country, we now have a pet cemetary, extending along the tree line near the barn. We will have little headstones, but for right now, just keep a list tacked to the garage wall, with name, d.o.b. and d.o.d.

Our animal menagerie is aging, as we all are, and as the critter population is dwindling, they will be remembered fondly, but NOT replaced!!!! Famous last words!!

I was reading an article in the most recent Mary Engelbreit magazine, Home Companion, about Little Golden Books. I am in that age bracket that grew up reading those little books and loving them! My two favorites were Home for a Bunny and Mr. Dog. My first really “good” sketches, when I was in elementary school, were those duplicating the animals in Home for a Bunny.

About 20 years ago, when my son was about 3 or 4 years old, we were visiting my parents in Minnesota, and I read in the local paper that illustrator Garth Williams was going to be at Walnut Grove for a book signing. Walnut Grove, for those of you who don’t get out much, was the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie series. Garth Williams did the illustrations for her books, as well as those for the popular Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.

Not wanting to miss a chance to meet one of my favorite childhood artists,  I borrowed my dad’s old car, plopped my son in his car seat and drove several hours across Minnesota to Walnut Grove. That was back in my adventurous days! It took longer than I thought, and we arrived just as Mr. Williams was packing up to leave! He was so gracious, and stayed  a while longer, talking about his history with Little Golden Books, and signing my copy of Mr. Dog. I’ll never forget that! I read recently that Garth Williams passed away in 1996, but he will live on in his wonderful illustrations, for generations to come!

After meeting with the artist, my son and I took a walk around Walnut Grove, a very nice little town. We went into a little antique shop, where I discovered a neat little vintage table lamp, by the artist Ida Lee, that I have to this day. After a little ice cream and exercise, it was back in the old car, for the long drive home. Thank goodness, my little boy loved to ride in the car, because going anywhere in Minnesota back then, seemed like a day trip!

And now, I am going to the basement, to see if I can find the box of Little Golden Books I saved for the next generation. I might have to have a cup of tea and re read them all again!!!

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I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.                 Steven Wright

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.                            Edgar Allan Poe

img_2417.jpgToday was the most beautiful day in the country!!! Pretty soon, it will be just the right weather for porch sittin’!

The forsythia is starting to bloom, the magnolias have some huge blossoms ready to burst open, and the fields are beginning to have a green hue.

I succumbed and bought strawberry plants the other day – I might be able to get them into the ground soon! I also found some cuttings of pussy willows, in the thrift store! I have 2 bunches in water – and I am hoping they start to root. I would love to have a pussy willow bush again!

I stopped at my favorite tea haunt – Mrs. Hardesty’s Tearoom, and picked up two cute little tins of tea – Buckingham Palace and Raspberry. Guess what I’ll be drinking before bed!!

While walking the dogs, we found some “leftovers” from our resident hawk’s meal. A robin fell prey to him, and apparently a bunny did also. In the paddock, where the hawks hangs out, was a mound of feathers, and further down the fence line, a tiny little cotton tail. Sad, but everyone has to eat………

I believe I even saw some bluebirds flitting in and out of the woods near the barn.

I REALLY need to put that hummingbird feeder outside tomorrow. If this weather keeps up – they will be hanging around looking for sustenance!

Time to check on the horses…..all is well at Mountain Meadows tonite.

horses-in-pasture.jpgLast night was Easter Sunday- and it was snow flurrying!!!! This morning, our local weatherman let us know that there had been 1 inch of snow in our town.  But the time the sun rose, that one inch was a scant, patchy covering on the grassy areas, but could be seen in the mountains between the leafless trees. And, again, no camera!!! I am going to have to get a 2nd camera to keep in the car for occasions like this!

The temperatures are supposed to drop to 27 degrees tonite, so I still have the caged heater in the horses’ water trough, and they are wearing their blankets.  The strawberry plants I couldn’t resist buying today at the co-op will have to wait a few more days before they get planted!!

On the drive to town, there is a beautiful weeping cherry tree, that rivals any seen in DC, in full, cascading bloom. As we drive along the mountains in our “neighborhood”,  the redbuds are in bloom, and weeping willows have tiny pale green leaves experiencing their first chill.

Mr. Green Jeans is obsessively checking his 30 flowering pear trees, that he planted  last year along our driveway.  All but one have buds, and one day we envision our long drive will be canopied with their white flowers in the spring.

 My magnolia tree was planted by the barn last year also, and promises to one day shade the barn and give me an endless supply of shiny , leathery leaves for wreath making.

We may have enough wood left in the woodpile to make one more fire tonite in the woodstove. A cup of organic English black tea, a good book, and the fire will make a perfect end to the day.

Again, all is well at Mountain Meadows tonite!

PS- if you want to see a better version of “the boys” above – just click on the picture – as you can see, putting pictures on here is still a work in progress!!

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……..do people litter?? That’s an age old question that probably never will be answered.

 You would think in today’s eco conscious world, people would begin to think.

It is something I expect, and see, in the city and suburbia, but thought I would see less of in the country.

The rarely traveled, little dirt road adjacent to our property, seems to be a magnet for all types of discards. When I moved in, I filled several trash bags with all sorts of debris. Granted, alot of it was ancient trash, from old bottles (not the collectible kind!), rusty metal, scrap barbed wire, to paper, plastic, and beer cans. Things wash down the creek after a good rain, and lump up in a sodden pile at a bend in the flow of water.

Just recently, I walked the old road, and was looking down the embankment to watch the river, and saw a tv, computer and printer- piled by a tree stump! If left, nature will cover it over, as spring progresses. But, when fall and winter arrive, the trash will again appear, when it’s cover of leaves disappear.

Today, as I drove the 2.8 miles home from the main road, I counted 21 bright orange bags along the length of the road. Community service workers had apparently been thru during the week, cleaning the roadsides. Even as a newcomer, I am ashamed to think there was that much litter out there. It is amazing how trash that you may not notice from your car, can add up to 21 bags in just under 3 miles!!

 We pass some homes (and one borders our property) where people never throw anything out, they just throw it out back!! Apparently, those same folks just throw it out their car window too!

I will continue to trudge down my little road, trash bag in hand, cleaning up after others. I hope others take the hint, not just here, but everywhere.

We are stewards of this land we live on, drive through, and walk over. We should treat it with more respect.

End of lecture!!!  :>)

img_2355.jpgSpring IS coming!!! I KNOW it is!!!!!

 I was going through the photos I took last year, and it reminded me of balmy breezes and sunshine! I thought I would share a couple, on this half sunny, half dreary day- to keep your spirits up. More to come in the next blog entry, later today! I do have to move AWAY from the computer and  get something accomplished today, other than  blog, blog, blog!!!!!

img_1929.jpg Not sure how clear this pic will be – I was practicing resizing. Anyway- these are the killdeer eggs, that were laid right on the edge of our gravel driveway -we were supposed to get that driveway finished, and then there were these eggs!! I put orange hazard cones up, so no one would run them over, and the driveway has not been finished yet!!! If the guy doesn’t come soon to complete the work – there will be another killdeer nest in the rocks, and another year will pass with an incomplete driveway!!  The babies safely hatched, by the way. I watched them every day, timed the egg incubation, and they hatched when I was away from the house!!! I came home to find the little minis running down the road, at the end of my driveway! The parents were frantically trying to corral and guide them. Killdeer babies are fully feathered and up and running (literally) soon after hatching. I hope they made it!!

Below, is the parent killdeer pulling the broken wing routine, trying to lure me away from the nest. As time went by, they got used to the car coming and going down the drive and didn’t even mind me stopping to check out the nest and take pictures!

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 Just thought I’d share some pix I found- still practicing getting the photos on the blog- not always successfully!!!

Below is the close up of the spreading of the chicken litter (see previous blog entry).

Above, are the perpetrators of the poo!!!! On a rare visit to a chicken house, I got to snap some photos of the almost 2,000 chicks that lived there for about 6 weeks.

I was hoping to get a series of photos as the chicks grow – because they do – and unbelievably quickly! I will try again this year. 

Moving out to the country was eye opening. We go to the supermarket, pick up our fryer, or package of Tyson or Perdue chicken cutlets, and don’t really think about where it comes from! I am learning!

When we used to summer at the shore in Delaware, we would pass by chicken factories, and even frequented a horse farm, that ran a side business of raising chickens. I used to hear stories, but never got to see what happens behind the scenes. But, now, living in the heart of chicken (and turkey) country, it’s hard to be ignorant of where your dinner originates!

I was barely a meat eater as it was, chicken and fish, and very rarely some pork loin. Lately, as I cook chicken for dinner, I have to close my mind and not think of what it is I am cooking! 

These chicks hatch and shortly there after, are delivered to a farmer’s warm, dark chicken house. There, they are well cared for, and kept warm, while they rapidly grow, for the next 6 weeks. The trucks return and the chickens are loaded into crates and stacked on an open tractor trailer. I’ve passed many a truck on the road, loaded with chickens on the way to the rendering plant. It has to be quite a shock for these birds- who have spent the majority of their life, in warm, dark surroundings, to be thrust into crates in bright daylight, and  sent hurtling down the road.

The chicks do serve a purpose tho, in their short life span. They provide jobs for many rural families, who earn their livelihood caring for them. Chickens provide a paycheck and a career for those who drive the trucks and work in the factories, and a meal for those who choose to eat them. Even their poop is useful, fertilizing crops used to feed other animals and people.

I have to admit, I still find it hard to look past their little beady black eyes, and will probably eat less chicken than I have in the past!

Every new day here is a learning experience, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing with you!!!

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