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26 Feb

I didn’t sleep good last night, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone. Earlier in the day, at my Master Gardner’s class we sat outside learning how to propagate plants, laughing occasionally at how the wind was blowing our supplies all over creation.  We had canceled that particular class a week or so ago due to bad weather and needed to get it done and over with as propagation time is here.  Who wants to take a class “after” they need it, ya know.

We all got cuttings from Homestead Purple Verbena, Purple Trailing Lantana, Honeysuckle Bush,  Belinda’s Dream, Monsieur Tillier, Souvenir de St. Anne, Mrs. Dudley Cross, and a rose we all tagged “Gone With the Wind” (official name to come later).  Apparently that particular rose cutting came from an actual rose-bush on the estate the movie was filmed at, tagging it as such became even funnier as we chased down our cuttings blowing off the table.

Okay, one more thing for me to look up, take care of and figure out where to plant.  (sigh)

We’ve had company for the last week so when I got home I had to run around and get chores done so I would be finished before supper.  As I ran about filling waterers and throwing out the girls afternoon treat the wind continued.  I decided to leave the ducklings in their separate pen as I was afraid the increasingly chilly winds would be too much for them and their downy little selves.  Then of course, I felt guilty they would be missing their afternoon swim.

I walked into the new greenhouse to check the temp and see if anything needed to be watered and the wind continued.  I surveyed the growing number of vegetables starts and (sigh) made plans to begin their transition to the outside world.  Having just learned in MG class that I would need to “gently” get them accustomed to being outdoors or I would “burn the crap outta them if I just plopped them out in the field.”

Back in the house with 30 minutes to spare I thought I would lay down on the couch for a little “shut my eyes for just a minute” kind of rest.  Flipped the TV on my favorite news station for a little background mumbling, grabbed a light throw to keep the chill off, got myself settled and shut my eyes.  and the wind continued….

and it blew….

and it gusted…

My eyes kept popping open as the wind whipped around the house.  Just listening to it was wearing me out.  Our dinner company blew it right on time and I was somewhat distracted for several hours.  The whole time they were here the back of my mind was picturing chickens flying through the wind whipped air and flats of vegetable starts crashing into the windows.  As they were saying their good-byes I grabbed my coat and a flashlight, I couldn’t get outside fast enough.  I had to check on things one more time just to be sure everything was still intact.  I shut and locked the pop door for good measure, then as I passed the greenhouse I said a silent prayer it would all be there come morning.

I sat down in front of the tube to watch a few of my recorded shows and hopefully get sleepy before going to bed.  Three shows and three hours later my eyes felt like they had been open for an eternity and I was dog ass tired.  Unfortunately the wind was still whipping around out there and my mind with it.  I forced myself to get up and go to bed knowing there was a ton of work waiting for me in the morning, hoping the never-ending wind would not add to my list.

Okay, that wild cucumber vine growing up our window screen has got to GO!

 

Sick Duckling

11 Feb

photo (33)

Two new baby ducklings (female) we ordered from McMurray Hatchery, arrived on Jan 31, now 13 days old.

When they arrived I put them in a plastic bin brooder, in our house, for the first 10 days to make sure all was well.  I normally keep all baby birds in the “house brooder” for a full 4 weeks and then transfer them to a brooder inside the chicken coop for at least another 4 weeks before incorporating them in with the rest of the flock.  For some unknown reason I changed the norm and put them in the brooder in the chicken coop this past Friday. Everything was fine Friday and Saturday.

Sunday morning I went out to do chicken chores and check on our new girls and was shocked to find one of the ducklings turned over on her back paddling her feet in the air!  I have no idea how long she had been like this.  I quickly turned her over, whereby she took a very wobbly step and went right back over on her back.   I righted her once again, but this time I cupped my hands around her to hold her in place, give her some added warmth and try to calm her down.  We stayed this way for several minutes.  Thinking she was probably exhausted from this little ordeal I placed her in front of the water to allow her to drink, which she did.  With one hand cupped around her for support I offered her some feed with the other, which she ate.  After about 15 or 20 minutes she seemed to be feeling better and on shaky legs walked over to the feed dish to get more.   So I figured perhaps I walked in right about the time she ended up on her back and I am probably making a mountain out of a mole hill.

I checked on her several times as I went about my usual chicken chores for the morning.  By the time I finished feeding, watering and gathering eggs both ducklings were settled down together so I figured everything was okay.  Throughout the day I checked on them several times as I could not get this ridiculous picture out of my head of her laying on her back paddling her little feet.  All I could think about was that commercial of the elderly woman on the floor saying, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

This morning I went out to do my chicken chores and AGAIN, find this poor baby duckling on her back paddling her feet.  This is not normal people!  What is going on?  A million thoughts are running through my mind:  I put them outside too soon.  There is too much pine shavings on the brooder floor making it an unstable ground to walk on.  Am I putting enough Vitamins in the water?  Is there something wrong with my feed?  This poor duckling is so unstable on her feet it is not funny.

Okay so here are the details of the last 13 days:

Feed:  I started them out on Certified Organic Chick Starter from Coyote Creek Mills for the first 10 days.  Then I switched them over to Purina Start & Grow, for the last 3 days.  I did this mainly because I noticed our meat chicks that are on this same feed  (in a totally separate area/never been anywhere near the ducklings) all have soft-ish poop and I am having issues with pasty butt.  Since I have never had this problem on Purina I am questioning the organic stuff.  Additionally the “sick” duckling had pasty butt for the last 4 days she was given the organic.  Three days on the Purina and I have not had to clean her butt off once.

Water:  Fresh water given twice daily with added Vitamins and Electrolytes for the added niacin supplement.

Brooder Housing:  First 3 days was an XL plastic tub with newspaper in the bottom, changed twice daily.  Day 4-10, same tub with about 1/2 inch of pine shaving in the bottom, cleaned out as necessary.  Last 3 days in 2 X 4 brooder pen inside chicken coop with about 2 inches of pineshaving, water, feed and a brooder light on one end for warmth.  As of this writing have moved them back into the house into a makeshift 3 X 3 foot pen with doggie pads on the floor, those I have covered with that rubber drawer lining stuff so they can have secure footing.  I also have a box with pine shavings if they choose to get in there and sleep.  The pen is 1 1/2 feet up off of the floor and sits about 3 feet from a space heater (no central here) so it is nice and toasty warm (but not too hot).

Weather:  The last 3 days the outside weather has been cold and rainy with day time temps averaging about 65 and nightime lows about 45.  Although the ducklings have been inside a brooder pen, inside the chicken coop (which is a 15 X 17 converted horse stall), with a brooder light for warmth, yes it probably got drafty at night and yes I am kicking myself right about now.

I caved this morning and took both ducklings to the Vet.  Since I have no idea what is wrong with the “sick” duckling I have no idea how to treat.  Here are their stats from the Vet:

Duckling to the left of the picture holding her head up:  This is the duckling that “I thought” was well/okay.      temp was 105.4,  weight 540 grams, Vet said he could hear scratchy sounds in her upper air sacks, which he also said was where her lungs were located, lower air sacks sound clear.

Duckling to the right of the photo with her head down:  This is the duckling that keeps ending up on her back and has really wobbly legs.     temp was 105.2, weight 342 grams, air sacks sounded clear, poop sample showed no intestinal worms.

Since he really can’t find anything wrong other than the scratchy sounding air sacks in the larger duckling he felt we were dealing with an upper respiratory thing so he prescribed .25 oral Baytril to be given twice daily for 1 week.  Come back if they don’t get better or if anything else happens.

Okay so we have an antibiotic and I’m all good with that.  The only reason I brought the “well” duckling with me was I was afraid the “sick” duckling had something that might be contagious and wanted to make sure they both got treated.  I wasn’t expecting such a big difference in weight either, I mean the “well” duckling weighs a whopping 540 grams and the “sick” duckling weighs 342 grams.  That’s a difference of  202 grams and these two ducks were born on the same exact day.

Anybody out there have an opinion, thoughts, suggestions, advice, ever have this same thing happen?

the trash…………

13 Dec

trash……..everybody has it in some form or another, but do you know how to “make the trash”?

The name cracks me up, it’s the most unappealing “name” for a treat on the planet, but once you know what it is—ya gotta have some. It’s like Lay’s potato chips, you can’t eat just one.  Thirty years ago, our precious Nana and Maw would make it in a garbage can, hence the name “trash”.  Now don’t be all grossing out or anything, they had a brand new plastic can specifically for “making the trash” and it never got used for anything else.  Every Thanksgiving we would receive a large plastic tub of the stuff and it would last until well after the new year, return the tub and you get more next year.

This is one of our favorite “family traditions”, so I thought I would share.  Hope you enjoy.

The ingredients:
2 large boxes Cheerios
3 boxes Rice Chex
3 boxes Corn Chex
2 boxes Shredded Wheat (do not use Wheat Chex — they burn)
2 bags skinny Pretzel stix
1 X-Large box Goldfish
2 small bags Fritos
3 bags Oyster Crackers
2 boxes Wheat Thins
2 boxes Cheddar Squares
3 pounds toasted nuts(Pecans, Cashews, Walnuts & Peanuts–toast in the oven on 200 degrees for about 20-30 minutes)
Canola Oil
Lee & Perry’s Worcestershire Sauce
Garlic Powder (do not use garlic salt or it will be way too salty)
Lowry’s Season Salt (use Lowry’s–the off brand taste a little different)
Large Plastic Tub (for mixing cereal)–or if you just really want to, you can use a new/clean garbage can
Large Metal Pans (for baking)

Measure out the following and set aside:
2 1/4 cups Canola oil
6 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
6 Tablespoons Garlic Powder (mixed with) 3 Tablespoons Lowry’s Season Salt

At this point you have two choices:
1. Throw all the cereal, nuts and crackers into the “garbage can” or Large Plastic Tub and mix well. Remove in “batches” to finish off with seasonings.
OR
2. I prefer to do all my mixing “1 batch” at a time. This way I am more in control of the combination of ingredients in each batch, plus I don’t end up with a tub of cereal sitting around if it takes me more than one day to finish, as it usually does. The following directions are for 1 batch at a time.

For mixing 1 batch at a time I use a 4″d X 12″w X 20″l metal pan. I add 1 layer of each cereal at a time followed by the rest of the crackers and toasted nuts…

Start with Cheerios

Start with Cheerios

Add other cereal and goodies

Add other cereal and goodies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wash your hands really good and use them to mix it up, just makes it a lot easier.  Also makes it a lot more fun if you have a helper doing the pouring so you don’t have to get everything in the kitchen covered in Canola oil.  Once you have the pan almost full of cereal, crackers and nuts;  poor 2 1/4 cups of Canola oil over the top, immediately followed by 6 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce then; mix, mix, mix, toss, toss, toss, stir, stir, stir really well until everything is coated all nice and shiny.

Coat well with Canola Oil

Coat well with Canola Oil

Make sure there is no oil pooled at the bottom of the pan

Make sure there is no oil pooled at the bottom of the pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sprinkle about 1/3 of the dry seasoning mix you set aside earlier (6 TBSP garlic powder and 3 TBSP Lowry’s) over the top and mix, mix, mix, toss, toss, toss, stir, stir, stir until well incorporated, repeat 2 more times.

Garlic and Lowry's mixed together

Garlic and Lowry’s mixed together

lightly cover with seasoning

lightly cover with seasoning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The picture here is just after sprinkling seasonings on top and before the mix, mix, mix process.  Make sure you are mixing, to the point that each piece has a little seasoning and no piece is drowning in it.

You can bake it in the large pan if you wanna go that route, it does take a little longer to get everything toasted.  We split ours into 2 smaller pans to make it easier to toss and makes the process go faster.  So, “split the batch” into 2 smaller pans and pop it in the oven at 200 degrees F.  Set the timer for 20 minutes, when the timer goes off take the pans out, stir the trash around a little, and put the pans back in the oven rotating them each time.  Repeat the process  5 more times for a total baking time of 2  hours.  The goal here is to get everything “toasted” so at the end of baking each piece should have a crunch to it.  When baking is completed remove from oven and dump trash out on a paper covered table to cool.

divide into 2 pans

divide into 2 pans

Trash 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I have 1 batch (split into 2 pans) in the oven, I am mixing up batch #2 in the larger pan.  This way, as soon as batch #1 comes out of the oven I am ready to go with batch #2.  The total ingredients listed above makes about 6 batches which is ridiculously way more than any one family needs.  Then again you can put it in little tins or mason jars to pass out to family and friends, send some to out-of-town relatives,  give the college kids some to take back to school after the holidays, or whatever.  Nana and Maw would always make this at Thanksgiving and it would get nibbled on throughout the entire holiday season right through until New Year’s Eve.  Yes, it last that long if you have it in an airtight container.

Trash 9

If you don’t want or need this ridiculous amount of trash it can be cut down very easily.  Just remember this:  “1 batch” is approximately 2 1/2 gallons of dry cereal, crackers and nuts.  To each “1 batch” you will need 2 1/4 cups Canola Oil, 6 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce, 6 TBSP Garlic Powder and 3 TBSP Lowry’s Season Salt.  Otherwise you end up with this:

Trash 10Yes, we are crazy for the trash!  Today I will be making “trash bags” for all the kids to take home and a few to mail out to relatives.  The rest will be consumed in large quantities during the two-week period we have Christmas company.

Merry “Christ”mas everyone!

When your fingers go walking………..

8 Dec

Way, way, way back in July, my fingers were doing some shopping without consulting “the man” and ordered fruit trees online. My reasoning was simple;  In order to make jam I need fruit, why buy fruit at the market when we can just as easily grow it ourselves.  If we have our own fruit trees not only can we sell the fruit, we can make jam too.  I mean come on, it was just a couple of trees, three actually: 1 apple, 1 peach and 1 plum.  What could it hurt, these three little trees, and they’re dwarf so they won’t take up much room.  Due to arrive after wedding #3 (Oct 6), I had plenty of time to inform his highness and make preparations.

A few weeks later I received a nice little pre-printed note from the nursery informing me that since my trees could not be shipped for several months they were “giving me” 4 free trees as a way of thanking me for my early order.  I looked at the list of potential freebies and selected 4 free Raspberry bushes, what the heck it’s free right.

3 fruit trees + 4 Raspberry bushes = 7 living plants needing site preparation (not too bad, I can handle this)

A few more weeks go by and I am needing a break from pre-wedding planning so I figure it’s time to do a little research on my recent purchase.  Yeah, well, shoulda done that first.  What I discover is that my apple and plum trees will benefit from a pollinator, which also means I need more trees.  Pollinator research completed, my fingers go back to the nursery to order companions for the aforementioned apple and plum trees.

I’m not real sure what happened after that, the poor things must have been tired after all that research or maybe just a little frustrated.  It could have been a spasm of some kind or side effect from ordering all those invitations, truffles and sparklers for 200 people.  I printed out my receipt and stared at the paper.  What on earth have I done?

2 apple, 2 plum and 2 peach (I mean really why not make it 3 of each?)

and then the freebies I somehow got to order at the end of checkout:

2 raspberry, 3 blackberry, 5 grape and 3 sweet bay magnolia for show (and how is this company  making any money?)

FOR A GRAND TOTAL OF:

3 apple + 3 peach + 3 plum + 6 raspberry + 3 blackberry + 5 grape + 3 sweet bay magnolia =  26 living plants needing site preparation, followed by planting, watering and TLC over winter!

I take a deep breath and find a way to gently let the man know we have an orchard on the way.  At the time he was working on his “Father of the Bride” speech so he may not have actually heard the numbers, on account of he took the news so well.  I wasn’t going to rock that boat so I just eased on out of that conversation.

The wedding comes and goes without a hitch on October 6.  Two weeks later daughter #4 gets engaged.  Two weeks and two days after that the phone rings and all hell breaks loose with Maw.  (and) Two weeks and two days after THAT the orchard arrives.

Was I ready? %@&&, NO!

By the time the orchard arrived, Maw was recovering from her surgery, and Uncle J had arrived for an extended stay to look after Maw;  going back and forth from the big hospital and then back and forth from “the hospital” every day.  I was taking a much-needed break from tending to Maw to clean house and get ready for the kids to come home for the weekend, and to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 27 people.  Just as the mirliton sat in their box for a while before I found time to get them in the ground, the orchard wound up in a bucket to chill out over Thanksgiving weekend.

We managed to get the apple, plum and peach trees in the ground the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  The raspberry and sweet bay magnolia followed a few days later, although I’m thinking about relocating the raspberry as I’m not completely convinced we chose the right location.  The blackberry and grape are now in a smaller bucket on the kitchen counter, placed there on purpose to stare me in the face.  You would know the best spot for them will require several hours/days of ground work to remove overgrowth, weeds, grass and work the soil.

Wouldn’t you know it, the forecast for today and tomorrow:    Rain          🙂

When the phone rings……..

7 Dec

So I am anticipating the arrival of my new seed, the phone rings and all hell breaks loose…………….

first a little background info:          Maw is my husbands 99-year-old grandmother.  On February 23, 2013 she will be 100!  Maw has lived in what is now our home, since she was 3 years old.  She gave birth to her children in the main room of the house where the 110 year old fireplace is located, and in the room that for lack of a better word we call the dining room, although we don’t actually “dine” there.  In her better years she was a homemaker, a seamstress, crocheted many a blanket, tended a garden, canned and/or preserved vegetables, fruit and meat, she was a wonderful cook, and a remarkable artist in many mediums — pencil drawings, pastels, acrylic and oil paintings, ceramics and even jewelery making, she read bible stories to her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and even her great-great-grandchildren and gave art lessons to them after school.  To top all that off she was a hairdresser until she was 90 years old.  A remarkable woman who had(has) a positive impact on many, many lives.

In her 96th year after a hospital stay for low potassium, followed by a fall that resulted in a broken wrist, all complicated by a growing Dementia, the decision was made (by her son) that she would be better off with 24 hour a day supervision.  Therefore she was admitted to “the hospital” to live her remaining years.  We call it “the hospital” because (back in the day) when you put someone in the nursing home it was referred to as “the dying place” and that just wouldn’t do, so “the hospital” it became.  Having spent the previous 3 years taking care of Maw in her home, I volunteered to be one of her primary contacts for any emergency at “the hospital”.

Okay so……….

The phone rang, I look at the caller ID and it says “The Hospital”, &%^$ what now.  Over the weekend we had a call concerning a “possible fall” (nobody witnessed it), Maw was complaining that her right leg was hurting as a result of this fall.  They ordered an x-ray which came back negative for fractures or breaks.  Both myself and my husband inquired as to the possibility that her femoral artery bypass (performed 30 years previously) was failing and were both assured it was not in question.

On the other end of the phone is the “wound care specialist” informing me that as Maw had continued to complain about her right leg hurting, from “the fall”, she had been called in to check things out, ordered a sonogram and found none other than a femoral occlusion!  &%^$ could ya have maybe looked for that on Saturday after me AND my husband asked about it?

I made several pone calls as I rushed to get to the ER where they were sending her, informing my husband, my sister-in-law and Maw’s son of her condition, plus a mass text to the great-grands.  Four hours later the ER doctor is confirming this diagnosis and offering me (us) 2 choices of treatment:

Choice 1:  perform surgery to repair the occlusion. (okay)

Choice 2:  give a round of IV antibiotics and send her back to “the hospital” where the antibiotics will relieve the pain and swelling for (oh) about 3 weeks, then it will become inflamed and painful again.  At that point they would repeat the antibiotics for another 3 weeks of comfort, until gangrene set in, at which point they would simply make her comfortable until the gangrene took over.

NO &%^$, those were my 2 choices!!!

We’ll take the surgery thank you very much!  Who in their right mind would “choose” to allow their grandmother to endure the horror of Choice #2???

Several hours in an ER is long enough for any patient to have to bear, let’s remember however, that Maw has the added bonus of Dementia.  All this time she has been her normal sweet adorable self, so I delude myself into believing that all is well and I am in control of the situation.  This was NOT the case after making the 1 hour trip to a larger hospital where the surgeon was located.  By the time they let me into the cubicle where they had put Maw, Dementia was in full swing and I was in for the ride of my life.  Eight hours into Maw’s ordeal I am exhausted, and my phone is on fire from the calls and texts when my husband walks in.  By this time and after several more tests have been completed, we learn the artery is so deteriorated it can not be repaired, there is nothing viable left to bypass, and an amputation must be performed!

To say her hospital stay was uneventful would be a total and complete lie.  First of course there was the amputation, a major deal in itself.  If that wasn’t bad enough, there was the “discovery of the amputation” multiple times, thanks to the dementia.  Then of course we had “phantom pain”, which is even more confusing for a Dementia patient!  Change of any kind is difficult for someone with this debilitating disease, even something as simple as a new room-mate can be complicated.  The trip to the first ER, followed by the second ER, the loss of her leg, nurses in and out, and the morphine drip had our sweet, sweet Maw in a total and complete dementia episode to the point she barely recognized anyone.

We were greatly relieved when they returned her to “the hospital” and she entered all smiles; actually recognizing her room, and belongings.  She completely enjoyed the attention her return brought her as one staff member after another, and one fellow resident followed by others came to tell her they had missed her.  Dementia aside, our little Maw has been a real trooper throughout her ordeal, and we are ever amazed and oh so proud of her.

This past week I traveled with her to the surgeons office for her 4 week check up and staple removal.  We laughed together in the waiting room as she informed me that now she only needed 1 shoe, but they made her buy 2 anyway.  Here she is, our 99-year-old grandmother making jokes about having only one leg.  Gotta love our Maw!

I look back over the stories of Maw’s life and see that it has been blessed.  A few days after surgery she looked at me and said, “All I want to do is go to sleep and not wake up, but God hasn’t taken me home yet so He must have a reason why I’m still here.  What do you suppose that is?”  I held back the tears as I gently kissed her face and said, “Maybe God knows we still need you here with us honey.”

The mirliton seed arrived right on schedule, but of course I simply set them aside.  They sat in the box for nearly two weeks as we tended to our sweet and precious Maw.  They are now safely encased in their little hay filled holes (in the ground) to over-winter until spring.  The fruit trees arrived a few days before Thanksgiving, which has come and gone, and with it a house full of company.   Somehow during all of this we managed to scout out and secure a barn for daughter #4’s reception and set the wedding date for July 29, 2013.

Hhmmm, the fruit trees arrived, one day I might just learn to plan ahead……………………….

Hunt for the elusive mirliton

6 Dec

The last 8 weeks have been busy.  Not too busy to write in the evening, just too many things going on to not get them all jumbled up.  Which would be really confusing for whoever chose to read my blog.  Things are progressing rapidly and I do so want to share so you’re just going to have to bear with me while I untangle the mess.

I have been on a Mirliton waiting list for so long I almost gave up on finding some.  This plump, sweet vegetable also goes by many other names.  The Aztecs, who domesticated it, called it chayotle.  It is christophine or brionne in much of the West Indies, chochoute in Madagascar and Polynesia, xuxu in Brazil, and chocho, custard marrow, pepinella, chayote and vegetable pear in various parts of the world.  Not too shabby for a little pear shaped squash with a thin green skin, crunchy white flesh and edible seed.

Since I grew up in New Orleans, mirliton casserole was one of those holiday dishes we enjoyed.  Not seeing any of these wonderful little squash at the Farmers Market I made up my mind that we should be growing some.  Not knowing anything about the plant or how it grows, I began looking for “seed” in every online catalog I could find.  Many months of unsuccessful searching made me more determined that I simply “had to have” this plant in our farm portfolio, if you will.  Finally one day I hit on a site with more information than I bargained for, only to find out how scarce these “seed” were and that I would have to be on a “waiting list” to get just one.

Here’s the thing, you can’t just “take the seed out of the fruit” and plant it.  You plant the entire fruit, the seed then gets its nourishment to grow from the fruit itself.  The problem is, the fruit you find in the store (to eat) won’t grow here in the states. Or so I am told.  The fruit in the store (being mostly imported) is acclimated to a higher elevation and thus will not grow successfully.  Oh, it will grow, just not well, plus it will be susceptible to many diseases making it a low producer of fruit and a headache for the grower.

There is however one exception, the Mirliton grown in Louisiana (my home state).  Apparently the Cajuns of Louisiana found a way to acclimate this squash plant many, many years ago and it has since been considered a “backyard staple”.  People just have them in their backyard, growing for their own enjoyment, passing seed down to their children and neighbors to in turn plant in their backyards, and on an on this tradition has gone.  Until nature decided otherwise.  The heirloom mirliton of South Louisiana were nearly destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav.

There was a huge part of me that considered going to the store, buying a “chayote” and sticking it in the ground to see what happened.  Then again, around here, you can only find “chayote” in the specialty stores and during a blue moon at Wal-Mart.  The spiritual side of me believes everything happens for a reason so I decided the waiting list was the way to go.  I mean seriously I had a million other things going on, waiting wouldn’t kill me.  Plus it would mean so much more to me to have an actual “heirloom mirliton” from my sweet Louisiana home.

November 3, 2012 the waiting came to a halt.  The Bywater Mirliton Festival was taking place and there would be a limited amount of “seed” available.  Fortunately this information came a week or so before the event.  Now, Bywater is a tiny community in New Orleans, Louisiana and therefore a 6 1/2 hours drive from our farm. 😦  I contemplated driving to the festival and back in one day, a crazy idea I know.  Fortunately I have an absolutely adorable sister and brother-in-law living in Lakeview (20 minutes from Bywater) and they agreed to go to the festival.  Honey, they scored me 5 Mirliton seed fruit.  Whoo Hoo!

The following Monday morning, after carefully packaging up these 5 precious seed, my sweet sister shipped them to me next day express mail.  Of course that will take 2 days to get to me as we are so far into the boonies it’s not funny, 2 day mail takes 3 days and so forth and so on.

Tuesday morning I got up anticipating the arrival of my new seed.  We had a busy weekend with the newly engaged couple and I was still trying to decide on a good planting location as these 5 mirliton would require 50 feet of trellising come spring.  Being election day I wanted to watch as much of what was happening on the political front as possible, so I decide to double up on the “house chores”, which would free me up for planting when my package arrived on Wednesday.

At noon, all hell broke loose with a phone call.

To be continued………………………………..

Freedom, but at what price?

1 Nov

I keep reading posts from other chicken bloggers that have prompted me to write this story.  Having lived through a chicken massacre, chicken security is a big issue with me.  Beware of things that go bump in the night?………………………….The days my friend, are just as dangerous.

I love my chickens, not as much as my husband or my children, or even my dog Stella, but I do love them.  I make sure they have good food, abundant water and kitchen treats, and they in turn give me those wonderful eggs.  Sad to say, but they are also like a good dose of therapy — no matter what is happening in my life, a visit with the girls has the ability to lower my blood pressure and bring a smile to my face.

There was a dual purpose for our chicken adventure.  Namely bug control in the garden.  I have watched my husband fret over tomato horn worms for years now and even helped pick those little buggers off his precious tomato plants more times than I can count.  Chickens of course would help alleviate this problem, less work for us is always a plus.

Having had chickens in the past I met with a considerable amount of resistance from the man.  He had his fill of chicken security and didn’t want to go there again.  It would be different this time, I encouraged him, we actually  live here now that’s gotta make a difference.   Assuring him that I could come up with predator proof living arrangements for a flock of defenseless animals took some doing.  Then of course there was the statement that had to be made that I wouldn’t “spend a fortune at the Vet’s office” if one of “my” chickens got attacked by something.  Not an entirely true statement, but I had to make it anyway and of course if that ever happens I’ll definitely get the “I told you so” statement in return.

When you live on a farm that has been in the family for multiple generation, the raising of animals (like chickens) comes and goes with each generation.  Many years ago, my mother-in-law (Nana) decided she missed having chickens on the farm and wanted to get her own flock.  Being the good son he was, my husband obliged her by building a 6 foot tall enclosure attached to the old chicken house.  He even went so far as to bury two feet of wire in the ground for their added safety.  Several hens were purchased from the local chicken lady and all was well.   So enjoyable were these new hens we added ducks and turkeys to her flock.

Nana and Maw (her mother) were happy, the chickens were happy, the children loved collecting eggs, we loved eating the eggs–all was right with the world.

NOT!!!

Peace is always disturbed by a phone call, don’t ya know.  The first one came and it didn’t really ring a huge alarm, in my head.  (It’s just a dog after all.  We have dogs, you have dogs, everybody has dogs in the country, except of course Nana and Maw. Chase the thing off and it’ll go home.)  Sure enough after making the short 1.02 mile trip to the farm, no dog.  Unfortunately the phone calls didn’t stop there, they became more frequent and more frantic.  Each time warranted a trip to the farm, inspection of the coop and run, long conversations in the yard–a retelling of the events by Nana and Maw.  One particularly bad incident required 48 stitches to a turkey breast.   Finally, the great white hunter had enough and decided it was time to go a hunting.  Seriously now, he would get all dressed up in his hunting gear and even cover his face with camo paint, then he would go hide himself in various shrubs and bushes at the farm.  He would hunt at dusk, he would hunt at dawn, he hunted so much I forgot what he looked like.  Then one glorious day he returned from the hunt cussing, damn chickens, damn dogs, damn those stupid chickens….Not to be left out I came back with- what the hell happened now?   He proceeded to tell me how he had gotten to the farm at 5 a.m. that morning, went into the kitchen, told Maw morning, got a cup of coffee and then settled himself downwind from the chickens.  He sat in that same spot for near 2 hours and was about to give up and come on home when he spied the culprit down the street.  He watched that dog as it made its way down the driveway headed for the coop.  He got aim on the dog as it paced back and forth along the fence, eyeing the hens, calculating its next move.  When that dog began to dig a hole underneath that damn fence, he popped off a shot and sent that dog running with a butt full of bee-bees.

Oh crap, I said, did you kill it?  Then of course, I got that “have you lost your mind look.”  No I didn’t kill it, he said, But somebody’s gonna be making a trip to the Vets office and I hope it’s costs them a fortune!

Peace returned to the farm…………………………………………or so it seemed.

About 2 months later we went to the farm for Sunday dinner.  We’re in the kitchen having a good time, talking about this, that and the other.  All of sudden Nana says, “Oh something got one of the chickens the other day.” WHAT!!!!!  She had gone out there to feed one morning and collect eggs when she found its body.  Literally just the body inside the fence, no head.  Since there was nothing anyone could do, she just bagged up the carcass and put it in the trash.  Lovely, just lovely.  The great white hunter of course calmly and sweetly read her the riot act.  How on earth could he possibly figure out what “did that” if he has no carcass to inspect.  GROSS!!!

Whatever it was revisited the farm several times over the next 6 months, taking out one bird here and one bird there.  And always the same MO, ripping off the head and leaving the body behind.  According to the great white hunter potential murder suspects included:  raccoons, owls, and weasels (including ferrets, fishers, mink and martens).  My love for animals no longer includes those from the disgusting animal category.  Periodic hunting “trips” were unsuccessful.  Didn’t really matter though, carnage would come soon enough.

The call came bright and early on a Saturday morning.  Frantic doesn’t even come close.  No time for hunting gear today.  It took him less than 2 minutes to grab what he needed and shouted over his shoulder he’d call us when it was done.   This time the weapon of choice held a bullet.  The dog had brought his friends!

I stood at the door in shock and watched as he floored the car down the road.  This is bad, I thought, real bad.  My husband is normally a calm, cool, collected, calculating sort of person.  Mulling every situation around in his head until a solution can be found, to the point that his “procrastination” drives me insane.  You would know the one time he actually answers the phone himself I have no clear picture of what’s happening.  I grab the phone and dial the number for an explanation.

A pack of dogs I’m told have attacked the farm.  They are all over the place!  TEN by head count!  The ruckus was so loud the neighbors called the police, fearing one of the ladies was being mauled in the yard.  They arrived on the scene within moments of each other and quickly surveyed the situation.  The 6 dogs that remained stood breathless and bloody as dead and dying birds lay everywhere.  I can not tell you what went through my husbands mind when the policeman informed him there was “nothing he could do unless he saw an attack with his own eyes”.  As if on cue the lead dog made a mighty jump and landed inside the pen, grabbed a bird and jumped his ass right back out!  (I kid you not!)  The two men eyed each other and words did not need to be said. A service revolver was pulled and shots rang out, injuring the dog who never stopped running with that bird in his mouth.  They pursued him across the street and found him behind a downed log, shots rang out again as the officer finished his job.

I remember getting to the farm and seeing these two men crossing the street as I turned into the driveway, thinking why on earth are y’all over there?  My husband gave me an angry look as I exited the car and shouted for me to get the kids in the house immediately.  When I passed the kids off to Nana and Maw they just shook their heads in disbelief of the morning.  I didn’t have to walk far past the back door to see what carnage lay before me.  Words can not describe the massacre.

These were no feral dogs, my friend.  We’re talking about well fed dogs with collars and tags.  This atrocity was not done out of hunger, this was pure and simple sport!  Anger does not even come close to how I felt about these irresponsible dog owners that thought nothing of letting their beloved pets roam free.   Oh yeah, I forgot, the dog that was shot with our hen in his mouth belonged to a friend of the policeman!

No words could be said as we cleaned up the destruction left behind.  This lovely “pack of pets” left not one bird unscathed!  Of the few that were still alive, their injuries were so severe we had no course of action but to relieve their suffereing.  Damn dogs wiped out our entire flock!

So yea, it took some convincing to get a flock again 10 years later.  Yep, I’m paranoid about security.  For now my girls will have to settle for their extra large coop and their extra large enclosure with it’s 1/4 inch wire fence and chopped greens and weeds from the garden.  I long for the day when we have completed our stock panel fence, as it will encompass not only the 1 acre yard around our house, but the coop and the smaller garden as well.  Crazy me, I am even in the process of planning to hang avian netting “above” that garden so the girls can roam “hawk and owl free”.

For all those chickens lovers out there that “let your girls out” and then “leave to go to work”, you are so much braver than I am, I just can’t take that risk.   I implore you to rethink this practice.