Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

In a way it was and was not our first rodeo this summer.

This summer our vacation was an opportunity for both first and rekindled experiences as we loaded up the family wagon (’99 Chevy Club Cab pickup) and our down-to-the-wire last minute Craigslist camper shell with everything a family of five does and does not need for 10 days in the mountains. 

My Mom (Judy), Bryon’s Dad (Gary), Grace, Bryon and I all went on vacation together to Yellowstone. My Mom hadn’t been in decades and Bryon’s Dad and Grace had never been. Yellowstone and Jackson Hole are both well traveled destinations for Bryon and myself. This was my 9th visit and Bryon’s 11th since our start sometime around 1993. I hadn’t been in about seven years since my pregnancy with Grace.

The first time Bryon and I ever went was with his Aunt Jan and Uncle Kelly and their daughter Kortney. We totally did the tourist thing that first trip, visiting geysers, white water rafting, horseback riding. We had such a wonderful time and fell in love with everything about that little corner of the world from the weather to the vast landscape to the seemingly endless number of named and unnamed trout streams on the Dan Bailey’s fly catalog fishing map.

Kelly, Bryon and I spent the next seven summers out West in and around Yellowstone exploring those waters and back country trails backpacking and fly fishing where most of the tourists didn’t ever venture. We’ve hiked more than 500 miles of trails through the years by my rough count and failing memory and still only touched a small portion of what’s available.

This summer was my first trip back to those well stomped grounds in a long, long while. This wasn’t a trip about back country adventures, although Bryon did manage to squeeze in a few hours of fishing despite the snow melt engorged, chocolate milk colored raging rivers that had replaced our meandering streams. He found a couple of small lakes and one tiny, lazy stream to fish and helped Grace catch her first wild trout on her own fly rod.

Often the journey is just as entertaining as the destination and with one over sixty, hearing impaired parent each in the truck it was most assuredly entertaining. It was hilarious how often a comment was repeated in the back seat (Grace included) like it was a new and original thought when it had in fact just been uttered by Bryon or myself in the front seat. The real plus for me was that I could relax and share the care of Grace with not just Bryon but her two very capable Grandparents and sit back and see if I could recapture some of the magic the landscape had elicited for me on vacations past.

Bryon and I talked dreamily once again during the drive as we do every vacation about what it would be like to live there. There is something about the landscape where the rocks are round and the air is dry that is very appealing to me. Here I spend every summer moving from A/C to A/C. The time I do spend outside here in summer is done so grudgingly and not without frequent occurrences of heat induced sick headaches. Of course this trip I spent half a day in bed with a headache there too. Turns out that allergy medicine, Sudafed and dry air are not a good combination so that illusion was sort of shattered.  Sometimes the grass is greener and sometimes it just looks greener.

Every vacation I come home ready to MOVE there, but this year, even though it was super ridiculously hot when we got home, somehow it made me more appreciative of what we’ve built here on our little farm.  I’m reminded of a quote a friend sent to me once after I had Grace by Stephen Foster

“You may wonder, 'How can I leave it all behind if I am just coming back to it? How can I make a new beginning if I simply return to the old?' The answer lies in the return. You will not come back to the 'same old thing.' What you return to has changed because you have changed. Your perceptions will be altered. You will not incorporate into the same body, status, or world you left behind. The river has been flowing while you were gone. Now it does not look like the same river.      
[The Book of the Vision Quest]

 We had a great trip and did lots of fun things together. You can see a ridiculous number of vacation photos if you are so inclined here.

Yellowstone didn’t look like the same old river when I went there this time and home didn’t look like the same old home.  Vacation is good, as always but there really is no place like home.

Caught in the Act

I’ve gone through a lot of sugar water this summer feeding the humming birds. I love seeing them and we have probably 25-35 when all four of the feeders are full. The problem is that more than just the humming birds are taking advantage of the sugar water feeders now. I started noticing that the feeders were getting sort of chewed on and next thing I knew there was a squirrel or three out there every morning hanging upside down, tipping the feeders just so and slurping down the sugary goodness. 

A Daisy BB gun is a fair deterrent for that but won’t put the final exclamation point on the situation in a very satisfactory way… ie a dead squirrel. It does make them scurry off pretty rapidly. But apparently this particular squirrel is the Yoda of squirrels and is teaching the other little woodland creatures what’s up in the hood. The force seems to be with them.

The next thing I noticed was that not only where the squirrels apparently enjoying some refined nectar but they were also ramping things up to the next level and completely emptying all four feeders sometime between full dark and dawn.  Every morning those feeders, that were full when I went to bed were now empty and usually scattered across the ground in pieces which left an incredibly sticky, soured mess on the ground underneath. 

Between the butterflies, bees and black flies and the stench, something had to give. A 10 pound bag of sugar is about $13 too and those critters were sucking it down. 

Finally this weekend, Bryon put his trail camera on the tree. We had momentarily entertained the possibility of a barista bear slurping in a nice sugar frappe but we figured if that was the case he/she wouldn’t have left the feeders nicely disassembled but most likely completely destroyed. 

Bryon’s not so hidden camera finally revealed the culprit caught sticky handed.

Two nights ago, we set a live trap hoping to catch him and dispatch him because if he’s brazen enough to do this night after night, he’ll happily be willing to move on the main course of my chickens when the opportunity arises.  Of course he just rattled the trap, set it off with out getting caught and slurped out the sardines we had for bait, but later that night Bryon heard the final shoe (or feeder) drop and popped open the window and unloaded a 9mm round into him. He scurried off into the woods full of sugar water, sardines and lead.  

Hopefully that’s the last we’ll see of him.

Let that be a lesson to the Yoda Squirrel too.

Oops! They Did It Again

You know the old similie about doing it like rabbits. Well that comparison came about for a reason. They are fast! And fertile! And persistent!

On July 11, Aaron Huggler became a Godfather while we were on vacation in Yellowstone. The baby bunnies were born. Six of them. I'm thinking of giving Aaron an offer he can't refuse.

Luckily for him, the swap meet in Marshfield and Fordland should still be going on and a lady at Bryon's work wants one too, otherwise... I'd be tempted to gather them up come first of Sept. and leave them in his room. Aaron is 15 and I told him let that be a lesson to him that just how quickly those rabbits made a baby is just how fast it can happen...wham bam thank you Ma'am and six more mouths to feed... forever!

Everyone keeps telling me we should raise them and eat them but seriously, look at them. Chickens... no problem. Pigs... no problem. But killing and eating little tame rabbits would be like killing and eating puppies or kittens to me. It's a no go.

On the same note, wild rabbits I would have NO problem with. No I can't explain what the difference is but there you go. My strange and irrational farm food justification is what it is.

They have just now started to venture out of the box and into the main cage with Mama. She'll have no more rest from them now! Hmmmm, just like in human life.

There are lots of lessons to be learned on a farm.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Endings and Beginnings

Sunday morning when I went out to the coop to free the restless natives, one of my hens didn't come out. She was just lying in the floor of the coop with her eyes closed and barely breathing. Of course she was the one I had been coddling by dressing her in a chicken saddle to keep the other mean girls from picking on her bare back. I had taken the saddle off of her one day a couple of weeks ago so I don't think that had anything to do with it but she was definitely suffering and was not going to recover.

I tried to pick her up and she squawked and flopped around a bit and I chose to quick bothering her until I decided what I was going to do.

I left the chicken door open so I could finish the chores and feed the rabbits.

When we went to Johnson's Shut-Ins a few weeks ago, I asked our friend Aaron to farm sit while we were gone. Things went well but he wasn't quite fast enough getting the water bowl back in place in the rabbit hutch. Bryon had helped me separate the rabbits last winter after it became clear that Bean (the black and white one) was a BOY and NOT a girl like the teenager girl at the swap meet had told me.

I found homes right before Christmas for all of those cute little oopsies.

The bowl is slid through a cutout so they can share and unless they get really adventurous and engage in some  underwater lovin' then all is well. Unlesssssss you don't get the bowl slid back in the slot. Aaron and Austin had to separate Bean and Cocoa while in the middle of the act so we had hoped against hope that he didn't finish.

Bunny nest
 Well from the looks of this (which is most of Cocoa's belly hair), Aaron is about to be a Godfather.

After I got done messing around with the rabbits I went inside for a few minutes and when I came back, the hen had flopped herself out of the coop and into the driveway and died.

I didn't try to butcher her because I didn't know what killed her. Bryon said today that he thought maybe she had a stroke trying to lay a stuck egg out in the hot hen house. Could be. I have the fan going out there now 27/7 so that helps a little bit I suppose and I do have a shade cloth over their yard but it's just too hot for man and beast right now.

So now I'm down to four hens.

After vacation I plan to get another batch of broilers to raise since I only have one frozen chicken left in the freezer and I suppose I'll get a few Buff Orpingtons to add to the hen house as well.

I just hope I don't have any more Elvis impersonations in the hen house while I"m gone.