Country Living Series

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"The country's in the very best of hands"

Some things never change.

Take a gander at this song from this 1959 production of the musical "Lil Abner":



Here are the lyrics:
Them city folks and we-uns are pretty much alike,
Though they ain't used to living in the sticks.
We don't like stone or cement, but we is in agreement
When we gets down to talkin' politics:

The country's in the very best of hands,
the best of hands, the best of hands.

The Treasury says the national debt is climbing to the sky
And government expenditures have never been so high.
It makes a feller get a gleam of pride within his eye,
to see how our economy expands,
The country's in the very best of hands.

You ought to see the congress when it's drawing up a bill,
"Where as"'s and "to wit"'s are crowded in each codicil.
Such legal terminology would give your heart a thrill.
There's phrases there that no one understands.
The country's in the very best of hands.

The building boom, they say, is getting bigger every day.
And when I asked a feller "How could everybody pay?"
He come up with an answer that made everything okay,
"Supplies are getting bigger than demands."
The country's in the very best of hands.

Don't you believe them congressmen and senators are dumb.
When they run into problems that are tough to overcome,
They just declare a thing they calls a moratorium.
The upper and the lower house disbands.
The country's in the very best of hands.

The voters are connected to the nominee,
the nominee's connected to the treasury.
When they ain't connected to the treasury,
They sits around on their thigh bones.

They sits around in this place they got,
This big congressional parking lot.
Just sits around on their you know what.
Up there they call them their thigh bones.

Them bones, them bones gonna rise again,
Gonna exercise a franchise again,
Gonna tax us up to our eyes again,
If we gets them off of their thigh bones.

The farm bill should be 89 percent of parity,
Another feller recommends it should be 93.
But 80, 95 percent, who cares about degree?
It's parity that no one understands.
The country's in the very best of hands.

Them GOP's and Democrats each hates the other one.
They's always criticizing how the country should be run.
But neither tells the public what the other's gone and done.
As long as no one knows where no one stands,
The country's in the very best of hands.

They sits around in this place they're at,
Where folks in congress have always sat.
Just sits around on their excess fat,
Up there they call them their thigh bones.

They sits around 'til they start to snore,
Jumps up and hollers "I has the floor!"
Then sits right down where they sat before,
Up there they call them their thigh bones.

Them bones, them bones gonna rise again
So dignified and so wise again
While the budget doubles in size again,
If we gets them off of their thigh bones.

The money that they taxes us, that's known as revenues,
They compound up collaterals, subtracts the residues.
Don't worry 'bout the principle and interest that accrues,
They're shipping all that stuff to foreign lands,
The country's in the very best of hands.

The country's in the very best of hands? -- yeah right.

Yep. Some things never change.

Here's what the devil's been doing lately

Here's my WND column for this weekend entitled "Here's what the devil's been doing lately."

Friday, September 23, 2016

One man's trash is another man's treasure

Yesterday I noticed a neighbor's driveway was covered with pine needles. This is the time of year when pines drop old needles, so roadsides and forest floors get covered.


It suddenly came over me, in a head-clunk moment, that pine needle mulch might be what I was looking for.

You see, I've had spotty success over the years with mulching garden plants for the simple reason that I always used hay. It works splendidly through the winter, but come spring, the hay grows -- and suddenly the bed is overrun with weeds. So I stopped mulching.

But pine needle mulch? Duh! Needles won't grow.

So I called the elderly lady who lives at this address and asked if I could rake her driveway and tote away the needles. I received a heartfelt approval to take as many needles as I could possibly want.

So I loaded up the car with a hay sled, hay fork, and lawn rake, and off I went.


In just a few minutes, I'd raked about a quarter of the driveway.


This gave me piles that dwarfed the hay sled...


...and there was still three-quarters of the driveway left to do.


I raked up the rest...


...and made a big pile off the side of the driveway. I wasn't sure how much I'd need, so if nothing else the needles were out of the way.



Then it was home with my "treasure," another person's trash.


Pine needles, of course, are slightly acidic, which is just what blueberries like.


So all of our younger bushes got a nice layer of mulch.


From this first load, I had enough needles to mulch 2 1/2 beds, so I went back and got more needles, enough to mulch all four beds (the fourth bed is not in this picture). I think it looks very handsome.


I couldn't be more pleased with this new (to me) mulch. In doing some online research, it turns out pine-needle mulch can be used on "blueberries, cranberries, garlic, mint, onions, potatoes, raspberries, and strawberries." (More online info here, here and here.)

I've already planted the garlic, so I'll gather enough needles to mulch the garlic bed. The strawberries are too overgrown to mulch, but I may be able to mulch the raspberries next spring when I clear out last year's growth. I'm cleaning up beds and getting ready to plant potato onions (which are planted in the fall) so I'll mulch those as well.

Yippee! Treasure indeed! This dear lady will have the cleanest driveway in the state.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Watch out for those zombies

Monday morning at precisely 4:38 a.m. -- I know this because I looked at the clock -- I was awakened by the sound of a gunshot on the road by our pasture. Then a second shot. Then a third.

This is about the time every morning our neighbor D. leaves for work. "I'll bet D. got a porcupine," I mumbled sleepily to Don.

Porcupines are a menace to pets and livestock, as everyone knows, and D. -- an expert hunter with over 40 years of experience -- has little tolerance for them. He will routinely dispatch them whenever he comes across one.

Later that afternoon, D. called for another reason, and mentioned in passing we should keep our dog Lydia out of our pasture until we searched it for a dead porcupine. "It was dark when I shot it," he told Don, "but I'm pretty sure it went under your pasture fence."

So for our evening walk with Lydia, rather than letting her loose in the enclosed pasture as we normally do, we leashed her up and walked along the road instead.

I was vigilant the porcupine might not be in the pasture -- it's pretty tightly fenced -- but instead might be on the side of the road, and I didn't want Lydia tangling with it. She certainly knew something was up, as she sniffed intently along portions of the road. But nothing happened until we were heading back to the house.

Suddenly she lunged toward the roadside so hard and so fast that I started skidding on the gravel, unable to stop her. "Hold me hold me HOLD ME HOLD ME!" I shrieked to Don as I flailed on the gravel. He grabbed my hand, then grabbed the leash and started reeling Lydia in.

It was a moment too late. She had spotted the animal, invisible in the tall grass. Our dog came away with a snootful of quills from the porcupine -- which was still alive.

"Take her back to the house," Don told me. "I'll take care of the porcupine."

Poor Lydia was whining and trying to swipe the quills off her face. I pulled her along as a shot rang out behind me, then a second, then a third.

In the house I stripped off my coat and told Younger Daughter, "Lydia found the porcupine." We gathered scissors and pliers as Don came in.

We tried pulling the quills. We tried cutting the tips of the quills off, then pulling them. We tried and tried and tried ... and failed.


I can't blame Lydia for being so agitated, but the fact remained simply couldn't keep her still long enough to yank them out of her face. So, without a better option (since, of course, our county's vet office was closed since it was late evening), we bundled her into the car (with Younger Daughter in back to keep her calm) and I made a mad dash into Post Falls to the emergency vet clinic.


I've been to this clinic once before when our old dog Gypsy got a face-full of quills when a porcupine got in our yard. Poor Gypsy was far worse off than Lydia -- Gypsy looked like she was sporting a full mustache and beard and had a mouthful of hay after her encounter. By contrast, Lydia only had about 20 or 30 quills, versus the hundreds Gypsy had.

Normally the drive to Post Falls takes me an hour and a quarter. I was there in 45 minutes. I'm thankful I wasn't pulled over for speeding.

Like Gypsy the time we ran her to the vet, Lydia was actually quite calm in the car. It's like she knew we were getting her help. However as we pulled up in front of the vet's office, I told Younger Daughter, "Put her leash on and hold onto it while I open the back hatch."

It's a good thing she did, because the moment the hatch opened, Lydia leaped out and would have bolted into the night.

The vet clinic is wonderfully sympathetic and professional. Their services cost a premium, but believe me, when your beloved dog is in pain, you don't care. They whisked Lydia in back, anesthetized her, and pulled all the quills out. Here are just a few of the quills the vet collected:


Then they gave her a shot of anti-sedative to bring her out of her sleep. Poor Lydia came stumbling out of the back room of the clinic, eyes sunken, looking dazed and confused. But she was quill-free. I lifted her into the car and started driving home. She immediately sacked out. Younger Daughter snapped a pic.


When we got home around 10 p.m., Lydia stumbled into the house and stood, swaying. Slowly she sank down, first her hind quarters, then her front paws, then her nose, and slept where she was.


Yesterday Don and I went for our usual daily walk. We looked for the porcupine, since we wanted to later dispose of it so no other neighborhood dog got tangled with it.

The porcupine wasn't there. We carefully picked our way around the immediate vicinity -- and I found it. Still alive.

Don told me to step away, which I did. I was physically nauseous at the thought of the porcupine still being alive more than 24 hours after it was shot -- six times. I don't like any animal to suffer.

Don aimed and shot the porcupine, once. Twice. Three times. Four times.


"Those things are tanks," he said after he confirmed the beast was finally dead. "It's like killing zombies."

We still haven't collected the carcass, but we plan to today.


Meanwhile, I picked up a magnetized business card from the emergency vet clinic. It will stay on our refrigerator. Clearly we never know when we'll need it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Windstorm photos

These photos are of the windstorm we had in November 2015, and are for consideration with an article I submitted to Countryside Magazine. They are posted so the editor can pick which ones she wants.

Photo 1 (131 KB): Stock tank, kept brim-full for as long as we could


Photo 2 (128 KB): Strong wind, blowing faucet water sideways


Photo 3 (134 KB): Laying in extra firewood


Photo 4 (127 KB): Dead tree across our compost pile


Photo 5 (139 KB): Base of the dead tree blown down across compost pile


Photo 6 (1484 KB): Trees down in our woods


Photo 7 (1484 KB): More trees down in our woods


Photo 8 (3104 KB): Filling water barrels at our neighbor's


Photo 9 (2985 KB): Getting ready to siphon water to the stock tanks


Photo 10 (2223 KB): Hanging an oil lamp in the chicken coop


Photo 11 (2104 KB): Oil lamp in chicken coop


Photo 12 (2283 KB): Lamp light at night


Photo 13 (430 KB): Evening board games by lamplight


Photo 14 (2916 KB): Insulating a water barrel for the night to keep from freezing


Photo 15 (2870 KB): Oil lamps on standby


Photo 16 (2882 KB): Filling oil lamps


Photo 17 (2868 KB): Putting refrigerator food outside to preserve it


Photo 18 (2865 KB): Cracking open chest freezers during cold weather


Photo 19 (2871 KB): Three-pack flashlights from Costco


Photo 20 (2084 KB): Flashlights hanging by the door


Photo 21 (2438 KB): A neighbor's shed got smashed by the wind

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The most addictive drug known to mankind

Here's my WND column for this weekend entitled "The most addictive drug known to mankind."

Milestone!

Yesterday I happened to notice I'd hit 1100 Google followers.


Thank you "lifeonthewink" for being my latest follower!

This blog is growing slowly and steadily, and I have all of you wonderful folks to thank.



Saturday, September 17, 2016

Blessings from the Magic Pear Fairy

Our pear tree was loaded with fruit this year.


A few weeks ago, I picked up about 20 lbs. of windfall fruit for a neighbor in exchange for plums. I had to watch my footing, though, because the wasps had also found the windfalls.


One pear, unnervingly, looked whole from one angle, but when turned over proved to be hollowed out and filled with wasps. (Shudder.)



I had also picked another 20 lbs. or so to give to another neighbor whose husband does some mechanic work for us.

However I couldn't harvest the whole crop of pears until I got some fruit-picking baskets, since of course I'm 5'2" and the tree is 15 feet or more in height.


Fruit-picking baskets are the handiest gizmos. We used to have one when we lived in Oregon (where we had huge ancient fruit trees), but over the years it got lost and we never needed another until now. Don ordered two online, and they arrived last week.


I got two 10-foot lengths of PVC pipe, and Don trimmed one to six feet, giving me a long pole and a shorter pole.

Then it was off to pick fruit.


I picked and picked and picked...


...until I had a full wheelbarrow.


I was curious how much this was, so I weighed it bit by bit on our bathroom scale.


Not counting the 40 lbs. or so I gave away earlier, this picking came to 120 lbs.


Heavens, this was far more fruit than I could possibly use. I still have pears canned up from last year. What do to?

Simple. I transformed myself into the Magic Pear Fairy, loaded the pears into the car, and went around the neighborhood bestowing the blessings of pears on anyone I could capture. In short order, all the pears were gone (and I had some pleasant visits with the neighbors).

I kept back about 20 lbs. for ourselves.


These still need to ripen, so we won't be able to eat them for about a week. (By the way, here's a Magic Pear Fairy secret: to determine when a pear is ripe, depress the top just around the stem. If it "gives" a little, the pear is ripe.)


If there's one thing I'm learning about homesteading, it's this: when things become productive, they really become productive. We are overflowing with pears, strawberries, blueberries, beef, eggs, garlic, and other bounty. Now that's a real blessing!