Country Living Series

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Random pictures

Here are some random pictures from the last few weeks:

Arrow-leaf balsamroot in bloom, late May.

Apple blossoms from our young apple trees, late May.


A puddle by a drainpipe on a neighbor's property. See the little black dot on the pipe?

It's a fledgling blackbird. The parents were twittering anxiously overhead as I took these shots.

With Lydia and Lihn (Younger Daughter's Quaker parrot) in the garden.

I usually bring Lydia out to the garden with me and let her wander while I work. I call her the Guardian of the Garden.

Here she is, zonked out at the base of the Stanley plum tree.

"Huh? What?"

Five red-winged blackbird eggs.

Their nest is in the cattails of our pond.

A rain squall.

Although we've had some warm days (even one or two hot ones), this spring has been remarkably wet and chilly. On June 11 we dipped to just a hair above freezing. Thankfully the tomatoes didn't die.

On such days, the warmth from the wood cookstove is welcome (even in June).

Naughty robin, eating my strawberries.

Don has a faithful audience as he presses hamburger patties for our neighborhood potluck (it was our turn to host).

It's currently daisy season.

Suddenly we have cedar waxwings in the garden. Gorgeous birds.

Notice the one on the left has just caught a butterfly.

However they're also after the strawberries.

Lydia greets the neighbor's alpacas.

Morning sun through some fog.

Dawn sky.

I'm still waiting for the killdeer eggs to hatch. Because the chicks are precocial, the incubation period is fairly long -- 28 days -- and since this couple has nested smack in the center of the garden, it's preventing us from doing anything heavy-duty (using the tractor to bring in additional tires for beds, for example). I can't even pull weeds around the area. I'll be glad when this nest hatches.

Both parents incubate the eggs. It's charming to watch the "changing of the guard" -- the bird getting off the eggs does a little bowing-pecking ritual to its mate, and makes barely-audible cooing sounds, before relinquishing the nest.

Enjoy the spring.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Durned lucky chickens

Yesterday I heard, once again, the telltale squawks and alarmed clucks of chickens in distress. I dashed outside and through the barn. Peering out back into the corral, I saw the yellow eyes of a coyote peering back at me through the board fences. Being without the shotgun, I resorted instead to slamming out the barn door and yelling. "Ya! Ya!" The coyote ran off about twenty feet, stopped and looked at me again. I ran toward it, yelling. He took off into the woods.

The birds who had been behind the barn were cackling in alarm. I decided to leash up Lydia and walk her through the woods, letting her sniff out the coyote's trail in hopes it would keep it from returning anytime soon. Sadly, as soon as I went outside the corral, this is what I saw:

This is what was left of one of our two remaining Buff Orpington hens. I was bummed, as I'm fond of these ladies.

The entire tail had been pulled out in one unit, still complete.

I walked Lydia throughout the woods, letting her choose her own paths, and let me tell you she was hot on the trail of the predator. However no glimpse of the wily creature could be seen, so after half an hour we made our way back toward the corral.

But then Lydia wandered into a small side pen off the barn we seldom enter. Immediately a series of squawks came from the depths. The hen was alive!

I pulled Lydia out of the pen, tucked her in the house, then went into the pen and gently picked up the hen. She seemed glad to be cradled in my arms and, though shaken, was otherwise uninjured.

Let me tell you, that is one durned lucky chicken.

I carried her into the new barn and put her down. She was still drawn and tense and is completely missing her tail (except for one feather sticking up).

She was still shedding feathers too, as she walked.

But she's alive and unhurt, and that's a whole lot better than most chickens end up after meeting a coyote.

Now that we're apparently on the local coyote population's daily grocery run, attacks on our flock have been increasing. It underscores the need to complete an important project this summer: a large enclosed yard for the birds. I like having chickens scattered all over the property, but -- unfortunately -- so do the coyotes.

Such is life on a farm.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Saying goodbye to another daughter

Don and I are proud to announce Younger Daughter's recent career decision: She has enlisted in the Navy.

Let me tell you how this came about.

Younger Daughter has always wanted to travel, and was trying to think of some career excuse to do so. The Navy seemed like a good choice. Don is a Navy vet, and while over the years he's talked about his time in the service, he never ever suggested it as a choice for either of our girls.

In other words, Younger Daughter reached this decision entirely on her own. She thought about it for several months and researched it extensively before letting us know (and her decision took us totally by surprise).

She narrowed the job selection down to several possible choices for a four- or five-year enlistment, and made an appointment to see a recruiter the same day she took her algebra final exam in early May. She promised us if the jobs she wanted weren’t available, she would “walk” and not enlist, at least not yet. Since she wants to travel, she wanted to be on a ship (not land-based), so that was part of her selection process.

On the day of her algebra final she only got about four hours’ sleep (upset stomach through the night from eating a too-spicey dinner) and was very nervous about meeting the recruiter. (She got an A on the final and in the algebra class, by the way.) The first thing the recruiter had her do was take a practice vocational aptitude test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The minimum for getting into the Navy is 35 percent. On four hours’ sleep, an algebra final, and pure adrenaline, she scored 85 percent.

Immediately the recruiters started talking to her about the nuclear engineering program (“nuke”). Younger Daughter had already looked into this program and decided she didn’t want it, partly because of the six-year commitment but mostly because of the working conditions. The pay is astronomical once you leave the service but working conditions are grim (18-hour days, etc.).

The next step was a two-day overnight sojourn at the MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station) in Spokane, where she was given physical exams as well as the multi-section ASVAB (covering general science, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, numerical operations, coding speed, auto and shop information, mathematics knowledge, mechanical comprehension, and electronics).

This time the ASVAB wasn’t a practice test; it was the real deal, and would determine what jobs she would qualify for. Two other young men from Coeur d’Alene who were enlisting scored 60 and 75 percent. Younger Daughter scored – 95 percent. (This is apparently termed a "nerd score.")

Then came the big moment where they called her in to let her know what jobs were available. They had five or six possibilities on the table, none of them great. She called Don twice during this process to get his opinion about two of the positions she was offered. None were what she wanted, so she walked.

At least, she walked for about five minutes. One of the positions she had been offered (called Advanced Electronics Computer Field, AECF) didn’t appeal because it had a six-year commitment (two years of school, four years of active duty), and because of that she hadn’t really investigated it. It’s a position requiring higher ASVAB scores, so she was qualified. The work sounded interesting, and she would have the chance to be on a ship, which she wanted. She went back in to the recruiters and accepted the post, signed the paperwork, and swore the military oath.

(Taking the military oath, along with another recruit)

However evidently she made a bigger impression than she realized. Her ASVAB scores rippled up the chain of command and garnered quite a lot of attention from some muckety-mucks in Washington. At a follow-up meeting with the recruiters, they kept trying to persuade her to be a nuke. A female nuke, apparently, is something the Navy really really really really really likes to see. They even offered to bring in a nuke to talk with her about the position. As I said, it has brutal working conditions but amazing pay (after an enlistee’s service is up and he’s ready to leave the Navy, they offer re-enlistment bonuses of around $100,000 if they’ll stay in the Navy).

(Here's Younger Daughter with the recruiter, looking a bit shell-shocked. Notice the height difference: YD is a hair over five feet, the recruiter something like 6'5")

However the more she investigates the AECF position, the happier she is with it and she has no interest in becoming a nuclear engineer. She leaves after Thanksgiving for boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, so we won’t have her for Christmas. After that, she’s in school for two years in Great Lakes, and then her active duty begins. She’ll have vacations, so we’ll get to see her once in a while after boot camp is over.

So why the interest in a military career? As YD put it, "I've never met a vet I haven't liked." She had four college math classes with a cadre of vets and liked them enormously.

In my opinion, the military brings out the best in so many people because it doesn't cultivate anyone's "inner snowflake." It strips away immaturity and victimhood and teaches personal responsibility and self-control. This creates a subculture of Very Good People on the whole.

By the way, a funny thing happened at MEPS. According to Younger Daughter, the recruiting office's goal is to do anything it can to qualify applicants, and the goal of MEPS is to do anything to DISqualify applicants. Since the MEPS she attended is in Spokane, and marijuana is now legal in Washington, the issue of drug use was investigated closely.

At one point a doctor tried to get YD to admit she'd used pot. YD denied it. "You can tell me," the doctor urged. YD denied it. Come on," the doctor persisted. "Are you SURE you've never used marijuana?" YD denied it. He continued to push, until Younger Daughter said, "Look, I was homeschooled on a farm by Christian parents. When would I have had a chance to try marijuana?"

At this the doctor stopped pushing. Instead he smiled, shrugged, and said, "Okay then."

So she’s off to a good start. With her high moral character and frugal upbringing, we have a feeling she’ll do well and go far in the Navy. She may even make a career out it. Even if she doesn’t, the training she gets will insure she has no problem getting a civilian job after her enlistment is over.

We're proud of her decision. It will be tough to have her leave so abruptly, but we're launching a good kid into the world.