Friday, April 29, 2011

This Day Is Blown!

Water the asparagus bed?

If I want my eyes gouged out with blowing dirt.

Hang the laundry on the line?

If  I want the remnants of my peeling sunburn blasted off my back.

Dig up the corn patch?

If I want my mouth scoured out with sand.

Clean out the chicken yard?

If I want my hair to split my cheeks with its furious lashing.

Clean your bedroom?





Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Spring Babies Are Here!

We have babies galore around here. This place never feels more like a real farm to me than when all the spring babies arrive. Chicks, ducks, geese and kittens fill the cornucopia of fluffy love around here these days.

(For the record, all these wee critters make us total kid magnets. You can hear the longing, pining, aching in the cousins' voices when they say, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, I wish I could come vizzzittttttttt......" when they learn of our new arrivals.)

But I digress.

Introducing our new little mousers Bijou and Stella:

Stella is the little fluffball on top. Isn't she pretty? Doesn't she have that natural feminine grace? Doesn't she look like the sweetest sister ever?

Yeah, well, she's not.

She's a he.

But we didn't find that out for a few days after we started calling him Stella, when Macy figured she and the kittens had spent enough time together that it was OK to start looking up skirts. Upon discovering we needed to get a pair of dungarees for Stella we talked a little, shrugged our shoulders and decided we wanted to call him Stella anyway. In a nod to his masculinity, we've expanded upon his name, however. He is now Stella the Fella. I hearken back to Johnny Cash's thought-provoking classic, "A Boy Named Sue," and figure there's a lesson in there for all of us. I just hope Stella doesn't come after me in a bar fight some day.

Bijou is a girl, for sure. Lest you think this is a weird name for a cat, you should know that other cat names around here have included Noodle and Two Buddy. I had to put my foot down when the kids were insisting on Miss Momentum for a puppy name. I explained there was no way I would be calling a vet to make an appointment for Miss Momentum Walker. It's bad enough making appointments for Noodle & Two Buddy Walker. Adam points out every time I grumble that Two Buddy has literary allusions - yeah, I don't care. It's still weird.


So, now we have precious new mousers who are about to be moved outside to join their barn cat pals, the aforementioned Two Buddy and Noodle.

Speaking of outside - that's where we have our new duck and geese snuggled down. Pictures of those little creatures are forthcoming. For now, you'll have to be satisfied with an introductory look at our new chicks, who are presently chirping and skittering in their brooder box in the kitchen.

"Shhhhh, close your eyes. Then they can't see you."

Oh, sorry, it appears they were just blessing the food. Way to spoil a reverent moment.

OK, we'll come back to them when they've finished eating.

Actually, they were just sleepy babies. I don't know why they fall asleep on their feet at first, but it's so funny to watch them swaying, eyes closed. It's a little nerve wracking, too, because in those first few days, you find out if you ended up with any sick chicks, and the standing there with eyes closed, looking miserable and swaying can be some of the first signs of a sick baby. We've been lucky that all of these are hardy, healthy little fellers. Now they lay down to sleep. Not sure what marks the transition from standing to laying. Just part of growing up, I guess.

You have to be very watchful of these little ones the first several days, looking for any signs of illness. Something you have to especially be on the lookout for is pasty butt. That's the very scientific formal name of a chick condition where their little poopers get clogged with poo, a condition that can lead to death. So, we're keeping an eye on hineys around here. Day before yesterday we found 3 of the chicks had pasty butt, so we held their tiny hineys under warm water until everything loosened up, then very gently wiped at the, umm, stuff, until it fell away. You have to be super gentle with the wiping because their hiney membranes are so delicate at this stage, it's easy to tear them. Ouch.

The little chicks settle right down while you're holding them under the running water, and close their eyes. It could be from humiliation (back to the "if I can't see them, they can't see me" thinking) or sheer relief at the warmth of the water and the removing of what has to be a very uncomfortable, if not painful, blockage. I used to be a little grossed out by this process, but now I just want to provide relief to the poor things, so I try to look past the poo to the healing. It gets me through. Anyway, I'm glad only 3 of the 15 have had any trouble, which we quickly fixed. We're getting past the stage where we'll need to be on the lookout for the poo clogs, and then I'll be able to give up diaper duty for another year.

Here's one little sweetie warming back up after being de-pooped.

"Nothing to see here folks. Just drying off and getting warm. She'll be fluffy again in no time. Keep it moving. Keep it moving."

Gotta be grateful for those Mother Hens that emerge young, watching out for their fellow chicks from day one. These are the friendships forged in steel, I tell you.

We picked our chicks up from the Feed & Seed on Friday, when they were 3 days old. We have 15 of them, and we're going to investigate which breeds they are since they were marked "Hatchery Choice - Pullets," which tells us they're all girls (hens) but not their breeds. I'm hopeful the orangey-yellow ones are Buff Orpingtons, because they are such great moms and in the past, they've seemed to have nice, calming dispositions. With luck, some of those stripey girls will be Aracaunas, which lay the blue or green eggs. Those super pale yellow ones could be Leghorns, which lay white eggs pretty much every day, which is nice to count on.

It'll be fun to watch this little flock grow into their personalities and quirks. We'll name them as their characters begin to emerge. And we'll hope the new improved chicken yard means we'll get to keep this flock to a ripe old age.

Love from the farm,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Loving Words In the Garden

Mike was commenting to me that some of the recently planted onions were looking good - specifically (he pointed out, I did not) the little patches that I had planted. He was worried that the onions he and Adam had planted weren't looking so hot.

I was basking in the warm glow of his praise, then superciliously said, with eyelashes fluttering, "Well, perhaps if you had been praying over your onions as you were planting them back there (behind me and Adam), like I was...."

"Oh, I was praying, all right," he immediately answered.

"Oh, you were?" I asked, eyebrow arched.

"Yeah, I was praying you guys would quit mooning me," he replied.

I had no words.

I simply turned and walked away.

And resisted scratching my itching, peeling, low, lower, lower back that I had so trustingly exposed to him during our time together in the garden.

Good thing he's a good kisser.

Love from the farm,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ta Da!

Scandalous. I teased it here and a little bit at the end here, then.....never related the connection between the mysterious photos.

Here we have this tremendous news and I delay the big reveal.

Don't think it's because it's not that big of news or that it's because I'm not very excited. Neither could be further from the truth. It is big news and I'm very excited.

Maybe not as excited as Adam, but excited nonetheless.

Did you catch that big, fat clue? That Adam might be more excited than me?

What could be up with Adam? What could be the big mystery? What does Adam have to do with giraffes, elephants and beautiful actresses?  Have you figured it out? (By the way, would you agree the photographer who took Adam's senior pictures was a visionary? I mean, how could he have known this photo would have fit this little post perfectly? Genius.)
OK, so here it is. Here's the big announcement...

My sweet firstborn baby, who can't possibly be old enough to venture out on his own, will be venturing far across the world, to serve a volunteer mission for our church in South Africa!

That's right - SOUTH AFRICA!!

He will be flying out of the Flagstaff airport on August 30 and will arrive in Johannesburg on September 1, where he'll live for 2 years. We're beginning the passport application process and the rounds of immunizations, and burning up Google with queries about food, tourist locales, cultural icons and the geographic distribution of political unrest (which is far from where Adam will be, thank heavens.)

As you can imagine, we're in the midst of digesting the whole shebang, figuring out whether there's any chance Charlize Theron will visit her home country during the time that Adam's there and the attendant odds that Adam and his companion just might happen to run into her, and anticipating Adam coming home with that really cool South African accent.

OK, now I have to go research thick-seated suit pants that won't wear out from riding thousands of miles on bicycles.

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Call of the Wild

I keep trying to sit down to write but spring is calling to me!

It's time to water the poplars so I can watch their leaves burst forth in real time...I need to see if the onions survived the deluge yesterday (it didn't rain, I just left the sprinkler on them for 5 hours)...I want to spray the chicken yard to see if the grass might reemerge...we need to stay outside until our new, precious, fluffball mousers, Stella and Bijou, "make"...time to water the asparagus bed...and clean out the chicken coop to make a nice home for the little peepers that are supposed to arrive at the Feed & Seed tomorrow...and visualize where all the crops are going to go in the garden....

So, as you can see, I have to go outside, but I'll be back here soon. Promise.

Love from the farm,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In the City

We're in the Valley this week - that's short for Valley of the Sun or Phoenix Metropolitan Area for those who don't know the lingo.

It's a busy week of doctor appointments: Tanner's kidney check up; my sister Lynda's thyroid surgery follow up ("So, where's this pill that's gonna make me glow for 3 days?"); her "how-do-I-function-without-a-thyroid?" appointment; a little school on the road; and a bit of recreation.

My sweet husband is home on the farm all alone while we take care of all this business. Before we left, he, Adam and I had an onion planting sprint - I'd say marathon, but the whole point is that it didn't take us all that long. We were on a deadline so we had to hustle. It was an impressive sight, I tell you.

Mike ripped up the onion bed with the as-yet-unnamed tractor. I got my first ride on the tractor. I hadn't been on one since I was a kid. It was awesome. I forgot how great it is to just dangle your legs as you rumble back and forth, back and forth. I already got it that Mike loves his little tractor. Now I really get it. Seeing my little chicken boots hanging off the side of the...whatever part they were hanging off...not thinking of anything, just along for the ride. Bliss.

But back to the sprint.

So, we ripped up the ground, worked in some bags of good potting dirt, wet the soil **guffaw laugh, chuckle, snort, grab side, guffaw laugh more, snort, hiccup, choke**. Oh, sorry, it's just that there's no way that sandy, terra cotta-colored substance is soil. It's not. It's going to take a few years. But we're in the gardening corner and we have to talk the talk, so we'll call it "soil" and I'll just try not to blow snot bubbles while I hold it all in.


We ripped the ground, worked in the dirt, wet the soil, marked a little grid and planted 300 onions, all in a little less than 3 hours flat. I kid you not. I have the sunburn across my lower back and throbbing fingernail beds to prove it. We were flying. We had to get those onions in the ground because there was no way they would have lasted until we get home this Saturday, and I wasn't going to ask Mike to plant them all on his own while we were gone.

Getting the first crop of the season into the ground is always monumental for me. Can you be gleefully serene? Because I was so excited every step of the way - seriously, even walking from the house to the garden was jubilant that morning - but then as I sat back on my heels (for which my thigh muscles and knees still haven't forgiven me) and saw those little green blades poking hopefully up out of the dirt, I was just so darn happy and, well, serene. I can't help it.There's something about the smell of the earth and digging and mounding dirt around young stems and watching the water darken the soil *heheheh, really I can't take it*, that gets my granola on.

So, anyway. Onions are in. I'll let you know how they do. Admittedly, plopping veggies down in "soil" that freshly dug isn't the ideal way to go. I had a little bed all ready for them that I'd filled with lots of good crunchy leaves and grass clippings and manure and bags of soil last year then left to simmer all fall and winter till now, only to realize there was not nearly enough room in that bed for all the onions, hence the big bed we dug the other day. So, I have my toes crossed that most of the 300 will survive. And, I'll find another purpose for that little patch of wonder dirt just aching to nourish...something.

If this were a gardening blog, I'd load you down with the names of all the onions I ordered, but since I don't know what the heck kind of blog this is, I'll just wait till I open a gardening tab on here somewhere to get that detailed. Suffice it to say we have red, sweet, big and good keepers.

Moving on.

Tan's doctor appointment went pretty darn good. His kidneys are doing great these days. Homeschooling during the horrendous cold and flu season seems to have paid big dividends. No general illnesses provoking a kidney response means we're not contemplating chemotherapy, which means Mama's a happy girl.

Now, we did find out that these little fellas aren't producing the way they should, so we're keeping an eye on that for awhile. The immunosuppresant meds Tan is on can cause his white blood cell counts and bone marrow to go awry, so we're testing his blood again in a couple of weeks to see if his numbers go back up. Hopefully, we'll find the dip is an anomaly rather than a trend and we won't have to change anything up. When things are going this good for his kidneys we hate to rock the boat, but we need to avoid causing other threatening issues while we're fighting the good fight for his kidney beans. I don't have that clenched fist in my stomach, so I'm thinking this will either end up being a non-issue or a manageable one, so we're going to enjoy the rest of our visit, by golly.

By the way, have you met Tanner?

Here he is.

And this is Tanner.

Awww...and this is Tanner. And Mike. And our old friend Whitney, who we sure miss.

I suppose meeting Adam, Macy & Karlie is in order, too. We'll do that later.

OK, so now that we've decided that we're not going to borrow trouble about Tan's white blood cells, we're going to get on with our time in the Valley.

After Lyn gets back from the doctor this morning, we're heading here:

To the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix. My kids love this place. We'll be having lunch at this big restaurant where they come rolling up to your table with a dim sum cart, and it's really easy to go crazy ordering all those little side dishes.

The restaurant opens out to this little gazebo and pond. And the waiters and waitresses smile placatingly but are very impatient for you to know what you want right away, be ready to order when they get to your table, and enjoy the nice atmosphere, but don't linger too long after you're done. We have tables to turn after all. Somehow, the impatience adds to the charm of the experience. I'm sure they'd love to hear that condescending little statement.

After lunch, we'll be going to the oh-so-Asian sounding, authentic Chinese grocery store:

Here, my kids buy all manner of weird treats and sweets. Adam goes in for some truly disgusting, exotic stuff all in the name of culture. Blech. I'm all for culture, I love culture, but I'll take good tasting, no-offensive-textured culture, thank you very much. This from the kid who doesn't like fresh tomatoes or mushrooms because of their texture. I don't get it.

I'm looking forward to our Ranch Market trip because if you haven't heard the secret yet, I'm about to give it away right here, right now: Asian markets have seriously fantastic prices. I've been wanting to get down here to stock up on cooking oils and coconut milk and other items that you'll find dirt cheap here and nowhere else. Seriously, you can't beat Asian market prices. And that is a statement that is backed up by strict scientific research. Well, not really, but it is true that a lot of people agree with me that anything you can get an Asian market, you should, because it is less expensive there. Swear.

Well, that's a lengthy rundown of what we're up to. Just think, if I were on Twitter, you could have gotten the bite-size version:

"Onions growing. Kidneys good. Lyn to doc. Off to Chinese market. No beef tongue, Adam, NO!"

Oh, and remember those two seemingly unconnected photos I showed you the other day? Well, here's one more.

But, I don't have time to tell you about it now, so we'll get to that later.

Love from the farm, if the farm were in Scottsdale,

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Big News

We received some big news last week.

News that will change things around here for awhile.

As incongruous as it might seem, it has to do with these photos.

Both of them.

Would you have ever put these two pictures together?

Well, we have good reason to.

Now, this picture is here for another reason altogether. This one's here to relate other news. This picture is the one you'll see if you visit "Love From the Farm" on Facebook.

Yep, if you "like" Gertie, you can keep up with her, and the rest of us, when you're on Facebook. Just click on Gertie's cute mug here and she'll take you straight to her page.

As for that other big news? More on that soon.

Love from the farm,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hello, Again!

Just checking in real quick to let you know we're back! We were gone a few days to take care of my sister Lynda's misbehaving thyroid, but we're back now. And she's zonked on pain killers. So, everybody's happy. Well, Lynda's really happy, if you know what I mean, since those Percocet can be little tablets of woozy goodness, I'm guessing, based on her bleary-eyed smiles.

Know what happened while we were gone?
These arrived! Yes, they're standing right there in my dining room and I'm about to slide them on to go outside and look at the back 40, where the kids and Mike spent a lot of time doing some spring cleaning while I was gone. For those who like to enjoy a good visual now and then, let me oblige: I will be wearing these with my hair pinned back (does anyone say pinned anymore?) and Adam's checkered grey robe. I will be a vision.

You know what else happened while I was gone? The onion sets I ordered came in and are sitting on my kitchen window sill. I ordered what we refer to around here as "Woodruff Onions," because somehow those Woodruff folk grow the biggest, baddest onions around, so I was bound and determined to get in on their community onion order this year. (Does your community have an onion order?)

Wonder how one onion can really differ much from another? Just take a gander.

Now, excuse the poor photo quality but the onion's long gone so I can't grab another shot. The one on the right is your standard grocery store yellow onion. The one in the middle is a "large" sweet onion, again from the grocery store. That big boy on the left is Cousin Jack's Woodruff-grown onion.

So, you understand the choice was clear. I had to order the Woodruff onions. And, once they're grown, I'll have to invite 6 extra people to dinner every night because there's no way on this Good Green Planet that a recipe that feeds our family of 6 will ever call for that much onion. Still, I'll win. My onions will be the biggest on our road, I'll betcha. And that's all that matters.

For those wondering: bigger than a softball, smaller than a cantaloupe.

Love from the farm,

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Don't Tell Uncle Sam

My Uncle Sam is a true blue Georgia boy who traveled the world during his Army career, and eventually landed here in northern Arizona with my Aunt Hazel (my Mom's sister) and their children.

Uncle Sam comes complete with a love for boiled peanuts and a thick, syrupy accent that I can't get enough of. No matter how he's feeling, he always has a big around-the-shoulders-squeeze for me and a "Well, hello, Babygirl," that just melts my butter.

Uncle Sam has always reminded me of Baloo, that lovable bear from the Jungle Book. I don't know why. He doesn't look like him, he doesn't sound all that much like him; still, I've always made the association.


My Uncle Sam is always happy to see me and my family, or at least that's how I like to think of it. In fact, the only time I ever elicited a look of displeasure...OK, an actual frown...from Uncle Sam was when I mentioned something about having only tried grits once, and that when I did try them, I had put sugar on them.

Oh, he was not happy.

Apparently, hominy grits have a sacred place in the Georgian culture and I had sullied, nay, desecrated that sacred place. Uncle Sam harrumphed and waved his hands next to his head and informed me in no uncertain terms that sugar on grits was not allowed. Any self-respecting person knew that no way, no how do you put sugar on grits. Butter and salt - that's the way to eat grits. Only with butter and salt. Actually, he may have mentioned some other non-sweet options but I don't remember them if he did. What I do remember is the loud and clear on no sugar. Ever.

So, please don't tell him that tonight, while I was scouring the cupboards for something fast and comforting after feeling lousy for the past several days, my eyes fell upon the container of grits, and before you could crack a beer tab and have Billy Carter come running, I was enjoying a nice warm bowl of grits with butter and salt...and cream and sugar.

While I may have Southern blood running in my veins, I wasn't raised in the South so I just haven't been steeped in the customs in the way I suppose I ought to have been. I've never been concerned about it because no one was holding me to any kind of Southern standard - I lived in Ohio and Arizona, for Pete's sake. But I sense that disclaimer may not be a good enough one when it comes to a man and his grits.

I hope that my promise to never darken Uncle Sam's doorstep with that perverted concoction will be enough to get me back in his good graces, should someone spill the beans. Maybe if I show up with some boiled peanuts he'll still call me "Babygirl."

Love from the farm,