Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What In The Samhain...

Today the spirits of all my departed loved ones draw near.  According to Irish mythology, the spirits of the dead and fairies are able to communicate easily with the living tonight - the end of summer and the beginning of winter.  Samhain.

Though I would love to communicate with my parents, family, and friends who have preceded me in death, I do not like the spooky way ghosts have been harassing me most of my life so I take no chances.  I never ask anyone supposedly dead to slam a door or touch me the way television ghost hunters do!  If a door slammed for no reason, or I felt an invisible hand touch me, it would scare the begeezus out of me.  I would die of fright.

While I have lived in several places where strange things happened, events so blatant that a paranormal explanation was truly the easiest answer, I never felt as if those events were caused by one of my dead loved ones.  It would make me incredibly sad if anyone I loved was stuck on earth as a spirit without a body, unhappily roaming this world and unable to move on. 

Besides, in America there are no ghosts, and fairies are considered happy spirits, more like nature spirits.  In Ireland fairies are serious business and no one dares to provoke them.  I assume a serious Irish fairie could zip over here to America in an instant to kick any sissy American fairie's ass, so I am not going to take any chances with fairies, either.

In my life Halloween has always been a fun time of dressing up in an outrageous outfit and getting a ton of candy.  The best Halloween parties of course were the ones I attended as an adult.  The most righteous Halloween revelers of all are bikers - in the Harley Davidson sense of the word.  Halloween parties always brought out the creative best in those people.  When a fully grown male biker earning his own way in this world decides to dress up for Halloween, you never know what to expect.  At one memorable party, three friends came as ZZ Top, complete with suits, huge beards (in this case genuine beards) and cheap sun glasses.  They stayed together all night, drinking in unison and eyeballing women in a synchronized fashion.  But they took second place to the old school Mafioso, carrying a machine gun in a violin case, authentic to the last detail.  The clincher was a huge knife buried in his back.  Goodwill raked in a fortune from that biker crowd every year at Halloween.  I miss those crazy, happy people.  We are all old grandmas and grandpas now, too busy with grandchildren and too tired for a big costume party.  Many are already dead but I do not want to necessarily hear from them tonight, either.  I assume they took their wicked sense of humor with them, which means they would enjoy a great laugh at my expense and feel no ghostly remorse. 

If it is true that the veil between this reality and the next is thinnest tonight, on All Saint's Eve, then maybe, just this once, I will be willing to hear from a dead loved one.  But if a serious Irish fairie scares me to death instead...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Are Any of Us As Smart as a Fifth Grader?

How easy it is for life to be difficult and dangerous on this planet.  We should be far kinder to one another, and far more gentle with the earth herself. 

The multiple threats of the megastorm coming ashore on the east coast are unimaginable to me -  and apparently to others.  One couple, interviewed for the evening news, are living in a mandatory evacuation area of New York City but refused to leave.  Now the lobby of their building is at least four feet underwater and all power to their building is off.  For drinking water, they had filled the bathtub.  I was shocked at their naivete.  How long do they believe it will take utility crews to restore electricity to millions of people?  How long will their food supplies last, especially in their non-functioning refrigerator?  How long do they imagine it will be before potable water runs from their faucets?  How long do they believe it will be before grocery stores can restock food after being destroyed in flood water?  If they are adults of sound mind, they have the right to take their chances, but the problem, in my not so humble opinion, is they have a toddler.

It may be weeks before electricity is restored and the water supply is no longer contaminated.  What if their building catches fire or dangerous people start looting as soon as the water recedes?  What if they become ill or their child becomes ill?  What will they do then? 

They must have made what they believed was the best decision under the circumstances.  That anything could truly threaten their everyday reality and safety must have been unimaginable or they would have surely evacuated their child to safety when they had the chance.  I sincerely hope the best for that family.

Sometimes human beings are not smart.  I include myself as another specimen of the bumbling species.  How have we managed to survive to the point of overwhelming the planet with our numbers?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Trash, Trucks and Dawgs

First, my daughter needed the truck and then my son.  The truck has not been at the farm since late June.  Consequently, I have not been able to haul the trash to the landfill.  The cans have been filled to the brim and this has made Jake the puppy immensely happy.  He expertly works the lids off (despite all best efforts to prevent it) which makes it easy to tip the cans over.  Then, to his great delight, there is a mountain of smelly garbage to nose through - a plethora of textures to chew and rip apart - and an over abundance of material to drag all over the yard.  He has all day to create a scene that instantly turns me into a murderous woman.  I want to kill that dog - with my bare hands.  I have considered hauling him back to the humane shelter.  He is a bad dog.  He is not a good farm dog.  He rarely barks at anything.  When people drive up, he disappears.  He has killed two of the three chickens survivors.  The only thing Jake has going for him is that he is so darned cute when he lays down to watch me pick up the trash, cussing him all the while.  He crosses his front paws, kicks back and watches the show.  Literally.

My son showed up with the truck last Saturday.  We hauled off every scrap and molecule of trash.  All that disgusting stuff Jake happily dragged around and I angrily and repeatedly picked up is now safely in the landfill.  I do not know what Jake has been doing to keep himself occupied during the day, but he has not been close to death a single, solitary time since Saturday. 

I have plans to build a corral for the cans.  It will require a gate to allow for the easy removal of full cans for hauling and that makes it a bit of a larger project. A gate is not beyond my basic building skills, though.  I can fix this most aggravating and imminent danger to Jake's health and well being, but I cannot fix Jake's other problems.  I cannot teach him how to be a good farm dog.  I keep hoping his genetics will activate and he will become the watch dog I need him to be.  So far he is nothing but a worthless trash hound. 

I think Duke appreciates having a companion even though Jake often irritates him, too.  The dear old Duke, that most valiant and wonderful of good dogs, continues to diminish in strength and ability.  He is a retired dog who gets fed first, and petted first, and receives treats first.  It is almost to the point that when I go to the pasture, I have to put Duke in the pen to stop him from following.  He can no longer make the trip without great effort.  If I had the money, I would have one of those four wheelers with a small trailer.  Then Duke could ride along and still be part of the action.  He is just too big for me to carry. 

This summer, I drove past the house of a distant neighbor.  Those kids were in school with my son.  The boy, now a young man, must have been visiting home and had gone for a run or a hike.  His dog, now old like the Dukenator, was struggling to make it back to the house.  The poor old dog was in the road, lagging far behind the young man, obviously in pain and unable to do anything but take baby steps.  I do not think the man realized how far behind the dog had fallen.  It caused a lump in my throat.  But if Jake does not shape up, he will not have to worry about getting old on the farm like Duke and the neighbor dog.  (He will go live in the city!  What did you think?!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Indications of Evolution... Or Not

The gravel roads going both east and west from my home have been recently renewed with fresh rock.  While necessary, it is always better when the roads have been pounded into a surface resembling concrete.  New rock yields about a year's worth of dust that finds its way into every nook and cranny in a vehicle, and in my case, into the house.  It means a fair amount of mud though we have almost forgotten what a muddy road is thanks to the extended drought.  It also means that I can no longer drive 50 miles per hour.  Fresh gravel is the equivalent of covering the road with marbles.  After the county has brought in new gravel, it takes a couple of days to adjust to a slower and safer rate of travel.  That is why I almost drove into the ditch Sunday afternoon. 

I was going a little too fast for fresh gravel when I spotted a small snake racing across the road.  Normally snakes stop and lay in a straight line, thinking they are camouflaged - not a good strategy.  This little guy knew better than to act like a stick but instead of turning back he was slithering across the road at top speed.  I quickly slowed down, hoping he would stop.  He must have been a racer because he did not slow at all.  I instantly recognized a fateful encounter for him, so I hit the brakes - a little too hard - and the car began to skid in the loose gravel.  I kept steering away from the snake but quickly ran out of room and the snake just kept racing toward the front wheels of my car.  Luckily for me and the snake, I was not going so fast that I lost control.  I avoided the ditch and the snake, seeing in the side mirror that he was unharmed and still racing for the other side. 

Snakes know nothing about insurance companies.  Even if we could somehow speak their language, it would be impossible to explain about the human snakes that have successfully lobbied the government into an unholy morass of liability laws that do not favor "the insured".  In addition, this particular snake had no idea that I was genetically predisposed toward hating snakes - that I was tenderly nurtured by a man who fearlessly locked up the wheels of his truck, skidding recklessly, confidently, to kill any snake unfortunate enough to cross his path.  My father would slam to a stop, crash into reverse and floor it in order to run over any snake he spotted in the rear view mirror. 

I have evolved past my fear and loathing of snakes - as long as I am at a safe distance.  I have often stopped in the road to get a good look at one laying still, stretched in a perfect line.  If I wait long enough, it will eventually make its silent, graceful way across the road.  I have overcome the unreasonable fear and hatred of snakes learned at my father's knee but not because I have grown wise or mellowed with age.  There is only one reason why I do not kill every snake that crosses my path: mice.  Snakes eat mice.  I wish mice would cross the road in front of my car.  I learned the techniques of vehicular assassination from a master.  I would kill them all in cold blood and back up for good measure.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oh Delicious Hay

The horses, Ginger and Wally, have been getting hay daily for a couple of weeks now.  The quality of the pasture is mostly devoid of nutrients even though they still spend time grazing.  This is the first autumn with Wally and it is an adventure to discover his "table manners". 

While watching me walk up the path to the barn both horses behave as if they are retarded in the old fashioned, politically incorrect sense of that word.  One or the other will call to me.  Ginger paces the fence with her head turned so both eyes are directly facing the fence.  Wally stands in one place and tosses his head about in a bizarre imitation of sparring giraffes.  What is wrong with those two nitwits?  They belong on the short bus!  (The short trailer?)

You would think they are starving, but that is not so.  Wally lost some of his big belly due to the earlier illness, but Ginger is still fat - too fat according to the farrier and my neighbor who owns five horses.  I do not recall my father's horses, or grandpa's horses behaving like idiots at feeding time but maybe they were not waiting on such delicious hay.  Maybe the brome hay baled just down the road is so delectable that it makes my two horses loco.

As soon as I throw the hay over the fence for Ginger (of course her majesty the Queen is served first), Wally's antics kick into high gear.  When he gets his serving, his entire body relaxes and if he could speak, he would be crooning, "Oh hay, oh delicious hay, oh delectable hay."

One amazing thing - Ginger and Annie had to be fed at least 75 feet apart or Ginger would run back and forth trying to eat from both servings.  I discovered 75 feet was far enough away that it made her antics impractical and Annie could usually eat in peace.  Wally can eat his hay just a few feet from Ginger.  Wally does not know how good he has it in the Kingdom of Ginger.

Silly horses!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oh My Unfathomable Omniscient Diety!

First thing Monday morning a headline caught my eye in Google News.  It was a science article from the Los Angeles Times discussing new evidence from the Apollo lunar mission soil samples regarding the hydrogen molecules present in the dirt.  It was interesting to read but nothing earth shattering.  What made me almost spew my morning tea all over the computer screen were the opinions posted by three of my fellow citizens.  I normally do not look for the opinions posted by people online because they are typically not worth reading and are quite depressing.  When the full scope of our collective American ignorance is available via the internet for the entire world to witness, well, it is enormously discouraging.  Our effort to give everyone in America an education is noble but perhaps it has fallen short in certain instances. I would say, based on these three comments, it is an outright failure.

Reproduced below, for your entertainment and edification, are the first paragraph of the article followed by the enlightened offerings from three of our typical fellow Americans.  I stumbled across the holy trinity of the Ignorami:  general stupidity, religious dogma, and politics.  I hit the jackpot! 

Read'em and weep:

Apollo rocks analysis: solar wind made moon water
Analyzing grains of soil collected from three Apollo lunar missions, geochemists have figured out that the hydrogen in trace amounts of water on the moon’s surface probably came from solar wind, the outflow of positively-charged hydrogen from the sun.

Frankothemountain3 at 4:09 AM October 15, 2012
Oh yeah, let's look at that junk from 43 years ago.

LA City-Data Forum at 6:53 AM October 15, 2012
My pastor has always questioned whether men went to the moon. He told me my opinion should be to question these alleged events and consult with the Bible. Same with dinosaurs. Moon rocks, schmoon rocks; I don't believe it.

a.gentleman49 at 6:53 AM October 15, 2012
Hydrogen atoms in a rock from solar wind to make water, even though the moon is dryer than a bone in the Arizona desert because, even if an atom of water did form, it would immediately evaporate into the vacuum of space? Boy, are these NASA folks really trying hard to keep their jobs once the fiscal cliff cometh.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Without Much Ado...

I hope this is the heron from the corner.

Not his favorite pond but it will do because...
...his former home looks like this!

Monday, October 8, 2012

And Then I Call My Other Horse....

First, he stops in a cloud of dust!

Do I want to make the trip or not?

Maybe I'll gallop over and slam on the brakes at the last moment - make it worth my time. 

It would be bad form to scare her.  She is pretty old.

What ridiculous contraption is she holding in front of her face?

Doesn't look dangerous. 

Humans are soooooo lame... but she might have a pear...

Waaaaaaait a minute.... Did I hear a booger?

Yes, I heard a booger.

Oh, OK.  Now let's see if what's-her-name has a pear.

If she thinks I am going to stare into that contraption...

So do you have a pear or not?

I do not see a pear. I'll save face and nibble at this plant.  

What a wasted trip!

When I Call My Horse

This better be good!

I was eating, you know!

Taking pictures again?

That does not impress me.

You called me over, so here I am, Sweetheart!

You better stop bothering me unless you have something good to eat.

Is this close enough for you?

How about now?

You are so lame...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Farrier Day


Stop Right There! 

Freshly Trimmed Hooves - Aren't They Beautiful?  

Wally's Hooves Need A Few More Months Of Terrie's Magic
Pausing to Check for Invisible Boogers
Wally Taking Off At His Usual Rocket Speed
Saturday morning was farrier day.  It is always a big deal because it is so exciting to have visitors in Pastureland!  I call the horses up if needed but usually they are already hanging around the barn.  They are haltered and given a little treat, then I begin brushing them, hoping to have them as calm as possible before Terrie arrives.

Terrie is a natural "barefoot" farrier.  Some wise people at the AANHCP (Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices) researched the mustang hoof and developed a way to trim the domestic hoof to match the mustang.  Even though my horses are not working horses, it makes sense to me that their hooves should be trimmed to match what is natural.  I am grateful for Terrie's knowledge and skill, not to mention her patience with Ginger who insists on misbehaving most of the time.  She does not kick but stubbornly insists on putting her feet down whether Terrie is finished or not.  Terrie always wins after a tussle.  And Ginger always exhales in surrender.  I assume it is a game Miss Thing enjoys playing.  That does not mean I do not want to whack her with a big stick for being such a pain - Ginger, not Terrie.

It was the second time Terrie trimmed Wally's hooves, and after just a little struggle - until he figured out what we wanted him to do - Wally was the perfect gentleman - far better behaved than Ginger.  I swear horses are the most sensitive, psychic animals in the universe.  Though she did not say anything, I think Terrie was a bit relieved that Wally was so well behaved.  I was so relieved and outright happy that the morning had gone so well that both horses sensed the change and were suddenly spirited and rejoicing, too.  Wally was prancing, tossing his head, thundering up to me and slamming on the brakes, only to spin away in a cloud of dust.  He actually forgot himself and thundered up to Miss Thing, who squealed in warning, sending Wally back pedaling in a flurry of mane-waving head tossing.  You would have thought Wally ruled the universe, which of course, he does.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Taken For Granted

Before the drought

Water we take for granted.  When there are difficult times of no water, or of too much water, that is when we truly appreciate the great abundance of the "right" amount.

There is water in some ponds and in the larger creeks and rivers but almost all small streams are dry.  It will take several seasons for the land to heal.  The heron who lives in the vanishing pond at the corner was summarily evicted yesterday.  Taking advantage of the drought, machinery was brought in to dredge and restore the pond.  Tons of dirt was dug out and piled on the dam, making a very deep trench along the length of the dike.  Eventually, though, the rain will replenish and restore the pond.  It will be an improved water source for cattle and a better habitat for fish and will eventually nourish a heron again.  It is interesting to see the mechanics of pond maintenance, but I felt sorry for the solitary bird.  The last little puddle of water it called home drained away when the digging began.

I will miss seeing the heron every evening and I wonder how long it will be before a heron might return there.  I miss the water, too.  I pause there almost daily to witness the last moments of daylight reflected in the calm water.  I wait for twilight to transform the skyline of these beloved hills into a glowing glimpse of the ancient, pristine earth, as if directly from the hand of the Creator, all human abuse and burden hidden in the shadows.  For a fleeting moment the world is pure and beautiful beyond words.

Wonder how long it will be before I see this again?
It may be a while...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Sometimes I take a long look at my fellow Americans and wonder how we became this nation of hateful, self-centered fools.  Of course, the nation was founded on entitlement, beginning with Columbus.  The Europeans felt they were entitled to land already occupied.  Now people think they are entitled to cheap energy - gas, oil and electricity.  They complain about regulations driving up the cost of energy.  The "cheap" and easy energy has been consumed in decades of gluttony and glorious waste.  We have poisoned the air, water and soil.  We are creating a stock pile of millions of spent nuclear fuel rods across our nation, leaving a legacy of danger and death for a thousand centuries so we can wastefully light every conceivable mile of urban street and empty shopping mall, and undeservedly live like the only kings and queens on the earth.

We have built machines to literally destroy mountains grubbing for coal and other treasures.  We have strip mined vast areas of our planet in a terrible cancerous blight that even the miraculous healing properties of nature will never be able to restore.  We continue to spill our crude oil into the seas thinking the ocean and all of its creatures are disposable and certainly not as important as cheap gasoline and cheap electricity.  It is because we believe we are entitled to "drill, baby, drill" but I do not know why.  I guess manifest destiny still poisons our blood. 

We will pay the price one way or the other.  We can either pay rather modestly now for regulation and oversight aimed at cleaning up the environment, and possibly teaching us to conserve, or our children and grandchildren can pay the deferred costs.  And they will pay a far dearer price.  I do not think anyone cares.