Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dorcy The Goddess of Light

From the first nights spent on my little patch of Kansas prairie, I have wanted a "laser beam" bright enough to cut through the darkness to illuminate the timber and underbrush across the creek. I have so often wished to see with my own eyes what Duke's keen senses tell him is prowling there. Behold, the time is at hand! On the last trip to the farm store I found a rechargeable, one million candle power spot light on sale for cheap. It contains a quartz halogen bulb. It gives me superpowers. I can illuminate the old garage easily from the front windows.  (I could conceivably capture a glimpse of a whangdoodle - assuming they have a detectable form.)

The light is not practical for anything except a brief blast of focused light. After 15 hours of charging, I only get 30 minutes of continuous use. I do not intend to use it for anything except to investigate noises I cannot identify. I think unscrupulous hunters use this type of spotlight to blind animals in order to easily shoot them. I do not think I should ever shine it in the direction of the horses or the dogs. The instructions warn to never look into the light or to shine it in someones eyes.

Last night Duke was barking repeatedly so I used the light to look along the creek bank south of the house. I did not see any creature but Duke stopped barking and did not resume. Apparently, the light scared away whatever creature was there. The best use for this will be in warm weather when I have to go to the barn after dark. According to the product information that came with the light, I can theoretically illuminate snakes in the path from up to a mile away. That works for me.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Where's Wallo?
It was a beautiful Christmas Day, such a pleasant day that I thought I would take some special photos of my horses, specifically the one who takes herself very seriously. I could only get a single photo - and it is a bad one. No matter what I did to entice her, Ginger refused to look at the camera again. She knew.

Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward (Some) Men
From the Critters and the Crazy Woman at Spirit Creek

Disclaimer on Neighbors and a Few Other Comments

My aversion to living too closely to neighbors comes from the post traumatic stress of living next to the neighbors from hell in Topeka, Kansas. I have very good country neighbors, and any snide comments about "neighbors" is in no way directed toward them! I rarely see any of my neighbors and have few occasions to even speak to anyone, so we all get along great - as far as I know.

Another embarrassing thing I probably need to clear up at this time is a comment I made about how attractive men are who build things. I posted that comment during the time my house was being built. The exact term I used was "sexy". That, too, is a tongue-in-cheek statement, referring to my general observation that men who build and repair homes, fix machinery, air up Harley tires and other such amazing feats of masculinity are very attractive in a generally-speaking, non-embarrassing, entirely innocent and unintended way to the fairer sex. I was NOT referring to anyone specifically. It was a statement acknowledging the higher qualities of all men who practice the white magick of construction and repair. All that stands between women and the second law of thermodynamics is a man with a tool belt. That's all I'm sayin'!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Missing the Old People

It is appropriate that a woman born at the winter solstice, during the longest night of the year, would have an affinity for winter. Though I deeply appreciate the pleasant and green days of spring - the dramatic and beautiful thunderstorms of summer and the flowering prairie - it is the cold of true winter that I love the most. I enjoy bundling up in warm clothes and boots and going to the barn to tend the horses. Unless it is brutally cold, they prance and buck and gallop their joy as soon as the back door opens. They know their oats are on the way. Wally arches his neck, tossing his head and mane as if he is the most handsome guy alive. And my bossy little mare, her copper coat dusted with snow, is beautiful in the clear yellow sunrise, her shapely nostrils flared and steaming as she vocalizes her impatience with the slow human trudging up the hill.

Winter is silent and pristine, with or without snow. A woman can hear her own heartbeat in the deep silence. Sometimes the happy memories of my childhood come calling as I lean against the fence panels listening to the horses. Their simple pleasure in the nutritious oats and fragrant hay is tangible. In that simple, sweet space I easily recall the smell of smoke from my Grandma's wood-burning stove. It permeated the house year round - a sweet and familiar incense tracing far back in our human genes, unfailingly reminding us of comfort and safety and warmth and family.

In the closet by the back door, (the only door ever used by anyone) Grandma kept old jackets, hats, scarves, mittens and sweaters. These old clothes, smelling wonderfully of wood smoke and hay, were for city folk who did not know how to dress for the farm - or for a granddaughter who would get in big trouble for ruining her "good" clothes.

Grandma was a simple woman, beloved of just about everyone who ever knew her. She was loving and kind, and had a bit of mischief in her, a spark of something good that filled you up. She loved me perfectly. She loved me exactly the way I was, and never in all the time I spent with her, did she ever make me feel bad about myself.

She taught me to thread a needle, to pick strawberries without damaging the plant, to scoop up fuzzy yellow peeps and cup them safely in my hands. She taught me to build a fire in the stove, and allowed me "grown up" chores, like gathering the eggs or filling the wood box. I could "help" make bread and egg noodles and pie crusts. She was dressing a chicken once when I saw two tiny kidney-shaped organs connected by a little thread of flesh. I exclaimed, "It's kidneys!" Though it embarrassed her, she explain it was a rooster and those were his manly parts. My grandma always told me the truth and gave me the information I needed at a level I could understand. She never told me to wait until I was older, or in school, or to ask someone else.

If the theoretical physicists are right, and in reality there is no such thing as time, and everything in the universe happens now, it means Grandma's kitchen, blessed with the smell of baking bread and boiled coffee, still exists. She is there carefully making four depressions in the snowy white flour where the egg yolks go in order to make egg noodles. That poor unfortunate rooster is just about ready for the kettle, and soon Grandpa will be coming in from doing chores.

Monday, December 23, 2013

First Days of Winter

The weather station in Paxico is reporting 10 degrees this morning - positively balmy! Driving home last night from Topeka, the car readout indicated 2 below zero at 7:30 pm. When it gets this cold, the water pipes coming from the well into the "basement" of the old garage can freeze. After two instances of enduring that hardship, and paying for expensive repairs, I am vigilant when the temperature gets to zero.

As I was driving home, my mind was full of justifications for NOT taking the trouble to place a small space heater into the basement. I kept telling myself it would "probably" be fine. It was so darned cold outside that I did not want to get out of my warm and toasty car, go into my warm and toasty house, then bundle up in work clothes and trek through the snow over to that freezing and silent empty building. For starters, whangdoodles surely reside there, especially after the sun goes down. There would not be anything truly dangerous, like snakes or giant spiders this time of year, but there could be a mammal, or a group of mammals making themselves at home. A sleepy squirrel or a opossum could savagely attack when I opened the door. Oh, I eventually stopped making excuses and accepted the fact that it had to be done.

It is times like this when I always ask myself, was marriage really THAT bad? It was a job for a husband, no question. As I was trudging through the snow, followed by my faithful dogs, I wondered how a man would genuinely feel about going into the basement on a frigid, dark night. Would he feel any dread at all? Or would it be such a small action preventing such a large headache, that he would simply take it all in stride? Men are expected to be unafraid of spiderwebs or creaking old buildings. They do not mind the snow or the dark, and probably no man on earth believes in whangdoodles. Is it because men truly do not mind, or because they are raised to keep fears and complaints to themselves?

It brought my grandfathers to mind. They always took care of the difficult, dirty, unpleasant things - braving the cold and dark, suffering through many hardships on behalf of their wives and families. It was expected of them. They were responsible. I simply cannot recall either of them complaining about much of anything except the weather and the government. So, I just sucked it up and took care of things last night, and this morning I have running water in my house.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Far Better Than the Giant Ball of Twine...

Yolk Art?

We found these steel barrel chickens on the main street in Smith Center, Kansas. I like that the artist left them in the original colors. The rooster might be close to six feet tall. Maybe there should be some peeps made from old Pennzoil cans?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Beautiful People Who Would Never Live in Kansas

Decades ago, I was reading a popular magazine while I was waiting for the doctor or the dentist, and saw photos of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet.  The article was about their divorce.  I was sad that those young and exceptionally brilliant and beautiful people could not make their marrage last.  I thought they were the most beautiful people in the world.  I wondered how either of them would ever find anyone as beautiful as the person they were divorcing.

I have not researched who Lenny may be married to now, but Lisa found a man even more beautiful than Lenny, though I did not think it possible.  Jason Momoa!

Everyone knows how I feel about living too closely to neighbors, but what if these two amazingly beautiful people lived ... say... a mile down the road?  I know that could never happen.  If Jason Momoa were to even step foot in Kansas, it would rip a hole in the universe.  It would be as if all the positive matter in the world suddenly fell into the black hole that is Kansas.

*Photos shamelessly stolen from the internet because, you know, I would have my own photos of any of these people?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"I Canna Dooo it, Captin!"

Facebook has it fun features, like seeing photos and keeping up with whatever friends and family might be doing. It gives us ample opportunity to tease one another, and share jokes, and stay in touch without actually speaking. (Sometimes not speaking directly with relatives is a good thing. I'm just sayin'...)

There is a dark side to Facebook, but I am not referring to the spying corporations and our invasive, out-of- control government commits against us. Nor am I referring to those unfortunate people who, in the hubris of lust, post regretful photos of themselves. I am not talking about college students who, by every other law are considered adults, capture their partying and "underage" drinking, which allows corporations to weed them out before they even get a chance at a career. Something is fundamentally wrong when a legal adult 18 (and over) can be penalized so severely from stupid Facebook photos, but cops filmed beating and shooting people remain exempt from consequence.

People post their political views on Facebook, which would be fine if I agreed with them, but chances are I do not. Sometimes I extremely do not agree with them. Though I may love those people dearly, I have to check the boxes that prevent their propaganda from showing up on my news feed even though it also prevents the things I would like to see.

Sometimes people post horrifying photos of animals being tortured or killed, asking for help to track down the perpetrators. Most of the time, they are photos that I have already seen, often many years ago when those photos came uninvited as spam. It still makes me sick.

Recently, someone posted a video of a woman accused of adultery, and murdered at the hands of her husband. He cut her throat. I did not watch it. Just reading the description was horrifying enough for me. There are things you can never "unsee", never forget, never again be innocent of witnessing. I hope to live my entire life and die without witnessing a murder.

I know such horrific things happen every day on this earth. I know there are animals suffering abuse, neglect, and quite likely torture, within a few miles of just about every person in America right now. They are called feed lots and corporate farms. There are people not guilty of crimes against human beings who are suffering abuse, and neglect, and torture in prisons all over this country - more prisoners than any other country. I know there is no genuine journalism or freedom in our press. It is almost all entertainment. I know there is precious little I can do about any of this. When people post these cruel images, post their opinions, post their crazy (to me) points of view, it always feels as if I should do something about it. But what the hell can I do - about any of it?

When photos of a starving horse in the town of Pomona, KS showed up, I tried to save that doomed horse by calling people who should have been able to help - the police, the county attorney. The horse died despite many people's efforts. The horse should have never been allowed to get to such a terrible state, but the neighbors who surely saw this animal starving over the months did nothing about it.

What can I do about a culture that allows women to be murdered at the hands of their husbands and fathers and brothers?

What can I do about the rabid American mindset that we need more guns, not less?

The horrific images and inflammatory political memes people so willingly share on Facebook always cause a rising toward action, a call for a response, a rebuttal.  I feel like Scotty deep in the engine room of the Enterprise, and Captain Kirk is tensely ordering more power - that it is life and death if I do not instantly comply. I just want to shout at my Facebook friends, in my best Scots accent "I canna dooo it, Captin!"

Instead, I simply "unfollow" my friends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chicken News

While chicken relations remain tense, it appears the new hens are making themselves at home with Big Hen. After an attempt at animal communication, Perelandra style, the three new hens started going into the coop at night on their own. I no longer have to search for them in the dark and then stuff them into the coop every night.

No one wants to cross Big Hen, but the Medium girl simply circles around and does whatever she wants. The Large girl soon follows her. Small girl is either so much younger that she can only cheep like a baby, or she is mentally stunted. Sometimes all she can do is cheep forlornly from inside the coop when the others are outside eagerly pecking and scratching for their meal. It is as if she is lost and cannot find her way out.

There is the smallest bit of serendipity in that all four hens are exactly of the same body shape. Surely the Silver Seabrite hen (Big Hen) is closely related to the Dutch Bantams. The biggest difference I can observe between the breeds is their "dialect". The black hens have different mutterings, clucks and twitters. They also have a quiet series of musical whistling that is pleasant to hear.

Even if Big Hen is not thrilled to share her space and food with three foreigners, it is much better that she is not entirely alone in this world.
Big Hen and the Foreigners - Sounds like a rock band?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Peace and Quiet

A week or so before moving into the new house, I had the satellite television service discontinued. Though the new house is set up for it, I have not restored the service. Due to living "below sea level", I cannot receive any local tv station - even with an antenna on a tower. I keep an eye on threatening weather using the internet. I have not watched network television for years, so I certainly do not miss anything there. If I want to watch a movie, I can rent two or three DVD's for less than $4 at the Red Box outside the grocery store. I read Google and Yahoo news daily, and sometimes I will read the online version of the Topeka Capital Journal. Truly, the only thing on television I sincerely miss is Jon Stewart's daily monologue. Due to my internet provider up-rating my account to the connection speed I have been paying for all these years, I can watch Jon online, too. The only requirement is patience while Jon's 10 minutes of wit and political satire buffers. Who needs a television?

When my son visits, he is uncomfortable with the silence. The lack of background noise is too much for him. He cannot imagine living my silent, solitary life. I was the same when I was his age. There are many things I miss about being young, but the constant need for people and drama is not among them.

The last time my son was here, he asked in exasperation, "What do you DO out here?!"

"I enjoy my life in peace and quiet!"

He is not old enough to know what that means.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cooking For the World's Most Discerning Food Critic the Day After Thanksgiving

Over the years my family has become accustomed to never celebrating any holiday on its actual date. We try to accommodate every one's work schedule and travel plans and choose the best alternative day. As a result, we have been emancipated from an enormous amount of unnecessary tradition and stress. This year we were invited to another family's Thanksgiving dinner, held on Thanksgiving Day, which set us free to gather on Friday.  Driving home together on Thanksgiving night, my son, a bachelor, was grilling me on what I had planned for the big meal for our family. When I told him a hearty beef stew, he was apparently disappointed and began to give me a hard time. He berated my cooking abilities and entree selection. He proclaimed my choices were plain and simple. I am not certain what he was hoping I would prepare, but it was too late to change the menu. He said, "You aren't a very good cook, are you?" (I think he was teasing...)

Mr. Ramen Noodle Chef apparently thinks he knows enough about preparing a large family meal that he can throw around criticism like confetti. To hear him, you would think he had cooked for a family all his life. I did not bring it up, but while he was denigrating my culinary skills, I thought about the full fried chicken meal I prepared for my brothers (step and otherwise) when I was in sixth grade, and our father/stepfather was in the hospital. When I called my four brothers to the table, all had the same suspicious, complaining tone of voice as my son had Thursday night. The only horrible thing about that fried chicken meal was the gravy. I did not know to only use a scant portion of the oil in the pan to make gravy. I used it all! I must have used three cups of flour to soak up the oil. The gravy tasted fine, but you could stand a spoon up in the middle of the bowl and it stayed there. Otherwise, the meal was edible and no one starved or even suffered for one second in the absence of our parents at meal time that night.

As it so happens, Mr. Food Critic apparently enjoyed his non-traditional food on Friday. I made a large pot of beef with barley and wild rice simmered all day with herbs and diced tomatoes and thick mushrooms and new potatoes. It was delicious. When he asked for green beans with bacon, I had it covered. There was also rosemary bread, deviled eggs and delicious whole milk from a local dairy sold in thick glass bottles. There was cranberry relish, black olives, and smoked gouda, too. We had pumpkin pie baked that morning with genuine whipped cream. My daughter brought a homemade pecan pie and ice cream. Later in the evening the fresh mulled apple cider finally broke down my son's disappointment and despair.

In the hours after the main meal, the horses received a huge amount of love and attention. I asked for help moving the round pen while everyone was home. With five adults, the entire process took all of ten minutes. I would have struggled and labored all afternoon to move it myself, hampered by the horses interfering in the process, getting in the way, and worrying that a panel would fall against one or both of them. As it was, Ginger escaped through the walk-in gate we all failed to notice was wide open. After a short trip down the path toward the house, she came right back and entered the big gate, unable and unwilling to get too far from her beloved Wally.

Wally was penned in the newly relocated round pen so everyone could pamper and love on him without Ginger's jealousy. All the cockle burrs were removed from his mane and tail, which of course, only lasts until he walks past the next cockle burr plant. Sadly, Miss Snot Face was mostly left out of the loving attention and grooming. Wally is the rock star and that is fine. Ginger is still my own little red mare who will not suffer fools gladly, and I lover her.

After the sun went down, the men gathered wood and built a fire so we could enjoy both the warmth outdoors and toast the giant marshmallows I had discovered in the baking aisle of the grocery store. I am not sure that anyone actually ate any of the large marshmallows, but it was fun setting them aflame.  

My daughter called soon after she left, asking if I knew where her gloves were. She thought she had left them by the fire. Though I looked long and hard for them using the headlights of my car, I had a feeling Jake had already found those gloves, and I would only find the sad, ragged remains in the brutal light of day. I decided that when I did find them, I would throw them away and tell my daughter I did not know what happened to her gloves.  A lie was not necessary. In the cheerful early light of a cold dawn the next morning, from my office window I witnessed Jake the dog joyfully tossing one of the gloves high in the air and chasing around with it in his mouth. I bolted out the door in my sleeping apparrel and rescued the glove. Miraculously, it was dirty but otherwise undamaged! It was easy to spot the other glove, also intact. After being washed in cold water and Woolite, the gloves were 98% good as new. It was a true day-after-Thanksgiving miracle.

It was a fine, fun day and no one starved - not even Mr. Food Critic.

Wally and Guests of my daughter.

Note "The Gloves" of knitted lambs wools and the faux fur cuff.  How did they survive a night in the wild with Jake the Destroyer?