Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back to the Real World Tomorrow

Vacation is over after today, it's back to the grindstone tomorrow morning.  I accomplished most of what I hoped to over the past few days.  Several small indoor projects are complete, I got the raised bed weeded and the yard mowed today and ran the last of the errands for the week.  In retrospect, I've been pretty darn busy these three 'vacation' days.  Spending a mere eight hours at my desk job tomorrow might actually feel like a walk in the park by comparison.  That feeling may wear off after the first day though.  Good thing for me there are only two work days left this week and then it's a three-day holiday weekend. 

I added a couple of new sites to my blog roll recently.  There's Stephen at Standing Outside Looking In and BlueEyedBaby at I Wish On Shooting Stars who just happens to be Redneck's daughter.  For a young lady just out of high school, this girl has got a real good head on her shoulders.   These are all good folks, worth checking out.  We all tend to collect like-minded people on our blog rolls.  Maybe on some level, we're all seeking confirmation for our own views.  But new folks bring new perspectives even if they hold the same or similar opinions as our own.  I hope you'll check them out. 


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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In Our Backyard

We spend a lot of time on the patio in the evening during the spring and summer.  It faces northwest and offers a great view of some spectacular sunsets.  There is a small Crepe Myrtle tree next to the patio that is a favorite nesting site for a pair of cardinals.  We noticed babies in the nest in May of this year, then only a week or two later, they just disappeared.  We didn't see the parents around either and were afraid they had abandoned the nest because something got the babies.  But a week or two later, we noticed the parents were back.  So I decided to do some research on cardinals.

I found out they raise two or three sets of babies every year and always nest within a mile of where they themselves had been born.  The babies leave the nest at only 14 days old, but have very poor flying skills at that age.  They usually fly from the nest to the ground or a low shrub and rest for several hours before trying again.  Within a few days, they gain their strength and skill to fly back up to the tree tops.  Until then, their parents watch over them, providing food and encouragement and as much protection as possible. 

Yesterday when I walked past the little tree by the patio, I noticed the male cardinal flitting nervously from the tree to the roof to the ground and back again.  Cardinals have a very distinct call, a sharp chirp.  The male was on the roof, chirping away and I was sure I heard a chirp on the ground too.  I looked and on one of the lowest branches of a volunteer under the little tree was this tiny little baby cardinal.  When Yeoldfurt came over to see what I was looking at, we found the other one on the ground under the tree.  Though they are both more fuzz than feathers at this stage, I was pretty sure one was a male and one was a female.  The one that was on the branch had fuzz on top of his head that was distinctly pointy on top, like a male cardinal.  The other baby just had smooth fuzz on top, probably a female.

We worried about them being out of the nest overnight, but I told Yeoldfurt what I had read about the parents watching over them and we decided to let nature take its course.  This morning, I went out to check and found both of the babies up on a low branch about a foot off the ground.   Our fifteen year old cat, Charley, hangs out in the backyard but her hunting instincts have never been keen.  This cat used to roll over on her back, look at you upside down and beg for food if she liked what you had.  But chasing food had never been in her repertoire.  She would barely chase a toy, even when she was a kitten.  Too much work.  Now that she's older, she's more lazy than ever, so we didn't think she would be a threat to the babies.

Charley was sitting on a plastic step this morning about fifteen feet from where the babies sat on the low branches.  As I stood there admiring the babies, the female suddenly took off and flew toward the yard.  Her trajectory took her inches from Charley's nose and she landed on the ground about fifteen feet beyond Charley.  I was startled and amazed and happy to see the little fuzzball take flight, but then I saw the look on Charley's face.  Apparently, her hunting instincts were aroused, possibly for the first time in her life.  Her eyes were huge, her ears were pricked and she was crouched in front with her butt slightly elevated.  Her tail whipped once to the right, then once to the left and just as I yelled, "Charley, NO!!!" she launched.

I launched a split second behind her but before I could reach her, she was on top of the little fuzzball.  Fortunately for the baby bird, Charley had been an indoor cat the first ten years of her life and due to a disagreement she and I had about her using my pool table for a scratching post, she no longer has front claws.  That fact didn't do much to reduce the terror the little fuzzball was feeling though.  As I grabbed Charley by the scruff, I was aware of  the baby's frantic chirps from below me and the parent's angry chirps behind me.

PETA might be after me for this but all I was thinking of was the baby bird.  I grabbed Charley by the scruff of the neck with my left hand and by the scruff of her butt with my right hand and tossed her to the side.  It was a gentle toss, it really was ...more of a lob, really.  My only motive was to save the baby bird, not hurt the cat ...I swear.

As soon as I lifted Charley off the ground, the little baby bird was free but didn't move.  I wasn't sure if it was hurt or just scared but I didn't have time to investigate because Charley, being a cat, had landed on her feet about ten feet away and was making a beeline back.   I intercepted her in the same double scruff fashion and carried her across the yard to the garage.  I deposited her inside and shut the door.  I knew and she knew that she wasn't trapped in the garage.  We keep one of the overhead doors open about six inches so the cats can come and go, but I knew it would take her some time to think of the other door and make her way to the backyard again.

As soon as I shut the door behind Charley, I looked back to check on the baby bird and was relieved to see it half-fluttering, half-hopping across the yard in the opposite direction.  Its two parents were doing their best to herd it to safety.  One of them would land a few feet in front of the baby as if to show it the way, and the other was diving and chirping from behind, as if trying to hurry it up.

Charley made her way to the backyard again sooner than I expected, but by then both babies were safely perched on the chain link fence, a good ways from where all the drama had started.  Charley being new to the role of predator seemed fixated on the spot where she landed on the baby bird the first time.  She seemed to know she had missed out on something, but she wasn't quite sure what ...and she sure didn't seem to have any idea where that something might be now.

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Monday, June 27, 2011


I'm off today, tomorrow and Wednesday but the 'To Do List' is long.  There are only two projects on the agenda today ...really only one project but it needs to be done in two different rooms.  The guestroom and my office are in desperate need of a complete overhaul. De-junking, deep-cleaning and reorganizing.  None of that sounds like fun to me, but it has to be done. 

The guestroom hasn't been occupied by an actual guest in a long time, so the two beds have slowly accumulated 'stuff' that just needs to find a home.  When I re-vamped our bedroom a couple of months ago, the guestroom became a handy place to move things while I painted.  Somehow after the painting project was done, there were still a lot of things laying around the guestroom.  Exhaustion or my lazy streak won out and I just closed the door and forgot about it ...until recently.  Now our grandsons are coming to visit 4th of July weekend and the guestroom is in a shambles!  I pick them up Friday after work, so this project is a priority. 

The other room to be overhauled is my office.  Just another catch-all space in the house.  We refer to it as my office, but it's also my sewing machine and where we set up the dehydrator.  It was originally intended as a formal dining room by the couple that built this house and there is a wonderful walk-in pantry in one corner.  It's wonderful in that it's 5 feet deep by 6 feet wide, with four 12-inch deep shelves on three of the walls.  Great for storing all kinds of things ...a nightmare if the shelves are full but disorganized.  Unfortunately, that's how I would have to describe it right now ...a disorganized nightmare.   My hope is to designate each of the three walls for a specific function.  One wall would hold all of my equipment such as the two canners, the Foodsaver, canning jars/lids, and various empty plastics that I can use for food storage.  Another wall would would hold all of my sewing and craft materials.  The third wall would become the short term food storage.  

Right now, we keep a only few days worth of staples in the kitchen cupboards because space is limited in the kitchen.  The rest is kept in the food storage area we built in the shed down the hill.  I make an average of three trips to retrieve this or that from food storage during the week.  That doesn't sound like a lot of hassle but there are days when my feet are screaming and one more trip down the hill would just do me in.  So my hope is to designate about a third of this walk-in pantry for it's intended purpose ...a pantry.  I would stock these shelves with enough of our most commonly used staples to last about a month.  What gets put on the pantry shelves would come from what's already in storage in the shed.  I would restock it about once a month, again pulling from the food storage in the shed.  New groceries brought into the house would get date marked and put in storage in the shed so we would be able to keep everything rotated.  It will sure make things easier on me for those days when I just can't make it down the hill but it will also ultimately make more space in storage so we could possibly expand our current 12-month by at least an extra month. 

Tomorrow ...Day Two of this Mini-Vacation ...I'll be gone all day.  I need to get the oil changed in two vehicles and get an inspection on one of them.  That may not seem like a lot but it will pretty much take the whole day because of logistics.  When Yeoldfurt leaves for work tomorrow morning, I'll follow him in another vehicle.  We'll leave one of them off at the shop when they open at 8:00 and I'll use the other one to drive Yeoldfurt the rest of the way in to his job.  It's another 20 miles so it will take me an hour or so to drop him off and get back to the shop.  Hopefully by then, the first vehicle will be done and I can leave them the second vehicle.  The second one will take longer because there's a burned out tail light to be replaced and then the inspection.  The shop, like anywhere else, tends to get busier as the day wears on.  By the time I drop the second vehicle off, half a dozen other customers may already be ahead of me in line.  So I'll a few hours hanging out at the courthouse with my old work buddies until the second one is done. 

In other words, I will be totally not productive, just goofing off and killing time as far as projects around the house go.  When the second vehicle is ready, I'll go pay the bill and pick up both sets of keys, then head off in the direction of Yeoldfurt's job.  It will probably be two or three hours before he gets off, but I there are plenty of places to kill time in that neck of the woods too.   

Yard work is the big project for Wednesday.  The three inches of rain we got last week has really transformed things.  Our yard has been brown and crunchy for weeks but is now green and growing.  I hope to get the yard mowed, the raised bed weeded and the shed branches down to the burn pile.  I much prefer yard work to house work, which is why I have to save the yard work for last.  One thing would lead to another and I would never get around to the house work.  So I don't dare start the yard work unless and until both of my indoor projects are done.  

So far, it's not sounding much like a vacation, is it?  But I had my 'play time' earlier this weekend.  While Yeoldfurt was off at the blog shoot in Lockhart, I was driving to San Antonio for an overnight with my daughter.  First things first, I spent some serious cuddle time with my little granddaughter, Bella, Saturday morning.  She and her mom had a commitment that afternoon and I had a wedding to attend so it was only a few hours, but delightful for me.  The bride at the wedding I attended is the daughter of one of my best friends.  Her mom and I have known each other for more than 30 years and I was glad I was able to share that moment with her.  It was a lot of 'special' to fit into one day. 

My daughter is in the choir and her husband plays bass in the Praise Band at their church, so they always go early and attend both services on Sundays.  I went to the early service and kept Bella with me instead of putting her in the nursery ...a little extra cuddle time for Grandma.  I passed Bella back to her parents and said my goodbyes after the early service, then drove 30 miles out to Boerne to visit another dear friend.  I've only known this lady for a few years, but it seems like we were friends as soon as we met.  She happens to be my son-in-law's grandmother which is how we met.  That makes us 'family' now too, a double blessing for me. 

My desk at work will be knee-deep when I get back on Thursday but I'm glad I took this time off.  Even if I only spend two of the five days playing, getting a few things is its own reward. 

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Making Popcorn Chicken

Sorry, this is not a recipe post for that delectable bits of fried chicken. This is about training chickens.

Can you really 'train' a chicken? Probably not. That would require a bit more brain power than the little peckers have at their disposal. But it's pretty easy to condition them because they have one big driving motivation in life ...FOOD. If they're awake and not laying an egg or 'making more chickens' they're scratching around for food. They will taste test anything. Since you have probably been scattering food for them since they were fluffy yellow chicks, they long ago figured out that whatever drops from your hand is probably food.

With the shortened daylight hours during winter, our hens didn't get as much yard time as they had become accustomed to, certainly not as much as they wanted.  Most days, Yeoldfurt let them out mid- to late-morning before he left for work and I was home in time to put them back up before dark. On days when I knew I would be getting home after dark, they had to stay cooped up all day and they didn't like it. They must have some brain power because they always remembered being cooped up for the day and were always twice as hard to run back into the coop for a day or two afterward.

Herding chickens is probably easier than herding cats, but not by much.  We only had three hens last winter.  Two of them hang together and they're usually fairly easy. But one of them is a rebel and always makes a break at the last minute. Then the trick becomes can you time the opening of the door just right so that the wayward hen goes IN and the other two STAY in. Not always easy. After a full day at work, a long commute and plenty of other chores on the list, chasing chickens is not my idea of fun. So I came up with a plan.

I happen to a have a 28 count box of microwave popcorn that we bought at Sam's Club years ago. It's so far out of date, I am surprised it still pops ...but it does. My microwave usually does a very good job on the microwaveable popcorn but every once in a while a bag gets scorched. I am pretty sure it's because the popcorn is out of date and stale, parts of it are probably dried out.  But the hens didn't care.  If you shook a bag of popcorn, all three of them came running.  This year, we added four new pullets.  Herding seven hens is probably a little more challenging than herding three the popcorn trick should come in handy this winter. 

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

For Simplicity Sake

The picture you see at the top of this blog is of a refrigerator magnet that Yeoldfurt brought me after one of his business trips.  It's a cartoon caricature of a horse 'exiting Stage Left' as it were, with a female holding on for dear life at the end of the lead rope.  She looks surprisingly calm, even happy, considering the predicament she seems to be in.  The words overlaying the picture are 'Woman Who Runs With Horses.'  Yeoldfurt brought it home to me and said he thought of me when he saw it.  When I made those words the name on my blog, I did not realize they would be my 'handle' every time I left a comment anywhere.  I know it's a mouthful.   Occasionally, people who respond to my comments address me as 'Woman' but most go with "WWRWH.'  Believe me, I know it's a mouthful.

So tonight, I decided to simplify things ...for all of us.  I have made many blog friends in the two years I've been blogging and in those circles, I am known as HossBoss, or simply HB.  I'm not sure when that happened or who gave me the name ...heck, it might even have been me!  Maybe it was when we started going into chat in the early days and I used it as a handle ...even I find WomanWhoRunsWithHorses a bit cumbersome to type out!  But the name 'HossBoss' stuck.  Tonight, I decided to make it official and have changed it on my blogger account.  So if any of you see 'HossBoss' leaving comments on your posts's just me, WWRWH!

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