Critters of Gredemeer III- Skywatch



I keep watching for something STUNNING to appear in my sky.  And this week, the most stunning thing is that there wasn’t anything stunning.  It’s been very gray and fall almost winter-like.  Sometimes drizzly, sometimes misty, but always gray.  So here are some pictures taken just this morning (Thursday) to prove my point.  I realize now that it’s beautiful in its own way.

You don’t have to point out that this isn’t a picture of the sky – but if the trees look like this, can you imagine what the sky looks like?  Just open up a blank word document, create the entire page to a very light gray, and you’ll have the right image.  There is no variation – no tone-on-tone.  Just plain whitish-gray.


After taking the picture above, the farm dogs came up the lane, so I retook the shot – with them in it.

The grayish dog is an Australian Cattle dog, also known as a Blue-Heeler.  We adopted him as a biggish puppy from a family in town because he needed to live in the country and run.  The other dog adopted us – she is incredibly friendly, but her friendliness manifests in a low growl, which we translate as "welcome, I’m so glad to see you" but people who don’t know her translate as "I’m not going to get out of my car without sharing my sack lunch with this dog."  She has lived on our farm ever since we bought it – we feed her, get her rabies shots updated and all.  So that must make her ours, right!?  The dogs run all over and play like they’ve never been apart.  (I actually think this paragraph makes this post part of my "Critters of Gredemeer" series, don’t you?  DONE)


Both of the above pictures were taken out of our front door.  The back looks a bit brighter today because the hills aren’t so close by.  But it’s still super misty.


And so I don’t leave out you pond watchers, here’s your shot of the week:

The clouds have been thick and present all week.  And we’ve gotten some much-needed rain.  Unfortunately with the rain comes some pretty chilly temperatures.  I’m very grateful for our outdoor wood furnace, and for Prince Farming and our son who keep it well stocked.  It allows me to sit inside with short sleeves and bare feet.  Just the way I like it.


You can see more skies – sunny, cloudy, or clear by visiting skyley.  Hundreds of people are watching the skies on your behalf.



The Report. . .


So many of you have emailed and offered support during the planning of our Barn Party – I thought you’d want a report.  Nothing funny here.  Just a bunch of pictures from a tired but satisfied chik.  Of course, there are pictures missing, because I was half in a daze and half running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  So hopefully you’ll get an idea of the experience by browsing through this photo essay.


Don’t know how many people clean their barn.  With a broom.  But here we go.  And when brooms just don’t cut it:

We have some great friends – they spent HOURS helping us prepare and pull off the barn party.

There is no picture of Prince Farming and my son going up and down the lane fences with weed-eaters.  Nor is there a picture of my niece who learned to drive on our small tractor – pulling the bush hog – for the first time ever – so the fields would be manageable.  What a star!

We sold tickets.  This was a fund-raiser party.  Our Pathfinder Club (sort of a co-ed Scouts program) sold the meal (haystacks) to raise money for a huge trip they’re taking next summer to Osh Kosh.  The 8th Graders sold baked goods and desserts to raise money for their class trip and graduation expenses.

Here are our same friends – still hard at work (we should be watching the one whose fingers are in the money box more closely!)  In the background you can see the food tables.

While we ate, we had a local band (Luther led out, I can’t remember what they called themselves).  They’re very talented, and sing/play a variety of folk music.

In between eating and talking and listening, there were a variety of activities.  I didn’t get photos of all of them, but here were a few favorites:

Not all the vehicles were this imposing.  They seemed to have a blast.

Here the kids pillow faught "to the fall" (when someones hay stack tipped over.)

Face painting is always a hit.  Here they worked with temporary tattoos or Rubber stamps (with washable skin ink and markers).

For those who didn’t want to go on their own, they could ride with a stable (opposite of unstable) rider.  Several little kids were led around this small field.  Or their parents rode with them.  Or the parents rode alone.  And when they didn’t have customers, the riders (my nieces) did this:

The miniature horse lives with these guys, and loves to follow wherever they go.  He’s so cute!

We had several team / individual contests planned.  I was the MC, so didn’t get pictures, but someone got a picture of me:

That would be me with my chicken hat.  Pathetic thing.  Looks like the chicken was having a hard time laying that egg.  And that egg probably thinks about as well as normal "cackleberries" do.  I believe I was cheering on the pie-eating contestants here.

We had a corn-shelling relay race (teams had to grab an ear of field corn, run to the wagon to husk and shell the corn (take all the kernals off) then run back to their team to tag the next person).  It took a lot longer than I anticipated but they didn’t want me to cut it short, so we let them do half of the husks (12 per team).

There was also a Tug ‘o War.  The first round was over in a hurry.  The winners got foam animal visors (horses, maybe).  The next war was a bit more evenly matched, and they started wearing down.  The winners actually had to have help from the side-lines to get the tape over the mark.  Their team more than doubled in number to overcome their very strong opponents.

The pie-eating contest was. . . disgusting.  I felt like throwing up for those crazy people.  They weren’t allowed to use their hands.  They were covered with black trash can liners, but still managed to get their clothes full of chocolate pudding.  These two stuck it out to the end, but weren’t the winners.  My pictures are too bright (you can’t see what’s going on) because of the sun’s angle (or the angle of the shots, I suppose)

There was also a beanbag toss game that Blackie brought for us to play.   People seemed to enjoy it (the object was to throw a beanbag into the hole in the box 30 feet away – with 4 tries, I think).  There was another player throwing in this direction.  At times, this drew quite a crowd.

And the kids had a blast with the climbing rope.

This must not have been taken at the party, because normally there were tons of kids around.

We also had a jail.  People paid to have someone thrown into jail.  The victims had to sit in the jail (a horse stall) for 10 minutes or pick a task out of a bag.  If they chose NOT to do the task, they had to double their time in jail AND pay a ticket to get out.  I was thrown into jail and opted to sing "Mary had a Little Lamb" opera-style.  Luckily most of the people were on a hay ride at the time, so I only embarrassed myself in front of a few people.  The other time, I had to "gallop" around the barn on a stick horse yelling "yee haw" and pushing the horses ear to make the music play.  Whatever.  There weren’t very many people who chose the embarrassing way out of  jail.  I just didn’t have time to sit.  In hindsight, maybe I should have just used all my tickets to keep myself in there the whole time.  Didn’t think that one through, huh?

We ended the party with a couple of hay rides, pulled by my favorite father-in-law (yes, he’s also my only one!)

When they got back, there was a campfire and hot chocolate.  And clean-up.  Most people left around then.

The weather was perfect.  We had around 125 people come by (in waves).  It was fun to visit and see the kids enjoying themselves.  This year worked out well because the barn is not inhabited by cows yet.  Next year’s party (in our barn) is not a guaranteed thing.  We’ll have to see how messy it gets (being new to this whole farm thing and all). 


BWD (Blog Withdrawal Disorder)

Scrolling down my recent blog entries has been a bit . . . telling.  There has been no farming.  (I’m not complaining here – I’m just stating what is).  There has been crazy busy-ness. (I know I’m not alone).  Blog entries have flown through my head at an alarming rate, but I’ve not had time (or energy) (or clarity of thought) to even jot them down.  And now I have BWD.  Because I have a quiet time (right before the next storm) and thought you might want to hear about what I was avoiding or, (truthfully) procrastinating on.  My mind has been operating in "list mode" for quite a while now, so that is all I have.  And it’s not pretty.  I’m going to spare you the details.  You must have lists of your own that can run circles around mine.

Some neighbors decorate our mailbox while we were gone one weekend :-)

My next list involves a Barn Party.  I mean, we live on a farm, and it’s fall.  Surely a Barn Party is in order.  Actually, we’re hosting the Church Barn Party on Sunday.  It used to be on a neighboring farm, but some property was sold and the venue was rearranged, and it just didn’t work out there anymore.  Last year was the first year with no Barn Party.  The kids nearly mutinied.  So this year, what  – with a new barn (read "no cow poop" yet) we have a great opportunity to initiate it. 

Problem is:  I’ve never hosted a barn party before (this is Year 1 on a farm for me).  I know it can be free-flowing and fun. But people will want stuff to do.  And things to see.  And food to eat.  And a fire to burn.  And . . . . what else?  Oh.  A hay ride.  And a pony ride.  So I can figure that out.  But what about the behind-the-scenes stuff.  A PA system at the barn requires power.  We have a generator but it is LOUD.    Prince Farming very kindly made a  L O N G  heavy duty extension chord so we could put the generator on the front side of the old barn between hay bales (for sound insulation).  Must borrow the PA system from the hospital.  Trash cans?  Money box? (Pathfinders are selling food for fundraiser, as are 8th graders with desserts and baked goods).  Who will "man" the jail? (you know – where you pay two tickets for someone to be thrown into jail, who then has to stay there for 15 minutes or do something embarrassing (drawn from a bag) to get out right away?).  And the games?  What games?

I have less than 3 days to pull this planning off. With no clue how many people will be here (we’ve invited neighbors and other community people, and the high school & college kids will be home on home-leave, but lots of local church people are traveling because of Fall Break). 

Today my daughter and I are traveling to the big city to do shopping,  We’ll add to/modify/clarify the list while we drive.  Hopefully there won’t be any glaring omissions.  Tomorrow Prince Farming gets to have "free labor" in cleaning up stuff that I think lends itself to the character of a barn (I’m not talking about manure here – that would need to be cleaned up.  There is old lumber and things I’m sure I haven’t even noticed yet that Prince Farming would like to have dealt with).  But that was part of the deal.   Luckily the kids are on Fall Break, so they get to participate in the Thursday drill.

My outrageous 3 weeks are almost over.  I’ll be able to report with sanity (at least the usual level) starting next week. 

Happy Wednesday ya’ll!



Tweenage Chicks


The day I posted about a box that I picked up from the Post Office early one morning had the most hits in the short history of this blog.  I didn’t realize ya’ll were so thrilled by chicks, but hey – I aim to please, so here’s the update.

The chicks are still living in their box, but it’s starting to look like we need to really work on another option.  I feel badly for them – how will they survive moving from their cute little cozy garage condo to an out of the house dwelling?  Will they be warm enough?  We won’t just throw them out on the street.  I mean, we’re not that heartless.  We’ll make sure they move to appropriate enough accommodation.  But you know a mother’s heart.  Actually, that’s not true.  I’d probably be fine putting them down in the barn with all that hay to rummage through, poop on, and hide in, but Prince Farming is not interested in losing any chicks.

It’s amazing how fast chicks grow – in human terms they’re not even a month old, but in chicken time they’ve reached that full gangly, mostly ugly, very curious and brave tweenage stage.

This is not a stressed out tween – she’s(?) just coming to see what hand-outs I might have.  They absolutely love crickets and earthworms.  When they were tiny, we loved to watch the tug-of-war that ensued when we threw an earthworm into the box.  Such mayhem you’ve never seen.  Wish I could share pictures, but they moved way faster than my clicker-finger or camera shutter could deal with.

Prince Farming is having such fun trying to figure out what breeds of chicks we have.  We ordered the "rainbow mix" from the hatchery, guaranteed at least 5 varieties.  If any of you have ideas, leave them in the comments section – you have more chicken experience than we do, for sure. 

The white and yellow ones are always in the front.  The ones you can’t really see in this shot are ones that looked like chipmunks when they were tiny.  They still have the same coloring, but its all ruffled now – in this tween-age stage. 


Here’s another variety that have very scruffy necks – like their "neck hair" is way long and sticks out on end, like significant "bed head" – except we’d probably have to call it "bed-neck" in this case.

We knew they were maturing when we found a brave chick on top of their water jug.  Prince Farming rigged all sorts of things in their box to allow more of them to "roost" at the same time.  I’ve seen them all lined up on these rods – but the chicken ones jump down when I bring my camera by.

Ooh, wait – here’s one with more of them roosting.  There’s a bit of movement (probably scrambling to get down) but you get the idea

By the way – for those who were concerned about our first family of chicks (the ones we got unexpectedly and so weren’t totally prepared for), Prince Farming and I were working down at the barn recently and we heard chickens!!  We’ve actually seen the rooster a couple of times, but don’t know who else is a survivor.  This is truely a case of "Survival of the Fittest."  We’d carelessly left some chicken feed down there.  And there are puddles all around the barn, not to mention an entire breeding ground for worms and crickets, so they have fared really well – without our help, thank you very much.  Maybe that’s the way to go.

When scouting around for some cool farm shots last night, I remembered this little detail.  Maybe this sentry is the chicken guard of Gredemeer.  He is stationed right on the old barn door-post.  Proud, and cocky, and faithful – he’s been there from the beginning.

The Farm vs. The Gym


Today I had a gym session.  With a personal trainer coach master torture-inflictor.  Let me be clear that I am an active, card-holding (charter), all be it somewhat not so silent, member of the National Organization Against Organized Exercise (NOAOE).  I will not drive to a gym.  I do not buy memberships.  It’s just one of those NOAOE standards that I won’t cave on (well, except for that once when a friend person convinced me to join that ladies’ work-out circuit thingy).  And had I asked a few more questions or gotten outside of MY thinking and into Prince Farming’s thinking, I could have avoided this little massive NOAOE rule-breaker.

He asked me to help him lay pipe.  Looking out my window, I saw the trenches he’d been digging on a cute little excavator for weeks days.  And I saw piles of pipe.  Big pipe and little pipe.  Pipe, pipe, pipe.  In my mind, we were going to go down there, and I’d help him carry these pipe segments and lay them where they need to be, to what – like, see if there’s enough pipe? (just writing this makes me realize that I didn’t think this thing through.  Duh!).

During this work-out session, I experienced weight training.  Have you ever lifted 6" PVC pipe?  I’m talking about 6" in diameter.  20 feet in length.  That’s weight lifting!  And I’ve heard people talk about "reps".  We did reps alright.  If I were to guess, I’d say probably 50 reps.  But that wouldn’t be right.  In reality, we only moved about 8 lengths of this pipe (surely it was more than that!).  BUT we moved each one more than once.  From the pipe pile to next to the trench.  Then down into the trench.  Sometimes back out of the trench and then back in.  And these reps actually got fairly creative in the muscle groups they worked, which probably is in direct conflict with the very term Reps.  This weight-training included walking (from the pipe pile to the trench), obstacle course (over 3′ piles/ridges of dirt dug from the trench, and then jumping stepping  maneuvering over the trenches – sometimes more than one), and squatting (to lower the pipe – it might crack if you drop it, like those strong, muscular, cut dudes do to the weight bars in the gym).  Then we had to clean and apply adhesive to the segments and heave them together.  Using a cracked 2 x 4, whacking the end to make it join in to the elbow piece, or "T" or coupling.  "Harder.  Harder!  HARDER!  It’s not going anywhere!"  Trying to be effective in a 36" wide trench.  Sideways.  With limited time, the adhesive bonding almost on contact.  Sheesh.

And those pansy little step-aerobics in gyms (or in front of the TV) don’t hold a candle to our step aerobics.  Forget 4", 6" or even 8" steps.  These trenches afforded 18" to 72" steps (depending on where along the trench we were).  Step in, out, over, and back.  In, out, over, and back.  You got it!  Now again. In, out, over, and back.  Now with a 20′ pipe!  In, out, over, and in.  Add stones and dirt in your boots, to toughen you up. In, out, over, and back.  Shut up!  The Marines could have used today’s little venture as their physical/mental stamina-building routine finale.

Okay, so that was the warm-up.  Now for the work-out part.  This work-out was one of those whole-body experiences.  I mean we did abs, quads, butt, thighs, dangly arm-bits, attitudes, relationship, language, existence, is there a God, whole-body work.  After the first two segments of pipe, I knew the agony was more than my imagination when Prince Farming said (out loud, in a voice I distinctly heard and he can’t deny) "This is harder than I thought it would be."  And we kept going.  For 5 more hours.  And we’re only half way done with the job.

We’re doing the drainage at the barn.  Both barns.  We had to start at one end of the old barn and run pipe the length of it (all the time ensuring that we were allowing a slight decline – used surveying tools – a transit – to do that) then meeting up with additional pipe along the perpendicular side of the new barn – they had to meet at the same depth and continue down-hill toward the other side of the old barn.  So sometimes we had to dig a little deeper (pick & shovel), and sometimes we had to add soil back (bobcat and shovel), so we didn’t drop too quickly and so that we could make all the pipe meet at a happy junction on the way to the drain by the road.  Then we had the extra puzzle of having to junction in to downspouts (which we had to add to the old barn as we went) at one time requiring the joining of 4 pieces of HUGE pipe.  We’ll finish it some time this weekend.  And if I have energy I’ll take photos.  But seeing pipe lying neatly in cut trenches – all pieced together nicely – really isn’t going to give you an accurate picture of the absolute torture of getting it there.

Excuse me – I need to convene a NOAOE forum to recommend an addendum to the charter.  Anything that smacks of a work-out needs to be included.  No matter what the venue or guise or cost (or not) might be.  It’s all a conspiracy that we must be alert and attentive to.  Pay attention, people!

Hay – the Rest of the Story


This is a pictoral account (limited narration) for the hay recipe so many of you commented on:


Here is a field of hay, ready to be cut:


Here’s a field (looking backwards out of the tractor) of a field partially cut:


Here’s the field fully cut (from a distance), the close field corners have already been fluffed:


Here’s that field – ready to rake:


And that field, raked – and the baling process started.  We did some square bales for our neighbor’s horses.  The rest will be round bales.


And when it’s all said and done – here is the hay, stored:


And now you know the rest of the story.

The Recipe for Hay


This week’s Heads or Tails topic is:  Recipe

When I saw this posted last week, I figured I was going to share a boring (but delicious) recipe for Napa Cabbage.  But that will have to wait for another day.  Today I decided to share the recipe (at least in part) for Hay.  I know there have to be people out there who are dying to know how to make hay, but who just haven’t found the recipe.  Let me help you out. 

Here’s what you need:

One Misty Morning.  If you swing around to look behind you, it might look like this:

Throw in one tractor – with mower contraption attached

For good measure and a little excitement, try fighting one of these. . . INSIDE the tractor cab.  I mean right by my face.

If anyone knows their spiders, maybe you can help out with identification.  Here’s a better picture (BTW – I stopped the tractor to take these marvelous shots, in case you’re wondering)  I didn’t crop the picture this way – the spider was crawling out of my range, and I got it just in time.  Right before I took the dust pan to fling that thing out of the window.

Okay – back to the recipe.  Sorry for that little diversion.



After you have a field, a morning, and a tractor, oh, and a reluctant (or not) farm chik, add time. A lot of time.  Like 8 hours, maybe.  With some crazy people who just happened to show up for work today to build the barn.  Or no, maybe just to watch the crazy chik in the tractor.  How many times will she get hung up on a fence line?  And how will she maneuver out of the fence line?  And I wonder what she’ll do if we walk across the field toward her to ask for 2-cycle gas because we didn’t bring enough.

Okay – those are the ingredients for this step.  Now comes the procedure.  Brace yourselves.  I know – you can hardly stand it.  Me either.

Go through the motion of getting everything started.  Luckily the key in the ignition with a turn brought about some rumbling.  That might be a good sign.  Let the motor warm up. 

Don’t move any of the mower adjustments – they’re exactly where they should be (as per Prince Farming). 

Start the mower motor (PTO) by lifting up the yellow knob and turning it.  No, turn it the other way.  Okay. 

Speed up the tractor motor (also the PTO then, since it’s engaged) to 2,000 thingys (whatever that term is).  You know that’s happened, because the needle hovers over the 20.   Good grief. 

Then put the one gear lever into "B" range and shift the other one into 2nd.  Or 3rd.  Whichever you can handle.  (WHAT can I handle?) 

Take your foot off the clutch.  Then hang on.  For dear life.  And be careful around the corners. 

And watch the mower.  Don’t run over anything (I’m assuming other than hay).

And if you hear any funny sounds, turn it off.  Or slow down. 

And if the belt seems too loose, then tighten it one turn (Okay – there’s a whole ‘nother blog entry called "if the belt seems too loose")  HOW will I know if the belt is too loose?  Will it jump off? 

And, by the way,  the thing always makes a funny noise.  If I turned it off every time there was a funny noise, I’d spend the day turning it on, and then turning it off. 

And watch the mower. 

If one were to watch the mower, how would one know where to steer?  And what exactly would one be watching for, if one were to keep one’s eyes glued to the mower.  Theres a thingy that spins around and around at an alarming rate.  And there’s something rubbing on something else that makes an alarming sound.  But one can’t be exactly sure about what one is watching.  Back there.  One should rather keep one’s eyes facing in the forward direction with a possible, but only occasional, backward glance through the rear-facing window.  (Don’t tell Prince Farming.)

Here’s the bottom line:

I mowed for 8 hours.  All that I missed were 2 huge fields, one tiny field, and a part of a field around a pond/swamp, which I studiously avoided so I wouldn’t get stuck in the mud (did that once before – last year – had to wait to be pulled out of the mud by Prince Farming’s dad. . . who happens to be one of my all time favorite people in the entire world – and not just because he pulled me out of the mud.  Without negative comments.  And only a few snide remarks.)

So today will be the rest of the fields.  Actually I think I’ll tackle the two big fields.  That’s it.  And not even the one whole big field, because that field is on a precipice.  And tractors, me, and precipices don’t mix so very well.  Not friendly at all.  Nope.  I’ll just do the flatish parts.

After mowing the hay, it has to be fluffed (not by me – I’m not allowed to touch the fluffer – aww shucks!).  Then it has to be raked (which to me, takes more skill than fluffing, but I’m allowed required to do that).  And then baling.  Not by me.  Then hauling.  By me.  Maybe I’ll post some of those pictures on Friday.  Ooi, this week is not going how I planned it to go.  Which is just how farming is.  You farm when the farming needs to be done.  Just plan on it.

This is the 2nd cutting of hay.  The first was much better qualify.  Tall grass, lush clover.  The 2nd cutting has more weeds.  But it’s also more pretty.  Here are a couple of things I shot through the window before I plowed over and mowed them flat.

You can play Heads or Tails every week too by visiting here.

Farm Day


You must be as surprised as I am with this post.  Afterall, it’s TUESDAY, not THURSDAY or SUNDAY.  I’d asked Prince Farming on Sunday whether we needed to mow hay, but because of Hurricane Gustav and Ike, Diesel prices are ridiculous, and we’re practically out, so he said we were going to hold off for a while.  So I planned my week.  Very full.  Lots of commitments and ideas and inspiration.  Then Prince Farming’s dad (and our neighbor) called to say that the weather now is perfect for hay, and we need to do it.  Now.  This week.  So I can’t stay and chat.  Last night we hitched the mower onto JD in the dark and took two loops around a field to make sure it was all working okay.  I’ll be able to tell you all about it.  But not now.  Must mow.  Now.  Today.  Ugh.  I feel a bit more than slightly reluctant.  My blog name is perfect.


Here’s a flower to cheer us up.  This flower was growing all by itself in a pile of rocks.  This flower is "the other side of reluctance"

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