Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mouse Count Update

I now have caught 11 mice in three days! This evening, after I got everyone settled in the barn I was puttering around in the feed room trying to reorganize some things. All the sheep were eating and the chickens were in their "Palais de Poulet". As I was getting ready to leave - now mind you I had only been in there for about two minutes - when I heard what sounded like one of the boys lightly taping the pen sides. It was almost a "click".
Then it dawned on me what it was. Yup...two mice had gotten caught in traps. Both were small. One just had his leg caught and was struggling to free himself, so I had to administer the final "Coup de Grace".

Where's a cat when you need one?

So far the score is:

Kathy - 11, Mice - Zip

Not bad for three days....

Friday, February 23, 2007

Kathy - 6, Mice - Zip

We had a few nice days last week where our temperatures were in the low 50's F giving us a taste of what spring could actually be like. All of the sheep and chickens were just itching to get out into our pasture, but, alas, our pasture is still brown. The grasses have not woken up this year - with good reason as you can tell by the snow in this picture of Skittles and Colin enjoying their breakfast this morning.

Our storm today is supposed to be a fast mover with chances of sun this afternoon. But our temperatures have changed back into more seasonal ones. I wouldn't have let any of "The Mob" out into the pasture anyway. The ground is way too soft and "mushy" (yes, a technical term). Even though the sheep and chickens don't weigh very much, their running and dancing about on the wet, soft ground would damage it. I have enough problems keeping it going in our high desert climate so they will just have to be patient and wait. Hay will still have to do.

Two days ago while opening the pen inside the barn to let the boys out I saw something zip past me. It was very low to the ground and fast. Now, anyone on medication of any sort would have to re-check themselves to make sure they weren't seeing things. But those of us with barns and outside sheds know exactly what it was - a mouse!

Our changeable weather is driving these creatures back into the barn for warmth and food. I have other ideas about it and have declared war on these vermin! So, Wednesday night I set out traps again, baited with peanut butter. Thursday morning I had indeed caught three mice. Two in the end of the barn where the boys and the chickens spend the night and one in the feed room.I reset the traps last night and caught another three! I usually place the corpses where our local crow, er, raven, population can find them for "disposal". They are my "Cleaners"...removing all evidence of any rodent I place in their view. We have the dreaded Hanta virus in this area of the country. I handle these vermin with surgical gloves and opt for the crows to utilize the food source rather than place them in our garbage can. I am not going to dig holes for burials either. But I thought as I headed for the house this morning...maybe it's not such a good idea to feed anything this close to the pasture. Oh, I don't mind the crows, but if they don't make use of the offerings will they draw coyotes closer to us? That would not be a good thing what with lambing in April. Sometimes the crows leave my offerings and they still disappear overnight. Who is taking them? Our neighbors cats prefer live prey so something else has to be helping with the disposal.

I'll have to give this problem some thought. It may come to the crows having to find something else for their meals rather than the mice from our barn.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Blah Day

I wish I could say that I have done great and exciting things this weekend. But, alas, I have not. Friday we cleaned the barn of all and any hay from the feed room to the pens as I had found hay that I had delivered riddled with mold. Our feed dealers were very apologetic as they too had some of the same show up in their barn, and were happy to replace the hay. That meant trying to rake up all the bits that the sheep had eated around.
I should have known something from the start as they hadn't been eating with their normal "gusto". But the raking and hauling, plus hauling out the "infected" bales to the compost pile seemed exhausting to me. My DH had called in the heavy artillery by removing the snowblower from the garden tractor and hitching up the wagon.
The hay seemed everywhere...even the boys were not eating much of anything. There was not only hay on the surface of the corral, but since we'd had snow and frost during the week it had gotten wet and, using a technical term, "icky". It was hard to pry up from the frozen ground below.
Normally I don't mind cleaning the barn. It just seemed like it was a nasty job this time. So much so that even my DH, who is usually happy to help without complaint, likened it to one of the Twelve Labors of Herecules. He made point to mention the stables Herecules had to clean. (Did I mention he can be a Smart Ass?) ;-)
Right now we're in-between weather systems. I go out in the morning to frosty tires and snowy banks along the little stream that runs through our pasture. As soon as the sun has been up, it will become warm enough to work in a sweatshirt instead of a coat. Then as soon as the sun drops behind the mountain the cold settles in again. Then it's time to get a fire started in the woodburner for the cats to bake themselves by as they lay near it for the evening. I always wonder how they can lay there and not turn into cat puddles as it is so hot to me.
And I am sure that most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are in the same frame of mind right now. We find oursleves hungry for color and green. We want the wind to die down and the crocus to bloom to give us a sign that things will green up, eventually.
So, I'd like to leave everyone with this last picture my husband took a couple of summers ago. It's the same area of the stream in the photo above. It just shows that we do, indeed, green up in our part of Arizona. That the Earth will once again be lush and alive. A testament to life going on and beginning the cycle all over again.

I just need to be patient.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

On A Foggy Morning...

We had a foggy Arizona morning this morning. As you can see by this little moose who sits near the front door of the house. We have a family joke regarding seems when our daughter was in university and in need of buying a used car, somehow we came up with some money to help her get one. As her father gave her the money, and she said thanks, he came out with "Well, Happy Moose Day." It stuck. Now anytime we do something nice unexpectedly for anyone, we call it Moose Day. And this little garden moose with the smile on his face is a reminder to keep having Moose Day for those we love.
Here are the new gates that my DH made for Skittles and his "Little Buddy", Colin. These came after Skittles tore the heck out of welded wire panels we used before. This required a little detective work on my part (and being an old detective, I enjoyed it). What was bothering Skittles was not being in a was the chickens! Yes, Folks...I have a chicken-hater ram! He would wait until a likely victim would walk close to his pen, then he would lower his head and...WHAM! Now the chickens would just look at him, and I think I heard laughing but I couldn't tell who was laughing...Skittles or the chickens?
You have to understand my chickens. They are rather quite laid-back bird-folk who keep trying to tell me I am their minion, not the other way 'round, you see. I am the one to do their bidding and a few of them are determined they should live in the house with us.Anyway, now I pen the chickens at night and Skittles does not try to ram his way through a pen any longer. I even confirmed my suspicion by watching him in his ram-pen...yup, as soon as a chicken walked by his head went down and , wham! Right into the fenceline at chicken-height. Maybe his mother was frightened by a chicken?

So, now we have a nice pen for "The Skipper and his Little Buddy".

We also have a divider to make two smaller jugs out of this pen. This summer when I have nothing better to do, I will paint the cinderblocks white as we have done in the ewes side of the barn. The white paint made a huge difference in the light as well as "ambiance" of the place.
For the most part, our dusting of snow this morning disappeared leaving in its stead muck. There's no other name for it but "muck". It'll suck the gumboots right off your feet if you're not careful. :)
But the girls seem to like it and dined "al Fresco" this morning.Here's Amanda, wondering if I have those infamous "cookies" in my pocket. After I took the snap she went right back over with the others and pretended that I wasn't there. We servants are not supposed to be seen after we have attended to the needs of our masters, you know.

As for me, I'm going to enjoy the warmish day and wait for Round 2 to start this evening. It will be nice to be inside with a fire going. Anyone up for a cuppa?

Friday, February 09, 2007


Today we lost a special friend. Our cat, Zuzu, was quietly let go to join her mother and brothers. She would have been 19 year old next month on St. Patrick's Day.
She had been in delcining health this year, but this last week she turned a corner and we started to see signs of pain and distress. As much as we wanted to keep her with us, it would have been selfish of us not to ask our very dear friend and kind veterinarian, Dr. Bill Kurmes, to aid Zuzu to slip the bonds of this life.

~Her Story~
Years ago, my father decided to retire from the hectic pace of the Marketing World and settle in a very small, very remote town in eastern Arizona. He bought a house on two acres and with the house came a resident feral cat. Although he would never admit to it, Dad was a great animal lover. Soon, he and the feral cat he came to name "Matilda" were sitting on his front deck, together. Eventually, Matilda would let Dad pet her. This lead up to her finally coming into the house.

One thing was obvious though...Matilda was very pregnant. On St. Patrick's Day, 1988, Matilda came home to Dad but was now noticeably svelte. She had her kittens but refused to let anyone know where they were, even Dad. I remember visiting him at that time. My DH was serving his last year in the Army in Korea. My daughter, Kelly, and I had come to visit Dad for a long weekend and Dad had asked me to see if I could find Matilda's kittens. I searched everywhere I could think of but to no avail. Being a wiley mother who had lost many litters to coyotes before her eyes, Matilda had done a great job of making sure no one would get to her little family.

A few weeks later Dad called. Matilda had brought to him, while he was sitting on the porch, each one of her kittens. She placed each one at my father's feet knowing they would be safe while she would go back to her hideout to fetch each kitten, one at a time. Dad was beside himself with pride that this old cat that no one could get near for years, brought him her most prized family to keep safe and warm. And my dad promised her they would not come to harm and they were home.

About 8 weeks later, Dad called me asking if I knew of anyone who might like one of the kittens. They were weaned and Matilda was going to be spayed. No one in his little valley wanted them. So, Dad, knowing which buttons of mine to push, said that he would be keeping Mattie and the female kitten (Zuzu), but the two boys were going to have to be put to sleep if no one would take them. We already had two cats, April and Bandit, but in a weak moment I said I would take the boys, whom I later named Socks and Scooter. That was the start of my downfall. Later, as Dad moved into town, I ended up with both Matilda and Zuzu as well. Each one had their own wonderful personality and charms.

Over the years, we've seen each one decline and finally leave us. Zuzu was the last of the little family. She loved to sneak under the covers of our bed in the middle of the night and curl up by my feet - startling to me the first few times she did it. She also spent the first couple of years with us being very timid and shy, but if I would cook any kind of pork - bacon, roast, pork chops - she would almost bowl me over to get a piece. When she finally became used to Ralph and I, she would spend each evening with us in the living room. Usually she would lay near me on the loveseat or chair and put her paw, ever so gently, on my lap or leg barely touching me. I never decided if she was doing that for her comfort, or mine...just letting me know that she was there with me.

I will miss Zuzu. She was a fixture on the hearth when the woodstove was burning. It was the warm hearth where she found comfort and peace. And today, it was the warm hearth where Bill knealed down on the floor to end her pain and illness that had developed in these last months of her life. The science-part of me knows it was the right thing to do, but the soul-part of me hopes that we will meet again someday...Zuzu and the rest of her family.

I will miss my friend with the beautiful face and sparkling eyes...and the soft touch of her paw each evening.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Better Living Through Chemistry!

I wish I could claim these very green pastures as mine, but, sadly, they are not. These pastures belong to a grammar school near my daughter and son-in-law's house in the Mt. Albert area of New Zealand. I snapped a few pictures as I was walking to the mall that's near the Kids' house. The school keeps animals as part of the curriculum. Yes, they start them early appreciating sheep in New Zealand! I thought it was wonderful...but I think just about anything with sheep is wonderful. This is a beautiful area of New Zealand and I am finding that
I miss it right about now. Everything is brown or covered with snow here. I know a lot of my sheepy-friends are battling drastically cold temperatures right now. Maybe a bit of green will cheer them up. :)

My title of today's entry comes as a result of a new medication that's entered my life. With degenerative processes happening in my spine and joints, I had been plagued with terrible shooting pains from my lower back down my left leg. Everything became painful and I was not appreciating the little joys I find in life everyday due to the overwhelming nagging pain I had to deal with. The pain also wore me out to the extent that I couldn't even enjoy watching a good program on TV with my DH. Even my feet hummed constantly from the nerves being so worked up all the time.

That is until Lyrica entered the scene. It started with the pinched nerve Ralph had near his right shoulder. It was driving him mad from pain and nerves firing off down his arm. The Dr. put him on Lyrica and within a day he was back to his normal cheerful disposition. He urged me to talk to my Dr. about it...and urged me, and urged me. So, I talked to my Dr. and was, indeed, prescribed Lyrica. After just two days on this new medication, I have been able to cut back on the narcotic pain-killers I had to take and found myself actually enjoying life again. It is truly miraculous!
Now, I do have to admit that it did make me a bit dizzy at first. I even had to wait and ask Ralph to go with me to the barn to put sheep away that first evening, lest I pass out in the barnyard to become part of the chickens' dinner or trampled by sheep running me over to get their evening meal. After that first day, and one of the doctors I know telling me how to take it to avoid much of the side effects, I have become almost free of any annoying dizziness, etc.
I am amazed. Where has this been all the last ten years? I wish I had known about it sooner. Oh, I still have some other problems that I have to contend with daily as well as knowing that this Lyrica is possibly merely masking pain. But I feel as though I can now get through a day without wanting to run, screaming, down the road waving my arms. Anyone with chronic pain will tell you they fear trying to sit still in the evening hours. If you keep moving the pain can not catch you...until you stop, then it comes on with a vengeance. Maybe now I can be human again.

So, I feel it necessary to thank all chemists - my daughter included - for working on everything that does make life better for people. In fact, where would we all be if it weren't for the scientists working on all sorts of things making our lives easier? I think we should have an International Scientist Appreciation Day and let these people know that we do appreciate everything they do for all of us, in every walk of life. I, for one, want to say "Thank you".

Move over "Moose Day"*..."Hug A Scientist Day" is on its way! :-)

Thought for Today:

"You should have three things in life:
-Something to do
-Something to love
-Something to hope for"
-Buddhist Saying-

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Doldrums

This is the time of year we refer to as "The Doldrums". The Holidays are over and so are the breeding groups. Lambing isn't until April. And on top of it all, it's too cold outside to really get interested in anything. Seed catalogs come regularly in the mail, but it's even too early to start seeds for our very short growing season.
This is the time of year I really appreciate either a trip to Las Vegas with all it's bright lights and colors, or the fact that some of the orchids I have begin to bloom.
The first picture is of an orchid my DH gave me. It's a "Bellara Tahoma Glacier 'Green'" and does have a bit of a scent. This one always blooms at this time of year, along with a dendrobium that my late father gave me (but I couldn't get a good picture of it today). I also have a sunset-colored phalanopsis getting ready to bloom - it's sent up four, yes, four, flower stalks and should be breath-taking when it does bloom.
What is almost overwhelming right now are the citrus trees I have indoors. My Calamondin Orange is just loaded with fragrant blossoms as well as green fruits of all sizes. When you walk in the front door all you smell are orange blossoms. It's very up-lifting for both soul and spirit on these cold days when all I can think about is being outside in the garden or with the sheep.

I have just realized that all of my morning chores are done...the sheep are fed and out, laundry is going, my DH has eaten breakfast and is, as I write this, outside on the garden tractor with the snowblower attachment. He's even clearing paths to the barn and from the barn to the compost pile (Is this a hint? Do I need to clean the barn again?). I actually have some time to spin today. My only problem is deciding which wonderful fiber to work with.

So many choices. Oh, bother! :)