Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When This Mountain Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy

I don't do much preaching on this blog. I'm just no good at it. But that doesn't mean stuff doesn't get me riled. Especially since I have this crazylady attachment to our Appalachian Mountains. (I mean, two of my favorite words are Appalachian and Appaloosa, so you know I'm serious.)

I love my Appalachians and all their mountain kin, and naturally I am not cool with chopping their heads off and turning them into toxic waste dumps. Not here, not there, not anywhere.

Grist said it best: "Mountains Look Best With Their Tops On"

From iLoveMountains.org 's Flickr photostream (graphs, too.):
Before Mountaintop Removal Mining (Kentucky)---After---And so then you do the math---Versus Wind Farms which would be perfect! for those un-beheaded mountaintops----(I also love wind turbines!)And that's not even taking into account the jobs that would be created (more) and the environmental impact (duh) and the people who live there not being poisoned (reason enough by itself.) So, you know, you don't have to be a rocket surgeon to see what's what here.

So, if you're feelin' it, you can follow the widget over yonder to join in my resounding "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Country Fried Weekend

Bee on my windshield. Kitten in a hole in the barn. 'Coon hunters. Raccoon hunters, if you please. All about a Saturday night!
' Coon Dog in a cargo van. Treeing Walker Coonhound. Code name: Jill. Very expensive GPS tracking collar.
Treed. 2 raccoons in a gigantic tree.
She is craazy for the raccoons.
Eh. I thought this would turn out better. All eyes in the top of the tree.Um. The brutal part. I spared you the worst. But she earned it.
Coon dog as lap dog? She's a first in our family. Sunday, fun day. Wood choppers. Log splitters.
Now that's what I call a family photo.
I also call this a family photo. Log splitter serving as camera tripod.

I didn't have to ask Mark twice to pose with his chainsaw.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm Doing Great. Why Do You Ask?

See? Doin' great!: Been a little harried and stressed the past week and a half. So what else is new. But seriously, we were way short-handed at work and I was pretty wacked out.

Which made me forget to post about our super fun bike ride/jog on the Montour Trail. Sam and I jogged while the girls rode their bikes. More specifically, Aggie rode my bike after she hosed a quarter inch of barn dust and cobwebs off of it, and Lily rode her goonie farm bike. It's like Mark's farm truck: raggedy and outdated, but it gets the job done.

I didn't have the bike rack because I loaned it to my sister and I was desperate to go play outside after being trapped in the cellar all afternoon pre-cleaning for the Fall honey extraction, so, don't tell, but I loaded up the kids and the bikes into the back of the cargo van and headed for the trail. I did make them wear helmets. So I was halfway parenting at least.

I didn't take the camera because the sun, she was setting, and I just left it behind. I could've taken pictures of deer, bunnies, Fall foliage, and a wonderfully surprising section of the trail where there were no houses, just rolling hills of grass. Lily claims she saw a skunk, but I'll never know if that was true.

We logged close to 6 miles by the time we made it back to the van with our cheeks cold and rosy. Lily informed me that it was the first time "in her entire life" that she'd taken a real bike ride like that. Meaning that she rode a bike instead of the pull behind bike trailer we hauled her in back in the good 'ole days. I think they were all proud of how far they went.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Mark and a friend (because I bailed on Mark and took the kids on a bike ride instead of helping) extracted honey using Mark's fancy new honey extracting equipment. I must say, it is quite an upgrade from our tried and true but very used and/or homemade stuff. Really makes the whole process much faster and less messy.

Photography courtesy of Lily.
This is the new uncapping tank. The wax caps are removed with the hot blade uncapper thingy and fall into a rough strainer in the tank. Any honey that drips to the bottom of the tank can be collected later. The old one was secondhand, homemade, and had no legs, among other things. This is way High Class for us. (Note the High Class furnace, crumbly stone foundation walls and water softener tank in the background. Fancy facilities! Might explain why there is so much pre-cleaning to do.)
You can't really see it that well but in the background there Mark is loading the new extractor. It holds 20 frames, pulls the honey from both sides of the frame at once versus flipping the frames halfway through, and required bolting to the basement floor. Just where ever. Throw some bolts into the floor. No big deal.

There's no photo of the new hot water-jacketed bottling tank, but trust me, it is a beloved item, too.

We got 3 new cows. They are real beauties and one sounds like a bugling bull Elk when she moos.The pigs are delightful. Sometimes I forget how lovely they are.Fall is somewhat noncommittal this year, if you ask me. But it's getting here I guess.We did some crafting. Puppet making, even.

My sister and I had a cheap little blue rabbit puppet named Presley when we were kids. He barely even looked like a rabbit and I'm pretty sure when you turned him inside out, (why you would do that to him, I don't know.) the material used to give some firmness to the inside of his mouth so you could make him talk was part of a Little Debbie Snack Cake box.

So for whatever reason, it was a favorite toy of ours growing up and as we got older we took to hiding it in each others bed or luggage or what have you. Moving away from home? Look out for Presley. Headed off to college? Beware The Monkeys Arm: the arm of a white plush monkey toy we once had. (And the fake turd, which I believe one of my mother's coworkers might have gifted to her? Mom? Do you remember where the fake turd came from ?)

But eventually all the original hiding items were lost & we had to make new (sorry turd, they broke the mold. Only memories remain.) and I constructed a new Presley. Not as good as the original but still functional. So my Presley was inspiration to Aggie and she decided to construct her own rabbit puppet. We already had ears from a half-assed Halloween costume I made when she was a toddler. She wore her black faux fur Winter jacket, I made fun fur ears which I pinned to her hood, and gave her a black eyeliner nose and whiskers. Viola! Puppy! Or bunny! Or mutant humanpuppy creature!

So we had the ears. A scrap of fun fur. And no sewing machine. (I know! For shame! What kind of pioneer woman am I?) Here's what we've got so far:

I am especially pleased with the double button eyes we went with. Aggie is doing most of the work herself. Fun times!

And lastly, living and working in a semi-rural/rural area, it is not unusual for your clients to walk into your office with this:

And also not unusual for someone like me to get excited about it, fuss over it, take a photo of you with it, and overlook the dead deer smell on it. Because we love it..........don't we?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Like Grains Of Litter Through The Litter Scoop, So Are The Cats Of Our Lives

We were reminiscing about our cats the other day. Memories brought on by the recent loss of my beloved Helen.
It was normal to not see Helen for a day or two at a time. Then you'd find her curled up asleep in between straw bales in the barn, in a cardboard box in the greenhouse, or on a pile of feed sacks in the farm truck. But when the 2 days stretched out into more than a week, my heart sank.
I asked every other day "Has anyone seen Helen?" and no one had.
Mark was oddly quiet and I finally figured he knew something. He said he'd been afraid to tell me, planned to maybe never tell me, but he found Helen on the road days ago. He said there was a bird's body right beside hers, so maybe she died doing something she enjoyed: hunting.
I'm still bummed about it.
Helen. I selected her from the other cats at the pound because she was talkative. That was my main criterion going in. But at the same time there was another ridiculously handsome grey cat who caught my eye. He had the head of a cougar and a very stand-offish personality, solid grey coloring and a linebacker body. I called Mark from the pound to tell him about the cats and he said to bring them both home.
So Helen and Roger (not their pound names, those were something pedestrian like Patches and Fluffy or something) came home with me in their cardboard crates, caterwauling the whole car ride. But not before Roger had seriously maimed the volunteer at the shelter.
She had put the cats in a temporary cage while we did paperwork and when she went to retrieve him he went berserk and attached himself to the top of her head with all four sets of claws. There was blood. All the while I'm saying to myself only I would take this beast home. And pay to do it!
But all was well once they settled in, Helen was crazy affectionate, meowing at every word you said to her, spastic in her appreciation of being held, and impossible to stop from licking you head to toe. Helen was a big licker she was. Roger was the notoriously stinky pooper and known for sneaking into the automobile of anyone who came to the house. Unbeknownst to the driver. He took many a car ride accidentally.
If Helen wasn't sleeping on Sam's head, she was sleeping in his dresser drawer. Well, before she moved outdoors, that is. And I know indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats, etc. etc., but once she learned to hunt and play outside she hated coming in the house. Plus she was the one who pooped and peed behind the hot water tank. And her itchy skin cleared up once she moved outdoors. So who am I to argue with that?
You could go outside and call her, not in a normal voice of course, but in a shrill baby-talking voice, and she'd come running. I called her "Helen," "Helen the Melon,""Hulun the Mulun,""Helen the Skeleton,""Skeletor,""Skully." I am sick that I can't do that routine anymore.
I miss Helen.
I miss Roger, too. Once I actually saw him get hit by a car, rolled under that car, and then jump out from under the car, still very much alive. I couldn't immediately find him after that and I went inside the house very upset. An old Asian woman who had been shopping at the market came over to comfort me by saying "Cat hard to kill." As in, Don't worry, he'll be fine. And I think that wondering exactly why she knew that was what made me feel a little better. True story.
But sadly, after serving as mascot (and stowaway) for the market for a couple years, Roger was found as well and Mark tried not to cry as he picked him up from the road.
I also miss our little orange tabby Hank. aka "Hanky," "Hanky Tooooo!" He was born on the farm, son of Mama Cat, long time matriarch (after her predecessor One Eye,) the cat formerly known as Fritz. I think we decided to convert him from barn kitten to house kitten after Roger's passing. Plus he was extremely affectionate and always kept his cute kitten meow which he greeted me with every morning.
One of my most favorite photos is of a 6 or 7 year old Sam sitting at the kitchen table, Hank in his lap staring attentively at the book Sam was ready to him. But, even though he was strictly indoors, Hank was an escape artist. It was nothing to find that he'd jumped out of a second story window, and eventually he too met with the same fate as Helen and Roger.
Our last surviving "pet" cat (versus "barn" cat) is YoYo. aka Yoko, Mocho Coco, MoMo, Big CoCo, Yokudekimashita.
He's been enjoying a lot more indoor time lately. Whether he likes it or not. Mostly I think he likes it. He's soft spoken, drools when he's happy, and is like 2 and a half feet long when he stretches out fully for you to rub his belly. He's also been known to enjoy a Sunday drive with the family, and for some reason was really drawn to the coffee beans I was grinding this morning? His previous owner had him declawed so I think the cold bothers his front feet, but he is a successful hunter and cock of the walk amongst all our cats, in spite of his lack of claws.So. Cats, cats, cats. Our life is full of cats. First thing Lily does every day after school is head to the barn to play with the kittens. They have names, but I haven't learned them yet. This is a picture from the archives. Not even sure who these guys are? Well, I know that the black & white one would have automatically been named Baby Coco. That is a given.

I can't remember his name either. He's gone, too.
Whoops. Not a cat.
The most recent Baby CoCo. With the extra toes.
And I've only just scratched the surface of my supply of cat photos. But this post was a little bit much already. Forgive me if I've told you these stories before. Shared these photos before.
We love our cats, don't we?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

When last we saw our cheeky heroine she was sipping Grey Goose and cranberry juice from a beer glass through a bendy straw debating the virtues and vices of a cell phone for her first born.
Well, you all know I totally got him one, facts and figures be damned.
Just kidding. There was a small amount of figuring.
But I'll be honest, as soon as we cracked that baby open we must've texted each other a dozen times. And it's fun. The kid has a great sense of humor, and I'm just going to relish him even wanting to text me at all. You should've seen the look his dad and I shared when he received a text from a girl the other night. It was ... a moment.
Sunday was Pittsburgh's Great Race--and we went! Sam and I. And we ran and we finished and we got an Eat N' Park smiley face cookie at the end.
The Milk Man encouraged Sam & I to enter. He insisted that it was a lot of fun and mostly down hill. He said he pushed his baby in a stroller the entire 10K last year. I was skeptical, but he's a jovial chap and the peer pressure was strong. Meanwhile, the race is 10K and I normally only trot about 3 miles at any one time.
It was one of the funnest things I've done in a long time. It rained the whole time. Sam beat me. But I only walked when I took a drink at the water stations. The water stations where the water tasted strongly of bleach. I thought Gee, "city water" sure tastes bad and then I learned at the water tent after the race that it's because they were dipping it out of garbage cans. True story.
If you want to feel superior, please feel free to check out my race results on the Great Race website. It kind of took the wind out of my sails when I saw them the next day. Ah, who cares! It was fun.
When we got home that afternoon, Mark and I took the opportunity afforded by Sam having a cell phone to leave him and his sister unattended at home while we went mushroom hunting.
Yes, my legs hurt like hell from running, but I'm super tough like that.
I also got semi-lost/separated from Mark in the woods. It was like he instantly vanished. So I called out to him. Nothing. Then I thought He's messing with me. He's hiding. Gonna pop out and scare me. So I was determined not to react. I just stood where I was picking burrs out of my clothes. Then my imagination started poking out here and there. Someone snatched him. There gonna get me next. He fell of a ledge somewhere. He's unconscious. I have a lot of life insurance on myself. He lured me out here in the middle of nowhere... And then I heard him yell for me. And ask me what the hell I was doing.
Doesn't this tree look like a ghoul? Edvard Munch-y? Not Georgia O'Keefe-y...
We found 2 types of edible. Chicken mushroom. And what we were really looking for: Sheepshead. And now a series of comical pictures of me on the mushroom hunt.
Not too bad. Nice getup, though. Fanny pack! I wore it in the Great Race. The Milk Man said Weren't those outlawed back in the Eighties? And for a second I thought he was serious.

Mark says to me Have I ever shown you the biggest tree I've ever known? I felt like we were dating again.
And so, on some back road in the middle of nowhere so don't ask me to ever take you there because I'll never find it again, I met the biggest tree Mark has ever been personally acquainted with. If I had been feeling a little more limber I would've crawled inside the tree because it was big enough inside to do so.
The pictures don't do it justice. The base of the tree is probably 30 + feet across. Pretty neat.
Here are the best photos: Wasn't even tryin' to look so awesome, I just did.
I also let Lily dress herself for school pictures:
The picture doesn't show the fine detail of her cheap matching necklace and bracelet or those high heeled pink sandals. She was stylin'. I guess I could've tried to make her look proper, but what the heck is the fun in that? This is 2nd Grader Lily. Only available for a limited time! So act now!
Back to work now! Not really. But tomorrow. We drove halfway across the state Wednesday to fetch Mark's new girlfriend: The Meadow Creek something something 3000 Bar-B-Que super duper smoker thingy. It's a giant smoker griller trailer.
And now we're selling pulled pork sandwiches along side the road. It's much more work than it sounds. And I don't care if I eat any more pork for a while.
We love it, don't we?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Say It Five Times Fast: "Fetal Cat Tattoo!"

Because I like to share stuff with you.
It's a tattoo. A Fetal Cat Tatto.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now That's Italian! No, wait, it's totally not.

This blog isn't really big on snark, though I appreciate well done snark and may partake in real life. I'll be back to my regularly scheduled whatever-it-is-I-do-here shortly, but for now, can you just please enjoy this with me? Thanks!

Overheard on the Facebook recently....

Expectant Mother (known for sloppy, over-sharing status updates) :
ok people.....give me some possible girl names for the baby plz :)
Yep, gonna ask my Facebook friends what to name my offspring.

Friend: Shalaiah
Aren't you missing a few more Shalalalalalalalala's in there somewhere?

Another Friend: I kinda made one up, well I put 2 names together that I really like if I would decide to have another, but have since thought about it and realized it's too much like my youngest daughter's middle name...McKenadie (or just Kenadie I love both)
No, you did not make up a name. You randomly combined "Mc" and some consonants and vowels. And what are those 2 favorite names that you supposedly combined?

Male Friend: How about mythological like "Athena"? Or perhaps something like "Shyla"? "Ramona" maybe?
How about "Irony?"

Yet Another Friend: I like the Athena one. That's pretty. Also thought of Dakota, Caren, and sophia.

Bestest Answering Friend: My girls are Sierra Dawn and Sadie Jo. But I also like Savannah, Kenzi. I have a friend who names there girls Avenna, Myrella and Daylore. I believe those are italian names. I also like Abigail.
Thank you, mother of Sierra Dawn and Sadie Jo, for making my day. And those all sound like Herpes treatments.