Friday, August 30, 2019

Annie & O.J. The Farm Report 08-30-2019

Annie & O.J.
The Farm Report 08-30-2019

Here's a quick update on the farm news for this Labor Day Weekend:

'Paper shredder? We don't need no stinking paper shredder, Tim. You've got me now! I can do all that shredding for you. It will be my pleasure.'
Fortunately, this document was in the waste basket and was headed for the shredder anyway.

'For that matter, you don't need no compost shredder either! I'm a working farm dog, and I can do compost shredding, too.'
I just love to tease her about her little beady eyes. With them, she's no poker player. You know what mood she's in just by looking at her eyes - and ears.

'Gotta be somethin' good in there,' she says.

There are books about how to stop dogs from digging. Me? I just put her to work at it.

Digging dog - Happy dog

Ever since Annie Oakley showed up at the farm, about 6 weeks ago, O.J. has been out on strike. During the super hot last weeks of July, he disappeared. I feared it might be 'for good.' O.J. is about 17 now, and he had been showing his age. But alas, there were still lives to be lived in that cat. He has returned, and he is not at all intimidated by this new barkie thing that boings around all day. Not intimidated even one little dropper full.

The 'maters are puttin' out. That's a good thing for me.

Whole canned tomatoes make the very best chili and goulash. Joyce and I canned hundreds and hundreds of jars from the garden over our summers together. You miss the little things the most, kids. If you'll look deep into the picture you'll see somebody having breakfast, and somebody else trying to pick a fight.

The roses in Joyce's Rose Garden have been producing, too.

I have discovered the wonders of drip irrigation and a simple little timer that keeps it regular. Add some fertilizer to the rain barrel that supplies the water and we've got roses!

I've also discovered the beauty of perennial hibiscus. I have two of these sitting on the front porch. I have them in wicking pots so they stay moist and I don't have to remember to water them all the time.

I let the chickens 'free range' in the afternoons. The Jerk III leads his hens down from the coop.

Annie instinctively herds and shepherds the flock around whenever they are out and about. It is amazing. She keeps her distance, but tries to control them all the time. She is 'pushy' but shows no interest in actually catching them or chasing them. How do they know?

But the story continues: She held her 'down' position for a long time. It is hard to see, but The Jerk III kept making direct eye contact. In animal-speak, that is a direct challenge.

It was like Annie was telling me, 'I don't know how much longer I can put up with him.'

Then TJIII began coming closer. Another direct challenge - to a Texas Heeler/Shepherd pup!

The last pic I have to show you is this one. It was like, 'On your mark, Get set, Charge!' I'll have to just tell you the rest of the story. When Annie let go, she just bounced like 'Pogo-Dog.' She wasn't on the run, but she was after TJIII. They disappeared going around the corner of the chicken coop. Then, there was a flutter and flapping event. THEN, Annie came back around the same corner only this time she was RUNNING! and TJIII was hot on HER tail. He caught her and literally rolled her on the ground. Then he wouldn't quit. He pushed her all the way back into the bushes at the left of this picture. They now seem to have a deeper mutual respect for each other. It was like a cartoon show!

This might look like sewer drain pipe to you, but to me? This is going to be my new hydroponic strawberry patch. Stay tuned.

I went out into the remains of the '019 garden to show you the Michigan State Carrot project. This is what we found. For you city kids reading this, field mice are thick as fleas in ... the field. O.J. thinks it is the edge of the desert bar here. He was minding his own business, politely waiting for his 'serving.'

Annie noodled him into moving right over to the Michigan State Carrot patch. Using oats as a nurse crop to help get the carrots started works like a charm. Try it next year!

Annie can't stand someone who won't play with her.

O.J. don't play....

You'll need to really zoom this picture up to get the full effect, but the expression on O.J.'s face is like, 'Just how much more of her crap do I have to put up with before I lower the boom - AGAIN!' ?

My peach harvest: 2 edible peaches. This is Hale Haven. Juice dripping off your chin from a fresh ripe summer peach is unbeatable.

Annie's collection moved to the spare bedroom. At least she got them all in pairs.

And the pullets are beginning to lay! Hooooray! Obviously, all is well at Oakdale Farm.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Lazy Days of Summer: The Farm Report 08-16-2019

Lazy Days of Summer

The Farm Report 08-16-2019

Mid-August has never been my favorite time of the year. In Iowa, where I live, it is always hot, humid, muggy and well, just miserable. No breezes - unless from storms, and then we'll call it a 'breeze' by heck! - and way too much hot sunlight for me. I get tired of it being so bright and light until after bedtime. I get tired of being hot and sweaty all the time too.  But there is a silver lining in the hanging clinging clammy air: things are beginning to ripen. These are poor little crab apples. They are growing on more of a bush than a tree. The deer kept whipping and raking the tree around so much I gave up. The tree just said, "OK, no trunk!" and made itself into a bush. They make great jelly.

The light is changing - which means the seasons will be changing too. August is still green, but it begins to look worn out. As if to say, 'Enough is enough. Let's move on.' 

Annie doesn't care. She has discovered chickens! I like to let my 4 hens and 1 rooster outside the coop in the afternoons. They like to run around and eat bugs and grass - and eventually I will get some eggs that will be all the better for it. As far as Annie is concerned, these birds were put here for her to HERD! Look at the arch in her back and the turgor in her tail. She has 'em spotted, and knows they will soon be needing her guidance. She's a natural.

She doesn't try to chase them, or run them down. She just knows instinctively that they need her to help keep them all together and push them where she thinks they should go. The rooster, 2d from the right, sometimes disagrees. I think it is a territorial thing, and he thinks it is HIS territory. Annie has learned to respect his point of view..... ahem.

Kids and pups. Big kids, little kids; young pups and old uns. My good neighbor who is really the reason I have Annie is a natural with animals. He is holding his old guy chihuahua, 'Chuck,' so Annie can get to know him. Annie is eager, Chuck is - not so much. For such a little guy, Chuck sounded loud and vicious.

Kids and puppies need each other, and what is more fun on a hot summer's day. Chuck finally gave in and settled down. Ron's foot is pointing at my backyard lily pond. That is important to know for the next picture. 

Annie decided to go swimming. She has webbed feet all the way out to her toenails on all four, and loves to play in the water. Up until now, she hadn't gone in full bore. Up until now. 

"I just slipped." Like heck. She ran back, took off on a full gallop, and 'tried' to stop at water's edge. Sorta. Plop!

Even when you're trying to be 92, you're still a kid at heart when you've got a puppy like Annie. My mother and Annie hit it off instantly. They actually met when Mom was on the gurney in the ambulance getting ready for an emergency ride to the hospital. That's a story for another time. All turned out well and you can see they're best buds. 

Stanley plums. The Japanese Beetles played heck with them, but some made it. They are all very small this year. Too much rain. Saturated soil can't feed the fruit right. 

I call these 'Iowa Blueberries.' Other people call them Elderberries. Whatever you call them, they make delicious jelly, juice, etc. The plants grow in the roadside ditches here like weeds. Free for the taking, but almost nobody takes 'em. The juice is supposed to have terrific anti-viral qualities. Elderberry wine is supposed to be good too.

Another 'weed' here is the common Black Walnut, juglans nigra. They will grow up out of building foundations and in fence rows wherever you don't want them. Not too long from now, those green balls will fall and turn yucky brown. (That's the source of historically correct furniture stain to me! Remember, back in the day and in another world, I'm a listed furniture conservator.) We'll hull them and crack the nut shells for the meats inside. Christmas cookies, muffins, fudge, mmmmmmmm. For you budding cabinetmakers out there, Yes, this tree is the source of the famous black walnut lumber.

Not too big a harvest here, but at least I got a taste. I think the total production was 5 plums. These are Santa Rosa plums. Delicious and Super Sweet! Thank you Luther Burbank for your plant breeding work back in 1906.

Annie thinks it is for her...not. 

This wasn't supposed to happen either. This is a 'Hale Haven' peach. We had a week of -22F type temps last winter. That's real -22F, not the baloney 'wind chill' stuff- it was cold! Peaches aren't supposed to fruit after about -10F. Colder won't kill the tree, but it will kill the fruit buds. Apparently Hale Haven forgot to read the manual. AND, the Japanese Beetles forgot to look here, too. Total crop: 3 peaches.

I always know summer is coming to an end when these hosta lilies begin to shoot up flower stems. Carola came to our house in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, from Germany, one fall when these were beginning to flower. That's why I remember. We brought a start from our home in Wisconsin, when we moved to Oakdale Farm, and have them everywhere now. Prolific. They are beginning to look tired of summer, too. But for fun, if you look along the base of the house, you'll see a little green bump that doesn't have a stem.

It looks just like 'Kermit!' Now, he's imitating the Hosta flower stem heads. Last time I took his picture, he was white/grey imitating the paint he was stuck to. How do they know? Somehow, soon he'll know it is time to go back underground for the winter, too. And so it goes. All is well at Oakdale Farm.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Rodeo Days: The Farm Report 08-02-2019

Rodeo Days

The Farm Report 08-02-2019

It is time for the Sidney Iowa Championship Rodeo this week! I have a strong connection with this rodeo. No, I'm not a cowboy. I can identify cows, and I have actually ridden a horse, but I am by no means a cowboy. But my two grandfathers were! Both of them, Clarence Inman and John Rhode, were among the founding group of World War I veterans and Legionnaires who started the Sidney Rodeo back in 1923. (There were some Civil War veterans back then, too.) At the time, they didn't know they were going to be my grandfathers, but that is what happened. I have a photo of the original group in the archives somewhere. Someday I'll find it and show you. My mother's father, John Rhode, was a blacksmith and farrier. He traded Earl Tackett this saddle for a better one. The saddle in the picture is one of the original bucking saddles used in the first rodeos. Back in the day, the Legionnaires owned the equipment and the stock. Now, it is provided by contractors.

If you look closely, you can see the scuff marks on the bucking roll. 

As the stories go, the cowboys didn't like these saddles. They caused too many injuries because the cowboys couldn't get out of 'em when they were being bucked off. The high front bucking rolls were a problem, along with the high backed cantle which added to the problems. 

My mother, Marcia Inman, helped us write up this description of the saddle, its history, and its problems. She will be 92 next birthday and likes to say she 'grew up' at the rodeo. Her father, my Grand Dad, would set up a farrier's booth at the rodeo (which ran 2 weeks then) and help take care of the horse's needs. They camped out on the rodeo grounds and enjoyed the shows. To this day, Mom still considers rodeo a sport more than an exhibition. Plus, until her arthritis pretty much grounded her, she would ride anything that moved! We have pics of her on long horned steers, elephants and camels, you name it.  

Annie Oakley is getting along fine. I'm sorry to show you what the underbelly of my shop desk looks like, but I have to in order to show you where Annie seems to like sleeping the best. So far, I haven't rolled over her tail or pinched her. 

Mom had 'Bat Ears' and Pop had floppy ears. I think Annie is going to have one of each. 

Fun with animals: 'Miss Kitty' the official shop cat used to beat up on Zoey something terrible. She would act like Zoey's best friend, then WHAP! she would pop Zoey on the nose with no provocation whatever.  This is Miss Kitty's first self-introduction to Annie Oakley. She just walked up and sat there until Annie spotted her. 

Puppies have a 'retreat and defeat' defense. Annie smelled a rat, and retreated to the safety of a desk pad on the floor. She then laid down in the 'Please Don't Hurt Me' pose, and tried to make herself invisible to the cat. Of course, seeing that she had elicited the controlling response she wanted, Miss Kitty immediately lost interest, and left. 

This is an archive good-old-oldie! The dog is 'Lucky' and the pretty lass is my Carola from Germany. Our AFS daughter from our Wisconsin days. Lucky was our undisputed most best dog ever. He was an abused farm collie who just showed up at the farm. My aunt Irene spotted him as a good dog and fed him. Whatever room Irene was in inside the house, she could look out the window, and Lucky would be laying at the foundation under that window. He was always an outdoor dog. He refused to come inside any building - even though I made places for him to go. In his older years (he lived to about 17) he would come into a back porch area through a little door I made for him and spend the coldest nights there. Otherwise, he was an outdoor guy. Wise beyond words, he was truly our Shepherd. He had been shot through his front leg, and apparently beaten. To his last days, even though he knew he was safe with us, when I would pick up a hammer to work with furniture projects, he excused himself and found other farm chores that needed done. When I put the hammer away, he would return. Bad memories are hard to shake. 

Kids have to ride in car seats - even if they don't like to. 

Annie loves to go for rides with me in the Ranger, but she's just a little girl and squirmy. I use this canvas bag for hauling in the mail, and decided it could pack a pup, too. We set up the strap and hook for Zoey. We fastened a riding harness we made for her to the strap so she wouldn't go flying into the wind shield if we had to stop quick. 

Acquiescence. If ya gotta, ya gotta; I guess. 

Down in the orchard, I did manage to find some Yellow Transparent apples that were saved from the Japanese Beetles. This is an early ripener, and probably the best pie/sauce apple you'll ever find. Unless you grow them yourself though, you will never find them. They aren't available in stores. Why? They have a useful life of about 10 days total. They ripen quickly and go off just as fast. While you're in the window with them though, they are superb. Some merchants will try to tell you that Lodi is just as good. PFFFFFFT!

A nice pail of apples, and off to the kitchen we go. 

Presto Chango! add a little sugar and heat - and some LIME juice if you like it like we do - and you have apple pie filling all canned in a jar. Joyce kept perfect 'Home Ec Teacher' notes so I have the know-how written down. (Now they would be called FCS notes, but hey.... I'm an old guy, so give me a break.) 

As mentioned before, this is a crappy garden year, but a home grown tomato by any other name would be - so much better than anything you can buy in a store. This one is Burpee Super Beefsteak. Ugly but delicious! 

In just a little over one week, Annie has gone from not being able to go up or down stairs to now being able to leap them all whenever she has the urge. She is really smart and takes direction well, but I don't actually think she was wanting to check out any of my books. Although I will tell you, if you are a reader, that the ones under the Henry Ford biography at the bottom of the pile are the 'Olive Farm' series written by Carol Drinkwater. She is a wonderful author and you would enjoy her books. Does the name sound familiar? If you're old enough to remember the 'All Creatures Great and Small' books/TV shows by James Herriot, Carol Drinkwater was the actress who played the original part of 'Helen' in the BBC productions. Maybe Annie associated veterinary stories with these books.

"What did you say?" So here's the 'Dog Story' for this episode: I have been getting up with Annie about every 2 or 3 hours all night taking her outside to 'Do her chores.' I decided that I would rather do this than train her to a 'Piddle Pad' now and then have to 'untrain' her from it later. We're both getting more sleep now, and I think it has been worth it. Every time I set her down on the grass, I say, "Do your chores." and she responds! She will squat and pee pretty much on my command now. She is learning. We're a team.

Except: Apparently little dogs don't have very good language discernment skills at such a young age. Last Saturday night about 6:30 she got up from her nap and started noodling around. Seeing the cue, I got up and headed toward the door with her. "Come on Annie," I said, 'Let's go outdoors."  Well, in doggie language, it appears that the phrase, 'go outdoors' is exactly the same as 'do your chores.' Even though we were in the dining room and not on grass, when I said the 'go outdoors' words, she looked up at me in confusion but also in obeyance. She squatted and peed on the dining room floor immediately. Her expression was like, 'we usually do this outside on the grass, but you're the boss. If you say it, I'll do it.' Now, I say, 'let's take a walk.'

Just for evidence: We've still got 'em. Not so thick now, but they are still around, dang it.

Finally, I told you I wouldn't be showing you pictures of the garden patch anymore. But for honesty if not for instruction, I have to put this one in. Among any gardener's arsenal of favorite tools should be a huge lawn mower capable of cutting down giant weeds and cornstalks. They don't talk about this too much in the fancy garden magazines, but I'll bet you a dollar to a dime any gardener with any experience has done this little trick. ZAP/POW! Gone! I'll till it in and start some fall beans in a few days. The Japanese Beetles munched off the sweetcorn silks right down to the ear husks - so we didn't get a single home grown ear of sweetcorn. Next year..... Other'n that, all is well - and cooler now.