Riding with a Rat

They come with the territory. Anytime there’s feed for horses or cattle or even dogs, they’re going to arrive to see what they can salvage from the smorgasbord. You may have the cleanest barn in the neighborhood, which we do, thanks to my OCD husband who blows out the barn aisle at every opportunity.

For the first time last evening, we saw a little unwanted guest. I, of course, am using that particular adjective loosely. Anything larger than a chipmunk should be charged rent. I heard my husband yelling, “Did you see him? Did you see him? You almost stepped on him!” That was a tidbit that I didn’t need to hear.

It turns out the interloper ran from the front of the barn all the way to the other end and disappeared. The little bugger. I never got an eyeball on him.

“Was it a mouse or a rat?” I’m not sure why that really makes any difference but it does. We horse people are a weird lot. Mice….hmm. They’re cute. Rats! It’s like the elephant in the closet.

“It was about this big.” He held his hands apart about 6″…. yep that’s a rat.

“Well he’s gone now and honestly, all the food is in a metal container. I wouldn’t worry.”

We headed up to the house without a second thought.

The next morning, my husband decided to mow the front lawn before noon. I don’t know about you, but I love the sound of a mower. It brings back childhood memories; the smell of fresh-cut grass, the distance hum of the mower and the memory of my father whipping around on his riding mower with his favorite farmer’s cap perched on his head. My husband is the same. He loves his zero turn, taking great pride in making sure the lines are even and level. Wanting to complete the lawn before the sun got too hot, he was in a particular jaunty mood, turning corners on a dime, zipping right along. Not only was my husband enjoying the ride, so was the rat.

Of course, the stowaway wasn’t discovered until my husband stopped to blow off the debris that collects in the filter. While he’s at it, he blows everything off. That’s when he discovered “Harold” literally flying off the mower when he got caught in the crosshairs. Then the real fun began.

In an effort to hide from both from my husband’s blower and further airborne torment, “Harold” darted into, of all things, our garage which was only open for the guy working on our base boards. In hot pursuit, my husband followed, cornered him and revved up his blower again. Once more, “Harold” was sent airborne, flying in a perfect five foot arch before landing outside the garage. His little legs working overtime, he scrambled toward the screened portch in the back of the house, my husband unsuccessfully trying to send him airborne into our neighbor’s pasture.

I heard a frantic thumping on the door.

“Get Charlie! CHARLIE! Come here Charlie! Rat! Get ’em boy!”

Charlie is our jackshitz…part Jack Russell, part Shitzu. Now you would think any dog with Jack Russell blood would take off like a lawn dart after such a prize catch but after leaping out the door in excitement, all Charlie could do was look up at my husband as if to say, “Yea, so? What am I supposed to do about him?”

“Harold”- unable to climb up the screen eventually took off toward the back yard and tried to disappear into the brush, with my husband, blower revved up to the highest rpm level, right on his tail, no pun intended. I would like to be able to say there is photographic documentation of this. An airborne rat is not something you see everyday. Unfortunately, as with most delightful escapades, it’s a visual one can only imagine.

Ah, life on a farm. It’s never boring.

Ghostly Memories of Thanksgiving Past

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A writing prompt group I belong to threw out a suggestion about the aromas we remember from previous Thanksgivings. Perhaps it was from the fumes of paint stripper as I worked on a new writing desk that made me grab onto the subject and take time to ponder my response. After doing so, other memories from decades past bubbled to the surface and a face came into focus of one I hadn’t really thought of for a long, long time…perhaps too long.

As l remember, her salt and pepper hair was always pulled back in tightly pinned bun. After all, she lived on a farm and wearing one’s hair down just wasn’t done. It wasn’t practical and if my grandmother was anything, she was definitely practical. Every black and white Polaroid showed a taciturn woman, a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles perched on a less than feminine  nose, wearing a plain, cotton house dress typical of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s that ended mid-calf and covered a thick pair of stockings rolled to just below her knees. The only words to describe the shoes she always wore are black, blocky and durable. I believe they were called “Cuban” shoes but definitely capable of trudging through the muck typical of a working farm. To complete the ensemble, Grandmother always wore a top to bottom apron, a virtual necessity of that era, which covered a range of duties from holding freshly laid eggs to protecting her frock from flour during bread making. Most importantly, the apron covered her ample bosom.

Legend has it, my grandmother’s ample girth and bosum hid untold treasures which was later confirmed by my older sister many years later. As the story goes, there lived a woman on the outskirts of town who, to put it delicately, serviced interested gentlemen in the county. Perhaps she was beginning to feel the time had come to pack up and move along but whatever the reason, she came to the decision to sell her forty acre parcel. My grandmother was a shrewd business woman who knew a good investment when she saw one. They decided to meet and while their two attorneys were hashing out details in the parlor, my grandmother and the woman came to a mutual and satisfactory conclusion, sealing the deal with a handshake in the kitchen over a glass of buttermilk. Then my grandmother reached into her bosum and pulled out the agreed upon sum of cash. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure her bosum was safer than the bank.

Truth is my grandmother had been widowed far too early in her marriage: a difficult and frightening situation in a town of about 150. By all accounts she remained stoic and faced the adversity the only way she knew how; with determination, pragmatism and a no-nonsense view of the world. That particular era seemed to be in short supply of warm and fuzzy emotions so I’m sure it couldn’t have been all roses for my father yet he possessed a delightful prankish sense of humor.  Looking closely once again at an old photograph of her, I swear I could finally see a little mischievousness in her eyes too. Perhaps there was more to this woman I always remembered as flinty and slightly distant.

As I continued sanding and stripping, a particular memory slowly came inching back. A visit to my Grandmother’s farm was the closest thing to bliss in my youth. There were pigs and dairy cows along with a stern warning to stay clear of both. She had three devoted Chows, two of which never left her side while the third, a teddy bear with a thick black coat joined me on my adventures. An abundance of bullfrogs and crawdads filled the creek that sliced through the pasture. She always seemed to have a new litter of barn kittens darting out and about the barn sheds. When the mood struck, I would leap on my pony with two lead ropes attached to the halter and ride into town for a cream soda at Pearl’s mercantile. I usually ended up tossing feed to the chickens and the two turkeys in the backyard. On this visit, however, the turkeys were conspicuously absent.

My mother called me in to wash up and a mixture of heavenly aromas hit me as I walked up the back stairs. It wasn’t until I saw my grandmother stand up in front of the cookstove that I mentioned the missing turkeys. Wiping her hands in her apron she didn’t immediately respond but did manage to block the opening. My mother shot my father a guarded look which I didn’t catch but before he could spill the beans about the truth of our guest of honor, my grandmother spoke up, explaining turkeys often wandered off for days at a time. “I’m sure they’ll return by the time you come for your next visit.” I must have taken her explanation at face value for nothing more was said.  She gave my shoulder a little squeeze before shooing me off into the living room to play Chinese Checkers.

Sitting down for Thanksgiving supper at a table covered with a vast array of the most delicious looking vegetables about twenty minutes later, a plate with a slab of ham was placed in front of me. In fact, everyone was served ham. If anyone had thought to question the menu, she must have silenced them with a warning gaze over my head. Maybe she didn’t approach every situation with knife edged bluntness. Perhaps time, age and life had taught her a little levity and holding on to childhood innocence a bit longer to be more important. As the memory came inching back, I’m certain of it.

I look at those old family photographs differently, especially those of my grandmother.  Yep. There was much more to that lady than she let on.

Hope everyone’s memories from holidays past bring a slow smile to your lips. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a Time to Pause

Although several weeks have passed since I’ve found time to write, something happened today that gave me pause. Nothing serious although there was a definite toss of the dice. No blood spilled, no sprained ankles, no broken bones, no rush to a hospital which has been the end result of many of our escapades. I’ve often thought back to our medical adventures with a mixture of anxiety, followed by a pinch of humor after returning home. All of us have encountered accidents in our lives and they tend to shape our demguardianangeleanor to a certain extent. You either develop a slightly warped sense of humor or resolve to remain in a cocoon as much as you can. Of course, mishaps often occur more readily when working on a farm.

When we first moved to Florida, our farm, a dilapidated, unkempt pile of broken fence boards, debris, exposed nails and an assortment of heretofore undisturbed wasps nests, called for us to remain steadfast in our dedication to clean up the property.  Fortunately we were at the age where we still felt undaunted, fearless, capable of anything and, to be honest, a little stupid. At the delicate age of nine, my son heard his first bonafide expletive when I stepped on a nail protruding from one of those broken fence boards. It didn’t help matters to discover the board, lying in overgrown grass, covered a close knit nest of wasps. I regretfully confess, the swear word began with a capital F but in my defense, the situation called for a dramatic punch. My son, having had the bejeebies scared out of him hightailed it to the house which was fortunate since the sole wasp gunning for us only had eyes for my backside. First trip to Urgent Care.

Fast forward a few weeks when hubby and I tackled the overgrown vines choking the many oak trees dotting the paddocks. Hacking, pulling, yanking and severing the huge thick stalks threatening to choke the life out of the oaks.  We  worked all day while our son attended school, celebrating our victory with hot dogs on the grill later that evening. It wasn’t until the next morning when my husband and I awoke to our son asking us, “What’s wrong with your faces?” that we realized the vines we’d so enthusiastically attacked were, in fact, mature poison ivy vines. Second trip to Urgent Care. The doctor took a little more interest in us this time around. You could actually see the wheels turning as her curiosity grew.

They say third time is a charm. I would like to know who “they” are, Although, I can happily admit we stayed out of the Urgent Care for a whole three weeks, much more work remained to be completed. One Saturday, I decided to clean up the remaining fence posts while my husband made a quick trip to the local recycling center. The wasps had moved on, their nests eliminated, the piles of boards in overgrown grass had been burned and the grass bush-hogged. Two weeks earlier we had purchased a tractor with a front bucket. Placing the fence posts in the bucket required minimal effort. My son, a sucker for farm equipment had happily volunteered to raise and lower the bucket. We had even taught him to drive forward in turtle mode. Since he was on a need to know basis, we hadn’t taught him how to alter the speed so the tractor simply crawled when he applied pressure to the accelerator and stopped when he took his foot off. Things were going splendidly until the fourth load when my son noticed the lever for cruise control. Damn! Instead of putting his foot on the accelerator, he turned on cruise control. I knew immediately something wasn’t right when I told him to stop the tractor and he couldn’t, noticing the look of sheer panic on his face. He simply didn’t know how! The tractor continued to creep forward excruciatingly slow and began pushing me against the paddock fence. For some stupid reason in an effort to stop the tractor, I placed both hands on the blade of the front bucket and pushed back. Yea, like that was going to work. At the last moment, my son turned off the tractor and we were off to Urgent Care for a dislocated thumb.

We laugh about these escapades now and, thank heavens, my son has no horrific recollection of them. We changed doctors, understandably and have since mastered the complexities of farm equipment. Or at least, I thought we had. Today was a stark reminder of how quickly accidents can and do happen, even when one is capable, experienced and knowledgeable. The little patch of acreage where we hope to rebuild has some majestic oak trees and water oaks but years of neglect have left them covered with vines, underbrush and scrub growth. This time we hired a professional to help but old habits die hard. When my husband took off to pick up our son, I continued cutting here, pulling there. Picking up the chainsaw, I decided to begin where my husband left off. Now I’ve handled a chainsaw many a time. Although it’s not something one brings up in polite conversation handling a chainsaw often comes with working around a farm.  We were just finishing up a swath of small trees and as I slowly lowered the chainsaw, I felt a tug on my jeans. Sure enough, the teeth had grabbed the fabric above my knee and chewed open a hole about three inches. Thank heavens my jeans were baggy. Thank heavens I had taken my hands off all the buttons. Thank heavens the chainsaw wasn’t as sharp as it should have been. All this brings me to the above title.  My mother always told me, “Can’t never did a thing!” and I’ve tried to live by her motto. I love being able to tackle the hard tasks and jumping in without fear. However, I don’t think she was referring to chainsaws. Furthermore, at some point in our lives, one should really consider the possibility that although we CAN do something, the wiser option might be to choose not to and not feel regret for making the wiser decision.

I do know this….when I die, I’m fairly certain the guardian angel who was assigned to watch over me during my lifetime is going to walk right up to me and smack me upside the head.

Ready, Set, GO

I knew it was going to happen, I knew last fall. But, as is my greatest talent since elementary school, I chose to push the thought to the back of my mind thinking…..”oh I have time.” At first there was at least a 6 month window……then the holidays took precedent. After that there was the rapid fire of family birthdays clustered one after another. All of a sudden the 6 month window is now a little over a month. We have to get ready to rebuild!!!! Home Alone

When we sold our farm and decided to downsize, my husband and I made a pact to settle on a budget and stick to it. No changes….no deviations. To accomplish this feat meant I had to research products and select almost everything. A lot of research. Now before anyone asks, “What is his job?”, my dear hubby will be working harder than ever to oversee the entire project as well as complete much of the plumbing and electrical. And since he has chosen to remain in the dark with regard to computers, the position of purchasing and acquisitions fell on my desk.

Mind you, I’m not complaining. The truth is, I have always loved the thrill of the hunt and when the hunt involves the construction and renovation side of real estate, I find it even more exciting. Perhaps that is what drew me to my darling husband in the first place. Looking out of his parent’s window as he was preparing to head to his construction job one morning, I can still see the checked flannel shirt, well worn jeans and construction boots he was wearing as he looked up and waved. I vividly remember butterflies doing the dance in my stomach watching him and that was over 31 years ago. Woof. 😉 But I digress.

So with a little over a month before we break ground, I have found myself scouring building warehouses, craigslist, ebay.com, overstock and a brand new site, Diggerslist.com. There are always tile warehouses stocked with the remnants of leftover construction projects and although there is image 1never enough to complete a full shower or bathroom floor, there is usually plenty to complete a simple insert or design or perhaps highlight a blacksplash. Thrift stores, flea markets and other internet sites often have marvelous items such as this beautiful little buffet, to be perfectly re-purposed into  a spectacular vanity with a vessel sink for our half bath. Nice word, re-purposed. Gives new meaning to the items I like to discover.

Pinterest has been a boon for the creative soul in all of us. Having spent more than an afternoon scrolling through various boards, it has become exceedingly clear there are so many members in possession of  incredibly creative thought processes. In my lifetime, I will never be able to get halfway through all the pins in my”Projects To Try” folder. It doesn’t mean I won’t try, however. Bless my husband’s heart, he doesn’t even bat an eye now. I managed to snag four of these beauties below which will be hung like barn doors and a pair will serve as the entry to a small living/sitting room. Coming from old high schools and public service buildings about to be razed in Minnesota, the thought of restoring and giving them new purpose is quite satisfying. Besides, the seller threw in an old “auditorium” sign probably dating back to the 60’s. That particular door is going on my son’s room. Considering his domain will be the hangout when his friends come over, I can’t think of a better place of honor.

Now it’s time for me to get back to work. Duty calls.

Vintage-Antique-Wooden-Door-AWESOME