Spay Shuttle

Sadie is getting over a weird, chest cold cough thing, so of course, now I have it. This morning I woke up from a Nyquil stupor and got ready for work. Considering that we have 10 cats, I made an appointment to get the kitten from the first litter fixed to try and put a stop to the madness. Tennessee is known for having different kinds of animals breeding just about all the time, so they came up with the Spay Shuttle to keep us from being overrun by dogs and cats. It’s like the book-mobile, but for overly fertile animals, not library books. I found one near downtown on my way to work, and put the cat in a cloth carrier that I found in the barn.

The carrier had a hole in it, of course. Nana gave me two safety pins, and off we went. By 8:15, I was pulling into the parking lot. Right about then, the cat had clawed another hole into the cloth carrier, and left the vets a present. A smelly, “I’m really scared because I’ve never been in a car before” kind of present. I thought of the 5 kittens that were raining havoc upon my bathroom, and grabbed the carrier to go stand in line.

The Spay Shuttle looked like a modified RV, with an awning stretching over a folding table. People were filling out their information on clipboards, and handing their pets over to the waiting Vets. I was about the 4th person in line, behind a wiener dog, and orange cat, and animals in a covered carrier.

Soon, flies began to circle. The kitten was yowling and biting at the new hole she had made. I set the carrier down to pick up a clipboard, and she began rolling across the parking lot. I stood on the corner of the carrier where the new hole was, so she went back to work on the tear where the safety pins were. When it was my turn, I apologized for the mess, the smell, and the flies. I signed off and away she went. I got back on the highway and left the flies behind.

I had to be back to pick up the kitty by 4, and returned to see everyone else gathered around the Spay Shuttle. We watched a brief video on “post-surgery care” and the vet tech returned to pass out our pets. I was not surprised to get kitty back in a cardboard carrier that was much nicer than the one I had brought her in. It was probably in the trash where it belonged. They told me she would be lethargic and not have an appetite until the next day. I was also instructed not to let her lick her stitches, or let her outside for 48 hours.

As soon as I started the car, kitty was yowling like a hurricane, clawing at the cardboard and shaking the box back and forth. I turned up Bad Company to drown her out, and we made it home accident-free. When we got home, I brought her inside and carefully put her in my room. She hopped out of the box and began pacing the room. I gave her a bowl of water, which she ignored, and went from angry yowls to cute, hungry mews. So much for no appetite. She belongs in this family all right.


Captain Crunch and Toothpaste

Here’s a long story;

My Cousins spent the night last night, we went to 2 Festivals in 2 different towns yesterday, then saw a movie, so it’s safe to say we were beat. This morning I learned that waking kids up for church is a completely different experience than just waking up yourself. Dakota is 16, so he’s perfectly capable of getting dressed and finding breakfast. It’s getting him out of bed that’s the chore. His sister Austyn is 9, and changed clothes so many times before we left, we were almost late. Sadie and I put cereal and bowls out, fed the dogs and the cats, and decided to let the horses and chickens fend for themselves. They would be alright until 12:30 anyway, right?

When I was growing up, my two sisters and I shared a bedroom next to my brother. We all shared the bathroom. Getting up, fed, dressed, and on the way to church was such an event, sometimes I wonder how we even made it in the first place. My parents worked as a team. Diligence and discipline were the themes on Sunday mornings, attributes they learned during time spent as a Naval Officer and a Lifeguard. They were fearless – which was a good thing, because I’ve heard that young children can smell fear.

If we needed to shower, we had 2 minutes. There were no “Hollywood Showers” as my Dad called them. “This ain’t no Hotel” was another phrase he adopted – because my mother would repeatedly pick up, wash, dry and fold the soggy towels we would leave behind. As we got older, we were responsible for getting ready on our own. But Sunday mornings were still chaos, getting us up and dressed with shoes to the car was something like herding cats.

I remember how effortlessly my mother would emerge from the bathroom, hair neat, shoes matching, and makeup blended. She would breeze down the hallway, smelling like flowers, and head to the kitchen. Sunday breakfast was a ‘fend for yourself’ type of meal, because all the effort went towards Sunday Lunch. If there wasn’t a fight, meltdown, or crisis, she would spend the remainder of her morning tidying up the ice cream bowls or leftover dishes from last nights snack. Mom knew to unload and start the dishwasher before we left, wiping down the counters and table, and always had enough time to do so. She seemed to ‘prepare the runway’  if you will, for the incoming chaos that was “Mom we’re STARVING what’s for lunch feed us NOW” that accompanied a nice, family gathering at Church. I never saw her get dish water on her Sunday best. I never saw her hair out place or her face get flushed before we left. She was cool, calm, and ready to go, no matter what noise was coming from the bathroom.

What was going on in the bathroom was usually the beginnings of World War III. My poor brother, outnumbered by a gang of girls, had to scrap and fight for every second of solitude in that bathroom. If one of us was pushing our luck with a “Hollywood Shower”, he was most likely banging on the door, or trying to break in with one of the thousands of bobby-pins that fell to the floor. If he had finally, successfully made it to the shower, we were the ones banging, pleading, and bending precious pins in an attempt to break the lock. We destroyed that bathroom. There was water all over the floor from someone accidentally leaving the curtain out of the tub, there were wet towels left to die alone by the toilet, and usually a scrap or two of toilet paper on the floor. The sinks had minty green drops of toothpaste inside or on the counter, and the mirror was hit with a shrapnel of spit as we yelled at each other and fought for sink space. With 3 girls, you can imagine how much hair we left. Everywhere.

My Dad was the referee for these battles, delegating whose turn it was to do what before we left. By the time I staggered out of bed, with hair so tangled I sometimes just wore a hat, he had been up for hours. At some, unknown point before dawn, my Dad was a sleepy, yawning human. I never saw it, so I didn’t quite believe it. He was a machine. By the time I was even remotely close to becoming dressed, he had already been up, showered, shaved, dressed to the 9, and had finished breakfast: complete with hot coffee and yesterday’s paper. I can still hear the sound of his shined shoes echoing down the wooden floor of the hallway. He emerged ready like my mother, but smelling like cologne, not flowers.

The sound of his ready and “waitin’ on you” feet would pass the door around the time I was rolling over and pulling the covers back under my chin. People say I was not a morning person, but I was downright lazy. Especially on Sunday’s. I was the one who skipped the shower, skipped breakfast, and was the last one sprinting to the car barefoot (with morning breath) and hoping that a matching pair of shoes were under the seat somewhere, because I certainly had not made time to grab any. Amber, being the oldest, got it together pretty quickly. She would shower the night before and already have an outfit in mind. She was the one sitting at the table eating a well-balanced meal, and was in the car with her seat belt on when the car started, her Bible in her lap.

Becca and I were a little more frantic. Me because I was me, and Becca because she had a hard time making up her mind. We never knew what to wear. We would bargain chores and packs of gum for a chance to wear something of Amber’s, swearing anything we could think of for clothes that weren’t hand-me-downs or wallowing at the bottom of the laundry basket. Somehow there was only ever 1 hairbrush available on Sunday mornings. We fought over that too. One week I got brave and snuck into Mom and Dad’s quiet bathroom to borrow his brush, which was free of long hairs, and marveled over how dry the floor was, and that they had somehow found time to make their bed before we rushed off.

“Five minutes!” My Dad was the certified town crier and train conductor, all in one morning: “We’re leaving in FIVE minutes.” This called for renewed shouts for time in the bathroom and another furious scramble through piles of clothes to find something decent to wear. Becca and I usually made it to the car after my Dad had already started it, and my brother was trying to tell my Mom why boys don’t comb their hair to the side, or wear dress shoes, or tuck in their shirts because it just wasn’t cool.

The drive to church was typically quiet. My Mom sat poised in the front seat, her jewelry and painted nails catching the sunlight. My Dad stared at the road from behind his sunglasses, thinking the unknown thoughts of a Dad. Amber would apply fresh lip-gloss or unwrap a piece of the gum Becca or I had bartered, while her and I yawned and tried to get the sleep out of our eyes, or the last bite of a cold bagel down. Since us girls were wearing skirts or dresses on Sunday, my brother had to sit in the third row, which he hated. He would try and fix his hair or un-tuck his shirt before we got there.

When we arrived, Dad would sometimes let us off and go park. My mother would open the door for us, smiling, and greet the nursery coordinator or her assistant in Sunday School. William disappeared to I don’t know where, and us girls would find our circle of friends and comment on what each of us managed to find to wear that day. By then, my Dad had parked and removed his sunglasses, making him look less like a secret service agent and more like a Deacon or an Usher. He would grab one of us and say “Go carve out a row,” handing me or Becca his Bible, and turning to talk to another Dad in a suit about whatever it was Dad’s talked about.

Carving out a row was not a glamorous task. The carver had to stake our claim on 6 seats together before the aisle chairs filled up. I would take extra bulletins and place them in the chairs next to our Bible’s, hoping our seats would stay empty until it was time to sit down. Sometimes the row I chose wasn’t great, or Mom had already put her Bible down somewhere else, and I would have to clamor across strangers to retrieve the ignored place-savers I had left, scurrying over to the right row where everyone else was already sitting.

While we sang, my Dad would try and sing the girls part, making me laugh, and I’d want to try singing the guys verses – which I usually didn’t know. During the opening prayer, we would ask my Mom for ink pens, or gum or rubber bands, items that she produced from her purse with a flourish, a bright smile, and quiet jingle of her jewelry. We were permitted one trip to the bathroom during service, unless Becca spilled grape juice on her skirt from communion, in which case my Mom would get up and go with her. Amber would sit quietly, facing the Pastor, and my brother would draw tanks and battleships on the sides of his bulletin. I was either still asleep from laying in bed so late, or extremely fidgety from sitting so long. If we got too rowdy, Mom would sign for us to be still by laying a hand on our leg or arm. If we were still antsy, Dad would stare down the row of seats at us, and that was enough.

Once we were dismissed, the four of us would separate to different corners of the building. My brother and I would race across the grass, trying to burn off our energy, or we would wait by the door for our parents to emerge from whatever conversation’s they were having in the sanctuary. Once back in the car, it was shoes and belts off for us, and my Dad would whistle on the way home, or ask us what we learned from the sermon. When we got home, Mom had the oven and different stove eyes going before you could say “I’m hungry.”  Forget changing clothes or reading the paper, why would Mom need to sit down and relax? Lunch was always spectacular.

Once everything was consumed, Dad would nod for us to begin clearing the dishes. Mom pretended to help, until we shooed her out so she could finally sit down and relax. William would put rock classics on the radio, and we’d try and save all the worst cleaning chores for someone else to do. Soon, the kitchen had as many puddles as the bathroom. Dad would return to delegate, and soon, the dishwasher was humming and the counters were clean again. From the couch, Mom would smile and say “That’s the sound of something getting done!” Then, everyone would nap: curtains drawn, ceiling fans on high. My parents took a nap every Sunday that I can remember. It’s a tradition that took me over 20 years to admire.

I was thinking of naps this morning, getting Austyn in her 4th outfit, toothbrush still in my mouth. My cereal had gone soggy so I dumped it in the sink. When Austyn asked to look in my closet for something to wear, I spit my toothpaste in the kitchen sink, trying not to wonder what minty captain crunch tasted like. She picked out a dress that was now a 3rd generation hand-me-down and off we went, shoes in hand, to go to church. I didn’t tell her how old the dress was, and when she asked me if she could keep it, I didn’t even ask for a piece of gum.


Ford Dually

My Uncle used to drive this big, dark green, diesel Ford dually truck. It had a crack in the windshield, and a dent in the fender where he had backed over something. But it was massive. He would hitch up the rusty white horse trailer, we would load up, and drive off. Abbie and I liked to ride in the back, what he called the “Cowboy Cadillac” because we could feel the wind in our hair, and watch the mountains whiz by.

If you ever needed to patch or tie anything, or wanted something to eat or drink, or take an extra pair of gloves, socks, even a hat along, it was in the truck. He always had sweet tea, slim jims, little debbie cakes and fun sized candy bars in the cab, and a cooler full of water, pepsi, root beer and orange soda in the back.

That truck was loud too – the engine would shake the whole can when it started. Sometimes it would die while we were driving, but he knew exactly when to jiggle the key back in the ignition, and get it to roar to life. We’d listen to Alabama, or the Zac Brown Band on our way to wherever we were going, with the windows down I could hear him singing along from all the way in the bed.

One time, Sadie was mowing the barn lot, and a rock flew up from under the blades and shattered the back window. When James saw it, he just shook his head, and taped a black trash bag over the hole where the window used to be.

I’m gonna miss that truck. As badly as Sadie and I need one on the farm, it just wasn’t reliable – something about the fuel lines going cold. And we couldn’t get a clear title from it. So James’ brother in law sold it for parts, and it was towed off our land yesterday afternoon.

It’s raining today, the first good rain we have had in a while. I didn’t have to go to the office, it’s been nice watching the clouds drift in. From my window, you can see them hugging the tops of the mountains, rolling across the land like smoke. Maybe I’ll go for a ride – that’s exactly what James would have suggested.


Duck Eggs are better for baking.

Well I hate to report that my Drake who thought he was a chicken has found a new home. I noticed him and the Rooster squabbling the other day, and chalked it up to the leftover biscuits I was sprinkling around the yard. He went after Doc twice more after that, and the last time, he had him so firmly by the tail that I had to grab him around the neck to get him to let go. A sweet lady named Mandy picked him up the next afternoon and sent me a picture of him next to his beautiful new girlfriend. I was going to swear off ducks entirely, I even threw out the cracked blue kiddie-pool Mom and I got last year. But my two Pekin girls lay so well, and enjoy being chickens so much, I couldn’t part with them too. They have no problem with the rooster or hens, but for some reason are terrified of me. I don’t know why. I carry water up every day and feed them all sorts of goodies. They won’t even get within 10 feet of me. At least Gregory would waddle over and say hello.

Keeping Regina and Gretchen meant I needed another place for them to bathe. An old metal tub that we were using to water the donkey, that he so kindle kicked a dent in, turned out to be perfect. They can both fit in there and splash around. I finally caved and bought a 100ft hose that reaches from the broken spigot at the end of the yard all the way to the edge of the coop. Who knows what I will do in winter but for now, it’s much easier cleaning and filling their new bath. They love being sprayed with the hose too, I did that the other day until my thumb fell asleep. The ducks were clean, and the chickens disgruntled.

For the garden, all that’s left is tall okra, browning corn stalks, and wilting sunflowers. Oh, and peppers! We gave the remainder of the bean vines to the chickens and mowed over what was left of the tomatoes. We had so much rain early on, that most of them busted – where they split down one side – and we ended up buying a box from Tim, the local produce store owner. We canned a small batch, but it wasn’t anything to sneeze at. It was a good year for squash and zucchini, and that’s about it. We almost planted a patch of greens, but maybe next year. For now, our funny farm totals 1 gelding, 1 stud, 2 donkeys, 6 mares and a colt. We have 2 dogs, 10 cats (I know), 2 ducks, 8 hens, 2 chicks and 2 roosters. It’s a chore getting everyone fed in the morning and then heading to work, but Sadie and I make a great team.

chickens, fall, farming, hay

Hay, Woah

This morning, after a weekend out of town, I woke up and fed the dogs and cats, then headed up to see the chickens. I filled the duck bath and brought 3 eggs back down with me. Farm life resumes whether you are there for it or not, but it was nice to come home and feel like I hadn’t missed anything. Sadie told me the neighbors were planning to cut square bales of hay that afternoon, if we wanted any for the winter, we needed to bring the trailer out. I left work a little early and got home to see our trailer parked near the barn, stacked to the top with fresh-cut hay. I changed out of my office clothes and grabbed an apple to munch on the way to the coop.

I let the chickens out to pasture, then let the hen and her 2 chicks out to explore the yard. I named the babies Zelda and Zoe, because hopefully they are the last ones of this year. The chicks learned how to take a dust-bath, which was kind of hilarious to watch.

Sadie and I then walked to the barn and looked over the hay; it’s about as fresh as it gets. It smelled so sweet, and dry, and most of it was still green. Inside the hall of a barn was a trailer twice the size of ours, stacked across almost the entire aisle. Well, we certainly had enough for the winter – 175 bales in all.

Since our neighbor is keeping a horse in our barn, he came to help us stack it. We unloaded our trailer first, and cross-stacked the bales in the corner of the barn. Up and up, I couldn’t even tell you how high. Once our trailer was empty, I climbed onto Joe’s trailer and started throwing the bales across the aisle to the other stack. Sometimes they landed, sometimes they rolled off. Soon, we got sweaty. Little innocent broken pieces of hay started sticking, and then its in my hair and down my shirt and poking my socks inside my boots. The bales are dusty and heavy, bound in dull orange string for your hands to slide under. Grab, lift, sling, stack. The barn became filled with the sent of sweet, cut grass. We made a sort of ladder so I can get to the bales on top, with Fall coming on the breeze, that won’t be far away.

We stacked until the sun went down, and it became too dim to see. The important thing is we have hay, and the second most important thing is that it is high and dry, out of the weather and away from hungry mouths. The dogs and I rode in the back of the hay-strewn trailer up to the house, and I realized it was the first hay ride of the season. I took my boots off in the kitchen and left a pile of hay by the table. My fingers, arms, shoulders, and back felt tight like baling twine. My arms were scratched and my neck itchy. I laid back on the cool tile and Casey came to lay with me – muddy from the creek. Sadie walked into the kitchen and thought I had passed out, it scared her so bad I had to swear I would let her know next time I wanted to lay on the floor.

We decided – well, I decided, – that we should have BBQ Chicken for dinner. It was almost 9 and I could just about taste it. Sadie yelled at me from the basement, and I put shoes on to head down there. Apparently the freezer wasn’t running. This isn’t any ordinary freezer, it’s the legendary basement freezer where they would put bodies if it was some kind of horror show. The light wasnt on, there was no humming, and it was about to be a very long night. We found and extension cord and ran the freezer plug to a new outlet, just in case all of the electrical work we’ve had on the house somehow affected the basement wiring. No luck. Sadie went to the shop, cats in tow, and brought down another extension cord.

With her in the basement and me upstairs, we tried running the two extension cords up to the living room where we knew the plugs definitely worked. After some weaving, we ran the cord back up the stairs, under the door, across the dining room and into the living room. I went back to the basement and held my breath: we heard the freezer humming. “Does the light come on?” Sadie shouted down the stairs – it took a second to lift the lid up because the handle is broken, but sure enough, the light came on. I sent the news upstairs to Sadie and she said “Haleluijah!”

We had grilled cheese for supper, the BBQ chicken can wait for another night.


Dr. Vet, New Kittens and an Opossum

 I’ve lost 2 hens this week so I have been locking them up every night, and letting them out when it gets light (Yes, Roosters crow when the sun comes up because they and their hens want out). I went up there in a pair of too-big boots with a lantern, a dog and 3 cats, and we found an opossum.

Let me tell you, I’m not one to go to a gun range and shoot all day, but that was the first time in my life I wished for a gun. I would have blasted that sucker and not felt one bit upset about it. He/She has been stealing my eggs and took two of my better hens, and he needs to go. I didn’t have a gun, but I found a 2×4 and that thing sailed over the fence and just about got him. He took off and I scared every bird, cat and horse on the lot. I was mad. I checked the coop for any other free loaders and locked everyone up.

On Sunday I let the chickens out per usual and fed the horses, and my neighbor called and said one of our mares got tangled up in wire “bad.” On the farm, there are accidents – there are cuts and scrapes and bruises. Then there are hens that go missing and horses that get out, but no one is much hurt. Then there are things that happen that are bad. When she said tangled up in wire bad, it means its bad. My Aunt went and got the mare and brought her to our barn, and it was bad. The vet came out and gave her antibiotics and drugs for the pain, but we have to flush the wound out twice a day. The one mare we have been working on to sell gets tangled up in the fence and gets gashed. It happens.

When I got back from the barn, I found one of the cats decided to nest in the laundry basket in my closet and bring 5 new kittens into the world. We now have 10 cats. Which is too many, but how do you decide which ones to keep? You tell me. So much for going to church. I settled down with Nana when Sadie went to work and we watched T.D. Jakes talk about Christ’s resurrection. That man can preach, he had everyone yelling hallelujah, Nana and myself included. Just another day on the farm, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


Time Flies.

Well Hello September,

I’m ashamed it’s been this long since I’ve posted anything – I’ve been writing plenty, just not here. But it’s Labor Day, a time to rest from the regular work and play catch up or house cat or party all day long. The dog is napping at my feet, Nana’s oxygen machine is pumping full steam, and she just put on a collection of Hayden. I can still hear the rooster over that and the dog snoring, it being a Holiday and all I figured they could have a full day in the grass and what’s left of the garden, instead of just a few hours in the afternoon. So much has happened since early August, I don’t quite know where to begin.

We’re “done” with renovations in the house, and I say done loosely because when Sadie and I get together, we are sure to cook something else up. The kitchen looks beautiful, my Mom picked out a new chandelier, (yes, my wonderful mother was here and I haven’t written about that either.) the cabinets have a fresh coat of paint called Cream in My Coffee which apparently won color of the year – do they take a vote on something like that? Oh, and we got new counters and a new sink, which I am happy to say is big enough for to fill a 5-gallon bucket, which makes watering plants and critters that much easier!

My room is wonderful, I’ve finished 2 books since it was completed, but can never quite decide if I should settle on the bed or in the chair. Decisions decisions..I feel so pampered. My bathroom took the longest to paint, even though it’s the smallest room in the house, go figure. The dining room looks amazing with barn wood and no wallpaper, Sadie and I hung my Grandfather’s tobacco basket, a long saw, and her mirror framed by an old horse-collar. Even a horse shoe over the hallway. We now have a ‘parlor’ – which is an old bedroom converted to a TV room that is now a parlor. My mom went all out decorating, and we took out a sectional couch and recliner, so we can actually walk in there. It’s really nice. She hung ring-bits I found in the tack room above the entry to the dining room, it looks fantastic.

Hanging lights in those rooms and the hallway ellicited more profanity from our repair-man than I had heard his entire duration. I can’t tell you how many fuses he blew and wires he smoked out. Living in a farm house that was built in the 40’s means old wires and rotten casing. We’ve hired a professional electrician who will replace it with interior 12/2 wiring, so everything will be up to date, which also means no smoking. Anyway, aside from painting my Aunt’s room and the trim in the hallway (Mom picked out a beautiful gray called Limestone or Granite or something as equally solid) I’d say the inside is complete.

As for outside, we need to re-string several fence-lines, paint the house and install gutters. We took the electric fence down from around the front yard, and plan on using it to separate the stud horses from the mares, so they both have access to shelter and water (from the creek) this winter. Which will cut down on chore time significantly. Leaving more time for pigs. Yes, Sadie wants pigs. I will cross that bridge when we get to it. This past weekend, a neighbor who lives across the street from my parents came to town for a wedding and stayed with us. She had some great ideas about landscaping, utilizing the UT Agriculture department and plants native to the area. She helped me diagnosing a few plants and recommended we get soil samples taken to see what levels we need to add and remove. Brilliant.

A few weeks ago, I couldn’t tell you when, I began helping my Aunt Lisa with her Magazines at the Bingham Group. A few assignments later, I get an official email address and an office. You’re looking at their newest copy writer and proof-reader! She releases Monroe Life quarterly, McMinn Life, and recently begun Farragut Life. We went to Sweetwater to interview Antique Stores, got a history lesson on the Sloan Stores, and I have conducted several other interviews around the area. It’s amazing to get to do what I learned in school, and get paid for it! I only work about 25-30 hours a week, between that and the farm, I’ve stayed pretty busy.

I got to ride Saturday, and Wednesday. Tug looks amazing, all the horses have really filled out since we are no longer over-pasture. We took the studs off the back pasture because it needs time to rest too. I’ve been riding across the road on the land where Sadie was married, where my Grandfather used to keep his Angus Cattle and cut hay. The river sweeps around the bend and off again, and Tug’s first look at a jet-ski was definitely memorable. It’s getting cooler in the air, nothing dramatic, but you can feel it in the wind, and especially in the early morning. Trees have already begun to shed their browning leafs, and it makes me sad to see their curled and crumpled bodies covering the green grass. Sadie says Fall is a time to rest, and I know that’s what the land needs, but Tennessee is so beautiful dressed in bright green. As beautiful as autumn is here, that’s the color I will miss the most.

Casey woke up and is barking at the door, but I am set on getting a better routine since renovations have ended, and promise not to go 6 weeks without writing again. Let’s see what else I can get into today – Happy Labor Day!