Saturday, June 30

Farm Photo 6/30/07: Stormy Weather on My Mind

But Not On My Farm

Because of the way our farm is tucked into this little valley, we never get much in the way of sunsets. Most evenings the sun simply dips below the ridgetop without so much as a wave goodbye. Sunrises can be very nice, though, and once in a while at dusk the entire sky will turn some gorgeous shade of pink or orange. On a clear night there are more stars twinkling above than many people have probably ever seen. It wasn't until I'd moved to the middle of nowhere that I finally realized why they call it The Milky Way. Out here it's one big swath of white across the sky.

We may not be on the wide open prairie where the horizon stretches on forever, but we do get some pretty big glimpses of the weather as it heads this way. The spectacular displays will often stop me in my tracks, but it isn't easy watching storm clouds blow right by, knowing they're off to shower water on someone else when we so desperately need it.

You know it's dry when a cat kicks up a cloud of dust as it trots down the driveway. The storm in this photo passed overhead without leaving a drop, but thankfully we've had a little rain lately--enough to at least settle the dust. It's probably due to the fact that despite overcast skies, humidity at 80% or higher, and not a breeze to speak of, I've been dutifully hanging laundry out on the line. This trick has worked before, and it seems to be sort of working now. By the time I hung up the last sock other day, there were raindrops tapping on my
big straw hat.

Three days later, I'm afraid to break the spell by bringing all that still-slightly-damp laundry in, especially since there's an awful lot of sunshine outside considering the 60% chance of rain in the forecast. Because we have no neighbors, I don't have to worry about word getting around town that I leave my laundry hanging on the line for days at a time because I'm either lazy or crazy or both. But reputations aside, I may have to give in anyway. I'm just about out of clean socks.

Want to see more?
--Farm Photo 7/6/05: Misty Morning Sunrise
--Farm Photo 7/24/05: Quite A Sunrise
--Farm Photo 8/5/05: At Sunrise, The Possibilities Are Endless
--Farm Photo 8/6/05: A Gorgeous End To A Lovely Day
--Farm Photo 8/15/05: Sunrise On A New Week
--Farm Photo 9/13/05: You Can't Fence Out A Sunrise
--Farm Photo 11/19/05: Good Morning Sun & Goodnight Moon
--Farm Photo 12/31/05: Final Sunrise Of The Year
--Farm Photo 2/8/06: There's Something About A Sunrise
--Farm Photo 4/15/06: I Haven't Shared A Sunrise In A While
--Farm Photo 9/12/06: A Peach Of A Sunrise
--Farm Photo 9/19/05: Morning Moonset
--Farm Photo 1/11/06: I'm Constantly Distracted By The Sky
--Farm Photo 9/5/06: Another Beautifully Distracting Sky
--Farm Photo 9/23/06: Last Night Of Summer Spectacular Show
--Farm Photo 10/24/06: There's That Distracting Sky Again
--Farm Photo 11/9/06: Big Sky

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Monday, June 25

Farm Photo 6/25/07: Pretty in Pink

Echinacea by the Cat Cabin

I love echinacea. It flourishes in our crazy climate, blooms for weeks, never needs watering, attracts all sorts of pollinators, spreads like mad, and is pretty much impossible to kill. That's my kind of plant.

Want to learn more about echinacea? Check out this kitchen garden blog post: My Favorite Easy To Grow, No Maintenance, Heat Loving, Drought Tolerant, Long Blooming Flowering Perennial? Echinacea!

Did I mention it's a joy to photograph?
8/23/05: Hardy Echinacea Blooms All Summer Long
6/20/06: Preparing to Burst into Color
7/16/06: Butterfly Bonanza
8/26/06: Butterfly Photos are Better than Nothing
6/28/06: Butterfly Paradise
7/8/06: The Stuff of Life
11/25/06: The Easiest Way to Store Seeds
6/25/07: Echinacea by the Cat Cabin
8/14/07: Echinacea Visitors
7/6/08: Been Busy
7/8/08: Winged Spectacular (one of my favorite photos)

© 2007, the perennial foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Saturday, June 23

Farm Photo: 6/23/07

Looking For My Strawberries?

There won't be any strawberries in the garden this year. After several years and many pounds of gorgeous, sweet bounty, my original plot finally petered out. And the raised bed I filled two years ago with locally grown Super Strawberry plants from the Garden Club's plant sale is history, too.

I do have 27 new Cavendish strawberry plants flourishing in another 4' x 8' raised bed, but one of the secrets to growing strawberries is that you need to pinch off all the blossoms that appear the first year. This allows the plant to expend more energy on itself rather than on making fruit for you. It's not easy, but in the long run it's worth it. I think.

You might think that there isn't a bright side to having a strawberryless garden, but you would be wrong. No strawberries for me also means no strawberries for all the ravaging, ravenous turtles. It's turtle season in the garden again, and for once I couldn't care less.

*insert evil laugh here*

Wondering if I've completely lost it? You can read more about the ongoing battle for my berries--and local turtles in general--here:
--6/4/05: Strawberries (one of my very first blog posts)
--5/6/06: Spotted In The Backyard
--5/12/06: Damn Turtles!
--5/21/06: The Turtles Didn't Get Them All
--5/27/06: Beaten To My Berries
--6/15/06: At Least The Mulberries Should Be Out Of Turtle Reach
--6/25/06: Weekend Baby Turtle Blogging?

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Tuesday, June 19

Farm Photo: 6/19/07

Caution: Foodie Forming

A year of Farm Photos ago:
6/19/07: Real Still Life (chickens a year ago too)
WDB#39: Lucky Buddy Bear loves his sheep so much he licks them dry when they get wet

Welcome new visitors!

here for a brief introduction to this site.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Sunday, June 17

Farm Photo 6/17/07: One Happy Mama Hen

Whitey and one of her baby chicks on June 6th

Mother Goose has nothing on Whitey. She's no spring chicken, but this old girl has taken to her new role like a duck to water. According to my research, Whitey, who is over seven years old, should technically be dead. Instead she's having the time of her life raising seven darling baby chicks.

Whitey with seven chicks showing on June 6th

At two weeks of age, her inquisitive brood has become quite a handful, and they're growing up faster than you can say "Oh my god are they cute!" The last few days they've been taking flying lessons. I've caught a couple of them stretching out their new little wings in a "Hey! Look what I've got!" way.

We've had baby chicks on the farm before, but they arrived by mail without a mother hen in sight, so this is a whole new experience for us, too. My friend was thoughtful enough to bring Whitey a variety of eggs to hatch out, and it looks like we ended up with six different types of chickens, including an adorable little black one.

One day old and keeping close to Mom

There are lots more photos and baby chick tidbits to share. In the meantime, cross your fingers that they don't all turn out to be roosters!

Just tuning in? Catch up here:
Farm Photo: 6/1/07: Whitey Gets Her Wish
Farm Photo 6/3/07: Waiting With Whitey
6/4/07: Peep!Peep!Peep!
Farm Photo 6/4/07: We All Need A Little Shuteye
Farm Photo: 6/5/07: I'm Just Waitin' On A Friend

© 2007, the peep peep peeping foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Saturday, June 16

Farm Photo: 6/16/07

Heading Out Of The Heat

We're in the middle of a scorching heatwave, also known as summer, and farm cats can be counted on to find the coolest places around. In this case that means under the 100+ year-old half of The Shack. If we had a basement I'd be sleeping in it every night until at least the middle of September.

Heatwave or not, I'm just happy J2 was out and about. Today was the first time I'd seen him leave the cat cabin since his pal New Cat died unexpectedly last week. I was afraid J2 would go off in search of his buddy, but instead he's been staying in the cat cabin so he wouldn't miss New Cat's return.

I miss New Cat something fierce, but my loss is nothing compared to J2's. Those two were the best of friends who spent nearly every waking moment together, then slept curled up side by side each night on their silly pink wool bed. Tell me animals don't have real feelings, and I'll show you a heartbroken cat.

"It's a bad time of year to chuck a kitten in there with him," Joe said the other day when I mentioned how bad I felt for J2. He meant that in the kindest possible way, but sometimes the things that guy says crack me up. He was right, though. Life on a farm is risky enough for a cat, and snake season is especially dangerous if you're an innocent kitten.

J2 is a friendly guy, but because he was so close to New Cat he didn't want much attention from us. Now several times a day he jumps over to his feeding perch in the cat cabin and cries out for affection. This afternoon I was out in the yard hanging laundry on the line and was thrilled to see him heading toward me and loudly meowing hello. I could hear his purr box running on high from several feet away.

As I pet and he purred, I explained to J2 that I understand how lonely he is and assured him that a new feline friend would be bunking with him soon. I have no doubt that another cat in need of a home will find us. They always do.

Thursday, June 14

Farm Photo: 6/14/07

Saying Another Goodbye

The Wild Roses Are In Bloom

"How many cat years are in a human year?" Joe asked me as we lay in bed yesterday morning. He knew I was thinking about Gretel.

"Some people say seven, but there are plenty of cats who live to be at least 20, so some people say five."

"Well even at five years, that would make Gretel, wow, really old."

About an hour later, with a little cry of goodbye, the last of my four transplanted California cats passed away. She was 20 years old. Her death wasn't entirely unexpected, though I didn't think I'd be out in the garden digging another grave less than a week after the sudden loss of New Cat.

Apart from being periodically terrorized by the 4-1/2 pound Doodle Monster during the past decade, I don't think Gretel could have asked for a better cat life.

She spent her last day laying in the shade on the front step, taking in the fresh air and the farm. She waited for me to wake up the next morning and was wrapped in my arms when she took her final breath.

We were gone much of yesterday, and when I opened the front door late last night I caught myself automatically checking Gretel's favorite spots to see where she was, to make sure she was okay. I was surprised her absence hit me so hard. A little while later I realized that I've lived with Gretel longer than I've lived with anyone else in the world--more than half my life.

I'm not sad for Gretel, but a hundred years is a long time to be together. It's no wonder my heart and my home feel so empty. The memories, of course, will live on as long as I do, and for that I will always be grateful.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Tuesday, June 12

Farm Photos 6/12/07: Life and Love

Hold life in your hand. . .

And keep it in your heart.

I bet you are overwhelmed with the number of responses to your post about New Cat, my mother wrote to me the other day. I've been in tears several times reading them.

I know there aren't words to accurately describe just how touched I am by the outpouring of comments regarding my tribute to New Cat, so I'm not going to try to find them.

Nearly 100 of you took the time to write. Twice I sat down to individually reply to each comment, but I simply couldn't do it. Yes, I am indeed overwhelmed. Your kindness is truly amazing.

All I can say is this. If you're looking for a smile, or if, as Joe likes to put it, you could use a good eyeball washing, I urge you to make your way through the comments. They are full of thoughtful words, wonderful quotes, beautiful images, and personal stories about cherished feline friends.

There are many reasons I keep this blog. Here is one of them, left by an anonymous reader:

Farmgirl, your beloved cat is surely safe with my beloved daughter who was an animal lover without equal. Today would have been her 28th birthday, and I am so glad I came to your site today to learn of your loss. I came to your site today because it comforts me to read about the small things which turn into the great things that make up our lives.

I know that my girl has your New Cat in her arms right now. Her birthday gift today just might be your New Cat. I continue to take the most tender care of my daughter's 5 horses, 2 goats, 4 cats, and her remaining and much loved dog. I am comforted to know that your cat is safe in her arms. I am sorry that your heart is so sad.

Thank you for sharing your daughter with us, and for the marvelous thought that New Cat went off to be a warm and fluffy birthday gift for her. Thank you, Bridgett, for the smiling idea that "New Cat was a concept bigger than just a cat." Thank you, Jessica.

Thank you all.

Bean said, "May the love you give come back to you 10-fold." And as you can clearly see it already has--and then some.

The top photo is one of Whitey's new chicks (which I'll write more about soon), taken not long after it hatched. A small miracle that popped out from inside an everyday egg. But that's what all of life is, isn't it? An everyday miracle.

©, the peeping foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Thursday, June 7

Farm Life, Farm Love, Farm Loss

New Cat was huddled in a dark corner of the cat cabin crying. Something was very wrong.

My guess is that he was bitten by a snake. The farm is thick with copperheads, and a bite to a small animal is deadly.

"He's not gonna make it, honey," Joe said softly.

"That's what I'm afraid of."

"He had a good run."

"Yes he did."

"He left a place where he obviously wasn't happy and came to live with us. That was what, five years ago?"

New Cat appeared one day out beyond the hayfield, but it was nearly a week before he made his way up to the house, having apparently decided that life here looked pretty good.

He moved into
the cat cabin with J2, who had shown up years ago at Windridge Farm in much the same way, and the two quickly became inseparable. I've never known two cats who were better friends.

In the 17 years that Joe has lived on this farm, which is miles from the nearest neighbor, he is the only cat to have simply turned up. New cat.

He wore a gorgeous superfluff suit each winter and shed it for a sleek look in summer. New cat.

He was terrified of Bear and Robin and spent most of his life above dog level. He seldom allowed me to pet him, and I can't remember ever picking him up.

"He may not have been all that friendly," said Joe, "but it sure was nice to look around the farm and see him."

My most recent memory of New Cat is from a week or so ago. It was early evening and he was in the garden, presiding over a large rabbit he had obviously just caught.

My favorite memory of New Cat took place one morning a few years ago. He and J2 were hanging out in the sunshine next to the cat cabin on a little table that Joe had once slapped together from scraps of wood. J2 was grooming himself, and New Cat wanted to play. He kept rolling around on the table, batting at J2 and trying to get his attention, but J2 ignored him. New Cat wouldn't give up, though, and after a couple minutes J2 stopped what he was doing, lifted his two front paws high in the air, and tackled New Cat with a massive hug.

New Cat died very early this morning while I slept fitfully next to him, my hand resting on the side of his curled-up body. I wanted to comfort him. I wanted him to know he wasn't alone. And this cat who rarely liked to be touched would start to cry if I took my hand away.

I buried New Cat in the garden next to Hansel cat and Lindy The Chicken, not far from the spot where he caught that rabbit. In early spring I planted a small clump of spiderwort there, and it has flourished. Today I addded some more.

He was a magnificent creature who was a joy to watch and photograph. He was our New Cat. He left us in his prime, but he had a good run. He is already missed.

More about Whitey and her new brood soon. The circle of farm life always continues.

© 2007, the full on, fur loving foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Tuesday, June 5

Farm Photo: 6/5/07

I'm Just Wai-tin' On A Friend

Wondering what this is about? Catch up here:
Farm Photo: 6/1/07:
Whitey Gets Her Wish
Farm Photo 6/3/07:
Waiting With Whitey
6/4/07: Peep!Peep!Peep!
Farm Photo 6/4/07: We All Need A Little Shuteye

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Monday, June 4

Farm Photo: 6/4/07

There'll be more photos and details tomorrow, but right now we all need a little shuteye. It's been quite a day!

Just tuning in? Catch up here:
Farm Photo: 6/1/07:
Whitey Gets Her Wish
Farm Photo 6/3/07:
Waiting With Whitey
Peep! Peep! Peep!

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Peep! Peep! Peep!

Just seconds after I took this photo. . .

A baby chick came crashing out

They may look a bit scraggly at first. . .

But they cute up real quick!

More details & cuteness to come.

This is Day 22 of Whitey Watch.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Peck! Peck! Peck!

More To Be Revealed Soon. . .

This is Day 22 of Whitey Watch.

Just tuning in? Catch up here:
Farm Photo: 6/1/07: Whitey Gets Her Wish
Farm Photo 6/3/07:
Waiting With Whitey

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Sunday, June 3

Farm Photo: 6/3/07

Waiting With Whitey


Note: If you're just tuning in,
read this first.

We've been off the farm most of the day (couldn't be helped), and I was sure I'd miss all the hatching action. I had horrifying visions of fluffy newborn chicks accidentally flinging themselves off the edge of the nesting box and thudding onto the ground four feet below, but fortunately they went unfounded. I arrived home a few hours ago to find Whitey looking much the same as she did when I left this morning, but I was too curious to simply leave her be. I wanted to see what, if anything, was going on underneath all that puffed up plumage.

The second I reached my hand toward Whitey she began pecking me to death, but I had outsmarted her by donning enormous protective fireplace/welding gloves in preparation of her attack. Okay, it was really Joe who outsmarted her, as the gloves were his idea, but he has a lot more experience with chickens than I do. Remember he's the one who taught me that the best way to catch a wayward chicken is with a net.


Anyway, the gloves worked beautifully, and I was able to pick up Whitey and have a quick peek at the eggs without losing any blood in the process. Boy was she pissed off. That girl has got glaring down to an art.

There were at least two eggs that showed signs of cracking, but nothing had actually hatched. So it looks like the only thing I'll be missing out on is a good night's sleep. I wonder if Whitey wants coffee. Oh yeah, and there are now two white eggs in with the rest.

This is Day 21 of Whitey Watch.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Friday, June 1

Farm Photo 6/1/07: Whitey Gets Her Wish!

Two days after I posted these photos of Whitey The Chicken and announced that she was trying to hatch an unfertilized egg, I wangled a friend (who happens to read my blog) into leaving the craziness at her farm to come work the 91 sheep on mine. Okay, so I may have bribed her with the promise of large quantities of garden bounty and homemade baked goods. Whatever works is what I say.

She pulled up in a shiny red pickup truck and immediately started rummaging around the front seat, announcing that she had brought me some "genuine, certified, bonafide, honest-to-goodness, all natural, farm fresh, super duper, fantastic fertilized eggs for your poor chicken!" Then she triumphantly held out an egg carton, lifting the lid so I could see the gorgeous colored eggs inside. What a wonderful surprise gift.

"Okay, so how many do you think I should give Whitey, two?"

"The whole dozen of course."

"The whole dozen?"

"Well how big is she?"

"Not very."

As we tramped over to the henhouse, my friend explained that the first thing we needed to do was get the unfertilized egg out from underneath Whitey and throw it away because it was probably rotten. I explained that Whitey had recently switched nesting boxes and currently didn't actually have any eggs underneath her. But she was still spending all her time just sitting around as if she did.

Whitey glared at us. My friend, who makes fun of me for kissing my lambs and naming my sheep ("I got over that years ago") started cooing at Whitey in this sweet little voice, telling her how she was going to be so happy, how she would be able to arrange her eggs just the way she wanted them and then settle herself down on top of them. She said some other things that were really funny, but I was too nervous to remember them.

"I think you should be the one to put the eggs under Whitey," I told her. "She pecks. And it hurts."

"She's just a chicken!"

"She's not just a chicken. She's Whitey. She's, um, unique. Do you want gloves?"

"I don't need gloves." And then she had the nerve to laugh at me.

"Don't say I didn't warn you."

Day 1

But I am a wimp, and my friend is not. She carefully wrapped her hand around an egg and gently tucked it under Whitey. Peck!Peck!Peck!

"That's gotta hurt."

"She's just a chicken!" There may have been a little eye-rolling and head shaking, too, but I try not to pay attention to that stuff when I know I'm the cause of it. She tucked a couple more eggs under Whitey. Peck!Peck!Peck!Peck!PECK!

"Oh shoot. I knew I should have brought my camera."

She sighed, stopped tucking, and told me to go get my camera.

"Are you bleeding from all that pecking? Do you need peroxide?"

"Of course I'm not bleeding. She's just a chicken!"

I returned with my camera and attempted to capture the perfect action shot.

"Can you hold your hand there a little longer? I really want to get one of Whitey pecking you." Yes, I actually said that out loud. I still can't believe it.

"So how long does it take for the eggs to hatch?"

"Twenty-one days. Mark your calendar."

"But she's already been sitting in there like a week."

"Doesn't matter. She'll be able to feel the chicks moving inside the eggs, and she'll stay."

Day 7

I know nothing about hatching baby chicks, but apparently Whitey does. She's been faithfully sitting on those eggs all this time, only hopping down every once in a while to load up on food and water and terrorize her two coopmates. For a small chicken, Whitey is looking very big. She has puffed herself up in order to cover all of her eggs.

She spends her days in some sort of a mother-to-be trance that appears to be part zen, part coma. She is still fully alert on some level, though, because any time I put my hand near her she snaps out and tries to peck me.

Whitey broke two of her eggs early on (hey, it happens), so the official count is now ten. This morning, however, I happened to show up while Whitey was having breakfast, and when I counted to make sure there were still ten eggs I kept coming up with eleven. A bright white egg was staring up at me from the middle of the pile--and it was definitely too big to be Whitey's, as she lays itty bitty eggs.

This means either one of the other two hens jumped into Whitey's nesting box instead of one of the three other empty ones and laid an egg when Whitey was off stretching her legs, or Whitey somehow stole an egg out of another nesting box and moved it into hers.

Things have been hectic around here lately, and today was the first chance I've had to look through our copy of Chickens In Your Backyard. We usually order newborn chicks through the mail from a large hatchery, so (and this is pretty embarrassing to admit) I never thought that Whitey would be doing any actual mothering once the eggs hatched. I just figured that the babies would be on their own. But the book informs me that when deciding how many eggs to put under a hen, you must remember that once the chicks hatch they all have to be able to fit under the mother at night because that is where they sleep.

Whitey has been living with us for seven years, and in all that time I must admit that I've never ever thought of her as even remotely being the motherly type. This ought to be interesting. And I don't have much longer to find out.

This is Day 19 of Whitey Watch.

© 2007, the fine feathered foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.