Saturday, June 28, 2008

First Line of Defense

The mossies are out in full force. I have some help though.

This (not-so) little guy was sitting on the porch, right in front of the door. The mosquitoes like to congregate there, so he was happy, and full.

Isn't he cute? Look, even the toads around here are covered in fiber. I think that might be a dog or cat hair stuck to his hind leg.

He has one on his head, too.

See it there on his, um, forehead? On the top, between his eyes. Speaking of which, aren't they gorgeous?

If I do a colorway like this, black, rust and shades of cream, can I call it Toad Tummy?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rant update

They were quick, it didn't take ten days. I got my claim check yesterday. But it was for over $150.00 less than what I had insured it for. WTF? I have a call in to Accounting Services, to hear their explanation.

One of the FAQ on the postal service website addresses this very issue. My claim check is smaller than expected, or something like that. Their answer? File a check protest within 60 days from the date of the check. This makes me wonder if they do this to a certain percentage of claims, just because they can. Make the claimant jump through another hoop to get all of the money they paid for, because certainly not everybody will do that. They will just give up, and not file a protest. Think of how much money the postal service would save. I cry unfair bureaucratic bullshit! You can be sure that I'll be filing my check protest if the phone call doesn't straighten this out and another check is winging my way! They don't know that I've worked for almost 18 years now dealing with bureaucratic bull from around the world. The US postal service are amateurs in comparison. Amateurs! They need to take lessons from China and Mexico.

Ok, enough of my rant. Sorry about that, the unfairness of it all chaps my hide!

The neighbor's horses have gone home. They've done all that they could do as far as my mowing is concerned. The poor things were being bitten so badly from the huge skeeter population, it was time. I miss them though.

My roof is finally all shingled! They had been hampered by the weather. Too much rain, or rain in the forecast, that they didn't dare do the tear off until they knew they could also get it covered. They still have to install the ridge vents and clean up, but I'm happy to have the shingling done at least. Now watch we'll get a huge hail storm.

I'm getting lots of strawberries now. I'll put some in the freezer as a mid-winter treat, make some sorbet, and many get eaten as I am picking. Must keep up your strength you know!

Mom is on an antibiotic again for a UTI. I have them do it in liquid form, because making sure the pills actually get swallowed is very difficult. It is bubblegum flavored, she likes it.

We spent some time in the screen house yesterday, eating watermelon, looking at magazines, and just enjoying the breeze. Mom looked around, and said, "This is nice." I'm so glad she thinks so!

Just got off the phone with Accounting Services. Let's just say I'll be penning and sending off my claim protest. They had depreciated the amount because the items were clothing. Aaaauuugh! Heaven forbid they would actually read what I wrote on the claim form!

Monday, June 23, 2008


If you are an employee of the US Postal Service, I apologize. I'm sure they do have some perfectly intelligent, nice, hard-working people working for them.

Last December, I sent a package using the large flat rate box, with my return address written clearly on it, as well as the recipient's name and address clearly written on the box. It never got there.

Unfortunately, it contained two 7 foot triangular shawls, one of handspun 100% natural brown/rust alpaca, and the other a custom dyed, alpaca/merino/silk blend, also handspun. And two pairs of handspun handknit alpaca socks. About a year's worth of work.

In late December, I inquired at the post office here in town, and the postmaster said it must just be the Christmas rush, give it a while. In January, the postmaster assured me she would follow up on it, because the tracking showed that delivery was attempted, but the person had moved, so the package was coming back. He hasn't moved, and I never got the package back. In February, I checked again with the post office, and the postmaster admitted that she had not followed up yet, but would do so.

I finally just submitted my insurance claim. I would much rather have the package than the money, but I obviously wasn't getting any attention. After a month had passed since I submitted the claim, I inquired at the post office, and the postmaster said it would be several months.

So now I get a letter from the claims department, stating that the insurance fee paid indicated on the claim form was incorrect. They needed a response within 30 days, or the claim would be denied.

That part of the claim form is completed by the postal employee. So they send the letter to me, to correct their employee's mistake, and I have to do it within 30 days, and pay postage on my response letter correcting their mistake. I know the postage isn't much, it's the principal of the thing, you know? I think they figure that a lot of people won't respond within the time frame they allow, so then they can deny the claim. I had insured it for a goodly sum.

So I pulled out my copy of the claim form, and the insurance receipt, and low and behold the area they say is incorrect, is correct. WTF? I have a call in to the claims department, someone is supposed to look into it and call me back this afternoon.


Ok, looking at the claim form again, I can see where the mistake is. The postal employee here who filled out the form, indicated the total fee , postage and insurance fee, where it looks like they are supposed to indicate the postage fee. So that means the letter is wrong too!

I just got a call back from the claims department. She said that the insurance fee I was charged was wrong, so the computer wouldn't accept it. She says that they have corrected the issue, and I should get the check in 10 days.

I would still much rather have the shawls and socks back!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The saga continues

Do you remember the blessed bovine? If you don't know what I'm talking about, click on the Blessed Bovine label over there on the right to read the whole story. Fair warning, it is a long one.

Here she is with her new calf, a boy named Pickles.

Remember her calf born in a blinding snowstorm last year? Here she is, a healthy young heifer.

I can't believe how much she has grown.

The neighbor came over yesterday, and we strung another temporary fence on the north side of the driveway, and moved the horses over there to mow. I will need to go in and mow down the weeds and stuff the horses wouldn't eat, but it is way less than I would have had to mow.

I like this organic mowing deal!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


All done with this cutting. 165 (or was it 166?) bales stacked in my barn. 165 bales stacked in my neighbor's barn. I am thrilled! It is beautiful, no rain, leafy green, no pesticide/herbicide/or any other kind of -cide hay. Can I hear a yeehaw?

Everybody was baling like crazy this week. There were hay wagons going by filled to the rim, and of course the driver would wave in commiseration/camaraderie. The time the truck went by with the trailer of 5 or 6 round bales, we knew that wave was full of gloating. I could almost hear the guy saying, "Suckers!" Round bales are much less physical work. The small squares like we bale are very labor intensive, with each bale being handled probably four or five times by the time it is stacked in the barn.

My favorite shirt worked like a charm! I may need to just cut off that one hem though. It separated again. Now to see if my sewing will make it through the wash!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


The hayfield got raked yesterday. It is so thick it kept clogging the rake. Woohoo!

I'm very excited about this hay, can you tell? We planted it last spring, and even then got three small cuttings. Now in the second year, it is going gangbusters. Somehow, making my own hay makes me feel like a farmer. I don't know why, even having a herd of livestock didn't make me feel like a farmer, but the hay does. Maybe because now I am anxiously watching the forecast, scanning the sky, going out to the field and checking it. Is it dry yet? Before, I just bought hay for the winter, and didn't directly worry about it.

I think it might be like going to the supermarket. You just take for granted that everything is going to be there, at a reasonable price. Produce prices go up because of a freeze in Florida or California, and there is an outcry. But not for the orange grove farmer who just lost his crop for the year.

Sorry for the rant. Did I mention I was a little anxious?

Mom slid out of bed to the floor around 3:15 this morning. I heard her doing her little singsong noises, and was in bed wondering if she was getting up, or just singing a little. Then I heard "Oh please please please" so I jumped out of bed and ran to her room. I expected her to be sitting on her bed singing. It was dark, and the singing was coming from the floor. When I turned on the light, there she was sitting on the floor, her back against the bed, singing and folding the sheet that had followed her to the floor. Except for the "oh please please please", she never stopped singing. She wasn't injured, obviously. Getting her back up proved to be a challenge. She seemed content to sit on the floor a while, playing with the sheet. I tried to get her to roll over onto her knees, thinking she could help get herself up, but she couldn't or wouldn't follow my directions. Nope, she was playing with the sheet, then her shoes, so leave her alone! In the end, I just put my arms under her arms, clasped my hands behind her back, and picked her up. I got her to the bathroom and finally back into bed around 4:30.

Did I mention I was a little anxious?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Can This Shirt Be Saved?

My favorite shirt has seen better days.

On the left side, a hole at the top of the sleeve, at the cuff, and at the top where it meets the collar.

On the right side, again holes at the top of the sleeve, at the cuff, (plus llama spit stains at the cuff and up the sleeve) and where it meets the collar and button placket. As a matter of fact,

the button placket is totally separated from the shirt, just hanging by a thread at the bottom hem, which is also partially separated from the rest of the shirt.

It started out life a much darker blue. It was my "dress" denim shirt. I don't get dressed up much. Black jeans are "dress up." Generally, if anything dressier is required, that is someplace I don't want to be.

Looking at some pictures, I was wearing it when my friend P got engaged. That was 1997, I think. Thinking back, I was probably wearing it when she met her husband too, the year before.

It is a heavier weight denim, which now makes it perfect for chores around here. The deer flies and skeeters can't bite through it. Very important! It protects my arms when I am out chopping burdock and thistle too. Did you know that hay is very pokey? I have to wear long sleeves or my arms look like they have a rash from all the little pokes into the skin. This shirt is perfect to protect my arms from that.

My sister says it is time to give it a proper burial. I just can't.

I pulled out the sewing machine.

Look Ma, no more holes!

Just in time for baling!

(This post inspired by the Mary Chapin Carpenter song, "This Shirt". )

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Close encounter

(This photo taken in April.)

I had the coolest experience yesterday.

I went outside to check on the pasture, to see if the burdocks were flowering yet. (Their flower is the burr that gets stuck in the fiber.)

I was standing by the barn, by the gate that goes to that pasture. I saw something out by the old elevator that sits in that pasture. Pretty soon it moved. It was a deer. It was ignoring me, and it was behind the elevator, so I walked closer. I walked about half the distance, and stood by a fence post that is sort of in the middle of the pasture.

As I was standing there, she was eating behind the elevator, but every once in a while I could see her tail swish, so I knew she was still there, and moving from behind the elevator. In the meantime, pretty soon I saw a head pop up out of the grasses that were closer to me. A turkey head. So I stood there watching the turkey looking at me. The doe mosied out from behind the elevator, saw me, but kept eating along the fence. The fence makes a turn and heads back to me, and she followed it. During this time the turkey is walking around, head bobbing. The llamas and alpacas are eating near me, not paying any attention to the deer. When the deer is about 50 feet away, she takes more notice of me. The llamas had since left, so I was standing out there alone, next to the fence post, in plain sight. I was wishing I had my camera with me, but I know if I were taking pictures she would have run off from the sound.

She starts walking toward me. I stand as still as I can, and barely breathe. At about 30 feet away, she veers off to my right, so I watch out of the corner of my eye, not wanting to turn my head while she is watching me. When I saw her stop and scratch herself, I turned my head toward her. As she reached the point where the wind was carrying my scent, about 20 feet away from me now, but to the side, she turned and ran away. She didn't go far though, just back to around 30 feet, but upwind of me again. I could almost see the wheels churning in her head. She was close enough that I could see a scar on her right shoulder. She went back and forth, moving closer, then catching wind of me and running back again. After several minutes of doing this, she finally decided enough was enough and ran off, bounding over the fence like it was nothing.

I lost track of the turkey.

Monday, June 16, 2008


The neighbor came over and cut hay yesterday. Technically, I guess he cut the grass, once dry it becomes hay. Like, you don't put toast in the toaster, you put bread in the toaster and it becomes toast. Here it is becoming hay. I'm not sure at what point it ceases being grass and becomes hay.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain. It was just a nightmare though. Whew! I'll rest easier once this is safely in the barn.

This tree, one of many, smells heavenly. I wish they would hurry up and invent scratch and sniff computers.

It is hard to see, but they are covered in blossoms.

The bumblebees and honey bees are very happy. The trees buzz with them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

More misc

I had groceries delivered yesterday. It was completely painless. Woohoo!

We will probably be haying very soon. Possibly even cutting it today. When I say we, I mean my neighbor. They have all the equipment, all I do really is stack it in the barn. It just depends on how cooperative Mom is. Sometimes I can help stack it on the haywagon too, if Mom will sit in the truck. I will be very happy to have it in the barn. Hay prices are crazy, and probably just going to go up. I'm almost afraid to say it, but it looks like we'll have a bumper crop this year. I might just get enough so I won't have to buy any. That would please me immensely.

I now have four horses mowing my grass on the south side of the driveway, and they will bring six heifers over to take care of the grass on the north side of the driveway. We have to string some more electric fence, I don't really want cows running all over the yard and pooping everywhere. Some semblance of a "yard" would be nice! I was hesitant to have electric fence where Mom could get to it. They are trained well enough to it that they don't challenge it. So I turn it off during the day, and turn it on at night. No zaps for Mom.

Thursday night the neighbors came over with their disc mower and cut a couple of swaths on the ditches on either side of my driveway. I brought Mom out to walk the driveway, and helped fork the grass into their truck to take home for their cows. Mom went out to the end of the driveway to the mailbox, checked it, and took about two steps on the other side of the mailbox before I called to her, and she turned around and came back. A car passed her as she was at the mailbox. The neighbors left with their truck full of grass, and Mom and I went into the house to make supper.

A half hour later, there was a deputy at my door. They had a report that there was an elderly lady wandering the road, so they stopped to make sure everything was ok. I explained that she was at the mailbox, that there were four of us standing right there on the driveway watching her, so there was no problem. I suppose that I should feel glad that people would report it, but instead I felt sort of angry. Like my caregiving ability was being questioned. I've spent thousands erecting fence and gate to help keep her safe, watch her like a hawk, what the hell else do they want from me? What more do I have to give? I don't have anything else to give.

I kind of wish that the llamas had been out in the yard. I don't know if he would have made it to the house. At the very least he would have had an escort the whole way. Does that make me a bad person?

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Mom must have decided Judy/Lucy was cold. She tore off the tie for the slipcover for this chair, and made Judy a scarf. No more cold neck!

I found out that the grocery store I usually shop at has an online shopping service. You place your order, they go pick everything out, and you can pick it up, or they will deliver it. For me, (I am about 20 miles away) the delivery fee would be $11.00. If I pick it up, it would be $5.00. They waive the $5.00 shopping fee for delivery orders over $50.00.

Both fees would be worth it. It seems sort of yuppy-ish, ooh, I am so important or so busy I can't even shop for myself. I have to get over that feeling. I limit the trips to town as much as possible, so do all the errand running in one trip. This is difficult on Mom. The getting in and out of the truck at each stop is hard for her, and very time consuming. In the summer, when the heat has built up inside, she just plain doesn't want to get back in.

Grocery shopping with Mom in tow is an exercise in frustration for both of us. Once I finally get her out of the truck, there is the giant revolving door to deal with. Then I have to get her past the table of bakery specials they place right at the entrance to tempt you. I am trying to get a cart and keep her from opening a plastic box of cookies or donuts at the same time. Aargh! I won't go through the whole grocery store experience, but I imagine it is like shopping with a child who tries to put all the candy and cookies and crackers and chips in the cart when you aren't looking. Except Mom can reach everything. It can literally take hours to do grocery shopping, and we are usually both very frustrated.

One windy March day, after a particularly frustrating hour in the store, we were going out the giant revolving door pushing the cart full of groceries. Mom felt the cold wind, stopped short, and tried to go back in. I had to let go of the cart to catch her from going in the wrong way and getting smashed by the #$%^#@#@ revolving door, and the cart started rolling down the slight incline into the parking lot. I literally had to drag Mom out of the way of the door, and she was struggling with me to go back in. A kindly man saw what was happening, caught the cart, brought it back to me, and offered to push it out to the car for me. Did you know a little act of kindness can just push you over the edge? I started crying. Well worth the $5.00 to avoid the whole thing, right?

I'm going to try it the next time we head to town.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer Haven

Sorry, I can't resist showing last night's sunset. My appreciation of the sky the last few days was tempered a bit last night when they showed a county in SE MN under civil emergency due to the flooding. Those dramatic clouds that only dropped an inch or two here dropped several inches to the south of me. I sort of feel guilty for enjoying their beauty.

I anticipate that Mom and I will be spending a lot of the summer right here.

I got this screen room last year. It saved us from the skeeters and deer flies.

This furniture, however, is new. Well, new to me. I picked it up on Saturday between rain storms. Have I mentioned that I love Freecycle? Yep, these were almost free. It did cost me about $8.00 in gas to go get them. The cushions are only a couple of years old, and with some scrubbing to remove some mildew stains, are perfectly fine. The arm of one chair needed reglueing, and the arm of the chaise needed a couple of screws. It broke off when we loaded it into the truck. There are woven metal slats that act as the seat supports/springs, and one of them was missing the little hook that attached it to the eye bolt attaching to the wood frame. A bit of fence wire fixed that right up. So for less than an hour of fixing and picking up, a couple of screws, some fence wire, and a couple of gallons of gas, I have some very comfortable outdoor furniture.

The person I got them from said that if she were a fixing up kind of person, they would have been fixed and she wouldn't have had to get new furniture. OK, I don't understand that mentality, but her loss is my gain, right?

Now, if you'll excuse me, being a lady of leizure, I must go sit on my new furniture in the gazebo and sip some lemonade. I was going to say a mint julip, but I don't even know what that is, or how to spell it. Sounds fancy, though, doesn't it?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Saturday Night Popcorn

Saturday started with weird cloud formations, and ended with them too. Would anybody like some popcorn? This one is looking southwest.

I don't remember it being quite that yellow/brown, but there was definitely an odd kind of glow. This one is looking east.

It is raining right now. So far, only 1/2 inch or so of water in my basement. It's an old scary leaky fieldstone unfinished basement. I spent a few minutes this morning sweeping water toward the pump, which sucked it up and out just like it is supposed to. I'll be keeping a close eye as it continues to rain.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Saturday Sky

If you guessed that it rained a little, you're right. Some fields have standing water, but my hayfield doesn't yet.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Art of Alzheimer's

This is the first one I actually saw her make. The card was sitting on the counter, and she had the bottle cap in her hand. She looked at the card, then at the cap, then very carefully placed the cap on the circle. Another fascinating tidbit, that circle is the only large circle that doesn't have a smaller circle within it. Her sense of/compulsion/need? for order and symmetry reigns.

Yesterday Mom had Judy (now also known as Goosy Lucy)her babydoll cradled in one arm, and her other hand on my shoulder. She sang "Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop". Just that one line, but she came up with it all on her own. It has been a long time since she has done that. I don't know if she was singing to me or to Judy/Lucy. Either way, a very sweet sound.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Got Grass?

I do. An overabundance even. The llamas couldn't keep up. My neighbor, on the other hand, is running low. There is absolutely no sense in me mowing the grass, and it going to waste, right? OK, so I would use the clippings as mulch in the garden, or it would go into the compost pile, so it wouldn't be wasted exactly.

They rode a few of their horses over, and we let them loose in the yard. There was a tense period when the horses saw the llamas, even with a pasture between them. The horses were freaked out, whereas the llamas just rushed to the fence and watched, curious about the horses. Maybe that is why I like llamas better. Even though they are flight animals like horses, they are so much calmer and after an initial fright, will usually come to see what the fuss is all about.

On the other hand, Mom and I enjoyed watching the three horses run from one side of the house to the other. By this point, they weren't running because of the llamas, but just for the joy of it, tossing their heads, kicking their heels. Beautiful!

The neighbors walked home, and then drove their car back here a few hours later to bring the horses back home. (They left the car here and rode the horses home.) As they were catching the horses and saddling them up, I brought Mom outside, pocketed my keys, and locked the door behind us, so that Mom wouldn't go back in the house and possibly let the dogs out.

Later, the neighbor saw Mom going to the house, and asked if she would let the dogs out. I explained that I had locked the door, and reached into my pocket to show her the keys. Except there weren't any keys there. Instead, there was a folded up page torn from a magazine. I don't know when, because I didn't notice it, but Mom had taken my keys and replaced them with the paper. Luckily, she still had them, so we traded back. My Mom, the skilled pick-pocket!

The neighbors will bring the horses back for a few hours each day. The sun had actually peaked out for about an hour last night, but now it is raining again, with possibly severe storms headed our way this afternoon/tonight. They probably won't bring the horses today.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night,

right around midnight. The dogs were looking at me expectantly, waiting for their supper. I remembered then that their fresh bag of dog food was still out in the truck, in the garage. I went outside to get it, and just as I reached the garage, I heard an odd noise. I was looking around behind me as I opened the garage door, but didn't see anything. I turned back to the garage, which was now open, and was confronted by this!

The giant suri monster!

I jumped about a mile and let out a little squeek. Sure, this all looks perfectly innocent in the light of day. Imagine it at night, only the faint light from the yard light some distance away illuminating the darkness. Suri* alpaca is very lustrous, so it kind of glowed in the faint light. It looked ghostly. Or yeti-ish.

A suri alpaca breeder had given the fleece to me as a thank you for doing spinning demonstrations during her open barn event. I finally got around to washing it, and had it on my drying rack. Since it has been raining off and on, I kept moving it in and out of the garage. I obviously forgot it was there.

I am an idiot.

I have never worked with suri fleece before, so this could be interesting. I have a lot of stuff in the line up before this, though, so this will have to go on the back burner. I have spinning to do, (it's getting there, Turtle!) and skirting and washing of many bags of newly shorn fleece, and prep for the art show I signed up for later this month. Aaaaagh!

*Suri alpaca fleece falls in ringlets away from the body, is very silky and lustrous, and feels almost cool to the hand. Huacaya alpaca, which is the kind I have, is the fluffy kind, has more crimp, and is less lustrous, or not at all lustrous, depending on the animal, and feels warm to the hand.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Green Man

When I mentioned him yesterday, I was intending to fashion him out of the chair parts. After posting, I walked out of my office into the living room, where the green batts jumped me and smacked me on the head. What was I thinking? Of course a green man on this place should be felted.

I experimented, and came up with him. He looks like a gargoyle. A bit grim, with a look of discontent about the mouth. If I ignore the mouth and the bushy old man eyebrows, he sort of reminds me of Little Sprout, the Jolly Green Giant's nephew.

I put him on the side facing the garden. I hope he brings lush growth there.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Wall of Junk* begins

One short look around my garage was all it took. I'm not sure whether to be embarrassed or proud of that. There is plenty more, like a box of wooden chair parts (legs, spindles, seats) to use, but have to work on that. I want to fashion a "garden man" (ETA: Oops, that should be green man) face somehow. Also, it needs more color.

Mom has been funny lately. Yesterday morning she was up early, and she came into my bedroom, took one of the sandals I use as "house shoes" (as opposed to the sturdier, use outside in the muck shoes) and put it up my sleeve. Then she proceeded to tuck me in tightly, shoving me around until the sheet was well and good tucked under me. So there I am, in bed with a shoe up my sleeve and tucked in like a mummy so I couldn't move. Later, she took a length of roving, put it under my shirt from the bottom, then out the neck hole, and tied it. I imagine it will start a new fashion trend.

* My art history friend (she works at the Getty) said that it is actually a multi-media-dimensional-Ican'trememberwhatelseshesaid-piece. Ok, but I'm still calling it my wall of junk.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mom with Beret

The other night I was trying to get a photo of Mom in her beret. She was more interested in the blanket on her lap.

Must fold blanket!

Still ignoring me.

Finally, she looks up, but only to give me that Mom stink eye.

Then she adjusts the hat, with a little grin.

Finally, she gives me a smile.

Then she cracks up.

I love that woman!