Wednesday, December 29, 2010


For Christmas, Travis (and Pam) sent us tickets for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA - about a 5 hour drive.  He also got us into the AFA Tail Gate which was awesome in that we were up close and personal for pre-game preparations.
 As part of the package, we got shirts and a barbecue, beer, pop or water and a lot of fans to rub elbows with!!  It was actually pretty fun, even though we didn't see a single soul that we knew!!

We got to meet the Peregrine Falcon (mascot):

After we ate, the cheerleaders showed up to practice, then the band and of course, the Bird was greeting everyone and posing for pictures! 

 Interesting enough, the Bird (or one of the jump team dressed as the Bird) parachuted into the stadium - just like Travis did back in 2000 - (left).  YUP!!  That's Travis as the Bird as he parachuted above us on his entry into the stadium!!!!  If you asked him today.... he'd likely say it was the 'funnest' thing he did while at the Academy.
Back to the present:  We enjoyed the cheerleaders practicing along and with the band:

Then for the game.... they were first on the scoreboard, but were down by one point (6-7) by halftime.

Then came the halftime show....  a B-52 flyover at 1000 feet (felt like 100)
and of course the band:

then my battery gave out!!!
Any of you that watched can attest to the fact that it was a good game and kept you just a little worried right to the end when AF got an interception on the 1 yard line, which shut down Georgia Tech with seconds to go!  It was a close game (and COLD!!!).

Probably the worst thing that happened was that we had to go through security on the way in, and they confiscated by full bottle of Propel....  but worse that that, Dad had to throw his trusty sidekick, his pocket knife away!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I've had some pretty wonderful kitties over the years, mostly siamese, but Spotty ranks pretty high.  She has now gained the status of my in and out cat.  She's probably the most loving and gentle cat I've ever had.  I'm putting this first picture on for Riley who's coming to visit soon and I know he and cousin, Brenden like to see Spotty when we skype!!  Here she's snuggled up on my side of the bed (she knows better than to migrate over to Grampa's side, cause he doesn't like to share with a kitty).

Can you pick Spotty out when she was a kitten with her brothers and sisters???

A few months ago, Spotty was limping and needed to lay low for a bit.  Initially we couldn't see anything wrong, but after a day or so, her paw swelled up.  Here she is with her 'mitt' of a paw! 
A few days later, the fur started falling off and you could see 2 distinct wounds that were 'weeping'.  From the pattern, we think she got bit by a snake of some sort.  It took her a couple of weeks to get better and a month for the fur to grow back.  I'll bet she'll be more carefull next time she encounters a snake!!

Unfinished business (or perhaps I SHOULD say - FINISHED business):
A couple days after my last post, out came a can of paint to finish the horse shed.
One morning there was a Kodak moment.  Eeyore was in the shed and all three horses were lined up in front of it just after sunrise.  It was picture perfect.... but I didn't have my camera with me.  By the time I ran in and grabbed it, they were making their way to their feed buckets and the moment was lost.  This was 2nd best, but I'm waiting for that perfect shot!  The most interesting part of this photo (besides the shed!!) is the sky - it looked painted, like there are brush strokes.  I would have cropped more of the sky out otherwise.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


For Thanksgiving, most people have traditions.  Over the years we've developed favorite foods that we mostly have ONLY for Thanksgiving:
    Turkey with a Pennsylvania Dutch-style Potato Stuffing,
    Candied Yams          fresh Green Bean Casserole,
    Cranberry Orange Relish        Mashed Rutabaga, and for dessert,
    Fresh Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pie.
We tend to start from scratch, and the pecans and pumpkins are harvested from right here on our little Texas ranch.  If I'd put up some green beans in early summer, we could have had home-grown string beans too.  So this year we had our usual fare, but we totally enjoyed sharing it with 2 airmen from Sheppard AFB who were spending their first Thanksgiving away from their families.  I didn't know who Mike would come home with and was pleased when he called on his way back home with Megan and Megan 'too'. 

What a godsend they were.  They helped prepare food and set table, and they got a taste of life in "Texas-country".  They helped collect eggs and feed hay to the cows .... and since it had rained, they even got to take back some Texas mud with them.  We certainly enjoyed their company since our family was spread out and wouldn't be home for dinner.  Incidentally, we're STILL eating turkey!!!

Very loosely related to 'traditions' (the title of the post) is our new (to us) nesting boxes for the chickens.  Our friends, Neta and Junior Lackey, were instrumental in the early arrival of chickens to our little ranch.  A neighbor was looking for a home for 9 cornish hens and had asked them if they could take them.  Well, not only did they give us the chickens (indirectly) ... and find us the tailless rooster ..... but Neta's dad had chickens and Neta had his old wall-mounted nesting boxes!  She's had offers to buy the nesting boxes, but didn't want to give them up yet.  After finding a home for the chickens (with us), she asked if we'd like her heirloom nesting boxes. 
They've been up for a couple of weeks now, and the hens seem to be taking to them.  I find at least half the eggs there now.  They started in the lowest row of boxes and now I find eggs in the top row.  We've gone from the blue crates                            to nests on the wall:

If you can see, there are actually 2 eggs behind the exiting hen... the bigger one she just laid, and the small one is a 'seed' egg - a small 'pullet' egg I leave in there.  They like to lay on the seed egg and sometimes I will find up to 3 eggs with it!! 

Besides cracked corn, maize and wheat, I've found that chickens LOVE pumpkin and watermelon!!!  Check out the enthusiasm when they find a surprise in their yard:

It looks like a chicken convention!!!!
Note the iridescent green feathers on my black chickens.  Mr Rooster has them too as you can see below in the previous blog entry!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Shelter .... plus update on COCKA-DOODLE-DO!!

Now that we have cows AND horses, we need a place for each when it's drizzly, stormy, blizzardy or just windy from the north!  They don't really congregate together.  So Mike planned and built a shelter for the horses and I've already seen them in there!!  Here you can see the progression:

The meager beginning (L) and if you enlarge the detail on the right, you can see at least 3 grasshoppers on the post, not to mention a nice side view of the house.
Once the frame was completed, it was time for the roof:
Then the aluminum siding to wrap around for the finished structure:

BUT, my favorite shot is looking out from the interior:  a nice fall day, with a view of the house and the horses just resting under their favorite tree - You may have to enlarge to see the horses!!!:

As for my cock-a-doodle-do-less 'Cogburn', about a week after my last post, he started cock-a -doing!  He didn't quite have it until about another week later when he finally got it right.  He now wakes us up with a full COCK-A-DOODLE-DO!!!  Every morning it's very noisy out in the hen house as all the hens are 'BEDAWKETTING'  VERY loudly in response.  Don't think those hens didn't notice Mr Rooster's shortcomings (L) - however, time has made him a more handsome rooster as he's growing in tail feathers:

As for our hen population, something 'got' one about a week ago.  My count was off when I put them to bed, and I hunted all over for her but couldn't find her..... until the next morning.  With daylight, I could see feathers all over the place and following the trail --- I found her dead and picked apart by something.  My cats were a little suspect at first, but we've narrowed it down to a likely chicken hawk.  Then Mike got a call from someone who was selling his chickens, so he got 6 more hens.  Upon arrival, one flew over the fence and disappeared across the road.  We've been visited nightly lately by howling coyotes and figured that hen's chance of survival was next to nothing.  Late the next afternoon, I heard a screem and went out to find Sam with something!!  It was the hen!!!!  We yelled at him to drop it and she ran off the first time.  He ran after her and caught her a second time and was 'mauling' her with his mouth.  Again I yelled at him and he dropped her and she just laid there.  Well, so much for that hen!!  So Mike picked her up so Sam wouldn't get a taste for fresh chicken, and after several seconds, her eyes blinked!!!  Then she moved a little.  So we brought her to the hen house, and she jumped down and joined her sisters - all huddled in the corner.  So by some miracle, we have all 6 new hens!!

I don't know what kind they are, but they are interesting with their orange necks and feathered feet.  The one below looks like she has fluffy slippers on.  They're pretty young, so I don't know that they're laying yet.  I did have one very light egg the other day, so maybe they're just starting.

Speaking of eggs, on the recommendation of a friend, I painted a face on an egg and put it in one of the laying boxes.  Sure enough, they like laying when there's already an egg there.  Sometimes there are up to 4 new eggs in that carton.  So I put a golf ball in one, but they didn't buy it!!!  Finally, after a month, at least one hen accepts the golf ball and sets on it to lay her egg.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

No cock-a-doodle-doing here!!!!

You know when you get a little male puppy, they don't know how to lift their leg right away?  I remember our dalmation as a puppy, I thought he'd never potty like a big dog, but eventually he figured it out!!  Sam, our border collie was a quick learner and trust me, not a wheel rolls on our driveway but it gets peed on!  He thinks it's part of his job description around here.  He also breaks up cat fights and he and Eeyore have discussions at the corral gate whether a donkey should paw at the lower bar!  Eeyore says 'I will if I want to'  and Sam says 'not on my watch you don't.... get your hoof offa that gate!!'  Eeyore will ignore his grain to aggravate Sam at the gate.  It's like a game and he knows it bothers Sam, so he does it on purpose when Sam's right there.

Once upon a time there were 9 Cornish hens looking for a home.  My friend, Neta, called because she knew Mike was building a chicken house and wanted to know if we'd like to adopt them.  The yard wasn't fenced it yet and we didn't have any supplies, but how can you turn down a gift chicken that's about 6 months old and just starting to lay eggs!!  So he put wire up and we got a makeshift bowl for water and we were in the chicken business.  At first we got 1 or 2 small eggs a day, but I think they like their new home because we've picked up on the number of chickens that lay every day.

For your edification.... Have you ever had something 'stuck in your craw'?  I've heard the expression, but since we've had the hens, I've learned what a craw is!!!  If you look at the left-most hen, you can see a pouchy area below her throat.  You can see it on the second hen too.  That pouch is a 'craw' and when they eat insects (like GRASSHOPPERS) they go first into the craw for the first stage of digestion.  Since I am overrun with grasshoppers, my hens walk around with thier craws full most days and I can see which are quickest and best at catching those nasty grasshoppers!!!! 

Neta's husband, Junior, brought gifts!!!  A bale of hay for their nests and a bucket of wheat for treats!  They had to come visit and see the chickens.  Neta also has a family heirloom for me ... her dad's chicken laying station ( for lack of a better term)  It's actually pretty nice though it needs a little repair.  A week later I got another call from Neta... "Do you want a rooster???  Junior got one for you if you want him."  Now don't laugh, you'll hurt his feelings!!  Something almost had him for dinner and instead got a mouthful of tail feathers!  Poor Cogburn.... no tail feathers until he grows new ones.  We figure we saved his life by letting him come here with our 9 hens.  And af far as 'cock-a-doodle dooing, he doesn't!!!  I guess it comes with maturity.  Mike's waiting for the morning he gets awakened with a cock-a-doodle-do!!
In the meantime, we've grown to 4 or 5 eggs a day and they've gone from small eggs to medium and large!!  I weighed them the other day to compare to a 'large' store-bought egg, and I'm getting at least one large egg everyday and a few mediums!  Compared to store bought, the yolks are yellow-orange in color.  It's awesome having free-range eggs.  They make beautiful deviled eggs!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Time Changes Everything....

Doesn't this relate to everything in this life???  Children constantly change.  Relationships change.  Seasons change.  But, God never changes!!!  The rainbow is a great reminder of God's promise to us.  Over time,  things in life can change.  Take this rainbow for example.  Mike took this photo because we were so impressed with how BRIGHT the rainbow was!!!  He then gave me the camera and I took the other end of the rainbow, but when I turned back, the brighter end looked different.....The brightness was muted as it was quickly disappearing, but note the funky lighting on the trees and the grey sky on one side of the rainbow and the beautiful blue sky on the other!!  The rainbow may not be as bright, but I LOVE this picture and all it's nuances!!!  (Additionally, one could make such relationships to life transitions)  What did Forrest Gump say in the movie?  "Life is like a bowl of chocolate"?  I think life is more like a rainbow with rainy times, sunny times and times of transition - ever changing!!

And, here's the other end of the rainbow with an interesting sky... grey clouds, white clouds and blue skies in the distance.  Funky light in the field and wet bales of hay -- our very own!!!!After the storm, out came the horses to check out the new bales of hay that Mike had brought up from the field.  (L to R: Tutu, Doc, Eeyore and Racey)  After the rain, life is good again!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

There's never nuthin' to do....

This is close to the culmination of a BIG project!!!  Designing and building a chicken house!!  What does trenching have to do with a chicken house you ask???  Well, if you want a nice chicken house, you need electricity and water.  Contented hens can see to knit while they sit in their nesting boxes and can take baths when they arise in the morning before they step outside to wake us up with their 'cockadoodle-doo'!!  We're going to have classy chickens!!  On a more serious note, we need to keep the chicks warm (use a warming light) and they of course need water, but the biggest water usage is my garden, and this trench brings well water to my garden!!!  Mike had to rent a trencher to lay pipe and electric lines ... and the cows are so curious they had to gather round to check out the activity!  The cats have explored the trench from one end to the other, and when Mike went out to lay the pipe, he found a 3'-4' snake skin and a thousand crickets!!

Now drop back to early last year - as winter was finishing up, Mike was making the specs:  He laid the foundation as soon as he could work the ground.  He framed it and put in flooring.  To test it out, one morning we heard the clatter of hoofs just after sunrise.  I peeked out to see what all the clatter was about and ran for my camera!!  Racey and Eeyore were checking out the hen house!!  When they saw me they quickly exited and tried to convince me they hadn't been in there, but I caught them in the act!!!

Then he added the trusses and all the supporting boards for the roof.  This was mostly morning work because the days get pretty warm in the summer and you're forced to move to your inside projects.

Then putting the tin roof on (below).. It's really starting to take shape.  As you can see, the chicken house is back to back with my garden - incidentally chicken poop is an excellent fertilizer!!  Where you see the plywood wall is my storage room for garden stuff and toward the front a storage room for chicken feed.
Then comes the siding and doors and window covers:
And from the backside, you can see the door to my storage room, my potting porch, places to hang my tools, and a window so I can talk to the chickens....
A few weeks ago he sectioned off a section near the corral to store hay.  That involved installing a fence and  a gate wide enough to get the tractor through.  He also churned up the dirt to get rid of the weeds and put out weed killer.  This year we can store enough hay for our livestock for the whole winter.
The hardest part of this project was digging the holes for the gate posts.  The ground is virgin and packed down - dry and concrete-like!!  It took Mike and an experienced friend to dig with the augers you see laying on the ground.  Even with the tractor, added weight had to be placed on top so the auger could dig a deep enough hole.  This project is done now.  The fields have been mowed and baled, and over the next couple of weeks Mike will be transporting the HUGE bales of hay, one at a time, to their resting place in the hay yard until needed over the winter.
There's another project that's a work in progress - my camera will find it's way out there soon to capture the action for future memories!!!  Stay tuned for progress!!!  And the arrival of baby chicks.  Right now the only residents of the hen house are crickets, grasshoppers, mud daubers, wasps, mosquitos and spiders. Except for the mosquitos, there are numerous varieties of each!!!  There's even a resident black widow!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ever see a RED Grasshopper?????

I have TONS of GRASSHOPPERS!!!  BIG ONES and small ones, some hop, some fly, some are brown, some green, some mustard yellow (those are some of the HUGE ones) and then the other day I saw a RED one!!!  I tried to get pictures, but was limited by the life of my camera battery.  So, I got pictures of perfectly clear, crisp leaves to my tomato plant and a blurry grasshopper!!!  But at least it is recognizable!!! 

Then there are some that are BIG and UGLY!!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...

My garden is one of the things that keeps my busy. My best new garden toy is my Troy Bilt 'Horse' - a wonderful rototiller that will make my garden even better next year. It's powerful, yet easy to use. Here's my ranch partner checking out the new equipment! The 'good' parts of my garden are my cucumbers (it has now reached the top of the cage) - not so much the peppers - I am getting a few jalapenos, but the sweet green pepper is only leaves and flowers.
I've already had some pumpkins (background) Unfortunately the grasshoppers like pumpkin, so I have to fight for everything I get ... and I have some HUGE watermelons and the one we tried was sweet to the rind! They had taken over the whole back third --- BUT the horses got into my garden and trampled them!!! They're trying to recover, but the pumpkin really took a hit!! Maybe by halloween it will make some more!!

Pickling cucumbers have done great in spite of the grasshoppers and the horses!!

Not everything has been as successful.. My kohlrabi (on the left of Schnoz, who meets me in the garden most mornings for pets).... has been eaten by grasshoppers! I tried, Pam!!! I almost saved them - got them back once, but then all the new growth was eaten overnight and as of last week, the last one died : (

Then there's my poor apricot tree!!! I could taste apricot jam and apricot fried pies!! This is the first year the tree has been fenced in so the horses didn't eat the blossoms!!! There were LOTS of tiny little apricots coming .... getting bigger.... bigger.... still green and hard.. .. GONE!!! The grasshoppers ate EVERY LEAF and the fruit leaving only the pits!!!!

I think I counted 20 grasshoppers in this picture:
Just as ugly was my corn!!! Early on we had some NICE corn from the first 2 rows of corn we planted. The second 2 rows were planted later, and we didn't get a single ear. Guess what got them all?? Not the birds! Not the horses (they only ate some leaves and trampled a few plants on their afternoon in the garden)! Not catapillars or worms? Not rabbits?? YUP.. those pesky grasshoppers!!! It gave meaning to the plagues in the Bible!!! Just like the locusts!!!

They swarmed all over!!!
... and what they left behind wasn't edible...

Not pictured: they also ate leaves and branches of my string beans. Did I mention that I HATE GRASSHOPPERS!!!!