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Archive for the ‘Country Life’ Category

I have been facing the difficult reality of life and death in the country. We came to the country as city folks who have been learning the hard way about the harshness of nature.

Not that there isn’t death everywhere, but it seems more–well–in my face here. The sadness came to me the day I sat on my back porch and saw a fox attack the little group of chickens that were trusting the safety of our little back garden. The fox came out of nowhere. He must have crept along the sides of the buildings and attacked from there. The flock scattered in all directions but the fox managed to grab one. I saw him tearing across the lawn toward the high hay in the field behind us with one of the “Three Amigos” (the three matching red chickens) in his mouth. I chased him, but of course was unable to save my poor little clucky friend.

We’ve been wondering what’s been happening–we started with 15 chickens and are now down to three. Hence my sorrow. My husband says we should think “circle of life” and realize that we provided the fast food joint (a la Kentucky Fried) for the local wildlife population. Surely some little baby foxes had full tummies thanks to our provision.

I have on purpose not fallen in love with these chickens. Leave it to me to be away for a few days and then hear from my husband by phone, “Guess what I bought?” I came home to find 15 little chicks in a big box under a warm light. Various different colors and breeds and sizes. They grew. Fast. There were the big red ones, and the little ones with feathers on their feet, and the tiny white one with black trim around his feathers as if someone carefully used a black magic marker to outline him. They really have their own kind of beauty.

Once they outgrew their box, we moved them onto the back porch (it was still too cold to put them into their coop). Finally, when the weather broke, we put them outside, opening the coop door for them each day to strut down the special walkway my husband built and wander the yard. I love watching them strut about and peck the ground. I love hearing the rooster crow. I enjoyed having them wander the entire yard, staying in their little groups together, sitting under the bushes on the hot days. When they wandered too far, we chased them back, with them “cawww”-ing at us as if annoyed that we dared to chase them back to safety. Once we even had to chase them back to our yard from across the road. Yes, they crossed the road. Why? I have no idea.

Dumb chickens.

After the horrifying fox attack, we lost a couple more (including one more of the “Amigos”)–feathers in a pile beside the tall grass of the adjoining field revealed yet another attack. We have since put up chicken wire and are keeping our free-range chickens penned up to try to protect them. From certain death.

And I guess that goes for the sadness I feel every time I see some poor animal by the side of the road. From my perch shotgun on a recent lengthy trip to the Northeast, I counted ten deer by the side of the road–and that in just one stretch of highway. Poor sweet deer running and skipping and then . . . well, I don’t want to talk about it. Seriously, I can’t even watch those nature shows where one animal kills another. It’s all just too sad.

We’ll never be hunters. We’ll never be able to kill and eat (these chickens are for “pleasure” only, and maybe eggs; we could never hurt them ourselves). Not that I have a problem with those who do hunt (bless you sis and bro-in-law), but somehow I just can’t yet stomach death in the country.

I know they’re just creatures and it occurs all the time. I just don’t want to see it, hear it, feel it.

But that’s part of life, right? Hard things come. We buck up. We get through it. We rejoice with the three little chickens who are the survivors. We protect what we have. We do our best with what’s left.

Sure, there’s pain. But there’s also survival. There’s life. Real life.

And that’s what we celebrate.

Guess I better go close up the chicken coop. They’re counting on me to protect them as best I can. Even though they don’t have a clue.

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After the ice-hail-sleet storms of last week left a glossy sheen to the little coating of snow that had already fallen on our vista, yesterday we had a different kind of snowfall. I’m beginning to get used to seeing snow “fall” horizontally past my kitchen windows. The wind whips across the cornfields from the west, the way our house faces, and the snow rushes past as if in a hurry to be somewhere else. In fact, most of the accumulation we get is on our front steps, where the wind sends it into drifts. Gives new meaning to “snowed in.”

But yesterday, the snow fell vertically in those fat snowflakes that act like they have all the time in the world between heaven and earth. Of course, I’ve seen it before. I’ve lived in enough snowy places. Yet there’s something about that kind of snowfall that always makes me pause and watch. It’s peaceful. The wind didn’t stir as the flakes frosted the branches of the huge pine trees outside my kitchen window.

When I let our puppy out, I too stepped out onto the porch. And that’s when it happened.

Silence.

It was literally so quiet it seemed like I could hear the snow fall. I did a mental accounting of the sounds that normally circle my world. Cars on the faraway highway? No. Dogs barking next door? No. Wind rustling through the trees? No. The crunch of a shovel as a neighbor attempts to clear his driveway? No. The hum of a snowblower? No. Not even the rustle or call of birds.

Nothing. Just silence.

It actually startled me. I called to my husband, “Come here. You gotta come hear this,” when I was actually asking him to come hear . . . the sweet sound of nothing.

Why is that so unusual? When was the last time I was in complete silence? I can’t remember. Silence is rare.

The snow was falling so hard that the barn across the field in front of our house—bright red that provides me with daily delight—had disappeared behind a white curtain. The snow covered the glossy sheen with white powder, evening out the ruts our cars had made earlier and covering the road in front of our house.

I could have stood there all day, soaking in the blessed silence. Of course, it wouldn’t be long before the snowblowers fired up and a four-wheel-drive made tracks down the pristine road.

But for a few moments on a Saturday morning, I stood in wonder . . . and silence.

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And Then There Were Two

“Mom, can I bring Terra?”

My daughter speaking. She had not yet seen her new home and so was coming for a visit. But she needed to bring along her new feline friend. If you read last month’s post, Terra is one of the litter of kittens born to the stray cat that found its way to my sister’s back porch just in time to give birth. Said daughter happened to be visiting after the birth event and, you guessed it, simply had to have a kitten. (Thanks a lot, sis.)

Never mind that come fall she would be back in the college dorm where cats would not be welcomed (to her credit, sis did bring that fact up to her niece). Never mind that she would need to find a home for her kitten during the semester. No. All that would be, well, logical thinking. Instead, running on the emotions all of us have felt when visiting any pet store or after handling tiny kittens or puppies, my daughter brought one home. The little gray speckled one. The one she and her fiance named Terra–earth.

OK, so daughter and Terra arrive on our doorstep. Snickers, immediately sensing a new friendship on the horizon, leapt to the opportunity (literally) and quickly discovered that some friendships take time. KitKat, sensing competition, stalked around the edges.

During this week, the humans in the house had hospital appointments, which ended in a tonsillectomy for my daughter. Good for her, but decidedly not fun. By the end of the week she still felt miserable and was in no shape to do a nine-hour drive. We got a plane ticket . . .

. . . and a cat.

But you know what? I have discovered a brand new joy in life. There really is nothing quite like a cat snuggled up on your chest and purring. What an incredibly amazing and comforting sound! Having never owned or been around cats, I had never experienced that. What an amazing God to create these creatures who just love us so much! I have heard that cats are “stand-offish” and “sinister” and even “loners.” Well, not these two cats; they are lovers from the word go. And with a dog in my lap and two cats purring on either side, I can’t imagine feeling anything but joy.

And the three animals have decided to all just get along. They pounce, play, wrestle, and then fall asleep together in a furry heap.

So we have attracted yet another furry friend. We also have found a couple of garden snakes by the pond, plus several frogs who hang on the lily pads and along the rocks . . . but they’re way less fun.

I’ll stick with the furry, purry ones. But maybe we have enough now . . .

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The Kitten Who Found Us

It seems that our “animal attraction” continues. I’ve written about the dog who came to visit (twice), and last month about the lost black kitten who found its way into our garden. The saucer of milk we left out that night?

Empty in the morning.

The next day, we continued to hear meowing in the unmowed acre of our property. Patient waiting allowed us to glimpse black fur and blue-green eyes. “Blackie” was there all right. Stalking us. Watching us. We filled a bowl with milk, took it into the field, and set it where she would find it. Our rustling into the field only made her run away, but the bowl of milk was again empty the next day. We worried about her spending the night out there what with truly wild animals around and hawks circling above, but she wouldn’t let us come close. She’d just stare at us through the grass and keep her distance.

The next morning, however, Tom found her in the garage. She was hiding under his equipment and climbing around the motorcyle and bouncing across cabinets as if totally at home.

“Let me have one of your shoestrings,” he said, pulling one out of my gym shoe before I could answer. “I’ll make friends with her.” And he sat on the cement garage floor dangling that string until the kitten could stand the curiosity no longer and reached out with a little clawed paw.

Another day went by, another round of shoestring play, and kitten was in his arms . . . and on the porch . . . and in my lap . . . and in our hearts.

I’ve never in my life owned a cat, so don’t know a thing about them. My sister Carol offered advice (she of her own animal attraction, now currently caring for several kittens born to the stray cat who found its way to her porch just in time to give birth). We would need to get her to a vet, should she decide to stay (and once we get her to a vet, we’ll know for sure whether we have a he or a she. I told you, I’ve never had a cat and I’m not interested in figuring out that part).

Next problem, however, was a planned family vacation. We were just getting her used to us; would she stick around? We went out and purchased a self-watering bowl for water and another for food along with a bag of kitten vittles. We left the garage open just enough to let her in and out. We even (silly us) left the porch door slightly ajar for her to make her way there should she decide she wanted to cool off.

But would she decide to stay? That was the question.

After a week away, we arrived back to look for “our” kitten. “Here, kitty kitty kitty,” we called as we wandered around the yard and garage.

Nothing. We feared the worst. She had gone away, or she’d been . . .

Then, there stood Snickers, still, staring under the truck. Our beloved Shih Tzu, who was still trying to figure out this black creature, had found something. I got down on my hands and knees to peer under the vehicle and saw the familiar blue eyes. A dangling of a shoelace later, and she was back.

She hadn’t left after all, and she didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Each morning, she was in the garage and would bound onto the porch when we called to her. But now that she was apparently going to be part of the family, she needed a name–a candy bar name to follow in the tradition of our dogs Reese Cup and Snickers. I went to Facebook for advice (where else?), and Karen gave me the most obvious and perfect name–KitKat.

KitKat made her way out of spending nights in the garage to making her home on the porch, and was meant to stay there. I even put up one of those gates across the doorway, the kind we used across the stairway when our kids were toddlers. KitKat just jumped up and over. I had no idea they could do that. She liked the idea of coming into the house where the action was–where she could be chased by her new furry playmate.

We tried to keep her on the porch, but every time we closed the door, she would look so pathetically through the glass at us and the resident dog that we couldn’t bear it any longer.

“Pllleeeaaassseee can I come in?”

Good grief. We are just such suckers. I don’t know who did it first, but the door was soon opened and the invitation made. “Come on in, KitKat.”

What can I say? We fell in love with the kitten who found us.

Chalk it up to “animal attraction.” Wonder what we’ll attract next?

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Summer in the country. I fondly remember summer visits to my relatives in decades past when we would spend days at the dairy farm with Uncle Howard and Aunt Gladys and the cousins, and then with Aunt Dot and Uncle Homer on their acreage at the end of Pork Road. On those hot summer days, this suburban-often-moving-military-kid found a little slice of heaven. Where else can you ride a tractor, watch cows be milked, play a family softball game (with every member participating), ride a scooter at high speed across a field (and not get hurt when you dump it), and build a massive bonfire for cooking weinies and marshmallows?

Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why this little slice of heaven at Green Acres is so magical. When I watch my college-age kids and their friends play ultimate frisbee in our back yard, I’m grateful for God’s grace in providing this home with its–well–green acres.

This month I saw I two sights I have never seen before and they astounded me to the point that I had to stop my car and simply take them in (and both occurred on the same trip, same stretch of road). At this time of year, the cornfields are bursting with their green stalks (“knee high by the fourth of July”? Forgeddaboudit. These stalks already tower over me!). I was passing through along a country road between those lush fields following a rainstorm as the sun was setting behind me. I don’t know if it was the combination of dusk and the moisture in the just-watered fields or what, but the fields were literally alive with lighting bugs. I mean teeming with them. Millions of sparkles dancing at eye level, blinking, creating a visual feast of light and movement. I literally gasped. As I drove, the show continued until I stopped simply to watch, a lone audience applauding one of God’s one-act plays.

At the same time, a rainbow appeared–not just any rainbow but a rainbow where I could actually see both ends!

Big sky, massive rainbow, light show in the fields. Applause for you, God. Amazing!

And what would a Linda blog be without a furry friend? Last night as I sat on the porch at my computer (oh the joys of a home office), I kept hearing an incessant meowing. The TV was on in the house with no one watching (why is that?) and I thought the noise was coming from some sitcom. When I went to turn it down, the detective show with the guy being questioned in that little room in the police station was decidedly void of cats. Back on the porch, the sound continued. I opened the door of the porch and sure enough, something was meowing–something sounding very little and helpless. Armed with flashlights, my husband and I scoured the pond area where rustling grass gave away our little intruder’s whereabouts. As he/she dashed away, we caught a glimpse of a little black kitten, perhaps several weeks old–old enough to get lost but seemingly still calling out for momma.

He/she would have nothing to do with us (to avoid further using the annoying he/she, I will now name said kitten Blackie. Lame, I know, but it goes with “Buddy” and I like it and he/she was black, so there). Our soft tones and calls notwithstanding, Blackie fled across the yard. Several minutes later, however, Blackie was back, apparently enjoying the safety of our garden and maybe the comforting sounds of the little fountain and waterfall in the pond.

Another round of coaxing by said humans ensued, to no avail. We left a saucer of milk, hoping Blackie would at least take some sustenance.

The saucer was empty this morning. Well, perhaps Blackie will return? I’ll keep you posted.

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We really didn’t think we’d ever see him again–Buddy, that is. As noted in my previous blog, he came, he saw, he went back home. I have to say we sort of missed him.

Until two weeks ago.

Suddenly, there he was . . . standing at the bottom of the steps by our porch. Snickers was headed out to the yard for her, well, what dogs do in the yard, and she ran almost smack into Buddy as she bounded down the steps. His rather large presence blocked her way and he scared her into a barking frenzy. He looked at us apologetically before climbing the steps and ambling into our house.

“Guess who’s back?” I shouted through the front door. “It’s Buddy!”

This time, our older son was home visiting. “See, I told you he was real!” I exclaimed as Buddy nuzzled up to him. Sure enough, Buddy had a collar with a tag–name and phone number.

Buddy’s real name is Rocky. And he stayed with us the rest of the day, and overnight, and into the next day. He laid on the floor. He laid on couch. He laid on the nearest person. All we had to do was say his name–his real name–and he was up off the floor with his head on our laps.

“I want a big dog,” said Son Number One. There is something about a warm animal, almost as big as you are, who wants to give so much love! I mean, we wouldn’t trade little Snickers for anything, but big dogs have a certain je ne sais crois. I took pictures on my phone of Rocky snuggling us and sent them to our other two kids.

I called the phone number on Rocky’s collar and left a voice mail to the effect that Rocky was with us, he was safe, he’d stayed the night, and we really enjoyed having him. Got a call back later basically saying, “He’s a good dog. He roams all over the place. If he ever bothers you just call us up and we’ll come get him!” Well, he’s no bother at all!

That afternoon we had to run some errands and didn’t want to leave Rocky pent up in our house, but neither did we want to lock him out of the house. We decided after much discussion to put him in the van and return him across the river to his home. No people were around, but Rocky knew where he was and headed into the back yard. Apparently the entire county is his playground.

Son Number Two arrived home last weekend. “I want to see Rocky,” he said, “Wish he’d come over.” We thought about borrowing Rocky for a couple hours before heading to the airport to send Son Number Two on his summer trip. As we headed out across the river and through the next town, guess who just happened to be standing in a field by the road?

You got it.

We pulled the van into the weeds beside the road, and all of us jumped out. Rocky scampered toward us like we were long-lost friends. Son Number Two got to meet Rocky at last!

He may not be ours, but we sure do love this big old country dog. Rocky, come on back anytime. You know where we live!

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We called him Buddy, for lack of a better name. He arrived on our doorstep on a cold April night and–well–he stayed the night.

Buddy is a dog of some mixed breeding. Very large, short reddish hair, with big brown “doncha just love me” eyes.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A new friend had visited us and stayed to chat for the evening. As we stood at the front door saying good-bye, “Buddy” ran up the steps onto our porch and right into the house. He saw the open door as an open invitation apparently, and in he came. We all looked at each other as if to ask, “Do you know who this dog is?” We didn’t.

But he was already inside, had found a place on the floor to plop himself, and appeared to be here to stay. He was cold and simply wanted to warm up, we surmised. Perhaps he had wandered too far from home and couldn’t make his way back in the dark. So we gave him water and put out some of our Shih Tzu’s food–he managed to eat more in those couple minutes than Snickers does in a week. Then Buddy returned to the living room to lie down beside Tom on the floor, put his head in the crook of Tom’s arm, and make himself totally at home.

We fell in love.

Snickers fell into confusion.

In any case, we put a blanket beside our bed and Buddy slept there all night. At one point, both dogs needed to go out. Tom got up and let them outside. Buddy disappeared. We assumed that he had warmed up enough to now head home. But only moments after Tom and Snickers were back in bed, we heard a deep “woof” from the porch. “Hey! Let me in!” and Buddy settled back into his makeshift bed.

The next day, we figured he would find his way back home, but instead he hung around. He slept at my feet as I worked in my office. He followed Tom around the barn. He and Snickers laid on the warm sidewalk almost side by side.

We thought about calling the police–that’s what we would do with lost-and-found dogs in the city where we’d lived. But do people in the country report lost or found dogs? Dogs wander all over the place. Sometimes dogs get dropped off on purpose because the owners don’t want them–at least that’s what we’ve heard. Is that what had happened to Buddy? Is that why he couldn’t find his way home? We knew Buddy was not abused–he looked clean and well fed. He had a chain collar, but no tags. Did his owners not want him? It broke my heart, however, to think about a little boy crying all night because his dog had disappeared and not returned. What should we do? If no one wanted him, we’d keep him–we decided that much. But we wanted to get him back to his owners if we could locate them and determine if they wanted him.

Our neighbor walked by and I asked her if she recognized him. She’d seen him out and about before, and thought he lived across the river in the little town about a half mile from us. Maybe I could take his picture, make a poster, and say, “Lost Dog. If you don’t want him we’ll keep him. But call this phone number and tell us his name . . .”

Then, that evening, Buddy left for good. Tom has seen him a couple of times–sure enough, wandering in the town across the river. Buddy has a new collar, with tags.

Thanks for visiting Buddy. We’re glad we could warm you up on a cold night. If you ever get lost again, we’ll leave the light on for ya!

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