Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Welcome Willie & Raul!

I have not always been a fan of spring.  Growing up in the south the flowers were perpetually in bloom, the grass was green on both sides of the fence, and leaves covered the trees all year.  I always thought spring was colder than it needed to be.  Living in Iowa for the past three years, I have come to realize the beauty of spring.

Winter departs slowly in Iowa.  This morning I awoke to a temperature of 28 degrees. While this may sound like huddle back under the covers and stay in bed weather, it's not. After months of zero and subzero temperatures, 28 with the sun radiating through the windows is quite pleasant.  This afternoon the mercury will rise to a balmy 55 degrees.  I can head out and mow the sprouting grass.

While I tootle around on the lawn mower, I can appreciate the beauty of the perennials poking through the winter brown dirt gracing it with color.  Green leaves are everywhere. Peonies are popping through with purple stems standing tall and proud.  Tulips are exploding with vibrant yellows, pinks, and red.  God, our painter, is using colors again!

Spring also brings visitors.  Peeking out from under one of our small sheds I spied a black nose. Shortly a brown furry body followed it.  Willie, the groundhog had awakened and stopped by for a visit.  He practiced his yoga, standing tall and stretching down.  The sun warmed him as he stretched out basking in its warmth.  Evening approached and I had to be the bearer of bad news to Willie.

"Willie," I hollered into his hole under the shed.  "You can't visit too much longer.  Doug will come home.  He says you are a menace.  He is going to find you someplace else to live. If you want to choose your own summer home you need to skedaddle."

I haven't seen Willie since.

There was a furry mass in our hundred plus maple tree.  Creeping outside, I wondered if bears had started to inhabit Iowa.  It was then I spied the black mask on the creature.  It was Raul, the raccoon. Raul caught sight of me and meticulously crawled his way up a branch.  He eventually nestled into a hole in the branch.  (A hollow branch strategically waiting a time when Doug is abroad to crash to the ground, leaving me to figure out how to clean it up.)   Raul peeked out at me.  He was too cute!

I explained to Raul that Doug said he could stay as long as he didn't get into any of our outbuildings.

Later, I peered into our hen house and saw signs of Raul visiting.  While there are actually no hens in the hen house, it is home to numerous boards and junk.  It appeared Raul had been in there flinging boards and making a general mess of it.

Raul has moved to another hollow tree between two other sheds.  (This tree is also biding time for Doug to leave and crash to the ground.)  I supposed he thought he could divert my attention from the untidy hen house if he lived away from it.

Really Raul?  Doug will notice within being home eight minutes that something is amiss.

Spring also brings babies.  They are the cutest babies ever!  Every spring one appears from under my potting shed.  He hippety-hops around munching on grass and tulips. Subconsciously I planted a few tulips close to the potting shed so the baby could have dessert. Baby bunny enjoys sunning himself in the cool grass by the shed.

Unfortunately I am not the only one enjoying watching baby bunny.  Snuggles has discovered baby bunny relaxing in the grass.  I warned her to stay away from "my" baby bunny.

Then tragedy hit.  I discovered Snuggles in the driveway with baby bunny's ear in her mouth!

I dashed outside in my stocking feet scolding Snuggles at the top of my lungs.  "Put baby bunny down.  Now!"

Baby bunny was doing the twist trying desperately to remove his ear from Snuggles teeth. I nabbed Snuggles by her scruff setting baby bunny free.  He was so disoriented he hopped in circles before darting across the yard and flying under the potting shed to safety.

Snuggles is now in spring time out in the garage.  She can have recess again when baby bunny is mature.

That's spring in Iowa.  I am going to head outside and take in the sights and smells of the season. Birds singing in harmony.  Crisp air scented with lilac.  Apple trees with thousands of pink buds swaying in the breeze.  Along the way I may see a critter or two.  I might have to take a few hundred more pictures of baby bunny.  And I will remember to wave at Snuggles as she gives me the evil eye from her perch in the garage window!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Man vs. Ass

My cousin, Pat, asked if I wanted to go see Donkey Basketball.  Donkey Basketball?  I had played a basketball game of "Horse" with my kids in which I usually got the pants beat off me.  I figured this was something of the same.

Our family filed into the high school gymnasium.  There were twelve of us.  The ages ranged from my 97 year old uncle down to my 5 year old fourth cousin.  Pat promised this would be hilarity for all ages.  I was skeptical.  While "Horse" was fun to play with my children, watching it may have been a little sleep inducing.

We sat on the bleachers watching the players warm up for the game.  They weren't doing the usual sink the basketball in the hoop warm up.  They were laughing, slapping each other on the back and pulling helmets on their heads.  Helmets?

Suddenly the side door popped open and in sauntered eight long eared, furry, real live donkeys.  My face was a mask of confusion.  Pat explained the teams had to ride the donkeys.

That explained the helmets.

The teams were announced.  It was the high school "Jocks" verses the "Firefighters".  The donkeys were introduced as well.  They had enlightening names such as Ex-lax and Hemorrhoid.  A city council woman was presented.  She was the clean-up crew.  Her weapons were a large shovel with a roll of toilet paper on the handle and a broom.  Bet she didn't see this coming when she was elected.

Rules were explained.  You must be on your donkey to pass the ball and to shoot.  You must be in contact with your donkey at all times.  Meaning you could get off and pull the donkey to pick up the ball.  Do not go behind your donkey.  He will kick.  It sounded easy enough.

A basketball roughly half the size of a regulation one was bounced to the ceiling signaling the beginning of the game.  Players perched atop their donkeys scrambled for the ball. Donkeys are not in a hurry, if they move at all.  A couple of jocks jumped off their donkeys attempting to pull their donkeys to the elusive ball.  Even the bulging muscles of the jocks couldn't inch the donkey forward. In fact Hemorrhoid was already tired of having a muscle bound male astride him.  Hemorrhoid put his head down and dumped the rider on the floor.

The game continued with some riders successfully coaxing their donkeys to the ball and making some passes to teammates.  However other donkeys were stubborn as, well, asses.  No amount of gentle kicking to their side or flapping of the reins would convince them to uproot themselves and go down the court.  The referee (the donkeys' owner) carried a thin stick which he would swat on the backside of the donkey.  The stubborn donkey would charge off down the court not bothering to stop where the rider demanded.

One firefighter was not a basketball player in his former life.  His passing was way off the mark.  He actually hit an unsuspecting donkey in the face.  This resulted in a technical foul that stopped the game.  The offending firefighter had to dismount from his donkey and apologize to the hurt donkey. As the game continued the same firefighter passed another ball into the face of an innocent donkey. Another apology was demanded as well as an apology kiss to the donkey's nose.

The laughs continued with riders struggling for minutes at a time to convince their donkeys to pick up their hooves and move.  While other riders spent the majority of their game dumped on the floor. One unfortunate rider was tossed to the floor losing his grip on the reins.  The donkey took off at break neck speed right out the door leading to freedom and fresh air.  The helmeted rider dashed after the donkey as well as two bystanders.  Eight minutes later the donkey was back in the game with the firefighter astride him.  I wondered if they were chasing the donkey the entire time or did both take an unseen rest?

What about the city council woman on poop detail?  Her shovel and broom were kept in constant use. Afternoon games are typically full of "waste."  She came out with a smile and shoveled.  At least the first few times.  By the end of the game I'm pretty sure she was gritting her teeth and keeping a clothes pin on her nose.

The final score of game was Jocks 12-Firefighters 8.  It is difficult to have a high scoring basketball game with a portion of the players flung to the floor every few minutes.  The players ended the game with smiles on their faces and I'm certain bruises on their bodies. We spectators had other problems. Our sides hurt from laughing too much.  I'm told that's exercise.  My kind of exercise.

If the opportunity presents itself to watch a Donkey basketball game, I would highly recommend it. If you ever have the chance to play in one, let me know.  I'll be sure to come get my exercise watching you.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I Know a Secret!

One more winter story because I know a secret and I'm about to blab!

While Doug was away it snowed.  A lot.  The wind had made maddening drifts preventing me from plowing my way out.  Doug arrived home with the snow drifts still intact.  It was this Florida boy's mission to teach me proper use of the snow plow.

I trudged behind Doug on the way to the shed more than a little put out that this southern boy thought he could teach this Texas girl the proper way to plow snow.  After all he hasn't been home for any measurable amounts of white glitter.  I had plowed my way to the road before.  This time our little Polaris just didn't have enough ump.

I had made the mistake of telling Doug I got the Polaris stuck while attempting to gain freedom.  I figured snow was like sand.  Growing up in south Texas I had been stuck in the sand many a sweltering afternoon.  Keep the wheel straight, go forward, back up, forward, back, keep the dumb wheel straight and eventually you are free.  (To be honest, years ago at the beach I would never attempt to unstick my Camaro myself.  I would hop out in my bikini and wait for muscular jocks to come by and push me out.  However, thirty years later if there were any males to drive by I have no doubt me in a bikini would cause a screaming, please poke my eyes out accident.  And it was 7 degrees outside.)

Doug's first lesson was twisting the blade.  "Yes, I do that," I snapped.  My nose was getting further out of joint by the second.

Climbing in the Polaris Doug continued to instruct me.  In his best teacher voice Doug grasped the gear shift explaining the reverse, neutral, high forward, and low forward.  I was sitting beside him humming "We're not going to take it Anymore" in my head.

Then it hit me.  He said low forward.  What is that?  He was already on to tires and traction.  I didn't dare ask.  I was supposed to be a rapt pupil.

We were now barreling our way out of the shed headed for the cement hip high snow drifts in front of his "man shed."  Doug plunged ahead only to be brick walled by the massive drift.  He threw the Polaris into reverse, and then shifted into low forward.  (Yes, this time I was paying attention.)  His foot stomped on the gas and we fish tailed our way through the impassable drift narrowing missing a lone standing pine tree.

"Stop!" I screamed.  I snatched the seat belt from its resting place behind me and clicked it securely around my body.

Rolling his eyes, Doug once again pounced on the accelerator of the Polaris.  We swerved side to side, tossing snow every which way.  The sea-sickening madness continued through the snow bank to inches from a small shed.

"Stop" I screamed again.

"What now?"  Doug groaned.

"Where is my bicycle helmet?  I think if I ride with you any more I may need it!"

Needless to say, I got out and Doug continued his lesson without his pupil.

Now on to the secret.

Later that day Doug decided to pull the trailer out to take his baby (the lawnmower, of course) to the lawnmower doctor to have it primed for spring.  I glanced out the window and saw the Polaris several feet in front of the shed door.  Doug was pulling around with the pick-up.  "Not unusual," I think. Until Doug comes in for the evening.

As he is peeling off his outdoor gear, he makes the comment he was awfully glad I was not out with him to help.  This is strange; he usually wants me to help with all sorts of cold jobs.

He begins to explain.  He, the Florida boy known for instructing in snow removal, had gotten the Polaris stuck in one of the impassible snow drifts.  Doug then preceded to sneak in the garage, back the pick-up out, and pull the Polaris out of the drift without me ever taking a picture.  He was sure if I had a picture it would end up a story in my blog.

Newsflash for my loving husband.  I do not need a picture to blog about it!

I suppose the moral of this story is:  No person hailing from the south really appreciates the power of snow until they have succumbed to its life stopping ability.

Know anyone with a tractor for sale?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring Has Sprung

Yesterday was March 20th, the official start of spring according to the calendar.  Without checking the calendar there are ways to know spring is in the air in western Iowa.

My first clue was two weeks ago as I was gazing at the bunnies hopping across the yard. A movement in the trees caught my attention. A bird was perched on a branch with its wings blow drying in the wind.  This was not just any bird.  It was a chubby red-breasted robin.  The first sign of spring!

Another sign of spring is the itchy hand syndrome.  Around the middle of March my palms become frigidity and itchy.  They long to be outside raking dried leaves and thousands of corn husks.  My fingernails start to beg for dirt to be packed deep into their depths.  My gardening gloves develop legs and position themselves on the outside step so I can trip on them.  I slip them onto my winter white hands assuring them it won't be long until we are digging in the earth again.

I was excited to see my tulips popping up yesterday.  How they knew it was March 20th is beyond me.  Pointy green leaves pierce the brown winter dirt giving it much needed color. I am eagerly awaiting all the tulips awakening.  Then I will probably say to myself, "Why did I plant tulip bulbs there?"

Living in the country a sure sign of spring are the farmers coming out of hibernation. Tractors start to rumble down the road lugging large clean implements behind them.  Pick-up trucks are spied in the middle of fields.  Farmers walk their land looking for...?  I really don't know what they search for. Maybe it's the itchy farmer syndrome.

This is a great time of year for a drive around the county.  Babies have arrived!  With the windows cranked down the soft bleat of baby lambs carry in the wind.  Fields are sprinkled with black baby calves kicking up their rear legs and playing games of tag.  I have yet to see a brown calf.  Or a spotted calf.  Or a white calf.  Not even a calf in Easter colors. Always black.

Every animal is thinking babies.  A friend whispered to me she has two stray female cats that she has been feeding on her back deck.  These homeless cats are about to have kittens.  Doug will be going back to work soon.  I wonder if I dare?

The most sure sign of spring at my house depends on our cat Snuggles.  Yesterday she played in the cool spring air.  She tore up a tree, cried  like she didn't know how to come down, then darted to the ground.  She smelled under out buildings and pine trees.  The spring wind blew her tail into a long puff ball.  But when she emerged from the ditch with a long garter snake dangling from her mouth, there was no doubt in my mind spring had made its arrival.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Five Amazing Aspects About My Gravel Road

Yes, there are numerous things to love about my gravel road.  Here are my top five.

  1. Wal Mart.  Wal Mart is 25 miles away.  25 miles!  Our last residence in San Diego was directly across the street from Wal Mart.  They receive deliveries at 4:30. A.M.! My eyes would be pried open by the beep beeping of trucks backing into loading bays.  Cars squealed in and out of the parking lot at all hours of the night. While it was convenient to walk across the street to shop, it also lead to boredom shopping. Twenty five miles away is actually an ideal distance for a Wal Mart.
  2. Seasons.  We are in the midst of winter.  Snow has been glittering on the ground. The temps have been below freezing which means I can don my thick sweaters and be cozy and warm. This morning there is a sheet of ice covering our cement driveway.  I didn't realize I would have an ice rink outside my own door!  Now I need to invest in ice skates.  Soon I will be tired of winter and spring will abound with green popping up in unexpected places.  Yes, unexpected because I can not remember where I planted the 47 tulip bulbs last fall.  On the heels of spring summer will arrive with corn standing tall and proud.  Windows will be thrown open to listen to the songs of doves, robins, blue jays, cardinals, and many more joining the chorus.  As I tire of summer, fall will sneak it's way in.  Canning and freezing from the garden will fill shelves and freezers.  Apples will be ripe and juicy for plucking off the trees.  Tractors will rumble past bringing the powdery smell of fresh combined corn.  There is always something new to be found with each season.
  3. Livestock.  I can be outside on any given day and hear the crow of a far away rooster.  Cows dot the horizon giving life to harvested ground.  Cattle move in to be my neighbors for a few months during the fall and winter.  They stand as one and listen to everything I need to tell them.  Occasionally one or two will hop the fence for a more neighborly visit.  Cows are considerate too.  While roaming my side of the fence they always seem to stop and fertilize the garden.   
  4. Community.  Wow!  Enough can not be said for the tight knit "how can I help you" people that live here.  Yes, there are eyes and ears on every electrical pole, but they are helpful caring eyes and ears.  People visit the shut ins, combine fields for ailing farmers, clear driveways for ignorant southern girls.  The community comes together to donate life saving blood.  (Don't forget the Irwin blood drive.  Monday, March 9th 11:00-5:00!)  I hope I am learning to contribute to this wonderful caring group of residents.
  5. Snow.  I love snow.  Really!  Snow transforms the brown winter ground into a peaceful glittery oasis.  I don't mind shoveling snow.  Really!  It's exercise in the fresh air with birds keeping me company on the bird feeders.  I have only one complaint about snow and it's a personal problem.  I have no aim in throwing snow balls.  If anyone would like to volunteer to come stand around my place while I take target practice on them, I'll pay you in hot chocolate and a warm cookie.
I can see where my readers might be confused.  My last blog post was about the things I did not like about living on a gravel road.  The five examples were the same as the things I love about living here. These are the things I hear most from people who do not know the good life we have here.  "Doesn't it smell?"  "It's got to be too cold to get out of bed."  "Doesn't everyone know your business?"  Life is all about perception.  There can be good and bad in almost everything.  My parents once brought a Texas couple to visit their Iowa farmer friend.  The Texas couple stood in the farmer's back yard amazed at how beautiful it was.  The farmer said to himself, "All I could see was work!" 

Come visit my gravel road.  Doug and I will be happy to show you the beauty.  We'll take you to the Country Store for a cup of coffee.  You'll be welcomed by any number of neighborly people having their coffee and sharing life's stories.  There's always something to do to occupy our time.  Or we can just sit on the porch swing and wave at the trucks and tractors rumbling down the road.

I do have just one question burning in my mind.  Do cats count as livestock?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Five Bummers Living on a Gravel Road

Yes, there are things I do not love about living on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere.

  1. Wal Mart.  Wal Mart is 25 miles away.  25 miles!  And it is a tiny Super Wal Mart.  If I want a mega sized Wal Mart I must drive for an entire hour there and back.  Two hours of my life wasted in the truck.  I need a list with no dumb blond moments. Forgetting something becomes a federal crime punishable by not having something important like bird seed.  No bird seed leads to angry birds who retaliate by decorating the house windows.
  2. Seasons.  Winter gives presents of chapped lips and cracked, bleeding fingers. Spring brings mucky, slippery mud.  It cakes everything from boots, hems on blue jeans, to my rump as I fly down.  Summer arrives with bugs of all shapes and sizes. Some you can see others are called "No See Ums" for a reason.  Harvest arrives in the fall.  This means numerous tractors and big rigs roaring up and down the gravel road.  Dust rolls across the yard and sneaks into every crack this 115 year old house owns.
  3. Livestock.  They stink.  Plain and simple.
  4. Community.  Small towns have eyes and ears posted on every electrical pole and spots in between.  Every one in town knows Doug tried in vain to send his 27 year old daughter to her room.  I must not extend my ladder to it's full twelve feet extension while Doug is away. People I've never seen before yell at me as they cruise by, "Hey!  You're too high.  You're going to take a tumble."
  5. Snow.  It's wet.  It's cold.  It's heavy to shovel.  Snow makes tires spin and cars do loop-d-loops.  It blows, giving the illusion of living in a snow globe.  A person could be trapped in their homes for weeks on end with only a cat for company.
These are my top five detrimental things about living on a gravel road.  Is there more I should add?

Friday, February 20, 2015

My Knight in Shining Green

I have been drumming my fingers against the frosty windows anxiously awaiting a snow fall amounting to more than "jam the truck in 4-wheel drive and drive over that white stuff." It finally happened.

Thursday evening the more experienced weather forecaster expected 1-3 inches of snow on Saturday. It would be pretty outside, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Friday morning the young intense forecaster predicted 5-8 inches of snow for the weekend.

I jumped off the couch whooping and hollering sending cats scurrying in all directions.  The kitchen was scanned for necessities-bread, milk, popcorn, and hot chocolate.  Books were dusted off.  The time had come to be snowed in!

The snow fell silently all day Saturday.  Sunday morning I was awakened by the shrill of the telephone.  (Yes Paul, you did wake me.)  No church today.  I was officially snowed bound.

The ground glistened like God had sprinkled millions of diamonds.  Wind blown snow swirled like icing on a frozen cake.  Inside was warm and toasty.  I had furry cats to warm my feet and vanilla flavored chocolate to warm my insides.

Monday morning reality hit.  I was snowed in.  Really snowed in.  The wind had howled all night. It's icy breath picked up snow and thrust it into drifts knee deep to hip high.  I would want to leave my house sometime before the Forth of July.

I put on my winter gear and forged through the drifts to the shed where my snow plow lay waiting for me.  I had the forethought to tote along the snow shovel.  The snow had to be shoveled away to slide the shed door open.  My frozen fingers turned the plow's ignition key.  The frigid snow plow coughed, sneezed, and shuddered but wouldn't come to life.

Great.  I trudged back down the hill to nab the 114 pound battery charger.  It had to have weighed at least that much.  Probably more.

Gasping and panting, I made it back up the hill and jumped the snow plow to life. I roared out of the shed lowering the steely blade.  Snow slowly parted for ten yards.  It was then the snow decided to become a brick wall.  Knee deep drifts has frozen in the overnight sub-zero temps.

There was no choice but to back the plow back in the shed.  I prayed the snow would melt before Memorial Day.

A couple hours later I was inside praying now that the snow would melt before Easter.  A green streak appeared in my peripheral vision.  I trotted to the window to find my Knight in shinning Green clearing the driveway.

I grabbed my parka and shoved my feet into snow boots.  By the time I was outside the green angel had cleared my way to freedom.

Justin, a neighbor climbed down from his lofty perch.  (He's not really a neighbor, but his grain bins are and his corn and sometimes his cattle.)  "Hey, I was just driving down the road and saw you might need a hand."

That was an understatement.  I was now free to go somewhere before Easter.  Justin you saved me from having to eat canned tuna for the next three months.

I have decided to ask Doug for a tractor for my birthday.  I can then scoop myself out and cruise the roads in green style.  So, if you spy my husband in passing, please mention that his wife really needs a tractor.  You might also add it needs to be an automatic tractor!