I am sorry I have not written a new issue of Farm Notes since August. The time has just gotten away from me. I am amazed that there are only six days left until Christmas! In the past four months I have survived one of the hardest grad school classes I have taken thus far (I did an average of 10-14 hours of work per week for the class), I have fallen in love with teaching AP English students despite all the work, I have been busy leading the Freshman Advisory Program at Dunlap with another teacher (we just completed a service project for the Dream Center of Peoria and collected over $16,000 of donated items), I had an enjoyable experience coaching the girls sophomore volleyball team, and I have found that coaching girls basketball can be super exciting when I have girls that are talented and love to play and win. We are 6-2 in the season, which is a huge improvement from last year considering we only won 6 games last season. I even earned my first technical EVER which I still blame on Grant and the parents because they were way too enthusiastic with the referees after a bad call. I guess I had to take one for the team…and it pumped up my girls because we pulled off a huge win! We have one more game tomorrow night before break, and then I am giving my girls off for a week for the holidays. It’ll be nice to have a few real days off of everything and go up to the suburbs to spend the holidays with my family.
That’s the update from the farm on a personal level. On a funny note, here is a Farm Notes topic that I have wanted to write. It’s pretty long but humorous if you have the time and interest! Have a very merry Christmas and an exciting 2009!
Living Things…love ‘em or hate ‘em
In the past year and a half of living in the country, I have had quite a few…hmm, how would I describe them…let’s just say interesting experiences with living things. I have found that my heart either tells me to come to the rescue for certain animals or I become filled with loathing especially for those creatures that invade my house.
Let’s start with the fluffy friends that I see and immediately want to help. Last fall, on my way to work through the country roads, I saw a dog roaming the side of the road that seemed to have no destination in mind. It was a windy and rainy day, and I immediately began to think that the dog was lost. I pulled my car over and opened the door just enough so the dog could stick his head in the car so I could check his dog tags. Little did I know that this dog only had warmth and comfort in mind. His large body proceeded to push the door open even further, jump onto my lap (I had newly ironed and khakis on), lick my face, sniff my lunch on the passenger seat, and climb awkwardly over my lap through the seats and into the back. With one big turn of his body, which left dirty dog hair all over the back seat, he curled up and laid his head on his paws and looked at me like he was in dog heaven. At this point, I was overwhelmed not knowing what to do. I took out my sandwich and was finally able to lure the dog out of the car and back onto the road where I was able to check his tags. Unfortunately, there was only a rabies tag and no contact number of his owner. Knowing that I was probably going to be late to work because of this over-friendly dog and that he already muddied up my pants and my car, I decided that it was a lost cause and left him to go back to roaming the side of the road. As I drove away, I looked down at my mud colored khakis and my backseat full of dog hair and mud, and I thought to myself, ‘So this is what I get for trying to help a lost dog!’ Since then, I have seen my fluffy friend roaming the same street and a nearby homestead; I now know he wasn’t lost, just having a bit of fun down the road. Needless to say, this was my last experience pulling over on the side of the road to help man’s best friend.
After committing myself to not helping a dog on the side of the road, I never thought that I would have to help a horse or a donkey! On my way home from a late night basketball game last winter, I was driving slowly down our road and saw something very large in the distance at the very limit of my headlights. I slowed down even further and within a few seconds two large, beautiful horses came into sight. Normally, these horses would be behind a fence on our neighbor’s property, not in the middle of the road! I stopped my car not knowing if they were going to charge my car or slowly walk away. I crept my car forward, and to my relief they let me pass. I drove past my neighbor’s house and wasn’t sure if I should pull over and knock on their door that late at night. Instead, I went home, called their house, and informed them that their horses had escaped and were making their way down the road. These same neighbors also have some donkeys, and in October, I met Peaches the donkey! I was leaving my house for work, and at the top of the hill I noticed something that looked like a deer far off in the road. As I pulled up closer, I realized that it wasn’t a deer but a small pony or donkey scared and hiding in the soybean field. I also saw that it had a huge gash on it’s side, either from an animal or from the fence it squeezed through. I came up to our neighbor’s house, knocked on the door, and their 12 year old boy answered. His parents had already left for work, and he was waiting to catch the bus. Informing him that I thought he was missing a small donkey or pony, he looked out into the pasture and said, “Yep, that must be Peaches!” He grabbed a lasso, got into the vehicle, and we drove down the road to see if we could lasso up Peaches and take him home. Well, Peaches was very scared and walked further into the bean field. Knowing I was of little help and wasn’t about to go walking through the field in my work clothes, I called up Grant and he came to the rescue. I was able to leave for work as they continued to work to get Peaches to “come”. A phone call a five minutes later confirmed that the rescue mission was successful! I called Ellie and Luca right away to tell them of my adventure, since it’s not everyday that you get a chance to rescue a lost donkey!
More experiences have happened in the past few months with the kittens that live in the barn on my in-laws property. We had five kittens born this past spring in our barn, but since Marsha (my mother-in-law) feeds the farm cats on her property, the mama cat brought all her kitchens to live over there. We have found that they are very adventurous and like taking trips over here or in our vehicles without our knowledge. One Sunday night this summer, Grant pulled his truck into the garage, came inside to get ready for his 4H meeting, and as I was sitting in the kitchen I heard the meowing of a cat. We went into the garage to find one of the black kitchens trying to figure out where he was. On our way to the 4H meeting, we took him across the street back to his brothers and sisters. This black kitten, or maybe one of his siblings, took another longer road trip this harvest season with Grant. As Grant was dropping off corn at a grain elevator an hour away, the guy working there suddenly looked on the ground and exclaimed, “Hey there kitty!” Grant looked over at the kitten, and said word for word, “Shit, that’s one of our cats!” Yes, it was, and it was soaking wet from a very long and rainy, two-load drive under the hood of the semi-truck. He really does have nine lives! Grant proceeded to put him in the cab of the truck and the kitten spent the day in grain cart tractor with Marsha before they were able to take him home. This black kitten also has some yellow siblings that enjoyed wandering over to our house when it began to get cold this fall. One evening, as I shut off all the lights in the living room and Grant headed to bed, I heard a scratching at our front door. Not knowing where the sound was coming from, I took a look through the window to find two yellow kittens wanting to come in. I opened the door to pet the kittens and told them to “go home” thinking that they would understand me. I felt bad that they were out in the cold, but I remembered my experience with the dog and decided to let them find their own way home across the road back to their barn.
While all of these experiences have been quite humorous, I have had a few that definitely have not. You may find them to be, but I think of these experiences and cringe hoping that they will never happen again. Living in the country, I understand that we will have mice every year around harvest season when it gets cold and their homes in the fields disappear. Usually, I just get a bit mad that they eat through a purse that had old gum in it or they make a mess in my pantry. This time, they made a mess in my kitchen that was unreal! One evening, I made eggs for dinner and left the dirty pan in the sink. I woke up the next morning to find the dishes already done. Looking closer, I realized that Grant hadn’t surprised me with doing the dishes and instead the mouse or mice did the cleaning leaving evidence behind in the pan and ALL over the countertops. Every inch of the pan, sink, countertop, stove, and island had a trail of mouse droppings. I could literally follow the path it took through my kitchen from the trail. It was disgusting!!! From then on, I was on a mission to kill the mouse or mice that created this aftermath in my kitchen. He or they also had eaten their way through our pantry a few days prior and left remnants of chocolate chips and flour...another mess to clean up. Luckily, the next morning our mouse in the house was taken care of and since then we haven’t had a problem. Although, Grant swears he saw a mouse last week running around downstairs…this time we are armed and ready to take it on before it makes a mess!
I have saved the best story for last. It is the best because it makes me cringe every time I think of it, and I hope it is the only time I will ever have to experience this living creature. It is also something I wasn’t prepared to handle when I moved to a house in the country. Like every harvest season, Grant comes home very late and I go to bed without him. One night this fall, I went downstairs to take Dudley outside one last time before we both went to bed. As the dog and I walked into Dudley’s room, Dudley stopped and looked at something slithering on the floor. Yes, I said slithering!!!! (Writing about it now gives me the chills!) I had to look twice as I thought, ‘That looks like one of Luca’s toy snakes. Wait, I’m not at my dad’s house! Holy **** (insert four letter word there), it’s a real snake and it’s moving…and it’s in my house!!!!’ With that thought, I grabbed Dudley and put him in a room out of harm, and called Grant in hysterics. I was around the corner making the phone call because I couldn’t even look at the thing, and Grant asked, “Are you sure it’s a snake?!” With that, I wanted to respond, “No, it’s a cat!!!” but instead I said, “Yes, and it’s moving!” He then asked, “Well, where is it now?” and I said, “It’s in Dudley’s room, but I can’t even look at it.” With that, he reminded me, “You need to make sure it doesn’t slither away somewhere and then you won’t be able to do anything about it.” So, I had to go back where it had moved a few feet towards the wall and figure out what the heck to do with this snake. Grant advised that I kill it or figure out someway to capture it and put it back outside. For the next five minutes while keeping my eye on it, I found a shoe as a weapon, pulled my hoodie over my head (like that really would protect me), covered my hands with the sleeves of my sweatshirt in case it decided to bite me, and struggled to get enough guts to start pounding the life out of it. I thought, ‘If I don’t kill it and put back outside it’ll just find it’s way back in. If I try to kill it, it may bite me or it may not die.’ The best solution, I thought at the time, was to try to kill it with the shoe, which was the worst weapon of choice. As it curled up and started to hiss at me, I slammed the shoe down on it over and over and over and over again until it looked lifeless. Then, I ran to get a broom and tried to move it to see if it was still alive and it started to move again. Basically, the shoe helped to beat the crap out of it, but it didn’t kill it. At least it was moving slower than it had before, so with the end of the broom, I pushed it into a bucket, covered the top of it with a piece of paper (in case it decided to jump up at me), and ran outside as fast as I could to the edge of our grass and tossed it out into the corn field. I then shook every part of my body in case it landed on me instead of flying into the field. Completely grossed out, I ran back inside, called Grant, and told him that the next time we have a snake in our house, he was going to take care of it, even if I had to put a bucket over it and sit on it until he got home. I still don’t know how I had enough courage to start pounding it with a shoe, but take my advice, when you want to kill a snake, use a sharp edged shovel and not your running shoe!
Here’s to a 2009 that is filled with pleasant experiences with living things!