Category Archives: High Reaches

My Way of Country Living

Spring Grass Enticing Goats

Spring is arriving here in the Ozarks. The result is spring grass enticing goats away from their hay trough and hay.

I will admit the new grass is juicy (for grass) and lush, much tastier (to them) than hay. Those creatures who eat grass are glad to see it. I don’t eat grass and I’m glad to see it.

spring grass enticing goats to race across the pastures
Often time out with my goats is relaxing. They scatter around grazing. I find a good place to sit. Not now. Now my Nubians make sure I get lots of walking in trying to keep up with the herd.

The goats and I have been at odds over their hay all winter. For many years I bought nice alfalfa/grass mix hay and the goats loved it.

My hay supplier retired. I now feed grass hay. Not just any grass hay. This is hay baled from the fields the goats graze all spring, summer and fall.

Still, it is just grass hay with a liberal mix of various other plants commonly referred to as weeds. Goats prefer these so-called weeds to grass.

That is the problem.

grass getting goat kid tall
Many kinds of pasture grasses bloom and seed in the spring. With abundant rain, my pastures are lush with grass growing tall. The goat kids will soon have grass seed stalks towering over them. Hopefully there is warm dry weather then to put up a spring cutting of hay.

The goats busily nose through the hay in their feeder picking out the weeds and rejecting the grass. I look out to see their feeder appears full of hay.

No goat is eating it. They are standing there waiting.

I bring in the tractor to haul out the bedding. I toss the hay from the feeder onto the floor as the new bedding. I refill the hay trough. The goats begin nosing through it.

With spring grass enticing goats out into the pastures they are even more picky. The hay sits there waiting. A few mouthfuls disappear.

spring grass enticing goats
I walked out to take pictures of my Nubian goats to update the My Goats gallery. The whole herd was busy snatching grass as they walked along trying to sample grass from the entire pasture. Most of the pictures are of goats with their heads down in the grass.

Rainy days make the hay disappear. Half of it does end up as bedding as goats are notoriously sloppy eaters.

There won’t be enough rainy days to make all of the hay left in the barn disappear. However, with spring grass enticing goats and other livestock and wild creatures, those bales are left sitting there. They will not be more palatable next fall than they were last fall.

Maybe I will put up a sign at the feed store and find out if anyone else wants this left over hay. Then the goats can complain about the new hay in the fall.

Read more about goats in the novel “Dora’s Story”, a biography of a goat and her owners.

Weathervane Forecasting

Modern weathervanes come in lots of fancy shapes for decorating roofs. Before modern weather reports weathervane forecasting was the main reason for this roof adornment.

Several years ago we worked on the house roof and added a small cupola over the garage and dormers over the main house to improve the looks of the house. The cupola was a perfect place for a weathervane.

The key to weathervane forecasting begins with careful alignment of it to the points of the compass. Next comes careful observation.

warm weather weathervane forecasting
The weathervane arrow is pointing south. This usually means warmer weather is blowing in. Warm and cold are relative terms as 60 degrees in August is cold and warm in February.

We didn’t expect much from our weathervane. The house is nestled between three hills with a valley in front of it. The hills shield the house from the wind.

Still it was interesting to note which direction the wind was coming from. Patterns began to emerge.

The expectation was for cold winds to come from the north and warm winds from the south. Most of our big storms come from the west.

Observations showed the winds rarely came from true north or south. This past winter the warmer winds came primarily from southeast and colder winds from the southwest.

cold weather weathervane forecasting
Get out the coats. The wind is out of the northwest and has ice in its teeth. The weathervane arrow gives the wind direction. The larger tail catches the wind turning the arrow.

When really cold temperatures started coming in, they came from the west veering to the northwest. Frigid temperatures did pour down from the north.

I’ve gotten into the habit of doing some weathervane forecasting. On days the radio forecast tells a change is coming in, I note the wind direction. When the direction changes, the temperatures change a short time later.

The radio isn’t great for forecasts as they assume most people watch television. We don’t. Weathervane forecasting works for quick notes and to see the trend for the day.

Our April snow came in on a northwest wind. It’s leaving with a southeast wind. My garden, goats, chicks and I are hoping the southeast wind will blow for many more days.

Nature observations can lead to creating poetry like haikus found in “My Ozark Home” now available as a free download for a limited time.

Rhode Island Pullets Arrive

I grew up with Rhode Island chickens from the time they were taller than I was. This is the first time in many years I’ve ordered Rhode Island pullets for my flock.

These are deep red brown chickens with nice personalities in my memory. They were a heavier chicken. They would get broody in the spring.

Rhode Island pullets
As soon as I open the gate to the chick yard, I hear the patter of tiny feet. Looking in the door windows I can see the chicks standing in the corner. If I crouch down by their area and talk to them, my Rhode Island pullet chicks begin to scatter and get back to eating, drinking, sleeping or running around. While the pullets are young, I put up cardboard barriers to keep them in a small area easier to heat. Once the pullets feather out part way and start acting like they want more space, I will take the barriers down. I do use layers of newspapers on the floor. Each layer is three sheets thick. There are ten or twelve layers on the floor. When the top one is dirty, I can roll it up and the chicks have a clean floor with a minimum of stress to them.

That isn’t true with modern strains. People liked this chicken, but didn’t want them to get broody. They wanted eggs. Their size got smaller.

This year getting any chicks in April has been a challenge. The cold weather in February blasted most of the hatching eggs for Cackle Hatchery so their order list said June.

I like getting pullets in April. The weather is supposed to be warmer. The pullets have all summer to grow up. And they start laying in the fall dropping eggs in the nests all winter.

Nap time for Rhode Island pullet
In years past I’ve started the chicks in a large box in the house. This is the best way in very cold weather. Then I come into the room to find all the chicks laying down sleeping. Young chicks spend a lot of time sleeping. This pullet forgot to lay down. Occasionally this will precede a chick nose diving into the floor.

Through a local feed store, my Rhode Island pullets arrived this week. They are a happy, healthy bunch safely quartered in the chick house under a heat light.

The chicks think the light is too warm. I keep moving it up and focusing it so the chicks have most of their area to enjoy without the, what they consider, excessive heat.

I would reduce the wattage of the bulb except for the weather forecast. A cold front is moving through. The chicks and I will continue to adjust the heat until the cold goes away again.

Rhode Island pullets at drinking area
Over many years I’ve accumulated several chick items. Glass quart water founts are one of these. I like the glass as it is easy to clean. The quart jars are replaceable. While the chicks are small, a single one is enough. Later I will add a second. Once those are emptied in a day, I will go to a small metal fount. Like other birds, chicks fill their beaks with water then lift their heads to swallow.

One of my standard cochin hens is setting on a few eggs. They may hatch. It’s the first time in years I’ve let a hen set eggs. She is happily moved into a cat carrier so the other hens and local black snakes can’t bother her. The door is propped open all day.

My Rhode Island pullets may be joined by some Easter Egger cross chicks in a couple of weeks.

Hazel Whitmore prefers Buff Orpingtons in “Old Promises“.

Joy of Being Young

As I get older, it gets harder to remember what it was like to be a child. Watching the goat kids reminds me of the joy of being young.

Nubian doe High Reaches Agate feeding buck kid
Any youngster knows you need plenty to eat to produce all that energy. Nubian doe High Reaches Agate stands patiently for her buck kid to drink plenty of milk before he bounds off to play.

Adult goats and I are alike in some ways. There are serious matters to attend to.

goats going out to pasture
Nubian doe High Reaches Agate is the last doe going out to pasture and the one kids follow when they get left behind as she always answers their calls.

For the goats those matters are mostly eating and raising their kids. For me they include eating, although I do less of that each year, taking care of my livestock which is family, writing, taking pictures and walking.

goat kid showing joy of being young
Those old does may stay at a walk, but not the kids. High Reaches Pamela’s buck kid shows off his racing form speeding by High Reaches Agate.

Kids aren’t burdened with these serious matters so much. Eating is important. The rest of life is exploring and playing. Everything is new. Everything has the potential for play.

shy goat kid hides behind Nubian doe High Reaches Rose
Nubian doe High Reaches Rose is busy eating the lush spring vegetation. This is the main occupation of the adult goats. Her buck kid is checking out the camera from his safe vantage point before daring to join the other kids.

Walking out to pasture the herd passes an old, broken sycamore log. We adults tromp by. Kids stop to nibble on the crumbling wood, jump on top and race along in their joy of being young.

Leaping goat kid shows joy of being young
Forget being shy. High Reaches Rose’s kid takes off leaping to race away with the other kids.

The south pasture is a long walk. We adults set a steady pace, stick to the path and focus on our destination.

enjoying life is part of the joy of being young
After a strenuous play session, these two buck goat kids are taking a break. They do try to keep an eye on where the herd is going as they hate to be left behind.

Kids stop to check out every plant, rock, fallen branch and blowing leaf along the way. When they get left behind, they race up leaping, bucking and kicking in their joy of being young and filled with energy.

goat kid antics show the joy of being young
This littlest buck kid is no slouch when it comes to kicking up his heels.

Out in the pasture the adult does get to work eating grass and weeds. This early in the season the grass, even the fescue is lush and tender. The only sound is the tearing grass blades.

cavalcade of goat kids shows joy of being young
The herd is drifting down into the creek bed on its way to the pasture gate. The slope is a perfect place for goat kids to race and leap down leaving their more sedate mothers behind.

Kids nibble on this plant and that. They sprawl out to sleep. They run up the hill and descend kicking up their heels.

goat kids on tree stump
Goat kids find many uses for an old, weathered tree stump. It’s good to nibble on. It’s good to standing on. Given some time, it’s good for playing king of the mountain on.

By the end of the afternoon the herd approaches the bridge on the way back to the pasture gate. The kids sometimes lead, sometimes follow. The does walk onto the bridge, cross and start toward the gate.

Goat kids playing on gym
These young goat kids still do more sliding down the gym ramp than running or jumping. In another week that will change.

Kids check out the creek banks, the bridge planks, the water below, the rock slope beside the bridge. Inside the barn lot the gym is waiting for more chances for the kids to play.

The does take this as the way things are. I feel memories stir reminding me of the joy of being young.

Goat kids are part of the action in “Capri Capers“.

Goat Kids First Day Out

Pasture grass is green and lush and calling the goats to come out to graze on something tastier than hay. For new mother goats that means a goat kids first day out.

March kids have an advantage in the Ozarks. The grass may be growing, but it is still short. There is enough of it to keep their mothers from wandering very far. The does are impatient with staying in. They want that goat kids first day out.

Nubian kids on their first day out
Nubian doe Valerie is the nervous wreck. All day she calls and hunts to see if her kids are still near her. The kids think their first day out is time to race around and explore.

I choose this day carefully as young kids are not very good at following yet. They also get tired quickly, lie down and go to sleep. That means I get to go hunting up kids.

The perfect day is actually an afternoon. The herd has been out all morning and have settled down to serious grazing. The new mothers are anxious to join them.

Nubian buck kid playing
My Nubian goat kids play a lot on the gym and in the barn lot. But getting out, especially the first time out on the pastures is time to really cut loose. Besides the kids must keep up with the does.

The first step is to wake up all the kids and get them down to the gate with their mothers. This is usually not very hard to do.

Next I open the pasture gate so the does can go out. They mill around calling their kids. The kids ignore them. Augustus sneaks up hoping to slide out the gate.

Once the does are out the gate, the kids can be shoved out underneath. The barrier below the gate is gone now leaving a foot gap at one end.

Augustus looks on disappointed as I fasten the gate.

smallest goat kid checking out bridge
The old planks on the bridge have gaps between them. Down below the creek races along. This smallest of Nubian doe Valerie’s twin bucks is watching the water while deciding to cross the bridge to where the herd now is.

Now the does and kids need to join the herd. I go around and out another gate to call the does. Some of them manage to get their kids to follow them toward the bridge. There are a couple of hold outs.

Finally I have carried the hold outs to the bridge. All the kids and does are at the bridge, get across and follow me up the stream bank toward the herd.

goat kids checking the bridge out on their first day out
The herd went across. Their mothers are standing on the far bank calling. Still these Nubian buck kids are hesitating about crossing the bridge with the creek racing below them. In another day or two these same kids will race across the bridge.

Now comes fun time for the kids. This goat kids first day out is sunny and warm. Their mothers are right there.

The kids spend the afternoon racing around. They are still excited and busy playing a couple of hours later when the herd comes back across the bridge to go to the barn for the night ending this first day out for the kids.

The goats in Capri Capers lead men on a merry chase across the hills.

Buck Year Totally

My spring kidding season is over, I think. This year’s score is: bucks 5, does 0. It is definitely a buck year.

This is also a year of mostly single births. I don’t really mind as I hate selling the kids. This is more complicated now since the local internet classified site closed down.

Nubian buckling of High Reaches Pamela
Spots are no surprise on this little Nubian buck born March 12. Both High Reaches Pamela and High Reaches Augustus have spots. This intrepid little boy followed his mother out to pasture at a week old and every nice day since.

Another reason I don’t mind a buck year is that I no longer keep any new herd members. Kidding season used to be a time to look over the kids and decide on one or two to keep. Now I know all of them are for sale.

Nubian buckling of High Reaches Valerie
High Reaches Valerie had twin Nubian bucks on March 21. This one was up and nursing in a half hour, follows his mother into the barn lot and loves sleeping in the sun.

Why would I stop adding to my herd? There are several reasons. Top of the list is my age and that my girls have no place to go if I am no longer able to care for them.

Nubian buckling of High Reaches Valerie
Smaller than his brother, this Nubian buck born March 21 has had a challenging time. He had trouble learning to nurse, got chilled the first night. Sleeping in the sun was just the thing to warm up. He knows how to nurse and practices on any doe who stands still and doesn’t notice him.

My High Reaches herd has been with me for over 45 years now. All of my herd members were born here. They are like family.

A second reason is the amount of work my herd entails. Younger people don’t get it. The work, even if the amount stays the same, gets harder each passing year over the age of sixty.

Nubian buckling of High Reaches Agate
High Reaches Agate surprised me with this little Nubian buck March 23. He was up doing fine when I found him. He has brown liver spots so will probably have white spots in a month or so. In the meantime he is already staking out his favorite nap spots in the barn.

A third reason is being tired. Dairy stock requires care at least twice a day every day all year round. I no longer have anyone to spell me for even a single milking and haven’t for a number of years now.

Younger people don’t get this part either. As a person gets older, they need less food. This isn’t because children grow up and move out. It’s because our bodies slow down. I no longer need a refrigerator full of milk and cheese.

Nubian buckling of High Reaches Rose
High Reaches Rose was supposed to be bred, but didn’t look it. Still, she dropped this Nubian buck kid on March 23. He has bold white markings, no spots with brown highlights. He is curious and goes exploring whenever he can.

For those goat owners with growing herds a buck year is a problem. The main market for those bucks is the meat market.

For me such a year is par for the course.

Read more about raising goats in Dora’s Story and get a free ebook now.

Waiting For Kids To Arrive

Kidding seasons here are difficult anymore. Few, if any, kidding dates are definite. So March and April are spent waiting for kids to arrive.

With only fourteen does, having kidding dates should be simple. When a doe I want bred comes into season, Augustus gets to visit.

Pest, one of two wethers, took care of that idea last fall. He found he could open Augustus’ gate. This was fun.

There is a spring hook on the latch. One time was my fault as I was in a hurry and forgot to latch it. Another was sort of my fault as I was going to let everyone out to pasture in a half hour and didn’t latch it.

Then there was the board that fell off. Augustus is a big buck, around 200 pounds. He still managed to squeeze through that foot high hole.

Nubian buck kid reward for waiting for kids
Nubian doe High Reaches Pamela was first in the waiting for kids game my does are engaged in this spring.

So now I am watching my does. Which ones are bred? Some have become obvious with their bulging sides and swelling udders. Others are maybes. Some still cycle and are definitely not bred.

Pamela has had a buck kid. She is a happy mother goat most of the time. Wet weather has kept the herd in so she has lots of company. The kid is now old enough to be out with the herd.

Agate should be next. Of course she is past her due date which I had carefully written down. Of course she looks like any time. I check her over every milking time, but am still waiting for kids to arrive.

Valerie is supposed to be due after Agate. She is now looking like she may have her kids before Agate. And that leaves Spring and Rose to watch and wonder if and when.

This waiting for kids to arrive was not supposed to happen this year. I replaced the gate posts that had rotted off. I fixed the fences. I thought I fixed the buck pen.

The good part is seeing pretty, healthy kids. Maybe next season I can have all the due dates written down.

Kidding season can be chaotic especially for first time goat owners as in “Capri Capers“.

Morning Dove Breakfast Crowd

There were no doves when we moved here. Now the morning dove breakfast crowd is ready and waiting every morning.

One of the black walnut trees back from the bird feeder has two big horizontal branches. The doves line the branches basking in the early morning sun and watching for food service to arrive.

morning dove breakfast crowd waiting
The morning doves begin to arrive shortly after sunrise. The numbers increase until there are 18 to 24 birds lining the branches. They watch as the feeder trays are put out then descend on the feeder shoving their way into the crowd.

Doves are ground birds with feet like chickens, made for walking more than perching. The doves moved in after the pastures were cleared out of most of the brush that had moved in.

The bird feeder with its broad tray area is perfect for doves as they can land and walk around sampling the various offerings. Their favorites are the sunflower seeds and the milo.

morning dove breakfast crowd checks for fallen seeds while waiting
The sunflower tray is usually about empty at night so the leftovers, mostly shells are dumped on the ground below the feeder shelf. Some of the morning crowd checks for any good ones.

At least there is supposed to be room. During the winter the morning dove breakfast crowd fills the feeder until they seem to stand on top of one another.

During the spring and summer the crowd thins as the males get more belligerent. The numbers stay high as the doves are busy raising young doves.

Mammals are known for feeding their young with milk. The pigeon family also feeds their young on a type of milk produced in their crops. This seems to influence their seed choice.

Corn is not favored. Over the winter the blue jays eat the corn. All summer the corn is left in the bowl. The doves toss it around searching for and eating the milo. This mix is a hen scratch containing both.

morning dove
Morning doves have feet more adapted to walking than to perching. They are smaller and more slender than the common rock dove better known as a pigeon. They form semi permanent pairs and both parents incubate the eggs and raise the young.

The morning dove breakfast crowd may start by gorging at the bird feeder. They later scatter into flocks feeding other places.

When I go walking out along the creek, there will be a whirr of wings as a flock will take off. If I walk up the ravine behind the house, the same whirr greets me. It is hard to sneak up on a flock.

The best way to see these birds is to get up early enough to see the morning dove breakfast crowd.

Feeding wild birds is one essay in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.

Old Barn Still Standing

How old is my barn? We’re not sure. The original part of the house was built around 1910, so it is an old barn.

Like the house, the barn has been renovated numerous times. Like the house, these renovations were cobbled together.

The original part has piled rocks as a foundation. The walls had no braces, only frames held together with upright oak boards. Oak is one tough wood.

Old Barn
As lumber ages, it dries out and shrinks. The roofing tin covers the gaps between the boards making the barn less drafty. The roof sags a bit in the center as the old barn is starting to settle. The tin is newly tacked down as this winter would have blown some of it off. It is a challenge in making due with what is here.

There was a lean to section. Originally it was probably used for the tractor and other equipment. One of the renovations was to put in a cement floor with trough along the outer side and wall it in. Water pipes were included.

The water pipes are long gone. The doors where hay was dumped out into a hay trough are still there. The cement is still there. Evidently it was used for dairy cows.

Hogs were moved in later and hog doors were cut into the outer wall. Those are still there too. The goats open the hooks regularly although the doors no longer really open.

The oldest section of the barn has a wood floor about a foot up off the ground. Pieces of the floor boards are missing as is one side of the barn used in a house renovation to put barn wood on the walls. The wall is now plywood and roofing tin. Plywood covers the floor holes.

Nubian buck High Reaches Augustus in his pen
Snow blew into the buck pen during the snow storm. It sat in a pile along the wall for ten days before melting. My Nubian buck High Reaches Augustus was locked in a pen inside the barn keeping a bit warmer. He was very glad to get back into his own place with room to move around. He expects dinner.

At first we planned to tear the thing down and replace it with a new one. Such plans are easily put off for one reason or another. The new barn was never built.

There is no point in building that new barn now. The last of my herd is slowly dwindling as my adults will live out their lives here until they die. The youngest, High Reaches Valerie, is now three.

The old barn is still standing. It is getting shaky and, if the next people here want to raise livestock, they will have to build that new one. In the meantime I’m hoping this one outlasts my goats.

Old farms have old buildings like the old house Hazel Whitmore moves into in “Old Promises“.

Gardening Season Here Again

Seven inches of snow just melted. Temperatures were below zero. Still, gardening season is here again.

In some ways the season never ends. Seed catalogs and orders occupy January. I grow mostly the same vegetables, same varieties every year. However, there are so many other things in the catalogs, something new is added possibly for only that year or maybe a permanent addition.

plastic over raised bed lengthens gardening season
Winter and spring are windy times. This year I’m trying a tie down system to keep the plastic over the raised garden bed from being blown apart. Baling twine is looped on one hook inserted between the rocks, tossed over the plastic and secured to a hook on the other side. Twine going over the front and back are secured to the two heavy pipes. The plastic is staying in place. It is difficult to get inside to plant and to water. It does work better than laying pieces of cattle panel onto the plastic.

February begins gardening season for me. My raised bed is again operational. It’s full of dirt waiting to grow vegetables.

Isn’t February too cold?

The plastic draped over the raised bed turns it into an unheated greenhouse. The air inside on a sunny day reaches summer temperatures. The rocks hold the heat for some of the night.

Spinach is supposed to go in about Valentine’s Day here in the Ozarks. I’m not too enthusiastic about working outside in snow and cold. I waited.

raised bed lengthens gardening season
The metal liner is working well for keeping the soil inside the raised garden bed. The plastic was pulled away for several rains to soak the dirt. Now the spinach seeds are in and the problem will be keeping the dirt moist as the raised bed does dry out quickly.

Now the ground is clear. The sky has been clear for a few days. My spinach seeds are planted.

This year I’m trying a new variety, Noble, is addition to the Bloomsdale Longstanding. The bed is eight feet long and I put in a double four foot row of each.

Spinach likes cool to cold temperatures. If it isn’t started early here in the Ozarks, it bolts as soon as it comes up. And the seeds will germinate in forty degrees.

My next challenge will be keeping the rows watered. The plastic does a great job protecting the raised bed, but it is difficult to open up. I keep the plastic tied down because of the wind.

What’s next?

Snow peas and sugar snap peas go in next week. Greens go in the next week. Potatoes go in in mid March. Tomato and pepper seeds get started in the house the end of March. Gardening season is heating up.

As usual, I’m not ready. The pea trellises aren’t up yet. The tomato cages aren’t up. The weeds are up. I’ll just pretend I am ready and go from there.

Science investigations and lots of pumpkin fun is in “The Pumpkin Project“.

Goats In Snowy Weather

Winters in the Ozarks have been mild for several years. This year left my goats in snowy weather and below zero cold.

This was normal when we lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Preparations for bone-chilling cold were done all year. Old blankets were piled. Baling twine was ready.

When the snow fell, the barn doors were closed. The barn walls were thick as was the bedding. Shivering goats had blankets draped over them and tied on.

Such cold is rare in the Ozarks. Snow is never waist deep and never stays for six months. The pile of blankets got packed away.

Instead a pile of sweatshirts was kept in the barn. These were from local thrift stores. The arms are cut short. The front has an elongated half moon cut out. The arms have holes for tiny legs and the cuff cut short for kids.

The pile sat on the shelf unused. There were a few days when my goats ended up with snowy weather. The temperatures were in the upper twenties. The weather warmed up in a few days.

This year the forecast warned about a polar vortex headed down bringing snow and cold. Augustus was moved into a hastily set up pen inside the barn. The doors were draped with sheets and blankets to cut the wind.

goats sunning in snowy weather
Sweatshirts help my goats keep warm in cold weather, but basking in the sun is the best way to warm up. The goats blame me for the snow. I wish that was true as I could make it go away right away.

A total of seven inches of snow fell. The goats were locked in the barn for almost a week.

Bored goats find ways to amuse themselves. They are starving to death. The hay trough is full. They argue with each other. They huddle up overnight.

Water is carried to the barn several times a day. It sits ignored, if the temperatures are warm enough to leave it. Water is demanded after evening grain.

Finally the sun comes out and the barn door is opened up. Heads stick out. One by one the goats come out to bask by the barn.

Goats in snowy weather are a lot of work. Then comes the clean up.

Find out more about goats in “Goat Games“.

Ozark New Year Surprise

Winter weather usually shows up in the Ozarks between Christmas and New Year’s. But this was a new year surprise.

The forecast was for rain and a wintry mix. Winters have been warmer for several years now. Instead I woke up to the aftermath of an ice storm.

One of the librarians so wanted snow. Snow is lovely – in pictures. For those of us with livestock snow is a headache. Ice is even worse.

This new year surprise was a quarter inch coating of clear ice coating everything outside. There had been some wind, so the ice coated the sides of buildings normally protected from the weather.

frozen gate latch after an Ozark ice storm
The ice built up on the chicken yard fence and froze the gate latch to the fence. It didn’t matter much as the chickens had no intentions of going outside into the cold and ice.

Luckily I have the habit of using lead ropes to tie gates closed whenever wet weather is around in the winter. I hate climbing over gates frozen shut, especially with a bucket of milk.

Stones, broken branch pieces and hammers work well to break off a quarter inch of ice. A hand warms the rest and the hook opens. The barn door was broken loose and opened.

Next came feeding the chickens. The gate hook was frozen to the fence. A handy piece of branch knocked it loose.

The water fount took the hammer to knock the ice off. I always take it apart for the night in the winter. The pump handle was iced shut and had to be knocked free.

icy hand pump is new year surprise
Luckily the ice wasn’t too thick as it did try to freeze the pump handle shut. This pump in on an old dug well and I use it to get water for the chickens and goats.

The chicken house was a challenge. The ice had blown over onto the door and sealed it for the first time I can remember. The hammer freed the hinges and pried the door open.

The goats were not impressed with the new year surprise. Even with full hay troughs and normal feed rations, they are starving to death and mob the milk room door.

Last year was such an eventful year. I was hoping for a more laid back version this year. Maybe the new year surprise storm is a last gasp from last year, not a harbinger of the new one.

Goats can be challenging. Meet Capri and her herd in “Capri Capers”.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

I read a wide variety of books over the year mostly from the stacks and bookshelves in my house. “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery was exception, a review I ran across that sounded interesting.

I grew up near the Pacific Ocean and collected shells, studied about shells so the word octopus in the title caught my attention immediately. The subtitle indicating this was more than about the octopus, but about consciousness in all creatures intrigued me.

So many people grow up considering octopuses (that is the correct plural) monsters in a class with bats and snakes. After all, they are so alien with their eight legs, lack of a skeleton and constantly changing colors and shapes. They make wonderful monsters in sea tales.

California beach
People play at the edges of the ocean, but rarely venture into its depths. Being creatures of the land, the ocean is a strange and frightening, even deadly place. The creatures living along the ocean’s edges seem alien. Those of the depths are mistaken for monsters. Some creatures like starfish are so simple they have no real brain. Others like the octopus are far more complex. All seem to have some level of consciousness and ability to learn.

What I wasn’t prepared for is how really alien the truth about octopuses is. “The Soul of an Octopus” reveals them to be highly intelligent.

Science has long dismissed other creatures as having no real consciousness, inferior intelligence and lacking real emotions. Anyone who has raised livestock knows this is false. However, having empirical observations and proof are two different things.

Long ago my family had a cat, Chief Grey Foot, with a sense of humor. She would tease my mother’s Irish Setter Sam and race away with Sam in hot pursuit. Chief would stop, letting Sam roar by, climb the fence and sit there laughing at the dog now frantically looking for her. How do you prove a sense of humor in a lab?

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery
“The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery challenges the reader to examine and reassess what consciousness is expanding it to include other creatures.

How do you prove intelligence? My high school gave all students an IQ test at the beginning of the year. It was well known that students in inner cities scored much lower on these tests than those of us in the suburbs.

A group devised an IQ test using vocabulary familiar to those in the inner city. This reversed the results. The IQ test was biased toward those with a certain vocabulary.

How do you test intelligence for a creature far different than a person? A large octopus with a head the size of a watermelon can squeeze through a hole the size of an orange. It sees only black and white with its eyes and colors with its skin. It tastes with the suction cups on its arms. An octopus’ reality is the ocean, not land.

Reading “The Soul of an Octopus” has made me rethink both “The Carduan Chronicles” and the Planet Autumn series I am working on. How do I, a human, put myself into the consciousness and reality of alien creatures?

Challenge your long held beliefs about consciousness and read “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery.

Proud Standard Cochin Rooster

Almost a year ago there was a big ball of animated buff-colored fluff. This grew into a proud standard cochin rooster.

Those familiar with chickens or chicken catalogues know cochins as these eight inch tall bantams. They have lots of feathers making them look fluffy. There is little tail so their ends are rather rounded. They have feathers down their legs and fans of feathers over their feet.

standard cochin rooster
Standard cochins are slow to mature. Once the rooster does, he is a commanding presence.

The color pattern I really liked was like a barred rock chicken: black and white stripes. The bantams were on display at a county fair.

Bantams don’t do well in my hen house. Chickens are mean to each other. The top hen pecks the other hens. Each pecks on the hens below her.

The poor hen at the bottom is picked on by everyone. This is a pecking order. And bantams, being small, are at the bottom.

standard cochin rooster and hens
Mr. Pantaloons, my standard cochin rooster, parades around a group of hens who are too busy eating to notice him.

Thumbing through a chicken catalog many years ago I found cochins came in standard or big size too. I ordered some chicks.

Standard cochins are much bigger than even Buff Orpingtons in looks. Pick one up and much of the size is fluff.

These are gentle birds. They look like fluff balls on fluff balls to me as they walk around.

The last of my last cochins had died of old age. I ordered chicks last spring. Normally I order pullets when I have a flock rooster, but standard cochins only come straight run which means males and females are mixed.

Extra roosters are called dinner. Too many roosters harass the hens so they don’t lay many eggs. And this little buff standard cochin rooster was called dinner.

Somehow I never got around to having that chicken dinner. The rooster grew up. He is gorgeous.

two proud roosters
For now the Arcana rooster is top rooster. The standard cochin is still young and uncowed. The two eye each other warily when close generally choosing to stay far apart. The hens ignore them both.

The flock Arcana rooster is not impressed and tries to chase him. There was a pile of buff feathers near the coop the other day.

Mr. Pantaloons, my proud standard cochin rooster, took it in stride. After all, he is twice the size of his angry rival. They have an uneasy truce for now.

Chickens are a great 4-H project as they are for Hazel in “Mistaken Promises“.

Taking Cute Goat Kid Pictures

Having new goat kids in the barn is fun. They do grow up fast so taking cute goat kid pictures is important.

Getting such pictures during the winter is a challenge in my barn. The open doors are covered making the interior dark even when the lights are on.

Another challenge to getting those cute goat kid pictures is getting the kids to stand still and look at the camera long enough to take the picture. Nine out of ten pictures has some blurring in it, usually ears.

sleeping kid cute goat kid pictures
Young goat kids spend a lot of time sleeping. There is a bench in the barn perfect for kids to sleep under or in front of where it is near the wall. Nubian doe High Reaches Drucilla’s twins are tired and snoozing. It still takes several pictures to get one in focus as the barn is dark.

Yet another challenge is the size of the kids. They are around a foot tall. I may not be tall, but I am taller than that so it’s easy to look down on the kid for a picture when stooping down gives a better angle.

The goat kid finds a goat keeper holding a camera on his level irresistible. Face shots are cute when the face isn’t bigger than the frame. Lenses take better pictures when they don’t have stuff smeared on them.

I solve the darkness problem by setting the ISO up to 500 or taking the kid outside. That ploy brings the mother goat into play as she is not thrilled with anyone fooling with her precious babies. She places the kid on her far side away from the camera.

Nubian doe High Reaches Drucilla guarding her kids
The goat kids find the pasture fascinating. Nubians doe Drucilla is convinced some danger lurks and she is on the alert.

Sleeping kids are easy to get pictures of in dark places. And these can be cute goat kid pictures.

Outside in the sunlight or under bright overcast skies is the best for getting those cute pictures. Kids do stand still for a few seconds now and then. They do get busy and forget to walk up to the camera. Even mother goats get careless at times and forget to block the kid from the camera.

cute goat kid pictures are mostly luck
Nubian doe High Reaches Juliette and her buck kid are out in the pasture for the first time. She is gobbling grass like she is starving to death. He is checking out a fallen leaf.

The key to taking cute goat kid pictures is patience and having the camera with you whenever you go out to see the new kids.

Test your goat knowledge working puzzles in “Goat Games”.

Creating Alien Creatures

As November flows past, I am busy with National Novel Writing Month. My novel project is called “The Mounzz of Autumn” and for it I am creating alien creatures.

Personally I am a practical person. I live in this world and have trouble imagining a different one.

I am not alone in this. When I read science fiction or fantasy, I often recognize where the creatures, the customs and more came from.

The challenge is in creating a world and creating alien creatures that are different enough to take a reader out of this world. Where do I start?

I start with the story. As I write, I find the people and the creatures begin to take shape.

For the Planet Autumn books, and Mounzz is the second one, I started with an original creature. It comes in many colors. It is a grazer so it eats grass and lives in a meadow. It is a herd animal.

creating alien creatures takes imagination
I have no idea what this creature is supposed to be. It has always been a favorite knick knack to look at and wonder about. Now I finally have a possible identity for it: a mounzz.

What does a mounzz look like? The original story idea was based on “Troubles with Tribbles” from the original Star Trek series. That gives me soft and furry.

A high school friend gave me a knick knack of an imaginary creature that lives on my computer tower. It is humped with a long snout.

Recently I read a book by Stephen J. Gould called “Urchin In a Storm” and found urchin was the British term for a hedgehog. I looked up hedgehogs.

And I have a good idea what a mounzz looks like now.

However I am not done creating alien creatures as any world must surely have more than one animal living on it. Another one is the sylvan.

What is a sylvan? It is something like a wood rat with some attributes of a squirrel.

Then there is the artyfox. The Planet Autumn may not be Earth, but it needs predators to help keep the mounzz population in check.

Once I got started, creating alien creatures turned out to be rather fun.

November Kids Arrive

Weather is a battle between fall and winter. Days are growing steadily shorter. Then the November kids arrive to brighten up the season.

My first fall goat kids were accidents. The buck escaped in June. Nubians come in season all year.

I had always arranged for March and April kids as spring was moving in and the weather was warm enough to avoid popsicle kids. My does seem to prefer kidding about dawn. Newborn wet kids don’t do well in temperatures in the twenties or lower.

The weather has changed. Falls are a mixture of warm and cold times. Some of my does seem to prefer having their kids in the fall.

November Kids arrive as a Nubian doe
High Reaches Juliette had a little Nubian doe a few hours before this picture was taken.

And I have a couple of wethers who love to open the buck’s door. They have a knack for knowing when I neglect to latch the spring hook holding the bar in place.

Something I’ve noticed as more November kids arrive over the years is that the kids seem bigger and livelier than the spring kids. Perhaps this is because the does have been eating well all through their pregnancies.

Winter fare is mostly hay. The grass is like standing hay in the field. The acorns and persimmons are gone or too dirty to tempt my finicky eaters.

My does bred for March and April live on such fare. In addition they use some of what they eat to keep warm. The result seems to be smaller kids.

November kids arrive as a Nubian buck
High Reaches Juliette had this little Nubian buck a few hours ago. He is already a challenge for her to keep up with.

Once the November kids arrive the herd seems happier too. As the herd numbers dwindle, they like having those extra herd members.

Winter weather does keep the herd inside more often. However the kids have several places to go where the adult does have difficulty going. And the barn has more room with fewer goats occupying it.

This year two does were bred for November. The first November kids to arrive were a buck and doe pair. I’m waiting on the others.

Harriet has a wild time when her goats kid in “Capri Capers”.

Goats Grow Old Too

I have two folders of goat registration papers. One is thin and slowly growing thinner. But goats grow old.

The thicker folder is filled with papers of goats who have died. These papers go back over the forty-six years I have had Nubian dairy goats. I rarely look through these papers.

goats grow old and I remember Nubian doe Patty
Written due dates are often on the mark. Then there are the does who come early or late or the goat keeper gets sloppy. However it happened, when the goats came in one evening, High Reaches Miss Patience better known as Patty wasn’t with them. I checked the usual places and finally started walking up the ravine. It was getting late. I’m not sure why I kept going further than I thought she could possible be, but I did. And she was there backed against a fallen tree guarding her new triplets still damp and struggling to their feet. Newborns are small enough I could pick up all three. Patty followed me in complaining I had her precious kids.

On occasion I need to look up a pedigree and sort through these old papers. I read each name and try to pull up memories of each goat. It’s easier to pull those memories up if I look through my pictures of goats from the past.

Even seeing the pictures often doesn’t trigger memories unless there was something special about that goat. High Reaches Jennifer was my very first goat. I wrote about her in “For Love of Goats”. High Reaches Miss Patience was standing far up the ravine, much farther than I thought the goats ever went, by a fallen tree with her triplets.

High Reaches Isabelle went down with a bottle jaw from anemia from worms and had to be drenched with our special fortified liquids. She was five months pregnant and I pulled quadruplets. All of them survived. She lived for years after that.

More often I am so involved with the day to day of goat care, I don’t stop to remember. But goats grow old and make me remember.

goats get old and Nubian doe Trina has done so
High Reaches Daisy was a long suffering mother goat. Her kid Trina was a handful. Her favorite napping spot was on top of her mother even when she got too big. They looked a lot alike. both were excellent milkers, friendly, gentle goats. First Daisy grew old and died. Now Trina is old and has gotten thin. She still tries to keep up with the herd, even lead them from time to time. After she is gone, her daughter High Reaches Trina’s Flame will be in the herd for a time.

High Reaches Daisy’s Trina has been in my herd for many years. She has grown from a rambunctious kid to a mature doe and is now thin. She was never a herd boss, but is now the bottom goat lagging behind the herd as they go out and come in.

Goats grow old and so do people. How many times do we think about the people of the past? They too disappear into memory snapshots.

Those goats now in my herd are the last. As these goats grow old and die, my thin folder will empty. And I will be left with my thick folder and memories.

Hazel Whitmore’s class does a class project writing about the soldiers who died in various wars, many of them almost forgotten, in “Old Promises”.

Living Under Tyranny

All of us are living under tyranny – the tyranny of time. It’s inflexible rule is there every day, but seems more onerous than ever on the day the clocks change.

Clocks are necessary. I refer you to the book “Longitude” by Dava Sobel for why. One example is the fleet of victorious warships returning to port running aground and most of the sailors drowning because they lacked a reliable clock.

And clocks do rule so many people. Those who work must be there on time and can’t leave until the clock releases them. When I retired from teaching, I thought I had escaped living under tyranny as I took off my wrist watch and set it aside.

But time doesn’t live inside a watch.

living under tyranny of goats
Nubian doe High Reaches Pixie’s Agate looks and is sweet, but I better bring her breakfast on time, milk on time, let her out to pasture on time, let her in the barn to fresh hay on time and feed her dinner on time every day.

If you are in agriculture, time rules with an iron hand. You must plant on time, harvest on time or lose your crop. If you have livestock, breeding, weaning, milking and more must be done on time. These are done by the seasons and time of day which is the manifestation of time.

Our time is created by the rotation of the Earth. Part of the time we have day. Part of the time we have night. Because the Earth is tilted, the lengths of these change with the seasons.

And that brings us back to clocks. Someone came up with the idea that moving the clocks up an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall would save energy. So daylight savings time came into being.

Easter Egger chicken
Surely chickens aren’t tyrants. Except they are. They must be let out every morning and locked up every night or the flock will soon disappear as chicken dinner for the local wildlife. Eggs must be gathered everyday or they will spoil or get broken.

It doesn’t work. Instead it creates havoc for those whose days are ruled by the sun. My goats expect me at a certain time in the morning. They don’t read clocks. I must either be out of sync with the clock ruled world or face the battle of changing my goat’s timing.

It’s worse in the fall. Darkness now comes an hour earlier. Chores must begin an hour earlier. I must get done in town an hour earlier.

Living under tyranny when only time is the problem can be adjusted to. One useful thing Congress can do is stop the madness of moving the clocks twice a year.

Dora’s Story was written with a time line and only worked once the timeline was completed.

“On This Hilltop” by Sue Hubbell

Before the internet and blogging, people like Sue Hubbell wrote columns for newspapers. “On This Hilltop” is mostly from those newspaper columns.

Writing a newspaper column really helps a writer learn to focus on a topic, edit the piece down to meet a word count and choose topics to interest a wide variety of other people. I know because I too wrote a newspaper column for a few years and later rewrote and added to those columns and put “Exploring the Ozark Hills” together.

"On This Hilltop" by Sue Hubbell
Sue Hubbell wrote a newspaper column in the 1970s and these are selected pieces from those. They give a glimpse into the lives of people in the Ozarks.

“On This Hilltop” was written in the 1970s and reflects the times. That is part of the book’s appeal and a good reason to read it. This was the beginning of both the women’s movement and the environmental movement.

One of the final pieces is called “Factory Women” and discusses how the coming of factories to the rural South changed so much for women. They were the ones getting that weekly paycheck. They learned to take pride in themselves and become a voice to be reckoned with instead of little more than a shadow of their husbands.

City people haven’t changed much since then. They are often a source of amusement to rural people.

The Hubbells were beekeepers. Bees are interesting creatures and figure in several of the columns. It’s strange to think that they could set up an outyard – a set of beehives away from home – for a mere gallon of honey a year.

My herd of Nubian goats waiting for me
Cities have lots of attractions like museums and stores. One thing they don’t have is my herd and that is a good reason for me to stay or return home. Sue Hubbell may not have had goats, but her Ozark home still called her back from the big city as she relates in some pieces in “On This Hilltop”.

“On This Hilltop” does have several pieces I, as a former city girl, can truly relate to. I do remember going back to the city after several years in rural Arkansas and finding the city to be another world, one in which I no longer fit. And like Sue Hubbell, I was so very glad to return to my rural home, goats and chickens.

Explore the plants, animals and natural happenings of the Ozarks in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.

Writing Persistence Might Pay Off

I love to write. If I didn’t, I would have stopped long ago. Unfortunately, writing persistence doesn’t always pay off, usually doesn’t in fact.

Millions of books are published every year. Most of them are read by a handful of people and disappear. Even those published by the publishing companies can meet this fate. It is far more common for self published books like mine.

Goat Games cover
My first book was done for fun. It started as a lot of puzzles about goats, then added breed pages, interviews and more. It has been reworked to make it much more professional. It still contains lots of information about goats and goat care. I do hear some of the puzzles are more difficult than I intended.

Lots of websites, books, blogs and more offer to help writers avoid this fate. After all, one of the goals of writing persistence is for other people to read the resulting books.

First you need a website. Then you need an email list and a newsletter and advertising and more books written and book reviews and a social media presence and on and on and on. This takes time and money.

Broken Promises
My first novel took several tries. The first version was terrible. This one came together after my nephew, Brendan Smith, P1C Marines, was killed in Iraq. The novel turns on how Hazel Whitmore deals with the death of her father.

Rural Missouri is like many rural places in the country. Internet service is not very good and expensive for the poor quality substitute offered. The other option is public access spots in town.

Making the trip to town means losing a day to get needed chores and repairs done at home. Since I milk, I must go during the day so time is even more limited.

My second science book was completed last March. Using the same format as “The Pumpkin Project” it has puzzles, trivia, investigations, activities and stories about where people get and use and dispose of water.

The only parts of these recommendations I can manage are the website, Pinterest, Goodreads and more books. The rest is faith that my writing persistence will eventually pay off; that people will notice my books and try them out.

So far I have 14 books completed and self published. Each has sold a dozen or so. Each is offered in print and as an ebook. Dr. Rintz, my companion author, has five serious botany books sharing my website. All are available only in print.

"For Love of Goats" by Karen GoatKeeper
Tongue twisters are such fun. They are a great way to learn new vocabulary and learn to speak clearly. They are challenging. “For Love of Goats” is full of tongue twisters, short fiction and humorous memories about my own goats.

My writing persistence continues as I slog through “The Carduan Chronicles” which will end up as two books, one being the arrival of the Carduans and the second the beginnings of their colony.

For November I am reviving a project from years ago that I kept telling myself I would get back to and somehow never did. It is a series of six books about the Planet Autumn and very science oriented. “Prelude To Autumn”, the first book is in full rewrite now. The second book “Mounzz of Autumn” is slated for a draft in November.

Having survived illustrating “For Love of Goats” I decided to tackle my first picture book. It was conceived as a nature book about some Ozark creatures, but took a few different tacks in the watercolor illustrations.

For 2020 I completed two books. The science book called “The City Water Project” and the picture book called “Waiting For Fairies”. My 2021 plans are for “The Carduan Chronicles: Arrival”, “Prelude to Autumn”, Mounzz of Autumn”, “The Chemistry Project” and another illustrated book of which maybe three will get done.

And I’m still holding onto the wish that my writing persistence will pay off soon.

Old Gate Posts

There are plenty of old gate posts around here. Many were put in twenty years ago. They were pieces of old telephone poles.

Over the last few years these posts have gotten wobbly. I could sway them back and forth with one hand.

old gate posts fall over
The wind came by. The gate fell over. After twenty some years, the post had rotted through. The gate got pushed up and propped to look like the gate was still there.

Digging post holes in the Ozarks is not easy. Post hole diggers are only a way to remove dirt and gravel already knocked loose with a bar and sledge hammer. They aren’t even very good for that if the gravel is actually small rocks.

Arguing the way down two feet was only a matter of persistence twenty years ago. Now it is only sheer determination that makes the holes go down. Each one takes two days or more now.

old gate posts rot off
What eats away at a gate post? Water. Insects, Mold, Fungus. Even old telephone poles eventually give in to the relentless attacks.

So gates were argued with, lifted and moved inches at a time. Steel posts were driven down next to the posts and tied together to try to pull the gate posts up again.

The old gate posts kept getting worse. The pasture gate post was a source of nightmares as Augustus stood on the gate looking over at the does in the hill pasture.

Then one end of the clothes line fell over.

post hole digging nightmare
The original hole was dug twenty years ago to a depth of 30 inches. That is longer than my arm. And the post rotted off at ground level and is still pretending to be solid all the way down. The dirt and gravel must be dug out around the post piece as deep as necessary to allow the piece to be shoved. Putting water down the hole, a rope around the post piece and using a long metal post as a lever pulled the piece up.

It was time to get serious.

An unlucky young man came by looking for work. He was game to dig a couple of post holes. And he did dig two: the clothes line pole and the pasture gate.

He was well paid, but it wasn’t enough to entice him to dig the third post hole. So I tackled it as that gate had fallen over and was now propped up to appear to be there.

Old gate posts rot off in two ways. The pasture gate post disintegrated into wood chips easy to remove with the post hole diggers.

Old gate posts tied in
The old hinges wouldn’t come out of the old post. Twenty years ago we would have gotten them out. Now it’s easier to tie the old post to the new one and hand the gate. The gate is now standing and useable and that was the objective.

The clothes pole and the other post rotted off at ground level, but left solid post down the center to be laboriously dug out by hand.

Once the aches and pains subside, the joy of having working posts and a standing clothes line will make it seem worthwhile.

For 25 years we kept our place looking good. You can see it in “My Ozark Home“.

Lonely Landscapes Fallacy

I read nature essays and find lonely landscapes described as empty, vast wastelands. The writer is alone.

Most mornings I go out walking across empty fields. I am alone. I would never describe the fields as empty or lonely. They teem with life.

lonely landscapes
Looking deserted, this expanse of pasture hosts deer, wild turkeys, crows, sparrows, myriads of insects, hundreds of plants. It is never lonely.

What about a desert? Even the driest desert has occupants.

My fields are crowded with grass and various wildflowers commonly called weeds. The sweet everlasting plants are widely spaced, yet are not lonely. Insects visit. The breeze slips through the branches. An occasional turtle or armadillo wanders by.

pasture and trees
Inside that line of trees is a creek that gurgles, bubbles, tumbles and glugs as it flows over the gravel. Fish and more make the creek home. The trees host birds and give voice to the wind.

Even the hills reaching up from the pastures aren’t lonely. Standing underneath I listen to the wind whispering through the leaves. A few asters still bloom attracting insects. Spiders skitter across fallen leaves. Acorns drop bashing through the leaves and thunking onto the ground. Squirrels crash through the leaves.

Those lonely landscapes are only lonely for the person standing there alone.

sweet everlasting
Scattered across the field are individual sweet everlasting plants. Each is alone, yet not alone.

Most people are surrounded by other people now. When they aren’t, they are jabbering on their phones with others. Being out of communication with others is traumatic for many now.

When people do go out into those lonely landscapes, they seem to take their security devices with them. Music blares drowning out the wind, birds and insects. Sending selfies to friends and asking for their approval and opinions keeps them from looking and thinking about where they are.

lonely landscapes of woods
Take care walking through the woods up an Ozark hill. It’s easy to get lost. This tree growing out of a rock is an easy landmark for me. Standing under the trees lets me listen in on the wind, hear insects zip by, get scolded by a squirrel or watch a turtle walk by. The woods are never a lonely place.

Those empty of people fields filled with natural sounds are not lonely for me. I enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle of the house and barn. I am comfortable with my own thoughts. My walks are over too soon.

Those lonely landscapes are only lonely for people who find being alone disturbing. It is their own sense of loneliness being projected onto the landscape. That is a shame. Being alone with your thoughts is how you find out who you are because you have no one but you to explore it.

Haiku is one way to describe landscapes. Find them in “My Ozark Home.”

Waiting Game Gardening

Much of the garden is producing enough produce to bury the kitchen. But I am doing waiting game gardening.

Summer crops are frost sensitive. They like it on the warm side of hot. Cooler weather slows those tomatoes and peppers down.

Speckled Roman tomatoes play waiting game gardening
The tomato vines know the season is ending as leaves turn brown from the bottoms of the plants. The tops ignore this warning and are still lush and producing tomatoes. There are some tobacco hornworms (often confused and acting the same as tomato hornworms) eating the leaves plus a few tomatoes. Earlier in the season I picked them off to the delight of the chickens. Now they are reducing the amount of plant I will soon have to carry out of the garden. I grow Speckled Roman paste (pictured), Pineapple, Abe Lincoln and St. Pierre. Cherry tomatoes come up on their own every year.

The plants seem to know their days are numbered. Their tops are still lush. The under sides are dropping leaves. The pepper plants have a yellow cast.

Tomatoes and peppers are ripening at smaller sizes. The long beans are producing seeds when the pods are still short.

Mosaic Yard Long Beans
Yard long beans look like beans, cook like beans, but must be different somehow as wood chucks don’t like them and eat other kinds. The flavor is a bit spicy. They stir fry well. They are still producing well even as frost is sneaking up.

Smaller okra plants have finished for the season. Bigger ones are still producing.

And I am playing the waiting game gardening routine.

In the never-ending war with weeds, my attacks begin in the fall. The beds are cleared. Manure is spread. Cardboard is put down. Mulch is piled on top.

Burgundy Okra playing waiting game gardening
The okra is now over five feet tall and still producing. I grow Burmese (green), Jing (orange) and Burgundy (red) okra. They turned an okra dislike person into an okra fan. It freezes well, if blanched.

Pathways have cardboard put down.

But the summer garden is still growing. Winter squash vines are invading as much area as they can. Their squash is still gaining in size and shelling.

Winter weather and temperatures are coming in soon. Clearing and mulching is no fun when it’s cold.

Waiting game gardening is frustrating.

It’s not that I want winter to get here. I don’t. I’m a spring and summer person. I love planting the garden and watching it grow. Fresh food is delicious.

The abundance now is welcome. It does get tiring eating tomatoes and okra every day. So squash is added now and then.

Seeing a garden jungle of productive plants is satisfying. Clambering past the spreading vines of squash and tomatoes isn’t annoying.

Tahitian Melon
A friend gave me some year old Tahitian melons. The goats loved them so I put out some seeds late. The vines are huge and aggressive. The melons are big. Most are hooked. I’m hoping they will shell soon.

But I know these abundant days are numbered. I know I have a big garden that takes a long time to get settled for the winter. I want to get started.

I can’t. Not until the summer garden is gone for the year. And that is so depressing.

There is the problem of waiting game gardening. One part of me wants the garden to keep going. One part of me wants to put the garden to bed for the winter.

The weather will determine the end of this game.

Competitive gardening for the county fair is part of “Mistaken Promises” Hazel Whitmore series #3.