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We're magnets for the weird
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Third world living
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marlingardener's Blog

Farm living and laughing


We're magnets for the weird

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:30 pm

I think I've mentioned before that strange things, and strange people happen to us. Our ability to attract the off-balance had seemed to subside, but no, we are still magnets for the weird.

In the past week, two complete strangers have pulled into our driveway and offered to paint our barn. We have a metal barn (big advantage, it doesn't have to be painted)and, I checked, we don't have a "barn painters wanted" sign anywhere on the farm. The second guy, whom I felt vaguely sorry for, wasn't prepared for my questions. "What color are you planning on painting it? Are you going to use quality paint? And why do you want to paint our barn FOR FREE? I guess he planned on charging us for the pleasure of painting our barn. As we say here in Texas, he skedaddled.

Then, at 6:30 yesterday morning my husband was in the backyard firing the pistol to scare off a skunk. Husband, fully dressed, with a firearm, and a man comes up to our fence and apologizes for waking my husband. Okay, maybe he sleeps fully dressed with a pistol by his side. We don't. He is surely very trusting, because no way would we approach someone in the semi-dark after hearing gunfire!

He wanted to know where he was. My husband bit back the obvious answer, "leaning on my fence" and asked why he wanted to know. It seems he had wrecked his car and wanted to phone a tow truck, at 6:30 a.m. My husband told him what road he was on and the nearest intersection, then the guy wanted to phone his mother and have my husband talk to her! Husband refused and the man went back to his car. We are still trying to figure out how someone has a towing firm's phone number in the addresses on a cell phone. Perhaps not so much "how" as "why"?

So far today has been pretty normal (for us) and we hope it stays that way. We have looked at each other and asked, "why us?"

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Third world living

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:59 pm

Yes,I know we are in Texas, but lately it seems that we are living in a third world country. These are lessons we have learned:
Do not subscribe to a magazine or newspaper. We have a subscription for Time, which may or may not arrive. If we inquire at the post office, they tell us it was delivered. I guess we are to search our neighbor's mailboxes to find our magazine. We now read the magazine on-line, more often than not.
Do not expect phone calls to be returned. My husband picked up his prescriptions, and the blood pressure medicine was missing. The pharmacist said he'd received no prescription for it. Husband called the doctor's office and got the following message, "We are on vacation as of Jan. 3, and will return to the office on Jan. 9". He called in mid-September. After leaving a request for a return call which didn't happen, he called again today and finally got the prescription sent to the pharmacy.
Do not expect contracts to be honored. The Progressive Waste Solutions which is supposed to pick up our garbage has missed more pick-up days than they have hit. The latest is when our Tuesday pick-up was missed, the office told us it would be picked up by Wednesday afternoon, then by the "end of the week" (we should have asked what week, what year). This company is neither progressive nor a solution. I do agree they are a waste.
Do not plan on watching TV. A local station goes off the air frequently and their excuse is that they are having trouble with their transmitter. I missed bull riding yesterday, thanks to their transmitter. My ire was nothing compared to the football fans who missed three quarters of the game!
Do not expect someone to show up when they say they will, and these are not businesses, but neighbors. I call and ask if a dozen free eggs would be acceptable. Enthusiasm, I'll be there this afternoon. No show. I offer garden produce. Enthusiasm, I'll stop by on my way home. No show. Why don't they just tell us their time is more valuable than ours, and we can wait around for them to either find time to stop by or remember?
I love living on the farm, and am grateful that we can get by without mail delivery, garbage pick-up, and TV programs, but my husband's blood pressure is not being improved by the lackadaisical incompetence we keep running into!

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Getting rid of a rooster

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 5:40 pm

In May we received our order of 12 chicks. One has turned out to be a rooster, and since I don't want to candle eggs or get chased around the coop by a testerone happy chicken, we decided to give him away to someone who had a flock that needed "refreshing."

I made up a nice poster, complete with photo, to put up at the feed store. "Black Australorp Rooster, 8 weeks old. Free!
His offspring will increase your egg quality and quantity. Call xxx-xxxx to arrange for pick-up."

Some of the calls we received were strange, disturbing, and downright funny. One man asked if the rooster was a male, and if he was black. Well, yes, he is and he is.

Another caller wanted me to deliver the rooster. And yet another wanted me to meet them at the feed store with rooster in tow.

The last caller wanted the rooster, but wasn't sure when she could come, or her cousin could come, so I was to be sure to be home when they could stop by to get the rooster. I told her I had made other arrangements.

We now have a rooster who is pretty mellow, so far. I've named him Cogburn (anyone seen the movie True Grit?) He seems to be avoiding the mature hens, who have a tendency to sit on him when he gets obstreperous. Nothing like having a 12 pound hen sitting on you to calm you down!

I hope he stays friendly. If not, he will go somewhere else--there is a guy down the road that has free-range hens that Cogburn would just love!

Who would have thought in an area of farms it would be so darned difficult to give away a purebred, gently raised rooster with impeccable heritage?

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Grandfather's and daddy's garden tools, now mine

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2016 10:31 pm

We have all the needed garden tools, and a few that we bought on impulse and are still trying to figure out why! It seemed like a good idea at the time, but time has proven us wrong in several instances. Some are flimsier than we thought; some just don’t do the job intended; and some are just for those who garden in an 8” pot.

Our most-used and most-beloved tools are the old ones. Our hoe was used by my grandfather, and by my daddy. When I sharpen the edge, or feel the smooth wood under my hand, I feel connected to family. I can imagine my grandfather’s calloused hands on that hoe. He was a farmer who, when he retired, moved to town to a corner lot of about three acres. He immediately started a big vegetable garden. Daddy spent many an hour hoeing out weeds with that smooth handled hoe. Now I hoe weeds, make rows for planting, and think about grandfather and daddy.

Our hedge clips came down in the family also. I don’t know who bought them originally, but they have held up for over 60 years. I remember daddy clipping the spirea hedge along the driveway, using these clips. I used them as a teenager to shape the same hedge, and later a yew hedge in our upstate NY home. After we moved to Texas, the clips encountered plants they had never heard of, and the bolt holding the cutting edges together had to be replaced. That replacement, and the occasional sharpening, is all they have received over the years. The wooden handles fit my hands perfectly, and I can almost feel daddy’s hands on them.

Our garden rake is a relic of my grandfather’s, also. It is so sturdy it stands up to our “gumbo” soil, and makes a lovely planting row for vegetables. It also has raked up the bedding in the chicken coop and the residue of a hay bale in the pasture. It has a wooden handle (all of these tools were made before the invention of fiberglass) and the tines are still very “toothy” after all these years.

We have a shovel that came from my grandfather, and that daddy used. It has dug so many holes, moved so many perennials, and pried up so many large weeds! It gets sharpened on occasion, and is probably a good four inches shorter than it was originally due to the sharpening. It will still outlast me.

I care for these tools by cleaning, giving them an occasional sharpening, and rubbing some linseed oil into the wooden handles. That’s what grandfather did, what daddy did, and what I do. I also treasure them.



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Losing a company I loved

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 4:36 pm

Why do companies feel compelled to change their websites when there is absolutely nothing wrong with the current site?

I have ordered garden seeds from PineTree Seeds for years, and recommended them highly to fellow gardeners. Well, you guessed it, the website is now "new and improved" and Bill Gates would have trouble navigating it.

On Friday I struggled for two hours to place an order for 15 packets of seeds. Why I didn't throw in the trowel (pun intended) and order from someone else, I don't know. Guess I'm either stubborn or slow to catch on, or both.

Anyway, I finally was able to place my order, and got a confirmation the next day. I also sent an e-mail to customer service (a misnomer if there ever was one) and got an answer today. It seems that I don't know how to use a computer and the customer service representative gave me a brief tutorial on how to use their website. Well, gee thanks honey, but we have a monthly e-newsletter, and I help moderate a gardening forum, so I'm not exactly in the quill and ink group! When I tell you a link doesn't work, it doesn't work.

By now you have guessed that I am not going to order from PineTree ever again. I'm a patient woman, but there are limits and PineTree crossed that threshold on Friday. At least the door didn't hit me in the behind as I exited!



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Lonesome George in the morning

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 5:47 pm

We have a large Gum Bumelia tree in the backyard, and the very top of it is a favorite spot for Lonesome George.
Lonesome George is a Mockingbird. He starts his song about 5 a.m., when it's just getting light. He continues trying out his entire repertoire until noon. He sings, imitates other bird calls, does a fairly good imitation of a squeaky wheelbarrow (I must get some oil on that wheel), and even does a bad, but enthusiastic, train whistle. While running through his list of greatest hits, he flings himself in the air and flaps his wings.
There is a platform bird feeder under the Gum Bumelia, and other birds congregate there to have breakfast. George never joins them - he's too busy being the Karaoke King of our yard.
When I'm going out to the barn to say good morning to the hens and let them into their outside coop, I am serenaded by George. He also serenades us while we are picking beans, dead-heading roses, and watering the new apple trees. I was mowing the back yard and I could hear George doing his thing on top of the tree - over the mower sound! George has an admirable set of lungs.
We call him Lonesome because with all his beeping, squeaking, whistling, and flinging, he has yet to attract a mate. Female Mockingbirds are either very picky, or Lonesome George just isn't considered marrying material.
We call him George because that seems like a good name for a Mockingbird. Edward just didn't fit.


Mockingbird ( photo / image / picture from marlingardener's Garden )





Last edited: Sat Jun 13, 2015 5:58 pm

This blog entry has been viewed 217 times


Not picking blackberries

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Sat May 23, 2015 3:54 pm

A dear friend called earlier this week to ask if I wanted to go blackberry picking with her. She has a friend with a blackberry patch, and with all the rain we've been having, the blackberries are particularly nice. Of course I wanted to go!
We decided Friday morning was ideal-early enough before the temperature climbed, and giving us lots of time after we got home to deal with the gallons of berries we were going to pick. It rained.
We decided to go Saturday morning, early enough, lots of time to deal with the berries, you've heard this refrain before. It rained.
We were half-way there before we decided berry picking was out of the question for the day.
This is the fun part-we had such fun riding through the rain and swapping stories.
She told about attending Sunday School when she was first married. The teacher was a nice man, but terribly boring and just strung stories together, none of which were biblical. One Sunday she got so fed up she slammed her Bible shut, and in the quiet of the sanctuary it sounded like a gunshot. They changed churches shortly thereafter.
We started to talk about strange conversations we have had with others(conversations between the two of us are always coherent and intellectual). I told her about an interesting conversation I'd had with a perfect (well, maybe not perfect) stranger at the grocery store. He wanted to put honey out to attract bees to pollinate his garden. I patiently explained that the bees would come to the honey, eat it up, and leave. Why work with nectar and pollen when there is a feast sitting right there for the taking? He didn't believe me. Bees like honey, ergo they would come to his garden and pollinate. I guess he thought the honey would serve as a reward for being busy as a bee.
She told me about her daughter, who is pretty, charming, and extremely practical. When she attends a party and brings something to share, like chips, she is horrified to see people digging into the bowl with their hands. When the party is over, and any of her contribution is left over, the host/hostess says that the leftover chips can be put back in the bag and she can take them home. She declines. She waits to get home to say "Uggghhhh"!
Then we discussed strange customs. When my husband and I were driving into the city last week, we saw several cars parked by the side of the road, with the driver just sitting there. On the way home we saw the same thing-different cars but just sitting on the right-of-way. We must have missed the message about that day being the "Texas park on the roadside day". A lot of important things miss us.
She said she was driving to a meeting in Ft. Worth and stopped for gas. A man at the next station told her to avoid a certain road because there was "trouble". She avoided it, and when she got to her destination asked about the "trouble". It seems someone hit a deer and there was a state trooper and a meat wagon dealing with the situation. Trouble for the deer, not so much for drivers. It seems if you see a state trooper's vehicle, it means "trouble." Especially if you have outstanding warrants . . . .
We decided we had better go home and do something constructive with the rest of the morning. I froze beans, and she was going to bake a pie. We share an interest in recreational cooking.
Not picking berries can be a lot of fun if your not-picking partner has a great sense of humor!

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Hanging out laundry

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Sat Apr 25, 2015 7:00 pm

I do enjoy hanging laundry on the line. I think of the bag my mother had for clothespins, and of the bag I use that was given to me by an elderly lady who thought I could use a clothespin bag.
When we moved to the farm one of the very first things I wanted was clotheslines. We put them up, made extra posts that would support the lines when I hung something heavy, and I put my clothespin bag into use.
After getting the clothing or linens clean in the washing machine, I pile them in my big wicker basket, grab the clothespin bag, and go out for several minutes of sheer enjoyment.
This morning as I was hanging sheets on the line, I saw a flock of Cooper's Hawks fly over. Two circled over the orchard area, then were joined by six or seven others. They flew big circles over the pasture, then headed east. I stood holding a wet sheet, wide-eyed, and thoroughly entranced by the fly-over.
There are two large cedar trees near our clothes lines. When I go out early in the morning to hang clothes, the cardinals, sparrows, and occasional dove serenade me. They like to spend the night in the shelter of the cedar branches. When I go to get the laundry off the line, there are mockingbirds sitting on the fence and holding sing-alongs. Occasionally a barn swallow decides to swoop over. Luckily they are fast moving birds and don't leave deposits on the clothing!
As I'm leaving the house I often brush against the rosemary growing near the kitchen. That lovely smell lasts until I get to the scent of the rose in the corner of the fence near the clotheslines. While hanging laundry I can smell the rose, and I still have a lingering scent of rosemary.
When I bring the laundry in to fold, I still get the fresh scent of outdoors. I fold our sheets carefully and put them into the blanket chest my husband made years ago. There are two bunches of dried lavender in the chest to give a nice scent to our bed linens. The lavender will need to be replaced this year.
Doing laundry can be a chore, or it can be a small everyday pleasure.


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On being a magnet for the strange

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:55 pm

My husband swears that if there is a weird, strange person within five miles, he/she will find me. Over the years, his statement has proven true.
We had been married a short time, and were sitting in our living room watching an old Sherlock Holmes movie at about midnight. There was a knock on our door and a neighbor was standing on our front porch, holding a six-foot long 2x4. Since he wasn't in the construction trades, we figured something was up.
He asked if we had seen a German Shepherd go by. We replied very few dogs trotted through our living room at 11:45 p.m. so no, we hadn't seen the dog. It seems this neighbor constantly left his garbage can out, and the dog constantly knocked it over. The 2x4 was to whack the dog if he encountered it. We didn't mention any dog worth its salt would go right past that six foot stick and get the neighbor by the nether regions.
The neighbor also had a rather large bandage on his forehead, and since I have no sense at all, I asked him what happened. It seems he shut the car door on his head. I left it at that.
When we moved to Texas, I stepped up my game. Here in Texas we don't keep our strange folk at home, we let them wander about to entertain the populace.
Our vegetable garden faced the Methodist Church parking lot. One evening a gentleman came to the back door and asked if he could plug in an emergency light so he could fix a van that was used for a charity's clothing distribution. We said sure, and showed him where an outside plug-in was located. We chatted, and found out that his name was "Lucky". A misnomer if there ever was one! First, he had only one arm, having lost an arm in a farming accident. Then he said that he couldn't drive his car because the driver's side door was missing. He went to the library to fill out forms for unemployment benefits and parked on the street. When he opened his car door to get out, another car whizzed by and ripped off the driver side door. Since he had no transportation, he couldn't get to the charity that let him drive the van. The charity had him on a waiting list for food and shelter, however.
Then there was the older lady who lived on the street in back of us. She came over one day to ask if we had seen her garbage can. (Remember the German Shepherd incident - deja vu!) No, we hadn't seen any garbage cans going by. Well, it was missing. Later that day she drove by, dragging the garbage can underneath her truck. It seems she had backed over the can which got stuck in the undercarriage, and she was trying to figure out where that strange truck noise was coming from!
Since we moved to the farm we've met a better class of strange people. There was the guy that wanted my husband to 1)trap bees that were in a camper (with flat tires and that obviously hadn't been used in years; 2) provide the hive, frames, and other equipment that bees need; and 3) give him the honey when we got it extracted and bottled. He was slightly offended that we weren't enthused about his plan.
We also have a neighbor who recently got a smart phone, and is convinced it has gotten into his head somehow. We tried to explain "cookies" that trace your preferences and recently visited sites, but he wanted to take it back to the store because it knew too much about him. I felt sorry for the smart phone.
And then there was the absolute stranger we had never laid eyes on before that pulled into our driveway and laid on the horn. We went out and she said she wanted to fish our pond and we should open the gate for her. Needless to say, she fished somewhere else.
I go into town once a week, and my husband worries I'll find yet another stranger that is strange. I cope well - over the years I've learned to smile, nod, and edge away (unless they are really strange, in which case I stash the story away for later use!).


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You can judge a man by his boots

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Mon Aug 25, 2014 3:34 pm



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