Happy Harvest, Florida Style

In case you are wondering, this is how Florida does pumpkins. And you may be thinking that we carved these the first week of October, giving them a full 3 or 4 weeks to rot. This, friends, is not the case.

We carved these pumpkins on October 24. This is 8 days in Florida.

No wonder I can’t lose weight. Internally, I’m moldy and rotten. No one can survive in these conditions.

It’s terrible.

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Really, I’m joking. Besides the rotting vegetation that I’m going to have to sandblast from my porch, we are happy. It is November 2 and while my heart tightens a little every time I think about how fast the days are passing me by, I’m also working on the best Christmas mix ever and embracing the days ahead.

Happy Harvest, wherever you are.

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Indicators

Sometimes things sneak up on you. A pound or two becomes 20. A couple of pesky sunburns becomes the skin of a decomposing body.

Etc.

You don’t get there overnight…which is really the problem. Of course if we could SEE ourselves rotting in the grave we would wear sunscreen. If we could envision how terribly painful it was going to be to try on bathing suits in TJMaxx, we would put down the poptart and pick up the banana. Surely I’m not the only one who lacks this type of vision.

Tonight I had one of those moments. I had Todd take a picture of it, and I need to tell you that his reaction to being asked to take the picture was actually funnier than the object he was photographing. He attached it to an email with the subject “Disgusting.”

This moment of clarity came as I was packing my beach attire tonight. I naturally reached for my brown leather flip flops and was about to throw them in the duffle bag when I turned them over and saw this:

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The picture doesn’t really do it justice. It’s feathers. And stuff. And poop.  All stuck together.

Pretty bad.

There are so many things wrong with this picture that it’s hard to know exactly where to go with it. It’s hard to say what is worse…the fact that there are feathers and poop within a short walk of my back door  or the fact that I chose these particular flip flops to go into the chicken coop and  didn’t notice I had stepped in it. Or is it worse that I came in the house after that and almost packed them many months later in this condition.

Actually, probably the worst thing is that I had Todd take a picture and now I’m talking about it on the internet.

That’s messed up.

 

The thing about the chickens – Part 1

Today felt like the first time I have exhaled in 3 months. It was the first day my baby was not in preschool on a different schedule. This meant that I didn’t not have an extra dropoff at 8:45 and pick up at 12:45. This further meant we could eat breakfast and tidy up the family room and feed the chickens and suffer through Jillian Michaels and forget to throw the wet clothes into the dryer.

We could actually stop into the library branch and pay our fines. It’s hard to accumulate the kind of fines I paid today. It was all on Beloved’s card, but let’s be honest…it’s always the parent’s fault. All I will say about this topic is that it feels really good to be back in good standing with the public library system. There’s something very uncomfortable about having a librarian look down on you. To celebrate, we checked out 424 books and 1 DVD. Actually, just 14 books. Just enough to accrue some more fines when we forget to return them.

I will not do that again.

Right.

So, the chickens.  I know people are struggling to sleep at night as they wonder what precisely is our chicken update. It’s been a weird go of things lately. The morning I was scheduled to fly to New York, I went out to feed them and discovered a hen dead inside the coop. The others–being the smart, concerned animals they are–were stepping on their friend as they wandered from the coop into the run and back into the coop.  We took care of that one right as we were leaving for the airport and stapled down a couple of places in the coop. What happened exactly? Did they turn on it? Was it an accidental pecking? Does a Florida Python live in the coop and come out at night? Why did whatever killed it not eat it? It looked like an inside job, but couldn’t be.

I didn’t have time to think about it. I was flying to NYC where the only chickens are the ones who can’t jaywalk successfully.

Apparently we didn’t solve the problem, because that night another one turned up dead. This one was one of our favorites: Phantom. And she was a good layer also. Don’t let the name fool you.  My parents-in-law dealt with that death in our absence. The next night, another one disappeared. This one was just gone…and was still another beloved favored laying hen. Silver. The fat fluffy gray one.  Well, for the love of creamed corn. This had to stop.

The following night, my father in law set a live trap using cat food as bait. He anchored it down with tent stakes. We arrived in town late that same night. The next morning, an ugly, sinister beastly raccoon was pacing back and forth inside that cage. Oh, yeah, buddy. No chicken parmigiana for you last night, eh? Mama’s Boy tried to talk us into releasing it. No way. That thing had been eating my chickens.  I didn’t even sugarcoat my answer to him. Step off, boy. It’s shootin’ time.  I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the story. All I will say is that it made it a whole lot easier to do what was necessary when the beast lunged at me twice from  inside his cage. Game on, fella. Game on.

We haven’t had any more trouble with our chickens.

Well, except for the two roosters. And the water problem. And the fact that they are seriously too dumb to find the door to the coop.

Except for that.

The book in my head

It’s hard to believe that one week ago exactly I was biking through Central Park, stopping to pop into the Met, and not sweating even a single bit. That was a lifetime ago. It was a beautiful 4 days. I still have more to say about it. I know I say this a lot. But now I have a planner. One that I actually enjoy writing in. I am so on top of life right now. And it’s been two days! ha. So, I guess there’s still a little time before I prove the concept. I have written the word “Blog” on 3 days for next week. Don’t hold your breath, but do write down in your own planner, “Check Missy’s Blog.”

Today I biked in a very different world from Central Park and enjoyed it about 66% as much. It wasn’t QUITE as pretty as a blooming 65 degree canopied sidewalk and it wasn’t QUITE as cool. But it was nice. And it afforded me the time to write the book that has been in my head for about 60 days now. Will I write it? I don’t know. But I see the beginning, middle, and end and I have never been able to do that before.  Where is Keri when I need her. Oh, yes. Mississippi. And there are phones, so I guess it will be okay.

Here is the first couple of paragraphs. I don’t plan on sharing it piece by piece. But I feel like sharing this.

Target Audience: probably 12 year olds. So if you hate it…and you aren’t 12….don’t tell me.

__________________________

I live 25 feet from a Rottweiler that bleeds constantly from the mouth. Well, it may not actually be blood.  But when he shows up in my dreams at 2 a.m., there is always blood. I am never quite sure if it is his or mine, but it’s enough to make me want to never leave my driveway.

I almost didn’t.

Days rolled into weeks before I got up the courage to pedal past the Death Hound. Little did I know he was only the first of my obstacles. I would see 16 more just like him before I even broke a sweat.

It became a part of my daily routine; part of what I did and who I was.

It was summer. And pedaling and sweating was my new normal.

This is my story.

I am the Watcher.

Some blogs are easier than others…

I owe a few people a pig story. I said I was going to write that up before the new year. Here it is, only January 6, and already I am a liar.

New Year’s Resolution: Stop lying so much.

It’s good to have goals.

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And here it is: What happened with the pig.

Many of you know that I moved to the boondocks about 6 months ago. After adjusting to the darkness, the strange crashes in the night, and the possibility of amphibians showing up in the nooks and crannies of your car at any given moment, I learned to embrace this new life. I found the best possible pest control, learned to break the zero turn mower just by walking past it, and haven’t killed the garden.  We got chickens, lost some chickens due to a hawk that I hate with a white-hot passion, and then got more chickens. We are up to 13 now. Only 3 are layers. The others are poopers and stinkers. We hope they’ll lay when the manner of hens comes upon them.

I guess all this chicken business, and the fact that people can’t understand why in the world we’d move out here, makes people think we are running a petting zoo. So we get contacted for odd things.

I received an email early in December with the subject line “Weird request.” If this had been from an unknown source, it would have given me pause. But from the writer, it seemed perfectly reasonable. Here was our initial exchange:

Hi Missy,

Hope all is going well for you and your family. I have a weird request for our school and thought maybe you could help or one of your country neighbors. We are doing a fundraiser at the school to buy livestock for impoverished communities. As an incentive, the principal has agreed to kiss a pig on the morning show. One problem…we need a pig!! Any chance you guys have a pig or you have a neighbor who does???? Let me know.

I responded with the following (baloney edited out…):

Well, hello there! i don’t have pigs, but i do have a friend with a mini pig named Daisy. I will check with her. What is the date for this? We are doing well, thanks!

Blah, blah, blah. More baloney. More texting back and forth with the pig owner…let’s call her Fribby…and then I sent this final email about the pig.

Good morning! What time is the morning show? Will 8ish work? The pig is harness-trained and Fribby can walk in with it. It’s a small(ish) black pig. Pretty cute, but I’m not sure I’d want to kiss it. Anyway, let me know if this is okay. I’ll probably meet her there, to introduce everyone and to entertain myself.

 Thanks,
Missy
In all of this emailing back and forth, the principal was never directly involved and the two people emailing really had no precise pig or principal knowledge. It was the perfect real-life example of “have your people call my people and we’ll do lunch” except that it was “have your people email my people and we’ll orchestrate televised farm animal smoochery.”
The date was set for December 19. Fribby and I parked next to each other in the school parking lot. She had her pig. I had my daughter.  My daughter was cuter than her pig, but her pig had on a nice sweater, so it was all good. It took us about 2 weeks to cross the schoolyard because of all the acorns. Did you know pigs are nuts for acorns? Sheesh. That lawn was like Golden Corral for her.
Entering the front office of my old school with Daisy the pig was the closest thing to a celebrity I’ll ever be. For some reason, I imagined that it mattered that I was there. It did not. No one looked at me. No one in the office really knew me anymore. From this point forward, it was all about the pig. You may recall from a few paragraphs up that I called this pig “smallish.” ISH leaves so much room for personal interpretation. When I said smallish, I was comparing Daisy in my head to a potbelly grampa pig and it all seemed perfectly accurate. When the kissing principal was relayed the message of “smallish pig,” she compared that to the size of a cabbage patch doll. And a soft, fluffly piggy cabbage patch doll is what she pictured in her head.
That is not what she got.
She was quite obviously flabbergasted.
“Well. That’s a BIG pig!” she said, her words just dripping in the shock. “A really big pig. I was expecting a cute little tiny pink Charlotte’s Web pig.”
Lady, that’s fiction. Those pigs only exist in Hollywood. “Not that your pig is not cute in her own way.” She continued to talk, obviously trying to pep talk herself into the task. “Can we clean her nose a bit?”
Lady, it’s a fundraiser. It’s one kiss. It wasn’t our fault the school yard was full of acorns and the animal is an animal.
It was time to go into the media center with this pig. She couldn’t drag her onto the elevator, so she lifted the pig’s fat hairy self up and hoisted her up two flights of stairs.
I did nothing. Total waste of space at this point, it seemed.
There was a lot of blah, blah, blah in the next few minutes. Tweaking this microphone. Adjusting that audio level. And Fribby put her pig up on a table so the principal could reach her smoking hot pig lips.
Lights. Camera. Action.
The cameras were rolling and the principal began to talk.
“Hello boys and girls! It’s the big day you’ve all been waiting for. I’m here with Daisy the Pig, who is waiting for her kiss. Isn’t this a BIG PIG, boys and girls? Don’t you think it would be better if I just shook her hoof?” People chuckled and then kids starting streaming into the media center as messengers from their classrooms. There was no sound in the classrooms. The kids could all see the principal, but they could not hear her. There was some confusion in the audio booth and I was hoping they were going to fix the problem.
It is at this point, that I accessed my gift to the world. It is my gift to the world to tape boring things with my cameras or cell phone. And then, as part of my extraordinary gift, when I STOP TAPING, something amazing happens. EVERY TIME. So, I guess by the transitive property of math, we could conclude that I cause most of the world’s excitement.
You’re welcome.
Send money.
So I stopped filming on my cell phone and waited for them to fix the audio. Except they didn’t stop rolling and apparently could not fix the problem on the spot.
The principal leaned down to kiss the pig. She barely touched that pig. I mean, it was hardly a kiss. If it’d been a striking King Cobra and she’d kissed it the same way, she wouldn’t have been injured in the process. But however unromantic the smooch was, it seemed to satisfy the masses and the ones gathered in the booth let out a loud “YAY” with some applause.
That’s when everything changed. (Remember my gift.)
At the sound of the hooplah, Daisy freaked out. She lunged off that table and ran toward the door like a pig in a circus race, squealing louder than anything I have ever heard in my life. Somebody must have poked her with an icepick.
I wish I had video of the sounds. Get in your shower, suck in all the air in your body, and scream like a pig. That will give you an idea.
Daisy ran out of the morning show room, through the media center, and into the Copy Room with Fribby running after her and my daughter clinging to my leg and now screaming, too.
“Grab the pig, Missy!” Fribby yelled toward me. I think I made a valient effort to grab the leash and the pig as it rushed by me. Fribby’s account of what I did is quite different. She says I hardly moved except to stick my right leg out…as if to trip the pig. I don’t think she’s calling it straight. That doesn’t sound like something I’d do. I don’t trip pigs.
It’s not my fault her pig isn’t morning-show-trained. I mean, come on.
So, all that happened right in front of my eyes and all I got was this stupid picture. Actually, I do have some boring before and after footage, but Fribby would slay me for posting it. And if she kills me, all the exciting stuff in the world will stop.
We can’t have that.
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The adventure continues…

You never do know what you are going to see in the country.

Lately, the roadkill buzzard activity has been a whole lot more interesting. Instead of your standard racoon/possum menu, this past week has brought me a wild hog on the side of the road and a coyote…all being feasted upon by the vultures. The wild hog was huge and lasted for days. It was like Thanksgiving for them. At the end, all that was left was the rib cage and part of the snout. It was a beautiful viewing for the drive home from wherever each day.

But yesterday brought something different.

There were extra kids at my house, helping celebrate freedom, Martin Luther King Jr., and a day off of school. We had decided, since it was below 80 and actually not going to be hot, to build a little campfire that we’d keep going a lot of the day. S’mores, chatting, etc. It was going to be nice. So I was out in the yard gathering my fire supplies when my oldest boy ran to me breathless and said, “Mom, there’s a bald eagle in the yard. Come quick. There’s an eagle.”

I’ve been down this road before. This is the “There’s a shark!” when it’s actually a porpoise. Or a “Coyote!!” when it’s really a house cat. So I moved toward this bird sighting at a relaxed pace, still in my pajamas, waiting to see one of the aforementioned buzzards, hopefully chewing on a filthy, beastly raccoon. I walked around the fire pit where 6 children were yelling and pointing and bouncing and flailing and I looked toward the bird.

Hmm. That’s interesting. What IS that thing? I wasn’t sure. I did think it merited a closer look, though, so I told them to stop the yelling and flailing while I ran in for the binoculars. When I returned, there was just as much flailing and bellowing and the bird was watching us. I couldn’t believe it was still there. Just sitting there at the back of the yard by the treeline. I raised my binoculars to my eyes while Mama’s Boy begged for the next look. What I saw shocked me. It was a stinking bald eagle.

And T was pouring salt into our water softener, not paying one lick of attention to any of it. That’s because it couldn’t be America’s bird. There was no way. But it was. And it was staring at me in my own yard. It was one of my favorite moments at home and I will remember it forever. Because the eagle stayed long enough for us to pass those binoculars to every child. It stayed long enough for us to get a poor quality picture and some video. And it stayed long enough to confirm my theory that a hawk is eating my chickens.

As we watched in awe, the eagle launched into the air and we watched his huge brown wings beat the sky. He circled around once and flew back toward us again. At that moment, from the opposite side of the yard, the hawk swooped in and actually started harassing the eagle who was twice his size. Twice the hawk descended upon the eagle. And finally the eagle flew away.

If that hawk will attack a bald eagle, I’m pretty sure I’ll never have free range chickens again.

But it sure was cool to watch.

Photo Jan 21, 9 10 15 AM(1)

 

 

Today I…

  • Got up right at 8. That may sound late to you, but I felt pretty good about it.
  • Made breakfast for 4 famished orphans, for myself, and for 13 chickens.
  • Worked on bible lessons and memory verses before 10 a.m.
  • Worked out with 7 of the fittest people on the planet. They kept saying things like, “Keep your tummy tucked in nice and tight” while I responded, heaving, “If I could do THAT, I wouldn’t be doing this stupid video!” My million dollar idea that I will not actually carry out is an exercise video variation of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Instead of you having to work out to those 7 super fit snobs, you could work out with me (working out with them) as I mock them for the dumb exercise-elitest things they say. Instead of wearing tight black pants and a sports bra, I’d be wearing my floppy cut off gym pants and a large t-shirt. You’d like working out with me.
  • Did 5 loads of laundry and actually put it away.
  • Changed my own sheets. Such joy in clean sheets.
  • Facilitated the kids’ chores. I did not actually have to do them for them.
  • Walked around downtown antique shops and bought a bunch of black and white photos that made me laugh.
  • Got suckered into buying carwash products at a gas station.
  • Used all car wash products upon arriving at home, just to see how stupid I truly am. I fully expect the van to have no paint in the morning. Or be dirtier than it was to start with. But actually it seemed to do a pretty good job. Maybe this time, I will not end up beating myself about the head and neck.
  • Ate the finest meal I’ve had lately, compliments of the male chef who lives in my home. Tilapia with some sort of dreamy sauce drizzled on it (even MAMA’S BOY ate and liked…you have NO idea what this really says about the fish!), steak, potatoes au gratin, and cabbage plucked from our garden this morning. If you add enough bacon to something, even cabbage can taste like heaven.
  • Did more laundry.
  • Hunted racoons. Did not get one or even see one. You know what they say, “a hunted raccoon never shows up…”
  • Questioned my decision to raised 10 extra chickens. Tried to remember what my initial thought was. There is an 80% chance that this experiment will end in utter catastrophe.
  • Made people take baths/showers.
  • Walked 20 more minutes on the treadmill, out of guilt over what I ate for dinner.
  • Blogged.

This was a super full, extremely satisfying day. I am bone tired. And happy.

I think 2013 is my year. I haven’t written down my resolutions, but I have been living them so far. I think the reason I haven’t been blogging is that I’ve been trying to take living a little more seriously. My general goal for the year is to be a better, truer me. To keep my promises, which means promising more carefully. To remember important events and people. To focus on what matters and let the little stuff go. To read the bible. To create…not people, but words and art and anything that comes to mind. Definitely not people, though. To get fit, even if it means suffering through hours and hours of really annoying people who think everyone can salsa dance as easily as they can. To live without regrets.

So far, so good.  But the chicken thing is still out there.