When we moved to the country and changed our lives 6 years ago this month, we moved to a beautiful part of Southwestern PA. Our property was WAY down a long dirt driveway, the domain an unusual house, a geodesic dome in fact with a few outbuildings and a 2-acre pond that was the carrot that sealed the deal. Our dogs loved swimming and this place would provide plenty of room to spread out, farm, host chickens and more. The previous owners who divorced at some point during their ownership, were plant and fish biologists so there were interesting things to discover as the seasons changed and we went about the site cleanup.
In addition to the hundreds of peepers that trilled at night, we discovered much wildlife that were our neighbors. I have written before about the snakes that we encountered early on.
The next farm over has a civil war era house which sits magnificently albeit crumbling, on a hill surrounded by probably a hundred acres of fields. It has a stream that connects to our pond. The house was uninhabited for probably decades and the sheep on the property had actually moved INSIDE the structure doing massive damage to an already neglected building. From the neighbors I heard the elderly owner had moved away and may be in poor health and the animals, well, they were perhaps slightly neglected.
The first months we lived here we experienced some incredible rains and flooding that apparently hadn’t been as severe in 100 years. Our fences near the pond that kept the pups in were demolished when the flood waters overflowed our pond splaying tree and shrub debris with great force. Our old fences didn’t have a chance, so it was almost like that property and ours comingled for a while.
I was driving home during one of these storms at night and saw several sheep roaming down the dirt road in the driving rain. They were alarmed, lost and crying out. It was quite unsettling for me as well.
The sheep and cows were immediately moved so I took a chance and with the dogs did a bit of exploring of this property. I had seen a couple of dozen beautiful grey geese clumsily walking. Bubba chased after them and you could tell they weren’t the most proficient flyers. They were a gang of lovely birds though who were very much at home.
Walking the many pastures, I was amazed at the basically undisturbed and unfettered beauty which surrounded me. I soon brought Mitch and we all explored. I found a very old Pepsi bottle, picked up some blown trash and said a word of gratitude that we were able to experience this. We remarked about the cool treasures there must be buried out here.
Many times, since then I have hopped a fence and walked along the neighboring property, disturbing nothing, picking berries here and there and hunting mushrooms. It really is an amazing place that we live.
As I got to be friends with neighbors up the hill, I learned those geese used to belong to THEM and I informed them, well, they mostly reside now on MY pond, but I am not claiming ownership. I doubt anyone ever owned them. It is more like; they traverse where they want to. They were making their way along these parts for decades and doing just fine.
There are two blue herons who visit us year-round, hundreds of Canadian geese, duck families that come and go plus turtles, frogs and a beaver who has been clearing the area around the WHOLE pond. He has done an amazing job. We just let him do his thing. He has made nice paths for my berry picking. I am ignorant in the ways of beavers. I do not understand why he seemingly is seeing great progress on a tree then abandons it for others leaving that one severely chewed but still standing. We have a lot of nature to ponder.
As the years have passed, sadly, the Geese have become victims to the crying coyotes that we hear each night and when their population went down to six, I worried. From that point, every time I saw them, they were down one until the last two palled around constantly together. That was LAST fall and now, there is only one left. I hear him or her EVERY NIGHT making quite a ruckus on our pond. I think it is terribly lonely.
When I leave for work in the morning, I see him getting a drink from the pond and scavenging for food. Another farmer bought that next door farm, and he has a bunch of donkeys and cows, and they move them from pasture to pasture. The last goose hangs with them during the day and I wonder what he or she thinks of being the last goose standing. Whenever I don’t see it for a few days I worry that this one also met his demise. One day probably sooner than later, there will be none.
I saw a sign at the farm store with pictures of geese exactly like this one and fleetingly thought about buying some babies to try and keep the population going again. I never did. I guess letting nature take its course is the best thing.
I am hoping more ducks move onto the pond this year. I think the beaver needs some company too. #natureisbeautiful #explorenature #farmlifeisfun #wildlifematters
I would bet that you have helped out some humans in your lifetime. Perhaps someone you lent money to actually repaid you or paid it forward. Unfortunately, many, many people don’t. Some humans take huge advantage of others’ good will and still others blatantly steal. I am constantly baffled at the behavior of people.
I am going to tell stories of two of my friends. I won’t name them to protect their privacy, but when I heard the most recent tale, I really felt, THAT’S IT, I need to write about this. What is happening to the moral compass that we used to have? One of the sayings of my childhood when witnessing bad behavior was “Who raised you anyway?” In adulthood, I often wonder the same thing. Sounding again like a curmudgeon, I ask what is going on with people?
Two years ago, I had my first surgery. This was during Covid. I had nagging fibroid tumors that were causing problems for me. Women who have suffered these understand. While I was waiting for the procedure, I was reading my Mother Earth News Magazine in bed with IV attached and feeling a bit nervous. I started talking up this nice nurse. Before I got wheeled in, she told me that I HAD to connect with her mother who was just like me and wrote her mother’s name and phone number across my magazine cover and then when I dropped it on the floor, she wiped it down with antiseptic, set it with my clothes and shoes and rolled me in with a gentle pat.
When it was over and I came to, I remember being in incredible pain and begged for Advil. A different nurse said NO and told me, “For future reference you are a lightweight.” I still have no idea what that meant, but she was not nice. Molly, the sweet nurse was kind and caring and while I still didn’t get any Advil, I was comforted by her. She reminded me to phone her mom.
A few days later I called her mother, and we had a long chat. We were indeed two peas in a pod.
A few months later, I travelled about an hour from our cabin to a place in Ohio that she lived. I got the royal treatment to see and inspect all her herbs, the amazing elderberries that she had, her massive gardens. She drove me around in her 4-wheeler to all corners of her amazing property, we ate real food from her garden and exchanged handmade gifts. I just adore her.
Her 2nd husband is along for the ride and seemingly likes all this natural stuff, but as my Mitch, probably indulges her. We are both a little over the top with all our natural living mayhem. This lifestyle requires lots of work and she is a bit older than I am, probably in her late 60s.
Last year her husband was coming our way near the cabin and asked to stop by and bring a friend. Sadly, his wife had other chores to attend to so couldn’t join.
As I usually do, I “Marsha’d” them completely and sent home food and gifts for my friend and thoroughly enjoyed seeing her husband and meeting their friend. This man was staying with them while he got back on his feet. He was very charming and we had a fun visit.
Because of the distance and my work getting the new restaurant up and running, I haven’t been able to see my friend this year, but we still connect on FB messenger and chat on the phone here and there.
Recently, she shared a HORRIBLE story with me that has me so incensed I just have to share it with you, and I am hoping collectively everyone who reads this will share my rage.
She said she and her husband had been robbed. They had several freezers in their garage which were filled with grassfed beef, organic chicken and gallons and gallons of organic blueberries and elderberries. They had shelves of her homemade tomato sauce and other canned items. My friend has a lot of health issues and really feels better when she eats all the organic food. This was a year’s worth of food, and it was emptied out.
Also, her jewelry including all the family stuff, wedding rings ALL GONE.
The charming man who they were trying to help out for a few months while he got his act together did this then boogied out to somewhere else. He installed TWO kinds of spyware on her computer, so he knew what she was doing and while they were away, he came and took it all.
And get this, since he lived with them, there was nothing the police would do. She called some agencies for elder abuse and such and besides a report, not a thing can be done.
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on unsplash
When I left my first husband in 2010 and needed a place to go, I rented an apartment from my friend who had an open unit in his duplex. It was literally ¼ mile from my first apartment, so I felt like from 1990 to 2010 I had come full circle.
It was a nice enough place and affordable. As I started regrouping from blowing up my life, this was a comforting, safe environment, and I was grateful to be there. I paid him rent monthly and left the place better than when I moved in.
This friend is a person with a very helpful and generous nature and unfortunately, he has been taken advantage of by several people, from family to friends and he keeps trusting and hoping these people will someday do the right things, but sadly for the most part they haven’t. Not having any brothers or sisters so no nieces or nephews, I have never had a situation where family may have leaned on me for a place to live. I have always had to depend on myself as he has.
People have not paid him rent when they moved in, damaged things and didn’t say anything to him, and then left heaps of their belongings that he then had to clean up and get rid of. That is a total lack of respect in addition to horrid behavior.
Where is accountability? Where is keeping a promise and honoring an agreement? I ponder what other kinds of relationships and commitments these folks will damage if they continue to act like this.
I have watched him pay for laptop computers for friends and their children so they would be prepared for school. I have seen him wire money to contractors who work with him to help them out of a jam. He has co-signed for loans, and some have worked out ok, but one was not paid, and a bankruptcy happened which affected HIS credit for YEARS. That situation did finally get resolved but the majority of his giving came to heartache and problems for him. It makes me sad and mad at the frustration he has brought on himself by having a big heart. Some of those friends have taken and taken and then just walked out of the relationship.
On that note, one final story which isn’t about being taken advantage of, but more of a moral issue that has bothered me for decades.
Many years ago, when I was married to my first husband, my father-in-law was talking to my husband, and I knew they were talking about a neighbor issue he and my MIL were experiencing. In their lovely residential neighborhood, their next-door neighbor was a hypnotist and had a home office. This was in the mid 1990’s when working from home was not very common. When my in-laws’ dog who was an outdoor and garage dog would see a deer, he would bark. He wasn’t normally a dog who barked just for the heck of it, but dogs being dogs will bark at wild animals traipsing on their property. I don’t believe he was a nuisance.
I do not know if the neighbor knocked on their door or phoned them and asked them to put Major in during sessions, but he did file a complaint with the local magistrate. The conversation I overheard was my FIL saying, “well, I guess he didn’t learn to turn the other cheek.”
As I heard this from upstairs, I thought about what he could mean by this and then it hit me. THE NEIGHBORS WERE JEWISH. Well, I was really upset by this remark because it seemed to me, my Catholic FIL was making a judgment about this man’s religion when in reality his behavior was the issue, and he was being an ASSHOLE. So, I did go downstairs and told him, there are assholes in every religion. His Jewishness has NOTHING to do with the situation. They ended up moving sometime later and I don’t believe anything happened with the magistrate. Life went on.
So, thinking about all three of these situations and being middle aged, I am more aware of my mortality and feel a pull to do the right things, try to see things from other people’s perspectives, make good decisions and try my best in what I do for me, my family and others. How much time do we all have here to live? Let’s make a concerted effort to be more kind, compassionate and patient, and do what we say we will, appreciate the kindness of others, accept help when needed. I would hope that both my friends keep their sunny and hopeful attitudes but protect their hearts and souls and assets a little more for just themselves. #Bethechange #respect #dotherightthing #beagoodhuman
In a couple of weeks and no, I do NOT HAVE A DATE YET, which is of course frustrating for me and all those who keep asking, my life will be changing dramatically.
My first and probably only restaurant will be opening in the beautiful little hamlet of Historic West Middletown PA. Along with Poor Johnny’s and Pour Johnny’s, I am starting a business revolution in this amazing space.
The last 7 to 8 months have been all about planning, purchasing, curating in my mind, cajoling people to sell me antique furniture at a good deal, charming bankers for credit and loans and designing, planning, creating, producing, lifting and storing and more. It has been an exciting and nerve-wracking journey and a terrific learning experience. I have a feeling the learning is only beginning.
I honestly have no idea how to run a restaurant. I feel like I am faking this and could end up feeling like a complete fraud. Who am I to open a restaurant while we are still dealing with a pandemic, when the economy is seemingly hurtling to a recession and the cost of goods is sky rocketing?
Then the other part of me says hell yeah, I CAN DO THIS!!! So, as you see, I am waffling back ‘n forth on the confidence wagon. I believe if I wasn’t a little terrified, I would be foolish, so hoping my self-doubt and worry is all just normal human stuff. I am naturally an over-achiever, only child who doesn’t like to ask for help and someone who always wants to do her best. I will be fine. I will be exhausted, but fine.
For the past few years, I have really made my own schedule. I have woken up, fed all the animals, made Mitch coffee and gently woken him most of the time. I usually am up first and like the routine of my early morning rituals.
After all the animals are fed, I make my decaf coffee and start doing the million things that need done. I usually exercise too, run errands, hike and swim the dogs, then start on the other million things that need done. Then I make us something to eat, we have some “TV time” to cuddle and enjoy togetherness, then we sleep after loving up all the animals, cleaning the kitchen, whatever honestly.
Often, I like to joke that the only time I sit down during the day is when I have to go to the potty and even then, I mostly just hover. There is SO much to do. That hovering is a great exercise too by the way.
Anyway, so the garden looks like S*#t this season and won’t be producing nearly anything for me to take to the restaurant, but I am looking for help for that for next year. There has got to be an Ag program or FFA group who would like to farm 14000 feet of amazing garden space for me for a fee and for learning about sustainable agriculture and maybe get some credits. I did this myself with a job in college and turned it into 3 credits by writing a paper on what I learned. BRILLIANT! 😊
I have not been able to successfully clone myself, so something had to give. This year it was the garden,
In good news though, the berries are MAGNIFICENT this year and I am taking every available minute to pick and freeze berries that I can make into delectable pies soon. We are currently into blackberries and elders are on deck. WOOHOO! Next year, I WILL be harvesting elder flower though from the top of the bushes as the birds have totally eaten every visible berry while they are still green. The underneath berries will be able to be harvested, but those darn birds, have really devastated anything on top.
The Department of Agriculture put the cabosh on our using seeds we saved from a previous crop to grow this year’s hemp, so we have to destroy all that we planted. Lots of bureaucracy. I won’t say anything else about that, but I am making great batches of my homemade CBD products and spent real money on fancy labels and will be selling all those fabulous natural skincare products in the retail portion of my store. We grew lots of high-quality hemp and my products are all natural and sooooo awesome. I love them all. Not all of my products have hemp in them. I have two last items to produce; a facial scrub and an itch soap which is terrific for all bug bites and contact dermatitis caused by weeds that irritate the skin like poison ivy and oak, stinging nettles, bug bites etc. Nature was the original healer!!!!
So, the title of this blog is prisoner of my own making and I have been thinking about this idea a lot.
I have blogged about my unhappiness with working for 7 years at Merrill Lynch after college. I feel a little bad about saying that as so many lovely people who worked there then, STILL work there now and LOVE it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, but I am GRATEFUL for what I learned there. For the entire time I worked there, I did really feel like a prisoner because I HAD TO BE THERE at my desk, and I really didn’t like that.
From that job on, even with the hardware store, I was able to make my own schedule and come and go as I pleased, or my schedule allowed. I like that kind of work A LOT!
So here I am again at 54, chaining myself to a place where I will probably be 10 hours a day 4 ½ days a week. Will I LOVE it because it is mine? Will it not feel like work because I am living my dream?
As I go about my usual errands and chores, I am consciously aware that in a few weeks’ time, I will be handling things differently. Perhaps I will rely on Chewy.com to bring the voluminous amounts of pet products to the house. I will save those boxes to carpet the garden next spring.
I will have to alter my workouts to be quicker, the dogs will be hiked earlier and then I will be gone for most of the day.
We have talked about Mitch working from the restaurant either inside or outside so we can be near each other, and he can have faster, more reliable internet. I have installed fiber optic WIFI that is still not available at the farm 4 miles away. I really do like being near my man. When we both work from home, it is sweet.
We will have dinner at the restaurant then head home to love up the fur babies and settle down to our truncated “TV time”.
It is all going to be fine. I keep telling myself that!!!
Thoughts from my loved ones and readers???? #selfmadewoman, #restauranteur #renaissancewoman, #newrestaurant, #historictowns, #fearoffailure, #eatrealfood
I live my life as a busy little girl. I like DOING, GOING, running like I dare say, a chicken with its head cut off, (and I have seen this first hand and can lament), going at this speed actually keeps me happy. I am truly not happy only doing one thing at a time. If I sit too long like I did at the farm inspection that I endured last week, I literally can fall asleep. I am not good sitting, but I am an energizer bunny all day long while on my two feet. I am a WOMAN and I would bet most women agree, we multitask all day long. It is simply in our nature and we find it really annoying that many others do not. I mean we get a lot of sh#$ done.
At the moment, I am caring for my two hospice chickens which surprise me every day. What I thought would be a week or two experience for Emma before she entered the great henhouse in the sky became a totally different experience. Whatever illness or malady she had, she is fully recovered and tried to re-enter gen pop but the other girls in their hierarchy said NO WAY and pecked the living daylights out of her so I brought her back to the hospice condo. She was bullied and told “you are now a reject and must reside with Ellie by the house.” So, she continues to try and challenge the current regime and moves between both political sides leaving her lame sister Ellie wondering where she is sometimes. It is a really interesting scenario. This morning no one was home for corn, yogurt and scraps. I have no idea what they are doing honestly and that is fine.
In the music part of our life Mitch has really, REALLY gotten into the whole rock in roll ideal. Since Covid and all his lessons online and hundreds of hours of practice, he has REALLY, REALLY gotten to be an amazing lead guitarist and his talent is inspiring as well as entertaining. Our band has made countless changes in lineup in the last twelve months and our newest incarnation promises to be the best yet, so stay tuned… I believe we are forming a new band with another existing band and as one great musician has made famous… “the best is yet to come”……hint.. casinos pay big bucks. this could be fun.
Thirdly, I am opening my first restaurant (pictures coming soon) in less than a month and things are crazy. I am running from day till night to get everything I think I should be doing and learning there are a hundred more things not on my radar that I should be doing. Oh my GOODNESS. At some point I will blog about Mac.bid. This place has been an absolute blessing to us. With the items I have won auctions to for the restaurant and the musical equipment Mitch has won at really good prices, we are truly filling our needed holes with amazing merchandise at great costs. YES, most everything has needed repaired and thank goodness Mitch is super handy, but this site has been a lifesaver!
With the tasks of all the new insurances, therapy calls which are supposed to be consulting calls with the SBDC of Duquesne University for funding ideas, business licenses, the buying of new and as much used equipment that I can find, the learning about all the vendors who I can buy ingredients from, the idea of finding help in this environment when no one seems to want to work, I am literally having a nervous breakdown. Then last night, something new happened.
As much as I am ashamed to mention this, I will admit that a couple days a week when I absolutely NEED to sleep, I kick our dying cat Butterscotch outside with his two brothers, Blue Kitty (Peanut) and Bobo- Beauregard. Those other two are usually outside but Scotch likes to howl all night and drives me BANANAS. We have a condo and water outside and Bubba sleeps on the porch so he can MEOW at HIGH decibels outside ALL NIGHT LONG and it bothers none of them, but mama can get her sleep.
Last night was one of those nights, but at 4:48 (I know this because I am a light sleeper and always look) Bubba barked and wanted inside. So, since we all know from blogs of the past, Mitch is hearing impaired, I got out of bed and let Bubba in. I came back to bed. A minute later, Blu kitty who was inside wanted out so I left the bed again to let him out and this time Bandit, our full-time dog, and I will explain this sometime, got up THIS time and instead of stepping over him as he slept, he tripped me and I fell into the door of my closet and whacked the heck out of my head. He freaked, I freaked, I let Peanut out and then went into the bathroom and was sure I was going to throw up. I lay on the bathroom floor and tried to collect myself. What was going through my mind was Bob Saget, Natasha Richardson, Sonny Bono, the catering I had to do today, my restaurant and then the rest of my life. Notice the order of that thinking. Look where my priorities are…. Ugh……
After I did my yoga breathing and the urge to vomit went away, I decided to go back up to bed and continue trying to calm myself upstairs by putting on a podcast that I could listen to. I didn’t want to sleep. Then I gingerly felt my head where the impact happened and I felt wetness. In the dark, I brought it up to my nose and smelled the warm blood. That was it. I freaked again and was sure I was going to hurl right there in my bed and die.
I was ashamed to do it but I woke up Mitch and told him, I knocked the hell out of my head and if I die tonight, know I love you. He heard me but was in quasi sleep-mode and quickly went back to dreamland. Despite my desires, I did fall back asleep and ended up having the most horrid two hours of nightmares about this conceived brain injury and my impending entire failure of the restaurant. This included Mitch leaving me because I was a vegetable mentally and my attempt to cheat on a final that I had not been to class all semester……. I woke up at 7:15 a complete basket case but GRATEFUL to be alive and carried on with my day. I did feel better as the day wore on but the first hour was ROUGH.
What to learn from this whole thing? Life changes on a dime, change is constant, you must rely upon yourself mostly to solve issues and when you have help, gratefully accept it. Life is a wild journey. Who knows what the next minute brings, but buckle up and be ready. Whew. I am hoping for a good, peaceful and injury free night. I NEED IT.
When I decided to have a business and design business cards, the first thing I wanted under my name was Chicken Mama. When I hand those cards to everyone from fellow shoppers in the grocery store, to pretty much everyone I meet, they always comment on the chicken mama thing and laugh.
I do love my chickens and over 5 years of caring for them, I have learned lots. I have seen their fun ways of scooping up worms from the soil, to doing their little scratch dance and poking sideways in the ground with their beaks to scavenge insects. They come running when anything gets scattered and hits the ground. I love to see them roosting at night under their lamps and poised in the laying boxes extruding the miracle of a perfect egg.
I was alarmed to see their relaxed pose of laying pretty much on their sides in the sun where they look ill and possibly dead, but in fact they are sunning. Dirt baths are incredibly fun to watch. Seemingly, much like our bees, chickens really don’t need much from us humans. I steal the bees’ honey and the chickens’ eggs, but trade for food and shelter! I think it is a fair trade.
The chickens take care of insect infestations by spreading that dry dusty dirt in between their feathers on their skin and rolling in the dust. They drink out of puddles and can find food. They really are pretty self-sufficient and have an entire hierarchy and society that they understand the rules of. It is truly amazing. I do think they appreciate the help I provide and daily feed and treats. We live well together.
The books I read to prepare myself to have chickens left out a whole bunch of stuff which I had to learn by trial by error, googling and asking other people who have chickens for advice. Some of the lesser fun things I experienced have been mites, molting and other things that make their beautiful feathers fall off and scatter to the winds. I have also witnessed their murders by varmints and completely selfish and heartless acts of menace they inflict against injured or sick animals, and this is what I am going to write about today.
Last year we had a chicken who was a good egg layer, but she injured her foot somehow. Ellie never healed all the way and has a pretty significant limp. When I saw that she was getting picked on by her sisters, and it was getting relentless like they were trying to kill her (Darwin anyone and survival of the fittest), I intervened and moved her outside our house to an old dog cage that I propped up a few feet off the ground. I put cardboard and bedding down, gave her food and water and placed her in there. Quickly, she started healing up and when her lacerations healed and her feathers grew back, she wanted to roam about so I took her out of the cage and made her a bin that she could relax in at ground level and she spent her days roaming short distances, eating bugs and seemingly enjoyed her life. By dark she would put herself back in her cage. I used to shut it at night but honestly, nothing is going to jump that high to get her, so she roosted in the doorway most nights.
As the weather turned colder, I came up with a plan to keep her warm. I wrapped her cage with a porch furniture covering to protect her from wind and rain and snow, put a heating pad in under the cardboard that I could program for 12-hour increments and added a heat lamp. Ellie had a whole condo now that she loved. Occasionally, one of the other girls came down and would eat with her but no one was bothering her. The girls up the hill seemed to understand momma would not tolerate mean girl behavior.
About 7 weeks ago, Emma, who was my little sister’s chicken and the oldest of my bunch started acting strange. She was no longer the one in charge, was not spending time knocking Mitch’s tools off his workbench and she wasn’t coming for morning yogurt, corn and scraps. When I saw her sitting in the rain looking completely forlorn, I knew I had to do something.
Ellie and laying beside her is Emma
I thought maybe Ellie would like some company. Emma was getting older and had lived a good life, but she was definitely on her way to the henhouse in the sky. We were not going to end her as we have done in the past (thank you Mitch) and since we now had a hospital, we could relocate her to the condo.
I picked her up which she was always good about and deposited her to Ellie’s cage and she settled right under the heat lamp and took a nap.
When she woke up. I gave her some corn and yogurt and Ellie got a bowl too. They dined and clucked.
There are days that Emma doesn’t seem to feel well at all and sleeps most of the day, but she always enjoys mealtime and both girls appear to like having a roommate. We now jokingly call the condo a hospice as Emma certainly doesn’t have long to live, but she has lived 7 weeks so far and doesn’t seem to be getting any worse.
Every morning when I take out breakfast, I fear Emma will be feet up in the air, cold and stiff. I do wonder if Ellie will miss her when that happens. They cluck and talk together and I see them cuddle up for warmth and possible comfort. They really aren’t that different from us humans with their basic needs.
So, my chicken hospice is currently thriving. One day there will be no more chickens on our back lower deck but for now, chicken mama is doting and happy that the spring has brought some bugs out for them to eat and warm breezes to enjoy. #ilovemychickens #birdsofafeather #chickenmama