Of Wood Chucks and Butternut Squash

Did you know that wood chuck’s love butternut squash?

I know this to be true because I sacrificed one to bait the live trap last week to catch the furry little varmint who was trying to move into the pole barn.

It worked! That wood chuck ate every piece of that butternut squash as he awaited his fate.

When my husband told me the news, I jokingly replied, “At least he had a good last meal!”

To which my husband responded, “I think I’ll just take him with me to work and let him go at the river.”

I won’t repeat my reply.

Fast forward to that afternoon. Nate and I went to help some new neighbors move in about ten miles away and Jan joined us later, after work. When we were finished, we sent Nate home alone so the two of us could ride home together.

I had a few minutes to sit in the suburban alone savoring the peace and quiet after the busy afternoon before Jan joined me.

We took off down the gravel road, and I proceeded to fill him in on every little detail of my day (as only a wife can) and was in the middle of a long – but very important story – when he suddenly stopped the Suburban on a bridge.

I paused mid-sentence and asked the obvious, “What are we doing?”

He pulled on his gloves as he said, “Letting your little furry friend go.”

What?! That creepy rodent of unusual size was sitting behind me the entire time?! I shuddered at the thought.

I don’t know what was worse – sitting there in blissful silence while a beady-eyed wood chuck sat menacingly behind me or if he had a made a noise and announced his presence.

I think the latter.

“I thought you were going to let him go this morning on the way to work?” l asked while he carefully grabbed the trap from behind me.

“I couldn’t find a good spot”, he replied as he carried the cage to the edge of the concrete bridge and opened it.

I won’t repeat my reply.

But I wasn’t happy as I sat in the Suburban and watched my husband try to get that critter to leave the cage.

After several minutes I had had enough. I grabbed an extra set of gloves, marched across that bridge, picking up a stick as I went and then -mumbling something about pesky varmints and husbands who should listen to their wives – I whacked the cage where his back side sat with a primal scream that sent that critter running.

“And you better not show up at our place again!” I yelled as he disappeared.

My husband laughed.

The laughing stopped two days when he looked out the window and saw a wood chuck hobble across our yard.

My husband said it might not be the same one – but then again – it might be limping with a sore backside from a ferocious whack!

I won’t repeat my reply.

But I did sacrifice another butternut squash to catch that furry nuisance.

And this time he didn’t get another chance.

At least he had a good final meal.

 

Going, Going, Gone

The old house has finally come down.

How well I remember the first time I laid eyes on that old farmhouse!

We had seen the ad for the farmstead in the Sunday paper and had driven two hours with three kiddos under of the age of five to check it out.

We went around the curb, down a hill, up the other side and turned into the driveway.

No. Please no.

It was ugly, tired, saggy and wind blown after a century of sitting on the hill. A horrible 1960’s renovation had removed most of it’s former glory and the farm crisis in the 80’s left it vacant for awhile. Thankfully, it had indoor plumbing – although some of it was a garden hose. The only heat was a wood stove and the floor had a definite slant.

But my husband reminded me that while houses change – the land doesn’t.

And the land was beautiful! Rolling hills, ravines, a farm pond. Beautiful views in every direction! Just what we dreamed of!

We bought it, named it the hovel and moved in.

It sheltered us for more years than I care to remember while we worked on our dream house. Cold winters with frozen pipes. Hot summers canning in the kitchen with mud daubers buzzing around my head.

It was an exciting day when the new house was finished and we could finally move in!

The old farm house has sat empty now for several years.  Every year we said it would have to come down. But year after year other projects were more necessary and there just wasn’t time.

Until this year.

We started August 4th. Piece by piece it came down. Starting with the lathe and plaster.

Windows. Doors.

Then the roof and the second story.

Burning everything we could. What didn’t burn went in a dumpster.

The kids all pitched it. Peter even brought his Bible Study group down to help.

We paused in wonder at the workmanship of one section, and shook our heads in disbelief at the haphazard construction of a later addition.

Almost every day I had a different view.

It was going, going, and then gone.

We saved whatever wood we could and the limestone rock that made the foundation will soon line my flower beds. We had already used much of the trim in our new house.

All that’s left is a dent in the ground.

And the memories.

It was a huge job that we dreaded for years. It’s a wonderful feeling to know it’s done!

 

Calf Races

It’s Teen Pact week for Buddy!

While he is at the Iowa State Capitol running for office, passing legislation, playing ultimate Frisbee and hanging out with friends – I’m doing his chores at home.

So of course – a cow gets out.

I spotted it eating grass in the ditch on Tuesday. My first response was to call Buddy – who would have grabbed his boots and coat and calmly taken care of the situation.

But then I remembered that he was gone.

So I called Angel Girl – who thankfully had the day off from work.

“Can we do this ourselves?” I asked.

Angel Girl took one look and said, “It’s just a calf – no problem – I got this.”

“Do you need my help?”

She shrugs, “You can come out if you want to.”

By the time I went to the bathroom (at my age you don’t run anywhere with a full bladder), found shoes and socks and a hoodie, she had calmly walked out and with a few waves of her arms had that calf were he belonged.

Seriously.

In yoga pants, flip flops and a t-shirt.

I was impressed.

Fast forward 24 hours.

I look out the kitchen window and see that same varmint calf in the ditch.

What? I thought the fence was fixed?

Buddy’s gone. Angel Girl’s at work. It’s just me. But if they can do this, honestly, how hard can it be?

I went to the bathroom as a precautionary measure, found shoes and socks and a hoodie and walked calmly down the road just like the kids.

But that calf took one look at me and started running. The opposite direction. Fast.

Seriously? Do I look that scary in the morning? Maybe I should have combed my hair?

We run back and forth along the fence line a few times before he bolted for the yard. Under the clothesline, past the house, and through the garden with me in hot pursuit.

He hooked a right just as we got to the gate, ran back to the yard and we did the whole thing again.

Twice.

As we rounded the corner past the house for the third time I called it quits.

Varmint calf won.

I walked in the house and called my husband.

I can’t tell you what I said, but it worked.

He drove home.

He calmly walked to the ditch where he found the varmint calf resting, obviously exhausted after our race.

Then he waved his hands.

And that varmint calf miraculously found the hole in the fence and jumped back in.

Boom. Just like that.

I give up.

I think I’ll stick to quilting.

Fresh Gravel

DSC_0018There are a few realities that those of us who live beyond the pavement have to accept as a part of life.

Important things – like fresh gravel.

One might think that fresh gravel would be a good thing, after all it fills in holes and those nasty ruts that come after a heavy rain.

But the initiated know better. They slow down to almost Amish buggy speed on fresh gravel. They’ve learned the hard way that fresh gravel is slick.

It just lays on top of the existing surface like a pile of marbles on your living room floor. if you drive too fast it can send you flying where you don’t expect to go.

Like upside down in the ditch.

Just ask Angel Girl.

But that’s not all – they also know that fresh gravel is sharp.

Really sharp.

Like puncture a tire sharp.

As in four new tires in the last two months sharp.

So sharp we punctured a brand new tire within weeks of buying it. Weeks.

I jokingly said, “Those folks at the tire store must really love us after all the money we’ve spent there this spring!”

Then – a few days later – Angel Girl got a card in the mail. No return address but it had a local postmark. She opened it and held up a nice graduation card with a gift card inside.  She looked confused. “Who are these people?” she asked.

A quick look at the signatures made me laugh out loud.

The owners of the local tire store.

I knew they liked us!

 

 

Chick Date

chick dateJan asked me on a date today.

He said he would pick me up as soon as he got home from work and then we would drive through the beautiful countryside on an adventure to pick up the week old baby chicks he bought from a guy on the Swap.

I like dates. I like baby chicks. I like drives through the beautiful countryside with my husband. So of course I said yes.

We took off in the Geo (the little tin can on wheels that Jan drives) across miles and miles of gravel roads.

And all those gravel roads were covered with new gravel.

Trust me when I say that driving on new gravel in the tin can car is not an enjoyable experience.

But we finally arrived at the farm of the nice older man who was selling the chicks.  This fella was quite the character and entertained us for at least 15 minutes with stories punctuated with “dadgum” and “cotton picking” before he produced the chickens from somewhere inside the house.

We pronounced them perfect and paid him.

Then he continued, without a breath, for another twenty minutes with more “dadgum” and “cotton picking” stories.

We finally pulled ourselves away and took our box of chicks to the car.

I climbed in first and Jan handed me the box saying, “You better hold them.”

So I did.

Off we go, in the Geo, down the gravel road covered with new gravel, with a box of week old chicks in my lap.

Did I mention the fact the Geo makes makes strange and wondrous noises – especially when it is bouncing along on new gravel?

All these noises and wild bouncing frightens the little chicks. Do you know what little chicks do when they are frightened? I immediately wished for a thicker box as that tiny car started to smell very ripe.

I, of course, got a nose full and was praying for deliverance when my husband announces, “I think the guy we get our honey from lives down this road.” And he turns down a gravel road in the opposite direction.

The bumpy turn on new gravel really sets the little chicks off and they attempt to fly out of the box on my lap.

So now we are taking the long way home, in the Geo, on gravel roads with new gravel, while I’m holding a box of week old chicks who are pooping up a storm and trying to fly in my face.

It was a long, smelly ride.

It is safe to say that I did not enjoy the beautiful countryside, nor could I enjoy the lovely fragrance of the wild plum blossoms that lined the ditches on both sides of the road.

At least he came through with the adventure part.

Trust me when I say that I plan to be the only chick on our next date. 🙂