We have a duck pond way down the hill in the back yard.  Mostly, our feathered friends are temporary residents.  The coyote decoys scare off the Canada geese, but the wood ducks and mallards tend to hang around for a while.

The wood ducks are gorgeous, but a little skittish.  The mallards are another matter.  Just this morning, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard came all the way up to our patio — twice.  I’ve nicknamed them Harold and Susie.  Harold was there pecking away at some spilled birdseed below the Duncraft feeder.  Susie was standing 3′ away, looking in the opposite direction, as if to say “Harold, have you no dignity?  Stop embarrassing me.”

I wonder if they’re looking for a place to nest.  Sometimes, they have a tagalong mallard hybrid male that has a white breast, but otherwise looks like a mallard.  I don’t care if they decide to nest near the house, but why they wouldn’t choose a spot by the pond is beyond me.  Well, wherever they set up shop, we’ll have to keep our dog away from it.  Can’t do anything about the neighbor’s free ranging 75 lb. hound mix, but we can control our own.

Ducks are cool.  Geese aren’t.  Unfortunately, it’s illegal to go bowling with goose eggs.  Canada geese aren’t endangered; they’re invasive.  Still, it’s illegal to destroy a Canada goose egg.  It’s be a sham though, if a fox got it.  As for duck eggs, I’d protect them just like their own mommy would.

We also saw “The Finchleys,” and Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal.  The Finchleys are the house finches.  We also have some Titmice around.  I can have a whole “whee wheat” conversation back and forth with them this time of year.

Bird watching is fun.  Most of this is normal this time of year, except for the mallards coming within 10′ of the patio sliders.  They don’t normally do that.  We’ve had the bird feeders out there for years, so there has to be something more to it than the free food.

Happy Easter

We texted a few family members explaining that the fox in the backyard ran off with the Easter Bunny in its mouth, which is why we didn’t get any Easter eggs (or candy) this year.  It was a joke, but we really did see a fox run off with a rabbit it had killed about a month ago.  Besides, Easter candy will be half off starting tomorrow.

As much as I love catering holiday meals for my mom, her community has banned visitors who cannot produce proof of COVID vaccination, and they’re on high alert for people skirting the rules on holidays.  So, if we have leftover ham next weekend, we’ll sneak her some, or make a ham & cheese quiche for her.  If it’s gone by then, I’ll use the ham bone to make split pea soup, and bring that instead.  Either way, it’s better than the slop the cafeteria serves the residents.

Good News, Bad News

Bad news first.  We are now considered “contraband” when we visit my mom in her retirement community, according to the latest diktat from the community president, who is nothing but a hired administrator.  No, we’re not smuggling in contraband, per se.  WE are the contraband.  WTF?!?!?  We used to be able to visit with muzzles and antisocial distancing, but now that every resident and staff member there got their shots weeks ago, we can’t visit, anymore, unless we produce our “vaccine papers.”  We won’t even be eligible to get on a waiting list for them in my state for another month, and even then, we don’t really want them.

Good news:  we were thinking about buying some chicks and building a coop for them, but we don’t really have to anymore, since our next door neighbor bought a bunch of them while he was in VA picking up his dad’s tractor to move back here.

When we first moved into this house, he had chickens, and let them free range.  They’d go all over our property as well as his.  I didn’t mind.  I liked the way they’d follow me around like puppies, although three of his 15 turned out to be males, and when they grew up to be roosters, got a little aggressive.  Anyway, our neighbor used to give us a dozen of the super-fresh free range eggs every so often, and they were the best!

We chicken sat for them for a week while our neighbor was away.  They aren’t difficult to care for.  Let ’em out in the morning with some cracked corn to get ’em started, let ’em free range during the day, then round ’em up back into the coop for the evening.  His chicken coop was quite roomy for a dozen or so hens, but imo,  it could have used chicken wire over the top.

Still, we have plans to build a chicken coop in a fenced in garden area that came with the property, but is in the shade once the trees leaf out, so it really has no other use.  But, that can wait until next year.  Chickens are fun.  Yes, if they’re out free ranging, and a hawk flies overhead, it’s wise to shoo them into the bushes.  Most of them have that instinct, anyway, but the stragglers may need a little extra nudging.  The Americaunas were the ones that seemed to need that nudging.  The Rhodies and Barred Rocks just had the instinct to hide.


Price Drop & Cheesy Movie

Holy shit.  The prices from our favorite local Chinese place have actually gone down anywhere form 50 cents to a buck, depending on whether it’s a quart of soup, an appetizer, or am entrée.  They’re back to what they were 12 years ago.  Spring rolls, soup, and two entrées with two packs of rice came to less than $30, for pick=up.  We’ve got leftovers for tomorrow night, plus that rice will make some really nice fried rice, twice, with the addition of peas, diced carrots, and shrimp.  The key to fried rice is sesame oil, and rice that’s at least a day old.  Otherwise, it doesn’t taste right.

As for that cheesy Brit movie, it was “The Shadow of the Cat” from 1961.  Vanda Godsell put in a pretty weak performance as Louise Venable, but the rest did alright, sort of, including Clara the maid, and Andrew the butler.

I could have sworn there was a second cat used for some shots that didn’t look like the main one.  The coloring on the second cat was lighter, and its markings weren’t the same.  I’ve owned one or more cats at a time for four decades by now, so I can tell the difference in a flash.  A tiger stripe is not a tabby, even if the coloring is sort of close.  Cats like me, even the ones that supposedly don’t like people, and I like them.  If you’re a cat, I’ve got your number.  That’s why cats sleep on top of me, or wedge in, for all but the hottest three months of the year.

We have a dog, too.  He’s an old man by now, but we got him when he was a rescue pup.  He’s well trained.  The cats, not so much.  I’m so glad we only have to board the dog for a few days during the family reunion weekend.  Couldn’t do it last year, but we can this year.  The cats will be fine by themselves until we get back, with enough food, water, and clean litter boxes.

Cannot Believe the Cost, and Dead Ash

My old Kent of London natural bristle hairbrush that I’d had since 1965 finally died.  No, none of the bristles fell out, but a crack that had developed in the handle near the bristles finally snapped when I was combing the hair strands out of it.  I loved the half round design.  Long, straight hair never got caught on the backside like it did with a full round brush.

To my dismay, the least expensive replacement I could find for that brush, in the same style, with natural bristles, cost a good four times what an ordinary hair brush costs.   Would have cost six times as much if I’d had one imported from the UK, and probably have been held up in customs for a couple of weeks, even with the proper paperwork provided by the seller.

On to the dead ash.  Ash borers have been a big problem in the past few years, and many of us with huge ash trees on our properties are having to deal with dead trees.  Ash trees in this part of the country are probably as numerous as black walnuts or maples.  The good news is that they make nice firewood, lumber, and for those so inclined, rustic outdoor furniture such as benches or tables.

We have a saw mill, and a planer, so when our next door neighbor who owns a Bed & Breakfast on a farm down the road wanted one of his dead ashes removed, he called us to let us know we could have it for free, provided we hauled it off.  Not a problem using our big trailer that has a winch on it, once the tree trunk is cut into sections that are no longer than 18′ each, preferably shorter, though.

But, it gets better than that.  The guy bought the property adjacent to his B&B a few months ago, and has been rehabbing it.  So, he’s interested in buying ash lumber from us.  What it amounts to is that if we cut and plane the lumber to his size specs, he’ll buy it from us.  It’s kind of a win-win, because maybe we won’t be making a boatload of money from it, but it will keep my husband out of my hair while he does stuff outdoors that he really enjoys doing, anyway, and our neighbor gets lumber for less than market price, since he provided the raw material in the first place.  I think our neighbor’s plan is to finish rehabbing the place, then rent it out to a long term tenant, rather than renting it as part of the B&B.  AFAIK, it’s a four bedroom house on ~2 acres, so it’s not quite like renting out a 1-2BR cottage, separate from the main house B&B.

What I love most about this neighbor is that even as a business owner who employs a caretaker for his 10 acre B&B property, he’s so hands-on that most of the time we see him, he’s dressed like any other farmer.  Once in a while, he’s dressed up in a tux for a wedding at his B&B, but it’s not really his style.  Over the years, we’ve traded favors, from letting him borrow one of our trailers when his was out of commission, to him letting us borrow his tractor when ours were OOC.

Great neighbors are such a blessing.  If we have a lousy neighbor, I’ve never met him/her, and I’d sort of like to keep it that way.  The only neighbor who was briefly suspect was one who thought my husband was illegally deer hunting, without a gun or bow.  *eye roll*  Nope, he was out looking for a missing survey marker in the woods between our properties.

St. Paddy’s Day

In honor of St. Paddy’s Day, we will not go pub crawling.  We will not drink green beer.  I might serve roasted potatoes with our salmon cakes, and a glass of Chenin Blanc, but that’s about it.  I did, however, make a batch of “Irish Potatoes” this past weekend.  AFAIK, there’s nothing Irish about them.  It’s just a regional form of candy that pops up this time of year, made from butter, cream cheese, vanilla, a pinch of salt, powdered sugar, and finely shredded coconut, shaped into mini potatoes, and coated in cinnamon,

We’re on for the Family Reunion

This annual event is held over Memorial Day Weekend, always in Minnesota.  People drive or fly in from all over the country.  It was canceled last year because of SARS-CoV-2.   It wasn’t because the hosts wanted to cancel, but we guests, one by one, found out that the hospitality sector of the economy had been shut down.  Even if we could theoretically drive cross-country, there was the risk that some idiot governor would instruct his/her state troopers to blockade the roads into the state, and turn away anyone with out-of-state plates.  Flights were being canceled.  In our case, I was able to make hotel reservations, but couldn’t find a place to board our dog because of our state restrictions.  The restrictions were, um, nucking futs.

But, we’re on again this time around.  Our veterinarian has decided that it will no longer board its clients’ pets, but I did get a referral to another chi-chi place a few miles away that will, and is also run by a couple of veterinarians.  Holly hell, the prices are absurd, but our dog is probably going to get better accommodations than we’re forking out the bucks for while on the road trip.

The basic fee per day for boarding is almost twice what we were paying, and they keep trying to upsell customers on “activity” and “spa” packages.  I declined all but one of them, because our dog is a senior citizen, no longer interested in play time, smoochies, things like bedtime stories, and being tucked into bed.  He runs on his stomach.  He’s to old, and perhaps a little arthritic, to want to go play with younger dogs.  Mostly, he wants food, water, a comfortable place to snooze, and a place to empty his tanks.  He’ll get a “suite,” with his own private indoors areas and outdoor dog run.”  A 10-15 minute walk per day is included in the basic fee.

Didn’t have to upgrade his amenities, because he’s never had those before, and wouldn’t miss them.  Besides, he’s never had separation anxiety when we board him for a few days.  The upsell on this place was crazy, though.  The one “upgrade” I had to pay another $11 for is the “privilege” of picking him up by 6pm on our day of return, which is ridiculous, because paying another $11 for the exit grooming “bath” was the only way to avoid paying another $45 fee for not picking him up by noon.  No fucking way can we get there by noon, with an eight hour drive home from Eastern Ohio, where we typically spend the night on the way back from MN.

That would be per dog, and twice that, if we had to board more than one.  I booked hotel rooms in three cities/towns for a total of five nights for two adults over those same five days for roughly the same amount.

I’m not paying the pet spa another $5 to clip our dog’s nails on his way out, along with his bath.  Our vet will do it for free when we get him in there for the required kennel cough vax to board him at this “luxury spa,” and get his vax history for rabies and distemper-combo printed out to present when we drop off the guy.  We’ll get charged for the kennel cough vax, but not for a nail trimming, and printing out a copy of his vax record.

Can you imagine what it would cost to board three cats there?  No fucking way.  For five days, they can stay at home with plenty of clean litter boxes, water, and food.  Longer than that’s a problem, but five days unattended is fine for vats in perfect health.

I hope to hell my b-i-l and s-i-l still have those quick fill 300 pack of water balloons I sent them for Christmas in 2019.  The family reunion that year was the best, with everybody from The Greatest Generation down to Millennials taking aim at targets.  At first, the targets were things like bullseyes, big Xes painted on trees, or tin garbage can lids.  Nope.  It got interesting when we guests volunteered to be the targets.  I volunteered.  The closest anyone came to me was plopping one down 6″ away from my right foot.

That game better be there again this time.  It was the only one that got every generation involved.  Sling-shotting small water balloons at family members was the one activity that nobody declined.  Alright, if you volunteer to be a target, don’t wear anything that could possibly go transparent when wet.  No personal animosity, but it does become a target game for the fun of it.  I nailed my b-i-l by dialing it in.  No animosity.  It was al in good fun, getting sort of doused  — if you did

Mom is Funny

We visit every other weekend, weather permitting.  It entails hauling off her garbage and recyclables with us, performing maintenance on her place, and running all her errands for her.  We are permitted to eat lunch in her home, as long as we bring it for ourselves, and let her finish hers first, so we don’t have to sit at the same table she does.

She’s got her second COVID vax jab three weeks ago.  Regardless, she still insists we wear face diapers in her home, while all we do is free household labor for her, runn all her shopping errands, and bring her a few days worth of my home cooked meals that she swears are so much better than the excrement they get served from their “dining service.”

“Oh, you got me all I wanted you to order for me online because I cant use a computer.  Good!  Tell me me how much I owe you.  I’ll pay you back next time you visit.”

It’s like Wimpy saying “I’ll pay you next Tuesday for a hamburger today.”  By now, it’s a 50:50 proposition.  Half the time she pays me back later, and half the time she either conveniently loses the receipt(s) I gave her, or thinks (or pretends) she’s already repaid me.  For $50, I don’t care so much, but when she stiffs me for $500 or more, it does piss me off.

Raising Chickens

My other half has been hitting me up with the idea of getting some chicks when Tractor Supply gets them in this Spring.  I’m not against the idea.  We would have to build a chicken coop, although we have plenty of lumber and chicken wire to do that, and with the saw mill, we can always produce more.  We have feed mills around here, too, if we decide not to let them out to free range during the day, because of the foxes, coyotes, and hawks we have around.  They really are better off eating a variety of things, including insects, but they’ll eat cracked corn or seed mixes, too.

I’m sort of up for it, because I do like chickens, but I don’t want any male chicks.  The pullets are fun to watch as they grow into hens.  But, get a rooster or two that think they are kings of the hill, either they start challenging each other, or they start challenging us.  The good news is that when TSC gets them in, they’re separated into bins by female and “unsexed.”  We’ll stick to the female bins for our selection.

One “next door” neighbor has a rooster that we can hear at dawn, but that house is a block and a half as the crow flies from us.  Mostly, I just don’t want the rooster challenge here, and it’s less bother if we don’t have to candle the eggs.  Chickens are funny.  They’ll follow us around, and if they are out roaming around the yard when danger flies overhead, they’re easy to shoo into the shrubbery, or under some evergreens.  If I see a fox or coyote, I can scare them off myself, while the girls go hide.

The good news is that chicks are inexpensive, and if we take decent care of them, they will lay eggs for a number of years.  Once they stop laying, they could become pets, or fill our freezer.

This could be fun.  Several other people within a three block radius of us keep chickens, so it’s not unusual around hare.  It’s just that we’ve never kept our own, although we have looked after a neighbor’s flock for a while, when he was away on vacation.

I’ve Had it with BS Cloaked under COVID

Since COVID restriction hit my state, and the adjacent one damn near a year ago, I’ve had it.  Yes, with the mask restrictions, yes with the cancellations of live concerts, yeas with the ever-changing rules about how our local pubs may operate, yes with te way pool companies my operate, and yes with the way B&Bs may operate.

Everything was up in the air.  Our B&B stay got canceled last April.  We were allowed to stay in October, but then, all bets were off, and I had to call the owner of the place to make sure we had reservations this April.  We love the place, and it allows us to bring our dog.  We are confirmed for the room we wanted.  Yay!

Then I had to call the pool company, because nobody there responded to the online booking I thought I had made.  They had no record of my online reservation.  We’re good now, but why have an online reservation system if it doesn’t work?

Finally, I had to call a concert venue to ask for a refund of my ticket price for to seats, after they’d canceled it three times, had other acts booked in the meantime, and still couldn’t give me an aidea of when it would be rebooked for a fourth time.  Sorry, but I’d had it.  They wanted to send me a credit for future tickets, or meals at the adjacent hotel.  Nope.  Didn’t want them.  They wouldn’t credit the card I used to book the tickets.  Finally, and this took some tooth pulling on my part, without being rude, they agreed to cut me a check for my ticket price, and send it through the mail, then warned me that it would take a few weeks.  Jay-sus.  I’m never buying another concert ticket from that place again in my life.  When a local winery canceled a Steve Forbert concert, they immediately credited my credit card.  This other venues is, um, no way, ever again, and we’ve gone there one average 3-4 times a year for live concerts.

OTOH, when I want something delivered, whether it’s a pair of shearling slippers, or a case of wine, it’s no problem.  The latter was a huge problem until a few years ago, but it isn’t now.  We still have to go to a beer distributor to get a case of Yueng, McEwan’s, etc.  Our state liquor laws could use some improvement, but they are getting less archaic.  I can have a half gallon growler filled up at a local pub, but buying more than 72 oz., bottled, or in cans, is still a no-go.