Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Wintry End to the Blog

Considering I haven't posted here since September, I thought it might be time to officially close the blog. Shortly after my previous last post, we discovered we'll be moving up to the Washington D.C. area in the early spring, and suddenly I lost heart for keeping up the blog.

Now that we've had time to absorb it, we're excited about the move. Change is what keeps life interesting, and this will certainly be a big one. We'll put the house here on the market next week, and start looking for a townhouse rental near shopping in probably the Maryland suburbs.

We'll miss our beautiful country home here in South Carolina. Most especially, we'll miss the weather. Today we got a reminder of what Maryland winters are like. This is what our backyard looked like when we woke up this morning.

It's beautiful but the goats Do. Not. Like. It.

They'll be the hardest to leave, I think. We'll find a good home for them, some place where they understand that goats can be great pets, with truly unique personalities.

We're going to miss this view, but someone else will get a chance to enjoy a wonderful place.

Thanks so much to everyone who was kind enough to read my silly musings about learning to live in the country! We had a blast. I'll never forget Gus the horse walking us around the pond...Arlene and Emma the goats teaching us how goats like to be petted....Gus and Boot, the cats who moved here with us and left a hole in our hearts when fate took them from us...and Hailey and Irving, the cats who just showed up one day and helped repair the hole. We learned a lot, laughed even more, and now have new challenges to meet. Goodbye!

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

What a Beautiful Berry

Isn't this the prettiest berry you've ever seen?

It's the American Beautyberry, a native plant. At our other house, we spent good money at a plant nursery to buy some of these after we saw them growing wild at Jekyll Island, Georgia. Unfortunately, what we bought was the (unlabelled) 'rare' white Beautyberry. When we moved to this house, we had planned to buy some of the purple ones but didn't get around to it that first spring. That August, we started seeing the purple berries everywhere, and found it grows wild by our pond.

I can't imagine why these aren't more popular.

I went to take the picture below, and didn't see the spider until I was right up on it.

These spiders grow wild down by the pond too. They freaked me out a little that first summer, but now I think they're gorgeous.

As long as they Stay. Out. Of. My. House.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Morning Snakes Are No Fun

I'm not really a morning person, but even if I were, this is not what I want to see in my living room first thing...

Actually, I don't want it in my living room at any time but I apparently don't get that choice. I get up before my husband does, and normally get ready and creep out for work without turning on lights. This morning I nearly beaned myself on the bedroom door doing that, so when I got to the living room, I turned on the light at a low level, just in time to keep myself from stepping on this (fortunately) harmless but quite impressive-looking Scarlet Kingsnake.

I can't be positive how it got into our living room, but I think this next picture may be a clue.

I could tell the snake was alive because it was twitching its tail, but I wasn't sure how easy it would be to pick up until our two very excited cats started wrestling with each other and rolled right over it. It didn't move, so I scooped it up with a dustpan and put it in the flower bed outside the front door.

It was gone from that spot by the time my husband got up, so I'm hoping it was just playing dead and managed to get away.

And that some annoying young cats won't be bringing it back through the cat door tonight...and into the bedroom to show us what fine hunters they are.

Hmmm...maybe we'll sleep with the bedroom door shut tonight.
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Sunday, September 5, 2010


We've been observing some strange interactions among the goats, cats, and ducks recently. When we go walking down by the pond, they all tend to hover around. I'd love to think it was our magnetic personalities, but I'm afraid it might have more to do with the way food magically appears when we're around.

The other day, Arlene the goat was walking peacefully nearby when a small female duck, T.O., ran up and nipped her in the hind leg for no apparent reason. Arlene looked back, surprised, then just walked on, as if she gets nipped every day by small, ill-tempered ducks.

Of course I didn't have a camera with me that day, so this is a picture of Irving the cat wondering what I'm doing, with goats Arlene and Emma in the background, and large, clawed duck Corky hanging out to the side.

After I took that picture, Halley, our small white cat, came down to see what was going on. She wound up in between Corky and Arlene. As we watched, Corky moved menacingly toward her, so she turned to run -- have I mentioned he has claws? -- and found herself face to face with Arlene, who lowered her head, and horns, and charged...playfully? Who knows? Halley wisely turned and ran.

Of course I didn't get a picture of that either, just one of Halley wondering why everyone's so irritable tonight.

I did have my camera when Arlene decided it was time for me to pet her. She leaned against my leg while I scratched behind her ears. She loves that.

She loves that so much that when I decided it was time to resume taking pictures, she reminded me that it was petting time by pulling on my shorts' leg insistently. Like an idiot, I taught her that works by petting her again. I never learn.

Seriously, though, could you resist that?

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Goodbye, Boot

We had to have our 18-year-old cat Boot put to sleep this week. He had a long and full life. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, lived with us in six different countries, and died in South Carolina.

This is a picture from some years ago, back when he still had teeth. Both our Egyptian cats had major dental problems.

He was a beautiful cat, and one of the most intelligent ones I've known.

I got him in Cairo when a very kind woman drove me across town in rush-hour traffic to see what was supposed to be a long-haired kitten, living with an Egyptian woman who couldn't keep him, after his original family had kicked him out. He turned out to be a short-haired, year-old, nervous wreck of a cat, but I was too embarrassed not to take him after she'd driven me all that way. We stopped at the vet's on the way home, and he told me Boot was feral and could never be tamed.

For the first three days, we never saw him. We would wake up to find all the pictures ajar. He had evidently been trying to find a way out in the night, and thought they were windows. On the third day, I decided to give him one last chance. I found him pressed against the wall behind the stove. I held out some food in my hand. He sniffed it, hesitated, then came slowly toward me. As he reached me, he seemed to suddenly relax. He climbed into my lap and began to rub his head all over me.

He had just been terrified.

We were friends ever after, and he was always my cat, unlike our other cats, who've always loved my husband best.

Wondering why I said he was a short-haired cat, when the pictures clearly show otherwise? We took him back to the States for a year after Egypt, and that first winter, poof! He became a long-haired cat.

Here he is with Fergie, our other Egyptian cat, not too long after we got them both, back in his brief short-haired phase. She's been gone for years, but she was a wonderful cat.

This week the vet told us Boot had diabetes, arthritis, a serious heart murmur, and advanced cataracts. He wasn't enjoying his life any more, and it was time for him to pass on to whatever is next for our beloved pets.

I'm just going to remember him from happier days...

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fawn Hopes

I saw the fawn for the first time this evening...but not under good circumstances.

Two of our cats came bursting in through the cat door from outside a little while ago. We went outside to see what had spooked them, and found two cars stopped in the road in front of our house, staring off down the hill into the pasture. They said a deer had tried to jump our fence from the pasture into the road, but couldn't clear the fence. It kept banging into the fence, and then ran down the hill toward the pond.

When we heard that, we knew it must have been the fawn, since a grown deer could easily clear the fence. We ran down to look, and sure enough, a spotted fawn was down at the bottom of the pasture, trying to get through the fence that separates us from the neighbor.

That fence is wire mesh, and the squares in the top half are no more than about 6" wide. But on the other side of all the fencing on the outer edges of the property is the original barbed wire fencing. We cut it down on the inner boundaries, where we interact with the goats, but left it on the outside to keep predators out. It's not a high fence...but the fawn couldn't get over it, and was trying to go through it.

By the time I caught up to it, it had succeeded in forcing itself through one of the 6" squares, and the barbed wire, but was caught by its hips. Its head was on the ground on the other side of the fence, and it was panting heavily. It was bloodied from the attempts to get through the barbed wire. I took its hind legs and straightened them to the rear so that it could complete the slide through the fence, and it took off across the neighbor's yard toward the forest.

Deer are considered pests here, as in so many places, and our neighbors have had serious accidents from hitting them on the roads, but I can't help but hope that its mother finds it, and that its wounds aren't too serious.

Below is a picture of its mother coming for the ducks' grain on a better evening.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ducks Continue to Demand Scratch

The deer must still be eating the ducks' grain, because they were up in the yard again this evening. This time the females came up to the garage as usual, but the males came up the hill into the front pasture. We heard the quacking, and of course when we came out, the goats thought we were going to feed them and went on high alert.

I thought I was going to have to open the gate into the front yard for the ducks, but they figured it out, quacking loudly as they went.

They gave Halley the cat a wide berth...

...and finally were rewarded with a bin full of 'scratch' after the long journey.

We had thought about trying to scare the deer away, until one day she brought her fawn with her.

I guess we can just refill the bin more frequently for a while longer.

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Greedy Ducks

Our seven ducks mostly live off the pond, but they've gotten used to us supplementing their food with a grain product called 'scratch.' We put it in a bin outside the pasture so that they can get to it by coming under the gate, but the goats can't get it. The goats have a little addiction problem with grain, so we keep it away from them.

The ducks appear to have a little addiction problem of their own, though. We now have a deer who visits daily and eats their scratch, and it ticks them off mightily. When it happens, they come up from the pond to the house and let us know about it.

They know we used to keep the scratch in the garage, so they come up there. We moved it to the storage area after they ripped open the bag in the garage and spilled it over everything, but they haven't caught on to the change yet.

They stopped along the way to let me know they were mad.

Then my husband came out with a filled bin, and they followed him down to the pond.

These are the three males, plus the original female, who hangs out with them. The other three females have to wait until the males are done eating.

I've tried to encourage the females to try a little women's lib, but then no one tries to peck me to death when I eat.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Goodbye Grill

We had a violent little storm here this evening. The wind kicked up, then the rain started coming across in horizontal sheets. We went out afterward to find it had knocked the top half of our dead tree down, and it tore up our little concrete pad patio set.

It knocked the table over, broke the umbrella, and blew some of the cushions into the wood. Then we noticed what it did to the grill.

The storm flipped the grill over and blew it into a chair. The unfortunate thing is that it was actually my Mom's grill that we've been keeping for her. Sorry, Mom!

The goats didn't enjoy the storm. We went down to the run-in shelter and found them cowering inside. Emma was bleating pitifully. (Do goats bleat? She was doing something pitifully.)

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Irving is Peculiar

Our cat Irving is a little eccentric. One of the strange things about him is his resting posture. This is what we might call a 'half-Irving': hind legs stretched fully to the rear, and one front leg stretched before him.

He's more likely to be found in the 'full-Irving' position, though: all legs extended.

Here's an aerial view...because, of course, the world needs to see this.

We've had a number of cats over the years, but I've never seen one whose habitual position is like this. It makes me laugh every time I see him.

Those of you who have been seeing pictures of him since he showed up on our back deck may notice that there has been some belly extension as well. Yes, our Irving likes his food...but only dry food, not wet food.

He is a strange cat.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

And the Landscape Decision Was...

About a month ago, I posted that we were trying to decide what to do with our 'new construction' scalped earth. The only thing I knew for sure about it was that I didn't want to lay sod. We're trying to be 'green,' and I'm convinced that lawns aren't the best thing for the environment. For over a year, we've been trying to figure out what else we could do.

So two weeks ago, the sod truck came.

Yes, I caved. We had several landscapers come out to give ideas, and I did a lot of reading, and in the end, sod was the only thing that made sense for our landscape. Almost anything else would have involved replacing the irrigation system, since the pipes are so close to the surface, plus massive soil amendments, since 2-3 feet had been stripped off the ground to level it before the house was built, and all that's left was hardpan clay. You can see in the picture above what the ground being sodded looked like.

We had them put Bermuda sod in the area between the house and the apartment, where not even common Bermuda seed would grow.

Then there was the area between the front yard and the front pasture, which has pipes running all through it.

And finally, the area down near the road, where the construction debris and erosion meant nothing would grow, but where we needed space for cars to park.

There's still the large area behind the house that's just weeds now. We'll worry about that in the fall, and I'm still hoping to do a naturalized meadow and butterfly garden there, since the soil is diggable.

We don't plan to use herbicides or pesticides on the new lawn, so the weeds will eventually move in, of course, but the bare earth is covered, and it's so much more enjoyable to look at.

I'm trying to avoid the 'lawn alternative' web sites I'd been reading, but for anyone interested, a great site is Please don't tell them what I did! :->

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Storms Pass By

Rain is passing us by....nearly every day recently, storm clouds form all around us, and we can see other areas getting rain, but it ignores us. The other night we had a spectacular storm, but didn't get much rain out of it. We watched from the front porch as lightning branched all over the darkened sky for an hour. After the lightning converged in front of us into something resembling a fireball, with a crack of thunder at a frequency I've never heard before, it occurred to us that perhaps we might be better off in the house. It was beautiful...but not much rain.

Last night, the clouds started forming again. The view in the picture below is to the south, where our weather normally comes from. You can see the goats looking toward their shelter, trying to decide whether it's time to take cover.

After a while, the thunder clouds began gathering. There was one in particular that was shaped like a mushroom cloud. If the atom bomb had never been invented, would I have seen it as so ominous?

As I stepped into the front yard to get pictures, I realized that there was a huge dark cloud right over our house. Finally, rain!

Ten minutes later, the rain was done. It was better than nothing...but not much better.

The storm clouds are all around us again this afternoon. I'm sure today will be our day...

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