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Steady Bee

by Richie
Steady Bee

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The corn top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom…

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this week marks the official end to the Dog Days of Summer. So there’s hope that these hot, hazy, humid afternoons that fog our windows and send us galloping indoors to the depths of central air-conditioning may be dwindling down to a temperature more in the range of what a human can reasonably tolerate, without risking heat stroke just by walking to the car.

 

hoverflyThis has been the summer of Steady Bees. The steady bee is a small insect with a yellow and black striped body that mimics a bumble bee. But unlike a bee, they have no stinger and only two wings, which technically makes them a fly. (Bees have four wings.) The peculiar talent of the steady bee is to hover about an inch off a flat surface, which is usually your arm, leg, phone, or any other object in your immediate vicinity. Occasionally the steady bee will land and take a momentary rest, again on your arm, leg, or coffee cup rim, but mostly they hover in place. In fact, the real name for these manifestly annoying insects is the Hover Fly. And we are full-up with them this year.

swarm lady 2

Steady bees hover around anywhere there is a slice of shade. Under the gazebo, beneath the steps, below the door handle, around the carport. These are all the places that we hover around too, and so we are persistently swarmed by steady bees.

 

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A quick flick of the hand will disperse a posse of steady bees long enough to make an escape and sprint into the house or hustle into a car. And since we are always doing these kind of things, entering the house for instance, or standing under the gazebo which is the only source of shade for a good part of the day, we are in a constant state of herky-jerky arm flailing. If we had flags in our hands we would be sending semaphore signals to the fleet.

help

As it is, the Great Steady Bee Battle is only a small part of our ongoing war with a vast and insidious onslaught of painful and loathsome rural insects. There are horseflies and wasps, hornets and yellow jackets, bumble bees and sweat bees, and the invisible evil twins chiggers and turkey mites, who launch themselves unseen from the tall grass and burrow under your skin, usually in places unmentionable and terribly tender. And then there’s the ticks. Big ticks and little ticks. Dog ticks and deer ticks. And teeny weeny micro-ticks that are so small they can easily masquerade as a freckle until you realize, often unhappily days later, that you’ve been a warm meal for the little bloodsucker since you walked across that unmown field last Tuesday.

Come to think of it, maybe I’ll just stay on the porch with the steady bees.

 

 

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Dances With Fox

by Richie
Dances With Fox

fox & dog

 

The Farm
Central Kentucky

Quirky dogs who make us laugh earn an Indian name around here. Previous pooches had names like Kicking Bowl and Nose In The Door. We’ve been calling the puppy Steals One Shoe after an obvious habit.

But today’s events were extraordinary enough to mark the occasion with a new Indian name for Coco – Dances With Fox.

There’s a family of Red Fox who live in our barn. They’ve denned there for years, making elaborate tunnels under the floorboards, each entrance headed by a heap of soft dirt decorated with paw prints. Lately Coco has been rummaging through the barn in what is the equivalent of a fox garbage dump – odd bits of bones and feathers strewn around the stalls. And each morning she returns with an old dried-up prize – a turkey wing, a turtle shell, a squirrel tail. Leftovers from a fox dinner. 

turkey 2

 

But yesterday Coco came back with a fresh bunny. Not the bones or a bit of fur. The whole rabbit. “She’s stealing from the foxes,” Tim said. We stuffed it in the garbage can and worried that Coco was now actually entering the fox’s den instead of just being content with their leftovers.

Today that was pretty much confirmed as the Red Fox harassed Coco, nose to nose, right out in the open. Nearly the whole afternoon the fox defended her turf while the dog was thrilled to have someone to chase. They were the about same size, 20 lbs apiece, with the fox sporting a long bushy tail held straight out. The two ran circles around the barn – chasing, leaping, pouncing, dancing – all day long.

  “Yap, yap!” barked Coco.

  “Yorp, yorp!” cried the Fox.

The fox’s bark was similar to a baying beagle, with a slight yodel at the end that signaled alarm. The dog was having a grand time but the fox was much more serious. 

 Hear the Fox Bark:


I grabbed the camera but only managed to squeeze a long-distance shot as the fox trotted off in a momentary stalemate between rounds.

A short while later Coco came rolling back with another rabbit – this one of the domestic variety. It was certainly the fox’s hard won supper, no doubt pillaged from a neighbor’s warren, and meant to feed her family of kits. 

After much cajoling and waving of arms we finally got the thing away from the dog. Figuring the fox family had now been robbed of two meals in a row by our pilfering pooch, we left the rabbit at their den entrance and tied up the dog for the rest of the day.

Which didn’t make Coco happy, but now we know the answer to the popular question –

What Does The Fox Say?

Yorp! Yorp! Yorp!

 

 

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Country Christmas

by Richie
Country Christmas

XMAS 1

A wonderful holiday was spent at the farm with all the family in attendance. Folks traveled from near and far to join us for several days of food and merry making. Even Coco the puppy was on best behavior – she managed to hold a sweet temperament for three days!

It was a balmy Christmas, unseasonable warm and sunny, which didn’t raise too many complaints. The windows were thrown open, everyone mingled around outside on the deck, and 4-wheeler rides through the muddy fields were mighty popular. 

XMAS 2A

A record crowd of 10 slept over for a couple of nights – so many that we ran out of beds in the main house. So the motorhome was put into use as a spare suite. It was the perfect solution. Plugged in and turned on, the RV was a great place for two adults and a newborn to snuggle in for the night. 

Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

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Coco Loco

by Richie
Coco Loco

COCO LEAF

Windsor, KY
View Map

Well we’ve gone and done it – a new puppy has been added to our menagerie of pets. Meet Coco, our new travel companion.

We took a long drive down to Casey County, home to many Amish & Mennonite communities, to fetch a Shiba Inu puppy. The fall foliage was bright and colorful on a sunny day, and the trip was a page-long series of back road turns and twists, with nary a highway to be seen. Amish farms along the way were neat and tidy and we passed many horse and buggies on the road, each offering a friendly wave to us.

COCO 1A

The Showalter family of Windsor, Ky has been breeding Shibas for some time, and we were impressed to see the quality of their dogs and the supreme cleanliness of their kennels. Here we were, a couple of strangers, standing in center of a big barn with a dozen or so dogs in tidy pens and not a yap or whimper was heard. These are calm and confident dogs, not given to high excitement, which is exactly what we were looking for.

It’s been almost a year since our dog Shadow had passed, and we were both ready to start again with a new pup. Shadow was half Husky and half Shiba Inu, so the breed and its temperament is familiar to us. Stubborn and Willful! But intelligent and eminently trainable. 

COCO 3A

Coco will be trained to be our RV traveling companion, hiking buddy, and all-around farm dog. She’s only 7 weeks old now, still very puppy and a bit wobbly. So it will be a few months before I can start taking her on long walks. But already she’s proving to be bright and alert and willing to listen.

DOG N CAT

The three cats, however, may take a bit longer to get used to Coco’s high-grade puppy energy. They are intensely curious about the dog and hang around draped on railings and over chairs to watch the puppy’s antics. I expect everyone will settle in eventually.

Coco will be a medium-sized dog when grown, about 30 lbs or so. Over the next year she’ll be enrolled in obedience classes to make her well behaved, sociable, and ensure she’s welcomed everywhere. Now if only I could do the same for myself!

 

 

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Melody Lake

by Richie
Melody Lake

Melody Lake

 

Went to an auction looking for antiques. Bought lake property instead.
Whaaaat! How did that happen?

The morning began clear and bright, perfect for wandering around a farm auction. Tents were set up and household items were set out on long tables. Next to the little brick home, in a choppy mown field, rusty farm implements were spread out in long rows. There was a crowd of 100 or so locals shuffling around, picking through the items. I was browsing for antiques. Tim was in search of a blacksmith anvil.

The auction began promptly at 10:00, with the land and home to be sold first and then the contents. We were seated under the big tent and frankly I wasn’t paying much attention to the auctioneer, as he was obliged to read aloud several pages of legal hoo-haw.

Tim poked me. “They’re auctioning lots at Melody Lake, too.”

“Whaaaat!”

I’ve spent most of the summer cruising around Melody Lake, occasionally scamming a swim at their private beach – in other words engaging in some Mild Trespassing. It’s a private resort community – a stunning area with a clean, clear lake and lovely homes dotted around. It had been rolling around in my head to buy some property there, if only to have swimming privileges.

Melody Lake is just a few miles from our house and was developed in the 60’s and 70’s as a waterfront resort. It has about a hundred homes and 13 miles of graveled roads that loop around a 60 acre lake. The area is very similar to lake camps found in the Adirondacks. There’s a beach, campground, swimming pool and clubhouse. And remnants of a one-time golf course.

But sometime during the 1980’s the area fell into disrepair. The contractor went belly up, roads and buildings were neglected, some undesirables moved in and a couple of drug busts occurred. Melody Lake developed a notorious reputation. Owners got disgusted and moved away, the resort floundered, and then the area slipped out of the local consciousness and was mostly forgotten.

All that nasty business was 30 years ago, and since then the community has turned around and become lovely again. But an entrenched prejudice against the place is still present among the local populace. When I asked around this summer about Melody Lake I heard three common answers:

 “I haven’t been there since I was a kid.”
 “Didn’t that place go bankrupt?”
 “It’s all druggies up there.”

But being a newcomer and holding none of the local grudges, I didn’t share this opinion. What I saw was a fabulous lakeside community, neat and tidy and inviting. So I grabbed a plat map from the auctioneer and studied the three lots for sale and found that I knew right where they were – about a five-minute walk from the beach I’d been visiting all summer. lake 2

 

The auction started and the lots were offered for such-and-such per acre. Silence. The auctioneer lowered the starting bid. Crickets chirped. He lowered the price again. No bids from the audience. I could hear people around me muttering: …drugs…bankrupt…when we were kids…

Boldly I stood up and hollered a ridiculously low price for all three lots and the auctioneer slammed down his gavel and said, “SOLD!”

Then I had to go explain to Tim (who had vectored off looking for anvils) that we had just bought property at Melody Lake…Whaaaat!

We spent the rest of the weekend riding around the lake (beautiful), inspecting our lots (wooded), and taking tours with friends (astonished).

Don’t know yet what we’ll do out there. Maybe doze a driveway for the RV. Maybe get a little boat. Or maybe build a lake cabin.

Meanwhile, I’m going to stay away from auctions!

 

 

 

 

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Curtains It’s Kittens!

by Richie
Curtains It’s Kittens!

SMITTY-FRAME

 

Smitty the Kitty has graced us with a litter of five kittens, all tucked under our bed in a cozy nest of towels.

But I’m ahead of myself here…

First a sad announcement on the loss of our dog Shadow. He passed just before Christmas, a couple of weeks after we moved into the new house. 

Shadow was our trusty camping buddy, ever faithful on the trail. He shared every trip with us, starting way back when we were sleeping in a tent up through more recent years of traveling in the motorhome. We miss him terribly, and have beloved memories of the adventures we shared. SHADOW

His absence left a big hole in our lives, and our neighbors decided we needed a replacement pet right away. A stray cat had shown up at their barn, and even though we said, “No, no!” they brought the cat over the next day. 

Smitty the Kitty was young and quite thin, but friendly and in desperate need of company. She endeared herself to us immediately – being gentle, well behaved, and an exceptional mouse hunter. The plan was to keep her in the garage, but sub-zero temperatures seemed too cruel for outdoor living so she took up residence in the basement, save for a couple of fateful nights when she mysteriously disappeared.

A few weeks later I remarked on her expanding tummy which Tim insisted was due to better nutrition. It wasn’t long before Smitty started to look like a bowling ball with legs, and then it became quite clear why she vanished those nights. 

So here we are, Dog Lovers, with a box full of newborn kittens. Think they can hit the trail with us?

 kittys

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Foggy Bottoms

by Richie
Foggy Bottoms

“Unusual weather we’re having,” said the Cowardly Lion. 

Two record breaking snowfalls have melted away like the Wicked Witch, defeated by buckets of rain and a blowing gale worthy of Dorothy. The happy relief of warmer air has unhappily combined with a deluge of rain and melting snow to form a thick fog that clings to the lowlands like old tapioca.

From the front porch I can hear a nearby tributary rushing full throttle at flood stage to join our creek in the Bottoms at the lower echelon of the farm. The Bottoms are a section of pastureland below the mossy limestone cliffs and beyond the ancient spring house, and from our back deck I can see the fog expanding along the creek there. fog

 

On the backside of the house a surprising new lake formed overnight. Dubbed Lac du Splishy-Splash, it is trying to find its way to the Bottoms via a good-size muddy trough. Unlucky this, as we were planning to locate a new fruit orchard in about that spot, which now seems unwise. lac

 

Beyond this temporary lake sits the Big Barn, where a family of foxes has taken up residence in a former calf crib. We see their footprints in the dirt floor and occasionally spot stray feathers from what must have been a fine feast of local wild turkey.  

Following a loosely mowed trail behind the barn is another lively little stream, found today to be leaping over rock ledges and forming fetching waterfalls, a pleasing byproduct of what is essentially too much water. Crossing the stream and passing through a thicket of cedars you come at last to Dancing Mantis Meadows, where our log cabin sits prettily on a perch between rolling hillsides and dense forest. waterfalls

This round-about tour of the farm is an odd way to announce that our motorhome, the Flying Mantis, is back home from its service call, waxed and primed for our next trip. We’ll hope the fog has lifted by then!

 

 

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The S Word

by Richie
The S Word

It’s five minutes past March, and somewhere a daffodil is tapping its wristwatch.
 -The Washington Post

 

Snow is becoming a four-letter word around here, uttered with chilly contempt as yet another historic blizzard has lavishly blanketed our corner of the Near South.

The remnants of the last storm had just melted and the air was warming to a tolerable degree such that it was possible to step outdoors without fear of frostbite. Then, in a deliberate and malicious maneuver by Old Man Winter, twenty inches of the dreaded stuff was thrown down yesterday. Take that, Spring!  

It’s a knock-out punch, making travel impossible and keeping us homebound for the next few days with a stockpile of groceries and a ready-to-pop pregnant cat. 

 

s word

With negative-number temperatures, our forays outdoors are limited to a few minutes of shoveling and a brave walk up to the mailbox, which is a quarter-mile away. A thoughtful and generous neighbor has plowed a path for us with his tractor, and I’ll be baking a sumptuous cake for him this afternoon as a small token of our deep and abiding appreciation.

Nearby the main North-South route, I-65, is a 30-mile graveyard of stranded semi-trucks and hapless motorists who found the local hills impossible to climb. The National Guard has been called out for rescue and retrieval, and word is the highway will re-open sometime in late summer. Or maybe sooner if they can figure out where they left the snowplow.

 

65

At the moment, the RV is tucked away at the dealer awaiting its annual maintenance. They called to apologize for a delay in service, due to the weather, and I’m thinking it may be a week or so before we’d be able to slide it down our driveway anyway.

Just in time for our next adventure at the end of March –  We‘ll be heading farther south, hoping that the S-word won’t follow!

 

 

 

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Winter Wunderland

by Richie
Winter Wunderland
All-Day Snow

All-Day Snow

Fifteen inches of snow is unusual in our part of the South. But that’s what came down hour after hour yesterday. Fine powdery snow fell heavily from dusk till dawn, until it had piled up over a foot deep.

The RV carport did its job well, keeping the coach snug and out of the elements. And since the snowpack is so light and fluffy, we’re not worried about the load on the roof. snow 6

Our driveway, however, is another matter. We’ve got a quarter-mile long gravel road and no way to plow it. Yesterday’s excursion in the 4-wheeler left a line of tracks to follow on foot today. Bundled up in parkas and snow pants, we trudged up to the mailbox on the main road and found…no mail. No surprise really, they’ve closed just about everything in this part of the state. snow 7

It will take a few days to dig ourselves out. Just in time to take the motorhome out for its service call. And maybe close on the City House at last!snow angel

 

 

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