28 June 2011

Turf War

Aww!  Cute ant drinking water, right?  Don't you dare be fooled!
I recently heard that pound for pound, ants outweigh mammals.  Yes, all mammals.  It's amazing they outweigh a single blue whale, much less all of us warm-blooded, hairy animals.  Now, I don't know how anyone would go about actually calculating such a figure but my point is, that's a lot of ants.  It makes me not feel so bad about accidentally squashing one once in a while.  I don't go out of my way to torture them like I did when I was a kid, drowning them or feeding them to ant lions and such (yes, I know--I'm awful) but maybe it is time to reconsider a personal crusade against the pesky insects.  It seems like they've been nothing but trouble here and 'trouble' is being generous.
This little guy (an ant lion) . . .
  . . . lives in this neatly constructed den, waiting for ants to fall in for him to eat.

One of the things I love most about having our own yard and even better yet, a yard in the country, is that I can string a line between any two trees I like and hang clothes out to dry.  From the highway, no one can tell that my unmentionables are flapping in the breeze.

During the summer, I try vehemently to take advantage of the free method of clothes drying.  I stress free as a generally positive motivation, along with preserving some energy and the fresh smell of clothes dried in the wind (as long as no one within several miles decides to clean out their hog manure pits that day).
On an ordinary Saturday, I started the routine of washing clothes and hanging them out to dry.  I got through a couple of loads before going outside to switch out baskets.  To my dismay, the line had broken and the clothes, still pinned to the line, lay draped over our freshly cut lawn.  Luckily they were already dry so I shook the grass clippings before folding them and hauling them inside to request Jack restring the line.
It took just a few minutes to tie a new knot and hammer a nail through it and my beloved clothes line was as good as new.  Up went more clothes.  Down went the line.  Out went Jack to attach it once more.
We ran into town for a few errands and returned home shortly after the sun sank below the horizon.  My clean clothes were on the ground.  Again.
At that point, I was getting perturbed with Jack's inability to properly string a clothesline and considered fixing it myself.  The hammer was still by the back door so I grabbed it and went to make the repair.
Jack beat me to the walnut tree where the line had again broken and was staring at the trunk.  Even in the dark, it was obvious what had really snapped the line.
 Carpenter ants.  Oh, goodie!

I'd seen them performing tightrope routines across my clothesline as a way to get from one tree to another.  It was ingenious but more often than not, annoying since several of them would get lost and end up being dumped out on my bed along with the clothes when I got around to folding.
Clever little insects.

Apparently they were having a turf war with another colony.  Three times in one day they gnawed through the towrope we used as clothesline and they didn't look like they were stopping anytime soon.
Jack read my mind and after work on Monday, strung a new, heavier duty line and it seems to have worked.  The ants still march across it but it had yet to be felled by them.

I worked in the entomology field for several years and I know that insects are capable of incalculable good, pollinating crops, disposing of rotting, dead things, aerating soil, and whatnot.  Conversely, they're capable of much worse than chewing down my clothesline.  Sometimes though, I really don't like bugs.

24 June 2011

Meet Millicent!

I think old lady names on adorable baby girl sheep is hilarious.  Good thing Matilda, our two year old ewe, finally decided to have her little lamb (even if the timing was less than ideal)!
Magnus, our stately, regal and frankly jerk-of-a-ram was feeling rather lonely after the untimely death of his twin brother, Cardigan.  So we acquired another Shetland sheep to keep him company, this time a dainty, inky black ewe we affectionately named Matilda.

Magnus settled down a bit and quit testing out his impressive horns on everything that moved once he had a friend.  He soon discovered his attractive friend was different than him.
Come spring, we were anxiously anticipating the birth of a lamb.  We waited.  And waited.  And the weather finally got warm, so we decided it was time for the sheep to lose their winter sweaters.
It looks like she could be pregnant, right?

So we clipped.
(And thank goodness for splurging on electric sheers.  What takes hours with hand shears took less than half an hour with the blessed electric variety).

But wait a second...she doesn't look any more pregnant than she did last fall...

So we began to doubt.  The vet had assured us that she was indeed pregnant after a quick ultrasound in the field--sheep have unmistakable cotyledons and caruncles on their placenta that make pregnancy easy to detect.  As the natural worrier I am, I began to worry.  I was sure something was amiss--maybe the little lamb would be stillborn, if there was still a lamb in there at all.  I wrung my hands for several weeks, watching other rancher's lambs appear in the fields while I wondered what had happened.

The morning we prepared for our trek to Cedar Rapids for Jack's summer co-op, I fed all of the animals and filled everybody's water, giving them each a pat goodbye.  I handed Jack the garbage to toss on the burn pile and tucked the girls in their car seats when Jack sprinted back to the house.
"Rachael!  Come look!  Matilda had her lamb!"
The happy family.
Sure enough, next to Matilda was a tiny replica of herself, save for the three white spots on her forehead, cheek and jawline (a bit of Magnus found a way to manifest itself).  Matilda was the doting mother I always knew she'd be--nursing and cleaning and bleating her happiness and/or relief frequently.
Milly is practically a puppy.
That little lamb has grown so fast.  She's well over quadrupled in size and is quite the character.  It took me weeks to sort through the name suggestions, everything from Freida to Peggy, Tilly, Maeve, Midnight, Inky and even Thor (yes, that Thor).  We settled on Millicent and use the nickname Milly.
She gets into everything!
We are enjoying watching her grow alongside our girls and how she loves now to interact with people, even encouraging her dewy-eyed mother to willingly approach people.
Would you look at that adorable face?!
A birth is always something to celebrate and on our farm, the place is teeming with new life each spring!  Hope you enjoyed meeting Millicent--look for more stories later about this sweet goofball.

22 June 2011

Funny Photos Part One

Anyone who knows me, knows I love a good chortle.  So to share my love of laughing, here are a few silly photos.  I hope if it doesn't leave you in a giggling fit, it at least elicits a smirk.  Or a mental, "That's funny."

Kaylee seemed to enjoy steamrolling over Jordan.  This is also the age she attempted to grill and microwave dolls.  Cute and sinister all rolled in one!  (Get it? Rolled in one?  Haha...haha...)

I think Evie was squinting from the sun but her windswept hair makes her look like an utter goof.

Evie was having such a fun time playing on the fallen branch until she tripped.

I'm sure you're wondering what I was thinking.  I honestly don't remember.  I blame pregnancy.  That and being deliriously tired from working on one remodel or another (as displayed for the backdrop).

20 June 2011

Kiss My Plaster Goodbye!

That's not me...thanks for your help Kristin!

Tearing down plaster ranks high on my list of home improvement projects that I detest.  Loathe.  It's incredibly dusty--taking down a single wall is enough to cover the entire house in an inch layer of powdery white dust and form a cloudy haze that floats indoors for hours.  And it's astonishingly dense.  One bucketful requires two people, struggling clumsily to haul it to the garbage pile.

Not me either...thanks mom!

Plaster removal hovers on the list right around painting with oil based paint or using silicone caulking.  *Shudder*--that stuff is awful.  Nonetheless, it was a necessary evil and really, it was begging for it.  Every inch of our century year old house were smeared with plaster about sixteen years before drywall was ever invented (interesting fact: Gypsuboard, invented in 1916, was originally called Sackett board.  Wow.  I know.  Fascinating).
Mom and Kristin again.  I was busy taking pictures, okay?!

The builders of our home were probably so proud of the work they'd done and honestly, I'm sure it was marvelously fashionable when it was first completed but as the years went by, it lost its luster.  It had served its purpose and had to go.  It was done with loads of help from family and friends and often, a frantic mania to get it done, induced entirely by pregnancy.

It is a little bittersweet to finally be done knocking the stuff down and dragging it outside . . . Wait.  What am I saying?  Not bittersweet at all.  I'm happy to announce the plaster is finished!

15 June 2011

Ready to Chop It Off . . . Again

Three Women Combing Their Hair by Edgar Degas

I'm big on volunteering and a believer that everybody has something to give: time, money, food, used clothes, blood, or in this case, hair!  If you, like me, are growing out your hair, here are a few possible ways to measure that perhaps it is time to consider chopping off a generous portion and say, donate it to Locks of Love.

1.  One strand in the bathtub drain is enough to dam up the water flow
2. If you ball up the loose strands after combing, it looks like the offspring of Chewbacca
3.  While grooming your underarms, you've accidentally shaved off the tips of your hair
4.  As a means of entertainment, you pick through your strands, looking for split ends.
5. You panic, thinking you're losing hair at an inexplicably high rate but it's only an optical illusion since your hairs are so long
6.  You are held captive if your hair gets stuck behind you when you sit down
7. Your hair never really dries day to day unless you devote an unnaturally long time blow drying it
8.  If you inhale sharply and your hair is not tied back, it's likely that you'll choke on a lock sucked down your throat
9.  The tips of your hair are effective way to tickle a baby's faces
10.  Your children use your hair as a means for hiding


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