Missouri or Bust
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UPDATE AS OF SEPTEMBER 2009. We are approaching our 2 year anniversary of moving here. Life is becoming more routine. There are still a few new encounters from time to time. The most notable events have been our little projects around our homestead.
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::  DEWEY
I think the most significant change around here is our new addition. We found this little kitten on one of our morning walks in the dumpster down the road. We figured her to be between 4 and 5 weeks old. She is so adorable. I can't understand why someone would have put her in there. It's unlikely she got in there without help. She's very feisty! Absolutely fearless. We named her Dewey because on the morning we found her, I had picked up a Mountain Dew can and was taking it to the recycling bin beside the dumpster when I hear mewling. If I hadn't picked up the can, we probably would not have come close enough to hear her.

She's growing fast. August 15 puts her at about 3 months. She is able to get into more and more trouble. She wants to go outside so badly when we are out there. Sometimes we bring her out (or she slips out) but after Danny had to get a ladder to get her down from the big walnut tree , we really keep an eye on her. I let her climb the little maple tree. where I can reach as high as she can climb. She really loves to climb. In the house, she loves to climb the curtains. I hate it. If we tell her not to do something, she does it with even more determination. I read that kittens that are taken from her mother too soon become biters, and she is a biter. Unless she was very sleepy, it was difficult to try to pet her without her trying to bite my hand. But she has gotten much better. I think she is finally figuring out that it feels good to be petted.

She immediately got along with Buster and plays and sleeps with him. She gets along with Sammy okay and Aiko, of course, doesn't care. Kitty-Kitty was not at all happy about the situation and was spending most of her time outside in the nice summer weather. Dewey was very curious about KK and pursued her when she was in the house. At first KK hissed and growled. Although we tried not to let them alone together, Dewey ended up with a couple claw marks before KK came around. It took awhile but now the kitties are actually playing with each other. It's frightening to watch. KK pounces on Dewey and pins her down, then they roll around on the ground, all in complete silence. Then Dewey pounces on KK. They go at it until exhausted.

We decided to shave Aiko this year since she was so miserable last year. It came out rather unevenly. We laughed our heads off for hours. Now, I've forgotten what she looked like before. And, she did seem more comfortable this summer. Her hearing and eyesight are going, and she spends most of her time sleeping, rarely interested in going outside. She has gotten pretty gimpy and gets pain medicine everyday.

::  WORK
Danny is working at MoDot (Missouri Department of Transportation) for the sign shop again this season. He and the crew are responsible for painting railroad crossings etc. on the hot asphalt. I wish he didn't have to but at least we have health insurance for the summer and he has made some friends.

Work is picking up for me. Everyone is suddenly swamped. But I am still not working very many hours and end up wasting a lot of time. There are tons of projects to do around here, but I always find an excuse not to do them. One project I am actually proud of is a website for the daughter of a client. Take a look. http://www.lauren-nakagawa.com/index.html

::  PROJECTS
During the Spring I took a welding class at the Macon Vocational School. It was a pretty free-form class where one could learn whatever they pleased and practice, practice, practice. I did learn how to use the stick welder we bought. I haven't done much since the class ended but my excuse is that it is too hot in the barn (100 degrees if it is 80 outside). Plus, I still need to work on getting the barn fixed up and organized.

Danny built beautiful new doors for the barn. They are huge! Each door is about 11'x5' and weighs at least 150 lbs. (they're rather hard to weigh). It took more time to paint them than to put them together. It was easier than we thought it would be to carry them from the shop to the barn and put them up. I am painting the eaves (a project we have been putting off since we re-roofed the barn). I hate painting eaves!

We are still trying to organize the inside and it is still a mess. We put in a small concrete slab for a work area for my welding workshop. Danny built some work tables and I built a lumber rack and the shelves above the table. I have been going through all the junk in the barn and the junk I acquired at auctions and attempting to sort it all out. There is a little bit of everything and a lot of stuff that I can't even identify. Some may come in handy some day, or will go into the "sculptures" I plan to make.

Danny has gotten 2 commissions from his co-workers. One to build a screen door. The other to build a shelf unit. This will postpone building the brick barbeque he has planned. We got a bunch of bricks last year to build it and I got a bunch more off craig's list to use for pavers in the yard. We tore down the small shed in the back, which we discovered had originally been used as a smoke house. We salvaged the wood and used some of it to build the barn components.

::  CHICKENS
The chickens are laying eggs. They "free range" all over the yard (You have to watch your step). The 2 black hens lay in the nest boxes but one tan hen prefers to lay under the hosta and the other seems to lay where ever she is standing at the time. Every day is an Easter Egg Hunt. They have all grown quite large. The rooster is quite grand. His comb is elegant and his feathers are getting prettier all the time. When he started to crow it was so funny. The strangest strangled gurgle. Now you can't shut him up. He especially seems to love to crow when I am trying to talk on the phone. I bring the chickens kitchen scraps most days. Now, everytime we are out in the yard, they follow us around waiting for treats. They are especially fond of fruit and tomatoes.

Unfortunately, our favorite hen committed suicide. We had the burn barrel going one day. Danny noticed the rooster racing around and then heard flapping coming from the burn barrel. For some reason, she had decided to jump in. By the time he got there it was too late to save her. We still miss her. She was the friendliest of the bunch. As a chick, she was the only one that would sit on our knees and let us pet her

::  GARDENING
I started on the vegetable garden early this year and with big ambitions. I chose a different spot for the patch--where the former owners had their garden--and much larger than last year. The garden tractor is a real workhorse. We got it out in the garden with the plow attachment in early Spring and turned the soil That left it pretty lumpy. Later we ran the cultivator over it. And a rusty old disc we found in the pasture after we welded a new connection to it. The plot was looking much better.

At an auction we found another garden tractor. The same model as mine with the rototiller attachment. I was ecstatic! Though I had been looking, I never thought I would find one. I took it completely apart to check it out, tightened up the chain, and put it back together and we took if for a test run. It started out strong and then froze up. I was so disappointed. I was worried it was a goner. But it turns out there was one screw that needed to be backed out and then it ran like a charm. We got a couple loads of manure from the loafing shed and a load of composted manure for one of Danny's co-workers and tilled it in. The rusty spare tractor sits in the barn waiting to be restored.

While I was restoring the tractor, I found a group who cares about old garden tractors where I got good advice on how to fix up my tractor. They put my pic on the home page! It's gone now, but fame is fleeting.

We ended up cultivating an area about 15'x75'. I planted most of it but made wide aisles between the plants. It was a battle to keep the patch weeded. Everything grows so fast here. I got this cute old-fashioned hand-cultivator at an auction. I thought it would just be decoration but is is actually a very useful tool. The most effective tool one I found for weeding.

It has been a pleasant summer. Mostly in the low 80s with only a few days hot enough to require the air conditioner. I don't mind the hot house but Danny and the dogs suffer. It seems to rain every few days. I only had to water the garden once or twice, early in the season.. Everything is green and the wildflowers are beautiful.

At its peak the vegetable garden was going gangbusters, with zucchini, cucumbers and beans coming out our ears. I was picking 30 cukes every other day. And the zucchinis turned into baseball bats before I could pick them. I've harvested at least 1000 beans. Fortunately Danny took some to work. I ended up donating at least 15 plastic grocery bags of cucumbers and other stuff to the food bank. They are pretty much done now but I still have a couple dozen slowly rotting in the fridge. I ended up making 2 kinds of pickles. A sweet refrigerator pickle and kosher-style dills. They both cam out pretty yummy.

The tomatoes are finally turning. Some critter went in during the first night that they began to turn, and ate a bunch and a cantalope, so I broke down and got a electric fence. It seems to be working. Sure we tested it but I also know it works because I had forggen to turn if off one day and Buster touched it. His yelp made me feel so bad but he was fine.

The carrots are done. I didn't plant enough of them.The last of them rotted in the ground. The onions got soggy. I harvested the potatoes yesterday. We only got about 20 lbs. It should have been 50-75 lbs. but they taste pretty good. The corn went to the 'coons because I didn't think I had to fence it. But we get some from a neighbor. I tell ya, what with buying the plants, compost, cages, tools and fencing, plus the time spent out there, these are the most expensive veggies in the world.

Last week we tried the our first cantalope. It was very good. We ate a watermelon over the weekend and there are several still out there. It is hard to tell when they are done. I opened one earlier and it was still just yellow inside.

My dad sent us a big bag of wildflower seeds. We decided the best place to put them was around the lagoon. The ground around the lagoon was still pretty barren by early spring. Plus, it was one area the cows wouldn't get to and that we couldnt mow. The flowers came up along with plenty of weeds. They were a pleasure to look at while driving (or walking) up the road toward the house or from the kitchen window and deck.

The irises bloomed much better this year. I did not have time to keep them weeded so Danny ultimately mowed them all down. We really need to move them.

::  WILDLIFE
I still walk the dogs every morning out in the pasture where we often encounter a lone coyote who I suspect to have a den close by. She keeps her distance and barks her head off. Buster usually makes a beeline straight at her. But he is getting better at coming back when I call. I try to stand my ground but I would have to stand there all day. I have gotten close enough to get a good look at her. She generally looks like a cute doggie, until she bristles and approaches the dogs with teeth barred. Then she changes into a crazed demon. She always backs off when I chase her. Danny thinks I should carry a gun but I think that would be more dangerous--me with a gun. I do worry about running into a pack but they would probably not even come close enough for me to know they are around.

Last week one came into the yard in the early evening. The chickens often make a bunch of noise for no reason that I can see, but their noise and Buster barking made us go and look. We watched as it ran away with Buster after it. There was a pile of feathers on the lawn and only one chicken in sight. The coyote stopped and watched us from the edge of the hill with Buster barking away. Danny got his rifle and shot toward it. Basically to give it a good scare. I went and looked for chickens and found them all out front, rather freaked-out. Luckily, they all seemed to be unharmed. Hopefully, the dogs and gunshot will deter it, but we have become more cautious and attentive. We let Buster bark and whatever he likes (and he barks at everything) and I leave the dogs outside more often.

We had a number of birds nesting around the house. Danny built a bluebird house and we put it on the fence post by the lagoon. Although the sparrows can be a problem, it appears the bluebirds pair had a successful breeding season there. I saw 2 baby bluebirds on the gate by the nest box one morning. After that a house wren moved in.

There is a swallow nest from last year over the front door that seems to have produced 2 nestings. Occasionally, I could see their little heads over the lip of the nest. Fortunately, we rarely use the front door. I still need to clean up the mess they made on the deck.

We also had a pair of eastern phoebes nesting on the back porch eaves. A neat little nest of moss and mud. As we sat in the evenings on the porch swing, we enjoyed watching the mother come to and fro. The male sat out in the tree and sang. Apparently the males are not allowed around the nest once the female starts to sit. Unfortunately, just after the babies hatched. we noticed the mother had not been around. We checked the nest and the babies were dead. We don't know what happened, but we were quite sad that they didn't make it.

We have mostly stopped feeding the birds because we were just breeding house sparrows. There are way too many around and they compete with the native birds. We kept putting suet in Danny's pretty suet holder to attract woodpeckers and such and because the sparrows didn't use it, but they've gotten wise to it too.

Summer is already threatening to come to a close. Labor day weekend was cool and foggy. The days are getting short. Maybe we can get some projects done this fall before it gets cold again. Next spring we plan on buying our own cows. Yikes! Real ranchers(?) We'll see.

CHAPTER 7