September 28, 2009

I'll start with the good news. This past weekend, my whole family packed up and headed to Shenandoah National Park for our second annual "Logan Family Campout". It began raining shortly after we had all arrived and set up camp and quit raining two days later, shortly after we had given up and retreated to our respective homes. This may not sound like the good news, but it is for two reasons - 1) Joe and I got definitive proof that our tent does NOT leak, and 2) we had a really good time!

In between downpours, we did manage to fit in a short hike to a nearby waterfall. On the way back to our campsites, we had the great pleasure to watch a mama bear and her two cubs feasting on acorns in an oak tree. The cubs were especially adventurous in climbing all the way out to the end of tiny branches that looked like they would break any moment under their weight. They have taken to heart the saying "You have to go out on a limb because that's where the fruit is".

That evening around the campfire, we thought we were going to have bear encounter number two when there was a loud rustling and shaking of bushes in the edge of the woods. However, just as I suspected, it turned out to be our friend Jay in a gorilla suit. Some of my family members who are not as familiar with Jay's prankster ways were totally fooled, and my six-year-old niece Savannah may be scarred for life.

The bad news is that Joe and I had to come home to the aftermath of an attack on our guineas. Something, most likely a raccoon, managed to snatch one of the guineas through the bars of the dog crate and nearly pulled the wing off of another. Despite an amputation of the mangled wing, the injured guinea died a couple of days after the attack. We are now down to 8 guineas and 9 chickens (one of our hens mysteriously vanished in broad daylight earlier in the, probably a hawk). The remaining guineas will be introduced into the newly expanded poultry house this evening after dark (the chicken house/tool shed has been entirely devoted to poultry, and the tools have temporarily taken up residence in the unfinished outhouse) and all of the birds will remain on lockdown for a few days to adjust to the new living conditions.

Lily and Wilson have officially been fired from their duties as guard dogs. The whole guinea attack happened while they were sleeping on the porch. It was raining at the time, though, and they couldn't be bothered to get out of bed.

September 22, 2009

Joe is home!! I'm very happy, despite the fact that he seems to have brought my allergies back with him. Fall is one of my favorite, and most miserable, seasons. I guess that's the whole yin-yang of it.

As the first of the autumn leaves start to turn their brilliant colors, I am officially declaring an end to canning season. As soon as Joe returned we made one last push for apples, picking six 5 gallon buckets of red delicious apples from a friend's trees. Two days later and 9 o'clock at night, by the light of the headlamp, we are pulling the last jars of applesauce out of the canner. What a bountiful summer it has been.

Lily is enjoying all this outdoor canning. While we were busily working around the fire trying to finish up before the light disappeared, she contentedly parked herself right in front of the make-shift stove and gazed into the coals. That is one fire lovin' dog. (P.S. Since the initial writing of this post, Lily pilfered and ate two whole freshly cooked loaves of friendship bread and is now up for sale.)

While Lily is winding down and enjoying the finer things in life, Wilson has appointed himself the county sheriff and seems to be constantly marching off into the woods to set something, or someone, straight. Early the other morning, we were lying in bed watching a pair of deer grazing in the field opposite the house. Wilson and Lily were sleeping on the front porch. Soon, Wilson noticed the deer and immediately went to chase them off, barking ferociously. Only one of the deer found Wilson's display to be at all unsettling and turned to run, with Wilson in hot pursuit. The other deer, a large buck, stood his ground unperturbed. Wilson only chased the deer a short bit before deciding he had made his point and turned back toward the house with a jaunty air about him. He strutted right past the buck, stopping no more than twenty feet from where he stood. With his back to the buck, he gave a satisfied yawn and a deep stretch and prepared to resume his sleep in a sunny patch of dirt. The buck looked from Wilson to the top of the hill, where his companion had eventually stopped after realizing he was the only one running. Several minutes elapsed before something alerted Wilson (maybe it was that feeling you get when someone is staring at you) and he whipped around to finish the job. I half worried that Wilson might be impaled on the buck's antlers, but both deer decided it wasn't worth the effort to argue and just took the easy road out. Lily sat on the porch quietly observing the whole event. Joe and I almost died from laughter. Wilson did his best to hide his surprise and make like he had known that buck was there all the while.

September 17, 2009

Well, Joe's been gone for over a week now. Only two more days to go, thank God! I had anticipated having time while he was gone to do some computer work, some letter writing, etc., but I was very wrong. I have been busier, tireder, and even sicker, than ever! Paradise requires at least two people to run smoothly. It's no coincidence it was Adam AND Eve in the garden of Eden. And it doesn't help that this modern day Eve is also trying to hold down a job. I became slightly despondent on Tuesday when, upon arriving at work, I found the door to my boss' upright freezer standing open and the bulk of my summer's hard work spoiled and stinking. After dragging load after load of broccoli, blueberries, peaches, tomatoes, etc. down to the compost pile, I promptly went home and got sick. The bug only lasted for 24 hours or so, but it was about then that I decided it is high time to have Joe back again. But really, I've been doing quite well on my own.

A very exciting part of this past week has been the extra, dainty little eggs I'm finding in the chickens' nest each day. Our little "chicks" are all grown up! The guinea chicks don't seem to be getting much bigger, but they are getting more and more adult feathers every day. They are still convinced that I am going to eat them alive at any second, despite the fact that my presence only means good things, like fresh water and food. I tried to clean out their crate and give them some fresh hay, and I was afraid they would all die of heart failure before I was done! I'm hoping this is just a phase, overactive adolescent neurosis. I guess we'll see.

September 07, 2009

I've been kind of hard on the chickens lately, not so much in person, but in print. I feel I may have given the wrong impression of my general feelings towards them. Yes, they mutilated my mums, but I've made my peace with that. All in all, the chicken scorecard shows more benefits than downsides.

Maybe it's because we don't have TV, but I could spend hours watching the chickens, totally mesmerized by even their most mundane putterings. Chickens have very complex social lives as well as a vast vocabulary of vocalizations. I personally (usually) find the crowing of a rooster to be a pleasing sound. Our rooster, Reynaldo, is especially considerate with his crowing. His crow is one of the first things I hear upon waking, but it is always JUST after I had woken up. I don't know how he knows, but he will come stand underneath our window and crow his heart out moments after we've opened our eyes and finished our yawns. A quick peep through the curtains and you'll see him standing his tallest and looking most official with his head cocked to the side and one eye gazing intently up at the window. All it takes is a "Good morning, Reynaldo" to satisfy him. His crows change to contented mumblings, and he goes about his morning business.

Even Lily and Wilson, our resident examples of "Man's Best Friend", can't match the chickens for devoted following. Whenever we are outdoors, whatever project we may be involved in, you can be sure the chickens will decide to center their activities in that same vicinity. Even trips to the toilet include a full, feathered entourage.

It is a good thing that I can find so many things to love about barnyard fowl, because we just made a rather impulsive decision to double our current population. A man was selling baby guineas at the end of our road the other day, and now ten of them are chirping away under the kitchen window. Having guineas, for comic relief and tick control, has long been our intention, we just weren't necessarily planning on having them so soon. Usually I am the one to make emotional animal acquiring decisions, but these little guys swept Joe off his feet at first sight. Maybe a petting zoo is our life's calling?