Archive for April, 2013

The mouse in my pocket

When I was in school, we brought home a list of spelling words, studied them, practiced them, used them in a sentence, and returned to class to take something called a “spelling test”.  We then got a new list of words and started the whole process all over again. I know that sounds pretty boring to some of you, but I have always enjoyed words and their meanings, and besides, spelling was so much easier than math! I may not be the world’s best speller, but my skills aren’t too bad and I do know how to use a dictionary or  use spellcheck on the computer. All of the new tablet computers and phones now have a program called autocorrect, in which the computer decides ahead of time the word you want to use, spells it correctly, and inserts it into your sentence. It is kind of like the computer is trying to read your mind and is supposed to save you a lot of time while writing or texting. On my tablet, I easily figured out how to turn the autocorrect off, but my new phone is a challenge.   It is not a time saver for me at all, since I learned through a lot of trial and error to check very carefully before hitting the “send” button.  Thanks to autocorrect, in one week only I have managed to call one of my friends a rodent,  renamed my son-in-law and my mother, and confused everyone at work (including myself) about the schedule. Thinking it would be easier than texting, or perhaps being a glutton for punishment, I installed a voice-activated system that would not only give me directions, but also would allow me to speak and have my words automatically changed to text. “How wonderful!” I thought. “What a fantastic tool!” How wrong can one person be? The little mouse-in-my-pocket, as I called her, could not even get my name right, so can you imagine me trying to get her to understand the words Bemidji, Minnesota? (I was trying to get directions). In the meantime, I thought I would experiment a little and try to send a voice-activated message to my very patient daughter Amanda. The mouse-in-my-pocket chose to send the message to another Amanda on my phone list, and our combination text and voice-activated communication went something like this:  Amanda:  “Did you try to text message me? I got half a message that didn’t make sense…” Me:  “Sorry. Playing with new phone and voice activated tenting mean for my daughter”.  Me:  “Ops! Tenting,  not tenting.”  Me:  “Tenting!”  Me: “TEXTING. Aughhhhhhh!!!!!” Amanda: “Hahahahahahaha!”  The voice activated program got deleted after a day or two. The autocorrect program will be deactivated as soon as I figure it out.  In the meantime, a word of advice from the Mine so take Farm Womanly:  Proofread!

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Heavens to Betsy!

Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in ~ Mark Twain

HEAVEN only knows, it can be difficult coming up with ideas for a newspaper column and internet blog every week. I often write about my adventures with the chickens, but since I separated the roosters, the only thing going on in the coop this week is that it is beginning to smell to high HEAVEN since the daytime temperatures have been  staying above the  freezing point.  Sometimes it feels like I move HEAVEN and earth to think of something new and amusing to write about, but since this is the week that our taxes are due, I have found very little to be amused about.  Gone are those poor but happy days when we were in hog HEAVEN with our big refund check. Back then, we had no money in our bank account until tax refund time, and now, we have money in our bank account until tax paying time.   I can often come up with something interesting to write about HIM, but this week our marriage has been a match made in HEAVEN,  so there had been little to discuss and/or make fun of ever so lovingly in that regard. I could tell you that having a new grandson is absolutely HEAVEN on earth for both of us, but then I would have to include all 172 pictures of the handsome little guy (the baby, not the husband) , and HEAVEN help you if I did that!  I could talk about my garden, or lack of a garden, because the HEAVENS have opened up ever since Groundhog Day, giving us enough snow for what seems like six more months of winter.  I am determined not to talk about the weather, because it seems that is all that Minnesotans have talked about lately. By the way, if you ever plan on moving to Minnesota, and HEAVEN help you if you do, you had better brush up on weather, politics, and sports. These hot topics are the only warm things around here most of the time. Oh for HEAVEN`s sake! I can’t seem to come up with a topic at all, and HEAVEN forbid I have to start doing reruns.

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Last week, I was given the gift of three one-week-old Black Australorp baby chicks. They are supposed to be girls, but we all know that around here, things don’t always work out the way they were supposed to.  The babies had been snug in their little cage under a heat lamp for nearly a week, and were surprisingly tame when I reached in to feed them, give them water, and of course, pet them, because baby chicks are just so darn cute!  I have been keeping the babies on my breezeway, because it is the next warmest thing to the living room, and for some reason, HE frowns upon keeping barnyard creatures in the house.  The breezeway is kind of a catch-all/storage/laundry room/kick your boots off type of room, and for all the aforementioned reasons, is always a mess. There are shoes and boots and coats and hats and potatoes and onions and a vacuum cleaner, and now…..a large cage on a card table and a bag of chick food.  Please don’t laugh, this really is my life. Anyhow, I was in the midst of mopping floors and doing laundry and on my 27th time passing that cage I noticed that it held only one chick. I stopped in my tracks and immediately picked up Barney the Chihuahua, who had started sniffing around, and locked him in the kitchen. Slowly and carefully, I inched around, looking inside boots and boxes, carefully sorting through the laundry pile, finding no baby chicks. Fearing they had hidden behind the washing machine, I carefully picked up a sack of potatoes to move out of the way when I found one, who had managed to hide herself among the spuds. As soon as I picked her up and she started cheeping, the other escapee started making noise from across the room and it was easy to find her. Whew. Another disaster diverted. I couldn’t figure out how they had slipped out, but since the cage was wrapped in towels, I tucked the towels around it more carefully, securing them with clothespins and continued going about my business. When you are a Farm Woman, having a day off from your job does not mean you have a day off from work.  When I passed that cage for the 40th time, I noticed once again that the two babies had escaped.  What the heck?  On my hands  again, I began to search, and found them both under a bench, huddled next to the heat register.  I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting out pieces of cardboard to line the cage, hopefully keeping them from escaping.  That afternoon, I had an escapee from the big coop hiding in the shed, making me crawl around in the still foot-deep snow trying to get her out.  I think that all chickens great and small must have a case of spring fever and are feeling the need to escape somewhere or anywhere.   Who can blame them?  I feel exactly the same way.  Last year at this time was warm and I was considering an early planting of lettuce, beets and radishes, and the chickens were free-ranging in the yard.  This year, there is more than a foot of snow still covering the garden, and the somewhat gloomy forecast is for more snow this week. Minnesota springs cannot be trusted, and neither can chickens.

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Ruling the roost

Henry the Rooster has gone to a happier place.  The combination of a long snowy winter and seven roosters in the coop has taken its toll.  I don’t have to worry so much about the four small Banty roosters, as they keep to themselves. The three full-sized roosters have been the problem with their “who rules the roost” mentality.  I read somewhere that chicken farmers should have one rooster for every 20 hens, but I ended up with a couple of extra boys for my 17 girls.  Farm Women of old would have taken the extras to the chopping block, but I don’t have the stomach for that.  They were beating each other up to the point of being bloody, and I don’t have the stomach for that, either, so something had to be done.  My chicken coop is attached to the barn, which is actually an old garage in which we store corn, straw, and a bunch of junk. After one bloody battle which happened right in front of me,  Henry got relegated to the barn. I chose Henry because he was closest to the door and could be shooed out more easily than the others.  I started asking around, and finally found another Farm Woman who actually wanted a rooster, but now the trick was getting Henry to his new home.  I had a good plan:  I filled a large dog cage with straw, a container of water, leftover coleslaw, and bread.  I made a trail of breadcrumbs leading to the cage and waited.  Henry started circling the cage.  I waited some more.  After circling the cage a few times, Henry moved on.  On to Plan B:   I grabbed a long pole and started leading Henry toward the cage.  It was working.  Closer and closer, faster and faster, until I slipped and fell on some loose straw, tumbling down like some sort of giant flapping chicken and landing right in front of the cage.  I’m not sure if it was fear or surprise, but at that exact moment, Henry jumped right into the cage, splattering water and coleslaw everywhere.  There I was, lying on a filthy barn floor with spatters of old coleslaw on my face, crawling toward the cage to lock him in. Who rules the roost now, boys?  Henry wasn’t too happy staying in that cage for a couple of days until he could be delivered to his new home, but you should have seen him when we carried that cage into his new coop, filled with hens that he could woo all by himself.  The minute he saw them, he started making noises in his throat and puffing out his chest, excited at seeing all those lovely women.  Yes, Henry has gone to a much happier place.  The other two large roosters are happier, too. Just yesterday, one chased the other through the door into the barn.  He probably thought if one rival disappeared through that door and never came back, the same might happen to the other.  I can see the rooster wars have not ended, but unfortunately, I am still limping around and not quite up to another capture yet.

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