Sunday, July 25, 2010

More problem solving...wildlife style, this is becoming a theme

I found myself awakening from a deep, coma-esque sleep this morning. As I lay in bed, feebly attempting to gather my thoughts, I wondered what was the time? Must see the clock. With much effort, I hauled myself out my comfy horizontal position, squinted valiantly over the prone puppy at the end of the bed and thru one eye, I saw the clock said 6:30. Could it really be 6:30? Had I slept all the way thru the night without one wake up? Not one pit stop to the loo? My bladder said, Yes, yes you did, but please get up right now! I forced myself into an upright position and fought my way to the bathroom . I say fought because every day the minute I get up there are two dogs and two, or three cats weaving between my footsteps, exhilarated with the prospect of breakfast being served. Fortunately for them, I'm usually too sleepy to be annoyed with the furry game of Twister that they challenge me with each day. This morning I was exceptionally out of it. Maybe it was the heat, the humidity, or the very busy work week we just endured. Whatever the cause, I was seriously having trouble waking up. I obviously had no idea of the challenge that awaited me in the barn.
My morning chores are typically mundane. First I make my coffee. Then I feed cats. And I feed dogs. Then I drink a cup of sweet coffee nectar and the cobwebs slowly clear from my head. Once the caffeine has channeled its way to my brainstem, I stagger out to the barn, listening to the chorus of whinnies from the horses that we are responsible for feeding each and every day. Horses so enjoy a schedule. They want to be fed at the same time every day. They are demanding creatures, but I love them so I'm a slave to their needs. Besides if I don't feed them on time, they bang on their stalls with their powerful hooves, whinny insistently and it makes sleep impossible, unless you are Jonathan (that's a whole different story).

I entered the barn this a.m. and went directly to the feed room, anxious to get the horses grain doled out as fast as possible. Fed the main aisle. Check. Fed the three horses in the small aisle. Check. Heard random fluttering. What the hell? I looked up at the three windows in the small aisle and through the achingly, bright sunlight I made out the figure of what appeared to be a small black bird, mindlessly trying to escape through the windowpanes of the far right window. My fragile retinas recoiled at the direct intake of sunlight and I paused for a moment. Sighing and squinting, I looked up again. Yep, it was bird, a really dumb bird who didn't realize that he was about three feet from the barn door a.k.a. freedom. "I don't need this this morning!", was the thought that kept running through my head on a loop. "I'm tired!!" I decided to give the nine horses their hay and then I would regroup and check on bird-brain. Once the hay was delivered to each equine, I grabbed a broom and tried to gently nudge the bird, hoping to disturb him just enough so he would take flight and realize that the barn doors were OPEN and he could leave if he just ducked down a few feet from the window. The bird chose to fight back at the broom, squawking frantically and stubbornly trying to escape via the windowpanes. I quickly stopped, not wanting to cause this dingbat bird more duress. He/she perched on the sill and I noticed that it was panting with his exertion. Now I felt badly. But I was determined to get him to recognize his/her stupidity and free it from the windowpanes of Hell. But first, the horses needed their water buckets emptied and filled with fresh water(read:my least favorite chore of all time). I trudged through the dreaded chore of emptying the water buckets, trying not to curse at the stupid bird every time I went through the doorway to dump the leftover water. As I uncoiled the hosepipe and headed toward the small aisle I had an epiphany and this doesn't happen too often. With purpose, I strode outside the barn doors, hosepipe in hand. I took a deep breath, looked up at the windows and said, "Sorry dear birdie, but this was my only choice!". I released the valve and let the water fly full stream against the outside of the windowpane where the tiny, black captive sat. He fluttered, stuttered and generally freaked out. Then he moved to the window adjacent to where he was originally struggling. I moved the stream of water with him. Now mind you, the water was on the outside of the windows. This bird was NOT being sprayed directly, but he/she freaked out again and flew to the third and final window. I followed his movement diligently. "Be free, you idiot!!", I yelled. In a magical, blissful moment, the bird ducked down and flew out of the barn doors. "Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, you're free at last!!", I said looking around quickly to make sure no one heard me and I robotically resumed my task of watering the horses. I'm sure MLK had no intention of having his world reknown speech used to congratulate dipshit birds from exiting their supposed "cages", but at JEM Stables it seems that you just never know what's going to happen. I finished watering, coiled my hosepipe and headed back to the house for more much needed coffee. Just another day in the life of a simple woman, who looks after horses, cats, dogs and an occasional retarded bird.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Behold the awesome power of Mother Nature. She was in a nasty mood last Fri. night and she wreaked her wrath on our tiny, dirt road in Millbrook, NY. It all began while Jonathan and I were contemplating what we should do for dinner. Before we could say pork chops, the winds began swirling and the sky turned jet black. I did what I do best. Get on the phone. My friend Jen and I were in mid convo when the wind took a turn for the worst. Just as I was saying, "Holy Shit!", the phone cut out. The trees outside my office window went sideways (read:not a good sign). Next thing I knew, the rain began pouring into my house. Yikes!!! I ran around closing windows and did a quick kitty head count. I found three of them right away and the fourth was under our bed (smart kitty). Just as quickly as the storm began, it was over. It didn't feel that serious, until we went outside and looked across the street. The photos bear witness to what we saw at that moment. Utter devastation. So,I tried to make my pics more artistic than actual representatives to what actually happened. But it was wild! Broken trunks, strewn limbs, no power. Mother Nature had said very clearly, "Screw you guys, it's hot and I'm mad!" There was no cute Heat Miser to dance about and sing songs, it was more or less a brutal display of what a 30 second mini twister can do to some old, pretty trees. Bing, bang, BOOM. Done. Thank goodness our property was left unscathed. Very soon after the storm we heard the high whine of chain saws. Being curious people, we poured ourselves another cocktail and headed down the road, highballs in hand. Lo and behold, the men who live on our quaint dirt road had loaded their powerful chain saws into their pick ups and come to the aid of their fellow residents. With saws blazing, the two giant trees that had fallen across the road and cut off our power were quickly reduced to kindling. I was smiling with the realization that this is what it's like to live in the country. This was how I grew up and I was familar with how the menfolk take charge of a catastrophic situation. However, before they could finish, the town crew showed up and put the kibosh to their cutting. The country folk were chagrined, but that's the way it goes out here. No fisticuffs were seen, it was all quiet, a brief conversation and the country men dispersed, their chainsaws still warm and itching to finish the job. The town crew took over and that was that. Jonathan and I returned to our house, still quiet and dark. I lit many candles. We read by candlelight until we could read no more and we went to bed listening to the quiet sounds of a summer night. By the next day, most of the fallen trees next door were gone. The trees on the lower part of the street were picked up today by the town workers. And that is how we deal with Mother Nature's wrath out here. Meanwhile, another storm is now brewing. The sky is getting black, the wind has turned colder and I sense trouble. Better get off the computer before it gets worse. I'm taking advantage of the eerie calm and shuttin 'er down. Until later, my friends...

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Yesterday morning at 8 a.m. I was pleasantly surprised to see my Mom's number pop up on my caller ID. I cheerfully picked up and headed out to the front porch with my coffee cup in hand. Mom and I can talk for a long time, so I settled in to the comfy wicker couch and put my feet up on the table. The birds were chirping, the temperature was pleasant and my coffee was sublime. We chatted amiably for about 20 minutes, then the dogs showed up and they were panting, heavily. Not a good sign. "Hold on, Mom," I said. "The dogs just came back from a jaunt and I want to see what's up". I called Remy over and lo and behold he had fresh blood on his white ruff. My heart sank. Upon closer inspection there was a patch of blood on the under side of his jaw, too. "Uh Mom, I think I have to go. It appears that there has been fresh blood shed in my midst and I need to investigate," I said with a sigh. She chuckled and replied, "Probably another woodchuck! Talk to you soon, dear".

I hung up, abandoning the idea of a quiet morning and chastised the dogs. They both looked repentant, but offered no signals as to where the freshly dead beast was hidden. It has been a few weeks since Remy's newly found passion for woodchuck annihalation has reared it's macabre head. I'd hoped he was through with his new game, but the blood didn't lie. There was a body out there and I needed to find it. Like a member of NCIS, I went out on my mission. Traipsing through the various fields and underbrush and looking for clues, turned up nothing. No body was to be seen. The dogs stayed at the house watching me cautiously from the porch. Australian Shepherds are not dumb. They knew that their mother was p.o.'d. I returned to the house after about 45 minutes and growled, "Bad Dogs!" in their direction. Remy gave me a baleful look and Becks bounded in beside me, seemingly oblivious to my dark mood. He's still an idiot puppy after all. The day turned hot and steamy and between rides and turnouts, I kept thinking about the woodchuck body and where it had been stashed. I vowed that I would find it. Somehow, somewhere it was out there. And I would find it.

Today dawned dark and ominous. Rain was on the horizon and though we were heading to a horse show I couldn't deny the fact that we really needed it. True to Murphy's Law, the rain began as we embarked to the show venue, but the show was held in an indoor ring so we did our classes, successfully I might add, and headed back to the farm by 10 a.m. By that hour the rain had been reduced to a mist and glory be, the dust was gone and the fields looked refreshed. Jonathan and I busied ourselves in the stable and got our work done in a flash. As I was cleaning the last stall, I saw Becks emerging from the hedgerow behind our house. There is a field across the road, easily accessed from our backyard hedgerow and I know the dogs go out there frequently. I'll bet the dead woodchuck is in the field across the street, I surmised. Grabbing an empty grain bag and a pitchfork, I leapt into the Audi and took a quick trip to the field to investigate. My search proved fruitless. All I managed to do was get my sneakers sopping wet and look like a psycho, toting an empty grain bag and pitchfork. When I returned to the barn, Jonathan called out, "Didja find it?" "NO!" I growled. But I vowed this search was not over.
Several hours later, Jonathan asked me if I'd looked for the body in the dense underbrush of the hedgerow behind our house. There's a reason I married this man. He's crafty like that. I walked up to the hedgerow and began to carefully pick through the underbrush. I felt like Rambo. Or maybe more like Bill Murray's character from Caddyshack, because I was muttering swears like a sailor. I would pause and sniff. Pause and sniff. Brush back more trees and sniff. The dead body was close. I could feel it, and smell it. The tropical temperatures didn't hide the fact that a rotting body was near. AHA! Finally, I spotted the dead woodchuck. It was HUGE! The granddad of woodchucks lay in the dense underbrush, with flies swirling around it. VICTORY is mine! I trotted back to the barn and whispered to Jonathan, "I found it!". But we had to do evening barn chores so the pick up was to be delayed. Still, I felt confidant that I could pick up the carcass, dispose and be done with the whole stinking deal. I so love it when a good plan comes together. I was congratulating my super sleuth skills, thanking all of those NCIS shows that we've watched over the years. The last horse was fed and I grabbed my fork and grain bag, hell bent on taking that dead woodchuck to another locale before the dogs could dismember it, or worse roll in it's fetid stench.
Alas, I was about ten minutes too late. When I headed into the jungle of vines and trees I sensed movement. Squinting my eyes, through the vines I saw Becks head back to the lawn in a panicky run. The smell of dead animal was suddenly overwhelming. I resisted the urge to gag and channeling Rambo, I pressed on. Then I saw the body. It had been turned around, guts were streaming out and the smell was positively putrid. With a firm resolve, I picked up the dead animal and heaved it into the feed bag. A random gray tubular organ lay on the ground, so I swiftly skipped it onto the fork and gingerly put it in the bag, too. I grabbed my shirt and took in a deep whiff of my waning perfume to keep my wits about me. Stifling a war whoop, I darted out to the lawn and called for Jonathan. No reply. I called again. Nothing. Following my now sharp warrior instincts, I went to the stable and there was Jonathan in the wash stall with Becks. "Guess who rolled in the dead animal?" he said with a laugh. That was it. I lost it entirely. I gagged, dry heaved and bent over my knees. No woman should be forced to deal with this situation. It's competely disgusting, barbaric and totally unfeminine. Yet, here I was with a dismembered woodchuck in a grain bag. Since Jonathan was washing the foul scent off our the puppy, I decided that I would have to do the relocation portion of the dead pest. It wasn't easy, but I followed through and heaved that dead giant into a dense, remote section of our rustic dirt road. Followed by it's weird gray, tubular organ. UGGHH. With the windows down, I returned to the house, gulping in great mouthfuls of fresh air. The martini's are now helping me erase the horrid memory that was the rotting woodchuck. I'm proud that I didn't pale in the face of rotting flesh, innards and flies, but really, how much more can I be expected to take? I ask you? Thank goodness for vodka is my only reply. Svedka, you are my only friend in the war against dead woodchuck removal. Everyone needs an ally in war.