Thursday, September 21, 2017

Making Hay While The Sun Shines

The summer is nearing an end and preparations for winter are in full swing.  Everyone is either mowing their fields or baling hay one last time.

Even the fields around the small local airports are mowed and baled.  The large buildings in the background are hangers.  

This gentleman was mowing right beside the highway so I slowed my car, waved, pointed to my camera and yelled to ask if I could take his picture.

He smiled, stopped his tractor and let me focus.  He probably thought I was a city-slicker who had never seen a tractor.

Another day I passed this gentleman who was raking his field.  When asked if I could take his picture, he laughed and said only if I would drive the tractor around the field a few times for him so he could rest.  It was a temptation.  The last time I drove a tractor was as a small child while sitting on Daddy Fred, my grandfather's lap.  He worked the clutch, gears and brakes while I steered.  Reluctantly I declined. Climbing back down without breaking my neck would be a challenge. Experts are able to make something difficult look simple and everything about farming is complex.

Hay is used as winter fodder (food) for animals and the varieties of mixtures of grasses and legumes are unlimited.  Every animal has its own prefered mixture.  It is tricky to harvest hay at the right time. It is best right before the seed head ripens, the leaves are full and the weather is dry.  It is the leaves and seeds that make for good quality hay.  After it is mowed, it is allowed to dry in the field.  If the grass gets too wet and spoils, it can rot, mold or develop toxins which will make the animals sick.  If it is too dry, the leaves will be stunted and have less nutrition.  Straw is used mainly as bedding since it is the leftover stems which is lower in nutritional value. 

This field was mowed earlier, the grass was dry and was being raked with 8 wheels of a 10 wheel rake.  The gentleman said the reason he was using 8 rakes instead of all 10 was because it had rained so much the grass was thick.  The rake wheels would spin as the tractor moved.

The hay baler followed behind the long row of raked hay, rolling it into a circle then tieing it. 

There are different types and sizes of hay balers (square or round) because each type has different uses.  This made large round bales which would be used to feed livestock.  One bale weighs about 900 pounds.

It was a complicated, noisy, dangerous machine but it beats raking and baling by hand.

The idiom "make hay while the sun shines" means to do something while the opportunity is available.  These men had a few days of good weather so they were definitely "making hay while the sun was shining."

Friday, September 15, 2017

Today's Blooms, September 15, 2017

Before Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma
After Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

I am not complaining.  Really.  I did not have to paddle a canoe to the grocery store this morning so I do not have any problems.  However, since I am in lower middle Tennessee, we were hit first by the tail of Hurricane Harvey, then a week later by the tail of Hurricane Irma.  This month's blooms will be brief, and depressing, but, I have a roof over my head; I will not grumble.

Yesterday afternoon the rain stopped, finally, and I sloshed through the yard looking for something, anything blooming worthy of being photographed.  I found some marigolds.  So what.  Boring old store bought marigolds.

Boring, boring, boring.
In last month's Today's Blooms on August 15th I was distraught because my zinnias were covered in leaf spot so I went In Search of the Elusive Perfect Zinnia.  I did find them.  This month I have decided to embrace my moldy, diseased zinnias.  I should not be so negative; they are doing the best they can.  Instead of calling them pathetic, I am going to declare them variegated.  A bit more optimistic I think.   So below is my variegated, soggy zinnia.  It's ok if you aren't impressed.  My feelings won't be hurt.

Variegated Zinnias
My Beauty Berries looked great so I took a bite.  Normally they are mildly sweet, but today they were flavorless, watery.  

Beauty Berry
 My sedum, Autumn Joy is happy.  Well of course, with a name like "Autumn Joy" they have to be cheerful.

Autumn Joy, Sedum
I was about to give up when I spied bright golden yellow, glowing in the afternoon sunlight.  Wild Goldenrod was hanging over the fence from the field into my flower bed.  I claim it as being in my flower bed!  At least I have something beautiful blooming that I can share on this month's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.  So today I will click on the links and enjoy other people's pictures of their gardens from around the world while I wait for mine to recover. 

At least I have Scooter to show off.  He will be glad to pose so Nana will be happy when she sees his picture.  At least something will turn out well today. 

"Scooter dear, please stop sniffing the bug and smile for the camera.  The world is watching, don't embarrass me." I politely asked.

Sniff, sniff, sniff.
NO! SCOOTER! NO!  NASTY! BLEAH!  How disgusting! 

Lick, smack, munch, gulp.
"Hello world.  I will be glad to smile now." snickered Scoter.

Tee hee hee.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Feathered Neighbors

View from my kitchen window.
The weather has turned cool, three weeks earlier than usual.  It looks like it will be an early Fall and suddenly my feathered neighbors are in a flutter.  Bill built this birdfeeder from a broken folding chair and attached it to the back deck railing. I can watch my neighbors fight and be entertained while I wash dishes.  Anything which makes dishwashing less tedious, is praiseworthy in my opinion.

The first one usually migrates through in the Spring around April 15th.  It makes tax day a little less miserable.  If I don't have the feeders up, they buzz me at the kitchen window, going around in circles until I come out to serve them breakfast.  I prepare sugar-water which is one part sugar and four parts water; they never tire of the same menu.  October 19th is the latest we have ever seen one because they travel south for the winter.

Yum, Yum
They scuffle to perch on the spot on top of the feeder so they can view the perimeter and protect their food source. When it runs dry, they watch for me to return with fresh nectar then suddenly appear shoving to be the first in line.  

This is Ping Pong guarding his territory.  We named him years ago because when he first arrived, he was tiny and wider than he was tall.  He looked just like a ping pong ball.  Even though he was smaller than anyone else, he was fierce and did not hesitate to fly into battle against another twice his size.  This is his feeder and he is not shy about fighting to protect it.  He is quite the warrior.

Ping Pong the Great 
He is often tricked.  Someone will challenge him and a chase will ensue. He never backs away from a fight.  While he is away at war the home front is unprotected, so others will fly to the abandoned feeder to enjoy themselves.  He falls for this trick every time; the warrior below claimed the throne of honor and then took a nap.  


There was so much fighting and mischief at the deck feeder, we decided to add another around the front of the house.  Originally I had the feeder hanging on the porch but decided to move it into the yard on the dinner bell because of the mess they make.  This way the weaker ones also eat and we are entertained while sitting on the front porch. Years later they still remember the spot where the feeder hung and will buzz the area looking for it. 

They can fly forwards, backwards, left, right and hover in midair.  Dive bombing is the favorite battle tactic and many have collided inches above my head.  It is amazing to see their midair, beak sword fight acrobatics.   None fear us and will hover inches from our face if they are curious.

Now they are frantically trying to gain weight to make the long migratory trip south to Mexico or Central America.  All will fight then suddenly stop and drink at the feeder when thirsty.  Late in the evening, minutes before dark, the smaller ones sneak to the feeder and fill up for the night causing air bubbles to float to the top.

I will miss my neighbors this winter; it will be quiet on the deck for a while.  Then the trouble will all start over again come Spring.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Scooter is in Big Trouble

Believe me!  I am innocent!
I am locked outside on the porch because I am in so much trouble.  Today began as normal and then it happened.  It wasn't my fault.  REALLY!  Early this morning as I slept on my pillow on the floor beside Pack Leader's side of the bed, he awoke and began rubbing my head.  He does it every morning.  I love Pack Leader and he loves me, except for this morning.  He suddenly jumped out of bed, shouted at Mom, put me out on the front porch and here I am.

"What did I do?"
Since I have super-sonic-radar-detecting hearing, I could hear all that was happening.  They stripped the sheets off their bed, took my pillow and threw everything in the washing machine. Mom began vacuuming the house including the furniture.  I mean EVERYTHING!  I could hear that loud monster vacuum screaming forever.  Then Dad went upstairs, stripped the sheets off the bed where I guard Pack Leader while he works and threw them out on the porch with me.  He threw anything I have touched outside.  I was in quarantine forever.

When he finally opened the door so I could come in, all he said was, "Scooter, go straight to the bathtub now."

As I walked to the tub, Mom followed behind me with a mop cleaning.

"Yes sir."
In the tub Pack Leader scrubbed me good.  When I jumped out to give a good shake, Pack Leader threw a towel over me to stop me.  Too late.  Usually Mom giggles when I shake but not today.  She said, "They are all over the floor," and began mopping, again. 

"What is all over the floor?" I asked.

She said, "They are seed ticks and Scooter, you are covered with them." 

She went on to quote the Texas Cooperative Extension Department " female ticks lay from 1,000 to 5,000 eggs in the debris of fields and forests in late spring and early summer.  Seed ticks--the larvae of any tick species--emerge in swarms in late summer.  After hatching, seed ticks quickly locate a host animal and feed for four to six days before progressing to the nymph stage.  Nymph ticks repeat this feeding process before graduating to adulthood, feeding again and laying eggs."

Trying to cheer up a depressed Mom, I said, "I don't have 5,000.  I am sure."

She replied, "The day isn't over yet."

Pack Leader began scratching them off of me.  When they are small and flat, you can't feel them until they fill with blood and become round; then they feel like grains of sand against your skin.  After they are full, they let go.  I tried to cheer Mom up again and told her not to worry about me because they will all fall off.  She said that is what she is afraid of as she walked out the front door to begin sweeping the porch.  She even sprayed my outside favorite on-guard-duty-spot with stinky stuff.

You can see on Pack Leader's fingers where they popped and squirted blood.  YUCK!  They were all over me, even in my armpits and Mom took a picture.  She has no shame.

They put me on a white towel, began scratching them off and dropping them on a piece of tape.  It was terrible.

I don't think I have ever been so embarrassed.

"I am so embarrassed."
PACK LEADER! Not under my tail!  This is getting even more humiliating.

"Privacy!  Please!"
You missed one right there.

"Up higher."
This went on all day long.  They would take turns rubbing my fur, sticking the ticks on tape, then cleaning the floor wherever I walked.  All the doors were shut so I stayed in the living room and the only place I could sit was on a white towel.   I went outside for just a few minutes because Mom said she did not want the yard around the house infested.  She said it was bad when they first bought this house years ago and they spent hundreds of dollars trying to kill them.  Nothing worked until they got chickens.  The chickens cleared the yard and they haven't had any problems since.  She explained this is the reason I am always laying on top of something white, because it might happened again.  I hope it never happens again.

Today has been exhausting watching them work all day rubbing and scratching me.  By late afternoon the ticks had all (we hope) fallen off and were shoved in a baggie to be burned.

I hope tomorrow is better.

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