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Our friend Corky is a bird watcher, as is her sister, Storm. Storm lives in Texas and watches her bird feeder all winter long waiting for the Robins to return. When they do she calls Corky and gives her the news along with a report on the number of robins she's seen. Corky marks her calendar and waits. It's usually three weeks until the birds make it this far north. Sure enough, as soon as the robins get here so does a blast of severe weather. Folklore says that the robins will have snow on their tail three times before warm weather is here to stay. Here's where you can track the robins migration.

 There seems to be so much more winter than we need this year. -Kathleen Norris

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Yesterday was the first day in over a month with temperatures above freezing. It was the perfect day for a walk in the woods. The dogs enjoyed the sunshine, too. Especially Eva who's recovered from her accident last spring. I searched the timber for berries, fruit or any sign of first food for the robins. Some of the gooseberry bushes have a few shriveled fruit clinging to the branches, but for the most part the bluejays have picked the timber clean.

Soaking up the sunshine
Soaking up the sunshine

The cattle lined up in the sunshine, soaking the beams into their souls. Their contentment was as visible as the sun itself. The chickens ventured a little farther than the barn yard for the first time in weeks. They cackled and called out with joy. It's amazing how restorative a small temperature inclination, accompanied with bright sunshine, is. Everything seemed to sing yesterday.





signs of spring!
signs of spring!


On our walk back up the lane in an area where the snow was pushed back so the bare ground was exposed, a small patch of grass was greening in the afternoon sun. Only 28 days until spring.

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. -Henry David Thoreau


This is Spike. Spike loves the cold weather. Actually, Spike likes everything. It doesn't matter if it's cold, hot, rainy, dry as dust, or snowing. Spike is always happy.

DSCN1572 - CopyHe likes overseeing the farm from the top of the round bales. He's disappointed that we won't let him hitch a ride on them at feeding time.

keith on our walkOn our regular walk through the timber Keith and I noticed signs of the changing season. The color change of the leaves is obvious, but there are subtle signs, too. The wooly bear caterpillar's color range of reddish-brown to black is an indicator of the severity of the coming winter, if you believe the folklore. According to The Farmer's Almanac the legend is; the wider that middle brown section is (i.e., the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter.


maisy 10-24-13Maisy and Spike are staking out hollow trees looking for raccoon and opossum. Spike cornered a momma coon, at our urging he backed down, she wouldn't have.Spike 10-24-13







 10-24-13 deer rubThe canopy overhead is sparse now. The natural windbreak of the ravines shows signs where deer have bedded down for the night. Young trees have fresh rubs where bucks are marking their territory. We've seen large bucks in the timber and larger gatherings of doe. In another month the area will be overrun with men in orange blasting away at anything that moves. The cattle will move closer to the barn during hunting season, the dogs instinctively know to stay close. For us, this is the most stressful time of year.

 Last year a neighbor was surprised to see a group of hunters in his timber. He asked them to leave, but they insisted they had hunting rights granted by the landowner. They continued driving deer towards other's in their group waiting for the animals to get within firing range. Every year we're amazed at the techniques used to bring down deer. Hunters waiting on two different hillsides will shoot into the valley as another group runs the deer through the draw. Generally these aren't local folks. They come from different counties and states, all hoping to take home a trophy buck.   This season our neighbor has a preventative plan to avoid the situation. He's implementing something along the line of  the old adage, 'walk softly and carry a big stick.'  In this case it will be a very big and powerful stick.


What's in your wallet?

Garrett, Spike, and Sammy
Garrett, Spike, and Sammy

I’m going to miss the 4-H fair this summer. This year Boy Scout summer camp is the same week as the Clayton County 4-H fair. The Boy Scout troop is going to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for two weeks.  Making a choice between camping in the mountains and the local fair, camping won.   I love the fair.  We’ve had so much fun with 4H every summer.
A couple of years ago Garrett signed up for dog training classes through 4-H.  He and Spike went every week and learned to communicate and work together.  Spike loved the attention, the other dogs, and getting off the farm.  Every afternoon they practiced their obedience commands.  On the day of the dog show we packed Spike’s water bowl, snacks, leash, and collar.  He was bathed, brushed and cleaned up pretty good.  The 4-H dog show is an all day event.  On show day Just about every dog in the county gets dragged to the fair.

There wasn't much shade on the fair grounds so we kept Spike well hydrated; very, very hydrated.  When their class was announced Garrett and Spike headed into the arena.  All the dogs circled to the left, walking at their handlers side.  Over the loud speaker came the command “Reverse your dog, Reverse your dog.” All the dogs circled and walked to the right.  “Sit your dogs, sit your dogs” came the next command.  So far, so good.  After the 'down stay', Garrett picked up Spike’s leash beginning the next command, “walk your dog”.  As I looked across the arena I noticed that Spike wasn't walking, he was three legged. I realized what was happening.  Spike was relieving himself  into a woman’s purse!  Pulling on the leash,  Spike wouldn’t budge.  Being a farm dog, Spike takes care of himself; we don’t walk him. Our farm has 35 acres of timber, that's plenty of trees to accommodate him.  It never occurred to us that Spike might need to visit a tree.

Panicking, I grabbed a water bottle, paper towels, and pushed my way to the bleachers where the woman was seated.  Spewing apologies, I began dabbing and wiping the outside of her purse.  What’s correct etiquette when your dog pee’s in someones purse?  Has Miss Manners ever addressed this issue?

Dear Miss Manners,
My dog relieved himself on a woman’s purse.  What should
I have done?


Embarrassed in Iowa

At the time of the fair we'd only lived in Iowa for a few months, we didn’t know too many folks yet.  The next Sunday, during church coffee hour, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hi, remember me?” At first I didn’t.  Then it dawned on me, “Were you at the 4-H fair?  Do you have a cloth purse with a floral pattern?”  She had, at one time, she threw it away, though.  I felt my face turned crimson.

Spike was the Reserve Grand Champion of Obedience that year (despite relieving himself ringside). This year I’ll go and watch. It won’t be the same.  The horse show and project displays will bring back a flood of memories as frantic mothers run past me dragging kids, dogs, and food. I’ll breath a nostalgic sigh of relief and enjoy this years reprieve.  Next year the chaotic joy resumes.

The boys in Clover Buds


©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC