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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Homebound in the Virginia Mountains (Blog 375)

The weather continues to be bitterly cold here in Southwest Virginia, and school is closed once again, so I can't start Of Mice and Men again today with my tenth graders or help my freshmen with their PowerPoints on the 1930s.

Our two flocks of heritage Rhode Island Reds are refusing to come out of their respective henhouses, except for brief forays to the feeder. And Elaine has beaten me three straight games of Scrabble. We were half way through the game last night, and she was already ahead of me by some 150 points. It was then that I did the only thing I could - overturn the board and concede defeat. I used to overturn the board when she was ahead and claim that it was an accident.  That gambit has never worked, however.

Warmer days are hopefully ahead.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Rhode Island Red Pullets Start Laying (Blog 374)

Life is full of small success stories. Last April, Elaine and I watched one of our heritage Rhode Island Red hens, Mary, hatch three chicks on her first try as a mother. Although we had hatched other eggs in an incubator, there is no comparison to seeing a hen actually do what genetically she is programmed to do.

This week, Mary's two pullets began laying eggs.  Elaine has named them Thelma and Louise as my wife is in charge of naming the hens while I give the cockerels their appellations. The first egg appeared on Wednesday and the second on Thursday, though the two young hens have not yet grasped the concept of depositing their eggs in a nesting box.  Nevertheless, it is exciting times in the Ingram household.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Deer Hunting in the Cold (Blog 373)

Today is the last day of deer season, and I am doubtful if I will be able to summon up enough courage to go afield. Monday, New Year's Day, my son-in-law David Reynolds and I went to a Botetourt County, Virginia cattle farm, arriving on our respective stands around 3:15.

The temperature with the wind chill was 4 degrees, and neither one of us made it to the end of shooting light at 5:35. In fact, we ran into each other leaving the woods at 5:15. Neither one of us had seen a deer. David summed up our respective thoughts when he said, "I knew it was time to get up when I realized I was too cold to shoot a deer if one did come by."

We talked earlier in the week about going today in late afternoon when the temperature will be around 0 with the wind chill. I have a feeling that we will probably cancel.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Babysitting the Grandsons (Blog 372)

It's a blustery, cold Saturday, and our wood stove is stoked, and our grandsons Sam (age 5) and Eli (age 3) are having a sleepover. As I write, we are watching a Thomas movie and the boys are drinking hot chocolate. Eli has already spilled his, but, hey,no problem.

I have often teased Elaine that when I first asked her out if I had said, "Go out with me on a date, and one night 35 or 40 years later, we can be babysitting our grandchildren. Would you have gone out with me, if that had been my line?"

Elaine is rather non-committal on that question, leaving me much in doubt if that would have been a good approach.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Finding a Christmas Tree with my Grandsons (Blog 371)

One of the joys of living out in the country and having Elaine's and my two grandsons, five-year-old Sam and three-year-old Eli, living nearby is seeing them experience Christmas. This week one day after school, the boys came over and helped me find, cut down, and drag back to the house a Christmas tree.

The tree was just a scrawny Virginia pine, but to Same and Eli, it was a tree of magnificent beauty and importance. I look forward to seeing them unrap their presents there on Monday

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Joy of Cutting Wood (Blog 370)

Saturday morning, I spent my time working on my next book and several magazine articles. After lunch, though, I spent several hours working in our woodlot, using my chainsaw and splitting maul.

There is something wonderful and satisfying about hard physical labor that is difficult to describe. Several years ago, a huge limb fell from a dead chestnut oak in the hollow directly behind our house.  For the past two winters, I have worked on this log, as it is exceptionally thick and hard to saw. Yesterday, I finally finished cutting and splitting it. The wood from the log now sits on our sundeck and burns in our stove.

When not using our wood stove, Elaine and I keep our thermostat set to 68 degrees. But Elaine loves for me to start up our wood stove on weekends because she says the heat "is warmer." She's right, it does seem to be. This afternoon, I need to work on a pignut hickory that fell close to the driveway last week, and then there's that long dead black locust that lies on the ground. Both need my attention.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Rhode Island Reds See Their Snow (Blog 369)

Elaine and I have two flocks of heritage Rhode Island Reds living side by side in separate enclosures. We call the older chickens the "Big Reds" and the younger ones, the "Little Reds." This morning, the Little Reds experienced their first snow, and their leader, Don Junior, an eight-month-old cockerel, stuck his head out the henhouse door, saw the snow, emitted an alarm note, and promptly announced to his flock in chicken speak that it was not safe to go outside. Approximately, a half inch of snow had fallen overnight.

Of course, next door, Don Senior resolutely led his flock outside and began to do what chickens do best... eating. Meanwhile, I had to lure Don Junior, who so far has not taken after his father in bravery and leadership skills, out of the house by dangling bread bits a few inches in front of him. Once Don Junior was down on the ground, I had to physically remove the rest of the flock to join in.

Last winter, when snow fell one weekend, the younger flock stayed inside for several days, and a mite outbreak took place.  I don't know if that was because they remained inside for several days, but I am going to try to make sure that an infestation does not occur this winter. One way to do that is to make sure our flock spends time foraging - not cowering inside.