Schmidt Homestead

Our new home in Woodburn, IL

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Today at lunch Oliver finally went for it with the dogs' tails. Zeus was sitting down wagging his tail, and Oliver attacked. He lay down and wrapped all fours around the tail while it was still swishing. The more I laughed, the more Zeus wagged, and Oliver held on for dear life. He got swished all over the place. Zeus didn’t even act like he knew anything was happening! Oliver attacked Stacy's tail too, but he never grabbed hold like he did with Zeus. Either the dogs didn’t notice him there, or they just didn’t care, because the only thing they paid attention to was my laughter. The more I laughed, the more they wagged, and the more Oliver bounced around. I laughed until I cried.

Monday, September 24, 2007

We had a good weekend. I got the rest of the sunflowers hung in the barn, and I planted some fall lettuce. Oliver is quite the garden helper – chasing the hoe, attacking weeds and such. He followed us up to the trailer, so we let him in. He was really good, so we decided that he could come in as long as he behaved himself. Later while we watched a movie, we heard him crying outside the door. We let him in, and he made himself comfy under the recliners like our old cat, Peanut, used to do.

Yesterday we spent all day canning tomatoes. We made some more yellow salsa and two batches of spaghetti sauce. The red tomatoes have slowed down a bit, but the little yellow tomatoes have been unbelievable. The bushes/vines are taller than my head, and they’re so big and full that I can’t reach thru one side and get to the center (there are two rows). I can pick yellow tomatoes for over an hour and still not get them all. I’ll think I’m finished, and then I move a branch and there’s more! There are still some near the ground that I can’t reach from any angle… my arms just aren’t long enough! Also, they leave what we call ‘yellow spooge’ all over you when you touch the vines. It’s fluorescent – like it’s radioactive – and I’ve found yellow spooge in my hair, on my legs, on my arms AFTER I’ve taken a shower! Yesterday Oliver was covered in it after walking thru the vines while I was picking.

The salsa recipe is very good – if you can get past the idea of yellow salsa. We eat it with Tostidos and on burritos. It’s easy too – it comes out of a packet from the store. What we really like is the spaghetti sauce. It also comes out of a packet from the store, and it’s excellent. Mrs. Wages makes great seasonings for tomatoes and pickles. We tried making some spaghetti sauce from scratch, but we like the packet kind much better. We’re planning to give away most of what we’ve canned this year. Our rule will be - if you return our jar, we’ll re-fill it for you next year! So far we have blackberry jam, salsa, spaghetti sauce and whole tomatoes.

The dogs learned yesterday that they like little yellow tomatoes. They probably ate more than a dozen each, and Zeus figured out how to pick them directly off the vines!

The dead green beans perked back up last week and we’ve picked several pounds since then. We dug up some carrots, and they were good. The loofas are finally coming around. It looks like we’ll get more than just the three we thought we had.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When I got home from work yesterday, Oliver was sitting in front of the barn WITH the dogs! We all played together for a while. I drug a stick on the ground, Oliver chased the stick, Stacy chewed on the stick, and Zeus licked Oliver. Oliver’s fur got all wet, but he didn’t seem to care. The dogs didn’t like it when I drug the stick in their direction making Oliver bound toward them. They’d jump back like they were afraid of him, but as soon as he stopped moving toward them, they were back to sniffing and licking him like before. As I was about to close things up for the night, I walked out and found Oliver and Gertrude about a foot apart having a stare down. I ran and got the camera, but by the time I got back, Gertrude had walked away. A few minutes later I closed the girls up in the tractor and got this picture.

It was more curiosity than aggression from Oliver. Everything happened in slow motion. The chickens were concerned, but not completely freaking out, and Oliver slowly climbed up the wire then jumped off to chase a bug in the grass.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The chickens spent all day yesterday free-ranging. The dogs ran at them a couple of times when they were loose at lunch and after work, but once the chickens get in the brush, they stop flapping their wings, and the dogs lose interest.

Oliver and Murphy hung out all day in the barn. They settled in underneath the tractor, and only Oliver came out when I called. We kept the barn doors closed except for when the dogs were tied up to keep them from harassing the kittens. After work Steve was out throwing the Frisbee for Zeus, so I picked up Oliver and took him out to see everybody. As we walked back to the barn, Oliver leapt from my arms and landed right in front of Zeus. Oliver puffed up, and they went nose to nose. When Stacy saw him, she ran over and got right in his face as well. Oliver stood his ground – all two pounds of him! There was some hissing, and all his hair stood on end, but he didn’t take a swipe at either of them. After a few seconds, both dogs simply walked away. I said to Steve “That went better than I expected!” We decided that since Oliver was fine with the dogs, and Murphy was going to hide from everyone, there was no reason to keep them separated. We opened up the barn doors and turned everybody loose. Oliver still puffs up and dances sideways at the dogs when they run up to him, but he never runs away. I think that’s why they don’t have much interest in him – he’s no fun if they can’t chase him. This morning he even followed me out in front of the barn when I was feeding the chickens and letting them out for the day. He LOVES the grass. He scratched the grass and chased imaginary bugs in it. At this point, everyone is getting along except Murphy, and he’s just going to have to get a grip! I think Oliver is going to be a GREAT cat.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yesterday after lunch, I tied up the dogs and let the chickens out to free range for the afternoon. When I got home from work, they had nested together in the brush around the old bus. I herded them toward their tractor, but they didn’t want to go inside. I let Stacy off the leash, since she’s less excited by them, and she paid them absolutely no attention. Then I let Zeus off the leash and he also paid them no attention. I walked with Stacy and Zeus in the direction where the chickens had gone, and when the chickens saw that the dogs were loose, they got all excited and flapped their wings and clucked. This excited the dogs and they chased them into the brush. I called the dogs into the trailer and went back out to check on the chickens. I didn’t see them anywhere in the brush. Then I heard them bok-bok’ing at me. I looked up and saw three chicken legs ‘upstairs’ in the tractor! I took the opportunity to close them up for the night. At least they know where home is. I let them out this morning while the dogs were loose, and the dogs didn’t even seem to notice. Hopefully we can let them free-range during the day most days.

This morning I decided that we should let the kittens out of their cage, since they’ve been there for a week. I propped the cage door open and they came out to explore the barn. Murphy immediately disappeared into the barn ‘stuff’. Oliver followed me everywhere I went. I thought he might follow me outside the barn, but he saw Zeus at the door and decided to stay put. I came and went several times, and every time I called, Oliver came running out to me. I could hear Murphy talking to me, but he never came out. I left their food, water, litter box and cushion in the cage, so hopefully they’ll still see it as their home and a safe place. I saw Oliver checking out the dog bed, so that could get interesting! I tied up the dogs before I opened the barn doors, and as soon as they caught sight of Oliver, they maxed out their leash inside the barn. That’s how I left them when I went to work.

Everybody is learning to live together, and I’m pretty happy with the progress so far.

Monday, September 17, 2007

We had a busy weekend. The weather was gorgeous. Saturday we went to the Carlinville Festival. We looked at tractors, watched some guys run a sawmill (Steve’s favorite), watched the blacksmiths & visited craft booths. The yarn spinning ladies were back with their angora rabbit. I wasn’t willing to fork out $65 for a skein of white angora/alpaca – oh, so soft & pretty – so I bought some undyed soft wool. There were some people making kettle corn in a giant cast iron pot on a wood fire & a paddle for stirring. They couldn’t make it fast enough. There was a constant line of about 20 people waiting, and if you wanted to get more than a paper lunch sack of kettle corn, you had to put your name on a waiting list & come back in 45 min! We decided to get some based solely on the fact that so many people were willing to wait so long, so it must be good. It was VERY good – almost like caramel corn. We stopped to talk to a pottery guy (Bowls By Bob) and buy a pot from him. We told him that we were from Woodburn, and he said “I have a friend from Woodburn. She makes soaps and sells it here – Carol Smith.” I thought for a second and said “You don’t mean Carol & Bob Smith?” He nodded. They’re our next-door neighbors! We didn’t know they had a booth, so we went and found them to say hi. In addition to the yarn, kettle corn and pottery, we left with homemade soap, jam & spices. We just LOVE the Carlinville Festival.

On the way home, we stopped at the Bunker Hill Festival. It’s much smaller, but still fun to go to. We ran into the Fire Chief (who also happens to be my boss’ best friend and business partner), so Steve got to meet him for the first time. He agreed to come by our house on Sunday to take pictures and see if it will be suitable for training his guys. We bought some local honey, and Steve talked for a while with the beekeeper. It turns out he’s also the mayor of Bunker Hill! I love small town life!

We hung out in the popup with the kittens for a little while. We gave them some de-wormer and let them play. We decided to name the grey one Oliver and the orange one Murphy. Oliver is completely NUTS! He ran and peeled out and slid on the floor while Murphy sat on the bench beside us and watched. We laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. Oliver tried to get Murphy to play by climbing on him and biting him. Murphy was interested, but he didn’t move nearly as fast or as much as Oliver.

By Sunday morning the de-wormer had obviously begun to take effect. Murphy had a new twinkle in his eyes. When we took them out of their cage, they both purred for the first time since we’ve had them. Oliver was acting so well with the dogs that I squatted down while Steve held onto the dogs and let everyone get acquainted. The dogs got right in his face and he just watched them. He held his arms up with his claws out, but he only gently patted them on the noses. When we put them in the popup, Murphy still wasn’t too interested in playing, but he found a perch on the back of a cushion where he could look out the window. Oliver was all over the place like usual.

The Fire Chief came by and took pictures of the house. He seemed excited by the prospect of training there because we have narrow stairs and many different rooms for them to use in search and rescue. He said they’ll blindfold the guys and make them go in to find something. All the trash on the floors is a bonus, because he said “You never know what you’re going into.” He wants to burn our house this fall, so it looks like we could still get it down this year. He said that because our house is a good training house, he may do a 2-day exercise. The first day they’ll do search and rescue, and the second day they’ll burn it. He said that the trees and other structures wouldn’t be a problem, and anybody who wants to come watch is welcome as long as they stay out of the way. We asked him lots of questions about being a volunteer fireman. Steve will probably get more information, so he can decide if it’s something he might be interested in doing. Personally, I think he’d be really good at it, since he already has many of the required skills, and he likes to help people. Plus he’d meet a lot of great people.

We let the chickens free-range yesterday afternoon – outside the tractor AND the fence. They had been complaining every time we walked past them all day, so we finally let them out for a bit. They LOVED it. We had to tie the dogs up though. They (mainly Zeus) like to chase them, and the chickens don’t like it at all. We also canned some spaghetti sauce using some of our tomatoes with a packet of seasoning from the grocery store. We mixed some ground beef with a jar last night for supper, and it was excellent! Steve even raved over it, and he’s usually not a big fan of spaghetti sauce. I’m getting another pack of seasoning today, so we can make another batch as soon as we have time. I finally found the time to tie up my sunflowers yesterday. They had sat in the wagon for about two weeks, and a few of them had begun to mold some. I got about half of them hung in the barn, and I made sure the others were spread out to avoid more mold. Now I need to drape an old sheet under them to catch any seeds that fall out while they’re drying.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We hung out in the popup with the kittens for about an hour last night. We hung a toy from the ceiling and made a couple of yarn toys for them. The grey one took a few minutes to warm up to the toys, since he’s never had them before. Once he got the idea, he went crazy batting and running and peeling out. We got video – absolutely hilarious! The orange one is still not interested in playing. He sat beside us at the table, but he wouldn’t chase a toy or a piece of yarn. He has the runs, so we’re not sure if he won’t play because he doesn’t feel well, or he’s so nervous with his new home that he’s making himself sick. We’ve been handling him often and trying to show him that we’re good guys. He’s not totally freaked out by us, but he’s not ‘normal’ like the grey one. We’re going to keep them in the dog kennel at least until this weekend. Maybe the orange one will still come around. And speaking of coming around, the strays are still there. They’ve learned our routines, so they scatter pretty quickly whenever we or the dogs are near. I’m not sure what we’ll do with them.

When I went home for lunch, grey kitty was lying at the very front of the cage on his side with all four feet sticking thru the bars. The dogs walked right up to him and got so close that they touched his feet when they sniffed! He didn’t even get up!!! He was hissing, but it seemed half-hearted, since I could see it on his face, but I never actually heard anything. A few minutes later Stacy sat down beside the cage, and we almost had a situation when grey kitty noticed that a wagging dog tail could be a fun toy. He was about to pounce when she stood up and walked away – completely oblivious. He’ll get her one of these days! I have the feeling that grey kitty will keep EVERYONE on their toes once he’s out of the cage.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

After work last night I went by Bob’s to ask him about the kittens, and he said he hadn’t brought us any! What are the odds that a couple of kittens would show up in our barn on the same day that we were supposed to get some? Bob had kept the kitten that we found last week over the weekend, and in that time he found out where it came from. Another neighbor had a litter of kittens, and this particular one was so wild that nobody could catch it. The only reason we caught it was that it was soaked and scared and stuck in a ditch. Bob managed to catch it, but he said it tore him up. He told me “You don’t want that cat.” I couldn’t disagree with that! We picked out two other kittens that were much calmer, and I took them home. I set them up in a big dog crate, so they have lots of room. The grey one is friendly with me, but he HATES the dogs – puffs up real big and hisses. The orange one hasn’t accepted his new home yet. I can handle him, but he hasn’t eaten anything (that I know of), and he glares at me as if to say “I hate you.” Typical cat behavior, right? The good thing about him is that he took a swing at Zeus thru the cage last night. He must have missed because there was no yipping. The orange one is probably a week or so older than the grey one. Hopefully he’ll come around in a few days.

This morning when I went out to check on the kittens, I found THREE kittens sleeping OUTSIDE the dog crate! There were two orange ones and one black speckled one. My two were still inside the cage, so now there are FIVE kittens in the barn! Of course the stray ones ran away, but I got a good look at them this time. Neither of us are interested in having five cats, so we’re not sure what we’re going to do yet. I could see where the stray kittens had reached thru the bars and pulled food out of the bowl to the edge to eat some. Zeus is in full ‘cat hunting’ mode right now, and he spends all his time at the back of the barn where the stray kittens hide. He’s in for a surprise when one of them finally stands up to him and slashes him on the nose!

Monday, September 10, 2007

When I went into the barn at lunch today a critter ran from about half-way in the barn toward the back. Just before it ducked behind something, I saw that it was an orange kitten. From the corner of my eye I think I saw a darker kitten dart under the popup, but I can’t be sure. I quickly lost sight of them, but it took only a few seconds for Zeus to ‘point’ one out. The orange one was hiding under a pallet. I threw it some of the kitten food that I bought this weekend. I don’t know if Bob already delivered our two kittens, or if these just happened to show up when we planned to get them – that would be quite a coincidence! I’ll stop and talk to Bob on the way home tonight.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Just after Steve got home last night, we had a big storm move through. We got 1.7” of rain in less than an hour. It was blowing at about a 45 degree angle and coming down hard. After the rain stopped, we decided to go get ice cream at the Village Drive In. On the way home we noticed a place in the street right in front of our driveway that was holding water badly. It’s held water since we bought the place, but nobody has bothered to do anything about it. All it needed was a channel cut to the ditch maybe 10’ away. Steve hopped on the tractor and went down to see what he could do.

After he finished he brought the tractor back and asked me to go down and see what he had done. It was totally dark by then, so he grabbed a flashlight and we took the dogs down the driveway. While we were looking at his handiwork I began to hear a sound that was like a child screaming several blocks away. The wind was still blowing pretty hard from the storm, so it was difficult to hear. I told Steve to listen and he heard it too. We left the dogs in our driveway and went looking. As we got closer, we realized that the sound was actually a cat crying out loudly. With the flashlight Steve managed to find a very small kitten in the ditch. He pulled it out and gave it to me. It was soaking wet, shaking and afraid. We took it back to the barn, got an old rag and tried to dry it off some. It was either black or gray with white feet and stomach. It didn’t appear to be hurt – just scared. I wanted to keep it, but it was very young, and Steve thought it needed to be with its mother for a couple more weeks.

Our neighbor, Bob, has a bunch of cats and kittens at his place, and we’re almost positive this was one of his – where we found it wasn’t far from his place. I wrapped it in the old rag and we headed out to return it to Bob’s house. It had been very still (other than the shaking) up to that point, but as we left the barn it began to wiggle around more. By the time we got to Bob’s, it was moving around almost normally. I put it down beside an old trailer where the kittens like to play and it immediately went under the trailer like it knew where it was going. The next chance I get I’m going to go by Bob’s and see if I can identify the same kitten. Steve said we could take it home after it’s spent a couple more weeks with its mother. Now we have to come up with a name for it based on how we found it last night.

I went by Bob’s at lunch today and told him about finding the kitten last night. I pointed out a grey and white kitten on his front porch and said that it was him. As soon as I said it, I heard crying from behind me. I turned around and the actual kitten was talking to us. I told Bob that THIS was the kitten, and Bob told me that he’d never seen it before. It acted like it wanted to come to me, but was timid. I couldn’t catch it by myself. I told Bob that we would take it, but we’ll be in SL this weekend. He agreed to make sure it got food until next week. He threw some bread down and it was hungry. It’s either dark grey or black, and its fur is all matted and choppy. It kept scratching like it has fleas, so I’ll go by the vet this weekend and get some treatment. We’ll most likely take one of Bob’s kittens as well, so they’ll be playmates. He’s got some really cute orange ones.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

We got 0.25” of rain last night, and it’s still coming down. I harvested the mammoth sunflowers yesterday before the rain started. I had so many sunflowers that they wouldn’t all fit in the wagon, and I had to carry two.

This afternoon when I went home for lunch it was raining. As I walked up to the trailer, I noticed that the girls were standing out in the rain. My first thought was 'stupid chickens', but as I got closer I realized that Gertrude was OUTSIDE the pen! They were trying to get as close to each other as possible, so they were huddled together on opposite sides of the fence. I put the dogs inside. Surprisingly they didn’t realize there was a loose chicken. I changed into some shorts, knowing I was about to get wet. I opened the gate a little and attempted to 'persuade' Gertrude inside. Everywhere Gertrude ran to get away from me (basically circles around the pen), Hazel was right there with her. The trick was to get Gertrude to the opening before Hazel, so Gertrude would go in, rather than Hazel going out. After only one trip all the way around the pen, somehow I coaxed her inside. She was SO excited. She ran straight up into the top of the tractor. I went in and got them a piece of bread that I meant to give them this morning, and they went to pecking it. This all happened in about 5 minutes. WHEW! Crisis averted.

I went inside and made myself scrambled eggs from our next door neighbor’s chickens, a couple of slices of toast from the bread that Jean and Phil made last weekend, and some of Dad’s pear preserves. YUMMY!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Steve's parents, Phil and Jean, came up for a long Labor Day weekend. Thursday Jean and I spent the day canning tomatoes. We made six quarts of whole tomatoes and six pints of yellow salsa (with about a million little yellow grape tomatoes). Steve and Phil re-wired a vent hood that Phil bought for $5 and brought to us. The one that came with the trailer has never worked.

Friday morning, we went to the Woodburn Country Store. They’re a huge nut supplier who mail-order nuts all over the country and sell to Whole Foods! Who’d have thought such a business would be in Woodburn, IL. Jean said their nut prices were very good, and they also sell all kinds of jellies, jams & such. They get pecans two pallets at a time at $8000 per pallet! They buy all their nuts raw and cook them in their own commercial kitchen. They gave us a tour of their facility, which is basically a garage that has been added to about ten times. They’re super nice people. They have a bunch of watermelons for sale in front of their store. They made a deal with a watermelon farmer in Springfield, IL, and they have what would be a $4-$5 watermelon at the grocery store 2 for $3! They get watermelons by the truck load, and they told us that they’ve sold about 900 of them so far. We bought two, and they were excellent. The chocolate covered pecans that Jean bought were to die for!

The major project for Saturday and Sunday was getting skirting on the trailer. It took quite a while… and help from both of us and Phil, but we got it on – minus the front side where the trailer is covered with gourds & loofah.

Phil BBQ’d twice & Stacy stuck her nose in the grill, getting black soot all over her face. It didn’t wear off for a couple of days. Jean and I worked on the garden as much as we could. After they left around noon yesterday, we vegged out for the rest of the day. I feel like I had to come back to work to relax. Oh, and yesterday afternoon our AC pooped out on us. The local HV/AC guy is supposed to be by today to check it out.