You can take the girl out of Spenard but you can't take Spenard out of the girl.










Rancho Archivo 











































February 27, 2008

So far, March seems to be blowin' in like a lion. More sideways rain, winds up to 60 mph, below freezing temps, even a light dusting of snow on the ground this morning.

My parents left yesterday morning. Frankly, I think they were as relieved as I was. To put it bluntly, I've been a real pain in the ass to be around. But it certainly didn't help matters that my father keeps pissing money all over this place, each dollar being another weight around my neck that will probably forever tie me to this fucking nowhere town.

For example: During a recent storm, a single shingle blew off the roof. A SINGLE FUCKING SHINGLE. He called a damned roofer over to give an estimate on putting a new roof on the place. In addition to an estimate on new asphalt shingles, he also inquired about the cost of putting on a tin roof. My father told me that a good tin roof would last me 40 years.

Thankfully, I talked him out of it. The thought of spending the next 40 years in this tin box makes me want to put a bullet in my head. But I only have a .22 - not quite the tool for the job. (He went out and bought me a gun after a dog killed one of the new chickens.)


Spalding inspecting the dead chicken shortly before I butchered it.


I feel like a bitch complaining about all the shit he bought while he was here. Some of it was quite useful, like the chainsaw (even though he ignored my input on what I was looking for in a chainsaw). The fence was also much needed (even though he ignored my input on where it should go). But so much of it was shit I don't need or want. I guess I should be used to him not listening to anything I say by now. Okay, enough fucking complaining about it (for now).


I've been spending yesterday and today rearranging things back to the way they were back in December before my parents came. I'm also preparing for a new guest who should be arriving late today - Jerry, another CouchSurfing.com member. Last year he walked from New Mexico to Washington DC. Now he's riding a bicycle back to New Mexico. More about him another day.

Right now, I wanna talk about fishin' for groundhogs.

Last week, my father set up a bucket and pulley over the old well for me. Come summer, it'll save me a lot of money to be able to draw water from the well instead of watering my gardens with the piped in city water. (He wanted to install a pump and lay a couple hundred yards of underground pipe up to the the top of the hill but I was actually able to convince him to just install a bucket and pulley.)

The first bucket of water I pulled up was green, murky and smelled swampy. I wasn't terribly surprised since the old well hasn't been used in almost 15 years. Over time, plant material had probably blown in and decomposed - or perhaps some sort of algae was growing in there. I'd have to have it cleaned before I or the animals used it for drinking, but it would be fine for watering plants.

I'd been burning a trash that day and, after the sun went down, I went to the well to draw water to douse the fire. The second pail I pulled up (only the third to be drawn overall) had something floating in it. It was already getting dark and I couldn't quite make out what it was.

A little larger than my fist, I first thought it was a piece of wood. I grabbed a latex glove from the truck (I always keep a pair nearby) and scooped out the mystery object before dumping the water on the fire. It was slimy and gunky, both black and white. I turned it over in my hand and that's when I saw the teeth. I was holding a skull.

After putting out the fire, I dashed back to the house to inspect my find. The dark portions were actually the bone. The white was adipocere, a.k.a grave wax - a soapy, waxy substance that flesh can turn into when exposed to moisture. It also turned out that the adipocere was what was emitting the swampy smell that permeated the well water.

I understand that most people would not consider this a great find, but those who know me understand that I am not most people. For me, this was an extraordinary find - even if I did have the bad luck to find it in my well.

I placed the skull in a small bowl of bleach water, dissolving much of the gunk so I could get a better look.

After the first cleaning, the adipocere is still firmly attached.

A few more dunks in the bleach and the skull was (fairly) clean.

I then did a Google image search for skulls of animals found in this region. It seems as though the skull used to belong to a groundhog. Some poor woodchuck fell forty feet down the old well, drowned and turned into wax. And since all I had was the skull, it seemed to reason the rest of the groundhog must still be down there.

Two days later, I peered down the forty-foot shaft with a flashlight and spied something floating in the water - obviously the carcass of the dearly departed groundhog. When I had no luck pulling it out with the pail, I put a cast iron hook on the end of the rope and tried to snag the torso. When that didn't work, I lowered a flat piece of metal that was once part of a stove in hopes of raising the dead but all I managed to do was flip the carcass over a few times. I replaced that with a piece of tin fashioned into a scoop but it wasn't heavy enough to get beneath the body. 

Each new idea I had worked a little better than the one before, but nothing was getting the dead groundhog out of the well. It just kept bobbing on the surface like a giant bar of soap. Buying new tools was not an option nor was hiring someone else to do it. Surely there was something already in my possession that could be used to do the job. The task was beginning to feel like a particularly tricky level on some video game. But it was getting dark and would have to wait until the next day.


The next morning I traipsed down to the well with a large wicker basket - large enough to hold a waterlogged groundhog. I attached the basket to the rope on the pulley and let it down. With the flashlight in one hand and the rope in the other, I tried to guide the basket beneath the groundhog but it wasn't working. The wicker wouldn't sink beneath the surface. Even if it did, it was damned near impossible to manipulate the basket beneath the groundhog so I could scoop it up.



I found a scrap piece of cast iron - some sort of gear from a piece of unknown farm machinery. I tied it into the bottom of the wicker basket for weight. I grabbed a length of rope from up at the house and tied the cast iron hook onto the end of it. I lowered the basket and let it sink below the surface. Then I slowly lowered the hook into the water next to the groundhog. I used the rope to move the hook to move the groundhog into position above the basket. Amazingly, I got it on my first try!


I slowly raised the basket and got my first up close look at what had contaminated my well.

You're looking at its back from the tail end.

There's a lot more photos of the carcass and subsequent dissection but, knowing you're all not as into this as I am, I will refrain from posting them here. If you really do want to see more, send me an email and I will let you know when I upload them to my Flickr.com account.

Yes, I did take it apart. I removed the bones. They will be cleaned and sent to Angela in Alaska where she will use them in her art. I then removed anything that wasn't adipocere. The remaining adipocere was put in a pillowcase and hung from a tree branch to dry in the sun. I will send some to Angela. I think I may put some of the grave wax up for sale on eBay just to see if some goth kid wants some to make candles or something out of it.


The groundhog carcass had been floating on its back. Everything under the waterline had turned to wax but much inside the body cavity was ...well...not wax. The lungs - or what I think were the lungs - had been replaced with green mush, like overcooked spinach. The intestines were still intact and full - at least the groundhog didn't die hungry. A couple organs were still recognizable. A little bit of the flesh around the hind legs was still pink and meaty. None of this really smelled all that bad - just swampy.

In fact, the grossest part of the whole ordeal was that the chickens kept trying to eat the grave wax. Those damned birds will try to eat anything!

For example, just a few days before, Cheepacabra found a tuft of feathers with a little fatty tissue attached that had belonged to the chicken killed by that dog. She grabbed it in her beak and was going to eat it. The other birds chased her around the yard, trying to steal it away from her.


Now that many of you are now thoroughly disgusted, I will leave you with this sweet image of chickens lounging in the daffodils. Hopefully that will help clear your mind of disturbing images. A palate cleanser for your brain.




February 17, 2008

Just had a hellacious thunderstorm pass through. High winds, lightning, sideways rain, even a tiny bit of hail.  Knocked the power out for about four hours. I even heard the distant wail of the tornado siren a few miles away.

It was definitely a day for staying indoors - though I spent more time outside than I would've liked. But I had to make sure all of Spenardo del Sur's resident animals were safe and dry. During breaks in the storm, I would head out to check on my charges.

The ones I was most concerned about were the newest additions to the farm family: Four nanny goats that I got yesterday at the goat auction. Actually, my father got them for me because I'm as poor as dirt.




Yep, Preacher has got himself a harem. I can honestly say he's the happiest goat in all of Dixie right now.

In the blink of an eye, he changed from a sweet-n-docile pet goat to a ruttin' struttin' sex machine.

And who can blame him? Just look at these lovely ladies!









February 13, 2008

I really have intended to update this site more often. When I'm working outside during the day, I'll think of all the things I want to write about. But, at the end of the day, I come inside and find my parents planted firmly in front of the television with crappy Hallmark Channel reruns or some other such pap blaring away and I just can't motivate myself. I retreat to the back room with a book or put the headphones on and surf the net, telling myself  Tomorrow I'll write an update, but I just never get around to it.

Weekend before last, I even had the place to myself. The parents took a trip to Louisiana to visit relatives. I was so busy enjoying the solitude that I kept putting off the update. In a few weeks, they'll return to Michigan and I can return to my hermit ways. Then I'll post more frequent updates. I promise.


The fence is about 95% done. Done enough that I was able to turn the goat, Preacher, loose in the newly enclosed five acres. Going to the goat auction this weekend where I'll hopefully find him a lady friend to romp with.

Preacher eats a piece of bread


Lemon the refugee chicken is making a few forays out of her new coop. Usually in the late afternoon she will step outside and walk around a bit, yet never straying very far from her little bachelor apartment.



The greater population of chickens are all free ranging during the day. I let them out in the late morning and lock them back up at sundown. Whenever I go down to the coop, they all come running at me. Even the sight of my truck is enough to set off a chicken stampede. It's not so much that they're happy to see me as they're simply expecting me to throw out handfuls of feed. It's cute nonetheless.



If I try to walk away without feeding them, they will follow me. A couple of them will peck at my boots and tug at my pants. The other day, I was wearing an old pair of shorts that were too big. One reached up and grabbed the hem, effectively pantsing me. No respect, I tells ya.



The littlest chicken with the black toenail moved back into Frankencoop almost two weeks ago. After a few days the toenail fell off, but she's otherwise  doing well. A local confirmed that it was the result of the recent below-freezing temperatures. I have named her Elsie - as in L.C. which stands for Littlest Chicken. She is the first of the new chickens to be named. Due to her small stature, she's the only one I can tell apart from the rest.

That's Elsie in the middle


I finally killed the crippled chicken a little over a week ago. Did it while my parents were out of town. That was something I really didn't want an audience for. Damn, it was hard. But it needed to be done. Even though I lost a couple birds to the freezing temps, this was the first time I'd killed one myself since Joshua the rooster last year.

The day I did it was sunny and warm. I'd felt bad that she'd gone straight from the coop to a box in my kitchen and never got a chance to free range like the other chickens. I brought her outside with me that day, setting her in the grass with a little feed and water within her reach. Thought it would be nice if she got to feel the sun on her just once in her short life. Let her bask in the sun for the the afternoon before killing her. Did the deed shortly before sundown. I cried like a fucking baby after I wrung her neck. I am too soft for this business.


The longer days have resulted in increased egg production. I'm getting around eight a day right now. The younger ones aren't laying yet, though one recently produced a tiny egg - seen here with a couple regular-sized eggs:


Another chicken recently laid this misshapen tear-drop egg:

Still tasted good


Cheechako has been MIA for over a week now. While I still hold out a glimmer of hope that he's merely cattin' around somewhere and will return shortly, I'm not holding my breath. Perhaps he tangled with a dog, bobcat, raccoon or speeding car.

I will always remember him as the maternal tomcat. When his mother, Artemis, got pregnant again (yes, I never did mention that she had another litter of kittens late last year), Cheech became the surrogate mother for the older kittens who suckled at his milkless male teats. Yet he never outgrew his own taste for mother's milk, as evidenced by this photo of him nursing with the young  kittens while the older kittens "nursed" from him:

Oh, Senor Chi-Chi Pants, you will be missed.







Comments? Questions? Spare change? 

Send it to Jackie at RanchoSpenardo.com


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