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










Rancho Archivo 





































November 30, 2007

I just heard the news that Evel Knievel, the greatest daredevil who ever lived, died today. This seems like as good a time as any to share the story about the day I met Evel Knievel.

It was my birthday - I think my 22nd, which would've made it 1990. My roommate and I went out to one of our favorite local Hollywood dive bars - The Coach & Horses. On this particular night, the bartender asked us if we knew who Evel Knievel was. Well, fuckin' duh! Who doesn't know about Evel Knievel?

As my roommate and I started sharing tomboy memories of the world's greatest daredevil, the bartender stopped us and pointed out Evel Knievel sitting at the end of the bar.

We turned into the two giggliest girls you've ever seen. We damn near swooned when he rolled up his sleeves and showed us his Snake River Canyon jump scars. I babbled on about how I got the Evel Knievel rev-up motorcycle toy with the plastic racetracks on my 8th birthday. I told him about how I used to make jumps for it in my parents' basement with a stack of books. I couldn't help but gush my geekiness all over the man.

I then asked him the question that he'd been asked a million times before: Is it true that you've broken every bone in your body?

He stared into my eyes and, without missing a beat, replied "As far as your concerned, little lady, there's one bone I ain't broken yet."


Godspeed, you crazy bastard.




November 27, 2007

So I went down to Frankencoop this morning to collect eggs. I found this monstrosity in Lemon's nest.


To give you an idea of how freakishly large this egg was, here's another photo of it with a normal egg laid by one of the other chickens.


The egg was so damned huge that Lemon's body didn't even have enough eggshell to complete the egg.



The inner membrane was intact so the egg was probably okay to eat but it just didn't look appetizing to me. I emptied the contents into a bowl in a way to preserve the shell for posterity. The egg had two yolks. I'll fry it up tomorrow as a treat for the cats.

The probability of abnormal eggs is higher when a chicken first starts laying. It's just how the bird's reproductive system works the kinks out.





November 23, 2007

Oh God, I am so stuffed! First I pigged out at Thanksgiving dinner with the neighbor-cousins last night and then today I filled up on the leftovers they sent home with me.

It's been so long since I've eaten so much. There were almost forty people at dinner last night and enough food for twice as many. I knew about a dozen of those in attendance although everyone there was related in some way or another.


Over the last couple weeks, the weather had warmed up - even getting into the high 70s a couple times. But temps have turned chilly again - flirting with freezing at night. Time for more roaring fires built from bits and pieces of my grandma's old house and barn.


While the recent warmer weather was pleasant, it also brought something rather unpleasant - The invasion of the Harmonia axyridis!

It looks like a ladybug - but it ain't. It's a multi-colored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

They are an invasive species beneficial in the garden but a huge nuisance in the livingroom. Earlier this month, they swarmed the house, looking for places to hibernate for the winter.

Most days there were no more than a two dozen inside with me, but there was one particular day that it just got completely out of hand.

There were probably a couple thousand all over the outside of the trailer. They were thickest by the front door so I had to use the back door. Couldn't open the windows - even though it was in the 70s - because there's just too many little gaps for them to crawl through.

All the little dots are annoying beetles.


About 200 of the little buggers managed to get inside the livingroom with me, mostly crawling on the ceiling.  Even I have to draw the line somewhere. The battle was on.

You can't just swat them because they will actually leave a stain behind. They'll also release an unpleasant odor when stressed - like when they're being swatted. The smell doesn't bother me as much as it seems to bother other people, but then I'm used to the maggot bucket and chicken shit.

I cut the legs off a pair of pantyhose (like I ever have the occasion to wear those anymore) and secured one over the vacuum cleaner hose with a rubber band. Then I turned the vacuum on and sucked about a hundred beetles into my nylon trap. I tied a knot in the pantyhose leg and tossed it in the freezer. I put the second leg over the hose and went back for seconds.

After an hour in the freezer, the beetles were dead. I emptied the pantyhose legs and then dragged the vacuum cleaner outside to deal with the beetles swarming around the front door. All in all, I got about 500 of the little bastards. It was only a small dent in the overall population but at least I was back to having only 20 or so in the house.


In other bug news: Last week, for the first time in my life, I actually had ants in my pants. Not quite sure how it happened. I'd been working outside but had been inside for about 45 minutes before they started stinging me.

I was sitting at the computer, eating lunch, when I first noticed them. Did they just hang out in my pants, waiting for the right moment? Did they crawl up my pantleg while I was inside the house? But there were no signs of any other ants on the floor. I guess it will remain one of life's little mysteries.

After shedding all my clothes while doing a little ants-in-the-pants dance, I put on a fresh set of clothes and went back to work. Yet all day long, like some  meth addict, I kept feeling imaginary bugs crawling on me.


I learned something new about chickens recently. All this time, I thought my roosters - especially Gimpy - were just tireless fuck machines. Almost everytime I'm down at the coop, they're always getting their freak on with the ladies - especially Cheepacabra. I thought all the attention they gave to Cheepa was because she's the sexiest chicken in world.

It turns out that when Gimpy jumps on Cheepa right in front of me, it's his way of telling me "I'm in charge. This here's my bitch. You got that?" I'm guessing he goes after Cheepa so much because I obviously give her special treatment - letting her ride around on my shoulder, taking her outside of the pen with me and telling her that she's the sexiest chicken in the world.

So I read that one way to establish my dominance over a rooster is to pick up him up and hold him in my arms. Now, I've been doing this with Barabajagal for a while. He doesn't mind it because he's pretty comfortable in his role as second banana. But Gimpy is not big on cuddling.

It took me a couple minutes to corner and catch him. He didn't put up too much of a fight once I got a hold of him. Can't say he enjoyed it, but he tolerated it. What amazed me was the response from the rest of the flock. They all just stopped and stared at me and Gimpy. You could feel the shift in the pecking order that day. There was no question as to who was who's bitch. I now make a point of picking him up a couple times a week, just to keep him in his place.

And I'm so very pleased to announce that the refugee chicken laid her very first egg this morning! Even though she's over a year old, she's never laid an egg before. When she lived in the factory farm, she and her 10,000 roommates were kept on a diet that prevented them from laying eggs.

I've named the refugee chicken Lemon. It's not really supposed to be a food reference (lemon chicken  - hurr hurr hurr). When she first moved into Frankencoop, there was something about her size and demeanor that reminded me of a big, intimidating dyke. Almost twenty years ago, I used to know a burly German lesbian named Lemon. I don't quite understand how or why my brain made that connection, but it did. So I named the chicken Lemon.


And just in case you thought I was exaggerating about being directly in the path of those Navy jets flying from North Carolina to Pensacola, Florida, check out this footage of one recently passing over Frankencoop.




November 10, 2007

It actually got below freezing for the first time last week. It was 31 degrees when I woke up a little before 7am on Wednesday morning.

The low temps caught me by surprise. Even though I'd been paying daily attention to the forecast, the only thing I was watching for was whether or not it was going to rain. Shame on me for not looking at the temperatures.

So after I got a cup of coffee in me, I ran outside to gather what veggies were still in the garden: A couple gourds, two buckets of green tomatoes, a few pea pods, a little lettuce, some basil and one sad watermelon that never had a chance to grow bigger than a tennis ball. Fortunately, I'd already picked alot of stuff a few days earlier. The carrots, onions and sweet potatoes are still safe underground.

Came back inside to drink another cup of coffee before driving down to Frankencoop to feed the chickens and let them out for the day. Drove back to the house for one more cup of coffee before leaving for two housecleaning jobs I had that day.

The first job was for the elderly mother of one of my neighbor-cousins (almost everyone within a two-mile radius of my place is a cousin of some kind). I've cleaned for her before and it apparently went well enough that I'm now cleaning for her mother. That was my second job Wednesday afternoon.

The second woman recently turned 90 years old. Not only was it the first time I'd cleaned for her, it was also the first time we'd met. Since she's lived in this community for almost her entire life, she personally knew many of the people I've been researching for the last few years - like my great-great grandfather's older brother, a Civil War vet who died in the '20s.

She went to grade school with my grandfather. I never met my grandfather. He was a deadbeat dad who remarried in Georgia before his divorce to my grandmother in Alabama was final. I have yet to hear someone say something nice about him. Even the story the old woman told me was about how he was a lazy little boy who slouched.

She told me about how her husband built their first house, cutting the trees himself and hauling them to the sawmill in a "dray." I actually looked up the word "dray" when I got home and learned it was a large cart without wheels pulled by a horse. "Dray" is where we get the word "dragged." Betcha didn't know that.

Anyway, she's a cool old lady and we talked for a long time about the olden days in Randolph County. I'm going to enjoy hanging out with her - even if she quotes scripture a bit too much for my taste. Ah...but it's to be expected.

So after our talk, I rushed home to do some last-minute weatherproofing of Frankencoop. Hung some blankets over the windows and a drafty corner. With only an hour of daylight left, that's all I had time to do.

After the chickens were safely locked inside for the night, I grabbed the ladder and headed to the pear tree to pick what I could reach. Then I dug up some plants in the yard and garden that I hope to keep alive inside over the winter.

By then, it was almost dark. I carried a couple armloads of firewood inside and started a fire. I may live in a trailer - but at least it's a trailer with a fireplace. As poor as I am these days, I'm not going to pay to use the central heating when I have a fireplace and plenty of wood. Besides, a fire is just so nice.

Big brother, little brother


I'm looking forward to the cold weather killing off these damned bugs. Those beetles that look just like ladybugs (except they bite!) have been invading the house, looking for a place to spend the winter. Their favorite place to hang out is the chain that hangs down from the light/ceiling fan in the middle of the room. Any given evening finds six or seven of them lined up on that chain. It's not so bad as long as you remember they're there. Sometimes I forget and reach up without looking first - usually resulting in knocking them off the chain and onto my head.

Of all the creepy crawlies at Spenardo del Sur, the one I watch out for the most is the black widow spider. For the last two weeks, I've been killing an average of half a dozen a day. It's not that there are  more now than earlier in the year, it's just that I'm spending alot more time disturbing their homes. I've been moving some piles of wood where those spiders have gotten quite comfortable. They love living in my stack of firewood. Everytime I go outside to gather wood for the fire, I have to take the time to inspect every side of each piece of wood. I make a point of only bringing in wood during daylight hours.









                  Male black widow spider                                                             Icky centipede











                      One of the good spiders.                                                Good spider beaver shot.


And now, for no other reason than I just can't get enough of these two, a photo of the reigning king and queen of Frankencoop: Gimpy and Cheepacabra.





Comments? Questions? Spare change? 

Send it to Jackie at RanchoSpenardo.com


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