Thursday, August 28, 2008

Watering...the Cows? A Quaint Country Yarn

Meet this year's feeder calves, or two of the 9 that are next door. My Dad used to raise beef cows that would calf every year but now he buys calves (around 500 pounds) lets them graze all summer and then takes them in late fall. You can't get much more local than that. Mom and Dad give us a half a beef, so we're pretty lucky. This year, one of the calves (the white-faced one) looked at me longingly one night as I watered...eyeing the water wand with such yearning.

I called my Dad.

"You giving these cows any water?"

"What to you mean?"

By this time I had slung the wand over the fence and turned the water flow down a bit just to see what would happen.

"They're looking at my hose like they haven't water in days."

"Their tank is full in the barn."

White faced had taken the mouth of the wand in like a straw and was gulping it down but it looked like as much water was sloshing out from the sides of his mouth as was going down his throat.

"Then why is one of them sucking water out of my wand?"

Others came to investigate and then began to lick at the water fall. Kids around a fire hydrant came to mind.

"He is not."

I positioned the cell phone in a way that would pick up the slurping.

"Huh, I guess he is. They're just goofing around."

And from that night in early June, whenever the cows are in the pasture near my trees, and they see me watering, they come up, white faced in the lead. If it's late and I'm pressed for time, I don't bother but more often than not I do. They jostle to get teh wand, and others are content to just snag the excess. On hot nights I spray the tops of their backs to cool them off but, they're indifferent to the shower.

One night, as the sun was setting, three of the black faced steers were huddled around the wand, each head looking forming a three leaf clover around the stem of the water wand. I didn't have my would have made a really good picture. I've tried to replicate the situation a couple of times but no luck. This image isn't bad though.

But Jules! You say, how can you eat these charismatic fellows! Some of you might be asking, but Jules how can you eat meat at all!

Don't be offended, or I hope not to offend. But yes, I do love beef. Especially grass feed beef in my own maybe that will be my next post or not. Maybe the comments will tip me off. Jules

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Legos are Cool Scroll Down for new Blog Posts

What is it with you and watering trees?

Well, some of you folks might have noticed that I mention, in my summer blogs, and in conversation, the compelling urgency to water trees. What is it with this obsession?

Well, you plant trees in the fall or Spring (the adage about planting them in months with the letter "r" in them is a pretty good rule.) Whether you plant in the fall or the spring, you can't (well, you can I suppose if you are okay with ripping out some of the trees you plant and putting new ones in because they didn't survive).

If you can get a tree through the first year of their life in your ground, their first summer, they have a good shot at living longer than you and growing as high as their species tends to do.

For our property, trees are very important, and not just for the aesthetic. Our houses faces West and is on a hill on our road and the Northern Winds can really whip across our place. Pine trees, planted in two rows, or three if we get really ambitious, can grow to make natural wind breaks. They are green year around, providing havens for birds and like some of my parents pines, grow past 40 feet.

The first fall we planted 7 pine trees from pots...potted pines generally do better than bagged ones as they keep more moisture. The trees, were 2 1/2 feet tall. A couple were close to three. We planted them and mulched them and gave a them a little fertilizer. The summer of 2007 we watered them almost every night--crucial when July and August of last year had very high temps and high humidity.

Neighborhood folks passed by and waved at me as I tended my charges. One on hand, it's a pain in the butt to get home at 6:30, change into grungy clothes, empty the cat boxes, fix a quick dinner and spend the next hour and a half watering trees, but on the other hand, it's a nice way to unwind, listening to the birds, watching the cows grave in the pasture and the sunsets.

But no, it doesn't take an hour and a half to water 7 pine trees. We also had a maple, a sycamore, four crabapples and some orchard trees.

The hard woods we water a little differently. Some folks in the neighborhood asked me what our watering system was.

Our watering system, for hardwoods, is basically, washing out and drilling holes in the bottom of empty cat litter buckets (why buy 'em?) and filling up the buckets with water. The small holes drilled at the bottom allow for slow draining of water so more soaks into the roots instead of getting lost on the surface to evaporate.

But the attention pays off. Passers by who wouldn't know better would think our house has been established longer than it has because of the number and size of the trees. The potted pines, now in their second summer have grown a freakish amount, a few are even over my 5'1'' head. The maple, that I could reach the top of it's leaves with the water wand last summer, is well beyond its reach.

This summer has been kinder, more rain and less humidity. The trees struggling through last summer are doing well, and get only one water a week if there has been no rain as I expect their roots to go further down rather than depending on regular watering like houseplants.

But watering still takes an hour and a half. We planted another seven pine trees in a staggered row in front of the crop last year to really fill in for the wind break. We planted another 8 trees last fall on the south side of the property and a small grove of three lilac trees, all of which wilt when they get too much rain and too little, plus more orchard trees, and Andrew's fledgling vineyard plants.

Last night was a real blessing, breezy, cool and fall like with a darkening sky to the south not quite able to reach the sun, setting earlier by the day.

It was enjoyable to water in comfort, no bugs, no sweat, and I gave every tree a good long drink. Hence the picture above.

It's satisfying to give these trees a good boost. Why bother to use the considerable energy to plant a tree if you aren't going to help it survive. I like the idea of planting trees that, some at least, can easily out live me. The trees on my parent's property really make it cool, restful, and natural. I hope someday, trees will be one of the dominate features of our land.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Picture of the Week

Okay so in the past, I've created a whole album of photos, sent a link to the photos over email, and then added "check out the blog at:" etc etc

Well, I'm taking a lot of photos and I'm really busy and I am going to try something new as I learn and play at CML.

So, I am going to try try try to update my blog once a week, and post a picture, a new picture from the ever growing number of pictures I am taking.

Hope you like the new system, Jules

photo: the shores of Peterson Park, in Leelanau County Michigan, our summer vacation.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tweeker and Molly

This is a fairly recent picture of our cat babies (Andrew would call them Cats) Tweeker (orange) and Molly (tortie)

They are great fun and company. Molly is definitely the more classic cat-like, slinky, aloof sometimes and cuddly at others. She runs the schemes, chases, and exploring adventures. When ever they are caught doing something naughty, Molly looks at you with a cool, narrowed face. She's not going to talk. Tweeker, wide-eyed, plays the sweet but dopey sidekick to a tee.

Tweeker will allow you to shove him into the carrier for the vet, and take medicine before he has even known what happens. Molly has to be tricked, cornered, wrapped in a towel and boy can she glare.

Tweek cries sometimes but mostly opens his mouth and makes an almost muted (me--uh) sound. Molly has a one note, lingering cry that wavers in a high pitch.

Both cats love to cuddle, but only Tweeker can be picked up. Molly always must come to us. She will cuddle with me in bed as I read, propped up in the crook of my arm, a paw outstreteched to touch my chin, her face flat against my arm. As soon I shut off the light, she is gone, scampering away to chase Tweek or jump on the kitchen cabinets.

Tweeker is the one who I always find curled up on my pillow in the middle of the note, ultra soft and warm.

Good companions, these cats, they really make our house a home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

But Hey...Aren't You Big on Gaming at the Library???

Well, yes, I've written an article and spoken on the topic, and I'm on ALA's national expert panel. But here's the thing. I'm a big advocate for gaming because I appreciate the everyday results of the program in our library and I see the potential gaming can have...but no, I'm not a gamer. I remember we had an atari and I played Frogger and I would play Combat (the tank game with my Dad) and I was really good on the invisibility setting, I would get like right up next to my Dad's tank and blow him clear across to the other side of the screen but...I digress.

I never played super mario brothers, or even asked for one. I think, even at the tender age of 5th grade, that I knew if I got one I would:

a) play it all the time.

b) get frustrated and play it for a while and not play it

I lean towards option b. I am not known for my patience. I think video games do reward persistence and patience and problem solving but back then, I was interested in not getting frustrated. Maybe I'd be more patient today if I played more video games.

Even now, I bought the latest Simpsons game for PS2 because you know, I love the Simpsons, and I played it for like 45 minutes, got challenged, frustrated and then I haven't played it since.

I played Kingdom of Loathing on line for about a year. I got to the very last challenge, and even when I found the cheat it sounded too hard so I quit.

Yes, there is a pattern here, at least with videogames.

So no, beyond the odd game of bejeweled, I am not a big gamer. But like I said, I don't have to be to appreciate the variety of skills, opportunties and experiences gaming can offer.

So, I hope that reduces some of the contradiction...or maybe I'm just a little contrary.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Learn and Play at CML Or, my Ambivalence for "Hey, you really got to try..."

Dear Friends and Family, yes it's time for Julie's random blog post. But, coincidentally, I am blogging now as part of a learn and play initiative for the Columbus Metropolitan Library System where I work and the good folks there want us to all learn and play with new technology. So, I already had the blog so posting was just like half the task for this week.

But, I think this is an ideal time to air out my ambivalence, hesitance and, okay let's face it downright indifference at times to all these new things to do on the web. I hope my honesty will be at best refreshing, and at worst (I'm trying to avoid at worst) revealing me as a sham of a young librarian who should be as gee whiz gadgety as they get.

Okay, let me back up. It's a bit of a running joke between me and my friend Beth Gallaway about my so-so attitude about every new little whatchamacallit that comes down the pike. Beth will send me some link to some thing, link ning or twitter or you name it and invite me to join. Sometimes I do, I create an account and then I never go back to it again, or I just never create an account. Beth's aware of this, so I don't feel so bad admitting it to God and everyone else on the web.

It's the same ambivalence I feel when I go to a conference and the inevitable technology session listing the things I should be doing right now and something inside me just kind of sighs.

I'll use this blog as an example.

Just as I was posting a picture, recently taken at the beloved Champaign County Fair, I scrolled down the rest of the screen to find that I have failed to fill out most of the profile thingys like favorites/interests etc. I looked at the boxes and something inside of me sighed (hey, I'm a writer I do a lot of internal sighing). I mean, I have already filled this stuff out on facebook and myspace and here it is on blogger.

And maybe that's what my internal sighing is really all about. There's just so much. MySpace? Facebook? Or some other new great thing everyone is on. Shutterfly? Flickr? Photobucket? Photobuquette? (that last one is a joke).

I have like, four email addresses, not counting the gmail I use to get into this blog, which, I never look at. One for ebay, one for work, personal and work-personal.


And see here is the thing, when I go home, I don't go on the computer. It's not that I have like some deeply held principle to not be on it...technically I am when I am writing (technically it's not writing so much as inputting my longhand writing) and working on my photographs.

But when I come home, I just want to do other stuff that I enjoy. Ideally I suppose, to fit the mold of the young librarian gizmo wonder gal, I would enjoy doing all these techno things at home. But I'd rather not. I'd rather:

Be outside, working on our yard (read mowing, watering trees, general upkeep)
Be outside at my parents house, eating dinner on their deck or playing with the dog or hanging out by the pond or
Be outside at the really cool place my Dad works, climbing up in treestands taking pictures of nature and wildlife.

I'd also rather be:
refinishing furniture (although I don't do this one so much anymore)
working on stamp art (newer hobby)
working on fabric painting (so new I haven't started it yet)
watching stargate atlantis with andrew
putting something in the bread machine
making cookies


going to a wood turning class


running the 5,000 errands one needs to do when working full time, like

taking the recycling in becasue your rural county, God love it, doesn't have curbside pick up

paying bills (yes, I know I can pay them online...)

getting groceries

getting tires rotated (try doing that online)

picking up presecriptions, drycleaning, taking cats to the vet
dropping off goodwill stuff


Look, I'm not trying to argue that my life is some full vessel of excitement and glamor, or that the activities that I enjoy doing are superior to posting on a blog every 6 hours or twittering or playing an online game--not at all!!!

What I am saying is everyone has a limited amount of time in the day. We all have to make choices. I generally choose to minimize my tech use compared to some folks I know to do other things.

But then I feel a little guilty, not keeping up with all the gee whiz stuff.

And the really sick thing is, I've really enjoyed typing up this post so why don't I do it more often?

Anyone want to comment, I'll put this post on the psychologist's couch.

Next Blog: But what about gaming? Aren't you like, really big into that.