Monday, July 19, 2010

Accordion concert

Spent most of the day with Grandma Guthrie. Recently, there have been visits from physical therapists and nurses who lead her through simple exercises and check her blood pressure.

This afternoon, I was present for the physical therapist's visit. He asked her a few general health questions and then had her do some exercises that are probably designed to increase mobility - or at least prevent atrophy. (I don't think they realize just how mobile this little old lady is. She has no off switch.)

The best part though was that he pulled out a gleaming accordion and provided music for her workout. He played Rocky Top, The Tennessee Waltz, Golden Rings, Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain and - for Grandma Guthrie's rest period - Amazing Grace. Sadly, he knew neither Freebird nor Lady of Spain.

A free accordion concert in the middle of the day is a pretty sweet treat - like finding money in an old coat pocket.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Auction Extravaganza!

Today, Tom and I went a mile or so down the road to watch the giant McMansion get auctioned off to the highest bidder. There are many places that this 13,000 sq. ft. house would fit right in. My neck of the backwoods is not one of them.

I'm not going to use this blog to spread small-town gossip about why this mansion was built in the first place or why it's being sold only a few years later. Gossip like that is better spread in-person over a cup of coffee or a couple beers.

Not many people came out for the auction - maybe 75 at best (and that's including kids in tow). I bet more than half
were looky-loos like myself and most of the rest were thinking about bidding on some of the contents. If you were looking to buy, bargains were to be had.

The only item I would've really liked to have was this little mostly-finished cabin. I could've turned it into the most awesome chicken coop ever. Already on skids and ready to move - a mere mile from my property - it went for $600.

The McMansion itself sold for a little more than a third of the original asking price. Along with 13 acres of land, it went for $450,000.

My entire crappy mobile home might fit on that second floor balcony, but I still have the better view.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

A couple nights ago, clear skies allowed the Talladega Mountains to cast their shadows across the sky at sunset. According to Wikipedia, it's the very tail end of the Blue Ridge Mountains - located about 40 miles to the west. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Cheaha from my place - the highest point in Alabama. (At 2413 feet, the Alaskan in me has trouble calling it a mountain. If trees can grow on top of it, it is not a mountain.)

If you click on the picture for the bigger version, you can see Venus just above and to the right of the new moon in the upper left corner. I took this picture from inside my livingroom. You won't see anything like this from the big McMansion (which is located in the darkness a little above and to the left of the dot of light in the bottom right corner).

After the McMansion had a new owner, we went to my neighbor's place to pick their excess blueberries. We filled a two-gallon bucket before a sudden downpour drove us back to my house.

But the rain stopped as suddenly as it started and we took off back down the hill to the East Alabama Goat and Poultry Auction. Again, neither of us were looking to buy anything but I always enjoy checking out all the different kinds of chickens (and occasional guineas, turkeys, quail, pheasants and even pigs and bunnies).

Here's a little taste of good old-fashioned auctioneering for ya:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A post about something other than chickens

During my time here in Alabama, I have been on the lookout to accumulate authentic rural southern experiences (ARSE). I have butchered hogs, sorted eggs in a factory farm, played dominoes with old men in a shack in the woods, attended cockfights, spent a night in the pokey, traipsed through the woods with my faithful yeller hound dog, eaten boiled okra (the nastiest thing I've ever eaten - far more disgusting than pig lungs or intestines) and, of course, drank my fair share of moonshine.

Well, add a new one to the list because I finally actually got to witness the production of moonshine. Yep, one of the locals trusted me enough to show me his still. Even let me take a picture of it. He went so far as to offer to let me take a picture of him standing next to it but I declined. See, his trust was not misplaced.

In case you don't know how this works, let me give you the basics. The modified beer keg on the right is holding homemade apple wine made last fall. It's heated by propane (the keg is out of frame but you can see the tube leading away from the keg). The alcohol in the wine is the first thing to evaporate and it rises up the copper tubing on top of the keg that leads to the blue barrel full of water. The water cools the alcohol which then condenses back to liquid form, finally dripping out the pipe into the jar on the left.

Notice how the moonshine is blue? At first I thought it was just reflecting the color of the barrel but it was explained to me that the color is actually caused by the corrosive alcohol dissolving the copper, giving the first jar of moonshine a blue tint. The color fades as more alcohol passes through the tubing.

The first jar is also very potent. The alcohol in the jar pictured above is probably around 130 proof. Subsequent jars have lower proofs. When all the jars are mixed together, the final product will hover somewhere around 90 proof. I was told the leftover apple wine still has an alcohol content roughly equal to beer but I didn't think to ask if they drink it or dump it.

I even got to take home a souvenir Mason jar full of moonshine - for display purposes only, of course.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And then there were thirty-five

Sigh...So Mirabel died, though it had nothing to do with the incident that caused her to lose sight in one of her eyes. She ended up dying of heatstroke - the first of my chickens to die of such a thing.

I found her shortly after it happened. I had been in the backyard pen collecting eggs not long before she died and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Since the backyard birds are usually confined to the pen, I always make sure they have shade and water in there. In fact, Mirabel was sitting in the shade when she died, just a few feet from a full water dish.

She'd only been dead a short time before I found her so I was able to salvage the meat. Since I had Couchsurfers last weekend, this meant I was able to provide a tasty meal of chicken curry to my houseguests.

I've been slowly working on integrating the backyard and front yard flocks. The hens all get along fine but the two roosters, Bart and Pasha, still hate eachother. But it's getting better. They now seem to be able to share the hilltop (and hens) without trying to kill eachother. Today will be the real test as I will be gone for most of the day and they will be unsupervised for the first time.

The fact that the hen with the bad leg is still living on the front porch just adds to the chicken chaos (though she usually spend the daylight hours in the grass behind the house).

Of the three chicks born this spring, at least two have turned out to be roosters. The jury's still out on the third, though I suspect/hope that one may be a hen. If so, it will be the very first hen born in Frankencoop. Not counting the very first batch of chickens I hatched and raised by myself over three years ago (of which four remain), every chicken born here has turned out to be a rooster. With three full grown cocks in Frankencoop and two at the house, I don't need anymore roosters. Guess there'll be more chicken curry on the menu this winter.

What might not be on the winter menu is a lot of vegetables. In the last month, I've gotten about half an inch of rain. I've watched plenty of storms pass close by - some dumping rain just a couple miles from my place. Lots of stuff just withered and died. For the second year in a row, the corn is toast. Been working overtime to make sure the tomatoes and hot peppers survive. Even the kudzu is starting to wilt.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the old pear tree. So far, this has been the best year for that tree. It's chock full of hundreds of almost ripe pears. I'm thinking about pear wine...

Gonna be another hot one today. Forecast calls for triple digit temps - not a drop of rain in sight. It's only quarter after eight in the morning and it's already 85 degrees inside the house.