Amanda Hopper Writes

A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: June 2012

Milkin’ Buckets

I love Spring. How can you not love a season that fills your eyes with blooming color and your nose with the glorious aroma of that just-rained-on-newly-emerged-grass smell?
Every spring I fill my hanging baskets with plants that will serve as the jewelry of the front porch. Inviting arrays of trailing blooms that will beckon passers-by to come and sit on the porch swing for a spell.
And every mid-June I am cursing the hanging basket manufacturers over the fact that they seem to have forgotten that most plant roots grow bigger than six inches. Like trying to stuff a fat man in little pants. Flowers need room to stretch, and if they can’t, well they start to take on that withered look.
This year I had enough. I perused store after store, both physically and on-line, and could never find a hanging basket that served my purpose. Then one day while purchasing some cattle cubes from the feed room at Tractor Supply I saw them… shiny silver buckets. I grabbed four of them and headed to the check-out counter. As I was paying my bill, a farmer-man came to stand behind me.
This, people, is why I love coming to Tractor Supply as soon as they open in the morning. That is when the old farmers are there, running their errands after having already been up for hours. These overall-clad men with their lined faces smiling at you is the best way to start a day. And their dirt-caked fingers can always point you to the best solution to your most recent cow problem.
Anyway, this farmer-man looked down at my purchase and said, “Ya needin’ some new milkin’ buckets?”
“Nah, I’m gonna make them into hangin’ planters for my front porch.”
The look that crossed this seasoned farmer’s face will never leave me. First came shock, then pure awe. Finally he chucked, “Well, ain’t that somethin’. That’s a real good idea, I have lots of old milkin’ buckets in the barn that I could make into hangin’ baskets.”
I will never forget that moment. I gave a good idea to a farmer-man. A man who can probably build a tractor from spare pieces of parts lying around his barn. Who knows? I might actually be able to swing this ranchin’ gig someday. I wonder if overalls come in red?

First, get a bucket. Lowe’s sells these in their paint department for those of you who live in areas without feed stores.
Then, drill a few small holes in the bottom for water drainage.
Next, layer some small rocks in the bottom to prevent soil from falling out of drainage holes. Then add your dirt and plants.
Hook chains cut to desired lengths at the place where the bucket handle meets the bucket and hang on hooks screwed into ceiling. Enjoy!

 
  

Phantom Kitty

Why do people have an innate fear of black cats?
When our neighbor found our cat at only six-weeks-old by the side of the road, the vet said that the kitten was probably dumped because he was black and it was only two weeks until Halloween. He not only looks like the black of moonless night, he has haunting emerald eyes. The perfect embodiment of a witch’s assistant in a B movie.
And strangers do have a reaction to him. Delivery men will freeze mid-step if Mr. Spock jumps onto the porch as they approach the front door. Then they chuckle out a nervous laugh and go on their way, frequently glancing back before reaching the safety of their cabs. 
I’ve never experienced the deeply hidden superstition… until two days ago.
I walked into my bedroom carrying a basket of laundry and found Mr. Spock sitting on my bed. He is strictly an outdoor cat; never comes inside. So I scooped him up and put him on the front porch and returned to my laundry.
Five minutes later I was emptying the dishwasher and felt something rub against my leg. I looked down and found Mr. Spock staring up at me with his grass-green eyes. “How did you get in here again?” He didn’t answer so I once again put him on the front porch.
I called out to the boys only to realize that only Ian was home… upstairs playing Wii one-handed. Suddenly I got that creepy tingling sensation on the back of my neck. Ian doesn’t like Mr. Spock. He would never let him in the house. At that moment, reminiscent of a gut-wrenching horror movie, a long high-pitch meow sounded from behind me. I slowly turned to find cat eyes staring back.
“You’re starting to freak me out Mr. Spock.”
I scooped up the lanky kitty and walked through the house looking for his entrance point. All of the doors were shut, windows shut, fireplace flu closed (hey I was desperate), until I finally made my way to the basement door.
Wide open.
Whew.
Then I started laughing. I had been tossing the cat out the front door and within minutes he had made his way back into the house. Which meant that he was hauling tail around the entire house, back through the garage, and up the stairs.
“Well played Mr. Spock.”
He yawned, blinked, and allowed a smug look to settle around his long whiskers. I rubbed his ears, then threw him back outside and locked the door.

Mr. Spock loves to roll in fresh grass clippings.

Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys

The song, Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys by Willie Nelson, was written a long time ago. Now, with beef prices rising faster than the temperature in Texas, Cowboy is a pretty good career option. That is if you can actually catch the cows to deliver them to sale.
Our rent-a-cowboy, Brock, came out a week ago to load up our girls for their annual trip to visit his bull. He set up the temporary panels and we dumped the cattle cubes into the feeder. Our two momma cows came running with ears flapping in the wind. Those girls love them some cattle cubes. But their babies?
They still nurse and therefore don’t need anything we’ve got.
And they’re stinkin’ smart.
Hence the hour-long dance in 95 degree weather than ultimately ended with them never going near the corral and the cowboy having to leave us with the panels to try to get them penned ourselves. Not to mention a hole in our barbed wire fence where one of the babies actually busted through and miraculously managed to not tear a hole in her skin.
If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you know that it has taken us two years to bring our momma cows around to having anything to do with us. And that only happened with daily trips down to the pasture with food bucket in hand.
We didn’t have high hopes of capturing the babies, but Andy and I took turns luring the mommas into the pen with their beloved goodies twice a day for a week. We would loiter by the fence and wait for the babies to join their milk supplies, but every single time, one of the babies adamantly refused to go inside the corral.
And she would stare at us. Like she knew.
So last Monday I gave up. I yelled for Grant to take the girls some food. Frankly I was tired of the moos that assaulted me every time I walked outside. So Grant (he’s 11-years-old mind you) trudged down to the pasture while I watered plants on the back deck. Within minutes I heard his voice screaming from the behind the trees, “Momma! I got ’em!”
I put my watering can down and walked to the far edge of the porch where I could see what he was yelling about- all four cows neatly penned in the corral and Grant holding the gate closed.
No way.
I could make out his lips moving but it took a minute for the sound to reach me. “I need a chain to lock the gate!”
So I ran down the stairs, grabbed a chain and ran to lock the gate. Then took a minute to congratulate Grant on his cowboy skills. The smug little booger then asked if he got part of the profit since he captured the cows. 
So I whipped out what I remember of six years of German classes. “Nein.”
He responded with the famous Grant-stare. The one that makes me feel like the stupidest person that has ever existed. It’s the same one all teenagers wear.
I took the opportunity to let my mommy sarcasm out. “Look at it this way, you’ll have a much easier time mowing the entire pasture while they’re gone.”
Thankfully the ladies only had to spend the night in the corral- the cowboy came and picked them up the next morning. They will return in one month, pregnant, and the young females will be sold in the late fall to make way for new babies in the spring. Ah, the circle of ranching profit life.

Momma Jenny on left, her daughter Daisy on right.