Meet the neighbors….

They are loud, mean, obnoxious, big, dirty. . . plus they smell really really bad. . . and worst of all— they live right across the street. . .

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When we first bought this property almost 15 years ago, this entire area had once been part of a large farm. Our property had actually once been pasture land, as was the property next door, as our neighbor still actually maintains it as a farm and pasture for her horses. The land across the street was still a fenced off, rather large, pasture full of cows. The owners did not live on the the property but would drive out, checking on the cows at least twice a day, bringing in hay or water as needed.

The cows really never bothered us except for the occasional loud mooing. The truly big annoyance was the influx of flies we’d notice during the summer months or if the wind was out of the Northwest, an unpleasant aroma would waft our way with the worst being when the owners would decide to fertilize the field with chicken manure—let’s just say outdoor garden parties would not be advisable.

All in all however, life with cows as neighbors was ok. Then one day, about two years ago, the owner of the property, an older man, sadly passed away. All that remained was his grown special needs son. The land then passed on to the next of kin. This is when things took a big turn in direction.

One day a big cattle truck showed up and moved all the cows away. “Hummm” we wondered. “Were the new owners going to build on the property or perhaps, Heaven’s forbid, attempt selling it to some big wig real-estate developer?!” we mused to ourselves feeling all a bit hopeless. It wasn’t long until we discovered who, or actually what, was to be our new neighbors. . .

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Bulls.
And not just any bulls, these were the “wood” bulls. Wood bulls you ask? Yes, a most unique species indeed.

It seems that living out of the city limits as we do, there is indeed a hodge podge of what goes on with the county property. There are subdivisions, a retirement facility, farms, individual homes such as ours, plus a multi million dollar golf club and neighborhood all within 3 miles of where we live.

There is also some property nestled in between some beautiful homes and the golf course that is a fenced off wooded piece of property. On this property of woods lived a bunch of bulls and steers. I would drive by these animals always on my way to and from work, feeling so sorry for these bulls as they were not living on a nice pasture, but rather in the midsts of overgrown woods. Who can graze in the woods for heavens sake?! Even this city girl knows a cow needs open space and grass!

Imagine my surprise when the “wood” bulls were unloaded across the street. They now had their pasture I had so wished for them–it just happened to now be directly across from my house! Imagine 30 to 40 giant, all male, very male, bulls living together in one pasture. There is a great deal of vying for being king bull. Are you familiar with rocky mountain oysters? Lets just say that I understand the comparison now to huge mountains.

Loud groaning and moaning goes on at all times of the day and night. Dirt is kicked up into a frenzy. Horns clash and rattle together as domination is sought in the pecking order of life between these wood bulls.

The owners are not the best keepers of these animals. The fence is piece meal and old, patched together here and there with wire. Many a time has a bull knocked through the fence. Do you know what it is like to be driving along a road, minding your own business, when suddenly you are front bumper to head with a massive angry bull? Do you know what it is like to suddenly look out your window only to see 5 gigantic 500 pound animals in your yard pawing at what use to be grass?

How many times have people up and down this road called 911.
operator: “Hello 911, what’s your emergency?”
caller: “Uh there is a bull in the road”
operator: “excuse me?”
caller: “yeah a bull and someone is going to get killed it it’s not moved out of the road”
Enter the local sheriff.
How many local sheriffs does it take to move 1 bull?
One in a car behind the bull and two out walking, waving their arms in front of the bull praying the owners show up soon.

We had to take quick action by putting up a fence along the front of our property. So far it has kept out the unwelcomed guests. I can’t tell you how many people would stop at our door at all hours of the night and day to report that “our” bulls were out in the road—again. It got to a point that I taped a sign by our front door stating that we did not own the bulls nor did we know their owners name.

But I confess–I do feel sorry for these animals. I have discovered that they are rodeo bulls. They are used in the small circuit rodeos that are held in this, as well as, neighboring counties. Their pasture is not fertilized and is full of weeds, the fence is a piece of crap, and there is no naturally occurring water on the property so the owners must bring in massive quantities of water that I don’t think is nearly often enough in the summer months.

So for now, I am learning to tolerate my neighbors while maintaing a healthy respect–all as my empathy towards these creatures continues to grow. . . however my biggest and latest concern is no longer the wood bulls but rather who in the heck has gone and gotten a rooster?! You only think those things crow just in the morning. . . there’s just something to be said for ordinances!

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A wicked thistle this way comes

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So I’ve been watching this particular thistle, out in the pasture, sprouting upwards for the past couple of weeks– intently monitoring it’s progress towards “blossoming”. It is a most wicked looking plant– or weed. And herein lies the conundrum—is it a plant, an herb, a vegetable, or a noxious weed? If you ask any local farmer, they will be quick to say “A WEED!!”, the bane of any pasture to be sure.

I think they are unusual and kind of pretty in an almost deadly sort of way. I come upon them in our yard/pasture (remember we sit in the middle of 5 acres–part yard, part pasture sans any type of farm animals), just as they are coming up out of the ground, looking definitely weedy, I’ve been known to reach down to pluck them right up out of the ground, with that dandelion mentality, but quickly remember why that is such a bad idea. These things are nothing but spines and pokes. Painful spines and pokes. They are even known to cause a type of reaction similar to poison Ivy–a type of contact dermatitis. Not so much a rash but more of an immediate stinging as if you’d just gathered up a handful of fire ants (hate them).

The Thistle is the symbol of Scotland—and as my maternal great grandparents came to the US from Scotland, I am most proud of my Scottish roots (unfortunately Sylvia Kay has no idea as to her real roots…see the post “Who in the heck is Sylvia Kay and what have you done with her?!” but I digress). The lowly Thistle has represented the Scottish people since the reign of Alexander III (1249-1286) with the story going back to the Norse invasions of this northern end of the British Isles.

Seems some unsuspecting marauding Viking, who must have been barefoot, was attempting to sneak up on the Scots in order to do that thing that they do so well, pillage– when he stepped on a thistle, letting out a Viking yell of agony and therefore alerting the Scots of his presence. The pillaging was put to a fast halt. The rest is history.

I’ve not exactly been excited having this particular thistle in my yard/ hay field, but did want to see it through to blooming before taking spade in hand and digging up the whole lot only to remove it to the rubbish pile—all before it has a chance to turn from purple bloom to the infamous white cotton top and spread its deadly little seeds.

You should know however that I’ve done a little research on these pretty little pesky weeds—did you know people actually eat these things?! I suppose it’s rather kin to eating an artichoke—a little pokey but eventually a tasty reward. However, anything I have to go gather wearing combat gloves and “skin” before preparing just isn’t my cup of tea. And speaking of tea, I think it must be sort of like those who gather nettles for tea–beware of the pokes!

Here is a link to a most informative website all about the lowly thistle and how to go about gathering, preparing, adding butter, and digging in—with a fork that is. I’ll just leave the gathering and preparing to others—I’m not ready to sauté a plate of thistle

http://www.eattheweeds.com/thistle-touch-me-not-but-add-butter-2/

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Nothing is hidden

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Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. Luke 8:17

We have a large pasture behind our house, about 6 acres. At one point our neighbor thought it a good idea to have a few cows. She is more or less a “gentleman farmer”, or in her case, gentlewoman. When she realized the cows had no profit margin, there went the cows. The pasture is now grown up in tall grass, not having been bush-hogged (also known as cutting/mowing it), in a couple of years.

It is not unsightly as it is really quite pretty in a rugged way. There are crabapple trees, which smell heavenly when blooming, along with a smattering of dogwoods that dot the pasture with popcorn white blossoms–but there is always the tall grass. Depending on the season, the grass captures the sun’s light, rewarding anyone who notices a dazzling palette of color.

One thing I’ve noticed is that this is an area of secrets. The overgrowth provides excellent cover for prey and predator alike. Each evening, at the same time, a group, of usually no less than 5 deer, seem to emerge out of this blanket of cover, crossing into our yard to nibble on our nice green grass. We’ve started putting out some corn in order to supplement their grazing– especially in the summer months when most of the vegetation dries up due to our recurring droughts.

Our kitchen window overlooks our backyard and the pasture, providing a wonderful viewing platform to watch the deer, various birds, the occasional wild turkey, the rabbits and fox. One of our cats enjoys meandering down to the edge of our yard and the pasture, imagining herself, I suppose, as a lioness surveying the savannah. She can sit for hours mesmerized watching the swaying grass and no doubt any small creature that stirs about. Mind you, the only thing she chases are butterflies, so all small animals and birds know they are perfectly safe.

It was, however, the other evening that I became quite alarmed. My husband and I were about to sit down to dinner when he noticed something ominous appearing almost magically out of the brush. It was a lone coyote. A troublesome predator in our region.

The coyote has all but decimated the wild quail population in Georgia as well as proving devastating to the wild turkey as they are opportunistic feeders, taking the eggs or young chicks of these birds. They are also becoming quite good at taking baby fawns and the pets of local residence. Not to mention the troubling rabies issue that can accompany wild animals.

We ran out on to the deck hollering at the uninvited visitor, scaring it away– for now. Needless to say that I now watch my cat, not letting her out without me following. Often I can hear the spine tingling sound of a pack of coyotes wailing off in the surrounding woods.

This all reminds me that what is good for some animals, providing cover and protection,– also provides the top tier food chain predators with the necessary element of stealthy surprise. I don’t much like that, but unfortunately that is nature’s way. It’s just that I will do my part helping those more helpless animals to stay “safe”–as long as they are in or near my yard.

A daunting task no doubt and not the most practical, but I feel I must do my part to help the ones who are struggling to survive in numbers, hang on a bit longer, as the drama of life and death unfolds in my backyard all within a beautiful overgrown pasture. Hidden secrets indeed.