Opie’s Last Stand

This is a hard one to write. It’s so fresh, it feels like last night, but was months ago when it happened… My heart hurts.

Anno Domini, 2019, March 12. It was a good day, like most on the homestead. Evening had waned; dark had set in; the stars so bright they cast cool shadows everywhere. Homie and I were resting; tired but good. Homie was watching some guy on YouTube going through the contents of a storage unit he had purchased. I was napping on the sofa. I awoke with a start and thought, “Opie’s not laying on the sofa with me as he always does.” But then I looked over to the love-seat where Homie sat. And there he was. I relaxed. He was okay.

It was a strange ominous warning that I didn’t know was one.

Opie is our little blonde, deer-head Chihuahua we have loved for 12 years, and still do…always will.

You see before all this, Homie and I had never had a house dog; plenty of outside ones over the years. After my momma died, I was so grief stricken for such a long time, I knew I had to do something; I wanted a house dog, for the first time ever. We bought a Blue Sable Chihuahua; Sage. We loved him but he had an accident and passed away. We cried for days.

So about a year later, along comes Opie, whom we sort of rescued. His owner/momma was sick and she couldn’t take care of him; he was still mostly puppy then. He was so much fun, our little ice cream eater. He helped me overcome my grief for my momma and for Sage.

Opie was fun, but fierce. He never backed down from any fight, no matter how big the opposition was: human, dog, cat, or whatever. And he loved the homestead; it was his home and territory.

Last night was one night I wish he had backed down. Opie was showing his age; he had arthritis in his back hips and sometimes had muscle spasms too. We treated him for these things. But he would still follow me everywhere. If you ever got a hug from Opie, it would melt your heart.

Opie Stalking

Last night, about time for bed, Opie slipped out the dogie door for one more “anointed” walk around the house, as he did most nights, since he considered himself the pack leader. He barked, as he always did. Homie took the spotlight and checked. There was a deer in the field next to the edge of the yard, who sprinted away. That was normal too.

Later, Homie went to put the dogs to bed, but could not find Opie. We both began searching. Opie had a knack for hiding in the house to keep from going to bed, but never in the yard at night. We searched inside and then with spotlights searched every where outside. We drove up and down the road, even though we knew Opie never strayed that far. Hours and hours later, still no Opie.

It was then that Homie heard a coyote barking near…

Our heart sinking in fear and dread, we realized what may have occurred. In a sequence of strange, heartbreaking, simultaneous events in the star-lit night at the edge of our field: 1. Opie went outside for one more walk. 2. The deer came to the edge of our yard, unknowingly stalked by a coyote. 3. Opie, Chihuahua barker and fearless protector that never backed down, stood his ground, but lost to the coyote.

Fearless Opie

In tears, I write of his bravery, staunch protector of his territory, and a little heart that was always full of joy and love. I will never hear his little toenails clicking across the floor to come to me; never see him sneak a lollipop from the candy dish again, with the stick sticking out of his mouth; or find candy wrappers where he had stolen chocolate candy from the bag; or beg for a treat with the cutest of faces. He was the little paws (heels) behind my heels.

This is a tribute to our special, little friend. We are forever thankful he was a part of our family and our homestead. He was a one-of-a-kind.

Opie

Now he is over that rainbow bridge with Pretty Girl Pearl, who also was attacked and crossed over; and I cry. To read Pearl’s story: Heartbreak on the Homestead.

With sorry in my heart, I miss my little, furry friends.

Please leave me a comment, I would love to hear from you. Hit the follow button, go to my contact page and send me an email, and share your thoughts, or tell me about your great pets you love. I still miss Sage, Pearl, and Opie today, and I know I will never forget them, and the special place they had in my life, and now the memories of them imprinted on my heart.

If you like romance, hop over to my Shop-for-Love page and check out my romance series of family saga, faith, and twists and turns in a plot that will keep you going to the very end of each love story. You can read a preview of my latest, In Loving Katie Marie, here: https://dellastrickland.org/shop-for-love/ .

From happenings on the homestead,

Della


A Chicken in the House? No Way! Not me!

Pecking Order? Do Hens Fight?

I love cold, frosty mornings! I know it is Thanksgiving and all about turkeys, but I have a delightful chicken story that is funny! And it all started one cold, frosty morning…

And it was a good one. Everything was glittering white, with new sunshine streaming through the backyard pines. So, bundled up, I’m outside enjoying the crispness, the newness, the glittering breath-ability of it all, my breaths white as I inhale and then exhale. As I walked around, I strolled by my chicken coop and pens, as I do almost every morning, to check on my fluffy, feathery, gals and guys.

And that’s when I saw her! By the water cooler!

Now, my flock is a mixture of heritage and sex-link chickens. Heritage chickens are old breeds that are not in the chicken producing market anymore. They come from all over the world, and most are listed in The Livestock Conservatory. Sex-link chickens are crossbred chickens whose color at hatching is differentiated by sex, thus making chick sexing an easier process. Sex-links are wonderful layers, and can lay up to 300 eggs per year, according to their individual breed.

water cooler

My mixed flock loves to hang around “the water cooler,” as I like to put it. It is their job to lay me eggs, and my job is to provide water, food, dirt to dust in, and a nice straw filled, cozy nest box to do their thang! (Smile here)

One of my hens is a rose combed, brown, Leghorn, and this breed is listed as “recovering” at The Livestock Conservatory. This breed is kept mostly for eggs. So, in the fall when all the other hens were going through their annual molting process, Brownie was busy laying me nice, large, white eggs.

TIP: When hens go through their yearly molting, they don’t lay, all their protein goes into growing new feathers for the winter months.

Then, in the middle of winter, I noticed something so strange, Brownie was molting. She was doing it nicely, growing new feathers and shedding old ones, still covered in feathers, old and new.

But on this cold frosty morning, I saw her hunkered down by the water cooler, bloody, almost half of her feathers gone. Needless to say, I stopped my joyful, frosty morning walk and ran to her. I knew immediately what had happened. The other hens had pecked her down in their pecking order. She was half frozen. I had to save her!

I ran back into the house and grabbed an old towel, and then ran back. She was so frozen she couldn’t move. I wrapped her up, and ran back into the house. I gave her to Homie, got a small dog kennel, and layered it with more old towels (We keep them for things like this.) We put her in it, and I warmed a towel by the stove and placed it on top of her.

We had a short trip planned that day, to fetch our granddaughter to stay with us. I didn’t know what condition Brownie would be in when we got back. But when we arrived back home that evening, she was up in her cage with the towels thrown off. So we watered her and fed her. She gobbled it up.

My four year old granddaughter felt so sorry for poor Brownie that she went outside, bless her heart, and brought in a dry twig and put it in Brownie’s cage and said, “That’s something for Brownie to play with while in her cage.” Wasn’t that sweet?

And so…we had a chicken in the house for the next unforeseen weeks. Every day it was clean, feed, and water Brownie. And for exercise, I had to let her walk around while I shadowed her with paper towels and Clorox wipes for poo droppings. Nothing I ever wanted to do, but I had to save Brownie!

Two weeks in!

On Brownie’s third week, our granddaughter came back to stay with us. She came running to me exclaiming, “Come and see!” When I went to see, she said, “Look at Brownie! She’s grown her feathers!” Then she bent down to the cage and said, all smoochy-like, “Good job, Brownie. I’m so proud of you.” She is a hoot!

She had grown new feathers, but they were short. Brownie wasn’t ready for cold weather yet. A week later, still winter, we begun to have a warm streak where the temperature went up to seventy degrees. It was the perfect time to re-incorporate Brownie back into the flock, as her feathers, still not quiet mature, covered her well. I put her in an empty pen beside the hens for a week, for them to get a feel for each other again. A chicken peeking order can be brutal! After a week of warmth, I put Brownie back into the pen with the other hens. As I suspected, as I waited, two hens tried to fight her. But Brownie is hardy and feisty! She fought them off, and reestablished her place in the order. Good job, Brownie!

I look forward to many more of Brownie’s nice, large, white eggs.

This is my saga, my chicken story of “a chicken in the house,” something I never thought I’d do, and I’m sticking to it. This was an unusual happening at the homestead.

So, please leave a comment, like, and go to my contact page and fill it out for more happenings, inspiration, love, recipes, and go to my Shop-For-Love page to view, and preview my books: Christian Inspiration, children, and romance. It’s all there!

And thank you for stopping by!

Love, from Romance & The Homestead,

Della

striped lilly

 

 


Cry Me a Foggy River of Grief: My Lesson in the Spirit of Grief

Can Jesus truly wipe every tear that we cry?

Grief…is a hard thing to bear. The fog that the Spirit of Grief causes can be so painful that it will debilitate you if you are not careful. How am I acquainted with this Spirit of Grief? Well, let’s just say that foggy, painful spirit came to visit me one day unexpectedly, rushing in and overpowering me in just a few moments, taking over my life and my family’s lives.

It was a Saturday, much like any other Saturday, and me and my family were doing our usual Saturday stuff: cleaning, laundry, lounging about the house, and basically taking our languid, hot and humid, last days of summer for granted. Little did we know our lives were about to change forever; mine in a huge way!

My family and I had lived next to Momma, and had for a number of years. Saturday morning was her spa day where she went to her family friend, she had know most of her life, for her hair appointment: cut, wash, and set. And Momma more than deserved it. But this morning Momma’s car had not moved. I kept watching it, wondering why Momma hadn’t left. My oldest brother, who recently had open heart surgery, came to do his walking, as he periodically walked around the farm for his health.

Then it happened! The phone rang. I picked it up. My sister in law came on the line, upset. She told me my brother was at Momma’s house. He found her on the floor. Immediately gasping in fear, I ran and found them. On the heels of that, it began…the Spirit of Grief.

The doctor’s diagnosis: a heart attack, a stroke, and very little chance of recovery.

That is when the Spirit of Grief took over my life. I can’t tell you how devastating this was to me…and all of us. We are a large family. Seven brothers and sisters with children and grandchildren began to mourn.

I’m gonna be real here. The pain was so terrible that I cried and “snotted” up so many of my husbands shirts, in a fog of debilitating grief. He never complained, just held me when I cried. He didn’t know anything else to do…and there wasn’t anything else he could.

After her funeral, I began to cry every day. The spirit of grief took over my life. My husband and my children had to listen to me sobbing morning and night. It was horrible. Somewhere inside of me, I knew I was grieving, not just the end of Momma’s life here on earth, and I would never see her again, but the end of our family and the familiar way we loved it and viewed life. All we knew was the way it had always been. Now, it would never be the same. Our family, in many ways, would drift apart since Momma wasn’t there, our matron, our linchpin that held us all together.

There would be no familiar family dinners, people in and out of her house, hanging around, gossiping, laughing, watching grandchildren grow together. Thanksgiving, Christmas, wonderful days of love, fellowship, and closeness around her and her “table of life,” was gone. We would all have to learn a new way of life…and it would be difficult.

Every day I went to my job. Afterwards, on the way home, I would cry all the way there, in a fog, barely seeing the road, not caring if anyone saw me. I had to drive by Momma’s house to get to mine. I prayed so hard for the Lord to help me make it through. If he didn’t help me, I would not. I tried so hard to be strong, suck it up, but I couldn’t, and didn’t understand why. My heart broke every day; a river of tears poured out. Debilitating grief seemed to control me. This went on for months. For months I could not bear to think about Momma, my heart was so heavy, gripped in painful fog the Spirit of Grief brought with it. It was torture. My memories tainted with it. Grief is like a toxic weed in the garden of our happy memories.

fog of grief

But then, my tears became less as I did not cry every day. At the end of a year, my tears dried up. That painful fog, Spirit of Grief seemed to have lifted. Here, I want to tell you all how grateful, truly thankful to the Lord I am for letting me cry a river of tears for that year. My husband held me outwardly, but Jesus held me inwardly. Afterwards, I was still sad, missed her, and missed sitting on the front porch with her rocking and talking. She was salt of the earth.

What did I learn about the Spirit of Grief?

When you lose someone, you don’t have to get stuck in grief. Grief becomes a liar, a lying spirit. It tells you you have to keep it, the egregious Spirit of Grief. It says, “I’ll keep you connected to your lost loved one. Unless you use me–Grief–everyone will think you never really loved them.” Grief says, “In remembering your loved one, you have to remember them through me. I connect you. I, and I alone, can keep them alive in you, even though it is painful.”

I’m here to kick Grief in the shins! It is a lying spirit!

After crying that year, I stopped. For awhile, when I thought of Momma, I didn’t feel anything. It was strange, and I didn’t understand it. After awhile, I realized God had given me peace about Momma. This takes awhile to get to know and understand, this strange peace. A few years past. My memories of Momma began to be bright, joy filled, and a sheer pleasure. No more pain when I remembered her. Grief, that hateful, foggy, lying spirit, was gone. It could no more painfully taint my memories of Momma and our family, as we once were.

My love and joy now, now fortified in God’s peace, connected me to Momma, Daddy, my brothers, sisters, and all the grands. My memories are a true treasure, not the grief riddled ones of that whole year of crying. I realized my tears and tear ducts were there for a reason. I cried me a river of that Spirit of Grief right out of me. So, if you have lost people you love, just cry yourself a river. Pray for God to help you overcome the painful, foggy Spirit of Grief so you can remember your lost loved ones with love and joy, not through the painful, foggy, lying Spirit of Grief that only wants to taint your memories of them through pain.

When I cried, Jesus began wiping my tears until he had wiped them all.

It was a painful, yet wonderful lesson this tough, southern girl learned. Crying can be cleansing! Don’t suck it up! Cry yourself a river! I cried me a river! It saved me from the Spirit of Grief and always remembering my Momma, and the way we were, through a foggy pain.

I hope you enjoyed this. I hope it will help you as you deal with, and heal from the foggy, painful, and debilitating Spirit of Grief. It is my wish, my desire, that you let Jesus love you and wipe every tear you cry if you are in a journey through grief and pain. Through Jesus, I found a light at the end of the foggy, painful, tunnel-like Spirit of Grief. I sincerely hope you can come to know His love and healing too.

Be blessed in the Lord! And don’t forget to leave me your thoughts in the comment section. I would love to hear from you. Go to the contact page and follow me if you would like to receive my “once a month” inspirational thoughts about life, love, and romance from the homestead.

Don’t forget to check out my page, Shop for Love, where you can find all my books. Follow me on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram.

From Romance and the Homestead,

Della


Heartbreak on the Homestead

It was a true tragedy….

Homie and I mourned the loss…

It was our dream life, me and Homie. We wanted our own farm. Both of us had grown up in farming communities, not just our farming families. When my daddy died, he left me some acres. So, we took the kids and moved back to my home farm. We had jobs, so we had no desire to farm, per se. What we did want to do was garden. So, it started out as sweet fun: chickens, 4 Chihuahuas, and the 4-Square Farm! (At this point, three of my sisters jointly owned the farm with me.) After my mom died, we divided it up and I named my share, The Jake & Jewel Homestead, after my hardworking parents who took a piece of land with nothing on it and built it into a sustainable farm where they raised seven children. Since then, I’ve shared, off and on, pics of the Chihuahuas, chickens, the homestead, flowers, plants, and of course HadPoo, our granddaughter after she came into the picture. 

However, sadly, last year, heartbreak happened on the homestead.

For you to understand, I have to introduce our four furry friends. Opie, our blond, male Chihuahua we rescued from a lady who was sick with brain cancer and wanted a good home for him, a new puppy she had received from well meaning family. Then Shea, our tawny and black gal, whom we also rescued from a friend whose children could not take care of her due to their sad circumstances.

 

Opie and Shea had their first litter of four. We fell in love. Homie and I kept two, Diamond Pistol Pete, a black and white firecracker, and Pretty Girl Pearl, a long haired gray, black, and white beauty.  Our daughter took one, Topaz Bella, a beautiful copper colored little girl. And our son and his wife took the smut black and brown boy, Onyx, shortened to Onnie, the sweet one.

 

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We had no had no want for more puppies, but life happens. Mysteriously–tongue in cheek here–at this time, both Pearl and Shea came up pregnant at the same time. And both fled the safety of our home and had their babies under one storage building. We waited for the babies to get big enough to come out, because, you see, the building was too low for any human to crawl beneath.

So we waited, never having seen even one puppy, only heard them mewing.

That day, the day of heartbreak, we didn’t know what was happening. About midday Shea began to bring puppies through the doggy door of our back door. One at the time, she frantically rolled them out from beneath the shed and lugged the fat babies in. We placed a sheet down for her. It took her a few hours as we watched her, even helping a few times. Soon we realized she was not only bringing her pups, which were a week younger than Pearl’s, but she was also bringing in Pearl’s pups as well. When she had brought all six pups in, she nestled in with them.

We went looking for Pearl, couldn’t find her. Later, she came up, and then fell over, wounded. Our Pearl Girl was attacked by something—what we’re not sure—but thought, at the time, it was someone in the neighborhood’s bigger dog who came into our yard. (We have seen them on the loose.) Pearl, the good, protective mommy that she was, probably rushed out barking, in her high-pitched bark—one that could almost break glass—to defend her pups, as she was ever the first responder/guard dog for the place. Sadly, she passed over the great divide and into that green meadow under the watchful eye of the Lord.

Now this precious little face, with those bright eyes and smile, will no longer romp around the homestead. She will no longer want to be the first to get a snack, jump into our laps, and keep scooting her head up to be able to give us a wet doggy kisses.
We all miss her so much, our little Squirrel-ly Pearly…

We were all heartbroken…

But that’s not the end of the story!! Read More


Stalking Your Fresh Okra Row

You smile and shout, “Okra for supper!”

The children go screaming away from the table, “I hate slimy, alien pods!”

So you, standing there, holding your hard work in your hands, a beautiful dish of cooked okra, ready to place it on the table for you and your family, think, Why should I go to all this trouble for this weird vegetable my family won’t even try eating?  I’ve stalked that okra row every other day now, and this is the thanks I get.

In your mind’s eye you see, with a winsome smile, yourself “stalking” okra, knowing how very tricky to pick it is, because it’s all so very, very many shades of green. You see yourself, while picking, looking back behind you over the row and sighing. I missed so many pods. How did I do that? I was staring right at those leafy stalks! If I don’t pick them, they’ll get hard and I’ll lose part of my precious crop.

So you back up, crouch down, and begin to step very softly searching for those smaller, tender pods among those leaves, at various heights, and among those beautiful, yellow, insect buzzing blossoms. It’s hot, and the sunshine is blistering. Then you start laughing at yourself, because you remind yourself of a crouched lion, on the hot Serengeti plain, stalking its prey. Take one slow step, let your gaze search carefully through those big, green leafs, the same color as the pods. You see your prey, reach in, snap it off, and triumphantly throw it in your bucket! When you think you’ve got them all, only, a few days later, when you go to pick okra again, you immediately see several pods you missed. Dang it! And you begin to stalk that row again!

Now, why go to all this trouble if some of your family doesn’t like okra? Let me count for you, all the wonderful ways of this special food, and then we’ll talk about growing it and cooking it. And I will tell you why, after all your years of hard work, later in life, your children may learn to love it!

First, let’s take a look inside that green, strange, seedy pod and what it brings to the table for the nutritional life of your body. Health to the body is health to the mind. Now the good book says, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” For the love of our sound mind, we all want to be healthy, whole, and happy. Okra’s benefits helps with the following:

  • Lower cholesterol
  • Boost immune system
  • Lowers risk of colon cancer
  • Helps prevent anemia
  • Helps your eyes to have clear vision and helps prevent cataract & glaucoma
  • Cleanse your liver
  • Treats constipation
  • Helps asthma
  • Helps with sun stroke
  • Strengthens bones
  • Helps to prevent obesity
  • Can help with type 1 & 2 diabetes

This cute little okra alien pod is packed with:

  • Vitamin K
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A (beta carotene)
  • Luetin, Xanthin
  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamin B6
  • Minerals
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Potassium
  • Calcium

And yes, I looked all this up. In doing so, I learned more about okra than ever! I’ve eaten it most of my life and never knew how wonderful it was for my body!

And I tell you the truth, growing okra is not that hard. It’s a hardy crop and very drought tolerant, once you get it established. Over the years, Homie and I have planted different varieties, different ways, and different places in our garden. We found that reverting back to the “good old days,” the way our parents did it, was doing it best. Okra loves sunshine, the right amount of fertilizer, water, and to be “sowed.”

Our parents and grandparents on the family farm, took a hoe, a normal farm tool, dug a shallow furrow in their mounded row, and then sowed the seeds uniformly and somewhat thick. It made a thick row that could start bearing as early as knee high. When it starts to bloom and bear, it will continue to bloom and bear those tasty, enriched with vitamins, okra alien pods until the first hard, killing frost. When picking okra, it does have a tendency to make you itch. TIPS HERE: Wearing gloves, or washing your hands and forearms with soap immediately after you pick it, solves this problem. Also you can use a sharp knife to cut your nutritious okra. And when you stalk your okra row, go down one side, and then back up the other for a more thorough stalking and gathering experience.

You might say, “That seems like a lot of hard work for a vegetable for only a few meals.” Oh! Contraire! Okra is for breakfast, dinner, and supper! (We live in the south, so we eat these three meals. Smile.)

IMG_2986

Okra for breakfast? Yuk! No yuks, please, until you try our “Okra and eggs, sausage, and butter-fried toast”  recipe on my Homestead Recipes page. It’s a nutritional, power packed meal for starting any great day.

As for your children, watching you eat it will have a great impact on them. When they get older, they may revisit the nutritional value of the “alien okra pod.” Repetition with foods creates a normalcy in their minds. Statistics inform us that children may need to try a food six or seven times before they begin to like it. The keys are exposure and persistence by the parents. My children never liked okra either. But today, they love it cooked several ways. Neither Homie or I ate okra much when we were growing up, but today, it is one of our main super food crops, along with the super foods mustard greens, kale, cabbage, broccoli, lettuces, and collard greens.

At the homestead we grow okra every summer. We grow it, stalk it, fry it, saute it, boil it, pickle it, and freeze it for the fall, winter, and spring months, until we get to grow it again. So I hope I’ve helped you fall in love with a great super food, the okra alien pod, like I have! 

As always, I encourage you to check out all my books on my page Shop-For-Love

So happy okra growing, staking, eating, and preserving!

From my kitchen to yours, happy eating,

With love, from Romance & The Homestead,

Della.