Monday, June 23, 2014

What's That Smell?

There is an unpleasant smell at Hummingbird Farm. 

Things have smelled that way for a while, and I'm not sure it's going away anytime soon. 

As we all know, Ghon likes to hunt. Although I'm not a huge fan of hunting,  I am glad he actually uses what he harvests, and while trophies are nice, he hunts for the meat.

Of course, the rules change when it comes to killing predators on our farm. Those suckers get shot no questions asked.  Being equal opportunity annihilaters, we will trap those suckers too. 

A few years ago, Ghon shot a coyote at the farm.  Rather than have it mounted, he opted for a hide. It usually drapes over the large deer he has mounted.  

Last summer, he trapped a fox, and it's been in the freezer at the farm since, waiting to have it's hide tanned.

He claims when we move into the farmhouse,  he's going to hang these hides on the log wall off to the side of the fireplace. 

I'm not sold on the idea.

We have a refrigerator at the farmhouse that I use to store drinks all summer as well as condiments for all the grilling... ketchup, mustard,  ranch dressing.  I try to keep some snacks too, like cheese sticks,  applesauce and sometimes lunchables.  The freezer is usually stocked with freeze pops. Freeze pops buried under a dead fox in a trash bag. 

This spring Ghon bagged, in more ways than one, a new critter and added it to the freezer.  

I can't eat anything from the refrigerator.  

I can't drink anything that is in the refrigerator. 

We are not having freeze pops. 

I have a skunk in my kitchen freezer.

There is a dead skunk in my freezer.  It's been there about seven weeks now.

The house, which smelled like old house and old dog and cat for so long, then smelled like nothing,  smells like skunk.

If I open the fridge, I get an instant headache.  It smells so bad. 

I first realized how bad the stench permeated everything in the fridge when I attempted to drink a Gatorade, that Ghon brought me.  I stomached a few sips, but after the first sip, couldn't put my lips near the bottle. It was like taking a shot. Deep breath in, don't breathe, pour and swallow.  It was disgusting.  It's even changed the taste of the bottle beer,  hence the skunk beer. I haven't drank a thing from the fridge since. 

I've obviously refrained from writing this post for quite some time now. 

I've had a dead skunk. In my freezer.  For seven weeks.

Seven weeks a dead smelly creature has been in my freezer.  

I've been long over the dead fox. He doesn't stink.

The smell of a skunk doesn't change after it's dead. In fact, I think it's worse.

Let me rewind a bit. Seven weeks ago, I casually mentioned that Ghon found a skunk walking off with on of our chickens. This act started the hunt.

Ghon headed to the farm one night to make sure all the chickens were in bed (their coop) and to close them up. They were still a little young and stupid and didn't always go into the coop.

When Ghon arrived, he spotted a few chickens out of the coop and one or two out of the enclosure.  We have two types of hens, ones that are brown and the other are white. He spotted a white hen in the yard between the garden and the chicken run, but closer to the chickens,  and approached it. 

Once he got the flashlight on it however, he realized that the white hen was not a hen, but the stripe on a skunk.

Now, picture this: it's dark out. Ghon is still wearing his work uniform. He drove my car. He is now 15 feet from the skunk. Ghon stops his advance, pauses just long enough to see the skunk rear onto it's front legs as he turns to run into the house.   

The skunk sprays and pursues.

Ghon comes back out of the house with a 22 magnum. The skunk is waiting for him just off the front porch. Skunks must understand what guns are. It sees Ghon,  with the 22, and runs.

Ghon chases the skunk. 

I almost wish I was there to see this. Why couldn't Ghon have worn his GoPro that night? 

Not too far away, Ghon shoots and the skunk dies. The chickens are put to bed. And my whack job husband picks up the body, puts it in a trash bag, and places it in the kitchen freezer. 

A freshly killed the freezer. 

Now it's not quite clear if Ghon got hit by the spray or if walked through it, but he most definitely had an odor about him when he came home. His shoes, his work shoes, especially.  He set them out on the back deck, and I unloaded half a can of Febreeze on them. They sat outside for about a week, and may have even had a spring shower.

And oh my truck. My poor truck. Those stinky feet rode for six minutes, resting on the carpet in my truck to get home. The next morning, the stench was so bad. It was a Saturday, and normally Ghon would take my truck to work. Instead, I took it into town with the kids and had it washed and cleaned inside. It was deodorized with baby powder scent.  It helped a little. Keeping the windows down as much as possible helped, but it still took over a week, closer to two, before the smell was gone.

As for the farm, as in the outside area, I could smell that sucker for a good month. I still catch little whiffs near it's final resting place. I'm slightly concerned that perhaps there are more skunks living under the chicken coop. We know there is a family of groundhogs under there. 

It's taken me 7 weeks to calm down enough about the skunk in my freezer to write this post. Oh, who am I kidding, it still infuriates me! I don't know if any amount of fresh air, open doors and baking soda will get rid of the smell from the fridge. It makes me so sad, to have been given this refrigerator and have it wrecked. By a skunk.  I hope he finds a taxidermist that will take it and do something with it. That of course is another concern - who actually wants to skin the darn thing? And when it takes it's final ride, it better be in the back of the pick up.

I'm considering all options for cleaning up the fridge. Including burning it. Any ideas?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Grass, weeds, lions, tigers, and bears!

It's been a bit of a scheduling miracle that Ghon has had off work the last two weekends. Well, Saturdays.

Last Saturday, we started off the day with t-ball as normal. This season, when a runner is forced out, it actually counts, as opposed to last season when the runner could keep, well, running. Since t-ball is about teaching basic skills, the kids are always taught to throw to first base, except when the last batter is up. They've talked a little about tagging the base closest to you to get the out, but it's not the goal of t-ball!

Jonathan was doing a great job playing the field. His fielding skills have improved so much this season. During the second inning, he played third base. The ball came right to him, and he tagged the base! His first forced out! Everyone was so excited! Our team had two forced outs that game. Jonathan also had a turn at home playing catcher, and tagged the last few runners out as well. At the end of the game, his coach, who's name is also Jonathan (and eerily enough, they share the same middle name), presented Jonathan with a game ball.  This was as exciting as the post-game snack!

Jonathan and Coach Jonathan
Not only do they share the same name (Jonathan Wayne) but they are both left hand batters!

After t-ball, we headed to the Bowman Library to check out some new books. Genevieve is in a reading program, trying to read 1,000 books before kindergarten. We have a chart to track every 50 books read. This weekend, Genevieve crossed into the 100  books read club and was able to move "her" frog on the wall. She was so excited!

Can you see her mug shot? She's the middle in the row of three frogs.

After t-ball and the library, we were off to the farm for more work. Unfortunately, none of it is in the house. All yard work. Grass just doesn't quit.

If Jonathan's day could get any better, he was finally able to do the job he'd been waiting for ... sweeping the lawn!

The lawn sweeper does basically the same job as a bagger. After the grass is cut, the sweeper tosses all the clippings into the bag. We are using the clippings as mulch in the garden. The sweeper may require an extra pass, but at over $200 less than the bagger attachment, we'll take it!

A little later in the afternoon, Tim came by with his mom to work on her garden space. Genevieve was excited to help Mr. Tim plant tomato plants.

We pulled together a little of this and a little of that between our kitchen and Tim's and had a huge dinner feast, all cooked on the grill or in the fire. I grilled steak, chicken and hot dogs, and cooked up baked beans and broccoli cheese rice in the fire. We paired it up with some chips and viola! Dinner!

Sunday was the usual; work for Ghon, church and shopping for the kids and I. In the evening, we head to the farm for a little work around the yard, or basic animal care.

Later that week, two more big events occurred for Jonathan.

First up, on Thursday, Jonathan tested to move up from his purple to blue belt in Taekwondo. He passed with a score of 30/35. With a blue belt, he will begin sparring in classes.

New blue belt - and on to sparring!

Now, the next picture was staged and completely faked. Jonathan's true last day of Kindergarten was June 13, yes, Friday the 13th. However, since Ghon and I were leaving for the weekend on Thursday night, I staged a fake last day of school picture on Thursday. That said, this picture was taken before the one above, but we'll pretend it was Friday.

In a few short hours - he'll be a first grader!

All these exciting events lead up to this past weekend, when we all had a nice little vacation. Thursday, I took the day off and prepared for the weekend away, while staging photo shoots and attending TKD testing. After Ghon got home from work, we left and headed to Farmington PA to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort for the ICS sanctioned 5 Alarm Mountain Madness Chili Cook-off. Ghon and I serve as the chief judge and scorekeeper for the event, held Saturday.

We didn't arrive until late Thursday, but were able to get about 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep in an amazing little townhouse/condo in the woods.

After a nice breakfast, we met up with our friends Dave and Jen for a round of miniature golf, girls vs boys. I was lucky that Jen was an awesome shot, with 4 hole-in-one shots on the course. We won by two strokes!  Game complete, Ghon and I headed off to the Lady Luck Casino to toss away some money. After about 2 hours of play, we were only down about $5.  Next up was a late lunch/early dinner, a little more casino time, then the chili cooks party!

Saturday is cook-off day! We were able to send three of our friends to the World Chili Championship Cook-off. While we were working, the kids spent the day at the resort's Kids Club. Jonathan loves going and is always asking when he can go back again!

For the last three years, members of the Pittsburgh Steelers have been celebrity judges at the event. Brett, Cam, and David are super nice guys. Yes, I am on a first name basis with them. It's fun seeing them each year.

You know they are big dudes when they make Ghon look small. I feel pretty darned short.

We end the event each year with a cook's pot luck. About an hour or two after turn-in, many of the cooks and their families return to the cook-off site and eat and drink. A potluck catered by a bunch of foodies is awesome. It's a great way to unwind and not have to do a ton of cooking at the end of the day.

Sunday was Father's Day. Before leaving the resort, we had a nice breakfast with the whole family at our favorite breakfast stop, Autumn. Pop and BJ headed home, and Ghon and Jonathan went fishing.

Drowning a few worms

Genevieve and I attempted to go see the lions, tiger and bear (seriously), but after the bison, she was so cranky, we headed back to the car. We made it back to the lake and the boys just in time for me to see the big fish Jonathan caught!  This was only his second time fishing. Dad helped him hook it, then Jonathan did all the reeling in. He was pretty excited - but not enough to actually hold it.

Ghon and Jonathan - and the 2 pound bass!

Fish released, we were on the road home. Back to the farm and yard work. We unloaded at the house, changed clothes and went to the farm. Goats and chickens needed tending to.

When we got there, we were greeted with more dead and/or missing chickens. We had set the timer in the coop to open and close the coop door, but something hadn't worked. We lost roughly 10 chickens between Thursday night and Sunday morning. Ghon set a few leg traps to try and catch any raccoons creeping in the pen, but so far, nothing. We are back to manually closing their door at night.

Monday and Tuesday, Ghon and I both had off work. We sent the kids off to daycare and worked at the farm. We procured supplies to run an electric fencing around the coop, garden and orchard to not just keep chickens in, but keep critters and deer out. Our garden is doing pretty well, but we are already getting a little deer damage.

Eric and his girlfriend came down to visit for Father's Day. Together, Ghon and Eric worked on one successful project, hanging a swing and climbing rope/swing for the kids.

All those years of scouting and knot tying paid off!

The two quickly decided that they must immediately build a tree house for the kids. While I was in agreement, I had my suspicions that it wouldn't end well. After discussing what tree or trees to use, a general idea, lumber was moved across the yard to the big walnut tree in the backyard. Two screws in, they scratched their heads and admitted they had no clue what they were doing. Now, I have a second lumberyard in the yard.  Oh well, it will get done one day, hopefully sooner rather than later. At least they were able to spend some time together while Karen kept the fire going, burning scrap wood and fallen branches as I finished mowing the entire yard.

We scooped up the kids and headed to dinner. On the way home, we stopped by the farm so the kids could see their new swing!

And she spots the surprise!

First swing!

He had a hard time climbing the rope, so he turned it into a Tarzan swing.

Super high!

Ghon fashioned a foot loop to help him out.

Jonathan's turn on the swing.

A seat built for two - made from repurposed lumber! This was a shelf in the living room!

Tuesday was back to the farm and more yard work. We started another fire, pulling more wood from the burn pile outside and from some of the scrap lumber from our demo over a year ago. I had a good fall down the side stairs after collecting the scrap wood. The stairs are covered in indoor/outdoor carpet and were wet and a bit covered in mossy yuckiness. I hit the step with a little too much enthusiasm and down I went. The worst part was that I went right into a rock pile. Ouch.

While Ghon worked on some weed clearing, I took a load of trash and recycling to the the local transfer station and picked up lunch. Multi-tasking at it's finest, we ate lunch, cooled down in the truck (it was over 90 degrees out and humid), while watching a video on how to install the electric fence.

Properly refueled, we took a yard work break and did a little target practice with our handguns.

All too soon, it was back to work. We bought fence boards last year but had never installed them, as Ghon changed plans for them. With more critters invading our chicken run, we went back to part of the original plan. I started nailing the boards to the fence posts around the outside of the run at ground level. This will hopefully make it a little harder to dig in, or for the chickens to wiggle under the wire fencing.  As I crawled around outside, Ghon worked on the start of the roofing for the run. Using a center guide wire, we will lay a covering over the outside run to keep the chickens from flying out - or hawks from coming in. We are hoping the electric fence will ward off racoons in the future.

We had to cut the day a little short so we could get cleaned up. Jonathan's t-ball team had an outing at the Winchester Royals baseball game. The team joined the Royals on field for the National Anthem, and their coach threw out the first pitch. Jonathan had a bad attitude, so we didn't make it past the 2nd inning, and we were headed home.

One of the weirdest things for me this summer has been tattoo coverage. On hot days, I prefer getting some sun and wearing a tank. But with my left upper arm covered in ink, they must be protected. I've been coating the tattoos in 30SPF when I leave the house, and again with 50SPF about an hour or two later. Legs, face and chest be damned! I want color!!

Wednesday was back to work for me, but Ghon had one more day off. It was another day of weed whacking - more along the street, and clearing weeds and junk bushes between the fence line and a row of Rose of Sharon in the yard. After about an hour or two of work, he sent me a message, that he found something at the farm - and we were going to have a party.

Apparently, there were more than a dozen plants. - and we were shocked. I kept asking him if he was sure...he does have much more experience in this area. Back at the farm after lunch, he told me he no longer thought the plants were cannabis, but Sulphur cinquefoil.

He'd found a ton more plants, both along the Rose of Sharon and on the road, then found some with flowers. That and a quick google search killed his party plans.

There you have it. Two weekends worth of updates. No inside work, but our garden is growing, our grass is cut and many weeds knocked out. We have a new swing, and mental plans for a tree house. It never ends...

Friday, June 6, 2014


It didn’t take a long time of being a Virginia resident to notice a trend that I’d never seen in Maryland. Virginians apparently have an obsession with personalized license plates. From my completely non-mathematical, no statistical analysis approach, about 20% of cars and trucks I see on the road have a personalized tag.

Remember the TV game show from the 80’s called Bumper Stumpers? 

The object of the game was to decipher the meaning of vanity plates using a variety of clues. I loved playing that game at home, testing my word play skills.  I know, I’m a bit of a nerd.

I liked playing, but seriously, what do those plates say? Leave a guess in the comments!

Every day that I drive around here, I get to play Bumper Stumpers. Here are a few plates I’ve seen:








This of course does not count the endless personalized tags with last names or initials.  Or business names. Or amateur radio operators. Yea Dad, I'm calling you out with two vehicles, two personalized tags.

When we first moved to Virginia, Ghon and I tagged our trucks on the same day. I couldn't believe we actually received plates in sequential order. His truck was XCX-1413, the same four digits as our home phone, and mine was XCX-1414. The 14th is the date of my birth. Cool.

Three years later, it's time to renew our tags. Rather than buy new tags, we ponied up $10 per set to personalize.

We've joined the crowd - we are now personalized. Hummingbird Farm official!