Out and About: Getting Your Ducks in a Row

Thanks for visiting Behind the Willows today but we aren’t home…

(And this cat may look friendly but she will unapologetically steal your snacks!)

…we are out and about with Rarasaur!

An online post and conversation with Ra led to a poll for her followers, choice being if I should write this post or if I should write this post. Now here we are, a post about what to do when you just can’t get your duck in a row. Pop on over and read it and then stay becuase Ra’s blog is full of the love, community and excellent writing we all hope to encounter online but don’t always find.

Chasing Pheasants

It was my first day out pheasant hunting this year, so when two roosters disappeared into 6 foot tall mostly dead nettles the dogs and I had to follow. Partially becuase we were out pheasant hunting and partially because this was pheasant hunting in southern Wisconsin and the general rule seems to be if you aren’t slogging through mud or stuck in some sort of ridiculous cover, you’re not really pheasant hunting.

Different day, different area, same idea.

Despite the fact that dead nettles scratch more than burn and were well above my head, I managed to drop the first bird that went up in a beautiful head-over-tail somersault. Trip and I both marked its fall and we were off, up a slight incline where we popped out of the tangle of nettles at the edge of a canal. Only to realize that the bird had clearly dropped on the far side.

We were pheasant hunting in southern Wisconsin after all, where all public hunting land seems to involve the word, “Marsh ” and this place was no exception, a large chunk of public land with a network of man-made canals and natural ponds and waterways connected by a lot of soggy ground and cattails.

However, Trip was on it. He jumped down the edge of the bank and landed on what seemed to be a dryish spit of mud extending into the water. It was not dryish. It was, apparently, quite soggy and the mud came half way up his back as I yelled encouragements, willing him to keep moving since if he got stuck and I had to join him in the mud, I wasn’t sure either one of us was going to make it out. Trip wallowed and slimed his way to the edge of the mud, quickly swam across to the other side and encountered a tall, steep bank.

That old dog of mine jumped on his hindlegs and scrabbled with his front paws, whined and jumped some more while I yelled more encouragements from the other shore till he made it up and over the edge and disappeared into the cover on the other side.

Moments later he was back, rooster in his mouth. He ran to the edge of the bank, looking across at me like the beautiful, wonderful dog he is. Then he spit out the bird, gave me his best doggy smile and swam back over to me.

All the encouragements and re-direction could not get him, Goose, or my friend, both of whom had showed up in the middle of the fun, to re-cross the mud.

Fortunately, there was another way to the other side. A quick car ride and a rather long hike later (during which I only filled one boot up with water) Trip pointed my dead bird which was, conveniently, right where he left it.

After the limit.

Chasing pheasants in southern Wisconsin isn’t always very glamorous. But there is always a story.

Fun Times! … ?

I found a simple test that can tell the difference between people with many children and those with few to none.

All you do is say something to the effect of, “John and I took all the kids to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for Clara’s birthday.”

Those with few to no kids say. “Oh! Nice! Was it a good time?”

Those with many children say: “Oh, Nice. Was it a good time?”

It seems to me that those with less offspring hear my statement and think. “Wow, a day trip to a big city to go to a giant aquarium to celebrate a kids birthday as a family, must have been fun.”

And those with more think. “Wow, a day trip to a big city to go to a giant aquarium to celebrate a kids birthday as a family, must have been … fun.

Hmmm… perhaps I am not explaining this well.

I think what it boils down to is that those who drag many children at a time along on fun adventures know the mix of pain and fun that is a family outing. Yes, heading to a big city is an adventure for a family from a small town but not all children will think that’s a fun adventure.

Yes, seeing all the animals in the aquarium will be super cool but no kids will want to see the same animals at the same time. Yes, at some point in the day every member of your five person family will become hangry no matter how many snacks you packed. Dinner at a new place will be delicious and enjoyable as soon as everyone is convinced to try it and wait an agonizing 45 minutes to be seated. But you will take pictures of smiles and try to hold on to the fact that everyone was happy during the dolphin show for at least five minutes straight before one became despondent over the complete lack of axolotls in the place.

Then, when you return home, and report to others what fun you chose to have over the weekend. You can smile when talking to those with few kids and return the nervous grimace of those with many when they both ask you how much fun you had.

No matter who you are talking to you will remember the good parts and remind yourself it was worth it…

… probably.

Home for the Summer

I’ve gone home for the summer.

Not home for a visit or home to live solo in my parents’ basement or even home while we are between houses.

No, I have gone home for the summer with John at my side trailing a whirlwind of kids, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, pigeons, geese, finches, Louie the dove and that one damn turkey I can’t seem to get rid of.

We have arrived at the farmhouse that’s been in the family since 1913, filled it to the gills with boxes, noise and chaos that this old place may have never seen the like of. The plants are spilling out the doors. The kids are running wild down the hill and up the next to my childhood home to see their grandparents. The grandparents are doing an admiral job of continuing to smile as we carve out spaces for ourselves in amongst their things and upset anything like order that used to be here.

We will spend the summer helping around the farm, swimming in the lake and waving as my parents go spend some time on much needed vacations.

A solo breakfast before the chaos wakes up.

Then we will pack our chaos back into boxes and trailers and go back home to our little house with my favorite woodstove just in time for the kids to go back to school.

And maybe, if this hairbrained scheme of mine works out well, we’ll do it all again next year.

Checking In

Today I am tired.

Some days are like this.

A tired that goes so far beyond the normal wish for an extra hour of sleep or another cup of tea that I don’t know what I can relate it to.

And I am too tired to try.

Suffice it to say that a brain out of energy is a different tired.

It’s a – I tried to walk the dogs but found myself lying in the sun in the orchard on a 20 degree day- tired.

It’s the kind of tired I hope you don’t know.

But if you do.

I hope your feathered and furred friends check in on you, like mine did.

If The Shoe Fits

There is a stereotype out there about kids and how they behave compared to their birth order.

In short, the oldest is well behaved and responsible, the middle is the wild child and the youngest does whatever they like and gets away with it.

Yesterday the girls were painting. Ivy had seen an idea on Pinterest and was carefully recreating it while adding her own spin. She carefully drew and painted with heavy concentration and worried over how to improve her canvas.

Clara is into abstract art. The more paint the better. Yesterday’s creations involved putting copious amounts of paint on a canvas and then smashing the canvas into a piece of cardboard to spread the paint. Anything that didn’t turn out quite right she happily applied more gobs of paint until it was “awesome” again.

Jane sat on the other end of the table playing a computer game.

After about an hour of careful drawing, paint smashing and computer key clicking. Jane looked up, complimented one of the pieces and asked if she could have it to give to her teacher.

It’s not that I’m trying to stereotype my own children – but if the shoe fits…