Real Cooking

?And on this farm we have an injured owl, two goofy beagles, several

errant calves, a whiny cat, two messy parakeets, a boisterous

cardinal, an overgrown goldfish, a pesky mouse, a family of marauding

raccoons, and heaven only knows what else…e-i-e-i-o.?

I love animals, and so when I married my farmer husband some 20 odd

years ago, I thought I would have a wonderful opportunity to surround

myself with all sorts of pets. After all, we had five acres of

personal property to fill up with something…. Why not llamas? Or

exotic sheep? Or pygmy goats?

Those ideas didn?t fly. According to my husband, the sheep would be

?fence crawlers,? the goats would eat the vinyl top off of our car and

the llamas…well, what return can you possibly expect on llamas?

I learned quickly that in this farmer?s eyes, an animal must serve

some sort of role, not just be around for beauty or companionship.

They have to earn their keep, so to speak. Even his faithful old dog

George, whom he loved dearly, was expected to alert us that someone

was coming over and to stand guard over the farmyard while we were


So for years, the only animal we had in our home was my cat?tolerated

only because of her keen mousing abilities.

But since we have had kids, things have changed. It seems my love for

fin, fowl and furry beast has somehow been passed along to both of my

children. So now I find myself in the majority of voters deciding if

and when we get a new pet.

Today we have two dogs, one cat, two parakeets, and a 9-year-old

goldfish named Flipper. This week, we will start seriously looking for

a guinea pig to join the menagerie.

But one of the joys of living in the country is that nature provides a

living zoo all around us on a daily basis. On more than one occasion

we have had deer grazing in our yard and wild turkeys strutting their

stuff down our driveway.

Opossums are always to be found in our garage during the summer

months, trying to open the container of dog kibble for a late night


We have a family of raccoons that comes to feast at the bird-feeders

in the backyard, and the kids have started a feeding station for the

squirrels that live in the trees that line our property.

Of course we have creepy, crawly creatures too. The lizards are so

much fun to watch as they dart around the piles of rock that make up

part of the landscaping around our back deck. Every night we are

serenaded by the bullfrogs that live in the pond.

I?m not so fond of the snakes when they come slithering out of the

tall grass. I?m not generally afraid of snakes, but since having the

kids, I?ve become much more aware of their presence in our yard. I

don?t want anyone meeting up with a rattler or cottonmouth.

And we have to steer clear of the skunks that sometimes pass through.

And the bobcats, too. Our dog Fetch, who has fully recovered from his

bout with one, learned that lesson the hard way.

But even though I love animals, having so many critters around does

bring some measure of nuisance. One male cardinal, every morning at

the break of dawn, insists on sitting in the tree just outside of my

bedroom window warbling his heart out. He?s one of God?s most

beautiful creatures…I just wish he could wait until about seven

o?clock to begin his daily concert.

And for the last week or so, we have been trying to catch a mouse that

has been visiting our kitchen. He?s a smart one who has out

maneuvered trap, cat and man. His days are numbered.

My husband thought he had the perfect solution for the mouse problem.

This past Saturday, after we returned from watching our nephew, Vance

Frick, graduate from Hillsboro High, Keith left to check on some

calves that he had moved to a nearby pasture.

As he left, I let the dogs out for their evening run. Only moments

later, they spotted something everyone else had overlooked. By some

old round bales, fairly close to the highway, stood six calves that

had escaped from the fenced-in pasture.

I sent one of the kids in the house to call their uncle and I waited

outside and watched so the fugitive holstines wouldn?t stray on to

K-15 highway.

Fairly soon, Keith?s car came down the lane. He rolled down the window

and shouted, ?I just hit an owl. I have it in the car.?

To which I shouted back, ?We have calves out. Is the owl dead??

No, it wasn?t. We quickly put the owl in a cage (awaiting the guinea

pig) we have in the garage so he could run to get the calves in.

Later, with the help of Max Terman and Richard Wall, biologsts from

Tabor College, we determined the injured bird was a young screech owl,

probably not too long out of the nest. He had swooped into the side

of Keith?s car as he had driven down a dark country road.

The little owl was just too cute. He didn?t appear to be severely

hurt ?one eye was held at half-mast and he seemed to be kind of dizzy.

We decided the best plan was to hold him overnight for observation and

then see how he was in the morning.

That?s when my husband came up with the plan to rid us of that pesky

mouse. He thought we could let the owl perch on my pot rack in the

kitchen that night and let him take care of the mouse for us.

That idea didn?t fly?but the owl did the next morning. He seemingly

was unaffected by his run-in with a motor vehicle just the night


Some still evening, we?ll hear ?who, who? coming from the trees down

by the creek and wonder.

* * *

Here?s a new salad for your summer tables.

Couscous Salad

11/2 cups water

1 tbs. butter or olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup quick cooking couscous

2 medium sweet peppers (yellow, red or green) chopped

1/4 cup sliced green onion

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup pitted dates

1/4 cup cashews

1/2 cup warm chicken broth

Leaf lettuce

Bring water, salt and butter to boiling and stir in couscous. Remove

from heat, cover and let stand for five minutes. Fluff.

In a large bowl, combine couscous with all of the other ingred

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