Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Next Step

It seems that today is the last day of family "stuff" associated with the funeral. The next step is to find our way back to normalcy. I have begun by looking at my tax statement and trying to figure out where to look for money. Never an easy task. I am afraid that the old truck will finally have to be sold for scrap. This is a last resort. I had hoped that I could hold it back until later so I would have it for christmas money. Oh well, best laid plans....

I do not want to think of money now... too much demand, not enough supply.

Instead I am trying to think about chickens, chicken poop and nitrogen. I'm thinking about improved forage. Of course, I must think about mushrooms. Winter preparations. Anything that is ahead of us, rather then behind.

As always, I will count on my horses to put me in the right place. They never fail to deliver.

After today the family will finish dispersing. Then it will be time to get busy. This doing nothing is killing me. Then there are the plans. There are always plans. There has to be..... I think that on Sunday, I will dig hostas.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Death of a Mother in Law

I've been away for the funeral of my husband's mother. I am grappling for the right words. I doubt there are any. I doubt that I could wield them with any skill at this time, anyway. It doesn't matter.

What does matter is that I am also a mother in law and I happen to be, for the moment, alive. It matters that I treat my sons in law decently and kindly. And EVEN if they are not the hugging type, they have to to tolerate hugs twice a year..... house rules. There are occasions when I need their help around the place. I can only accept it if it is given with a willing heart. I try to always thank them, because no matter what we do together, no matter how small an effort we put forth, they had to alter their lives and change their schedules to accommodate. That is a huge thing and needs to be acknowledged.

Then there are the children. My grands are so precious to me. They make my heart keep beating. Just like my own children, I know I would give my life.... or take one, to keep them safe.

These are things that I do... this is what I am, because it isn't what I ever got.

It is a strange outside of yourself experience to go through the funeral process for a person who never liked you. I'm not glad she is gone, but I can't seem to grieve for her either. I do grieve for the opportunities she missed. The times she damaged instead of enriched. I grieve for the emotional cuts she put on my children. I grieve for my husband, who isn't quite sure whether or not his mother loved him. There are plenty of places to put grief. But, it's time to move on. As always, life takes precedence over death. It has to... it must.


Friday, September 23, 2011


For some really strange reason, one that I cannot fathom, Mac has been watching "The X Factor" on tv the last couple of nights. Why do people do this? Some of these performers truly make me cringe. I am very much aware that I cannot sing and I have to wonder why other people don't also have this self realization. Why don't they accept that they can have another talent? It's okay to not be a great singer. Why has talent just gotten reduced to singing? It used to be that a talent was any usable skill. I can do so much... I just can't sing.

This got me to thinking......

I should send Simon Cowen an audition dvd! My talent... post hole digging! First, as always, there must be the shmoozing. Hi, my name is Louie. Today I have chosen to perform post hole digging. I have been able to dig post holes most of my life and only recently have I decided to take it to the professional level. excuse me? What would I do with a five million dollar post hole contract? (here I would get flustered and tear up a bit) "This would change my life", I would tell them. "You have no idea what this means to me."

Then I would get busy showing them my stuff. I'd start with measuring off of the property line to keep it square. Then, I would double check that I had all of my tools and a bucket of water. At that point I usually realize I forgot my measurement. Then I measure again. Then I take out the sod divot with my shovel and set it aside. Then I work my way around the hole with the shovel keeping my sides as straight as possible. Once I get down about sixteen inches, I switch to the clam shell diggers. I put on my gloves and get serious. Once it feels like the digger can't really grab any more, I switch back to the shovel and loosen the bottom up a little. Back to the digger. If it still doesn't feel like it's grabbing much, I dump some water in and go do something else for ten minutes. Then I come back and dig some more. With great luck I get the hole done in an hour.

Hmmmm, I believe I should rethink this.

Here's the deal, Mr Cowen. Forget the five million dollar contract. Send me $25, 000. and I will stay at home. I will NEVER sing for you. I will never travel to L.A. or Seattle or Miami, or Dallas and make you watch me humiliate myself on stage. Trust me, it's a helluva deal! Actually send me $50,000. and I also won't go onto your stage and accompany my horrific singing with dancing.... a harmonica... sock puppets... or an over inflated attitude of me being Miss Somthin'-somethin'. You should jump on it. This is an offer you may never hear again.

However, if you ever DO need a post hole deva......


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pristine Moments

There is a very loose routine to my mornings. Let the dog out. Make coffee. Get Mac ready for work, more or less. Turn on the computer....stare at it. When Mac leaves, I pour myself a cup of coffee and start walking back to the horses. There is an incline to the west of the house. That is where I cannot help but stop. I look down the drive. It darkens and there is a patch of light on the road at the bottom, and my eyes are drawn over the tree tops to Stan's pasture. Today it was shrouded in morning mist, as if a distant illusion.

I continue walking.

Then a glance over my left shoulder. Sometimes off in the distance there is a barn roof to be seen. It is illusive and it vanishes with the rising of the fog. My walk veers off to the right as I follow the flat of the land. I stop and study the landscape again. The pastures in shades of green. Some holding tight to their shroud of cloud and others exposed, sparkling back at the sun, bedecked in jewels of dew.

Pip spots me and calls. She sparkles golden.

I scoop out their feed. I do a quick inspection of their condition. I stand with them while they eat.

My feet are cold and soaked through with the heavy dew. I start back to the house. There are other places I stop. Places I study. I know my trees. The swell of the ground. The rocks. These are my pristine moments that allow me to survive the stress that life serves up.

This place is my heartbeat.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Busy Days

Today I will have the kind of day that I hate having. A busy day. Not the good kind that is hard work and seeing something accomplished at the end of the day. Today will be driving forty-five minutes away to have a meeting that will accomplish nothing. Then, driving home again and being exhausted. Today I have to make phone calls. I hate making phone calls! Need to call Neighbor Dan to get in touch with a guy he knows who cuts wood. Need to call Neighbor John to see if he could put a big bale in with the horses. Then a call to Arlan the hay guy.

Then I need to go outside and see what I can do to put my mind right. With luck it won't be windy and I will be able to start burning another brush pile..... Mac may get hot dogs for supper.

Right now, I have to say, stuff really sucks!

I'll be so glad when things are to the point where I can play.... I need to play. In lieu of that, maybe a good book and a nice hard cider.

Oh well, today won't be the day, better to just run through the brambles and get clear of the patch.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Plan

The plan continues to come along. It continues to be enriched. We have three sides, the farm itself, the small business and the horses. Right now, it is the horses that have my attention.

As I try to make my big picture happen for the horses... the Parelli center, rotational grazing with premium pasture and good, safe fencing, facets continue to be added. The plan seems to be unfolding now of it's own accord. I just need to keep up.

The time must be ripe because Mac has agreed to trying the mustang halter project. So, now the next evolution to the plan is to add mustang pens. Today it has finally clicked on where those should go. It will flow right in with the rest of the horse facility, as if it was the plan all along. The cogs of the universe click together.

I suppose I should feel excited. I don't. I feel like I am plodding into the next step. I am exhausted this morning but I feel resolute in the path that I need to take.... mustangs are coming to the Renaissance Woman Farm.

It's the right thing to do.


Monday, September 19, 2011


I am of Irish descent. As I write this, I can look over at the family pictures of Jerry Dowden, his wife Nancy, and her mother, Moirah Pine. Jerry possessed the "gene" according to family stories. He died young when he was chopping wood while drunk, He overheated and stripped off to continue working. This resulted in pneumonia. This left Nancy with five young children to raise. She then worked herself to death. The children then passed to their grandmother who could not handle them all. They were packed off to the orphanage.

In those days, an orphanage was the same facility as the county home/poorhouse. It was also the same facility as the insane asylum. The five children were parceled out. Some to foster care. The youngest, baby Frieda was adopted and her family moved to Canada. One child was still in the facility when it was "modernized" and she was misclassified and was not kept in an orphanage but rather locked up in the new mental institution. The mistake was eventually discovered. She was released when she became legal age. The family always described her as peculiar after that. They would lower their voices when they talked of her. As if the very weight of their words could injure her now fragile spirit.

Of those five children, the only three I knew were my grandfather, an abusive asshole, Aunt Martha, one of the kindest women in the world who married an abusive asshole, and Aunt Frieda, who was the wiry, ornery runt of the litter. Frieda married Harry, who was a great lakes tugboat captain, who told ribald jokes.

Some of the family has done well. Some have done okay. Many, despite, the fact that they come from a long line of hard workers cannot totally shake the effects of poverty. The backbone of the working poor.

I look at the political rhetoric that is being spewed these days. Who is worth society's interest. Who should be allowed to die. Who has value and who doesn't. This sickens me. I am especially tired of those who tell me how my existence will be an unmanageable financial burden to them. It's certainly a hot topic this political season so far.

I know who I am. I know what I am. I know where I come from. I know my worth puts me in the "expendable" category. But that category is only in financial/corporate terms. I am a steward of the earth, beloved of the sod and in the ways that matter, I am important.


Friday, September 16, 2011

My Process

I have found something that I want. Just finding something that I want causes me to feel a great deal of guilt. Most of the time if I see something I want, I just stew over it for a bit. Get a little cranky, then get over it. However in this case, it is a slightly different process. What I want is a horse. I know, I know... I'm having trouble building enough fence for the pony and horse I have now. GUILT! The little grulla mustang girl I am looking at is so gorgeous that someone else is sure to want her. GUILT! There is stuff that Mac wants. GUILT! If I can raise the money for her it should go on a bill. GUILT!

So, step one of the process is finding something I want and not being able to easily talk myself out of it. Step two is beating myself up with the ridiculousness of the possibility. (Usually by the means of GUILT) Next will be, what if I don't deserve it, closely followed by, what if I don't like it once I get it.

What it typically boils down to is, if I am to have something then the money will somehow fall into my lap. Don't get me wrong, I work to get the money for my horses, but it always goes wrong and then money "appears". I got Çhloe from a pharmaceutical reimbursement. Pip came when dear, dear friends got tired of watching me sell recipes to buy her and stepped in after passing the hat.

I went through the process with both Pip and Chloe. Beating myself up. Telling myself, "Who the hell are you anyway! Other people want stuff too!"

Then I look at this little filly, a weanling. Most people don't want to mess with them this young. I look at how the government is sending the mustang on the short road to extinction to kiss butt for ranchers, oil men and foresting interests. I want to play a part in saving this gene pool. She is a kiger and that is the best of the best. She is of spanish descent, so imagine a lusitano forged for centuries by nature's survival of the fittest. She is beautiful and I can't help wanting her. She makes me ache.

Here she is....

Well, I suppose that I need to get on with my process, cause who the hell do I think I am anyway!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Baby, It's cold outside...

Okay it probably isn't all that cold, but we have gone from upper eighties and ninety degree weather to temperatures around 68 degrees. Night temperatures in the forties. Nothing like a temperature drop to make you say, "Holy Shit! I'm not ready!!"

The good news is that yesterday was one of those days loaded with minor miracles. The weather started off as an issue. Gray, too cool and drizzly rain. At noon it cleared off and Neighbor Dan came to help me with fencing. I probably don't work hard enough. We ended up putting in only three hours but I was bushed. All but one post got pulled. All of them were reset. Out of twenty open holes only five remain open.

Kate and I had done our work in clearing brush and we will have a fairly easy job of getting in and cutting more posts. Post cutting should take place on either Sunday or Monday. Another miracle.

I'm not very sure which way to turn next. I need supplies for about any task I set my hand to. I just keep waiting for the hay to be cut so I have a bit of money. As soon as it is cut I will get Neighbor Dan's supply of cow manure and start spreading it out on the hayfield and the garden. I am ridiculously excited about this. Most people don't see the miracle of poo, but it will change my life! It will enrich the soil. Build mushroom beds and give me wonderful tomatoes next year. It has to be well spread before the ground freezes... that's for my benefit... not the manure's. Want to get it done before I need to be working out there with heated socks!

With the chill, the race is on! I want to get cuttings from some of my tomatoes. Still need to finish trim. Still need to fix the roof vent so it doesn't suck in snow. Still need to finish my windows. Still would like to get my outdoor fireplace built.... dare I say, my oven as well? I really, really need a shed! Of course, still at the top of the list, my fencing.

So for today I will try to burn a ginormous brush pile in the hope that I can clear things out enough to get to more posts. Not exactly what I wanted, but I do have matches already purchased! Perhaps I'll get a big enough fire going to rally against the chill.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Good Things

Yesterday was a good day. It allowed me to believe that good things are about to happen. I had a hard time getting out there to start digging yesterday. A mental battle ensued. I lost. So, I ended up out in the tall grass digging fence post holes again. I had just finished up my first hole of the day when my neighbor pulled into the yard. He inquired into my activities. I told him, rather proudly, that I had just finished up my twentieth post hole.

"Well, what did ya' do that for?"

"I need to put up some decent fence for a change."

"You DO know there is a tractor down the road with a post hole auger on the back of it?"

I did know that but I hadn't seen our neighbor, or his wife, since May. I had made the assumption, probably as the result of my dysfunctional family background, that he was extremely pissed off at me. I hadn't figured out what I had done wrong, but in my family, doing something wrong had little to do with a person's feelings toward you. So now what?....... I lied.

"I just thought you were real busy or you'd hurt yourself again. After all, I hadn't seen you all summer."

Well, more country banter ensued, the upshot of which is that neighbor Dan had me start every hole that I wanted and he would be over today and we would finish up the holes with his tractor.

I worked straight through. Forgot about lunch. Forgot to drink. Did lots and lots of measuring... actually got a blister on my finger from rolling up the 100 ft. tape measure. Twenty seven additional post holes have been started. I need a few more but there's no point right now as I don't have the necessary gates. Actually, I don't have any gates but that is something that I hope to change soon.

There is a chance of rain today. An increased chance for the rest of the week. But I hope we can make this happen. I am in dire need of some good things. This will be a very, very good thing.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oh, Bugger!

Last night I decided I needed a more detailed sketch of my pasture layout. I have been digging enough holes that I was going to include every possible hole that I might need. Then I would put an X over each hole already completed. It was mostly an exercise to make me feel better about myself. To show how much was done. To show myself just how damn good I am.

The sketch is very tidy. A neat little diagram indicating that I have dug 19 holes to date, which is more then I thought I had accomplished. The down side is that the neat, tidy little diagram indicates I have a minimum of 25 more holes to dig. Oh, bugger!!

It seems I forgot a couple of brace posts and hadn't decided on gate location. Each gate takes a post on each side and each gate post requires a brace post, so four posts for each gate..... bugger again.

I am two post holes and a gate away from being able to fence the small pasture lot. I am an additional gate and ten more post holes from having the second pasture lot ready to fence.

When the hay gets cut and I get paid.... please, God, let the mennonite dude have a good check..... then I can pick up a gate, hopefully two... with a lot of luck, maybe three.

I'm getting tired and sore and I am sooo ready for a project other than fencing. Burning off the garden and loading it up with grass clippings and horse manure sounds fun! Burning the big brush pile sounds even better!!

So much to do and so little back bone! Oh, bugger!!!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Resources.... or not

The other night after visiting with the mennonite fellow about hay, I realized what a difficult task I am up against. I have been trying with relatively little help to get the little farm going on my own. Most in my situation have one of two things. They either have the money to hire the work done, or they have community. I have neither money nor community.

If I were rich, I'd be done by now. If I had community, I'd be done by now. I can't even go at it like a pioneer would. A nice SIMPLE little cabin. How great would that be!?!! Instead, I have all of this complication.

Oh well, this is my road. I promised Mac the house and the land is for me to live my dream on. So far, I have always kept my promises, save one. I torment myself with having neither money nor help, I just need to push that out of my mind and continue. I have promises to keep and work to do.

My foremost task is still the fencing. I am up to thirteen holes dug as my total. I will try to get another four done today, five would be better. Then I will go through the fence plan and double check what I need exactly. Despite what I lack, there is much to do and I will get it done. I have to. The dream is tantalizingly close.... just post holes away. It's hard to think that I have to do it alone... but I can do it. I have to do it.

Nothing left but to get it done.


Friday, September 9, 2011


I might have a new guy to cut my hay. He will give me a call beginning of next week. He is a young guy that is going to school to become a teacher. He is a mennonite. He has been teaching in a mennonite/amish school, where you don't have to be certified or licensed. I applaud that he wants to improve his education so he can pass it on.

We talked at length. He looked down my post holes. Said I was doing a lot of work. He also said that if I had wanted help with post holes, he and his family could have shown up and could have had fifty holes done in an hour or so .... AN HOUR OR SO? WHERE WERE YOU TWO WEEKS AGO!!!

We will work a different deal then I had before but it should give me some cash to get things done... not a lot of cash, but some.

We talked about grasses, soil depletion and fences. We talked about horses. When I mentioned laying out my round pens, he asked if I would use them to break my horses. I kind of chuckled and told him that, "we do not break horses". He tried out some other verbs. I told him "we train horses, so they have better options for surviving in the human's world". Then he chuckled.

Perhaps this is the way this will work out for us... better options all the way around. I will know by the beginning of next week.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

More fencing....

I am trying to keep the fencing foremost in my mind right now. It is one of the largest projects on the little farm and , I hope that when through, all of the other projects will seem so fast and easy that I just fly through them. That's the hope anyway.

One woman post hole digging can be difficult.

When I started this project it seemed to me that I would need a minimum of twenty-two deeply dug holes to accomplish the basics of my pasture layout. Now as I look at my project, I realize that I probably didn't include all of the holes for brace poles and possibly some mid line reinforcement holes. I need to get a more accurate sketch of the finished product.

So far, I have dug eight holes and have five more started and soaking. My goal is to get all five dug out and get as many more started as I possibly can. Hope the clay isn't too heavy today. Hope a lot of things.

I had another odd dream last night. This time, I was digging post holes. No surprise there. There was a dusting of snow on the ground. I kept jamming the post hole digger into the ground and all I accomplished was breaking loose tiny chunks of crystallized, frozen earth. Over and over the digger was rammed down but the hole just didn't get any bigger. I awoke with a feeling of fear.

The good news is that I am getting some "guns" on me. The saddle bags (I call them speed bumps) are shrinking. My neck..well, I have the neck of a newscaster.... it's lovely. The bad news is that I still have the face of a longshoreman, but it turns very prettily.

As always, I take my good with my bad. But my heart feels quieter now. Over all, I feel happy because it finally feels like I am making progress. Life is good.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bad Dream

I suppose it must be true that you cannot see yourself die in a dream. I woke up right before the horrendous deed.

It was the strangest thing. I don't remember any of the dreams plot or why I was there, but I was in Sweden on a craggy hill, looking down a row of small houses or shops. I was looking for a particular craftsman. I don't know how I know that, but you do in dreams. So, there I stand on this rocky hill looking down this row of buildings. Then I hear a woman's voice. She says, "I'm not talking with her here."

The woman is dressed for the cold. Long woolen coat, knitted scarf and hat. She is holding a double tall type coffee shop style styrofoam coffee cup. Short brown hair curls around the edges of her hat.

I turn to see the man she is talking to and my eyes first see his black shoes, well creased pants, the bottom of a light brown woolen winter coat. My eyes continue to travel up and I see a gun. I never see the man's face. My eyes never travel past the gun. The gun fires and I feel a burning sensation in my stomach as I fall forward, flat on my face. I hear their voices though I do not try to make out what they say. My mind is speeding over information. Were there any people in the area to hear the shot? How long would it take for them to find me? Would they just call the police? How fast was I bleeding? Did the bullet miss the bowel? Did it miss the kidney? I'm concluding that if help arrives in a certain amount of time that I have a very good chance of surviving this.

Then I notice that the voices have stopped. The back of the woman is receding. Then I feel the man bending over me. Completely down. I can feel his breath on the back of my neck. He straightens. Then I feel the cold barrel of the gun setting against the spine, just below my head......


I'm up and walk around the house.... check the dog... go pee... look out the window and make sure there are no strange cars... listen for voices.... and try to figure out why Bergman movies are so big on dream sequences! Then finally , I put my hand on my stomach. All clear.

Then, because I'm brave, I go back to bed.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Today I have to go to town. I need to go and pick up this month's groceries and will also need to get Mac's prescriptions filled for the month. I need to buy dog food too. Should probably put a little gas in the truck. I know that by the time I get home I will have spent around two hundred dollars. This makes me very stressed and on occasion, ill.

Today, this post, is my three hundredth post. Who knew I had so much gas!? That's a rhetorical question... don't answer it.

Since I started writing this blog, my rage level has dropped somewhat. Confrontation with the right kinds of people still send me through the roof. I can't blow things off like I used to. However, fears of Mac dying have diminished. The farther away from the doctors, the better I feel.

I'm not so far along on the little farm as I had hoped.... especially when it comes to fences. Fences and sheds are the back bone of a farm. You just HAVE to have them to get anything done. I still don't have a round pen, or a chicken coop, or the garden laid out the way I would like.

Too much takes either money, or physical strength or proper tools. I find myself lacking.

But we have hung on. We are stronger. The land is better. The weeds are down and the grass is thicker. We have started at clearing woods. Slowly, slowly we make a difference.

Today the high will be around 72 and last week it was in the 90's. We had an over night low in the low 40s. Today before I go to town, I'll try to work on digging post holes. Where there is life, there is hope. I really hope to get some fence in!

Today.... a lot could happen today.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Good News

I have been watching the hay bale dwindle. It has been causing a bit of a panic to be honest. The heat and the rain has kicked in again so the digging post holes by hand has slowed to a snail's pace ( not that I was quick in the first place) The worry over being able to be ready for winter has been eating away at me... again. I feared that terror had taken up residence in the pit of my stomach.... again.

Then the good news came. Well, first there was the bad news. Mac's insurance company had refused to pay his mileage reimbursement for the trips to Iowa City during and after the transplant. We were needing that money. We needed to buy insurance, catch up a payment, pay taxes... The money was critical and they wouldn't pay. Not only that but they didn't notify us. We had to make calls to find someone who could tell us that we were being shafted.

Of course... I had rage.

I contacted Senator Harkin's office. I didn't really expect anything. I did however want to fly a red flag to him that this company cheated people and they should be watched. I wanted that juvenile sense of justice.... I wanted to go TELL on the insurance company. We had paperwork to fill out which is always disheartening, but I got it done.

THEN the good news. We just got a letter from the insurance company. "After an investigation requested by The Honorable Senator Harkin's office we have found that you are entitled to mileage, meal and hotel reimbursements". Once again I have to go through a huge stack of paperwork to get all of the dates of trips to Iowa City, but at least it should go through now. I will send copies of everything to Harkin's office just in case.

There won't be any larking about money here. We still have to pay bills, taxes and since it has all taken so long, there will probably be penalties as well. Still have to catch up payments, especially the Dr as we were told they might refuse treatment now due to non-payment. I do want to take two hundred dollars and buy a roll of fencing and some grass seed for the hay field. The hay field will have to bring in some money next year.

Maybe, just maybe, there will be a little money to pay a neighbor to come out and auger out some post holes for me. Now THAT would be some good news!!


Thursday, September 1, 2011


Kate is coming to our house next Sunday. She wants to help me get some projects done. I am fretting over outdoor projects the most, especially the horse projects. But I know there are so many garden and house projects that need to be taken care of as well. Trim that needs to go up. Brush piles that need to get burned. Composting. Caulking.

Then I look at my post hole digging project and wonder if I had a second set of hands... would the project move forward? I doubt it. Now if I had a tractor with a post hole auger then we would be looking at a much better possibility of success. I am so far behind the goal of two holes per day. It is suppose to be 98 degrees today, but all I can think about is winter.

Goals and projects lead to thinking of money..... how much could I get a jump on with a hundred dollars? ..... two hundred?.... five hundred? Should I spend for materials or labor? Is there enough for both?

I make myself crazy, because Kate is coming to help next Sunday. I'll check the weather. Then I'll make a list of three things to get done. Just three things. Three is better then the nothing I would get done by myself.

Just three things.