Monday, December 19, 2011

Men are from Mars....

I have never read the book "Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars" or is it "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus"? I can never keep that straight. Never mind. Regardless my point is the same. The last few years I have been trying to read everything that I can about small scale, sustainable farming. What I am seeing is an industry shift. Old styles of farming, such as row cropping and cattle lots or intensive indoor production of pigs and chickens can only be accomplished on a mega scale drawing large subsidies from the government. The new face of agriculture has a smaller footprint. More of a diversified palette. What I find interesting about this, is that even on a small sustainable blueprint, men want to raise cows,. Women want to raise sheep. A male farmer will even stand and argue that not a dollar can be had in the production of sheep while trying to keep his own head above water in what is currently, a very tough cattle market.

If by chance a woman wants a cow, it would be a milker or two, even then she is very apt to trade in her cow for a goat. Don't ask me why I find this so fascinating, but I do. Could our different desires in animal husbandry be an intrinsic part of our very natures? Do I want sheep on my little farm because I'm hardwired for sheep? My argument would be that I'm just being sensible. There is so much dollar value in a sheep... fleece, meat, better reproduction with freshening twice a year and producing twins typically each time. Sheep , like goats, can be milked if you have a mind to do so. That's just amazing to me. It will not, however, be a sufficient argument to Mac for the purchase of a couple of sheep.

Mac is hardwired for vacation. His argument is that when he retires, he wants to be able to drop everything and leave on a trip at a moments notice. You cannot do that if you are encumbered with creatures. However the other side of the coin is that if the little farm does not pay for itself, then we will never have the money to go anywhere or do anything ...... EVER! Difficult little realities and there is no way to make us change the way we feel about any of it. It is what it is, and money is what is lacking in the vast scheme of things. Doesn't that suck?! I don't know.... maybe it's time to read that damn book.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Peter Pan

I was trying to get some things done around the house the other day. The TV was on in the background. An ad played for an older movie, some version of Peter Pan. As Peter was trying to entice Wendy out of the window, he asked, "Do you want to fly away? Do you want to go where you will have a new adventure everyday? You'll never have to grow up. Once you go, there's no coming back." Those words struck me. I stopped what I was doing. I've got that. That's what the little farm has given me.

I cannot deny that it has also given me days where I felt like I was walking the plank... especially fencing days. Days when there was so much stress that I felt very much like I could hear the ticking of the crocodile sneaking upon me. Days of digging mud with my hands because it couldn't be dug with a shovel. The day Little Finn died, poor sickly pony. But, no one has ever said that an adventure would only be filled with fun.

No doubt that I will have to grow older.... but I think I have found the cure for growing up. There is always something new to try. There is always a new way to test myself. My mind is always engaged. Though to be fair I have to admit that not everyone can get a whole day's worth of entertainment from trying to figure out the best way to build a chicken tractor... or a rustic twig gate.... or a wattle garden fence... building outdoor ovens.....

There are actually only two things that take the joy out of our existence. One is the fear of the leukemia coming back, which is brought home whenever we have to make a trip to see one of the oncologists. The other, of course, is money. We currently are running about four thousand short per year from what we need to be. Money is my arch nemesis. Money is my Captain Hook. Damn you, Captain Hook!!! (okay, okay, Peter Pan wouldn't have said that, but it feels good to let lose every once in awhile)

If I were a man I could just go seduce some widow lady. Such a good, reliable, time honored way to raise some cash. Oh well, I'll come up with something... somehow. After all, this is an adventure! I'll keep my chin up. I'll take that pinch of pixie dust and head straight on to morning.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Of Wind, and Trees, and Happy Thoughts

It is incredibly windy today. I am sitting here at my desk and watching a huge old dead elm swaying in the wind. It does not often move, but today it is making up for it's normal sluggishness. Today might be the day it comes down.

I have already started planting my wind break. Small trees, of course. Lowes has been offering promotional blue spruces for the last few years and I have tried to pick up some each year. The first ones I planted are now two foot tall. Mac mocks my tree planting endeavors. He would prefer to wait until we can afford more established trees, around six to eight foot tall. The cost would be prohibitive, especially when figuring for a quarter of a mile long wind break. So, I keep at it, sometimes buying as few as four trees at $4.99 a piece. Then I cross my fingers and hope that the promotional price will hold for another spring, because you never know, next year........

There won't be just green windbreaks but also fence rows. The idea has been haunting me for quite awhile so I will give it a go. I have read the instructions numerous times and have decided it is time to start. As per instruction, I have gone out and collected a bucket of hedge balls from my hedge (Osage Orange) trees. They will sit out in the elements, in the bucket, for the winter. According to the instructions this will cause them to break down into a slurry by next spring. Then I just need to dig a shallow planting furrow and sparingly pour the slurry into the furrow. The instructions specify that after a year the young flexible trees are to be bent into wickets, but I am thinking of trying another method. I would like to space the trees more. Top them off and espalier the laterals to grow like fence rails. I think that will allow me to get in and maintain the fence more easily. If worse comes to worse, I will be growing a great deal of firewood.

We tried growing pines for christmas trees, but the deer thought we were growing munchies for them. Now that we know the deer will pretty much leave spruces alone, we are entertaining the idea again. Spruces certainly don't take the pruning that pines do, though they grow slower. Not that I am in a hurry.

It is amazing me how the wind is blowing this morning. Amazing to watch that old dead elm. Not a fit day to be outside working on projects. I suppose I will just stay here, for awhile anyway, and think. There's just so much a person can think about, especially on a windy day like today.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Best of Times...The Worst of Times...

I had a very up and down day yesterday. I did a little bit of wrapping of christmas presents. There wasn't much to wrap so it was more of an exercise in evaluating what needed to be done. I started making a few things. I started on a pattern. Then when I needed a bit of clarity of mind, I went outside and worked on the round pen. I have had so much anxiety over the building of the round pen. It has been all about how to use my existing resources and not spend any money. The round pen accesses two different horse lots and the lane so there needs to be three gates. Gates are expensive. I had finally mulled it over enough to have some solutions and yesterday, I got brave enough to go out and execute the idea. It worked!!! Physically it was a bit draining but I could still do it by myself. It was all good.

Then it started to rain. So, back into the house. I checked my computer, because that's what I do. It is my way of shifting gears anymore. While on the computer, I found a posting that a friend was taking part in an alzheimers study. WHAT!!? Alzheimers? I sent off a carefully worded e-mail. I received no response.... and then I got scared.

About then, my mind jumped back to when I worked at the local hospital. I thought about the alzheimer patients coming in from the nursing home. You were lucky when they were sleeping. Clawing, biting, with a look in their eye that no longer seemed human. This couldn't happen to my friend.. not this. The thought of this intellectual man reduced to an animal state would be a sin.

Finally, about ten o'clock last night, I received an e-mail. My friend was okay. He was in the study because his grandfather had the disease. After numerous tests he was given the all clear. He will continue in the study. I was awash with relief.... palpable... tangible. Thank God... sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the best of times get to be just that, the best of times


Tuesday, December 13, 2011


My grandson, Edgar, has taken a long time to decide that he likes me. He has been a "Grandpa's boy". Edgar's dad, my son in law, James said he was that way with women in general. He just naturally seemed to prefer the company of men. It was to the point of weirdness

Then this last summer, we had a breakthrough. Mac was feeling kind of crappy. But Edgar had been promised a ride on the mower. So, Grandma...that's me, went and got the key and we got ourselves going. Edgar got the five dollar tour of the farm and the horses and the pasture. We climbed over, under and around fallen tree trunks. We got dirty. At the age of three, Edgar learned that he doesn't have to be a slave to gender stereotypes and we have been great buddies ever since.

We stayed indoors more this last weekend, what with the toilet training and all, and as Edgar is a great lover of Thomas the Tank Engine, I chose to introduce him to the Polar Express. Now you have to understand that our family has a movie loving tradition. We kind of have a ritual. If a snack is required. You do it ahead of time. Then you get your quilt or blanket and we all snuggle onto the couch together.

We were all set. We had our quilt. The movie was in the player. Edgar had his peanuts and Tang. We started the movie. We hadn't even gotten through all of the opening credits when Edgar shouted, with a voice of alarm, "WAIT!!" Then he jumped up. He took off his socks. Took off his pants. Took off his shirt. Then looked down at his new Toy Story underwear pondering for a moment. He left them on. He jumped onto the couch, pulled the quilt up around him and snuggled up close to my side.

He flashed me his gorgeous smile and we watched our movie. He loved the acrobatic waiters serving the hot chocolate and every time the train went down a steep grade we clutched onto each other and yelled, "WEEEEE" until we were back onto the level.

When the movie was over, Edgar wanted to watch it again. Grandpa said no that it was his turn to pick a movie. Now Edgar knew for sure.... Grandma is the fun one, even if she is a girl. Because Grandma is a warrior woman and is no slave to gender stereotype.


Monday, December 12, 2011


It seems that as you approach a holiday, time accelerates. That is the case now. The time I have available just keeps rattling away and I am left with so many expectations of what I want to accomplish..... always, there is always so much to do.

This last weekend slipped by with no fudge made, no cookies for my grandsons. We did get the tree up and the lights on it. We fell short with decorating, but Edgar seemed to be content with the half dozen or so ornaments that did make it on the tree. We had a curve thrown to us. Edgar was ready to work on toilet training. So that was the enterprise of the weekend. I am sad about not having the time to make fudge though.

Half of my cards are out. The other half have not been started. Edgar and Evelyn each have a present under the tree, but that is all. The goal is to get the old, old truck sold for scrap to fund christmas this year. That means I have to get it cleaned out. I had waited on this hoping to have a shed to put everything into. No such luck... and no time. The truck must go this week. Horse hay will have first right to whatever storage I can muster. Sometimes it gets frustrating.

I look at the tasks to be done... a last bit of fencing, creating storage and I have almost all of my christmas presents to make this year. I have two weeks. And my time is accelerating. This is going to get interesting.


Thursday, December 8, 2011


That is what it says on the cover of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".... Don't Panic. I'm actually thinking that I should just make a blank book with tear out pages for my to-do lists that have those exact words on the cover.... Don't Panic. I don't know...may be it should just be the first item on every to-do list. Regardless, the only way that I shall make it through the day is if I can keep myself in check.

My grandsons, Edgar and Oscar, are coming down to spend the night. They don't often get to be with us, so it needs to be an event. I have to get the house clean..... REALLY clean, as Oscar is still a crawler. I need to get the christmas tree up... stockings hung. A present wrapped and under the tree for each of the boys. Possibly one for Grandpa too. Everything has to be wonderful and the only way I can get it all done is if I DON'T PANIC!

So! Here is the plan... Go to town stop by Farm and Home store and pick up a few fencing supplies. Stop at the post office and mail some christmas cards. Run by the pharmacy and Pick up Mac's prescriptions. Stop at Dollar General for some replacement tree lights. Take cans and bottles to the redemption center. Buy groceries. Come home and start cleaning. Kitchen first... it has been getting shorted lately. Upstairs bathroom next. Sort and throw away all of the clutter on the counter. Then start from one corner of the dining area and work my way around the living room. Then Lunch!

Then clean the downstairs bathroom. Tidy up the bedroom and wash sheets. Clean the upstairs loft which has turned into a catch all area....... who am I kidding?! I'm screwed!! I'm thinking maybe it's time for me to start to panic.

I think instead... I will make fudge. Thank God everybody still loves me for my fudge! Yup, that'll work.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Cards

I get a truly bizarre sense of happiness and contentment when I send out christmas cards. I don't know why. There have been years when I sat down and wrote out lengthy letters in all of my cards and they got sent on New Years Day. Some years they didn't get sent at all. Last year only half got mailed. Despite my difficulties at getting them stamped and to the post office, I love sending Christmas cards!.

I have received two so far this year. One from my niece and one from my Aunt Becky. Some people, who have been friends many years but who have slipped away, still send cards. It is the last tenuous thread of communication. A reminder that we still treasure that friendship... the hope that when the last kid is raised, the floor is mopped and the job retired from, we can go to lunch again.

The cards contain treasures. Photos of the kids. One dear friend sends me the occasional beaded ornament. (yes, they're flat.) Then there are the notes. Condensed vignettes of the year. Uncle Marvin was in the hospital again.. his legs.... the diabetes. He is much improved now. How is our life? Have we been well? Such a shame we live such a distance. Wish we could see you. And then I am reminded that someone out there remembers me. They care about me.

Last night I began my cards. I rank them from the dearest to me to the least dear. (aka the mean relatives) I write in them. Sometimes I send something too. I try to put a bit of myself into them and with a little luck, when they are received... people will know that someone out there remembers them. Someone out there cares.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Stranger Arrives

Yesterday was a highly stressful day. It always is when there are bills to be paid... or especially, unpaid. But the bills were taken care of. I made my trip to the post office and picked up the two presents I had on layaway. Then I came home and took deep breaths. The best course of action seemed to be to bury myself in the mundane. I sorted papers on my desk and and started to fill out a USDA survey. Then I heard it... somewhere between a squeak and a coo. Then a small black face peered through the sidelight of the door.

I am too much of an easy touch. That's what Mac says and I kept his words of warning in my mind as I stuck my head out the door. Usually, we see feral cats out here and the sign of a human is enough to make them take off as quick as possible. This one didn't run. It attempted a weak purr. So, I got some dog food and made it a bit of a nest out away from the house. As soon as I got myself settled back at my desk, I heard the squeaky coo again. The kitten was back at the door. So I went out with an old towel and tried to make the nest a bit more "homey". This did not work. This small black creature was following me as best she could. She looked so tiny and pathetic, which earned her access to the house. I again offered food but instead she looked around, climbed into a yarn basket and fell asleep. She slept soundly for two and a half hours.

After her nap, it was time for chores. So out she went, hopefully to answer nature's bidding and Fiona and I headed out to feed the horses. I thought she had stayed by the house, but by the time I was to the feed cans I realized that she was following me in the perfect heel position. She stayed with me all the way back to the pasture. She tried to investigate the horses noses. The horses were not appreciative. Then she stayed with me again all the long walk back and followed Fiona into the house.

One eye looked a bit crossed and she seemed extremely wobbly. The eye made me think she was a bit siamese. I entertained the Idea of Clarence for a name, in honor of Clarence the cross eyed lion. Wondered if the female version would be Clarita. I watched her follow me, call to me when I moved away, I thought that if a Puritan were seeing this, I would be accused of being a witch. She seemed very much like what I believed a familiar would be like. This gave me her name... Piwacket, after the witch cat in the movie"Bell, Book and Candle"

Mac has said she can stay... but only as an outdoor cat. She is sitting on my lap now as I type. I will keep her in for food and water and for checks on condition. Oddly enough, today her eye isn't so crossed. Her coat is already in better condition. She is stumbling less, but there is nothing to her. Every bone in her body is protruding. You can't always hear her purr but you can feel it through her delicate ribs. She survived the night and now it seems, she is mine.

Piwacket is going to be a good cat. I can tell.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Huge Day

I have a huge, busy day ahead of me. Well, it needs to be a huge, busy day. It is yet to be seen if that is possible. I need to make some phone calls... I HATE making phone calls!! It's so masochistic. It's so throwing yourself on the train tracks of someone else's shitty moods. Phone calls just create shitty moods. Then you combine business with it and then it is just moody, depressing, shitty business. AAARRRGGHHHH! I hate making phone calls.

Then I have bills to pay, which I don't want to go into cause I feel worse about paying bills then I do about phone calls. Then I have a couple of projects that I need to try to work on. One I have been asking Mac to help me with for the last five or six months. Now it is cold and windy and I will be out doing it by myself.... or it won't get done. Needless to say, the resentment has become a bit overbearing. Twenty minutes of help when I need it saves me hours of work on my own, not to mention the hours it saves in me trying to muster the drive to face a task that I fear I will have to leave unfinished, because I simply can't do it on my own.

Stress is exhausting!!

But I can't think about this shit!! Because I have a huge day ahead of me! There is so much that needs to be done today.

I just really wish I could go back to bed. Sooth my depression by being unconscious.


Friday, December 2, 2011

It's a Miracle!!!

Yup!'s a miracle!! I pulled the last bit of electric wire for horse lot no. 1 yesterday. I also started putting up post caps and insulators on horse lot no. 2. To get the lots completely closed in, I need to get the facing round pen fencing up as well. But I feel like I finally got over this big, giant, friggin' hurdle!

My run in shelter still worries me. I've got some open holes yet and I want to get posts into those so I, or the horses, don't fall in them and break a leg.

I actually even have some posts in for horse lot no. 3. This will give me a good start next spring. Next years goal is to get lots no. 3 and 4 done in the spring. Then win the lotto and put up a covered arena and some round pens..... winning the lotto will be so darned handy!

But for the next hour or so.... I will revel in the knowledge that I got that wire done!!! I feel like I've been pushing a boulder up a hill and I have finally made it! There are other jobs I need to get done, but they don't feel like such large boulders. I still need to get on the roof and get some stuff done but that doesn't involve hauling huge timbers. It doesn't involve going over the same area again and again. I am so happy. This feels so much better.

Finally...... finally, I made some progress.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Another Day

Yesterday was another day in Iowa City. It seemed like a much longer drive this time. I suppose that wasn't helped by the fact that Mac and I both had bad dreams about the visit the night before. There was construction detours when we got there. Inadequate signs telling you how to get where you need to go in all of the mess. It reminded me just how tiring stress is.

The Dr. visit was uneventful. No news. The physician's assistant that we got yesterday was nice. She showed me the GVH in his mouth, but we didn't see any lab results. We were informed that Mac had dry skin.... this was not a surprise. I have been able to "diagnose" dry skin for many, many years.

I still cannot come back from Iowa City without having to battle rushes of anger, bad memories, an occasional chest pain.

I had to use forty dollars of my birthday/christmas cash for gas and lunch. Mac says it needs to be reimbursed right away. I have no illusions about that. There won't be enough money to allow reimbursement until next May or thereabouts. The trick will be to hang on to what I have.

There is to be a snow storm this weekend. The forecast wavers about it's severity. This means that I need to get outside and work. Maybe that is the best. Get out and breathe my own air. Look at my own open skies. The problem is... the stress has been soo tiring.