Tuesday, February 28, 2012


When life can get difficult, you have to learn to really celebrate the small victories. I have some small victories to celebrate, most definitely! I feel like things are really going to fall into place this year.... not everything, of course. But enough for me to feel like I am getting started.

I continue to cling to a little money that I have squirreled away to start my chickens. That is a huge success! so the chickens are still a go. I still have sufficient scrap lumber to get a coop built and a chicken tractor as well. the chicken tractor is so important because I need to get the chickens out where their manure can do the most good. the manure needs to be in the hay field where my poor tired soil can get enriched. That's important as I still will have a hay agreement with Arlan this year. Hay and chickens are a definite go this year.

While Mac was in the hospital with the heart attack, I ran into an old friend. We took a little time to do some catching up. We talked about things I wanted to do on the farm and mushrooms came up, as usual. He gave me some good advice. Which got me looking in different directions for information. Then Kate came down to visit and we cleared a large enough section in the woods to start two mushroom beds. Two is probably all I can manage financially anyway. It costs approximately $36.00 to get enough spawn for one bed. I will try for the two this year and hopefully four or more next year. Right now I need to get manure over from the neighbors and get it started composting. This is also a definite go this year.

Then yesterday an amazing thing happened, but I have to go back a bit to explain it. A week or so ago we were with out oldest daughter and her husband and they said they had heard about beekeeping classes on the public radio station. It took a bit of searching and I wasn't making any headway. Finally, I contacted the public radio station and asked where to look. Didn't hear back for several days and I thought that perhaps I once again had hit a wall. Then I received an e-mail. I was told where to research the information. Most of the classes had already been held. But there was one class that hadn't taken place yet and it was within driving distance. I contacted the instructor. I've gotten in under the wire and the first class is to be held tonight. My neighbor has built hives before and he has said he would help me. I just have to buy the lumber. It has been awhile since I checked but if memory serves correctly starter bees were running around $70.-$90. Beekeeping just might become a reality this year as well.

If I can get three small quilts sold then I will have enough cash to make a start. Suddenly it feels like it is all starting to work. It feels real. I've pushed on this huge boulder for so long and it is finally starting to roll. We are making progress!



Monday, February 27, 2012


It is cold and crisp and sunny outside today. Yesterday we had a bit of warmth and the snow melted off and it has left me with a desire for organization. A desire for cleanliness and order. That thing hidden somewhere in the female DNA has awoken and I crave spring cleaning! I would like to open my windows and polish up the glass but it is still too cold for that. But I think I am finally aroused sufficiently to get my curtains sewn.... HURRAH!!!!

If only I had the batting and backing to finish the new bedspread. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Women often write about their order in their homes. Sun streaming through windows onto clean tiled counters. Trays set with favorite teapots., crisp tablecloths, some beloved little item handed down from a grandmother that's on display. I will forego these niceties for CLEAN! for enough cabinets to store things.... for no lumber stacked anywhere in the house... for all of the switch plates and outlet covers installed. Window trim!!!

Well I don't have window trim and I haven't been able to afford any curtains, so today I will sew them. I will screw in cup hooks instead of curtain rod hardware and I will run my curtains over some wire. As my Grandpa used to say, "It beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick." It will feel better. It will feel more like home.

It will keep me from seeing the dirty glass in the window until I can do some proper spring cleaning.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

This Morning

In northern Iowa, the weather forecast is for approximately eight inches of snow. Here in southern Iowa, it should end up around forty degrees F. I've chored the horses. And on the way back to the house, the skies opened. Instead of snow, we are getting the liquid stuff. My coat and head scarf soaked through. My pants drenched from the knee down. I am cold and wet. But somehow it smells like spring. The soil is waking up.

All that seems to be on public broadcasting is cooking shows. I don't particularly want to see lobster bisque this morning. I want to see gardening. I want to see turned soil and plants and sun. I want to revel in this hopeful pursuit. Hope is a good thing and I feel a need to be saturated in it. My life philosophy is to be as realistic as you can be when assessing your life. Then take every positive action that you can to change what needs to be changed. It's hard to take positive action in the winter, especially when so much of my life takes place outside of these walls.

But for right now, it's raining and it is beginning to smell like spring. And that is going to have to be enough to get me through the day.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I think I am suffering from some delayed stress from the heart attack. I am lacking clarity of thought and I seem to have run into some depression as if it were a wall. I don't like it. Depression is not my style. My mind tends to try to find ways around , under, over. Fake right and jump left. If that doesn't work there is rage. Rage brings out the warrior woman. When I can't get something done... the warrior woman can.

For me, to be depressed is to see failure. I don't like that either. I don't expect great success or wealth in my life. I expect many small successes that carry me through, that bring me joy.... that pay off the mortgage. That's not too much, right? That's any person's due, isn't it?

But today, I am still seeing blackness. I just need some small successes. Maybe a small injection of joy. Perhaps a little good news. Maybe some fresh ideas. Life goes on... it has to.


Thursday, February 16, 2012


Yesterday Mac forgot to take his medication before heading off to work. When I discovered this, I had a panic attack. It did not help that the truck is currently not running. I could not just run into town and take his medicine to him. I tried to get the hood of the truck up. I had hoped that if I poured some soda on the battery terminals, wiggled them around, tightened them up, that I would be able to coax one more start out of the aging battery. But the latch is funky and no amount of fiddling with it would get it to release. Finally we worked out a solution to get those pills into him but by then I had enough adrenaline in my system to make me ill.

He has promised me that he will no longer forget to take his medication. Perhaps he is saying this with the best intentions, but I think we both know that he is lying. He will forget, because he forgets everything.

Last wednesday, the evening after Mac's heart attack, our oldest daughter told us she was pregnant. Our happy thought that buoyed our spirits. Last night, exactly one week later, she told us that she had had a miscarriage. I had my fingers crossed for another little girl. One very much like her mother. My daughter, actually all of my girls, were such good babies.

My life gets so wrapped up with taking care of Mac that I forget that other lives have their misfortunes too. Some have less troubles then they probably deserve. Some have far more. That's something I shouldn't forget.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Survived The Day

It is typical to say that you survived a day. It is just a method of passive bitching, an indicator that your day was not what you had hoped. It is something else when you get through a day and become retrospective, breathe a sigh of relief and say, "I'm alive". It works as tear jerking fodder for country music but I do not recommend it as a life style.

Mac did survive his first day back and part of that day was folks coming by with well wishes and stories. Lots of stories. One in particular I believe helped him. That story came from another teacher and was about her husband. Apparently heart attacks are a hobby for this guy. He has had stints for so long that he has worn them out and gotten new stints. Then this teacher gave Mac a piece of wisdom. She said, "You know, it really does boil down to 'take your medicine'. Take your pills and take care of yourself and you'll be fine." I think it sunk in because this morning he said that he needed to take his pills and there were no surly comments. He didn't say that I was trying to choke him to death with giant pills. He didn't bitch about the quantity. He didn't accuse me of "making up stuff" about what the pills do. He just took them.

I still want him to retire. He looks worn thin. Reminds me of the line from "Lord of the Rings" where Bilbo said he felt stretched, like butter spread too thin over bread. Weariness hangs on him like a shroud. We take it one day at a time.

He survived the day.


Monday, February 13, 2012


I have been AWOL. Absent without leave. Mac had a heart attack last Wednesday. Today I drove him to school for his first day back to work. This week couldn't have been worse. He has conferences this week so he will be putting in two fourteen hour days and he has recess duty as well. That means he won't get to eat lunch. There isn't much we can do as the Dr. released him with out restrictions. The Dr. also said to minimize stress. That was my opening and so I talked to the assistant principal this morning. The senior principal wasn't there yet. I was perhaps more frank then I should have been. I told him the stress was to be mitigated. The hoop jumping was to stop for the rest of the year. He said he had no idea what I was talking about, but he went into a defensive body posture. ( No! I did not threaten to kick him in the balls) I tried to make it plainer. I told him the other principal was free to call me. Yeah, right! like that would happen.

It is hard to see my husband afraid. He would like this to be his last year teaching. He would like to retire. I would like that too. For that to happen, I need to be able to earn around $38,000. per year. Time to up the ante. I had hoped for ways to make $4,000. per year. That will no longer do.

Comments typically don't turn up on my blog for some reason. I've done the troubleshooting. Made sure my settings were correct but still most comments do not come through. But I need to hear you. I need some ideas. If your comment is not accepted here please e-mail me at renaissancelouie@gmail.com I know there has to be an answer... I know someone has it.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winter Blahs

We have had such a mild winter, that I should not complain..... but I will. I suppose it is just that we are into February. I feel such a disconnect from my outdoors life. The favorite parts of my life are out there.. not in here. We have had so little snow that there is nothing pretty about this winter. It is patches of leftover snow then the brown grass, then the gray gravel, the gray sky, the gray trees.

I have things to do. I have some flooring to put down. The kitchen needs cleaned. There is sewing that needs to be done. Laundry. But I don't want to. It is getting late in the day and I still need to eat breakfast. Nothing sounds good, nothing tastes good. Food tastes much better in spring. At least, that is what I think today.

Yesterday, I talked myself out of starting my plans on my cottage. Too many projects. I scolded myself over my impulsive nature, of always needing ten things to think about. So I did not get out my graph paper. I didn't begin my puzzle of how to make a good existence fit into a small space. Now my brain is all dusty. Craving something and not knowing what it could be. I need to shake off these winter blahs. There are things I could do today that would make me happy. I just have to remember them. So much easier to get excited about things when the sun is out.

I feel like the Salvador Dali painting... the one with the clock dripping off the edge of a ledge. Food. Maybe I just need to go ahead and eat something, even if it isn't tasty. I'll just pour myself into the kitchen. I'll just hang on and maybe, just maybe, there will be sun tomorrow and I'll come up with new and brilliant ideas.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Small Houses

I have been in a funk. I try not to go there but funks happen. Usually my less then congenial moods only last a day but this was a tenacious funk. Then, on Saturday morning we watched a show on PBS. It was called b. organic. It was a very interesting segment... well, interesting to me, on small house living. I am fascinated by small houses. It is an amazing little puzzle. How small can you get and still have what you need? How small can you get and still have what you want? Do you need everything you own? Do your possessions cause you happiness or angst? How small can you get and still retain a feeling of comfort and openness in your home? I love the puzzle!

I draw house plans. I LOVE drawing house plans! I remember when I was a senior in high school and my parents had gotten an old house and were getting ready to make some huge changes to it. Dad worked for the government and had access to a great deal of literature on standards of housing. He brought home everything he could find that was pertinent. Dimensions were a big thing. For instance, it takes a four foot circle to comfortably dress in. You need a three foot circle to turn around in. If you carry anything up a stair way the minimum width is three foot. These are still the things I think about when I draw up plans. A house is no good to you if you can't turn around in it..... and I have seen some pretty large houses that still managed to have areas you couldn't turn around in.

I didn't used to have faith in my abilities to come up with workable house plans. Even after I had planned this house and built it... well, pretty much built it. There is still finishing to do. Then after Katrina hit New Orleans and it took forever to find shelter and other necessities for the people of the area, the government asked architects to submit plans for small emergency housing that could be built quickly. I found the website somewhere of accepted plans. Many were absolute crap. I remember one small house had the toilet in front of the shower. So close to the shower you would have had to step over the toilet to get to the shower. That is just wrong.... there is no turn around room. Then I realized, that I was drawing better plans then architects were.

Now I want to build a cottage. Mac is okay with it as he wants it for his brother and sister-in-law to stay in when they visit. This time I can do it all as I would like. The house we are in is Mac's house. Built off of his wish list. The next one will be mine. I will go all out hippie on it. The toilet will be flushed with rain water. We will have gray water captured, be filtered in a bog and then, water a small garden. Reclaimed materials and solar lights.... it's going to be fun!

I will start drawing plans today. My reward for surviving the funk.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another Bill Day

I have made it through another bad bill day. The fact I hate paying bills is no secret, or that one of my greatest desires is to live mortgage free. Well, it is done for another month. Now I just have to find a way to breathe again. To get the nauseous feeling from my stomach. Get the gigantic, heavy lump out of my chest.

Today, I need to chase a cure. I'm not sure what to do exactly. I will chore the horses. I will carry water out to them and my body will settle into the familiar rhythms of scooping the water from the tubs and dumping it into their tank. Manual labor to burn the adrenaline from my body so that my mind can take flight. Let it travel to other places... safe places.

I am not sure what to do today. Torn between working on the round pen or going down to the woods and burning brush. At the moment I crave the therapeutic nature of fire. The horses are therapeutic also and I won't ever get myself back to playing with them until the round pen is finished. There have been times when I have spent a couple of hours with the horses and I could have sworn it was only twenty minutes. It amazes me that these creatures, so big, so strong, will subject themselves to us. It amazes me how those great brown eyes can look right through me and know what I'm about. But the round pen isn't finished, so the day won't be about horseplay.

I suppose I will just have to see what happens. I always feel better after a few days, knowing I have a month off before facing the bills again. But it is just too much. I am so tired of these trips to the abyss. But it's another day... a new day and that is more then what many people in this world will get. I'll take it.