Crazy?

Sometimes I check the windshield wipers on other cars, just to make sure I’m not being too dramatic.

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A Season of Quiet

At the end there is a season of quiet.

There is no way around the fact that this is an ending. We sold the last beehive this past Saturday and the only livestock we are left with are the chickens. (On a side note, we still have 8 of the original 10 chicks we bought at the feed store two years ago. I think that’s got to be some kind of record! Haha.)

The last three geese went home with a nice gentlemen from Bellevue two Saturdays ago. He also bought five dozen eggs, our one and only egg sale – go figure. I’ve started selling my tractor implements and a nice man from nearby gave me $500 earnest money toward the purchase of my haying setup. We also have a realtor coming for an initial look at the property this Saturday.

It’s tempting to be sad. And I am a little but not in a distressing way. It’s hard to explain. Even though, one way or another, we will be leaving this place, the spirit of this life will continue.

Our immediate plans – don’t laugh! – are to move into an RV in a local park and put any money we clear on this place in the bank for a future purchase. Okay you can laugh a little but we do have a reason for this plan. Barring some super, drastic change at my place of employment I cannot continue to work there. It’s just too chaotic and oppressive. I don’t wish to separate from the company so we will have to relocate. Selling the house now removes a big source of stress and increases our flexibility to pursue opportunities at other sites. When the opening that we need comes along we will be ready to go.

Or perhaps I will separate from the company and begin an entirely new career, who knows? But that is a possibility and not the plan.

I have to tell you that along with the sadness of letting go there comes a little peace as well. I am actually looking forward to the quiet time ahead to reflect and see how I can carry the myriad things I’ve learned over the last two years into the future. Things that I have always wanted to do are no longer a mystery. I know what it takes to keep bees. I know what it takes to keep chickens. I’ve started an asparagus bed and planted fruit trees. I know what it takes to keep a cow and that keeping a cow is no longer an option (and that’s okay). I also know better now what my limits are, physically and mentally. I know more about how much I’m willing to sacrifice and not sacrifice.

These are not small things to know and all hard won. They are just as important as physical tools and perhaps more durable.

I guess that’s it for now. Peace.

No Title

So.

The ending of that last post really wasn’t fair. I’m not feeling that life is very fair right now though.

Just a few days, maybe a week, after Tilly arrived Don broke out in a serious rash. It was around his eyes, down the front of his face and on his arms. He went to the doctor and she said, “It’s either shingles or an allergy, we’ll have to wait and see.” Well Don is not allergic to anything that we know of so we worried and watched – mostly we worried. It did not progress like shingles, which was good, but it did not go away either. Don began walking around the house with Calamine lotion smeared all over his face and I began to suspect we knew the culprit.

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Here’s Don taking Tilly for her (almost) daily walk. Why you might ask? Because the clover in her pen wasn’t as nice as the clover outside. Or more likely because she’s a lovable animal and he just can’t help but love a lovable animal. After each walk he would scratch her face all around under her halter.

Then he would come in and itch and itch and itch.

Finally he was able to get in to see a dermatologist and sure enough he’s allergic to cow dander.

To be honest we found out about it probably a month ago. We just weren’t ready to give her up. I began cleaning out her stall and putting her up in the evenings but Don still had to let her out in the morning. We have big tubes of Alclometasone Diproplonate cream that he was smearing all over and still, itch, itch, itch.

Even though I am a selfish bastard I do eventually give in and two weeks ago I finally decided that this wasn’t fair and there was no practical way to keep Tilly on my work schedule without Don being part of it. Not to mention the fact that it broke his heart that he had to try to stay away from her. So I put an ad on Craigslist and Facebook and we sold her to a very nice young couple who lives about 10 minutes away.

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They were kind enough to send us a picture of her in her new home. They offered to let us come visit her but that would just be too pathetic. But I will tell you, we have mourned her. I honestly, seriously had not realized how quickly and thoroughly she had become a part of this place. At 5 o’clock if I’m lost in thought or otherwise distracted I will still slip on my jacket intending to head out to the barn to put her up.

So that’s where we are and why we sold the cow. It’s just one of those things.

Many things seem to be converging on us these days. Don will be 60 on his next birthday. I will be 52 and somehow we are starting to feel our ages more than before. It’s also been weighing heavy on my mind that we will have to move into retirement with a mortgage if I continue to pursue this dream. I’m not sure I want to do that and without the cow we really don’t need so much space. All the other things I want to do can be done on a much smaller piece of land.

Right now all of this is just contemplation.

 

I didn’t proofread this post

A little stream of consciousness writing to help me clear my head.

My early religious upbringing has been on my mind a lot recently. More specifically the guilt I think my mother carries for it. I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness. I was one of those people who knock on your door on Saturday morning.

My father wasn’t one of those people. He was a true American protestant. Translation: the only time I remember going to church with him was when he was mad at my mom. (You can laugh at that joke, I do.)

There was a lot of crap that came along with belonging to an outside the mainstream Christian denomination. There was a lot of cognitive dissonance that came along with having parents that did not share a single belief system. Christmas? Is it good or bad? Saluting the flag? On one hand, blasphemy, on the other patriotic. Birthdays? Joyous celebration or remembrance of Salome asking for John the Baptist’s head?

Wow, you might say, how did a young child process all that? Well you’d be giving my young brain far too much credit if you believe that the dichotomy of my life even registered in my consciousness. Mostly when I think about my childhood I remember watching Uncle Zeb’s Cartoon Camp after school. It’s usually only in retrospect that you notice the dysfunction of your childhood.

Before we go any further I should probably clear up some things about the JWs. Everyone seems to think they just appeared one day and that they somehow are like Jim Jones’ cult. Neither is true. They are actually a splinter group that grew out of the Seventh Day Adventist movement. Their founder was a nut, that’s for sure, but no more of a nut than any fundamentalist christian who believes the bible is literal. They are no more of a cult than the Amish or Mennonites or any other fundamentalist sect that practices shunning. AND I will tell you this, they take being a “great multitude of many nations” very seriously. I remember in the early 1970s interracial marriages not just being tolerated but celebrated as much as any marriage.

An intolerance for racism was just one of the gifts of my young religious training.

I have never had a fear of hellfire. Never. I can’t fathom what a life based on avoiding Hell must be like. I can’t imagine assigning anyone that fate. Actually I think that’s probably why so much of mainstream Christianity finds it so necessary to malign Witnesses – they can’t be frightened into obedience. That must be so frustrating.

I grew up being trained to question. When your belief system is different from most other people’s you have to justify it so you ask uncomfortable questions of those trying to convince you you’re wrong. The thing about it though is that eventually, if you’re a thinking person, you start to ask those uncomfortable questions of yourself. That must be so frustrating as well. Hahaha. What goes around, comes around.

I’m actually grateful for that early training because it allowed me to ultimately leave it all behind. The Pope has never held any significance for me. Preachers and pastors have never been above question. Interpretation of scripture has never been beyond challenge in my life.

So, if you’re reading this mom, you can let any lingering concerns go. Your kids are fine – Well, relatively speaking. Hahaha!

Along this journey, and it has been a long and circuitous journey, I realized that what I was searching for was not God but peace, a way to live, a way to order my life, a way to assign meaning where there is none. Have I found it? Eh, some days it seems so, some days it doesn’t.

I don’t believe things happen for a reason although I do believe we can learn from everything that happens.

I don’t believe in any kind of after-life. I believe in a now-life.

I think that any set of ethics or morals should begin in an earth-based reality.

I think that Madonna has always been overrated.

Ok, I think I’m done. Next post I’ll tell you why we sold our cow and may be moving and downsizing.

<Cliffhanger music>

Flying

Several years ago I developed a short fascination with flying. I even bought a sport pilot training kit. It had books and mapping tools and a really, really cool flight bag.

The fascination passed and luckily it didn’t cost me much money.

The only thing I really remember is a short quip that I read somewhere during that time.

“How do you land a plane?”

“You don’t. You fly it until it’s on the ground.”

There’s no such thing as landing a plane. As long as your wheels are not touching the ground you are flying. Even if that gap is a small as half an inch you are still in the air.

Life is a lot like that.

This Little Cow

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John Seymour said his cow Brownie was the keystone of the arch of his farm economy.

Our keystone is progressing nicely. We had the vet out to trim her feet two Saturdays ago.  The outside claw of her back right foot had what is referred to as a hardship crack. These cracks happen when a cow is malnourished or under extreme stress. I noticed it when we got her and I watched it slowly work its way down as her hoof grew out. There comes a point where the flexing of the crack becomes painful and that’s when we called the vet. He trimmed all four feet under sedation and also gave her a couple shots of antibiotics. She is so much better now!

She is cycling regularly now. My dad said if she’s cycling I should get her bred because that’s what she has evolved to do… and if you don’t they get a little squirrelly. So hopefully next month after the A.I. guy visits she’ll be on her way to fulfilling her biological niche and becoming our keystone.

An Unbred Cow

Ok, I’m pretty proud of this one.

I found a guy who does artificial insemination on cattle and is willing to come out and do our one cow. I should’ve called him this week because it’s was Tilly’s sexy time. I swear it’s embarrassing when she goes into heat because the whole neighborhood must know. She never moos, never… except for one day a month. That day though, she’s like a horny teenager with no phone privileges. Shameful, just shameful.

I did not call the guy though because I haven’t built a head catch for her yet and he says, and I can understand why, that a head catch is pretty necessary.

I haven’t built the head catch because I’ve been caught up in leveling the back porch.

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Whoever added this porch sat it on blocks directly on the ground. I’m no builder so I can’t comment on whether this is acceptable or not. Regardless, over the years the blocks sank into the ground. You can see the years worth of shims, especially in the upper left hand of the picture above. There’s about 2″ of the block left above ground.

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This porch has three walls of windows. It’s fabulous. It was also nerve wracking jacking it back up where it belongs. I had nightmares of all those panes just exploding in an epic movie scene fashion so we took about two weeks and slowly raised it about 1/8 of an inch at a time. Then we dug two foot deep round piers (our frost line is only 18″ here). To help keep the blocks level I made some forms and created a little pad at the top of each pier.

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Here’s how it all came together. There’s still a shim or two on each of the blocks cause like I said, I’m not a builder. I got it close enough though that there wasn’t even a creak when I lowered the jacks!! Woo-hoo!

And that my friends is why my cow is still unbred. Shameful.

Just Odds and Ends

“This is how post-apocalyptic movies begin”, says my friend at work, “It stops raining and then never rains again.”

After complaining so much about our soggy fall and winter I almost feel bad complaining about dry, dry, dry summer. It’s like the Northwest has suddenly gone bi-polar. After the wettest season on record we’ve now broken the record for the longest dry spell. 58 days I think it was without rain, and when it did rain we got perhaps 3/10 of an inch. No rain since. The grass is crunchy. A walk through the yard sounds like you’re walking on paper.

The late heavy snow that we had earlier in the year pretty much wiped out our pears and plums.

We have two plums and four pears. Now I understand the drive to preserve as much of each crop as possible. Luckily we don’t have to rely solely on our own results to feed us. I do now have an inkling of what a failed crop must feel like to a subsistence farmer. Just an inkling though.

On a lighter note I sent the picture below to another nearby hobby farmer who has a Dexter bull we’re talking about using for, um, passionate stuff.

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In my defense, the person I’ve been talking to sent me a picture of her bull first. Still, it feels a little like a bovine match.com. Swipe right. (I don’t really know what that means but I hear the kids say it all the time!)

I have no segue for the next paragraph.

I just finished listening to Never Caught, a book about Oney Judge. Oney Judge was a slave owned by George Washington. Well actually she was owned by Martha Washington. Except actually she was one of Martha’s dower slaves which means she actually belonged to Martha’s first husband, Daniel Parke Custis, and Martha was given use of her along with 1/3 of Daniel’s estate until Martha’s death at which time ownership would pass to Martha and Daniel’s offspring. Just surreal.

Daniel Parke Custis is a distant ancestor of mine. My mother discovered this many years ago during a genealogy jag. Up until listening to this book the admittedly indirect link we share with the first president of the United States was not something I thought about much. It’s made no difference in my life – other than perhaps a chuckle every once in a while at a party or in conversation. But it was downright jarring to listen to this narrative of slavery and escape from slavery and pursuit of human property where every other character’s name was Custis. It’s disturbing to think that I share even a little blood with people who owned other people… and worse, pursued them after they escaped that awful institution.

Sometimes life gives you information you have no idea what to do with.

Oney Judge escaped slavery in her early twenties and although she was always property in the eyes of the law, she lived as a free woman until her death in her 80’s. She gave a couple of interviews towards the end of her life and was asked if she regretted running away seeing as how she actually had to work so much harder outside of Mount Vernon. She replied that she would rather die than return to slavery. I think I would rather have had Oney Judge as an ancestor.