Help Me Obi-wan Kanobe

The three lead protagonists of Star Wars, from...

Han Solo and Chewbacca

Like Han Solo and Chewbaca racing to Alderon, Mike’s two Chicago partners, at this moment, are zipping lightspeed  to the farm with an unspecified plan of attack. I can tell Mike is getting excited that the  friend force will soon be with him. He nearly chattered about their arrival last night the entire time I watched how many times Randy Jackson called a woman “Dude,” and what kind of lecherous statement  Steven Tyler let drop out of his mouth. (Yes, I’m digressing again.) In any case, Mike hardly controls his  excited expectation and if I wasn’t sick (again) I might feel a bit like Yoda admonishing him, “Size matters not.”

Oh wait, that is for a Princess-Leia kind of excitement at some other time.

(Hey, I don’t know what I’m thinking…I’m feverish-ish.) Meanwhile, Mike Skywalker is out waiting for the dirt man to arrive with a load to fill in holes in the yard of one of the partners. I guess the last time the Emperor arrived the storm troopers had a little too much fun blasting the gophers or something. Good they will all have fun, though I question some priorities, since there are still a ton of necessary chores awaiting. Who am I to question it. Live here I do; a partner, I am not.

When the dirt is delivered, my big ole Jedi Knight will be out taking care of the cows and will have hopefully sheathed his ever-powerful light sabre  until the guys arrive. Once here the two will verbally joust with him almost constantly as dissing becomes the play of the day. There will be conversations about the University of Kentucky’s big championship win and which of the trio did his brackets the worst. They will spar over manly things like who is a wimp or not, who is stronger or not, who can perform better or not at farming activities. There will be jokes about Chewbaca’s receding hairline, and there will be the running jokes about other types of light sabers and cows and size comparisons that have nothing to do with either farming or Star Wars.

I love it when the guys come down– for the most part. There is a lot of laughter and you can see the brotherhood of this friendly force. Since I was the only girl in my family, there is a comfort in being included as “one of the guys” and I sometimes forget that I am but a mere female in terms of stamina, strength, and yarn-weaving abilities. My measuring tape, for example, is accurate and does not measure things in “light sabre inches,” an exaggerated size comparison. A two inch fish is still a two inch fish, not a keeper, no matter how well a story is told.

Which leaves me wondering. Caddyshack (Chewbaca in this analogy) emailed to say he was bringing a nine pound leg of lamb with him. NINE POUNDS! I’m thinking, he is already measuring in those light sabre inches or he thought he got lamb, but paid for mutton. See it, we shall. He is also bringing corned beef for the smoker for all of us to share. Unfortunately, I still have my bug and have not been to the grocery store.  I hope they like the aspargus Mike gathered while walking the four legged sand people this week before the storm and hard freezes hit. I think there might be a couple of pounds of potatoes left too…if the Jedi don’t decide to build another hair spray powered potato gun. (Last time they did, they discovered that walnuts still in their rinds shoot better than potatoes, in case you are interested. I hoped the walnuts would grow wherever they landed.)

By nightfall, regardless of side dishes, the house will feel like the Star Wars Cantina. Music, a movie, or Guitar Hero will loudly form the background noise for increasing conversation decibels and the men will recount their day, the old days, or the very old college days while tossing back the beers. Some will click the can to tap out the very last drop, others will leave half an inch in the bottom ‘because it got warm.’ I am amazed at their prowess. Two drinks of any kind gets me drunk, sick, or sleepy and beer is…well…awful. I am usually the most sober one in the room and it feels a bit like partying with your brothers, I suspect.  Fortunately, the Wookie and the Jedis leave their blasters elsewhere while they get blasted. George Lucas would be proud.

So while the Jedi have left their Princess Leias at home to seek out the counsel of Yoda and have a weekend of high adventure, join them or not, I will. It all depends on the force within me…the stomach flu.

I would say, “May the force be with you,” but I wouldn’t wish this one on anyone!

**Addendum: I came across this article that might interest you as it did me. I have mixed emotions about it. On the one hand, training for farming is needed. Should the state compete with small farmers like us, though? You decide.  http://prisonphotography.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/inmates-as-farmers-ashley-stinson-in-kentucky/

Posted in Cattle Baroness, cattle information, farm advocacy, humor, Kentucky, lamentations of a city girl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I wanted to…

The Picture of Dorian Gray, film 1945. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

I thought I would pass along some insight into my writing style. I write off the top of my head, just as I mentioned before. When I sit down to the white screen before me, I usually have no idea what I will write about until I finish. This is, afterall, not a formal paper requiring an outline and logical sequence. Nevertheless, it may explain to the reader why my blog entries sometimes take “a left turn at Cucamonga.” You probably noticed in reading the blog that things work a little differently in my brain. How one progresses from writing about illness to Easter is a prime example. It is the way I think.

I blame it one hundred percent on my parents. Hey, why not? Everything was their fault!

It was their “fault” that I learned to ask ‘if I do this what will happen?’ from a young age. It was their fault I learned to apologize if I did wrong, hurt someone, or stuck my foot in my mouth. It was their fault I learned compassion, empathy for others, concern for the less fortunate, and to think beyond myself– to have a true sense of altruism. It was their fault I learned that taking something without its owner’s permission is the same thing as stealing– it is NOT borrowing, nor is it acceptable because I think my own needs are greater than the owner’s needs. It was also their fault that I learned “I wanted to” was not a sufficient excuse for anything. My parents could not help teaching me those things, they learned it from their parents and the community around them.

Many today lack these moral tools because, in their pursuit of happiness, parents around the world shirked their reponsbilities for teaching moral behavior. In many cases, moral lessons taught were undermined by opposing practices. It certainly was not always intentional, but the results are the same. The Me Generation produced a society fraught with a whole lot of desire-motivated individuals who were incapable of responsible reasoning.   I mean, if a person decides to steal from someone, say copper wire, do they really stop and ask themselves what happens as the result of their actions? Hardly.  There is no necessity, empathy or forward thinking involved. A thief’s only lame justification in this country is always “I wanted to.”

A drug abuser epitomizes the selfish and self-centered individual. He is the face to “I wanted to.” Everything a doper does, from buying his first joint to stealing from his neighbors, or from sleeping with her boyfriend-supplier to selling her body for drug money emerges from narcissistic desires. “I wanted to”– with the emphasis always lying in the word “I”– becomes the sole motivation for all activities. As it grows like a cancer, “I wanted to” becomes the justification for any desire or action taken. Why did you steal? Why did you kill that man? Why did you beat your grandmother in the head with a hammer? Why did you abuse or neglect your children? Regardless of other excuses, the reality is “I wanted to” answers each question because the drive for self takes on the shape of animal instinct for those mesmerized by its power.

Empathetic, caring, loving, and giving people do not become drug abusers, period. Some will debate that statement, but while many people may try illegal drugs, not all become addicted. Their “If I do this what will happen” over-rules the temporary and base control of “I wanted to.”  They view with contempt the abandonment of responsibility for a short-lived ‘high.’ They abhor those that take it upon themselves to infringe on the personal space, freedom, and property of others. They find those that center their entertainment, non-working hours, and financial means at the exclusion of TRUE friends and family reprehensible and foolhardy. And in some cases, they feel extreme anger and resentment towards the drug addicts and their enablers who cry out like wimps, “He can’t help it. It’s the drugs.”

It is NOT the drugs…the drugs are not the diagnosis, but the primary symptom. Drugs feed and nourish the “I wanted to” mindset. They do not cause it.

If I sound angry here. I am. A day or two ago, Mike got a call from a friend who owns a small house locally but stays with a girlfriend in the city. Someone broke into his house, stole all the copper wiring and as the result, his chest freezer completely thawed and hundreds of dollars worth of meat nearly ruined. He invited Mike to go and get some of it, rather than it going to waste. Sadly, for the want of a few dollars, this man has lost thousands.

Now, this guy is not wealthy, in fact, his house is little more than a tar paper shack. I know many areas in this country, like California, where it would be condemned as uninhabitable. Did the copper thieves, whom the press is quick to tell us are drug abusers, think for a moment that a person living in those kinds of conditions probably doesn’t have the means to replace that wiring? No way. “I wanted to” got in the way of “if I do this what will happen.”

It seems to happen a lot around here. Someone stole old growth trees off our farm; the same someone stole a tractor from a neighbor, burned it and then sold it for scrap. His grandfather made the excuse, “It’s the drugs.” Stores go out of business because they cannot stand up to the numbers of petty thieves. “It’s the drugs.” People get shot standing in front of their apartment. “It’s the drugs.” A child is blungeoned to death at his grandfathers. “Its the drugs.”  It happens so frequently, I have often asked myself if by moving here I have suddenly stumbled across the most selfish regional culture in America. Afterall, we are bombarded daily about the rise in drug use in Appalachia, the geometrically expanding numbers of raided meth labs, the children taken in drug raids, and so forth. I wonder too, if selfish sufficiency is replacing self-sufficiency in Kentucky. What is the future for a covetous society destroying itself in the pursuit of the next high? Is something else going on?

I have no answers. But for every media-hyped example that makes the ‘good’ people of our state press for better laws, more guns, and more government intervention, an example of kindness, love, and caring quietly goes about changing its own little world without the media noticing. In the long run, it is the balance between the two that keeps humanity from completely destroying itself. This struggle is nothing new to human existence. If we take the Bible as an example, Eve definitely had a case of “I wanted to” when God told her she could have anything in the garden except the fruit of that one tree. She did not care; it was all about Eve.

I know someone like that. The woman is tall, well proportioned to her height, believes herself to be wealthy, has two beautiful sons that worship her, owns her own home, and boasts of lots of nice “stuff.” She is also perhaps the most evil person I have ever met in my life. Seriously…and I am old! She is a drug addict and DT-fighting alcoholic that could only work for her father because her extreme narcissism and demanding control-freak personality precludes her from keeping a ‘real’ job. She simply does not work well with others and prior to working for her dad, lost job after job for her laziness and poor attitude.

Yet as horrid a person as she is, life is good for her because her parents constantly take responsibility for cleaning up her screw ups. They avoid embarrassment and excuse her behavior by telling people, in essence, “She can’t help it. She is sick.” They also submit to her manipulations by actually believing her constant stream of lies and excuses. But her parents must bear the brunt of the blame for her lack of compassion, her physical and emotional abuse of others, and loss of her humanity. Somehow they taught her that greed, covetousness, and self are the most important elements of life.

On the other hand, she alone carries the shame of having sold her humanity for animalistic base instincts.  She bears the true mark of the Beast…no sense of desire for a better world, for helping her fellow man, or even for hard work towards those ends. You will not find her working for charity, helping the homeless, or even listening to a friend unless there is something in it for her. Everything must have a pay back to her.  She will not be seen giving any of her possessions to a needy friend let alone a stranger,unless by so doing she can control them. It is all about her and her own immediate desires. She is motivated only by a constant drive towards a consumerism focused not on taste or modesty, but quantity, expense, excess and self.

Even a so-called “user” would find himself manipulated, coerced, and controlled by this woman. The internet is her hunting ground.  A pretence of being monied serves as the self-satisfying power to control others. She uses her personal perversions to drawn in her victims, then flaunts the family’s material possessions and proclaims her father’s power when confronted by authorities. She is incapable of processing the whole notion of love, so she acts as she sees others act who are in love. Her act works for a short time, but ultimately she is left standing alone and wondering how she can better control the next victim.  If asked why she beats the men in her life, as indeed she does, in spite of all her excuses and lies to the contrary, she simply “wanted to.”  Because “I” is the center of her world, she prefers to be feared. Instead, she is to be pitied.

You may be sitting there thinking, “Wow! Tell us how you really feel about this woman!” Yet the woman I describe is an archetype. The reality is, we all know someone like her. More worrisome, each of us carries within us the possibility of molding ourselves in her image and must be ever vigilant to avoid that. “I wanted to” is her own Dorian Gray image, dark, wicked, repulsive, ever hungered, never quenched in her greed. We must not become like her.

It is not simply good enough to put a few coins in a kettle at Christmas, if at home we teach our children the poor somehow deserve to be poor. It is not enough to volunteer at a soup kitchen if at home we teach them that anything less than name-brand is beneath “people like us.” And it is not enough to drop a cash envelope in an offering plate on Sunday if from Monday to Saturday we maintain the “I wanted to” in all our personal and business interactions. And it is not enough to shout from our soapbox how uncharitable the world treats us, while refusing to practice charity at home.

Prisons and half-way houses are full of “I wanted to” individuals. Your local hospital, courthouse, and Congress is too. It is all a matter of degree.  Ah, you say, but the politicians “can’t help it, our system is sick. We only voted them into office because we wanted to.” Uh-huh.

On the farm, each day begins with a plan centered on weather, circumstances, seasons, and a myriad of other factors. One cannot plant seeds without breaking the soil; one cannot harvest without chopping weeds. It is not about taking a day off because “I wanted to.” Watching the seed rise from its darkened sleep to stretch towards the sun and produce its fruit is all about watching results in action. When we plant a seed, we are planting the question “if I do this what will happen?” At the end of the season, we have our answer for good or bad. We do not plant simply because we “wanted to” and walk away.  Each seed represents finding a life sufficient to ourselves without desparately searching for new avenues to fill otherwise empty spaces.  If we can find no other love but the love of the land, it is enough to thwart the effects caused by “I wanted to.”

Sadly, increasing number of country kids are grounded less in good moral lessons than the “I wanted to” culture in society around them. The loss is greater still when we realize how many will take on their own mark of the Beast like the deluded woman of “means.” May God help her and them.

 

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Good Things About Being Sick

Easter eggs

Easter eggs (Photo credit: StSaling)

I think I found out why I was moving slowly the other morning. The stomach flu hit me full force. At least, I think it is the stomach flu. Since it is Easter weekend I have not been to see anyone about the fever, chills, headache, light sensitivity, and gastrolintestinal upsets. But here I am day three (or four? or is it five?) on my couch watching the sunrise for reasons other than Eastertide.

I am trying to see a good side to being sick. There are plenty of bad results from it and they are compounded on a farm, so the good side can be like an Easter Egg hunt…without the pushing and tackles, but including the whining and crying, maybe. Ok. Think! Through this fever-headed foggy brain, THINK!

Here’s one. I got a LOT of sleep. One of the days I was sick, I believe I slept 24 hours, with only slight awakenings throughout the day and night by Mike or the pets. Val is still here and she thinks night time is for playing and daytime is for sleeping, so we’ll have to work on that when I am better. I did sleep though. Would fall asleep shivering under the comforter and wishing there were twelve more on top of me and wake up sweating like I was in the Amazon. But I slept! I slept more than I have since moving to the farm. That is a good thing, right?

Another good thing…ah, yes…that diet I planned to start but am about five years late on started itself. Since I got sick three days ago (or was it four? or five?), I have had exactly four spoonfuls of cream of asparagus soup and a bite of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich on day 1, two slices of french toast on day 3, and (proof that I am feeling a little better) a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a milkshake, and (drumroll please) a polish sausage…and the sausage stayed down! Ok…so I must have been sick four days now.

I helped our budget by being sick. Yep, that’s true. For one thing, I have not had a cup of coffee since that first morning. Not that I did not want one…well, actually, I did NOT want one, but I am on a gatorade or 7up sipping regimine and trying to keep hydrated. On a good day coffee is dehydrating, not to mention the cream and sugar we put in it, so avoiding it was probably a good thing. I did sort of miss “our time” over coffee in the morning, but Mike probably never noticed because I was passed out and snoring on the couch during most of it.

Another good thing about being sick was not being around when we lost three of our newest calves. Apparently, they caught Shipping Fever and died before the arrival of vaccine Mike ordered. The one that shocked us the most was Buddy, the newest Charolais, who was fine and ate breakfast without a problem, at two o’clock was still well, and dead by 5 p.m. By being sick on the couch, I did not help give boluses, hold the bag while Mike tubed them, hold them for injections, or love on them while they passed away. Their loss and all Mike went through alone, while I hugged the trashcan or ran to the restroom, does explain perhaps why when I asked for a blanket he brought it to me, still folded, and tossed it at me before heading out the door. He was full-up on nurturing for the moment.

The city girl in me wondered if what I saw as a lack of caring was purely a Mike thing or a country thing. I mean, if you are sick and take to your bed, aren’t the ones who love you supposed to dote on you a little? Check your fever? Make sure you have the medicines you need and the liquids to take them with? Aren’t they supposed to check your fevered brow with the back of their hands and look at you with compassion and caring? I was very hurt to have a blanket thrown at me with a huff…but I also did not know we had sick calves. On the other hand, Mike did run into town to pick up meds I needed, made a special trip for a milkshake just because it sounded good to me, and did extra around the house.

Somehow, it isn’t the same.

So maybe there is another good thing I learned about being sick. We cannot always expect every person to have the same compassion, empathy, or attentiveness that we have always known. Some people just don’t get it, for whatever reason and it is our job to teach them better. Seems to me that is what some anti-establishment dude in the Middle East died for about two thousand or so years ago and why today we celebrate his rising from the dead. His command was not to overthrow governments or to dominate other people, it was three simple words:

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

Funny thing…He healed the sick too.

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This and That…

Moving slowly this morning…no reason. It’s just that the coffee tastes awfully good, the weather got colder, and my ‘jammies’ are nice and warm. Good thing Mike understands me.

What happened to the sunny weather and temperatures in the mid 80s? A rain storm popped up yesterday and today, it is cold! Not snow and ice cold, mind you, but compared to sleeveless shirts and shorts weather, it is cold! I did manage to get the lawn mowed yesterday before the rain, so two-thirds of it should be alright for about three days. It also gave me a chance to notice bag worms on two of the wild cherry trees by the house. They will have to be taken care of before they spread to other plants and trees, if it is not too late. One ‘nest’ was already wiggling yesterday.

Lilac blossoms almost gone. Cold weather did not damage too much.

The pear tree set fruit before the last frost and survived that cold snap and the apple treese followed suite. Of course, the forsythia finished its blooming a few days ago when the lilac bush took over with its perfect shape, scent, and magenta-turned-lavendar colors that contrasted with the crab apple tree. It was heavy with blooms yesterday and invited wasps, bees, and even carpenter bees to it bright pink foliage. Today the blooms are gone, along with those of the crepe maple. I suppose the pie cherries and figs, if ready to bloom, will either delay putting off buds or the cold weather killed them too. I hate that, but it always seems to happen for Easter.

Mike and a friend did a major “musical chairs” with the calves yesterday. Sixty-nine, Seventy, Six and Eleven, calves I never named were all sold. Hopefully, since I have not heard yet, they brought enough to buy a purebred Charolais with a calf at her side or at the very least a springer. Time for a little lingo lesson here (and trust me, I am still learning it). A cow with a calf at its side, means the calf is still nursing. A springer means she is pregnant and delivery is imminent. Springers may cost less, but if it is a first calf heifer, the farmer has to concern himself with possible delivery problems, breech birth being one of them. Since “I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ no baby” I prefer one with a calf at its side. Mike may feel differently. Still, having a female to replace the four steers will be a change.

Sixty-nine and his buddies shared a pen with Spot. Remember him? Yep, he’s still around and a beautiful specimen of a Jersey bull. When they tried to load the steers up yesterday, well, old Spot is so tame that he went into the cattle trailer on his own and had to be run out of it!  That little bull will do anything for a handful of sweet clover, I swear!

Did I say ‘little’? He is not so much anymore and can almost look me straight in the eye when I approach his pen. We decided it was time for him to move to the big green pasture with the other large cattle and where he could eat for free. Surprisingly, Rhino, the huge long-bodied black Angus readily accepted his presence. Maybe it is because their pens were next to each other with only an electric fence wire between them. Or maybe it’s because Spot was not  the newest arrival.

Pip and the Painted Ladies are now part of Rhino’s herd. They didn’t seem to mind the trip over to the other farm, except maybe the vaccinations they got when they arrived. Little Pip felt his oats though. He probably weighs about three hundred pounds to Rhino’s half ton, but wasted no time greeting the larger bull with a little head butting and pushing. Rhino took it gracefully, pushed back gently then walked back over to his harem. Since Pip once made his home at the other farm too, the two probably just sparred a ‘welcome back’ and I’m sure Rhino appreciated Pip bringing along two more soon-to-be-mature females, even if they were Holsteins!

By moving Pip and the Painted ladies, Mike freed up the run-in where they stayed for past several weeks. (For my city friends, a run-in is a shed-like structure without doors. Then animals can “run in” out of the weather as they need, or nap in its shade on a hot day.) This is where we plan to house the turkeys as they get big enough. He will install wire for protect them and a door for access, as well. It will not be long. The bronze turkeys are growing unbelievably fast!

The brozes are beginning to get real feathers and can fly short distances making it hard to keep them in their brooder.

While he’s fixing the run-in, he might need to construct some tree roosts. These birds seem to like being up high.

Slower growing Royal Palm Turkey chicks

The little Royal Palms are growing too, but are a smaller breed than the bronzes and several weeks younger. They are almost content when I pick them up and stroke their downy little heads and snuggle them close. That is a far cry from the bronzes who jump, run, fly, and otherwise try to escape the bare arm thing that enters their home. They are so fast, it will take a man with great reflexes to grab them for a picture…and I suspect when the time comes, this little venture may prove hilarious! I think that should be the time that Caddyshack gets invited to help with the Turkey Roundup. Ha!

Looks like we’ll have potatoes au gratin for dinner with fresh asparagus from the garden. It has not reached its peak, but we are getting about four pounds per day now. So I am off to catch up on some laundry, sweep and mop and whatever else comes my way. Hope you have a terrific day too!

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I Don’t Want to Live in a Kennel!

I think I convinced Mike this morning to build a simple arbor for the front yard. My idea was to build it to support the grapevines he propogated last fall, provide support for a fence gate at the driveway, and provide two posts of the area I want to enclose for the dogs to play in when they are out on their own. We really enjoyed just opening the door for them last winter, instead of taking them for a walk.

It might seem strange that I would want to enclose part of a farm, but the fact is there are critters on this farm. There are rabbits and deer, raccoons and opposums, skunks and ground squirrels and all sorts of distractions to lead dogs away from their home. That is how we got two of our dogs. Yes, two of them. One, we found in the garden and one arrived this week…a puppy no more than four or five months of age that Mike found in the barn at the other farm. She was well loved wherever she used to live, fairly well trained, and has a farm dog demeanor: calm, patient, loves to ride, stays with the farmer, etc. For a dog just losing her milk teeth, that is amazing.

Val laying still JUST long enough for a picture. She was afraid of the camera.

I don’t want any more animals, but watching her, I see her potential to be Mike’s farm buddy far more than either Fritz or Eddie. Fritz is too high-strung, does not mind, and has the attention span of a flea. He does not ride well, but bounces from window to window with a look of panic in his eyes. Given the chance, Fritz will bolt in any direction, whether chasing a rabbit scent or on the heels of a deer on the run. His Royal Spoiled-Rottenness does not even have sense to come when he hears his name. He just sits down and doesn’t move. That makes it diffcult to find him when he is lost in the woods on a rabbit hunt.

Believe me, we know. We have spent many hours hunting for the dog…in the dark…in the rain. One time, he took off and we hunted for hours. We got frightened for him when a group of coyotes started yapping down near the green house. Mike had driven his truck to the area, heard the coyotes and left the truck running, door open, as he jogged to the house for his shotgun.  By the time he returned to deal with the coyotes he was  convinced would be munching down on Patterdale Terrier kabobs, there sat Fritz in the driver’s seat as if to say, “What do you mean you were hunting for me? I was here all along!”

Yeah, Fritz is not a farm dog.

Eddie, on the other hand, rides well and minds, but is terrified of Mike for whatever reason. When Mike calls him, he tucks his tail and head down, often running the opposite direction of the blond human beast-man. Lord knows, Mike abuses the poor animal with his gentle talk, food treats, and good belly rubs.  Since Eddie was a pound puppy, though, we do not know what he went through prior to coming here. We suspect someone beat the dog. Nevertheless, heis “my” dog and my protector, or I protect him, whichever the case.

Eddie does not like loud noises, like tractors, will chase anything that runs (he lives to run) and frankly…I rather like him here with me. He still has that “I’m going to eat you” bark and shy as he is, I suspect he would hurt anyone that tried to hurt me.

No, Eddie is really not farm dog material.

The new pup is a much better suited farm dog, I think. It is in her personality. She was in the barn and made a bed by the stripping room door on a bale of straw. She was friendly, but only left her bed when encouraged to do so and if returned to the area, immediately sat down as if waiting for permission to move. Mike named her Val.

Val seems to like her new name. She adores Mike and stays with him when possible, and completely ignores me when he is around.  When they are in the garden she explores her surroundings, but never ventures more than a few feet away from him and comes immediately when summoned. She rides well in the truck without making messes, whimpering, or chewing on the tools he tosses haphazardl into the back seat, and she lies contentedly in the back while Mike runs errands. I think she has already bonded to Mike and to the idea of being a farm dog.

The question is, do I allow her to stay and go back on my recent “no more animals” policy or do I try to find a home for her?

In a perfect world, Val would live outside in the fenced yard when not riding along with Mike and make her home in the shade under the front porch deck. She would have access to the house for visits, but “home” would be outside, except during the coldest or hottest weather. She would have, as she does now, plenty of food, fresh water, treats, and play time and grow up being loved, but would not have accidents in the house nor shed on the furniture. In a perfect world, Mike would agree to those conditions.

The world is not perfect. Mike does not believe in outside dogs. He thinks keeping one enclosed or chained to a dog house outside is tantamount to abuse. If he had to do that, I think he would rather place Val for adoption. He offered yesterday to do that when go picks up cow meds from the vet. I guess the onous is on me.

Keeping Val, whether inside or outside presents problems right now. This is a “lean” time on a farm. Harvest is several months away. There are the costs of a vet visit for shots, getting her ‘fixed’, flea and tick meds for the next several months, and deworming.  Beyond that, Val has an absolutely gi-normous appetite too. That is readily apparent since I feed her four times a day (she’s hungry more often), even if it is too soon to know whether her puppy chewiness will also mean destructiveness. There may be other costs I have not yet considered.

So today I am in a quandry and feel like I am the “bad guy” whichever way I turn. I do not want to live in a kennel! I hate the collection of hair, the spilled food, the little accidents, the smells and all that…even if I love the animals. We built a shed for the calves…why can’t they pets have a place of their own?

Oh yeah, they do. They just share it with us. Sigh.

Time is running out on a decision about Val. The longer she is here the more likely she will stay. She is awfully cute, though and so well behaved for her age. Maybe she can stay just one more day.

Posted in Animals, Cattle Baroness, cattle information, Kentucky, lamentations of a city girl, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memory Day Monday

Tomato Juice in a glas, decorated with tomato ...

Tomato Juice in a glas, decorated with tomato slice and sprig (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It dawned on me this morning that some of my readers have never seen or been in my house. Not that one would expect that, when writing at a distance, but the neglect of that fact serves to leave the reader without necessary information. For example, when I say I attempted to buy groceries for a month, the reader is left wondering why “attempted” was the chosen verb. I apologize and will attempt to explain a little.

Our house has a footprint of 20′ X 35′, of which 20′ X 20′  is our living area (the rest is bathroom, wasted space under a staircase, and a large closet.) That 400 square feet is one large room that accommodates our kitchen, dining area, living room, office, sewing room, library, storage, workspace, and so forth. We have a loft for sleeping, but this room is our life, when we are not outside on the farm. I think you can understand that purchasing, canning, or drying foodstuffs to pack away a month’s worth of provisions is fairly simple…where to put them is not.

Currently, there are probably 30 cases of canned goods (mostly tomato juice) under our bed…in case we get thirsty and want a Bloody Mary in the night, I suppose. A closet holds a case or two of dill pickles mixed in among empty canning jars, sewing and craft supplies. Dry dog and cat food make their homes in shiny stainless steel trash cans next to the kitchen island. Clean cat boxes, filled with office and school supplies slide under the couch for ready access… I could go on.

I think you get the picture. Storage for anything, not just food stuffs,  is a problem and things are cached away all over the house. I recently doubled the size of our kitchen island and added a lower, upper, and pantry cabinet to the kitchen area thinking we would have more room and the pots and pans sitting above the cabinets would have a home. Wrong! Even with clearing out and organizing, we still do not have enough storage.

Starting last December, I went on a storage rampage. It took me awhile, but I finally came to the conclusion that the eleven rooms of junk I brought from my old Victorian cottage cannot be forced into this footprint, no matter how hard I try. Bringing my stuff in was easy. Mike, afterall, only had a desk, television and stand, and a dresser when I got here. His 30 year old bed and cat-shredded sofa and chair already met their end, having looooong overstayed their usefulness. While he had a washer and dryer, he had no pictures, no lamps, no rugs, nothing to make this house feel homey, welcoming, and warm.

I brought more than enough to fix that and watched in horror as his animals destroyed much of my “new” furniture. In a way, they made things easier because with each newly destroyed item removed from the “inventory” we found floor space. Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I did not bring all that furniture into this house. I have two storage buildings the size of this living room full of it, but as an item had to be thrown out, an item from storage took its place. By the way, there is still stuff in the building.

I am down-sizing, though. Bit by bit things are disappearing. My own sentimentality for “things” continues to be in my way. Across the room, for example, sit two dining chairs with arms that I bought for $15 (for both) at an end of the year clearance sale. The white seats on them were stained, thus the deep markdown. I brought them home and stapled new seat covers on them. At one point, I gave them to my parents who in turn donated them to their church until money could be raised to put pews in their new building. They had them for a few years, then returned them. I recovered them again and used them in the parlor of the Victorian for years. Children swung their feet off them, teens rough-housed in them, family opened Christmas presents while seated in them, and my own cats lounged in them, occasionally opening one eye to peer out the window near where they sat.

Yes, they have sentimental value and I certainly got my $7.50 worth of use out of each.

In this house, one serves as a valet…a place to remove mucky shoes as you come into the house or a place to drop a too-warm sweat shirt on a chilly day.  I had thought we could use them for dining, if we ever had time to entertain, but the reality is one is useable, the other is excess. How do I break up the set? How do I give away the memories? I still see my father perched on one, scarfing down a piece of Poor Man’s Fruit Cake and laughing at the family’s antics. I guess, the reality is, holding onto the chairs is holding onto happy memories of my father and my own family that is now grown and making their own memories.

Still, I keep reminding myself the chairs are just “stuff.” Besides, we can’t move in this house for all the “stuff.” Here sits a crystal candy dish given to me by my brother, there sits and antique given to Mike by his mother. Over there is a ceramic horse that belonged to my mother, a pendant candle holder given by my son, pottery made by my daughter…All the “stuff” of memories and of love.

It just dawned on me… Am I replacing the stuff of love with a love of the “stuff?”

I am working to remedy that. Two end tables that we used as a makeshift coffee table are gone. Mike knows my difficulty in letting go, so he kindly took them to the garage as a first step to permanent disappearance. I am not as sentimental over them, though. One was my aunt’s and from the 1970s with a formica top on it. I spray painted it Chinese red years ago, then streaked on a coat of stain/sealer to resemble wood grain and popped in some marble floor tiles for the top. The other I found near the dumpster of an apartment complex and did the same treatment. Both are 24 inches X 24 inches and have been replaced by a 24 inch by 40 inch glass topped dining table base we cut down to size with a grinder. It saves us 8 inches, but visually disappears and makes the room look larger. I have absolutely no attachment to the glass top, but it presents a different problem.

What do I do with the asian-inspired carved wood, huge smoke glass coffee table that is in storage? I will have to think about that.

Meanwhile, I literally live with memories represented by the “stuff” around me. Mike is tolerant of that, thankfully, but I need to ask myself why I cling to my memories so hard. Why do I need “stuff” in order to have the memories? The memories are there, regardless. Why do I associate these things with the love given by its donor or user? Can I not feel their love without the “stuff?”

I believe I can.

On my agenda today, therefore, after feeding, is to get rid of ONE memory-packed item in the house.  My goal is to do the same every Monday. I want to think about what the item represents and hold that dear, rather than keeping the “stuff” that clutters my life.

I challenge you to do the same.

Posted in Cattle Baroness, cattle information, farm advocacy, humor, Kentucky, lamentations of a city girl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clean Out the Refrigerator Dinner

Del Motne Petite Cut No Salt Added Diced Tomatoes

Del Motne Petite Cut No Salt Added Diced Tomatoes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several weeks ago I grocery shopped with the intention of not shopping again for a month. I don’t know if I succeeded or not in that endeavor, but the larder is beginning to look bare in terms of staples and, believe-it-or-not, meat.  Yes, we purchase meat. In part, that is because I am still a city girl and meat comes in pretty little wrapped packages. I like the disconnect between what we raise and what we eat…at least for now.

In any case, yesterday was “clean out the refrigerator” day on the homefront. I wanted to make a vegetarian-style dinner that would be filling for a man that burns at least 3,000 calories per day, one he liked, and one to use up leftover bits of this and that in the fridge. I believe I succeeded, since he ate a second (and maybe a third) helping. There was only enough left of it today, for a good lunch. I’m happy.

I wish I had taken pictures as I put it together, but the recipe I made up was pretty straight forward. The recipe that follows is based on approximate measure, since I basically dumped the stuff in. Oh, and since, Clean Out the Refrigerator Dinner doesn’t exactly sound like a restaurant choice, I named it:

Baked Confetti Ziti with Artichokes and Spinach

1 can Cream of Chicken Soup (do not dilute)   [normally I do not cook with this, but bought it for another recipe I never made…using it cleaned it out of the cabinet.]

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese mixed with 1/2C of real mayo [Real mayo, for whatever scientific reason, breaks the cream cheese chunks down into a smooth consistency, use only what you need to soften the cheese]

1/2C feta cheese [this was the last of an 8 oz package, crumbled finely]

1/4C grated parmesan [not the stuff in the jar]

1C mixed Italian cheeses [this is the shredded package stuff]

1 drained pkg (square) Birdseye spinach

1 can drained and chopped artichokes in water **[Important! Get the kind in the can, not the jar. Read the label. You do not want artichoke hearts in seasoned oil, pickled, or any thing of that nature. The kind we had on hand was put out by DeLLalo and says it is in brine.]

1/2C diced water chesnuts [I stole these out of a leftover package of frozen Stir Fry vegies]

1/4 C diced red bell pepper

1tsp garlic

1tsp Italian seasoning [use your favorite and a pre-blend, but be sure it has oregano and basil in it]

1/2 can drained petite diced tomatoes [another shelf leftover bought for convenience because we do not dice our home canned tomatoes]

8 0z dry weight ziti, boiled until al dente.

Mix all ingredients except the ziti, add in the al dente ziti  and stir well. Mixture will be lumpy looking and thick. Place in an oven proof casserole,  top with a light sprinkle of mozzarella and a light sprinkle of diced tomatoes. Bake at 350 until lightly brown on top (approximately 45 minutes). Serve with a light salad. VERY RICH. **This will fill a large casserole dish or two 8X8 square baking pans. Do not halve the recipe. If you want to make less, save aside 1/2 of the wet ingredients and cut down the amount of ziti.

The taste is reminiscent of everyone’s favorite Spinach and Artichoke dip, but with a lighter flavor because of the water chestnuts and tomatoes. The tomatoes should be used sparingly, so as not to over power the taste of the artichokes.

This is no April Fool’s joke. It turned out well. I am off to feed calves and just wanted to share my “culinary” success. Cleaning out the refrigerator and eating leftovers can be a good thing. 

Posted in Cattle Baroness, farm advocacy, humor, Kentucky, lamentations of a city girl, tomatoes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment