Compassion in Tension

I was reading a post from LittleSunDog (one of my favorite wordpress bloggers) about small, sometimes unseen, acts of compassion.  She wrote about saving a butterfly from flying into a bonfire, deciding not to cut down an old tree because there was a family of squirrels living in it…that sort of thing.

And it got me thinking about life out here on the ranch.  We live out here at the intersection of wild and domestic.  The bulk of the property is woodland-with approximately 80 of Eagle Ridge’s 100 acres in forest-and, were we to let it be completely, it would reclaim this dwelling on the top of the hill in just a few years I think.

Living at the intersection of wild and domestic creates a certain tension: we struggle to care for the wildness while at the same time guarding against it.  And it can be very difficult to know where to draw the line. Continue reading “Compassion in Tension”

That moment when you realize you’ve gone from “chicken lady” to “crazy chicken lady”

I never thought I’d spend so much time thinking about poultry…

When we agreed to buy the ranch, I begin mentally preparing for the chickens.  I bought books; I read blogs; I meticulously picked out the breeds I wanted.  I read articles about why chickens should only eat organic feed (for the record, even I don’t eat all organic feed…).  I read about all the ways predators can get to your flock.  I read about parasites and natural worming vs. chemical worming.  I started following Fresh Eggs Daily, Garden Betty, and DIY Diva, soaking up every last bit of chickeny knowledge they had to offer.  Continue reading “That moment when you realize you’ve gone from “chicken lady” to “crazy chicken lady””

Dangerous Cold and a Full Barn

 

 

I was talking with my friend in Maine the other night before evening chores.

“I don’t wanna go outside!” I whined.  We whine together a lot.  If we lived closer, we’d wine together a lot…and that would be better.  “I checked, Lauren.  It’s been consistently colder here than at your place.  Which seems completely unfair given that you’re basically Canadian!”

Lauren laughed, but acknowledged that it’s true.  They live far enough north that she could damn near apply for dual citizenship.  I, however, live in the middle ground of the country.  Illinois.  Home of Chicago at one end and cornfields at the other.  Despite the expectations that it’s more temperate here, we get nearly arctic colds and southern warms.  (Temperate my ass…110 heat index in Summers and -20+ windchill in the winter.)  Last week, my little corner of creation went through a cold snap.  It was colder here than in Bangor, ME.  Actually, as a matter of fact, it was colder here than in Nome, AK.

And it was a problem. Continue reading “Dangerous Cold and a Full Barn”

The Seven Emotional Stages of Hauling Water

For many of us in the Midwest, El Nino has been a kind and benevolent overlord this winter.  Sure, he brought with him some scary-ass storms and some flooding (more towards St. Louis really, but the Illinois River is pretty freaking high for this time of year), but he has also kept the frigid temperatures away…For the bulk of this season, I’ve been reveling in 40-50 degree days.  With the memory of the Polar Vortex  and it’s negative thirty degree windchills of a few years ago still fresh in my mind, that’s basically t-shirt weather.

(Images from the Polar Vortex)

Until this week.

This week kicked off our first round of single digits and negative numbers, and while no one I know likes those sort of numbers, it’s especially vexing for those of us who take care of livestock.  For me, extreme cold means that I spend about twice as much time outside every day.  My aging herd of llamas is locked in to the barn with their heat lamps.  When they’re locked in, they eat more.  They poop more.  They some how dirty their waterers faster.  Plus, I’m pretty sure they get super bored and annoyed with me.  (How dare I shut them in to prevent frostbite and exposure???  I am SO rude!)

All of the creatures, from the 4 lb chickens to the 1200 lb horses, require more care and more clean up when the weather is this wretched.  I feed more.  I clean more.  I go outside more often, and I stay there longer.

Most of the time, I don’t really mind.  It’s part of this gig, and I usually see it as an unfortunate but fair trade for my wonderful spring, summer, and fall days out here.  But there is one event that can turn it from generally unpleasant to downright nasty: Freezing Water Lines.

Continue reading “The Seven Emotional Stages of Hauling Water”

2016 with Blue Skies Ahead

Happy New Year Everyone!

January 1st of 2016 surprised me with a nearly perfect blue sky.  Having spent weeks overwhelmed by my Season of Gray, the blue sky was the perfect antidote to my melancholy, and, in my own humble opinion, barn chores under the blue sky were the perfect was to start the new year.

First thing, I wandered out to one of the back pasture to check on a tree fall that one of my neighbors reported to me.  Their tree; our fence.

It pretty much destroyed that section of fence, but it’s so big that no one is going anywhere over, around, or through it.  I don’t have to worry for a while.  (I told Jeremiah that we should chainsaw it in interesting ways and leave it as fence…easier than hauling it out.)

Continue reading “2016 with Blue Skies Ahead”

Autumn –Or– We can still do hard things.

Dear Readers,

How I’ve missed you.  Last I posted, I wrote about how we can do hard things.  Since then, well, I’ve mostly been doing those hard things.  Under my breath, every day, “I can do hard things…I can do hard things…I can do hard things.”  And guys?  It’s getting easier.  (My mother-in-law bought me a print, just to remind me; I hung it on the wall in my bedroom.  (It’s an Etsy thing; you can find the print here if you like.) It’s one of the first things I see when I wake up and one of the last things I see before I go to bed.  And I think it helps.) Continue reading “Autumn –Or– We can still do hard things.”

I can do hard things.

Jeremiah pulled the covers back and kissed me goodbye at about 7:30.  I was still in bed, unmotivated to get up and start my Sunday.

“I put fly masks on the horses and scrubbed the trough.  The stalls are clean, and the water buckets are filled.  The chickens are fed.  The barn cats are let out.  And don’t let our cats convince you to give them second breakfast” [for those of you who haven’t met them, our house cats are basically hobbits…] “because I just fed them too.”

I rolled over to say thank you when a rooster crowed in the distance, as though he knew he’d been left out.

“Oh, right,” Jeremiah continued, “I let the chickens out too.”

Jeremiah is gone a lot for work, especially lately, but when he has time, he does a sweep of the barn before leaving so that I don’t have to worry about such things immediately.  He will be gone for four days, another trip east.  This one is to outfit his shoeing trailer and ride with a fellow farrier for a few days.  The last trip was for three clinics.  The next will be for a clinic and a number of distant consult cases and closer client stops.  While he’s gone I’m here with the creatures, and the property, and my job.  Everyday looks like sixty-two creatures, two barns (eight stalls), one very big chicken coop, and that’s just before I go to work…

Usually, it’s fine.  I love this place and these creatures, and, I’ve said it before, there is a certain zen to cleaning stalls that I have yet to find anywhere else except maybe a yoga studio.  (Like yoga!  But with manure!!!)

But, if I’m telling the truth, the yoke of this place is heavy, heavier to carry alone.  And there is always uncertainty in it.  The skid steer is broken right now.  It needs five-hundred dollars worth of repairs.  And we will get it done.  We always do.  But my car needs tires too, and the house needs a new roof desperately.  And the propane bill is coming due…and, and, and… Continue reading “I can do hard things.”

On German Names and Scavenger Games

So, my friend was proposed to in my front yard with llamas looking on in the distance…and there really was a bonfire later that night.

Also, Kristen, those roses? They’re still hanging up in my breezeway.

theunicorndentist

(Note:  Truly, I am trying from this point forward to post more often than every six months.  In my defense, I’ve been a tid bit busy.  See below…)

This is way overdue, but I have a tale to tell…

Two months ago, my blogger friend almostfarmgirl (Cherity), her cousin (Katie), my three roommates, our mutual friend, several other of my friends, and one brother of mine were all involved in an elaborate scavenger hunt sponsored by Katie’s church.  My therapist-boyfriend was supposed to come, but he cancelled last minute (I let him off easy since he had just gone with me to Arizona and California, where he treated me to the most DELICIOUS. VEGAN. RESTAURANT. EVER. [more on that forever]).  I was invited to this scavenger hunt by Katie, on the basis of it being something to do before Cherity’s bonfire party later that evening.

It’s not a bonfire…

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A Very Merry Un-Bridal Shower

Several months ago, I was asked to host my sister’s bridal shower.  (She’s getting married in August.)  I agreed.  A date was set.  All I had to do then was everything else.

Here’s my confession: Generally speaking, I hate “showers” (the party, not the method of cleaning oneself…just to clarify).  Baby showers. Bridal showers.  Not sure if it’s the cheesy games or the social obligation or just the fact that I’m a raging introvert, and I find such parties (populated largely with people I don’t know) completely exhausting, but I just don’t enjoy them.  I attend them willingly and fairly often, knowing that attendance at such events and the gifts we bring do mean something, but I have never been the sort of person who gets excited about them.

Anyway, when faced with hosting such a party myself, I decided that I wanted it to be different from “normal” bridal showers.  Mostly, I decided, hosting a normal bridal shower would make me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork, and that seemed unpleasant. So, like any good millennial, I went straight to Pinterest. And I typed “bridal shower” into the search bar. And it came back with a million and one possibilities, most of which seemed to involve making “wedding gowns” out of toliet paper…because that’s totally a thing. There were wine tasting bridal showers and coffee shop bridal showers and strawberry field bridal showers…the list of possibilities is endless really.  But none of them seems quite right.  And while it was tempting to throw a bunch of wine at a commonly boring party and see what happened, it also seemed a little dangerous.

“No wine.” I thought, sadly, clicking on yet another list of themes. And so it was that I found our theme, a blip on the radar. Hmmmmm…Alice in Wonderland.  And it all sort of came flooding back.  The trip to Florida where my sister played “Alice” over and over and over in the van’s VCR.  Nothing else allowed.  (As younger sister I didn’t really have a say.)  The “Alice” dress she cherished with the white rabbit on the apron. It was decided.  For better or for worse, my sister’s bridal shower would be “Alice in Wonderland” themed.

Continue reading “A Very Merry Un-Bridal Shower”