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”


The true cost of an egg

Out here on the ranch, we are at the peak of our egg season.  Most of my fully grown hens lay an egg a day during the summer, which equals 5 to 6 eggs per day.  In the fall, my little ones will start laying as well.

In the winter, they lay far fewer eggs.  We have chosen not to artificially light our coop, which means our girls take their natural “break,” molting and slowing down their egg production for the season.

Next summer, I will be swimming in eggs.  With a dozen chickens joining our flock this year, hopefully all hens, I will be getting well over a dozen eggs a day.

Beautiful, fresh eggs from spoiled rotten chickens.
Beautiful, fresh eggs from spoiled rotten chickens.

Many of you know that eggs are at a premium right now, with the avian flu taking out millions of commercial birds at a time.  Additionally, California is finally legislating more humane conditions for laying hens; if you ask me, that’s a step in the right direction, but it will also require an increase in egg prices.  (God willing, other states will follow suit.)

All of this is just to say that, for the first in any sort of recent history, commercial egg prices are starting to creep up close to organic prices.

Continue reading “The true cost of an egg”

A Springtime Walk in the Woods.

So, out here in the Midwest Springtime means a lot of things: Warmer weather.  Longer days.  Allergies (or is that one more just me?).  And… mushroom season.

Morel Mushrooms are wild, and delicious, and native.  Unlike their cousins that you find in supermarkets, they’re almost impossible to cultivate.  If you have a taste for them, you have to search them out in the woods (or pay roughly $50 a pound for them…).

I’m a very casual mushroom hunter.  I’m thrilled when I find them, but I kind of just use them as an excuse to disappear into the woods for an hour or two.  There are other people who nearly make a religion out of the hunt, paying homage to the mushroom god Morel and telling tales of their encounters time and time again.  The pilot lounge at the airport (where I work) has been abuzz with rumors of sightings for the last week.  So I thought I’d check things out.

Jeremiah thinks I’m nuts…or that I’m going to poison myself.  I keep telling him that no other mushroom can be mistaken for a morel, but I’m not sure he believes me.

I changed into long sleeves and threw on a hat.  Jeremiah asked me if it was my mushroom hunting hat; I said that it’s my “I really hate ticks and don’t want them in my hair” hat.  He seemed astonished.

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“Ticks?  In your hair?”

Apparently, with his flat-top haircut, this is unheard of.  But I’m not crazy, right?  Getting ticks in your hair is totally a thing.

I took off down our back road, wandering past the llama barn where the llamas paid me no mind.

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In fact, no one paid me any mind…except my sweet old man, Cinco.

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Cinco followed me along the fence line of the horse pasture, stopping in front of me to request some of the long grass that had grown up along the other side of the fence (where the grass really is greener…).

Then I popped out to look at the site of my future outdoor arena.  I knew I wouldn’t find any mushrooms there, but I like to wander out and stare at it sometimes.  And dream about the day when we can afford to haul in the materials to finish it.

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And dream about all the time I will spend riding my ponies under the pines.

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Isn’t it lovely?

Then, since all quests need a villain, and this mushroom quest is no different, I present to you POISON IVY!

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No!!! The bane of my summers!  Kill it!  Kill it dead!

*Rages incoherently for a moment…*

“Oh, look!  A pretty flower.”

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I’m not sure what these are, but they kind of look like little stars.  And they’re lovely.  And they’re all over this time of year.

And of course, the wild violets are everywhere.  A ground cover in places.

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When I was little, I used to pick bouquets of wild violets for my mom and put them in a tiny vase with dandelions.  The violets I used to pick were purple or lavender or white.

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I didn’t even know they came in yellow until I was older.

The may apples are up as well, covering our trails.

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But they aren’t blooming yet.

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Then I walked under a fallen reminder that we need to clear the trail if we ever want to ride back here with horses

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And I noticed a tree just beside that one that had been down so long it had almost taken care of itself.  Ashes to ashes…to ummm…moss.

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These little flowers are all over.  They remind me of bleeding hearts, but instead of hearts, their tiny flowers look like butterflies.

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Another tree across the trail, this one more recent.  I had to climb through it.  *Mumbles something about needing to clear trail*

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More flowers!  Bluebells!

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Anybody notice what I hadn’t seen yet?  If you’re thinking mushrooms, you’re right.   I kind of think it’s still a little early.  Or maybe I just missed them.

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Here’s the thing about morels: they aren’t very big, and they’re roughly the same color as the forest floor.

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Hey, look!  A Jack-in-the-Pulpit  .

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Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate that this is in my backyard?

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But alas, still no morels.

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So back down the trail to our farm road.  I’ll try again when the may apples bloom.

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Wish me luck!

P.S. – My blogger friend over at The Wicked Chicken takes a weekly walk kind of like this one but with better photos.  If you’re into nature photography, you should check her out.

Utter Nonsense

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I present to you, my husband.

Utter Nonsense

I left for Costa Rica, and my husband went on quests and turned himself into a Legolas (yum) /Gandalf (ummm….) hybrid for the week.  And by quests, I mean taking care of the farm and constructing things (like exceptionally apt signs), and by Legolas/Gandalf hybrid, I mean he did so while carrying a quiver and wearing a wizard’s hat.

(Interesting side note: He took this photo by himself using his skid steer as a tripod.)

This photo pretty much perfectly sums up my life.  Here on the ranch, we live at the intersection of adult responsibilities and utter nonsense.

Just yesterday, someone asked me when I possibly find time to “just relax.”  He was astounded that we both work outside jobs while renovating the house(s) and running the farm.  I sort of laughed because that question has a different answer depending on the day.

On the one hand, sometimes it gets to be a lot, and I really question why I’m not the sort of person who goes to the spa or travels extensively, instead of the sort of person whose horses eat all my spare money in the form of hay…

On the other hand, there is a sort of Zen that comes from cleaning stalls, or grooming horses, or walking my fields.  And very little gives me as much satisfaction as a good training session with one of my critters, or watching the flowers that I plant bloom, or making breakfast with eggs I collected from my own chicken coop the day before.

I mean, really, does life get any better than watching a chicken ride a llama???

Joker and Marilyn
When the coop door blew shut during the day, Miss Marilyn took stock of her options and decided that Joker would make a pleasant roost.
chicken and llama
Joker opened the feed room door to alert Jeremiah that a chicken was roosting on his butt. He required assistance to remove her.

(The llama was less amused than we were…He was very polite to her, but Jeremiah said it was clear he preferred his butt to be chickenless.)

These days, things are greening up, and we are starting to shift focus to a whole new sort of work.  Fences need mending.  Our farm road is in need of repair.  The gardens need weeding.  Shearing is just around the corner for the llamas and alpacas.  New chicks are on order to come in a few weeks.  (Sadly, I’ve lost a few chickens to predators this week…but that’s a different post.)  Horses will be starting back under saddle soon.  And hopefully the ponies will start work towards their eventual jobs as therapy animals this year.  There is so much to do, and we seldom check anything off our to-dos without adding more.  But this place and this work is my “relax.”

Come to think of it though, I wouldn’t say no to a nice massage to wind down from “relaxing”…

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I’ll Shave My Legs When I Feel Like It

Love this girl.


Women in America are doing alright. I mean, the majority of the people living here agree that women are people with rights, they are allowed to vote, they can wear pants, etc. It’s just accepted that while they *can* do everything, they might not be as good at it—women aren’t as strong, so they aren’t as important in the military or any sort of heavy manual labor, and their brains are too clouded with emotions to handle science or math. They have their strengths talents though—they are much better at cleaning, and their constant, shrill nagging is how dumb man-beasts function once they become husbands, and especially after becoming fathers (dads are the DUMBEST).

This is what I’m picking up from modern, American advertising, anyway. After watching one hour of daytime television, I’ve compiled a pretty thorough list of items that men and women use, and who uses what.


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With rumors of Spring…

They tell me spring is on its way.  They say it will start on March 20th.  I’m not sure I believe them.

Jeremiah took off around 5:30 this morning for another shoeing conference.  He will be gone for about a week.  Then I’ll be leaving the morning of the day he gets back for a vacation in Costa Rica with my sister.  Thankfully, one of us will be at the ranch the whole time, so we won’t need to call on too much help, but taken together, these next two weeks will probably account for the most time we’ve spent apart since we first started dating in 2010.

Until I leave, things will be cold.  Really cold.  (Like, -7 degrees tonight.)  Right now, outside looks like this.

The woods are lovely dark and deep
The woods are lovely dark and deep

The woods remind me of a Robert Frost poem as I make my nightly trudge out to the barn, but I have hopes that we will at least be above freezing temperatures by the time I get home.  In the meantime, Spring whispers sweet nothings, small promises that give me just a little hope that its closer than we think.

For example, my chickens have started laying a bit more.  A few days ago, Jeremiah collected 5 eggs, up from the 2, 1, or 0 we have been collecting each day this winter.  Of course, all of the eggs were frozen solid.  But hey, it’s a start, right?

Also, we have a bit more daylight each day.  The sun won’t set until 5:40 today.  I am in love with each extra second of daylight.

Spring cannot get here soon enough for my liking.  Everything we do out here on the ranch takes more time and costs more money in the winter, and I’m kind of over it.  Stalls get dirtier.  Chores have to be done in the dark.  We use more electricity for lights and water heaters. We have to feed more hay and more grain.  Not to mention keeping the house heated.

I’m looking forward to warmer weather.  To daylight into late evening.  I’m looking forward to riding my horses again.  And I’m looking forward to being able to go out to the barn without adding layers and layers of bulky clothes.

I think maybe the critters are looking forward to Spring too.

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Has Spring sprung in your neck of the woods, or are you still shivering with me and all the critters out here at Eagle Ridge?

Cottage cheese and cheap wine…

For dinner tonight, we ate acorn squash, cottage cheese, and sautéed brussel sprouts.  It was an admittedly unexciting meal, but I was tired, and planning on working through dinner, so I didn’t put too much thought into it.

I sat at my desk eating the brussel sprouts with my fingers and taking bites of squash between thoughts as I drafted an email to a client.  I finished up the correspondence, and then finished off my plate, quickly shoveling the cottage cheese into my mouth, so I could put the plate in the kitchen and clear some desk space.

As I put my plate in the sink, I noticed that Jeremiah had dumped about a third of his meal into the container of scraps for the chickens.  Specifically, all of the cottage cheese along with just a bite of squash and a few brussel sprout leaves.

I called into the living room where Jeremiah was busy painting.

“Not so much on the cottage cheese?”

“Yeah.  Sorry.  I tried.  Just couldn’t do it.”

But more on that later…

A few of you might have noticed that I haven’t written in a little while.  Two weeks ago marked the International Hoof Summit in Cincinnati, OH.  For Jeremiah, that means a week-long farrier Disneyland with exhibits and presentations and farrier toys.  He gets to hang out with colleagues from all over the world and exchange ideas and share insight on particular cases.  He looks forward to it all year.

For me, however, the Summit means a week of tending to things by myself, hopefully still managing a work/life balance.  (I failed miserably by the way.  I’m not entirely sure how I would manage weeks like this one if I didn’t work for my dad.)  This time it meant trying to fix the horse fence in 15 degree weather, falling into the manure pit (at least once) while trying to dump the wheelbarrow, and unfreezing a frozen lock on the chicken coop every day for three days straight.  While he was gone, we had two blizzards and my mom went into the hospital with pneumonia.  (She was finally discharged yesterday.) And, just to top it off, Miss Amelia had to go to a semi-emergency vet visit thanks to a complication from her stick escapade. (She just finished her antibiotics for that today.)

Of course, two days after he got home, he came down with some sort of farrier flu (I’m assuming…) and is only now feeling a tiny bit better.  He’s been stuck inside since and going a little stir crazy.  As soon as he goes outside, it seems he is back at square one.  So, I’ve been doing most of the chores and trying to keep him from trying to help.  It only sort of works.

And then, a few days ago my pet hedgehog died.

I spent the morning paying bills, trying, like everyone, to stretch every dollar just a little farther than it wanted to go.  Since taking over the farm, we’ve stretched things a little farther than we’re used to.  Mostly that’s due to having propane heat and a big old drafty house (as opposed to natural gas and a little bitty old drafty house).  It’s been a lesson in tightening our belts a little, but it’s totally worth it to make this place our own and live this farmhouse dream that we’ve both had since childhood.

Still, with sick husbands and mothers and puppies, and bills to pay, and stalls to clean (and by that I mean all the shit to deal with, whether literal or figurative), and work to do…it can get a little overwhelming, can’t it?

And sometimes we need a reminder that we have it pretty good most of the time.

Back to the cottage cheese and my lazy dinner.

“So, what did cottage cheese ever do to you?”

Jeremiah has some weird food hang ups, including the belief that avocados are actually alien eggs; I expected to hear that cottage cheese was against his religion or something.  But that wasn’t what he said.

“When I was a kid, and we lived in Arizona, there was a stretch when things were really bad.  One week, my parents didn’t have any money for food.  And the food pantry didn’t have anything much either.  Just cottage cheese.  So we took the cottage cheese.  We ate it, just cottage cheese, for about a week. But some of it was bad and it made us sick…really sick I haven’t been able to eat it since.”

That’s one way to put things in perspective.

So, tonight I will enjoy a glass of cheap wine in my way too chilly house.  And I’m going to raise a glass to “pretty good most of the time” because when you think about it, that’s something worth celebrating.

The ornaments on the tree.

This year, with all the chaos that is our lives, short a living room, and tight on funds, I thought I could go without a Christmas tree.  I figured, what’s one year without a tree in the long scheme of it?  But my inner elf could not be dissuaded.  Christmas, after all, has always been my favorite holiday.

As a young idealist, I had always assumed that the man I would marry would feel the same about Christmas as I do.  But Jeremiah’s childhood experiences were very different from mine.  For me, Christmas was candy canes and carols, huge family dinners and a late night drive from Grandma’s on Christmas Eve (once or twice I was sure I saw Santa…), presents and friends.  For him, Christmas was a reminder that his dad was deployed…again. It was a time of higher stress, a reminder of difficulties.  Later, as an adult working in the emergency services, the holidays showed him the worst of humanity.  And, even though I understand all of that, it is rough to be an elf married to Scrooge.


(He literally says Bah Humbug when I first bring up Christmas.  He sent me the above photo by text earlier this year.)

So, you might say we’re a mixed marriage in that way.  All of this is simply to explain why I always end up decorating the tree by myself.

But for me, decorating a tree is about way more than putting shiny baubles on branches.  You see, elf that I am, I’ve been collecting my ornaments for more than ten years, and nearly every ornament on my tree has a story.

It all starts with an empty tree.


We bought this one at the local market.  It’s small–our last house had vaulted ceilings; this one does not–and more than a little Charlie Brown-ish.  But that doesn’t matter.

You string the lights and garland.  The tree begins to take on the spirit of your Christmas trees past.

And then you add the heart.

The ornaments.

I’m not much for trinkets.  They create clutter and tend to lose their meaning in time.  (“Oh, yeah, we got that on vacation…now it sits on a shelf, and I have to dust it.”)  But Christmas ornaments?  They only come out once a year, and, for several weeks when winter is at its bleakest, they remind you of their story, first when you unpack them and carefully hang them on your tree, then when you walk past them each day, then again when you carefully pack them away.  I’ve had some people think that I’m just really into ornaments, but that’s not really true.  Even the most glorious ornament has no meaning to me if it doesn’t have a story.  But those that do have stories?  They are like old friends

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This one sits near the top of our tree.  My parents bought it for us for our first Christmas in our first house.  It has special meaning this year, the first Christmas in our new home.

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The front and back on one of my favorites, I bought this one while living in Salzburg, Austria.  The reverse is the cityscape of a place that will always feel like home.

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These three are from Jeremiah and my first vacation together.  (There’s also an ornament from the Kennedy Space Center from that trip.)

I bought his one from the rescue that saved little Amelia before she came home with us.

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Our first Anniversary

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Of course, I am the daughter of a pilot, the wife of a pilot, and I work in aviation.  I believe my parents bought me this one the first year I worked for the family business.

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I couldn’t find an ornament I liked in Switzerland, so I made one from a trinket cowbell.  (MORE COWBELL!)

I brought Santa and his gondola home from Venice.

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This little otter came home from the Shedd Aquarium, a just for the heck of it trip I took with Jeremiah while we were dating.

I made this one from our wedding program.

But this one, which I brought home from Vatican City, might be my favorite.

A surprise inside, lest we forget the reason for the season

And there are so many more…

So I guess every year I will have a tree, and I will decorate it myself, if only to bring these old friends out of their boxes and let them shine for just a little while.

My Wish

Spring of 2007, I graduated from University with my Bachelor’s Degree in English Communications at the ripe old age of 20.  I remember driving home from school, my cute, purple Sebring Convertible loaded down as full as I could fit it with all of the important things that I pulled out of my dorm room.  I drove alone, my parents and sister in other cars, and spent the three hour trip back to my parents’ house listening to Rascal Flatts “My Wish” on repeat.

I sang along, the lyrics making life sound almost easy, like it would make sense.  In that moment, the song resonated, maybe because it’s really just about figuring things out, and at twenty, I had a lot of things to figure.   I’m not sure life ever makes sense the way you hope it will while it happens.  In my admittedly somewhat limited experience, you are seldom allowed to see the path you’ll be walking until it’s behind you.

Two nights ago, Jeremiah and I packed up and moved our bed, clothes, and other everydays across the river to the ranch.  It was after dark and wildly cold, but we did it.

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He drove the truck and trailer; I followed behind, driving my cute little Jetta and listening to the radio.  This time, I didn’t have a song on repeat.  (Although, Rockin’ Me by Steve Miller Band popped up and felt apt.)  I did have the same feeling though.  I was in the middle of one of the big moments, one that I could recognize even as a turning point.

When I drove home in the Sebring, I honestly thought I knew what direction I was going, but I hadn’t the slightest.  That drive took me back home.  The path it started me down was towards a Master’s Degree, then a husband, then, fourteen years after I started working there as a teenager, the path brought me right back to the ranch.



Also, just in case you were curious, here are the lyrics to that song I played on repeat driving home:

Rascal Flatts – “My Wish”

I hope that the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you want to go,
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window,
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,

But more than anything, more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

I hope you never look back, but ya never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you left,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get,
Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake,
And you always give more than you take.

But more than anything, yeah, and more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

This is my wish
I hope you know somebody loves you
May all your dreams stay big