It’s official (almost…)

These days, whenever anyone asks me how I’m doing, my answer is “exhausted.”  It’s a good exhausted, the kind that comes with long days, late dinners, and working on something from roughly the time you get up until the time you finally sit down on the couch with a DVR’d sitcom for thirty minutes before you go to bed.  The owners of the farm took off on Wednesday night, leaving us with the animals, the farm, and (most of) the house (they will be moving their remaining belongings out over the course of the summer).  We will be renting the place over the summer and buying it as soon as our current place sells.

I officially walked through the house with Jeremiah on Thursday.  There is plenty of work to be done; a new window in the living room tops the list.

The window in the living room that needs to be replaced.  It's been leaking and there's water damage to the wall below it.
The window in the living room that needs to be replaced. It’s been leaking and there’s water damage to the wall below it.

There are also several rooms that need new flooring, a bathroom slated for a remodel, and a kitchen that could use updates.  Most of that, however, will have to wait until we sell our current house.  Equity should pay for some of the items on the list.

Until then, we’re working through a list of items that mostly require “sweat equity,” as well as all of those things that need to get done regularly on a ranch.  Yesterday was a 12 hour day on the ranch that started with shearing and continued without many stops until we left for the evening. My pet projects are the two rooms inside the barn (tack room and feed room).    I have been working on cleaning out the tack room (formerly office/classroom) for three days now, and I’m excited to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Of course, that light is to be followed immediately by painting …which is about as much fun as cleaning.  But, with this project, I can see the end result of a highly functional tack room with a cozy little corner for the barn kitties in my mind already.  That makes it easier.

And today?  Today my guy took off early this morning to take care of the critters so that I could finally take some time to update this thing.  He’s probably well into some of his projects already, and I’m still sitting in pajamas.  (God Bless that Man.)  I will head out there in a bit and get back to it, taking some time first to swing by my parents house and drop off my dogs.  (They have been spending a lot of time there lately.  I don’t have a fence for them at the new place yet, and I hate to leave them for long stretches in their kennels, so they go to the “grandparents’ house” where they are spoiled rotten.)  Then, I’ll be back at it.

For now, check out the friend I made yesterday!

Lunar Moth.  He's my friend.  I decided.
Lunar Moth. He’s my friend. I decided.

I love that ranch.

 

 

 

 

 

Starting the veggie garden

One of my goals for the new property has been a big veggie garden.  BIG.  There are several motivations behind it.  The first is that we have the space…and all the free compost you could ever want.  (Llama dung compost is literally some of the best fertilizer on the planet.  It’s awesome!)

Second, I love the taste of fresh veggies and fruits.  Nothing beats it.  I especially love the taste of homegrown food in the middle of winter.  My frozen tomatoes are far superior to the canned stuff from the grocery store.  Completely changes the taste of soups and chilis when things get cold.

Third, and perhaps most important, I’m passionate about locally sourced food, knowing where my food comes from, and sustainable eating.  I am NOT perfect about this.  But I try.  Not only does locally sourced food taste better (because it can be picked ripe), it’s better for the planet.  That isn’t to say that I will start raising my own meat (nope…nope, nope, nope), but I will be happy to enjoy my own produce!  Besides, locally sourced, sustainably raised meat?  That’s what farmer’s markets are for.

Anyway, Katie and I started planting on Sunday.  We basically planted until we were exhausted, which was about halfway done.

The garden space, which my lovely husband tilled up for me a few weeks ago.  Three cheers for my guy!
The garden space, which my lovely husband tilled up for me a few weeks ago. Three cheers for my guy!

The garden is fenced on all sides.   It’s as big as it looks.

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Tomato corner…before planting.

 

The soil is passable right now.  In a few years, with the help of plenty of compost, it should be fantastic.

Rhubarb.  I planted it in the corner where it can root nicely and not be disturbed when everything else gets tilled up in the fall.
Rhubarb. I planted it in the corner where it can root nicely and not be disturbed when everything else gets tilled up in the fall.

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The garden is surrounded by pastures, so we were surrounded by curious llamas as we planted.  Even Cinco (one of my horses) stood at the corner of his field to watch us for a while.

 

Jackpot standing for the hose.
Jackpot standing for the hose.

This boy, especially, hung around.  As soon as we started watering, he came over to request that this legs be sprayed (if you look really close you can see the water from the hose in the above photo).  He then played in the water for several minutes.  Llamas love water!

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I will have more tomatoes than I will know what to do with.

By the end of the day, Katie and I had planted pumpkins (two varieties), lots of squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, rhubarb, four varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers.

We still have a bunch of planting to go…but it’s a start.
Unrelated note?

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This gate/fenceline was started over the weekend as well.  I asked my husband for a dog fence with a pretty gate.  He is giving me the gate to the Mongolian Empire.  I will update you as that project progresses.

 

 

Introducing the critters – Mystic’s Minnett Mann

Some of you have expressed interest in learning about the critters, so I decided to start with the one who, for me, really started all of this crazy.  Minnett Mann, my first gelding, is, and always has been, my sweet boy.  I wrote the following during graduate school, about five years ago.

Minnett-Man cutie

Just a Minnett

I’ve never been good at goodbyes, and, in August of 2005, when I stood at the gate of the Illinois State Fair cattle ring, waiting to show my favorite llama for what was supposed to be the last time, it felt far too much like a goodbye. He was four, considered an “adult male,” and was misbehaving. I was nineteen, barely an adult myself, and trying very hard not to cry. I knew that I would never walk into the show ring with Minnett again. I was going away for three months, and he would be sold before I came home.

EDR Chilean Mystic’s Minnett Mann was the first newborn cria (baby llama) that I ever saw. He was born the first spring that I worked at the llama ranch, making his appearance only a few months after I was hired. His birth, I am told, took a grand total of fifteen minutes, a brisk entry even by livestock standards. When I first saw him I was instantly taken by his good looks, his wool the color of dark chocolate except for his white chin and bangs. His legs had the “too long” look of a newborn foal or calf. Still, despite his spindly, shaky legs, he had a unique presence about him from his earliest moments. He was ostentatious enough to demand that he be taken seriously within the herd from a young age; his dam’s (mother’s) place in the herd hierarchy was high enough that he could get away with it.

Minnett matured enough to show at about the same time that I started to become comfortable at the art of showing llamas. We learned together, bonding in a way that few people will ever really experience. In the first two years, he cemented a place in my heart. Though I didn’t own him, even L, my boss and his owner, began to refer to him as my llama.

L walked up to us as we were preparing to enter. She is the sort of individual who no one will ever think to describe as “old,” no matter how many years she lives.   I feel fortunate to say that, aside from my parents and grandparents, she has had more impact on my life than anyone else I can think of. It was L who I ran to when I had a fight with my mom. She was the one who I told when I had a crush. She was the one I talked with about arguments with my best friend. She was sometimes the only adult in my life who didn’t try to keep me from growing up. Knowing me as well as she did, knowing the loss I was already starting to feel, she was also trying to suppress tears.

My attempt to steer the conversation away from the goodbye that was pressing in on me from all directions was fairly transparent. I don’t remember what I started talking about with her, but it didn’t fool anyone, least of all L. Drawing a deep breath in, she cut through my pretense, catching me off-guard.

“I can sell him to you as a gelding for $300, but that’s the best I can do.”

With that, she turned on her heel and walked away.

It was as if someone had given me my floor back. Minnett’s true value probably fell between $1,500 and $2,000. L was offering him at $300 because it was me.   Turning to Anna, another worker at EDR, I asked if she wanted to buy half a llama. A whirlwind couple of weeks later, we owned him.

 

Minnett throwing a fit.  He literally didn't want his picture to be taken.
Minnett throwing a fit. He literally didn’t want his picture to be taken.

Minnett is not “easy.” He had been misbehaving himself when she offered to sell him to me. At that point in his life, misbehaving was his normal state of being. It hadn’t always been like that.

When he was young, he was EDR’s primary Public Relations animal. From visiting nursing home residents when he was barely old enough to show, walking into their rooms or up to their wheelchairs without a second thought, to meeting and greeting children who were visiting the farm, he was up for anything.

When he was two and his hormones kicked in high gear, he became increasingly difficult to control. When he became a breeder, he joined the ranks of the untrustworthy. I remember one day, a while before I bought him, when he charged one of my co-workers. When she entered his stall and tried to kick him out, he tried to knock her over. That sort of aggression is a power play. He was telling her that he outranked her; that he would win in a fight. It’s exactly the sort of aggression that breeders and trainers cannot tolerate. When 350 pound animals decide to push, you have to push back. Harder.

Hierarchy in the herd-animal world is largely psychological. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. It would be illogical for herd animals to waste precious energy infighting when they may have to use that same energy to defend their herd. When humans deal with these animals, this psychological rationale works in our favor: we cannot win in a physical fight, but we can psychologically establish dominance. Llamas’ muscle is hugely disproportionate to their mass: they are far stronger than they look. (In fact, they are stronger, per pound, than a horse.) If you cannot trust that your animal will not use his strength against you, you cannot keep him. It’s dangerous for everyone involved. Luckily, few of them ever challenge the hierarchy we set when they are young. Those who do must be swiftly dealt with.

When she told me what happened, I had to do something fast. Minnett was my baby, and allowing his future to fall prey to his idiot hormones was out of the question. My course of action was crystal clear and clearly stupid: if he wanted a fight, if he wanted to challenge someone, it was damn sure going to be me.

When I entered his stall, my jaw set in concentration, he seemed surprised. When I entered his stall, my stomach in knots over what I had to do, he barely gave me a second thought. He had no real interest in challenging me. His attitude shifted when I set about finishing what my coworker had tried to start.    I pushed him, trying to get him out of the stall. Most animals will accept this behavior, docilely walking out without pause. He got angry.

Still effectively glued in place, he put his ears back and began to cluck at me, warning me that he had every intention of spitting. I refused to be warned and pushed again. He pushed back, not coming after me like he had come after her, but feeling me out.

It was enough. I began to slam my knees into his chest, one after another.  The knees to the chest imitate the way llamas fight: they run, crashing into one another chest to chest. There is far more power in their crashing than there was in my kneeing; I knew that I almost couldn’t produce enough power to phase him, let alone hurt him, but the action killed me nonetheless.

Tears stung my eyes. I knew that if he chose to rear up and throw his whole weight against me, I would be hurt. I also knew that if he pulled that dominant shit against another human, someone less likely to understand and more likely to sue, he would probably be gone, sent to a refuge in Montana where he wouldn’t pose a threat to people.

The altercation ended swiftly. Even though I have always believed that Minnett stands among the few llamas who understand how big they are, he never really used his size against me. It was not long before he gave up. Hierarchy is psychological, and I refused to be dominated.

When I chose to buy him, it hardly mattered to me that he was difficult. I didn’t see him that way, even though a mild belligerence was an undeniable part of his personality at the time. I bought him because I couldn’t stand to see him sold somewhere else. I couldn’t handle saying goodbye, even if he did act like a moron most of the time. Gelding him helped, calming him down.

Now, three years later, he is still mellowing. Sometimes I think that he is daily reaching backwards, becoming, again, the gentle young animal that he once was. For me, now, he usually behaves perfectly. At this point, I can release his leadline, swinging it over his shoulders or stuffing the end of it in my pocket, and still depend upon him to walk beside me. He would all but follow me through fire, and he would think seriously about the fire.

Still, when you get right down to it, his behavior isn’t mine to dictate, as much as I would like to believe that it is. In reality, training only takes you so far; at some point, animals’ actions are about what they want. Minnett is slowly becoming the animal that he was before the hormones, and I have little to do with it. I see that more and more clearly as time passes. This summer, behaving better than ever and enjoying it, he blew me away.

At first he was anxious, pacing his stall and trying to draw the attention of the visitors. His interest in them was evident; when he chose to stand still, it was so that he could inspect them, giving “kisses” (softly sniffing their faces) when they were close enough. It thrilled him when individuals diverted their attention to him, rather than his counterparts in the center of the barn. He wanted out of his stall; that much was plain.

At seven years old, Minnett had long since ceased to be our PR animal, but, that day, he was campaigning for his former position with gusto.

I was holding the leadline of another animal, Minnett’s half-brother, Jackpot, I had a suspicion that Minnett, were he brought out, would do very well. He was enthralled with the visitors, and had already claimed a few votes for “favorite” from over the stall door. Jackpot, on the other hand, was frightened of the new people. His dancing steps betrayed his uncertainty, and his attempts to back away decided the issue for me. I returned him to his stall in favor of his brother. Minnett seemed well-aware of my intentions, walking up to me and sticking his nose through his halter, as if to hurry the process.

I walked with him to the center of the barn, and we took our place next to L and Kniggett. Despite the instinct that told me he would do well, that he wanted to be out there, I found myself a little nervous. There was a lot about this group that could scare him.

This was not our typical tourist group. Of the individuals in attendance, half had severe physical or mental disabilities. Minnett’s audience was largely wheelchair bound, and it was difficult for some of them understand that llamas don’t like sudden, loud noises, or that they preferred being petted on the neck to being petted on their faces. This sort of audience is the reason we want our PR animals to be bomb-proof, afraid of nothing. I probably held my breath for a moment as the first individual, a young man who walked up without the aid of a walker, approached Minnett. I needn’t have worried.

I believe that most animals are more sensitive and kind than we give them credit for, easily more sensitive and kind than most people. Time and again, I have seen animals intuitively give love and affection where it is needed most. In nursing homes, I have watched a young animal take an interest in an older woman who, previously, had been passing her day starring out her window. Some older individuals, especially those who grew up and lived on farms, seem to wake up when the llamas come to see them. When the animals walk up to them, timid perhaps, but not afraid, smiles become infectious. Petting their necks and cooing to them about how pretty they are or how sweet, conversation somehow seems two-sided, the llama’s half silent, but no less salient. It doesn’t surprise me that the Incas nicknamed llamas “the silent brothers” when they domesticated them more than 4,000 years ago.

I looked from Kniggett, a red and white gelding with the calmest temperament I have ever come across, to my Minnett Mann, whose behavior has more than once left something to be desired. Minnett was undeniably the more assertive of the two animals. He was older, larger, and generally more set upon getting his way. Kniggett, being his usual, wonderful self, stood like a rock and allowed himself to be petted and prodded in whatever fashion necessary.

But Minnett, from the moment that first individual approached, entered a state of bliss. His behavior was more than Kniggett’s quiet, gentle stoicism. It wasn’t a simple acceptance of the individuals around him. It was utter enjoyment. He leaned into their admiration, and gave it right back to them. He hadn’t been that intuitive PR animal for a long time. Watching him, it was like our past was flashing forward into our present. His kisses continued as he greeted the first half of the individuals; after that, he became very interested in the people as a group. His distraction left him less focused, but not less amiable.

By the time the blonde girl came up to him, shuffling, with a steadying arm on her handler, Minnett was no longer as quick to say hello. He was watching everyone, not just the person in front of him. She, however, only had eyes for him. She was enthralled and waiting for him to give her the same attention that he had given her friends.

She looked to me, looked at him, and looked back to me, making “kissy” faces. She wanted Minnett to give her llama kisses like he had everyone else, and she wasn’t quite sure how to make that happen. I was puzzled for a moment: it isn’t a behavior I can force. After that second’s pause, I came up with an alternative, and, making sure that she was watching, threw my arms around him in a hug and kissed him. She watched me, and her face lit up. This was a more than acceptable compromise. I released him and watched as she mimicked my movements. Minnett was momentarily surprised, but, once he was aware of what was going on, seemed perfectly content to be held by this small, frail girl. The hug lasted longer than most. Minnett didn’t seem to mind. He gave her exactly what she needed. The smile that crossed her face when she finally did pull away proved that to me.

I put him back in his stall after they left. As anthropomorphic as it sounds, I would swear that, as I removed his halter, hugging him and practically exploding with pride in “my boy,” he had a proud look on his face. He knew how well he had done. I watched him walk down the corridor, towards his field and his herd. He’s always been mine, but I guess I’ve always been his too.

 

I recently lead another tour around the ranch. I brought them into Minnett’s pasture, not knowing entirely to expect. I never know entirely what to expect. I figured that it was just as likely that he ignore them as anything else. He surprised me again, walking over to them and saying hello, charming as ever with his chocolate brown wool and white facial markings. I suppose he stood there with us for fifteen to twenty minutes, introducing himself as I answered questions. The tour group looked at him with interest, seeing a friendly large animal, one who undoubtedly left an impression. I looked at him too, but I saw seven years, the small, chocolate colored cria that captured my heart, the petulant adolescent male that I fought, the adult gelding whose gentleness had had such an effect upon a very special audience, and a connection that I still can’t explain.

Over four thousand years ago, one of the Incas deemed llamas their “silent brothers.” I wonder if that wordsmith had a Minnett.

minnett ears up 6-29-07

 

Endings and new beginnings.

I turned my office key into the University yesterday.  Final grades are posted.  Final papers and exams are stored in the adjunct office in case someone needs to see them.  I’m done teaching.

For the past few days, I’ve had to remind myself that there is no grading looming over my head.  My time is mostly my own again…I find I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.  So far today, I’ve caught up on work emails, cleaned up the house, sorted through (some of) the papers on my desk, and made arrangements to haul scrap metal to the scrapyard.  Oh, and I jumped back on here.

Yesterday was also my birthday.  The big two eight (28).  I broke down and gave myself an early birthday gift.  (Picked them up on Monday)

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Meet the newest additions to the Eagle Ridge family.  Reeva and Baby.

These two are now officially the youngest animals on the ranch.  At 2 and a half and one and a half respectively, these two full-sisters have long lives ahead of them with us.  Most of L’s animals who are staying with us are ten or above…some of them are A LOT above (closing in on twenty).  I guess I wanted just a few animals who weren’t simply living out their retirement with me.  These two definitely fit the bill.  Plus, along with a few of the geldings, they could be excellent show animals.  I might even breed them to our stud in a few years.  They are lovely and sweet, and I was very happy to bring them home.

Are you wondering what else I got for my birthday?  No?  Well, I’m going to tell you a few things anyway. 🙂

From my lovely husband, flowers!

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Every year, I go crazy with potted plants.  I love them.  So he went crazy at the nursery and brought these home to me.  I will be planting up a storm for the next few days.  (I’ll post photos when I finish.) Can’t wait.  My sister also wants to buy me plants.  She and I will go shopping later in the week.

From my parents, a Metro Painting!  If you haven’t heard of Metro Meteor, the painting off the track racehorse, you should read up via his webpage (http://paintedbymetro.com/).  A rescued former racer, Metro now spends his spare time painting with his owner.  I have coveted those paintings for a while, and now I have one!  I can’t wait to get it framed for the new house.

And with that, I shall leave all of you lovely people.  I’m planning to post more as the gardens go in at the new place.  Also, I was contemplating a regular weekly post introducing my critters one by one.  Is that something you guys would be interested in reading?

Things will be good, but they won’t be easy…a brief update.

Things are a little dead out here at the airport.  Today would feel warm if not for the wind; it’s been pretty fierce out here today.  It’s the sort of day when recreational pilots don’t go up in the air; only my dad, who has almost 10,000 hours of flight time behind him, seemed to have bothered to go anywhere today.

Jeremiah and I spent the morning at the ranch, helping L and her husband move some bigger furniture then trimming toenails on one of the especially difficult llamas.  The present owners/caretakers are leaving on the 12th of this month.  We will be in charge of the animals after that, but, looking at the sheer number of their belongings still in the house, I have a feeling that we wont actually be able to move in until June or July.  They will be back in town on and off throughout the summer, to see family and pack more.  They plan to have everything completely moved out in August.

You might say things are complicated.  Until we can move into a full room or two, and have unhindered access to key areas (like the kitchen, bathroom, etc), we won’t really be able to stay there.  That means we’ll be caring for all the animals from offsite.  While I will have more time for ranch work, as I will be done teaching at the end of the week, it still indicates nearly two hours everyday just in commuting.  With so much going on, it’s getting difficult to prioritize everything that needs to be done.  If I’m being honest, I’m getting pretty overwhelmed, and I don’t see it getting much better anytime soon.

It looks so peaceful, doesn't it?
It looks so peaceful, doesn’t it?

*OH! But I did find out that I have a trip to Florida in my future!  Jeremiah finally has a farrier clinic in a fun location, so I’m going with him.  The 2nd week of June can’t come quickly enough. I cannot wait!

 

 

 

Keep the glass. Hand me the bottle.

The last few days have been insane.  And I don’t mean like, “Oh look how fun!  That’s insane.”  I mean more like, “We the people find the defendant to be innocent by virtue of mental illness” insane.

Don’t read into that too much.  I haven’t committed any crimes.  (And if I had, I almost certainly wouldn’t be confessing to them on the internet.)  But the last few days have been  awake early, in bed late, non-stop, constant motion.

From class to work to ranch to shoeing stops…I haven’t really had a moment to pause in about three days.  Except for just right now, and I’m using it to update all of you.  Don’t you feel special?

On top of just being busy, things have been a little stupid.  On Wednesday, I had three aircraft deals put together, and three aircraft deals start to unravel, within about three hours.  Go figure.  Looks like two of them could be saved, while the other is DRT (Dead Right There).

In fact, as I type, Jeremiah is heading up to Northern Illinois to deal with yet another deal that seems to be spinning out of control.  (Next time you think about envying the self employed because of their freedom, think of this, and don’t…)

It’s days, and weeks, like this one that force me to pause and count my blessings.

Hey look.  Blessings!
Hey look. Blessings!

I’ll start with these three, and try to have a better day.

Before and in-progress photos.

Remember when I wrote about the guest house and how it needed dramatic updates before it was remotely move-in ready?  Well, I thought I should share some before and durings (we’re not quite at after yet).

 

Jeremiah walking into the little house.
Jeremiah walking into the little house.  The mudroom still needs to be cleaned and possibly repainted.  One door needs replaced, and tile is in its future.

After walking into the little house via the mudroom, we were greeted by a very small, very blue kitchen.  The cupboards are 1950s retro like I’ve never seen.  The stove had been disconnected for a long, long time.  I love to cook, and so does the future occupant, so we knew the limited space would be an issue.

 

The kitchen
The kitchen

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The whole thing had to go.  There was no place to cook, and, frankly, I’m not sure the inside of those cabinets could ever be completely clean again.  It was one of the first things we gutted.

Now the living room.

 

The living room actually has pretty nice floors and a beautiful view.  It needed a fresh coat of paint.
The living room actually has pretty nice floors and a beautiful view. It needed a fresh coat of paint.

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Jeremiah took out the half wall…

The bathroom.  Yes, that is a wooden cover on the back of the toilet.  Also, tile was coming off the walls.  There was a hole in the bottom of the shower that had been roughly caulked and was leaking into the frame of the house.  The previous tenant had painted over wallpaper (peeling) and the adhesive floor was coming up.  We had to gut the room down to the studs.

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The bathroom.

I affectionately deemed the small bedroom “the pink nightmare” or “Barbie vomit.

Small bedroom
Small bedroom

The big bedroom – Not a good picture.

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Now for the in-progress photos:

The kitchen

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We put in new cabinets, opened up the wall, and took over some of the living room space to expand the kitchen.

The bathroom

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New tub, tile, and backsplash so far.  I LOVE the wood tile backsplash.  It’s going to look like an old barn!

Small bedroom:

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Repainted in a shade that doesn’t give me a migraine.  The floor need to be resealed, but that’s the last thing that needs to be done before move-in.

The big bedroom:

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So, that’s my in-progress photos for the little house.  Give me enough time, and nearly everything on the property will have some form of make-over.  Also, my husband has done ALL of this work himself, including new plumbing and electrical, which you don’t see in the pictures but took many hours.  How awesome is he?

The tale of the reappearing squirrel

It’s been one of those days…

Wait…I take that back.  It’s been two of those days…and nights.

A few days ago, our dogs regaled us with the tale (or perhaps tail) of the reappearing squirrel.  The story went something like this: Dogs catch squirrel.  Dogs kill squirrel.  Dogs start to eat squirrel before squirrel is unfairly taken away from dogs by humans.  Squirrel rots outside the fence for a day or so until dog tunnels under fence and fetches said squirrel.  Squirrel is now somewhat rancid.  Dogs think this is fantastic.  Humans take squirrel again, but not before one of the dogs gets a chance to eat the head.

And…dog has diarrhea.

I’m not going to go into details here, but let me just tell you that two day old squirrel does not do anything good for a puppy’s digestive track.  Not one single thing.  Oh, and puppy with diarrhea has given me a idea of what it must be like to have a newborn.  (The other night, she woke me up every 45 minutes to go outside.)  I’m not sure I could survive motherhood…

 

Miss Amelia
Miss Amelia – Who, by the way was chasing squirrels again this morning.  She has apparently learned nothing.

Wait…What? An award…? I would like to thank the Academy…

liebster2

Thank you motherhendiaries for nominating me for a Liebster Award for new bloggers!  I knew the Master’s degree in English would pay off someday!  Wait until I tell my dad!   Actually, kidding aside, it is a really nice gesture that I truly appreciate.  It’s nice to have readers, even if it is only a few of you.

This award is a bit like a chain letter.  Best part is that I get to pass it on and nominate others.  With that in mind, here are a few blogs I read that all of you should check out.

1. Bethany Suckrow – this girl is one of my favorite bloggers to read.  Writing about life and spirituality, Bethany touches upon some very serious issues in a very accessible way.  She and I went to college together and were casually acquainted.  I wish we had known each other better back then.

2. Agirlandherchickens – Ok – Motherhendiaries nominated her too, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also, does it?  Either way, this blog about farm life and chickens is a fun, often informative read.  I really enjoy it.

3. Fullcirclefarm – Writing about and photographing farm life, Full Circle Farm is a lot of fun to follow, especially if you like beautiful photos of cows and chickens and produce.  (I really do…)

4. BeeHavenAcres – The Bee Maven has a lot of followers, but it doesn’t look like she’s broken 1000, so this still counts.  Farm life blog with lovely photos and adventures in turkeys and chickens and everything!

Technically, this is supposed to be an award for blogs with under 1000 followers, but while I’m linking to wonderful blogs, consider checking out this one as well.

 DIYDiva -I LOVE this blog.  It has a strong female, powertools, a place in the country, and farm animals.  And, unlike many of us “farmbloggers” this girl isn’t originally from the country.  It’s fantastic.

So there’s my list.   And below are the questions Motherhen sent me, along with my answers.  Enjoy!

1. Why did you start your blog, and why did you choose this name?

I started my blog for several reasons.  One, having decided that I won’t be teaching after the completion of this semester, I knew that I would soon be missing my creative outlet.  (And when I don’t have one, I get cranky.) Two, I have people ask me all the time “are you writing this down?” when my husband or I tell stories about our lives.  That led me to believe that at least a few people might be interested in our little corner of creation.  Three, so much is going on in my life right now.  It’s insane, but it’s also wonderful.  I’m a little afraid that I will forget some of the special parts.  Now I have a record.

As for the name “almostfarmgirl,” it’s actually the remnant of an argument that my husband and I had maybe a year or two ago.  We were on the way home from a particularly rough day of shoeing.  I had tagged along to help him, but we had encountered horses crazy enough to make me uncomfortable.  The thing is, most of his past relationships involved other equine professionals, and when I couldn’t handle the especially naughty horses (rearing, charging, attempting to run us over, etc), he was frustrated.  As we drove home, he informed me that he considered me an “almost farm girl”; a real farm girl would have had a better handle on the insane horses.

I was livid with him at the time.  The expectations seemed pretty unfair, and I also felt as though the name completely dismissed my 15+ years (now more like 20) with livestock.  (I have spent way too much time getting up early to clean stalls to be an almost anything!) However, after a while, I guess embraced the name (even though he never called me that again and now claims to have no memory of the whole incident).  Honestly, with a background in llamas, I’m used to people thinking I deal with “pretend livestock.”  In a way, I’ve been an almost farm girl most of my life.

(Side note: I almost named this blog “Confessions of an Almost Farm Girl.”  I always figured that if I ever wrote a book about this crazy life of llamas and horses and…insanity, that’s what I would name the book. (Kind of catchy, right?)  I still might write that book one day I guess, but I more and more feel like this insanity is better suited for the anecdotal nature of a blog. Also, “confessions” seems a little dramatic…my biggest confession right now is that I sometimes teach class at one of the top rated universities in the Midwest wearing barn shoes…and sometimes I track llama poop into the classroom.   Also, I realized that Confessions of an Almost Farm Girl loses something in translation when it becomes confessionsofanalmostfarmgirl.com because the words can also be split up as confessions of anal most farmgirl…which I’m thinking is a different subject matter entirely.  Though, come to think of it, I would probably get more search hits…)

2. What is your idea of the perfect night out?

Wine.  Stars.  Good company.  No mosquitos (or, alternately, enough wine that I don’t care about them).

That covers the basics, but, if you’re asking…and you’re not…my favorite date night event is our annual (or biannual) moonlight cruise on the huge, authentic paddlewheel ship that is docked nearby.

3. What is your favorite article of clothing and why?

So, I have this black tank top from Wal-Mart, and it’s pretty much the best piece of clothing I own.  It looks good from all angles; it fits perfectly, and it doesn’t change size in the wash.  I think it cost $5…

4. If you were a pizza, which one would you be?

Is there one that doesn’t go straight to the hips?  I want to be that one.

5. Name your top 5 all time favorite guilty-pleasure songs.

Can I be honest and admit that I really like the song “Bad Touch” by the Bloodhound Gang?  It’s kind of hilarious.  After that “guilty pleasure” song, trust me when I tell you I don’t need more…

*COUGH* 2. Backstreet’s Back (Backstreet Boys) 3. Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy (Big and Rich). 4. Mama’s Broken Heart (Miranda Lambert…also almost anything by her or the Pistol Annies)  5. Before He Cheats (Carrie Underwood).

6. If you could choose to live on any island, which would it be and why?

I haven’t been to many islands.  I’d name some random tropical one, but hurricane’s freak me out.  Prince Edward Island is too cold…  Can I go with England?  Or is it weird to call that an island?  I was a fan of several of the Greek islands I visited…

This question has generated far more questions than answers…

7. What is the farthest you have travelled? What brought you there?

I’d have to look at a map, but I’m pretty sure the farthest was Athens.  I studied abroad in Europe during my junior year of college.  I made it as far as Greece during a break from classes.

8. Beatles or Stones?

Beatles.  No question.

9. If you could be any breed of chicken, which one would it be? Why?

Gold Laced Cochin – Because if you’re not going to be smart, you had best be pretty.

10. Who do you want to be when you grow up?

Trick question.  I don’t want to grow up.

11. How much wood does a woodchuck actually chuck? (It’s one of the burning issues of our time…I can’t believe no one has ever properly answered it, but go on… have at it!)

Sadly, the woodchuck no longer chucks wood.  We had to shoot him last fall…

(Little bastard wouldn’t stop digging “leg breaking” holes in the horse pasture.)

Ranch life…and chickens in my future!

I’m a little afraid to say it aloud, but I think, maybe, Spring is actually here to stay this time.

Not two days after my “Spring!” post, Central Illinois fell back into another round of winter with temps in the 20s and near an inch of snow.  I got cranky.  While I’m not usually a winter hater, I am fully sick of the cold this year.  When the snow came back–I’m fairly convinced in was actually the same snow as before that just refused to die–I wanted to crawl under my heated blanket and wait there for summer.

But the sun triumphed!  It’s sunny and beautiful today.  Temps should reach mid-sixties.  The ten day forecast is showing 60s and 70s for the foreseeable future.  *Giant sigh of relief*

Things have been progressing, albeit slowly, at the farm.  After my riding drama last week  ( with Cinco ) we decided that we would have to put in an outdoor arena.  L picked a spot for us, and Jeremiah has been busy clearing trees and brush from the area since.  I stopped in and checked on him earlier, and I found him covered in brush and sweat, with a four foot pile of woodchips and a plethora of firewood to show for his effort.  Full construction on the arena will have to wait until we complete financing for the rest of the property, but we do plan to have it in this summer.

With three weeks left in the semester, I’m feeling increasingly anxious to finish grading and teaching and move into ranch life.  Jeremiah has promised to till up my garden patch and spread compost this week.  I probably won’t start really planting until after finals, but it will be good to let it sit a bit.

Looks like we will order our chicks in about two weeks.  I’ve researched chicken breeds for the last few months, and, just when I thought I’d settled on something, I found out that mypetchicken.com offers sexed rare breed assortments.  Sold.  Since we don’t have to have everyday layers, and we don’t intend to show chickens ever (llama shows…horse shows, maybe…), I think the surprise mix could be a lot of fun.  I can’t wait for my little chickens.  And it will be so exciting to get a mix.  I think Katie–my cousin who will be moving into the guest house (if you don’t regularly follow this blog)–and I will order a dozen rare breed assortment chicks.

To my readers who have chickens, what is your best advice for starting chicks?  What do you wish you had known?